While Doctor Poison is not the main, “Big Bad” villain in the highly successful Wonder Woman film, she is the only ever-present villain in the movie along with Ludendorff – both of whom work for the German Army during World War I.
Doctor Poison has gone by many names and looks during her existence in comic books. While she isn’t often remembered as a main Wonder Woman villain like Ares, she has never been completely forgotten by writers and fans, which ultimately led to the choice of including her as part of Diana’s very first live-action film. Aside from the big reveal in the end, Doctor Poison is essentially the villain of Wonder Woman, a perfect opposite to Diana’s values.
Even though Doctor Poison’s name and general appearance are recognizable to many comic book fans, the character’s changes, intentions, and storylines are not widely known even by some hardcore DC Comics fans. And as the DC Extended Universe introduced yet another version of Doctor Poison, the confusion about her background is ever-growing.
If you feel like you’re inside a poisonous smoke of information about this character, then you have found a mask. This is 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Doctor Poison!
15 SHE IS A GENDER-BENDER
While Doctor Poison’s gender is clearly presented as female in recent comic book series and in the Wonder Woman film, that wasn’t always the case.
The original character, introduced in the 1940s, wore a surgical garb just big enough to be thought of as a man by readers. She was also drawn with facial features that were not often associated with femininity, especially in comparison to Diana.
It was Wonder Woman herself who unmasked Doctor Poison and revealed her as a woman. Since so much about Diana had to do with female empowerment, the secrecy around a villain’s gender was the perfect subject for writers to explore and the perfect trait for a villain to possess, since it represented the polar opposite of what Wonder Woman preached.
14 SHE WAS PRINCESS MARU IN HER FIRST INCARNATION
The original, gender-bending Doctor Poison was called Princess Maru. She was the head scientist of a Nazi group who planned on destroying the United States Army by poisoning the water they drank from.
Like in the Wonder Woman film, Doctor Poison’s problem was mostly with Steve Trevor, who she captured and questioned to further her plans. As he was in need of saving, Maru and Diana met because of Steve. After Doctor Poison’s plans didn’t work out, she went on to work in a Chinese nightclub as a princess named Mei Sing.
In later issues, Wonder Woman put Doctor Poison inside Transformation Island, the Amazonian prison system where many villainous women were sent to be rehabilitated. Maru, of course, eventually escaped.
One thing that has always been true about this character? She is resourceful.
13 SHE BECAME MARINA MARU IN HER SECOND INCARNATION
In her second incarnation, which came after the Crisis on Infinite Earths comic book event of 1985, Doctor Poison was finally given a first name: Marina.
Marina Maru was written as the granddaughter of the original Doctor Poison, otherwise known as Princess Maru. She came onto the scene accompanied by Devastation, a minor Wonder Woman villain that had been sculpted from clay by Cronus. While Marina was also first seen as sort of a gender bender, she also had many more visible traits often associated with femininity, such as longer fingernails and a mouth that appeared to have lipstick on.
The Marina Maru version of Doctor Poison was the second longest incarnation of the character to exist in the comic books – only behind Princess Maru, the original one.
12 SHE WAS RUSSIAN IN HER THIRD INCARNATION
In DC Comics’ the New 52 continuity, which started in 2011, Doctor Poison was rebooted a third time, now portrayed as a Caucasian woman of Russian descent who went by Doctor Maru.
In this incarnation, Doctor Poison no longer hid her identity like the versions before, and she also dropped the surgical garb altogether. She wore glasses – a visual nod to make her look smart, probably? – and a green military-style attire.
While the Russian government was directly involved in the killing of her parents, Doctor Maru blamed the United States for their deaths, since it was the U.S. that exposed their practices to Russia. Her grudge against the United States was justified by writers in this context as she plotted a way to destroy the country.
11 SHE WAS JAPANESE IN HER FOURTH INCARNATION
Doctor Poison’s fourth version in the comic books, which came with the DC Rebirth continuity that began in 2016, was transformed into Colonel Marina Maru, a soldier from Japan who worked for a group called Poison – which was run by her family.
