Joye Hummel Murchison Kelly, Wonder Woman Ghost-Writer, Dies at 97

In 2018, at the age of 94, Joye Hummel Murchison Kelly attended San Diego Comic-Con to received the Bill Finger Award. A much-ignored figure in superhero comic book history, Kelly ghost-write numerous issues of Wonder Woman that were credited to the character's co-creator William Moulton Marston. That a comic about female empowerment was written by a woman for years, whose identity was kept a secret to preserve the myth of the male writer, does seem rather odd.

Joye Hummel Murchison Kelly, Wonder Woman Ghost-Writer, Dies at 97

Born on April 4th, 1924, and a Long Island resident, Kelly began working for William Moulton Marston, writing on Wonder Woman in 1944 when she was 20, after taking a psychology class from him. He tutored her as an assistant writer on the comic books – three titles and a newspaper strip – and she took over writing the comics entirely, from Wonder Woman #12's The Winged Maidens of Venus. She wrote over riting 70 Wonder Woman stories through to 1947, when William Moulton Marston died of cancer. But when she was credited, it was with the in-house pseudonym of Charles Moulton.

Joye Hummel Murchison Kelly, Wonder Woman Ghost-Writer, Dies at 97

Kelly was the second woman writer at the company that would become DC Comics, and the first woman writer on Wonder Woman , or any regular ongoing comic at DC. She moved away from the bondage-themed stories of Marston to more fantastic tales featuring mythological creatures. Olive Byrne, partner of William Moulton Marston and his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston, gave her a copy of her aunt, Margaret Sanger's book Woman and the New Race, which advocated for legalized birth control, to define the character further.

After William Moulton Marston died, DC Comics instead hired writer Robert Kanigher to continue the strips, against the wishes of the Marston family, and the comic book soon lost its independent feminist trappings. Kelly retired from writing, married and raised a family.

The identity of Kelly as writer on Wonder Woman, may have been lost without the 2014 book The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore, which revealed Kelly's role. Hummel then donated her Wonder Woman paperwork which she had kept to the Smithsonian Libraries, detailed below.

Papers produced and collected by Joye Murchison Kelly relating to her work with William Moulton Marston on the Wonder Woman comic book series published by All-American Publications (later DC Comics). The collection includes a typed letter signed by Marston (1 page) dated 3 March 1944 to Miss Joye Hummel; a mechanically-reproduced typescript psychology examination (2 pages on 2 sheets) given by Marston to his students at the Katharine Gibbs School in New York City on 25 January 1944; 2 account books listing work done by Kelly for Marston with the amounts she had been paid for various expenses between January 1945 and Augst 1947; and hand-annotated carbon copies of several typescript stories for the Wonder Woman Sensation comics series written by Marston and/or Kelly: 17A, 18A, 18C, 20 A, 20B, 21B, 21C, 27B, 28A, 28B, 28C, 29A, 29C, 30A, and Sensation scripts (from the Comic cavalcade series) 29, 82, and 83.

Joye Murchison Kelly died on the 5th of April at her home in Winter Haven, Florida, a day after her 97th birthday.

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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