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Amazons in Art: Celebrating the Wonder Woman of H. G. Peter

 

William Moulton Marston is typically given sole credit for the creation of Wonder Woman, but he was not the only creative voice involved. We’ve previously argued that Elizabeth Holloway Marston deserves recognition as a creator of Wonder Woman, but she’s not the only one whose foundational contributions to the character have been downplayed. Original Wonder Woman artist H.G. Peter also rarely gets his due.

We don’t know what led to Marston receiving sole credit for the creation of Wonder Woman, with no acknowledgement of the artist’s contribution, but it may have had something to do with Marston’s prestige as a psychologist. The truth is that Wonder Woman would not be who she is without the work of H. G. Peter.

Harry George Peter was born on this day, March 8, in 1880, so this seems like the perfect opportunity to celebrate his formative work on Wonder Woman, both in her own title and in the original Sensation Comics. Peter even drew a few Wonder Woman chapters for All-Star Comics, the Justice Society of America’s home book. In addition to Diana herself, he helped populate Wonder Woman’s world with characters like Cheetah, Dr. Psycho, Steve Trevor, the Amazons (with their striking kanga mounts), and the amazing Etta Candy.

H.G. Peter begun work as a newspaper cartoonist in the 1910s, and that early cartoonist style is visible in his Wonder Woman work, which gives it a unique charm, slightly out of sync with the rest of the Golden Age. There’s something a little Winsor McCay about it, something a little Aubrey Beardsley. Where other 1940s superhero artists drew sketchy figures in the pursuit of dynamism, Peter’s human forms were often wonderfully detailed, with a real sense of facial structure and musculature. But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t handle action as well.

We’ve assembled this gallery of Peter’s work to give readers a broad sense of his style. In addition to covers and splash pages, the gallery includes some multi-panel sequences that show his strengths as a sequential artist. And bridging the two is something unique that he pioneered: Many of his Wonder Woman stories begin with a splash page previewing the central action of the plot, with a small inset panel at the bottom that actually begins the story, usually with a mundane scene of Diana Prince at work.

As a final caveat, many 1940’s comics lack actual art credits, so it’s possible that something by another artist aping Peter’s style made it into this gallery. It’s certainly the case that there are great pieces by Peter left out of it. But the gallery hopefully serves as a tribute to the style and influence of the original Wonder Woman artist, on the occasion of his birthday.

 

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