Friday, February 18, 2011

Please do not make this character into Hal Jordan

And DC just found the surest way to get me interested in Flashpoint.

Yeah, if you didn't catch it DCW has it bolded.

I am aware that I may be the only genuine Steve Trevor fan on the Internet, but I'm going to go ahead and take this moment to do a little dance in my chair.

Now that I've done that I'm going to go ahead and worry, because things never really seem to work out the way I want them to. Off the top of my head they have passed on three good opportunities to restore Diana's love interest since the Perez reboot. Zero Hour just got us backstory of Hippolyta selling out the Amazons to Hercules. John Byrne's mucking around in the timestream got us Donna Troy as a magic mirror clone, Hippolyta as WWII Wonder Woman and six months of JLA compressed into 3 days. Infinite Crisis gave us Donna as an official baby sister, a secret identity and the little twirl effect. Three perfect opportunities to write Steve back in, three times they passed it by.

However, they are at least playing with the idea in their time-line miniseries, and this IS shaking up Diana. And Steve was still the love interest in the animated movie and the planned love interest for the TV series. He's the only male character that's been in the franchise since All-Star Comics #8. Eventually, they are putting him back in the love interest place and this is probably their best opportunity.

The other thing that worries me is how he'll be when he comes back. The Steve in the animated movie bugged me. He was too much like Hal Jordan. (Though honestly, if someone tried that bar scene with Hal I'd be screaming bloody murder about them portraying Green Lantern as a rapist. There are ways to make her disillusioned and angry at her boyfriend without muddying the consent waters further and perpetrating rape culture in a Wonder Woman movie by suggesting getting a woman drunk so that he can con her into bed is somehow not a villain-only behavior.) I think they just took the fighter pilot idea and built the personality based on the job, without realizing he only has that job as an excuse to get him to the island. That's why they can make him an intelligence officer or a secret agent or even a lawyer (but how the fuck a lawyer is getting washed up on Paradise Island is for David Kelley to explain) if they want. His career is a plot convenience, not part of his characterization like Hal being a pilot, Lois being a journalist or Kyle being an artist.

Beyond the idea he should be some sort of fighter jock, there's the idea that he should be some uber-macho traditionalist to properly match Wonder Woman. I've heard this from some writers and fans, and I really hope that's not what they pull either.

See, there's two things about portraying Steve Trevor, two items that make him the most viable male love interest for Wonder Woman and if you forget them you're going to screw him up:

1) He'll step in to save Wonder Woman if he can help her at any chance, but he's well aware she is super and he is not, and that does not make him feel like less of a man.

It is vitally, vitally important that Steve not be the slightest bit threatened by Wonder Woman being more powerful than him. As a concept he's attracted to the beautiful woman who regularly saves his ass when he's in over his head, and doesn't feel a need to prove that he can handle the situation without her. He thanks her for her help and tells her it's why he loves her. He's one of those chivalrous guys who thinks he should put himself in danger before he allows a woman to, but he's not even vaguely attracted to a woman he thinks needs his protection (this is why she could never get his eye as Diana Prince).

2) Wonder Woman is believably attracted to this guy.

Allow me to repeat that: Wonder Woman is believably attracted to this guy.

This is also really important, and I wasn't worried about it until the animated film. Steve Trevor was Hal Jordan in that film, and I couldn't for the life of me get why Diana liked him. (In the Carter TV show and pre-Crisis comics I get why she likes him, but in that movie I was mystified.) I know we have some stupid Silver Age panels floating about but I don't know how we get fratboy seeking sexual conquest from them.

Hitting on Wonder Woman constantly pre-Crisis wasn't the "You're gorgeous, we should hook up" sort of come on, but the "You and I should get married" sort of come on. Yes, this is born of pre-Crisis innocence when they couldn't say he wants to sleep with her, but it is still a completely different priority level from "I want to screw that hot chick" and you fundamentally change the character when you shift the focus from wanting a long-term relationship and family to wanting to sleep with Wonder Woman. Pre-Crisis his life's ambition was to marry and raise a family with a woman who could bench press an F-15. That does not properly translate to a fratboy attitude, no matter what point you want to make about people learning to respect women.

So why shouldn't they just change it? It's a new setting, right? A new era, all characters get updated... Well, again this is supporting Point 2. If he's not genuinely serious about her and he carries on like he's in High School and trying to get someone out to the van with him then he loses some of his appeal. And we all watch it and wonder why the fuck she's attracted to him.

In the pre-Crisis comics, we know why she likes him. He's selfless, brave as all hell, charitable, kind, and resilient. In his off-duty time he'll do volunteer work, like mentoring local children who can't afford summer camp. He'll offer to fight off sharks while he's injured. He'll dive into the ocean to follow when he sees her get pulled underwater by a merman. He'll get shot by spies while carrying important paperwork and manage to give her the briefcase before he loses consciousness. He'll be tied up and threatened with torture and still make smartass remarks. When she rescues him and asks if he's okay, he gets that sort of starry-eyed smile and says he's fine as long as she's around.

When you look through the pre-Crisis stories you see him constantly bugging her for marriage and calling her an Angel and beautiful, that's the most known stuff. We also see he's pretty dense and sexist at times, as you see when he tells Diana and Etta that certain things are man's work. So I can kind of see how someone would update him by emphasizing rather than minimizing these particular flaws, but that just loses the sense of the relationship.

