Interview: WONDER WOMAN creator Professor Marston’s grandchild Christie on truth behind new film

Interview: WONDER WOMAN creator Professor Marston’s grandchild Christie on truth behind new film

Christie Marston, Lynda Carter & Susan Eisenberg

.

#LassoTheTruth

This weekend sees the release of PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN, a movie that claims to be about the life of Professor William Moulton Marston and how he came up with the idea for Wonder Woman. The film does deal a bit with the comic book side of things, but its primary focus remains on Marston and his wife and the woman they ended up living with… and it’s presented as a passionate tryst between three lovers with a heavy dose of kinky, including a moment where the trio visits a fetish parlor and it’s implied this played a role in the creation of the DC Comics female superhero.  Here’s the problem though – it’s fiction.  A film that’s being presented as a “true story”, or at the very least assumed that way by audiences, and is using the Wonder Woman name as a selling point is in fact filled with inaccurate elements.  I had a chance to chat with Christie Marston, the granddaughter of William Marston, and she helped set the record straight on some of these story points… and we also talked a bit about the character of Wonder Woman in general and the folks who bring her to life.  It’s a candid interview with someone directly from the family – a family that was never consulted for the movie opening this weekend.

Property of AnnaPurna Pictures

Mark – Hello Christie, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, I think it’s very important to hear your side of things with the movie coming out this weekend. This film claims to tell the story of your grandfather William Marston, his wife Elizabeth, and their lover Olive Byrne. Before we get into those portrayals, I want to clarify something up front. At any point did the director, Angela Robinson, or anyone from the production reach out to you or anyone in the family for involvement or consent on this?

Christie Marston – No, there was no contact. In an interview, Angela Robinson said that she made the choice to not talk to anybody because she wanted to use her own ‘interpretation’. Both the depiction of the family and Wonder Woman’s origins are made up.

Mark – You have commented that the “story” presented in the movie is not true, but more specifically what aspects are most fabricated? The details of the three people and their relationship, or are you more referring to how that did or did not affect the creation of Wonder Woman in the end? I just want to make sure I clarify.

Christie Marston – This film has no relationship to Wonder Woman, other than using the name to sell to the public. They are riding the coattails of the very (rightfully!) successful Wonder Woman movie – even to the point of copying the promo posters.

Mark – I noticed the ad campaign went out of its way to emulate the big budget WW film, which is definitely a misdirect, though I think it’s safe to say that may (in the long run) hurt them in the eyes of their audience more than help. I heard a lot of people at our screening saw it was not what they were expecting at all, and they seemed somewhat in shock.

Christie Marston – The film copied the WW movie marketing to the point that it comes off as subliminal advertising. Most people did not notice that… just got hooked.

Mark – The business in the film with Olive trying on fetish clothes and that being an influence, is that all just Hollywood fantasy?

Christie Marston – Yes, the bit with OBR (Olive “Dotsie” Byrne Richard) dressing as Wonder Woman is purely Hollywood.

Mark – There is a significant portion of the film that deals with the more controversial aspects of WW as a comic, and how certain people perceived it and were even offended by it. I’m wondering how much of that is (again) factually-based and how much is Hollywood drama. I know back then there were issues with comic books and Dr. Wertham, which of course led to the comics code, but the film seems to present it as WW being the most offensive book out there.

Christie Marston – Wertham started his anti comic pitch after my grandfather died. He had a very warped view of life…

Mark – Can you describe for me what the real relationship between William, Elizabeth and Olive was, to the best of your knowledge. Are the more kinky aspects of the film’s story just made up, or was there any truth to that? Help me understand that trio a bit.

Christie Marston – Gram (EHM) and Dots (OBR) were as sisters. This, by the way, is not from a child’s POV; I was very close to Gram as an adult. My grandfather died before I was born, so I only know him thru family stories. No love triangle ever even hinted at – and Gram was very broad-minded and very open, so if it existed, she had no reason to hide it – especially from me… we discussed all aspects of life and human psychology.