While Colonel Marina Maru was definitely still smart about her toxic weapons, she was portrayed as much more athletic and physically menacing than previous versions of Doctor Poison. She used guns, she had scars, and her attire didn’t just look war-inspired… It was legitimately made for war.
This character went from an anonymous Nazi doctor who went by the title of Princess), to a doctor/granddaughter whoactually had a first name, to an unrelated Russian doctor who went by a first and last name, to a completely transformed Japanese Colonel.
10 HER MOVIE VERSION IS A COMPLETELY NEW INCARNATION
As for the DCEU version of Doctor Poison seen in the Wonder Woman film? Well, that is yet a different version of this character.
In the movie, Doctor Poison is Isabel Maru and was portrayed by Elena Anaya, an actress who was born in Spain. Even though the character’s background was not directly addressed, the choice of actress and real name for Doctor Poison suggest that she is of Spanish descent.
While the character looks very similar to the two original versions of Doctor Poison, she is officially a completely different incarnation of Maru that had never been seen in comic books.
The jaw mask that covered half of Doctor Poison’s face was also a brand-new concept introduced by the movie. Originally, it was Maru’s surgical garb that hid her features in the comics.
9 SHE WAS CREATED AS THE TOTAL OPPOSITE OF DIANA
Like the Joker is to Batman, Doctor Poison was created as the polar opposite of Wonder Woman in every single way. She was intended to be a much bigger character in Diana’s mythos, like the Joker in Batman’s world and Lex Luthor in Superman’s universe.
For one reason or another, Doctor Poison just never truly caught on in the comic books, even if the intention behind the character was for her to be Wonder Woman’s perfectly doppelganger villain.
Just like characters such as Doctor Psycho, Doctor Poison took a step back for other more interesting Wonder Woman villains such as Ares to flourish. In the DCEU film, he once again upstaged Maru’s presence and importance as a more formidable and difficult foe, even if the movie gives her ample space to shine as well.
8 SHE WAS ALSO CREATED BY CHARLES MOULTON
Doctor Poison was created by the same writer who created Wonder Woman herself – Charles Moulton, otherwise known as William Moulton Marston.
Moulton was known to have had a wife and a secondary female lover who was actually part of his marriage in an extended relationship situation. He was a psychologist who became fascinated by themes of opposing forces such as masculinity and femininity, submission and dominance, female empowerment and fetish. In that way, Wonder Woman was a very layered character who needed an equally layered but completely oppositional villain, and hence Charles Moulton created Doctor Poison.
Characters such as Queen Hippolyta, Steve Trevor, and Ares were also originally created by Charles Moulton, even if they were later revisited and revised by other writers and illustrators.
7 SHE DIDN’T ALWAYS COVER HER FACE
Aside from the two original incarnations and the film version of Doctor Poison, the character actually didn’t always cover her face.
Doctor Maru, the third version of Doctor Poison that came in The New 52 continuity, only wore glasses. She didn’t cover her face or hide her gender in any way. Colonel Marina Maru, the DC Rebirth interpretation and fourth incarnation of Doctor Poison that came in 2016, also didn’t choose to hide her identity or female features in any single way.
But the covering of her face is an actually interesting choice for Doctor Poison – and a trait that the Wonder Woman movie happily applied to its story – as it presents the character as a shameful woman who is in complete opposition to Wonder Woman’s unapologetic use of her image and femininity.
6 SHE ALWAYS HAD A GRUDGE AGAINST THE UNITED STATES
No matter what comic book version of Doctor Poison we’re talking about, Maru was always seen as having something against the United States.
While the reasoning behind Doctor Poison’s hatred of the U.S. was, for the most part, simply political, ideological, and war-related, the New 52 version of the character actually gave her a more personal (even if somewhat confusing) justification for having a grudge on the country. It was the United States, after all, that found Doctor Poison’s Russian parents and inquired about their work, thereby exposing them to the Russian government, who felt compelled about killing them off.