I know the temptation to make a point about Diana teaching a man to be a decent human being is very strong, but that's something you can do with the scores and scores of guys she doesn't give a shit about. Having her teach her main male love interest to be a decent human being is a terrible idea. The relationship can't just be about what he gets from her. She needs to get something out of this.

What worries me the most is that they'll return him, and miss one of these two things and they'll lose the appeal of this relationship. I'm worried they'll want to teach some sort of lesson about masculinity and respect using Steve as the learner, and they'll destroy what makes the character unique and attractive to Diana. Then we'll have a guy who is just there and everyone will wonder why.

Or worse, we'll have a guy who acts like an asshole just because the writers genuinely believe women are attracted to handsome assholes.

Perez managed to capture a good Steve Trevor personality, a gentle thoughtful man with a real respect for other people and a desire to do good. The only problem was that he made him a father figure and the love interest for the wrong character. I trust Hester to go ahead and write this guy younger if he gets to introduce him.

I'm worried, though, that we'll get a Steve out of Flashpoint or a later crossover, written by a writer who thinks he should be a fighter jock jackass like Hal Jordan. I enjoy a good Hal Jordan story, but there should be only one Hal Jordan and under no circumstances should Wonder Woman date him. Steve Trevor should probably be the anti-Hal. Maybe even a little inexperienced with women and dating, on account of being so picky.

I would even go so far as to make it so that Steve and Hal knew each other as pilots in the Air Force, and show them contrasting each other in flashbacks.


  1. Good points as always. There's no reason Steve can't work as well as Lois does.

    I really liked the Steve Trevor of the JLU World War II episode. They should move that model into modern times.

  2. Steve Rogers would be a better template than Hal Jordan.

  3. Actually, having Steve and Hal know each other, and contrasting their respective personalities and attitudes would be perfect. You have hit upon the crux of the matter...Steve has to be someone that SHE would be attracted to. I love Hal, but let's face it he's a jerk a lot of the time. Steve doesn't need to be one too.

  4. SallyP -- I've been thinking about it since I dropped the suggestion in this post and I'm getting attached to it too. They'd be a great Goofus and Gallant showcase for how men treat women, and each other. Plus they'd be funny as hell. ("Wait, so you crash-landed on an island of women? How do I get something like that to happen." "Not as fun as it sounds. I was injured, and they were talking about killing me. I spent the whole time tied up." "..." "Why do I even TALK to you?")

    I think they'd even be slashable.

  5. From a modern perspective, I can see how writers might have an issue justifying the ongoing Unresolved Sexual Tension between Steve and Diana. In the Golden Age, Diana's counter was always "I can't consider marriage until we've Defeated the Axis".

    In the Silver Age, as the clip you posted above shows so succinctly, it was "... until I'm no longer needed to fight evil". Not only is that argument even weaker and sillier than most of the Secret ID Can't Have A Relationship Status Quo Doubletalk of the day, but it's based in the horribly, horribly sexist (and anti-Marstonian) notion that a woman has to give up her career to be a "good wife".

    In this day and age, that wouldn't fly, invisible plane or no. Not only is "we both maintain our careers" an option, but Steve Trevor is the kind of guy who could say "fine, I'm retiring from the military to take care of the kids" without having it be an irreparable blow to his ego.

    I think the writers saw that UST as an integral part of the Diana/Steve relationship, and couldn't see how to maintain it. That's why they killed him off (repeatedly) throughout the Bronze Age, and why Perez turned him into a Father Figure and effectively wrote him out of the reboot.

    Resolving UST is always a hazardous direction to take. It can defuse or deflate the entire impetus of a series. On the other claw, we've seen that you can take a triangle like Clark-Lois-Superman, a character dynamic that I've argued is the most central part of the mythos, and resolve the tension while making the relationship, the characters and the stories growing out of it even stronger.

    I would love to see them take the bold step of bringing Steve and Diana together as a Real Couple in a Committed Relationship. I would love to see Gail Simone's scenes of Amazon Courting Rituals played out with Steve instead of Nemesis.*

    Unfortunately, I'm afraid that, even if it happened, it would all be undone by the next writer. That, unfortunately, is a signature element of Diana's mythos, and has been since Kanigher took over from Marston.


    * As a footnote, taking that end-of-issue cliffhanger reveal of "STEVE TREVOR" back in 2006 and turning it into "oh no it's really the Master of Disguise pretending to BE Steve for reasons that never really made sense" was one of the biggest cheats since "no, no, Monarch is really Hawk", and smacks of the same kind of Last-Minute Editorial Fiat. I suspect that the writer really intended to retcon Trevor back in as the Love Interest, and got shot down at the last minute by the PTB -- and perhaps it was that derailment that threw her so badly off-schedule.

  6. ... oh, and I'd really love to see Steve Trevor playing Full-Time Parent.

    Particularly when he and Hal The Other Pilot get together for drinks.

    "Doesn't he make fun of you for being 'Mister Mom'?"

    "He used to. Then I started telling him stories about toilet-training an Amazon daughter. All that stuff you hear about Hal being 'totally without fear'?
    "... you can drop the 'totally'."