Mark – Going back to the director and her wanting to use her own “interpretation” of events, that seems like a pretty big violation to your family. With the names being directly used and real events and characters tied in, how is this allowed to happen? I’m trying to understand how it’s even legal…

Christie Marston – You can’t libel the dead. Really. That’s the law.

Mark – To me, the story behind making Wonder Woman a comic and the public reaction to it seems like it would be interesting enough to carry a film. I can’t help but wonder why that side of things is so downplayed and the love triangle is pushed so heavily. I know Sex sells but I think there’s a lot of people that would like to know more about the character and her comic book origins, and sadly that’s only lightly brushed upon here. As someone who is well-versed in the comic book community, I found that side of the story in the movie to be very Hollywood and convenient in its presentation. There are certain details that seemed more like guess work than actual fact. Do you feel this is just a case where they’re using Wonder Woman to sell a kinky story? I will say the WW aspects do feel like more of an afterthought here than what I expected.

Christie Marston – I do not know if Angela Robinson pitched her project to the studios as ‘the true story’. If so, it’s easy to see why she made the sale – sex does sell. There is a very well researched project out there being pitched right now; not only is it honest, but much, much more interesting!

Pete Marston (Christie’s father), WW writer Gail Simone & Christie

.

Mark – I would also think DC Comics would take issue with their properties being used in a movie so filled with misinformation. Have you discussed any of this with them?

Christie Marston – I have not yet checked with DC to see if they approved using any Wonder Woman comic images. They can’t control anything about the family, or stop somebody from using “Wonder WomEn” in the title, but they sure as hell can control the images.

Mark – Based on what you’ve told me, it’s also quite frustrating that there’s no disclaimers in the film at the beginning or end (though possibly at the very end of the credits) that this “story” has been embellished or exaggerated. It’s just presented as if it was all fact.

Christie Marston – Even if they had put a disclaimer in the film, it would not matter. They advertised ‘the true story’ for months; the public was sold on that.

Mark – I wanted to ask you about a few key moments depicted in the film. There’s a scene showing young folks burning copies of Wonder Woman in a big bonfire, which plays off the whole censorship angle of the story. Did anything like that actually happen, that you’re aware of?

Christie Marston – I believe that the comic book burning happened in 1948 (after my grandfather’s death, but it did happen… can’t say if WW was included).

Mark – Yeah, in the movie he’s there to witness it (the book burning), and it’s very emotional, so obviously that was done solely for dramatic effect.

Christie Marston – That kind of skewing – having William Moulton Marston witness the comic book burning – is very much a part of making a movie fun and exciting. That doesn’t bother me. No, it is not accurate, but I consider it harmless.

Mark – In talking about Dots/Olive, you mentioned her and Elizabeth were more like sisters. In the movie it’s stated that Olive had some of the children and Elizabeth had others.

Christie Marston – Dots had two kids, it is common ‘knowledge’ that William Moulton Marston was their biological father. Gram and WMM adopted Dotsie’s kids to protect them from societal issues. So, any way you look at it, Bill Marston was their father …and they had two mothers.

Mark – Another scene depicts Olive leaving William and Elizabeth, William gets sick and goes into the hospital, Olive comes to visit and they literally beg her to come back to them… and she accepts, then shortly after William passed and Elizabeth and Olive raised the children together. Any part of that separation and coming back together angle true, or just more Hollywood drama?

Christie Marston – Hollywood drama. At that point in time there were 4 children, and Dots sure as hell did not take off and abandon them!

Mark – There’s also mention in the movie that William lost his job with the university because of his amorous behavior with Olive, which I’m guessing was just more Hollywood embellishment. Did he actually lose his job back then and why, based on your recollection?

Christie Marston – Definitely not because of hitting on any student. Wayyyyyy out of character! Plus, Gram would have either booted him out the door or buried him in the back yard for that kind of behavior (laughs). He did many different things in the early years. The Who’s Who listings for William Moulton Marston are not short! I don’t have those books at my house, I moved them to the museum to make it easier for researchers. I am sure he was never tenured anywhere, and did not want to be. And I have no doubt that his open mind and forward thinking probably rankled the more staid members of any school. But, I do not remember details, sorry!

