1908 - Isabella Maru is born in Italy.
1928 - 20-year-old Isabella hides her gender to study chemistry in Japan.
1932 - 24-year-old isabella completes her schooling & begins her advanced studies, specializing in human biochemistry.
1934 - 26-year-old Isabella earns her doctorate in biochemistry, working as an agent of the Axis Regime.
1935 - 27-year-old Isabella becomes an assassin for the Axis forces, still hiding her gender as Doctor Poison.
1937 - 29-year-old Isabella earns her own special science division to develop chemical weapons.
1940 - 32-year-old Isabella unleashes her chemical weapons on the European Theater, continuing her work by experimenting on prisoners.
1942 - 34-year-old Isabella's chemicals allow her to take control of an entire allied batallion, and to capture Steve Trevor. She battles Hippolyta, eventually overdosing on her own poisons.
There are a few compelling ingredients that makes Doctor Poison interesting. There is the usual layering of metaphorical purpose that's typical of the characters created by William Moulton Marston's Wonder Woman villains... a character who uses poison to undermine the minds of men while simultaneously hiding her gender... there is a lot ot unpack there. Also, the early versions of the character feature some problematic examples of the demonization of Japanese people that was pretty common in comics... the big reveal that Poison is a woman is actually undercut by the reveal that she is Japanese and therefore evil, apparently. It's hard to see this stuff now, but it was very common during wartime. Then, of course. the character is also even more interesting because she was depicted in one of the greatest Superhero movies ever put to film.
Doctor Poison's Comic History
Doctor Poison first appeared in Sensation Comics #2 in 1942, an anthology series that saw the creation of a lot of classic wartime superheroes.
As a piece of comic book history, there's something really interesting about the original appearance of this character, beyond all the normal layers of meaning typical in Wonder Woman villains. It's the fact that the character was designed to use the art style of Wonder Woman comics as part of her narrative development. She wore a bulky costume and disguised her face with a mask, but even moreso the particular flourish of the art managed to make the character somehow entirely gendered and genderless. It's a fascinating little nugget of design work that really stands out in the era.
Doctor Poison would go on to join a group of Wonder Woman enemies in one of the first Bad Guy teams in comics; Villany Inc. Later, a new, modern version of the character would be introduced; a descendant of the wartime original. These are all cool innovations. but we're just going to stick with the original depiction of the character.
Our Doctor Poison Story
While modern takes of the character have brought about soem interesting stories, the character of Doctor Poison really shines in a wartime setting. Her obvious insanity and the lethality of her poisons are all really perfectly suited for the backdrop of World War II. Of course, our version of Wonder Woman isn't active during the forties; we've very deliberately decided that her adventures are going to be entirely modern. We've borrowed from the pages of James Robinson's Justice Society, however, and established that Wonder Woman's mother left the island during World War II. In our version of history, It's Hippolyta who loved Steve Trevor, and who fought the Axis forces alongside the Justice Society... and therefore it's Hippolyta who saves him from the chemical weapons of Doctor Poison and who fights her to save a batallion of Allied troops.
We adore the verion of her depicted in the Wonder Woman movie. We've kept that versions first name, although it is pretty central to the character concept that she be at least part Japanese. The costume design in the movie is beautiful, and as much as possible we'd like to keep elements of it, but the fact that the character hide her gender is a core part of who we believe she is. Personally, I imagine that there is meant to be something tragic there... that this brilliant person was forced to hide herself in order to persue her brilliance. I'm imaginging that's a large part of the 'poison' metaphor Marston was making with the character in the first place.