Writing about Wonder Woman’s romance with Mike Bailey this week had me thinking about her romantic life post-Silver Age. Or more precisely, her lack of one.
After Steve Trevor’s death, Diana had a couple of romances in her non-super period, but in the time honored TV/comics adventure tradition of meeting a beautiful/handsome person in one adventure, forgeting about them the next. Then we had a brief hint of romance with Diana’s UN boss, Morgan Tracy, then the return of Steve from the dead. But then we jumped to the retcon WW II adventures, where Steve was largely a coworker, not a boyfriend. After the series returned to the present, we had Steve die again, and I don’t think Diana had a love interest until he returned (I’ll get to that story eventually).
When George Perez rebooted Wonder Woman, Steve was emphatically not a romantic possibility, but Perez didn’t offer an alternative. She didn’t get a guy IIRC until she had a brief flirtation with Nemesis (which didn’t end well), then in the New 52 she and Superman were an item briefly.
That’s unusual for a super-hero. Green Lantern lost Carol Ferris in the mid-sixties (she married someone else) but he found other girlfriends (he’s bounced back and forth between Carol and whoever the current GL writer picks as an alternative ever since). Cap’s great love since the Silver Age has been Sharon Carter, but when she’s been dead or disappeared, he’s had other women (attorney Bernie Rosenthal, not-so-bad villain Diamondback). When Iris West died, Barry found a new girlfriend eventually.
I’m guessing writers feel awkward working with such a prominent female character/feminist symbol. Should they show her having sex? What sort of man is appropriate? I know some fans love Steve Trevor precisely because he’s willing to date a woman who’s his superior in every way; other people favor Superman as someone who’s even more super than Wonder Woman.
Is it a good thing that WW’s not defined by her boyfriends or her romances? Certainly it’s preferable to the romance comics phase of her Silver Age adventures (from which the Ross Andru cover comes — all rights remain with current holder, of course). Or does avoiding the subject limit her as a character and a hero? Does it say something about how comics write female super-heroes? Now that I think about it, there are a lot fewer female heroes who date ordinary people than male heroes do. What does that signify — that it’s harder to imagine a guy in the conventional support role of the hero’s lover?
I have no firm conclusions, but I thought the topic was worth a post.
[UPDATE: Reading a later letter column I learned that during the space shuttle period they were thinking of hooking Diana up with Green Lantern but for various reasons it never came to pass. Which shows the risks of assuming comics are purely shaped by their creative teams and not by outside forces]