In the Wonder Woman film, Maru was seen trying to poison the British Army; her first time being portrayed her as advancing a war that wasn’t necessarily against the United States.
5 SHE USED A DRUG CALLED “REVERSO” IN THE U.S. ARMY
Speaking of trying to destroy the United States, the original Doctor Poison went as far as developing a drug called “reverso” to use against the U.S. Army. The drug was meant to be inserted in the water that the army had access to, and was going to cause complete chaos in the brain function of all the American soldiers.
The creation of “reverso” eventually led to the seizing of the original Doctor Poison, and it was later revealed by her granddaughter – Marina, the second version of the character – that the drug was the doing that ultimately had her killed.
The threat of “reverso” to the U.S. Army was extremely similar to the plans of the drug being developed against the British Army in the Wonder Woman film.
4 SHE WAS PART OF VILLAINY INC.
The original Doctor Poison was a founding member of Villainy Inc., a group of Wonder Woman villains led by Eviless that also featured Hypnota, Giganta, Queen Clea, Cheetah, Blue Snowman, and Zara. Their first appearance was in issue 28 of Wonder Woman Vol. 1, in 1948.
In its first iteration, Villainy Inc. was pretty much a collection of bad people who were imprisoned in Transformation Island, the Amazonian penal colony where villains captured by the Amazons were held. They tricked some Amazons in order to escape and even stole Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth.
Marina Maru, the granddaughter of the original Doctor Poison, also joined the second iteration of Villainy Inc. to battle Wonder Woman. The group went on to feature other villains such as Jinx, Cybogirl, and Trinity.
3 SHE ONCE JOINED THE SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER VILLAINS
Aside from Villainy Inc., which focused more strictly on defeating Wonder Woman, Doctor Poison also joined the almighty Secret Society of Super Villains during her Marina Maru incarnation after the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Doctor Poison and Professor Ivo were recruited by Cheetah to form a new Secret Society of Super Villains during the Final Crisis. Through the combination of magic and science, they brought Genocide to life-- a villain who actually defeated Wonder Woman on a few occasions.
But Doctor Poison’s run as a member of the Secret Society of Super Villains was short-lived as Diana defeated her along with Firefly, Phobia, Shrapnel, and Dr. Morrow. Wonder Woman also destroyed their headquarters – a building that housed the operations of the Secret Society.
2 SHE APPEARED IN A BATMAN ANIMATED TV SERIES
Aside from her many comic book iterations and her very significant role as a villain in the Wonder Woman DCEU movie, the original version of Doctor Poison did cameo in a particular episode of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold TV series, which aired on Cartoon Network between 2008 and 2011.
In this Batman animated series, Doctor Poison was seen as a bartender serving drinks to lesser-known villains in a tavern that Joker chose to visit in order to meet up with Weeper. The episode is called “Joker: The Vile and the Villainous!”, and it is the first episode of the series’ third season, which aired in 2011.
It’s yet another example of how Doctor Poison was never truly forgotten by the DC Comics team of writers, even if she wasn’t always taken as seriously as she probably should have been.
1 SHE FIRST APPEARED IN 1942
Created by Charles Moulton, Doctor Poison first appeared in 1942’s Sensation Comics #2 – only one year after Wonder Woman’s debut in 1941 along with Queen Hippolyta, Steve Trevor, Mala, Doctor Mid-Nite, and Starman. Etta Candy, the close friend of Diana, was introduced in the same issue as Doctor Poison.
Also in 1942, DC Comics introduced Ares, Duke of Deception, and Baroness von Gunther. Cheetah, Zara, and Doctor Psycho came in 1943, while Queen Clea, Eviless, and Giganta in 1944. Certain classic foes such as Medusa would only appear in the 1960s, and Hades in the 1980s.
But the 1940s were undoubtedly the Golden Age for DC Comics. During that decade, the company also introduced The Joker, Lex Luthor, Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Hawkman, and Hawkgirl.
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