The final Wonder Woman trailer premiered at the MTV Movie Awards last night where it renewed focus on one of the film’s main villains: Doctor Poison. The main question every had besides “MTV is still a thing?” was about this character. While the trailer laid out tidbits of Diana’s altered backstory and focused on some strong action sequences, Doctor Maru finally got a moment to shine. In all the talk about how important of a villain Ares is to Wonder Woman—especially now that he is her half brother—Doctor Poison has been sidelined in the film trailers, but now she’s taking center stage.
Doctor Poison will likely be revealed as a proxy for Ares, but will still be a relevant fixture in the movie. In MTV’s trailer, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes on Themyscira while on a mission to stop Poison who is planning on releasing a toxin that would kill millions and keep the war going interminably. Horrified, this is what inspires Diana (Gal Gadot) to leave Paradise Island and fight for humanity. Even if Doctor Poison is just a substitution to whet our appetite for Ares, her role is still an important one: she makes Wonder Woman necessary.
But then, if you’re like even the most ardent comic book fans, you have to be thinking: Who the hell is Doctor Poison? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
The Traditional Origins of their Rivalry
Their backstories and their allegiances were reflective and diametrically opposed, and despite having a clear physical advantage, Wonder Woman couldn’t just defeat Poison with brute force. In that way, Doctor Poison could have been used as Superman’s Lex Luthor or Batman’s Joker.
Most importantly, Wonder Woman was a member of the Allies and Doctor Poison was a well-connected member of the Axis Powers. Obviously, this has changed in the upcoming film, which takes place in World War I rather than Two, lending credence to the theory that Doctor Poison is either working for Ares or is the world’s first supervillain. If the latter is true, the radical change would give their first conflict a huge, biblical meaning within the context of the DCEU and give Wonder Woman an intrinsic place in its history. After all, the first supervillain requires the first superhero.
The Original Doctor Poison (Pre-Crisis)
Like Wonder Woman, Doctor Poison was created by William Moulton Marston. While it would be easy to peg Doctor Poison as a gimmicky version of Paula von Gunther, it would be to both characters’ detriment. Von Gunther is a Nazi soldier through and through; Doctor Poison is like many Marston creations: designed with a heavy air of subversion.
While Wondy was redolent with themes of female supremacy, bondage and lesbian fantasy, Doctor Poison was a gender bender. Presented in bulky surgical garb, she was thought to be a he by both Allied and Axis powers. She was also clearly meant to be a more important villain than she would later become; she was Diana’s perfect opposite.
The original Doctor Poison was Princess Maru (perhaps she had a sibling named Kobayashi). Like Diana, she came from royalty and had difficulty navigating Man’s World. Wondy managed these problems head-on—displaying and embracing her femininity—while Doctor Poison disguised herself as a man in bulky clothes and a mask that revealed only her wide, unhinged eyes and venal smile. Where Wonder Woman used the Lasso of Truth to get to the center of the problem, Maru used a toxin called Reverso to mind-control others, making them supplant and subvert the orders they were given.