Monday, January 12, 2009

Oh Bondage Up Yours!

The DC Vault, by Marty Pasko, is filled with some amazing culled from the DC archives, even moreso than what we find in the Marvel Vault, which came out the previous year. This may be due to the fact that DC has a much longer and well-recorded history.

One of the true gems is the following 1943 letter from All-American Comics president M. C. Gaines (father of EC and Mad founder William Gaines) to "Doc" William Moulton Marston, creator of Wonder Woman:

(Apologies for the crooked scan--the DC Vault doesn't fit on my scanner too well.)

Anyone who's read Golden Age Wonder Woman stories knows of Marston's notorious bondage fetish. Here's an example that may very well have been the tipping point for the reader who sent in the complaint discussed in Gaines's letter:
Wonder Woman, in a gimp mask, chained up and dumped in a water tank. (From Wonder Woman 6, Fall 1943)

This letter is fascinating on several levels, especially the sequence of events that must have led to this letter. First, Gaines and Marston apparently had several conversations about the preponderance of bondage in Wonder Woman comics. The problem, however, is not bondage in general, but the excessive use of chains. A recent conference between Gaines and Marston has set a goal for chain-bondage reduction by 50-75%. Gaines seems to assume that Wonder Woman fans will be satisfied with other forms of bondage and don't necessarily need it to be chain-specific.

So, Gaines has Miss Roubicek, who I assume is his secretary, put together a list of acceptable "methods which can be used to keep women confined or enclosed without the use of chains." It's a shame that Pasko doesn't include that enclosed list of methods, but I imagine the scene playing out something like this:

Gaines (wearing suspenders and an open-collared shirt with tie undone, while holding a lit cigar, calls from his office): Miss Roubicek! I need you to take something down!

Miss Roubicek (putting down her red nail polish and quickly grabbing a No. 2 pencil and yellow legal pad): Right away, Mr. Gaines!

Gaines: Miss Roubicek, I need you to help me with something--how can I confine or otherwise enclose a woman without the use of chains?

Miss Roubicek: Well, gee, Mr. Gaines, I don't think I'm that kinda...

Gaines: C'mon Ruby! Don't kid a kidder, sweetheart. Bondage--no chains! Go!

Miss Roubicek (chewing her gum thoughtfully): Well. let's see...there's rope...

Gaines: Natch! I need more creativity, chop chop! (Claps)

Miss Roubicek (more quickly): ...silk scarves, rubber bands, other forms of elastic material, leather straps, stocks, a mink stole, the plastic tubing hospitals use to administer intravenous fluid, ivy (but not the poisoned kind), a garden hose, the cord from venetian blinds, the belt from a terry cloth bathrobe...

Gaines: Yeah, yeah, yeah--that's the stuff!

Miss Roubicek: How 'bout handcuffs? Do those count?

Gaines: Y'know what? I think I'm going to have to count that as chains. But we've got a good start here. Now take a letter for that perv Doc Marston...


Man, those were the days!

6 comments:

Chris Sims said...

This is unquestionably your hottest post ever.

Mike V. Scholtz said...

Would it have too difficult for you to have arranged some sort of dramatic reading of this piece and posted it as an mp3?

Kincsem1874 said...

"The French girls who wore this [mask]" offered more information than youngsters reading Wonder Woman probably needed.

"Daddy, if you're in France fighting Hitler can you get me one of these? Wonder Woman wore it!"

Steven Rowe said...

Miss Roubicek was the assistant editor at All-American at this time, in charge of the story editing. when she left in 1944, she was replaced by Julie Schwartz. she is better known by the last name of Woolfolk.

Matt Brown said...

The whole Wonder Woman / Marston business is even stranger than you think! Check out Molly Rhodes' essay on the subject.

Frank said...

And can you imagine being the lowly assistant put in charge of determining whether Marston hit that 50 percent threshold?

"Bad news, Mr. Gaines. Marston's only at 47 percent."