In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, discover whether William Marston’s estate really banned Wonder Woman from guest-starring in other cartoons
In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, discover whether Wonder Woman was really banned from guest-starring in other cartoons by the estate of William Marston.
Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the eight hundred and forty-second installment where we examine three comic book legends and determine whether they are true or false. As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three legends. This is an all-Wonder Woman installment for, well, no particular reason! Click here for the first part of this installment.
NOTE: If my Twitter page hits 5,000 followers, I’ll do a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed that week. Great deal, right? So go follow my Twitter page, Brian_Cronin!
As part of the deal with the Marston estate, Wonder Woman could only be a star of a cartoon series, she could not be a guest star.
I’m Going With False
If you’re a fan of real life legal drama, one of the most interesting ones was back in 2000, when the United States Supreme Court essentially ruled that George W. Bush was elected President of the United States after determining that the recount in Florida would be effectively called off, thus maintaining Bush’s electoral victory in that state. The term “effectively” is doing a lot of work in that sentence, and that is because the ruling actually allowed for a recount, but that it would have to be done by a December 12th deadline, and since the ruling was announced on December 12th, then obviously it was saying that the recount COULDN’T happen. However, if you were following the release of the ruling live on television, you would see lawyers reacting to that initial bit of news, thinking that the ruling was good for Al Gore, before realizing that, nope, it was actually bad for him. From a legal analysis standpoint, it was no harm/no foul, because it was corrected almost immediately, but what if it wasn’t?
I bring this up to note that this is basically how many of the comic book legends that I deal with are created. Someone interprets a statement a certain way, and that interpretation is accepted, whether it is accurate or not, and then it proliferates over the years through the game of telephone. This then brings us to the legend that the William Marston Estate has a restriction on Wonder Woman in which she is not allowed to be a guest star on a cartoon series, but rather has to be one of the lead characters (like she was on the Super Friends and then the Justice League cartoon).
In 2000, Paul Dini noted that they ended up using Big Barda as part of the Justice League on Batman Beyond instead of Wonder Woman because, “There’s kind of a licensing problem: if we wanted to do Wonder Woman as a series, we could do that, [but] if it was a guest-shot, it was a little more problematic. I don’t really understand it—it just turned out to be easier all the way around [to use Big Barda in the Batman Beyond episode ‘The Call’…] we love Wonder Woman—Bruce [Timm] did that great design of her, which is now a maquette at the Warner Bros. store. At some point, we’ll do Wonder Woman…we just need to fight that battle when we get to it..”
So that, right there, has become “Wonder Woman can’t guest star in shows because the Marston estate won’t allow it” and, well, I mean, you see the problem, right? Nowhere in Dini’s statement does it even come CLOSE to saying that.
On the contrary, we have seen MULTIPLE instances over the years where DC characters were not allowed to be used because there were POSSIBILITIES of another cartoon series starring that character coming about (like Aquaman and Plastic Man) or stuff that went even beyond that, like with the famous “Bat-Embargo” that did not allow Batman’s supporting cast to be used in the Justice League despite Batman himself being on the show. Stuff like that has been going on for YEARS, as it was also an issue back in the days of the Super Friends, vis a vis using Batman villains due to Batman’s Filmation series.
Meanwhile, Wonder Woman guest-starred on The Brady Kids back in the 1970s (which, as I wrote about in an old Comic Book Legends Revealed, was somehow her cartoon debut!)…
and then she guest-starred on the Superman cartoon series in 1988…
So obviously there was no restriction against her making guest appearances at that point in time, which has, of course, led to amusing alterations of the legend to “Well, the Marston estate was okay with it before 1988 but changed their mind in 1988 for…reasons.”
Bruce Timm noted that there were also issues with getting Wonder Woman on to the Justice League when that series started, but he was able to get her approved. Therefore, it seems pretty evident that there was no “ban,” as Timm wouldn’t have been able to get her on to the team if that was the case. The most likely scenario, and it is one that easily explains Dini’s comments, as well, is that it is simply a case of another Wonder Woman project being in the works (which, like most prominent characters, is routinely the case) and while they might have been willing to approve a whole series starring Wonder Woman, just having her guest star wouldn’t be worth it.
That said, I, of course, don’t know the specific reason why Wonder Woman WASN’T allowed as a guest star, I just am confident in stating that whatever the reason was, it was not because the Marston Estate barred Wonder Woman from being a guest star on cartoons. It is very likely that people are just confusing it with the REAL stipulation of the Marston Estate that Wonder Woman always have her own comic book series, which is a much more logical (and consistently applied) stipulation (that I dealt with in literally my very first Comic Book Legends Revealed ever).
Thanks to my pal, CBR’s own G. Kendall, for suggesting that I finally just feature this longstanding legend.
In the latest Movie Legends Revealed – See why Bruce Willis was essentially “forced” to star in Armageddon for a fraction of his normal acting fee!
Check back soon for part 3 of this installment’s legends!
Feel free to send suggestions for future comic legends to me at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
CBR Senior Writer Brian Cronin has been writing professionally about comic books for over fifteen years now at CBR (primarily with his “Comics Should Be Good” series of columns, including Comic Book Legends Revealed).
He has written two books about comics for Penguin-Random House – Was Superman a Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed and Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia! and one book, 100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, from Triumph Books. His writing has been featured at ESPN.com, the Los Angeles Times, About.com, the Huffington Post and Gizmodo.
He features legends about entertainment and sports at his website, Legends Revealed and other pop culture features at Pop Culture References.
Follow him on Twitter at @Brian_Cronin and feel free to e-mail him suggestions for stories about comic books that you’d like to see featured at firstname.lastname@example.org!