Through all the versions of Buck Rogers, Wilma Deering has maintained some clear characteristics. She is a sometimes romantic interest for Buck, always a loyal defender of Earth, and an attractive and smart woman. She is generally depicted as having a spunky attitude and a penchant for getting herself into trouble. As with other science fiction heroines from the pulp sf genre and others, she has sometimes been depicted as a damsel in distress but more often as an assertive adventurer in her own right. In this way, her character resembles that of Dale Arden of the Flash Gordon comic books and movie serials, and also the character of Lois Lane from Superman.
Wilma Deering appears in the very first Buck Rogers story, the novella Armageddon 2419 A.D., and the basic elements are present. She is depicted as adventurous, heroic and beautiful, and a romantic interest for the hero.
Wilma features in the Buck Rogers comic strip from its inception, as she the first person of Earth to meet Buck when he awakens in the 25th century. Depicted from the start as a love interest, Wilma is initially almost a stock character heroine just as Dr. Huer is a stock "brainy scientist". Her character does develop over time, however, into the more familiar spunky adventurer.
The character of Wilma Deering was featured in the 1939 Buck Rogers movie serial which starred Buster Crabbe. The role of Wilma was portrayed by Constance Moore, in what would come to be her first highly recognized film role. In the serial, Buck Rogers and Buddy Wade awaken in the 25th century to find out that the world has been taken over by the outlaw army of Killer Kane. Along with Wilma Deering, who is a Lieutenant in this incarnation, Buck and Buddy join in the fight to overthrow Kane with the help of Prince Tallen of Saturn and his forces. In this serial, Wilma is essentially the faithful sidekick, and her relationship with Dr. Huer is akin to that of a daughter.
Colonel Wilma Deering was portrayed by actress/model Erin Gray in the 1979 movie and subsequent NBC television series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Initially, Wilma was depicted as a cold, aloof military officer and starfighter pilot, with little interest in Captain Rogers. However, she quickly warmed to him and, throughout the weekly series, Wilma Deering's character became warmer, sexier, and more humorous. Often, it was Wilma who came to the rescue of Buck, as opposed to the other way round. Erin Gray has commented that her role as Colonel Deering was an inspiration for many women who watched the program, particularly with regard to careers in the military. She also commented that she was aware of the highly sexualised one piece uniform she wore and its effect on the show's male audience. She was once described by Clive James as Wonder Woman with brains.