My American Dream: Heroes and Villain
Wonder Woman (after William Moulton Marston & Harry G. Peter), 2017 Oil on linen 60 × 42 inches
Wonder Woman (after William Moulton Marston & Harry G. Peter), 2017
Oil on linen 60 × 42 inches

I’ve always loved Wonder Woman, and this is her first cover, along with her first feature story, from Sensation Comics #1, from January 1942. She was created by the infamous William Moulton Marston, a.k.a. Charles Moulton, and was inspired by the strength and fortitude of both his wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston and their lifetime 3rd partner/lover Olive Byrne. Moulton was the creator of the lie detector test, and was a professor at American University and Tufts, and was a champion for woman’s rights. He was also a writer of essays of popular psychology, and was hired by Max Gaines to be educational consultant for National Periodicals and All American Publications, when he decided he would like to create a superhero–in an era when they all were muscle-bound he-men– to conquer not with violence, but with love. His wife suggested “fine, but make her a woman”, and Mouton, basing her on an amalgamation of his two life partners, to make a character “with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman”, and Wonder Woman was born.

I’ve taught comics all my career, for almost 30 years I was the lead comics teacher at the School of Visual Arts, the worlds best school for comics, and now am a full tenured professor at the University of Southern California, teaching both comics and fine art (which I’ve also taught my whole career). The machinations of how I understand all art comes from comics, and I feel that I’m a narrative installation artist who happens to work with paintings and drawings that “talk with one another” like comic panels on a wall. The theme of the show Heroes & Villain obviously allude to this, but also these comic paintings. I love the patina of old comics, and like to paint the off-register marks, the bleed of the ads through the cover and other “noise” as if it were “real” using them as painterly moments were my subconscious and synesthetic aspects of paint, touch and color can make these images come alive. Unlike Warhol, Lichtenstein, and other pop artists, who in a Duchampian way, would bring the “low” art as a readymade into “high” art culture, for me the characters, like a classical cartoonist, are the vehicle in which I could suture into as an avatar. When I’m rendering, I think symbolically what they represent, and like a Proustian madeleine–a meditative talisman–in the hope that the emotions and beauty, in addition to subconscious thoughts come out from my brush along with the image that I’m consciously forming.

In our current moment, I feel that really women are a big part of the solution. When painting this, the Trump world seemed manifest, and I love the image of Wonder Woman, in Washington D.C., battling the mobsters—much like Hillary tried with Trump, but also how now the House is being led by Nancy Pelosi and the other woman, people of color, LGBTQ and sensitive white male representatives, to help to rid our government of corruption, and keep our country safe for democracy. Wonder Woman, both the comics, 70’s tv show, and current incarnations (I’m proud that I’m friends and colleagues with Phil Jimenez, the current Wonder Woman cartoonist who I consulted when choosing this image), as she still provides a wonderful model for all genders about what it is not only to be a strong female protagonist, but also what it is to be a good human being, speaking truth to power!