The Lasso of Truth is one of the most powerful items in the DCU and it is an item that fits in perfectly into the mythos and stories surrounding Wonder Woman. Not only does it have its roots connected to themes of bondage, but it also supports the ideals and beliefs of Diana within her own stories. And just like with anything else in comics, the lasso has been portrayed in a few different ways. I just want to take a moment and touch on the biggest different interpretations of how the lasso is used in comics.
In order to understand Wonder Woman in the Golden Age of Comics, you should have an understanding if her creator, professor William Marston. Aside from being the creator of Wonder Woman, he also created the polygraph. There was a belief that the Lasso of Truth was inspired by the polygraph. But the reality is that the lasso has a kinky origin that ties in directly to Marston’s personal life and his ideas regarding women. Professor Marston was involved with two women and while I can’t confirm details, it is clear that his love life with the women he loved included bondage and some level of BDSM. This is important in order to understand how this influenced the creation of Diana’s greatest tool.
A lot of superhero stories at the time were focused on male characters fighting enemies through physical means and inflicting pain. Marston was looking for a way to subvert this, as well as show people that people would be willing to submit to a pleasant controller as opposed to a harsh one. It is an allegory on feminine charm and the kind of control they can have on others. The lasso within the comics had the power to make whoever was bound obedient to the commands of whoever wielded it. So while being forced to tell the truth falls under that description, it wasn’t necessarily the sole focus of the lasso.
Another important idea behind this original depiction was that submitting to someone kind would be an important stepping stone to becoming a better version of yourself. There is no character that best exemplifies that than Paula von Gunther. One of the first villains Diana faced, she worked as a Nation spy in the US. She even had similar bondage tactics that she used to force other women to work for her and carry out her missions. However, not only would Diana beat Paula, but their multiple encounters would lead to Paula arriving on Themyscira and becoming an Amazon. Part of this is explained by the Nazis holding Paula’s daughter captive and forcing her to work for them, giving her some wiggle room for not being a complete bad guy. But it also connects to the idea of a harsh ruler and a kind ruler, as well as how willing submission can help someone on an emotional level.
As we move on from the Golden Age to the Post-COIE era, we have a more simplified version of the Lasso of Truth. Beginning with George Perez, the lasso’s main power was that it compelled whoever was bound to tell the truth. A lot of the BDSM implications were removed from this item but it connected the ideals of Wonder Woman regarding truth. About being true to others, how they react, and being honest to yourself. While the lasso is generally considered unbreakable, there have been a few occasions where that wasn’t the case. Bizzaro Superman is the antithesis of reason and logic, meaning he could escape. The Joker’s mental state makes it virtually impossible for him to be bound. The Queen of Fables, a character connected to fairy tales and fictional stories, can’t be bound. Whether or not those instances are still canon is up to debate. But there are smaller instances where the lasso didn’t make people do exactly when was expected. While under the lasso influence, Batman answered that his identity was Batman as opposed to Bruce Wayne. That is an isolated incident of the bound believing in someone so much that they perceive it to be true. However, this does actually connect to something that happened with the lasso in the 2000s.
In the pages of JLA, there was an instance where Diana rejected the truth told to her by someone bound by the lasso, causing it to break. The result of this specific break meant the foundation of reality itself became unstable and was subject to the thoughts of the people. The Earth literally became flat, the moon turned into cheese, Batman faded in and out of reality because many people thought he was just a myth. I will admit that this is a fascinating idea. But the main problem was that it was never indicated that the lasso was connected to the idea of truth and reality itself. There was a brief period in time when Diana ascended to Olympus and became the Goddess of Truth. If the lasso was shown to have this feature during that period, it would make more sense. I still think this is an idea worth exploring, but perhaps in more of an Elseworlds tale.
There is one more interpretation of the Lasso of Truth that I want to cover. This isn’t exactly different from what came before, but it’s a perspective that I’ve found myself fascinated by. To clarify, the Post-COIE version of the lasso has become the default version of the artifact. And it has been established that this version connects to the soul of whoever is bound by it. This short story from Wonder Woman: Black & Gold that takes that last idea and pushes it to the most terrifying depiction possible. I’ll just let the panels below describe it.
Now that…is pretty damn scary when you think about it. The other versions of the lasso show that people bound to it can only speak the truth as they know it. Meaning they can’t tell the truth about something that they have no involvement in. Or if they believe in something strong enough, they perceive it as truth such as Batman saying his real identity is Batman. But this depiction shows that not only will the lasso show you the actual objective truth, it will point out every lie you told about yourself. It will tear down whatever perception you hold about your life and force you to confront who you truly are. That should terrify everyone. And you can make an argument on how this connects to how bondage can make someone confront something about themselves they have denied. But I would argue that the biggest connection this lasso interpretation has to Marston’s kinky origin is that in this specific story, the lasso isn’t actually used on the person Diana is interrogating. She could just force it on him, but she gave him the choice and he chose to willingly give her the truth without the lasso. If she were to have just forced the lasso on him, it would go against the original theme of how a kind ruler versus a harsh one. And Diana going over the full extent of what to expect while under the lasso’s influence is vaguely similar to how two partners entering a BDSM relationship might establish rules of how to treat each other. Diana giving her captive the option is her respecting him as an equal, despite how different in personality and ideology they might be. That is probably the best way this depiction of the lasso connects to Marston’s ideals.
And…that’s all I got. Just me going over the most important and interesting interpretations of how the Lasso of Truth has worked in the DCU. I hope you all found this at least an interesting read and I would like to hear whatever thoughts you might have.