By Koppy McFad
Feb 24, 2004 - 15:20
This is an essay about the most hated man in comics.
No, I don't mean Rob Liefeld.
This is about a character who is a true icon of the Golden Age, who survived the time of Great Dying to make his way through the 50s and 60s, who has resisted attempts to write him off in the 70s-90s and has even gone on to appear on primetime television.
More importantly, this is the only guy on record to have ever boinked Wonder Woman. On a regular basis.
But all that hasn't helped him. In fact, it has even worked against him. Some of the most respected creators in comics are dead-set against him, the fans generally don't like him, editors ignore him and in his recent appearance in Wonder Woman # 200, he was generally depicted as a major jerk.
Yeah, we're talking about Steve Trevor.
If you hear the fangirls complaining about women in refrigerators, just remind them about Steve Trevor because this is the guy they have been trying to put on ice for decades.
It wasn't suppose to be that way. Turn to the original version of Wonder Woman-- the real one, not the P.C., feminist, Perezized, Jimenezized, Byrned, Helen Gurley Brown-influenced ambassador for peace that you see today. Look at how she was depicted in the first stories by Dr. "Loving Submission" Marston.
Steve Trevor, US military pilot crashes near Paradise Island, is saved by Princess Diana of the Amazons. And she falls in love with him. So much in love that she disobeys her mother's edicts, defeats her fellow Amazons in athletic competition, leaves her home and forsakes her immortality-- for a man!
Just reading that gets people choked up. Back in the 40s they were deeply touched. Nowadays, readers are vomitting.
Yes, Steve was overprotective, a bit chauvanistic and more than a little stupid not to notice that Diana Prince and Princess Diana were the same person.
So Steve had his bad points. But so what? Back in the day, Lois was actively trying to expose Superman's secret identity, Jimmy was a dolt, Commissioner Gordon couldn't solve a crossword puzzle without Batman's help and even the kid who worked with Rex the Wonder Dog was clearly acting only as a translator ("what's that, Rex? It's a subdural hematoma? You'll have to perform a craniotomy? I can help you, boy.")
Steve was no worse than any other supporting character of the time. But he gets singled out because, let's face it-- he's a man!
From the start of modern pop heroic fiction, the role of the romantic interest has been to be placed in danger so the hero can look good, rushing to the rescue. It happened to Lois, Lana, Sheira, Dorma, Mary Jane, Nurse Foster, Iris West and Robin. (scratch that last one.) No one complains when Jean Loring is taken hostage by mutant squirrels. That's her job.
But it really hurts when the roles are reversed.
Steve Trevor may have more medals than John Kerry and Wesley Clark put together but the fact is, he will be forever remembered in comics as "the man who gets rescued by his girlfriend." Be honest, guys. It is one thing for women to house us, feed us, clean up after us, even support us ("hey, mom I AM looking for a job!") But God forbid that she should actually have to wade in and rescue our asses from mortal danger. After that happens, you might as well shave your legs and put on the little French maid outfit, because you are now the spiritual brother of John Wayne Bobbit, my friend.
Steve endured that. For years. Wonder Woman rescues him from Ares. Wonder Woman rescues him from Dr. Psycho. Wonder Woman rescues him from a giant poached egg. The guy was clearly being emasculated on a monthly basis. Maybe the big guys at DC Comics thought that if Steve walked around in his military uniform, no one would question his masculinity. To most of us, it was more of a case of "don't ask, don't tell."
Yet in 1969, something monumental happened. No, not the moon landing. They killed Steve Trevor off.
This was bigger than Gwen Stacy. Bigger than Jean Grey. Bigger than OJ Simpson (well, maybe not the last one.) Remember, this was Steve Trevor-- the reason for Wonder Woman coming to man-world in the first place. He was more important to the Wonder Woman mythos than Howard Dean was to the Democratic Party.
But they killed him off, an event that should have shaken Wonder Woman-- the character and the comic book-- to her/its core.
About four issues later, Wonder Woman was making goo-goo eyes at some sleazy private detective.
Clearly, they couldn't wait to get Steve off the stage. The only problem was-- they couldn't replace him.
Oh, they tried with tough Irish cops, dedicated UN officials, handsome astronauts, a tennis instructor named "Julio"-- they were just never accepted.