Mark – Can I ask you how it felt to see Wonder Woman finally get her own movie, and more importantly the overwhelming positive reaction to it? As both a woman and part of the family behind it, I have to imagine it was quite emotional.

Christie Marston – The Wonder Woman movie is the best thing that has happened to WW since Lynda Carter brought her to life (as characterized in the original comics) back in the 1970s! Patty Jenkins not only understands Wonder Woman, but astounded me with her directing skills. Wonder Woman has ethics again!

Mark – I know you and your family have done your best to preserve a Wonder Woman archive/museum to protect that legacy. What can you tell me about that, and is that something the fans can assist with in any way?

Christie Marston – The museum was my father’s creation. Since his death early this year, I am still undecided on how I will handle it. It should be public; I just have to figure out how to handle that financially and logistically.

Mark – If there’s ANY way we can help, know we’re here. It would great to get the fans involved too. Maybe through crowdfunding or something of the sort.

WW model Valerie Perez, WW writer Trina Robbins, Lynda Carter, Christie & Susan Eisenberg

.

Mark – I’ve been fortunate enough to become friends with Susan Eisenberg (the voice of the animated WW for 16 years) recently, and I know she’s been great about sharing the Wonder Woman legacy with fans and staying as involved as possible with the character. I also know you two have met. Looking at the women behind Wonder Woman, like Susan, and Gal Gadot, and of course Lynda Carter, I think it’s safe to say she’s been lucky to have such wonderful personalities to represent her. Do you have any stories about interactions with them you’d like to share?

Christie with WW artist Phil Jimenez

Christie Marston – I did notice – and love – that Shannon Farnon, Lynda Carter and Susan Eisenberg (in date order of when they portrayed Wonder Woman) all share the character’s ethics and attitude. I know them all and love them all. I will add that it is also true of the writers and artists who get Wonder Woman right!

Mark – Absolutely, let’s not forget the creators who make those comics and really “get” her.

Christie Marston – I know a few, and they really do share the Wonder Woman attitude! Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, George Perez and Phil Jimenez were all together at a con, and I could not help but notice the similarities as we talked together – three peas in a pod! And there are numerous others in recent years who fit the same model!

WW artist Cat Staggs and Christie Marston

Mark – Aw see, you’re speaking my language, I know those guys too, they’re great. I’ll also throw well due nods to Adam Hughes, Jenny Frison and Liam Sharp… so many talented folks. I always wished I could have met H.G. Peter.

Christie Marston – Liam!! And Nicola (Scott), and not only Adam but his wife Allison, and Gail (Simone) and Jim Lee and… (laughing) there are numerous wonderful people in the creative end. And, by the way, I loved how Greg Rucka handled the whole mess by treating it as lies – brilliant move!

Mark – All smart and wonderful people. There’s something about this character, it just attracts good folks, both on the creative side and entertainment side. It must feel great to know she’s in good hands. I’ll also throw a nod to the very talented Cat Staggs, as we’re longtime friends and she’d kill me if I left her out. She’s done some great retro Wonder Woman covers using Lynda’s likeness, and I know she personally is a huge fan of the character in general.

Christie Marston – Yes, Cat! I would never leave her out!

Mark – And to close things out, and also hopefully end on a positive note, what does Wonder Woman mean to you? Beyond it being part of your family’s legacy, just seeing how the character affects girls and even grown women, and how it’s been received through the years… what is WW to you on a personal level?

Christie Marston – Wonder Woman and Gram are one in the same, to me. Born in 1893, Gram earned three degrees and never let anything stand in the way of progress, despite the norms of the times. She believed in fair play for all regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual preference – fair play for everybody! Right up to her death at 100 years of age, she was always positive. She was an amazing woman – and the role model for Wonder Woman. So… Wonder Woman is part of my family, and I will always love her and rally for her to be out there as she was intended.

Mark – Seriously Christie, thank you so much for your time. Sharing this as much as possible so others can know the truth.

Be Sociable, Share!

About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started Bigfanboy.com, which has become one of the Dallas film community’s leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and Bigfanboy.com regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.