The Lie Detectors
The Lie Detectors Paperback Cover


The lie detector had a prominent career in the comics, first and foremost in the hands of Dick Tracy, the creation of Chester Gould, who had studied under Keeler and his colleagues at the Northwestern Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory. Tracy is said to be modeled on the crime lab’s personnel, and in any case his lantern-jawed incorruptibility was backed by the use of objective forensic techniques—much as Hoover’s G-Men touted their scientific methods as an emblem of their incorruptibility.

William Moulton Marston’s greatest success came in 1940 when he created Wonder Woman, the embodiment of all the psychological principles he had glimpsed in the science of lie detection. In her first solo issue of 1942, Wonder Woman, disguised as Diane Prince, watched her ineffectual boyfriend Steve attempt to extract the truth from the Nazi Baroness Paula von Gunther. In his photograph of 1943, we see (left to right) Marston conferring with the cartoon’s artist, H. G. Peter; its editor, Sheldon Mayer; and the publisher at All-American, M. C. Gaines.

In later episodes Wonder Woman would occasionally use a lie detector to extract the truth from various foes. Whenever she encountered too much resistance she resorted to her “golden lasso,” which compelled obedience. Marston was often obliged to defend Wonder Woman from the accusations that it was a perverted form of entertainment, as in this article from American Scholar 13 (1943-44): 1-10.