So they would try to bring Steve back-- only to have him reduced to looking like a jerk again. Then, they'd kill him off. And the cycle would begin anew.
But when George Perez took over, they really finished poor Steve off for good.
They didn't kill him. They did something worse. They married him off.
To Etta Candy: THE COMEDY RELIEF.
Fact: Lois Lane did not marry Jimmy Olsen. Susan Storm did not marry Willy Lumpkin. Snow White sure as hell did not marry Dopey but poor Steve was married off to Etta Candy. So maybe Etta is no longer a fat chick going "woo-woo" like some Daffy Duck imitator but I think even the most fervent feminist will agree, Etta is a step down from a woman who is "more beautiful than Aphrodite."
But marrying Etta effectively killed Steve more than Dr. Cyber ever could. He is no longer Wonder Woman's love interest. Not even a lost love interest. He is just some old guy-friend who is married to one of Diana's best girl-pals.
Don't be fooled by this fanboys. This is the comicbook equivalent of the girl telling you "we can still be friends." It is the ultimate brush off. Diana no longer loves him. She never loved him and she probably doesn't even think of him anymore. Just like all those girls who dumped you. Ahem. Where was I? Oh, yes. So I think I have demonstrated that Steve was stuck in a bad situation from the start and it is a tribute to the character that he lasted this long. But Steve isn't the only one. In all major comic titles, editors and readers have slowly realized that you simply can't match a superwoman with an ordinary man. They tried it with Black Canary, Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel, it didn't work.
For an example, let us look at Diana's younger sister, Wonder Girl, Donna Troy.
In the heyday of the New Teen Titans, Donna was married to an older, fatter, bearded academic named Terry Long. That was a real tribute to the fanboys, because Terry resembled us more than we may have wanted to admit. He was weaker than his wife, but so what? We were suppose to be touched by the fact that Donna could look beyond Terry's physical shortcomings and love him for what he is. Fans initially adored the Terry-Donna pairing. The issue where they got hitched was widely praised for its sensitivity.
But eventually the fans realized something. Terry was not like them. He was boinking Wonder Girl. Mr. Fanboy however, was not boinking Wonder Girl. Mr. Fanboy would have been happy just to nail Average Girl. But in truth, he was luck just to get Barely-Adequate Girl. In most cases, he had to settle for Imaginary Girl. After awhile, the fans began to hate Terry in all his bearded mediocrity. When they eventually killed him off, they didn't even put it on-panel.
Oh, what happened to Donna? She eventually hitched up with some punk who just happened to get a power ring handed to him while he was taking a whiz in an alley. Nut at least he was a superhero. The fans lapped it up.
A sociologist once summed it up like this: just because a woman becomes the president of a company and can now date whoever she wants, it doesn't mean she is going to start flirting with the mail room clerks. No, she is going to go after the chairman of the board. Same with superwomen. Ask any fanboy who Wonder Woman should be with, the answer will be: Superman. And yes, it has to be Superman. Maybe Batman and Aquaman might qualify but definitely not Trevor Barnes or Tim Trench or even Blue Bettle. It has to be a superhero of equal or even greater stature. Anything less, and Diana is dating beneath her. And as much as we want to believe that such things happen-- we, as fanboys, know very well that they don't.
It isn't just Wonder Woman you know. Over at Marvel, they have had a devil of a time trying to find a boyfriend for Storm. I just know that in a few months, Ororo is going to show up on "Oprah" as part of a panel on black women who can't find suitable men. They also tried to match She-Hulk with Wyatt Wingfoot. For those who forgot, Wingfoot is a loyal friend of the Fantastic Four who is also a Jim Thorpe-level athlete with the body to match. But even he wasn't good enough for She-Hulk. I read somewhere that Shulkie has recently hooked up with the Juggernaut. I don't know if that's true. I don't have the heart to find out.
So don't be so hard on poor Steve Trevor. Think of him as one of those session musicians or bit-players that budding starlets hook up with-- until they hit the big time and can finally snare a millionaire movie producer. Steve has been used and discarded by a beautiful woman. So for all his good looks and he-man attitude, he isn't that different from the rest of us.