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Isabel Maru might just be the secret weapon of Wonder Woman — fittingly, as she’s the woman responsible for the creation of the new German weapons that Steve Trevor is trying to destroy, putting the entire plot into motion. Maru is played by Spanish actress Elena Anaya, who spends the film concocting deadlier and deadlier gasses for Ludendorff (Danny Houston).
But who is “Doctor Poison,” and where does she come from?
Doctor Poison was actually one of Wonder Woman’s earliest villains, debuting in 1942’s Sensation Comics No. 2. If the name seemed melodramatic yet generic, that was reflected in her description of her job. “So you know I am chief of our poison division!” she tells Steve Trevor, thereby explaining her name in the most boring terms possible.
That’s not to say that the character herself was dull; if anything, just the opposite: Masked and wearing green scrubs, Poison captures Steve Trevor, creates “Reverso,” a drug that makes its subject do the very opposite of what they intend, and, more importantly, was initially portrayed as a male villain in order to set up the surprise reveal at the end of her first appearance. (“I knew you were a woman — your delicate hands betrayed you!” says Wonder Woman, as she strips Poison of her scrubs.)
That version of Poison — “Princess Maru,” a presumably Chinese (she’d disguise herself as a Chinese nightclub singer in a later appearance) villain that tied into the lazy “Asian threat” trend of 1940s U.S. comic books — would only appear a handful of times over the next couple of years, including being part of the early supervillain team “Villainy Inc.” Yet Doctor Poison would live on in a number of different guises.
The character would return, kind of, in 2001’s Wonder Woman Vol. 2 No. 174. Technically, this Doctor Poison is the granddaughter of the first, although both are essentially reboots of the character as she first appeared. Marina Maru, as the second incarnation was called, was once again a chemist with a taste for evil — as well as for revenge, given that her grandmother had tangled with Wonder Woman’s mother in the Second World War.
Seemingly determined to retrace her predecessor’s footsteps, Doctor Poison II would go on to become a relatively minor villain who, once again, served with a group calling itself Villainy Inc. before disappearing into relative obscurity.
Following DC’s line-wide superhero reboot in 2011, a third Doctor Poison debuted in Wonder Woman Vol. 4 No. 48, this time the daughter of Russian scientists who had been killed by the state as suspected traitors. Blaming the U.S. for their deaths, she became a terrorist intending to disrupt diplomatic talks with chemical attacks, only to be defeated at the last moment by Wonder Woman.
Currently, a fourth Maru exists in DC’s comic mythology, although she’s a distinctly different character from her predecessors. The current Marina Maru is a mercenary who belongs to an organization called Poison, which was created by her family at some undisclosed point in the past. Although this Maru works with chemicals — she unleashed a chemical attack which sends victims into an uncontrollable rage at one point — she is also a skilled fighter in her own right, and sees herself as more soldier than scientist.
While each of these comic book incarnations of the character share only a tenuous connection with the onscreen Doctor Poison, all but the first offer an intriguing hint at a potential plot point for a second Wonder Woman movie. After all, no matter which version of comic book reality exists, it seems as if the Maru family line seems to produce children out for revenge against those who have wronged their family …
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