This week on the podcast, Jenny and the guys talked comics. I, generally, use this site to talk comics. However, so does Jimmy, and he’s also doing a podcast reaction this week. In fact, it’s probably live as you read this, but not as I type this, so go read Jimmy’s column, or he’ll be a sad panda.
But I do that “Misplaced Hero” column, so let’s cover a character discussed during the GNOWs that isn’t really a misplaced hero but more of a misplaced love interest.
Steve Motherlovin’ Trevor.
Let me start off by pointing out Trevor is still an active participant in the DCU. In the New 52, he started off as a government handler for Wonder Woman and then by extension the rest of the Justice League. I stopped reading DC at that point mostly due to finances, but the Nu52 wasn’t doing as much for me as DC was before then, so all I have to say about that.
Steve was also put to good use in George Perez’s post-Crisis revamp of Wonder Woman. The basic backstory was basically the same, where Steve was an Air Force pilot who crash landed on Paradise Island, being the first man to step foot on the island in years. The Amazons then decided one of their own needed to go to Man’s World to act as the ambassador of Amazon ideals to the rest of the world and Princess Diana won the contest. There’s more to it than that, actually, and in what was perhaps the best twist possible, Trevor wasn’t in love with Diana, but rather the somewhat overweight Etta Candy. Etta had been a longtime Wonder Woman supporting castmember, a fat woman who just loved candy. Even more recently, Etta has actually slimmed down to being a rather standard attractive comic book woman, typical in many ways, but somewhere the old Etta is probably locked up in a cell somewhere with the old version of Amanda Waller plotting revenge.
But that’s not what I want to talk about.
I want to talk about the Silver Age Steve Trevor.
That guy sucked.
Let’s talk the Silver Age in general. Most superheroes were men. With the exception of Wonder Woman and the occasional female knock-off, this would remain the case for many years. Superhero comics were written by men for juvenile male readers. Many of these DC heroes had regular girlfriends or love interests, but they were treated as someone to keep in the dark (because honesty in a relationship is never a good idea), or at least someone who would verbally prefer the superhero alter ego to the guy sitting right in front of them who just so happened to be that superhero.
It’s hard to say which love interest character was the worst when it came to this. The impulse is to say Lois Lane, but Lois may not have been the worst. She was busy trying to trick Superman into marriage before Lana Lang managed it, but there may be worse offenders.
Take Green Lantern love interest Carol Ferris for example. Carol was in love with Green Lantern. Hal Jordan knew this but preferred Carol being in love with himself as Hal Jordan, test pilot, who apparently was not man enough compared to the guy in tights that fought crime with a piece of bling.
I’m inclined to think the worst may have been Iris West over in The Flash. Artist Carmine Infantino often drew Iris looking angry at Barry all the time, and one of those angry looks in one story actually had her telling Barry, to his face, he wasn’t a “real man” like The Flash.
Barry just sits there and smiles.
Seriously, that’s an awful way to talk to a man who just so happens to be your fiance. And yes, he was her fiance at that point, though the proposal was never shown.
But those are superhero girlfriends. They may require frequent rescuing, but oftentimes that due to the magic of coincidence. They may or may not have been putting themselves directly in harm’s way on purpose. And if they were, like Lois Lane, they did so with the knowledge that their hero would show up and save them.
What do you do with a superhero boyfriend in this sort of sexist environment?
That leads us back to Steve Trevor, who called Wonder Woman his “angel” and was a member of some sort of unspecified branch of military intelligence. Many of those Wonder Woman stories would start with Steve getting a mission of some kind. His assistant was Diana Prince, basically Wonder Woman pulling a Clark Kent by putting on a pair of glasses. She runs off to change and meet him on his way to the mission. He’d drive her there in his jeep.
Yes, he drove her. Remember the time period. Wonder Woman was not capable of driving the jeep.
Then, in most stories, Steve may or may not need rescuing, but he certainly didn’t offer much in the way of help. He mostly watched. The AV Club review for DC Comics Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Volume One very accurately described Steve as “useless”. I have that volume and his general uselessness is why I don’t have any additional Wonder Woman volumes, and I really enjoy those reprint editions.
There was one story where he saved the day. It was probably the worst by modern standards. A villain made doubles of Wonder Woman and Steve had to figure out which one was real. He did so by kissing them all and then guessing correctly. The final panel had Wonder Woman of all people chewing Steve out for enjoying kissing other girls like some kind of bad sitcom jealous wife.
I have no idea why Steve Trevor was kept around for so long. Like Lois Lane, the character did improve over time, but for the longest while, he had all the worst aptitudes of the superhero girlfriend while the stories he appeared in tried to make him look like he could have been Wonder Woman’s equal or something. DC did have military and espionage heroic characters, so it wasn’t like Steve couldn’t have been, I dunno, competent. And even if he wasn’t, the stories themselves tried to tell the reader he was when really all he did was drive the jeep and call the actual hero by various flirty pet names. You get the impression that the modern Wonder Woman would have snapped him in half and been done with it.
The best way to understand what Silver Age Steve was like and couple it with a modern look at that character may be in animated form. The animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold used various DC Silver Age comics and ideas to craft fun and often funny stories. The material was somehow both tongue-in-cheek and largely faithful to the source material. The creators kept the big name DC characters by and large out of the series until the final season when finally Superman, Barry Allen’s Flash, Ray Palmer’s Atom, and the core of the classic Justice League finally showed up. One of these last season inclusions was Wonder Woman, and she had to rescue Steve Trevor. I’ll put the video here. I think Batman’s last line in this pre-credits teaser pretty much sums up everything anyone needs to know about why the Silver Age Steve Trevor kinda sucks.