I’m finally working my way through John Byrne’s Wonder Woman run and so far it’s not as bad as I remembered. However it’ll be a while before I have any posts on those issues so I thought I’d look at two of the three most important supporting characters in Wonder Woman’s world, Steve Trevor and Etta Candy. First up: Steve.
Steve Trevor was literally there from the first story, a backup feature in All-Star Comics #8 that preceded Diana’s series in Sensation Comics. Shot down over Paradise Island, he’s the first man Diana ever saw. She saves his life by developing new Amazon healing technology. Having fallen in love with him she opts to become Wonder Woman, travel with him to “Man’s World” and fight injustice there (Robert Kanigher was one of several authors to drop the idea she’s only leaving her home out of love for a man). It’s a good origin though I don’t think it’s as classic as Batman’s or Spider-Man’s — and it’s retold way too often.
As Trina Robbins once put it, Steve was the Lois Lane of the series. He’s a military officer, brave and daring but his primary role is to get himself in trouble so Wonder Woman can come and save him. I’ve known fans who think he’s useless; others love him precisely because he’s willing to play second fiddle to a woman who’s stronger, braver and more heroic than he’ll ever be. As witness “The Lawbreaker’s League” in which a device makes Steve stronger than his sweetie; when WW says she could never be happy with a man who can dominate her physically Steve smashes it without a second thought.
In a later Kanigher story Steve tells Wonder Woman he’s such a screw-up he needs around full-time to save his life; she agrees that if she has to save him three times that day, she’ll marry him. That’s amusing but it’s also typical of Silver Age Steve, forever trying, like Lois, to trick Wonder Woman into marrying him. She’s Superman, determined to stay single; her duty to fight evil takes precedence. That’s cool but by the end of Kanigher’s run things got a lot more annoying, with Diana constantly mooning over Steve (Kanigher imported a lot of romance comics tropes) and Steve’s tricks getting creepier. In one issue he traps her in her lasso and forces her to go with him to a Justice of the Peace to get married. It doesn’t work but still!
Then came the radical reboot that depowered Wonder Woman and killed off Steve. After her powers returned, along with Kanigher, we had several stories showing Steve alive again, without explanation (as noted at the link, this brief period was a mess). It wasn’t until 1976 that the gods, and author Marty Pasko, resurrected Steve in #223 (yep, that’s him under the hood). It was an awkward resurrection: Steve took a new identity (Steve Howard) and felt much more frustrated at being WW’s Lois Lane. He’s arguing with her more, gets a new job as a spy and clearly Pasko had some ideas about their relationship … but then the Linda Carter series took off and we were back with Diana and Steve in WW II. When that was over and we returned to the present, new writer Jack C. Harris killed Steve again.
This time he stayed gone until 1980, when a parallel-world Steve Trevor crossed over to Earth-One and became Diana’s new/old love (she’d chosen to forget Steve to ease her pain so the relationship felt new). They stayed together until 1986 when they married right before Crisis on Infinite Earth erased them in favor of George Perez’ reboot.
Perez’ Steve was an older man, tough and smart and soon a friend and mentor to Diana, but never a lover; romance was, for better or worse, not a thing for her in the Perez years. Eventually they saw themselves as siblings, when Diana learned Steve’s mother had landed on Themyscira years earlier and died a hero, inspiring both Diana’s costume and Hippolyta’s choice of what to name her daughter. Steve did fall in love with Etta and Perez’ run was supposed to end with their wedding. Due to some confusion, after Perez had finished the issue he had to redraw it so new writer William Messner-Loebs could handle the wedding — but he never did, for whatever reason.
A few years ago, Greg Rucka finally paired off Steve and Diana again (Etta’s now gay) and I believe that’s still the status quo. However I’m not up on recent developments so don’t hold me too that.
#SFWApro. Covers by Edward Hibbard and Ernie Chan, all rights remain with current holders.