Warning: This article contains spoilers for Wonder Woman 1984! If you haven’t seen it yet—what are you waiting for?!
It felt like a miracle. Wonder Woman had seen her true love Steve Trevor die, yet there he was in the flesh. How had Diana’s soulmate escaped death and returned to life? You might think we’re talking about a scene from Wonder Woman 1984, but we’re actually referring to Trevor’s bizarre comic book revival (although to be fair, it’s not as if that didn’t happen in the movie). Yes, it doesn’t matter what continuity he’s in, Steve Trevor has a habit of dying and returning—often multiple times! While the cinematic Trevor was brought back to life by the Dreamstone, things were a bit more complicated with his comic book counterpart.
It all began in 1969’s Wonder Woman #180. Steve had been targeting a criminal known as Doctor Cyber and found himself on the receiving end of her henchmen’s bullets. Wonder Woman and Steve had been partners and sweethearts for decades, making his death a huge turning point for Diana. At the time creators Denny O’Neil and Mike Sekowsky were in the middle of their run, which reinvented Wonder Woman by removing her traditional costume and powers, and reimaging the Amazonian Warrior as a kung fu mod boutique owner.
Adding to the tragedy of Steve’s death, Diana had given up her powers only one issue earlier, when she was given the choice between staying on Earth with Steve or traveling to another dimension with her Amazonian sisters. Wonder Woman had given up her heritage for Steve, and one issue later he was gone. Diana somberly wondered if her powers would’ve been enough to save him.
In 1973’s Wonder Woman #204, the Amazons returned and rescued a wounded Diana. When Wonder Woman awoke, she had amnesia, so her mother Hippolyta decided to hook her up to a memory machine. Unfortunately, the memory machine only restored some of her memories (they’re unreliable like that). Diana regained her classic costume and powers, but lost all memory of her kung fu days and Steve’s death. This restored the status quo…kind of.
A few months later in Wonder Woman #208, Diana shared a few adventures with….uh…Steve Trevor. Obviously, this raised many questions since Steve had been dead for years, but since Diana had selective amnesia, she didn’t realize how weird this was. Of course, the problem with selective amnesia is that your friends still remember everything, so in Wonder Woman #212, Diana received a rude awakening from the Justice League.
Hippolyta’s “brilliant” plan to erase a portion of Diana’s memories didn’t account for the Justice League asking Wonder Woman what happened to her mod boutique or martial arts skills. Diana angrily confronted her mother who came clean about everything. Hippolyta also had the uncomfortable task of telling Diana that Steve Trevor had been gunned down years ago. It was explained that the Steve readers saw in Wonder Woman #208 had been a figment of Diana’s imagination, which is an explanation that raises more questions than it answers. The “imaginary” Steve from that comic had interacted with other people, knocked out a villain, and performed integral story functions. Is Diana’s imagination THAT powerful? Can this be considered a forgotten Wonder Woman power?
In 1976’s Wonder Woman #223, Diana was put through a series of trials by Hippolyta and Aphrodite, which included battling a hooded figure who turned out to be a very much alive Steve Trevor. Once the test was over, Aphrodite proclaimed that she was returning Steve “to the beyond,” which is kind of messed up. “Hey, I brought your dead boyfriend back to life for five minutes, now I’m going to kill him again?” Wonder Woman brought up how heartless, cruel and flat-out rude this was, so Steve was allowed to remain alive.
Bear with me now, because as crazy as all this is, the full story is a bit more complicated. The Steve Trevor that Aphrodite brought back to life wasn’t who he seemed to be. Aphrodite had used her powers to put the lifeforce of the god Eros in Steve’s body, merging the two. Eros was brainwashed into thinking he was Trevor. Diana, Steve and even the readers remained unaware of this deception for years. (Aphrodite could have held her own in Westeros. That’s all I’m saying.)
The next few issues after his return actually have some parallels to Wonder Woman 1984, as Steve struggled to deal with a modern world that had moved on without him. Of course, in the comics, he had only been dead for a few years, as opposed to his cinematic counterpart who had been deceased for decades. Still, he struggled with the culture shock. In fact, there’s a scene in 1976’s Wonder Woman #226 where Steve and Diana talk about the struggles of his return, and it’s strikingly familiar to some of the moments between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. Steve’s relationship with Wonder Woman had also evolved since he now knew about her double life as Diana Prince, making their romance more intimate.
With the entire world thinking he was dead, Steve dyed his hair black, became a secret agent and changed his name to Steve Howard. While there’s not a direct tie to it, I can’t help but think about the guy that Steve possesses in Wonder Woman 1984 here. He has dark hair, after all. I can’t help but wonder if he was a nod to Steve Howard. We never learned the handsome stranger’s name, so until someone tells me otherwise, I’m calling him Steve Howard.
Anyhow, comic book Steve’s plan had some holes in it, since government agents noticed that Trevor’s body had disappeared, and it didn’t take them long to realize that Steve Howard was just Steve Trevor with dyed hair. In 1978’s Wonder Woman #248, Diana lost Steve for a third time when a corrupt government agent killed Trevor during a bizarre black magic ritual.
This is where things get really messed up, which is saying a lot considering the ground we’ve already covered. In 1980’s Wonder Woman #270, Hippolyta became fed up with Diana’s constant moping over Steve’s multiple deaths, so she decided to mess with her daughter’s memory AGAIN. Aphrodite called upon the Mists of Nepenthe to make Diana forget she ever knew Steve Trevor. (That’s right DC fans, it’s the return of amnesia gas, one of my favorite plot devices.)
The day after Diana was drugged with the Mists, a Steve Trevor from a parallel Earth flew his plane through a hole in reality and crash landed on Paradise Island. (Read that sentence again because that happened.) Diana rescued Steve, unaware that this had happened before, and every Amazon around them secretly whispered variations of “here we go again.” Hippolyta had learned her lesson from the last time she messed with her daughter’s memories and used the amnesia gas on the rest of the world the entire world instead because that’s totally a good and ethical alternative. The Mists ensured that the Justice League or Diana’s civilian friends wouldn’t point out that she already dated a pilot named Steve Trevor.
Diana and Steve spent the next few years going on adventures, and exploring their (seemingly) new romance, until Eros returned and spilled the beans. In 1984’s Wonder Woman #322, Diana angrily confronted her mother. Hippolyta and Aphrodite explained everything to Diana and Steve, from Eros’s time as Steve Howard, to the amnesia gas. Eros (who still had memories from his time as Steve Howard) battled Trevor over the right to be the one true Steve. Yes, that’s also something that happened.
Hippolyta used her Amazonian powers to pull the original Steve Trevor’s memories from Eros’s mind, and placed them in the body of the alternate Earth Steve Trevor. This effectively resolved the tangled mess of Steve Trevor’s life and death. Everything returned to “normal,” and Diana told her mother she wouldn’t be speaking with her for a while, which under the circumstances was pretty understandable.
So to recap…
Steve Trevor died.
Diana somehow willed an imaginary Steve Trevor into existence.
Eros was brainwashed into thinking he’s Steve Trevor before he died.
A Steve from an alternate reality entered Diana’s life.
Alternate reality Steve receives original Steve’s memories.
Pretty simple right?
One of the most heartbreaking scenes in Wonder Woman 1984 was when Diana renounced her wish and lost Steve Trevor again. The next time you watch that movie, consider how hard things must have been for Diana’s comic counterpart, and be thankful that Gal Gadot never had to deal with amnesia gas.
Wonder Woman 1984 is now in theaters! For all the latest news, trailers and features on Diana’s return to the screen, visit our official Wonder Woman 1984 movie page.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.