Sunday, April 10, 2011

More on pre-Crisis Diana and Steve

I swear I just read a back and forth about how Diana and Steve weren't ever a loving relationship because he was "such a blithering idiot" in the Golden Age (and it's taken as a given that he's not worth reading in the Silver Age), and someone stated that the most loving they seemed in the Silver Age was in the opening two issues of Denny O'Neil's run.

I'm not going to single anyone out for last year's conversation (besides I've seen similar attitudes in letters pages and on boards and journals across the internet) but I have to say I'm boggled about that particular assertation, because... Well, it can't be the same Denny O'Neil run I'm thinking of. In the first couple issues of O'Neil's run, someone gets drunk and calls Diana a freak, she doesn't say anything (just looks uncomfortable), and Steve punches the guy. They go leave the party to park and make out. So, Diana's not herself. Then Steve gets mad at her for testifying about it at the trial when the dude gets killed. So, kinda rocky there. I suppose you might think it's sweet that he lost his temper and engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer to defend her honor rather than use the appropriate amount of force for the situation. I guess it is, I'd rather have seen Diana at least push the guy away and get an offended look.

The end sequence of the story has him holding Wonder Woman in her arms and wondering aloud if he should start dating Diana Prince since she cleared his name of a murder charge in that identity. Now, we all know Steve goes on about Wonder Woman when talking to Diana Prince, but he is actively dating Wonder Woman and only seems to be hanging out with Diana Prince because she's his friend. This has him saying to his girlfriend that his affection for her is in danger if any other woman saves his life. That's at odds with all any strife stories in the Silver Age, where Steve would either be under mind control or have had a fight and a breakup with Wonder Woman before looking elsewhere. I will grant O'Neil that he only ever gets attracted to women who look exactly like Wonder Woman. He got that, and the not interested unless she can save his life thing right. Still, not really the best moment for this relationship.

Any time they're together afterward, he's near death and she's crying over his injured form.

And honestly, that's why I hate the O'Neil run. Diana doesn't assert herself, cries even more than under Kanigher, gives up her powers so can be with Steve and then completely fails to protect him from Dr. Cyber... TWICE. And after he dies, the first man she's attracted to is evil. That opening storyline is just freaking annoying.

I mean, we bash the Silver Age but even though Kanigher made her emotional at times she was always really active and assertive. And while Kanigher's Diana was a complete stranger to logic, and his Steve was a stranger to forethought, I wouldn't call it an unpleasant relationship. They were really devoted to each other.

Kanigher wrote some extremely sweet stuff even though he also had stories where one or both of them were complete jerks. And it is generally BOTH of them being idiots. For every time Steve breaks up with Diana for a really stupid reason there's a story where Diana's angry at him for a really stupid reason and purposefully messes with his head. Not only that, everyone except Hippolyta comes off as an idiot in Mer-man stories. But for every one of those, there's cute little stories where he has to identify her by her kiss, he brings her gifts, takes her on dates to get her mind off the crime-fighting stress, builds her up when she's feeling down, doesn't dump her after tossing him across the room because of a hallucination, ignores the extremely weird goings on during a date to continue spending time with her, and doesn't give her a hard time for choosing the greater good over his life. Story wrap-ups are often Steve setting up Diana so she can give the moral, or Diana giving the moral and Steve following up with a flirtation or compliment. He's a jerk at times, but he's also the most supportive person in her life and dedicates a good percentage of his time to making sure she's comfortable and happy.

Even with Diana Prince, he's a thoughtless jerk who drones on about how awesome his girlfriend is but he's also fond of her, friendly to her, and protective of her. He's always trying to get Diana Prince to have fun and take a break from work, trying to find a way to introduce her to Wonder Woman and when she's not present for an adventure he feels bad about her being left out.

In the Golden Age, he's more outwardly macho (which I find greatly amusing) but still her absolute biggest public support. He defends her, talks her up, makes sure she gets proper credit for her heroism, attends any public appearances to offer his support, comforts her when she's upset, brings the cavalry, gets along with her friends, respects her culture and sticks around during danger on the off chance he might be able to help her in the smallest way. He can get bombastic, but that actually makes it more impressive when you see him defer to her wisdom and skill, or just when you see those panels where he's standing quietly in the background while she's in the spotlight.

Yeah, these characters weren't perfectly refined. It's Golden and Silver Age comics, Batman, Superman and their supporting casts had some odd behavior too. Still, this was not a bad boyfriend at all. A lot preferable to most of the leading men who were in the hero role, actually. Probably because he's designed to be the supportive, laid back partner to someone dominant and driven. Before I actually sat down read this stuff, I always heard the two things: He's a jerk, and he's a wuss. Reading the archives and the Showcases, I don't see a significant basis for either conclusion.

I swear, people must be reading the comics from the red universe.

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