Monday, February 21, 2011

A Pitiful Pool of Prospective Paramours

Steve Trevor wasn't the only Silver Age love interest, but he was honestly--even in 1958 when they actually let him almost outsmart her--the most likable. Our other options were usually villains or...



Mer-man.


He's Diana's teen romance from when he was Mer-Boy. He used to try to protect her underwater and she would save his ass. He used to fight with Bird-boy over her. He used to follow the dumbass advice of dumbass Mermaids about how girls were all alike and fuck up courting her because Amazons are immune to that shit. Of course since Wonder Girl became Donna Troy, I guess the Mer-Boy and Bird-boy fighting over her experience went to Donna. Maybe? And I think post-Crisis they've all been replaced by Aquaman, but I'm not sure.

What I am sure of is that I fucking hate Mer-man. Mer-man's sole purpose is to create a Lana Lang-style love triangle and have them fight over Wonder Woman like a prize. (The lead story in issue 125 is actually called "Wonder Woman--Battle Prize") He also tries to rush in and save her from situations she's perfectly capable of handling herself. I'll give you that Steve does this too, but he seems a lot more inclined to sit back and just keep within eyesight. Mer-man actually tells her not to do things like he knows better. Then he gets his ass saved by her.



Really, just take all of Steve's Silver Age Rough-Around-the-Edges Macho Flaws and multiply them by 10. That is Mer-man.

And when Steve encounters Mer-man, take his competitive pigheadedness and watch it multiply all of HIS flaws by 10.



Then add pissed off Hippolyta telling them they're a bunch of idiots.



Mer-man does suffer from a problem Steve doesn't, which is that he doesn't appear often enough for there to be many stories to offset when he acts like a jackass. Steve can be a pushy jerk because he's around next story being loyal and supportive, and telling her how awesome she is and that she always saves his life. We get to see Steve remember that Wonder Woman is more capable than him often enough that it actually seems endearing when he tosses himself into danger to help her. Mer-man... just acts like an asshole, and seems to not ever remember that she is considerably more powerful than he is.



Really, because of this pigheaded arrogance the competition stories have the option of being very funny. For example, in #125 Mer-man (without asking) grabs Diana and (without asking) jumps into the ocean to show off underwater because he has the advantage there. Steve gets annoyed and follows. Diana watches Mer-man fight a swordfish, then sees Steve is losing oxygen and consciousness looking for her and rescues him. Mer-man follows them to land where Steve beats up a gorilla, and Mer-man gets captured by a giant bird. Diana saves his ass. That's... actually pretty funny.

Except at the end of the story (and all of these stupid competition stories with Steve and Mer-man or Mer-Boy and Bird-brainboy) she doesn't tell them they're idiots and send them packing. She tells them she likes them both, and then looks at the audience and asks how she could possibly choose between the two. Which is bullshit. They both suck in these stories.

"How can I choose?" Don't. Send them both packing, then go to the Superman franchise and ask Lois out. Maybe you'll hit it off and give Clark a break from this sort of shit too. At the very least you'll get a nice meal and some entertaining company while Steve follows you around with his adorable pilot's hat in his hand begging you to talk to him again.

5 comments:

  1. "Maybe you'll hit it off and give Clark a break from this sort of shit too"
    I just DIED.

    Coincidentally, just the other day Iwas reading the Wonder Woman Showcase collections, so some of these stories are pretty fresh in my memory. And while I completely agree with you regarding Mer-Boy/Man, I have to say I don't know, between him and Steve, which one is more insufferable.

    Best,
    J.

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  2. One thing about the Showcases is that they start off Steve with two stories where he's oddly predatory... like an exact copy of Lois Lane. By the time they retell the origin where the gods come and give her gifts, that deceptiveness is gone. He's guileless, tactless, gorgeous Steve.

    I actually read Golden Age and Bronze stories before I read those two, so I think I got a different preconception than a lot of fans. Or maybe it was just that my first exposure to the character was Lyle Waggoner. I tend to be pretty soft on Steve.

    Also, he is so much more attractive than Mer-man.

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  3. Wait, was this when she had her earrings that would let her breathe underwater?

    I wish I had underwater earrings.

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  4. Poor Diana. She never expected Amoeba-Man to just split like that.

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  5. There is the school of thought that Mer-Boy and friends are inhabitants of Earth-2 but not Earth-1. Some place the dividing line between Earth-1 and Earth-2 as late as WW #158:

    http://www.carolastrickland.com/comics/wwcentral/wfindex/wfindex10.html

    Now to be fair, this was 1965 -- Barry Allen had already been around for years, so it's a pretty late cutoff. But otherwise it fits. As of #158, Wonder Woman's traditional supporting cast was retired, except for Steve and Hippolyta (who changed her hair color between panels). Even Wonder Girl and Wonder Tot (positively identified as younger versions of Diana) were retired.

    So Mer-Boy and friends were probably not Donna Troy's mess; Donna Troy was an Earth-1 phenomenon, while Mer-Boy and the Glop were on Earth-2. As to what happened post-Crisis, well, your guess is as good as mine.

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