So I was reading this issue of Avengers, #200 to be precise. Ms. Marvel had suddenly become pregnant -- how she didn't know -- and the pregnancy had lasted only three days, but apparently this was full-term. In issue #200 we had the grand birth and the revelation of Marcus (the grown baby-no-more) who said he'd wooed Ms. Marvel and won her over and impregnated her with him and la-de-da, wasn't it romantic. All the Avengers said, "Ah!" and Ms. Marvel left with Marcus to a happily-ever-after ending.
But I didn't get it. Here Ms. Marvel had been kidnapped, held for "weeks," according to the narrative provided by Marcus himself, and not been won over even though Marcus had done the A-B-C of stereotypical male-mindset romance: given her nice clothes, serenaded her with history's best musicians. Why, I bet he even gave her candy and flowers. At no time is love or respect -- not even "like" -- mentioned. But apparently she hadn't been won over because he says, "with a boost from Immortus' [mind] machines" (which he had access to), Ms. Marvel finally became his (and we may think of this being the truly possessive use of the word). At which point he impregnated her using non-technical techniques without her knowledge of what he was truly doing.
Okay, class, anyone see anything wrong with this?
Apparently the guy wanted foreplay before he raped her. I don't know why he couldn't have artificially impregnated her if he just had to use her body. Maybe in some sick way he thought he was in love with Ms. M.
But the point is, it was rape and obvious rape at that. The writer had to go an extra, knowing step to add that line about mind control. If he'd just left that off, it would have merely been a fanboy romance, where the blonde and buxom heroine is swept off her feet by flowers and candy (no need for romance or love), and readily agrees to anything and everything the hero (or fanboy in clever disguise) wants.
But time went by and NO ONE said anything about the rape! Not one word besides how some readers were so happy that Ms. M had finally found a good man.
I wanted to barf.
Granted, I don't presently condone the very vehement tone of the article -- really, I don't know how many Cokes I'd had before writing this, but I bet you money I'd been reading a lot of feminist literature that had me all fired up -- but besides the tone I have to agree still with my sentiments of that January in 1980 within the pages of LoC #1...
The Rape of Ms. Marvelby Carol A. Strickland
Am I just overly sensitive, or what? I know that I have a tendency to shoot my mouth off about the role of women in comics, but shouldn't everyone be concerned when a comic displays a struttingly macho, misogynist storyline that shreds the female image apart with a smirk -- and rewards the one who did the shredding? I should think that such a story would create an uproar in fandom -- but where is there even a whisper of discontent?
I realize that females are only a small part of comics readers and fandom, but it should not just be the women who raise the roof over such a story. It should be everyone. Isn't everyone entitled to respect as a human being? Shouldn't they be against somthing that so self-consciously seeks to destroy that respect and degrade women in general by destroyinng the symbol of womankind?
Could it be that the great masses of fandom actually approved of a travesty like Avengers #200: "The Child is Father To..."?
In that issue, an all-male Marvel staff, presided by Jim Shooter and watched by the Comics Code, slaughtered Marvel's symbol of modern women, Ms. Marvel. They presented her as a victim of rape who enjoyed the process, and even wound up swooning over her rapist and joining him of her "free" will. Such a storyline might have fit into the 1950s, when people actually believed such a thing was possible -- I mean, they thought that women invited and enjoyed rape back then -- but to present such a storyline today shows a collection of medieval minds at work. Or at vicious play. For such a storyline to pass throug the echelons of editor, editor-in-chief, and Comics Code can only be a crime.
For those not familiar with Ms. Marvel, or only familiar with her from her unsatisfying stint with the Avengers, let me explain who she is relative to circumstance and character:
Most people know, if they don't truly understand, that women have been stomped on by the comics industry ever since there were comics. From the sniveling Lois Lane of Action #1 right through today's so-called "liberated" heroines (you can tell who they are by their low-cut or see-through costumes and stolen dialogue from the outdated Feminine Mystique), the male-dominated comics industry has gone out of its way to preserve the macho male and weak (or vicious) female image, ensuring the small percentage of females in their reading audience.
You'd think that in the comics of the 1980s there would be zillions of characters who were themselves first, women second, and adventurers always. But look closer; where are they? Wonder Woman is a preaching man-hater with a memory that has more holes in it than her lover has lives, if that's possible. She is a symbol of modern womanhood, supposedly, and that makes her an interesting character. Now think -- name a male comics character who is a symbol of manhood: there is none! That's because a male comics writer realizes that a symbol cannot be of real interest to a reader. But becauase women are all aliens from another planet, it's all right to make them symbols, especialy if they are misshapen cliches drawn from maligners of the women's movement, the people who designate females who want to be themselves as "bra-burners," an archaic and never-correct term.
Black Canary is less than a shadow of her man, the ultra-macho Green Arrow. The Invisible "Girl" whimpers and complains from the nearest corner while her menfolk do the fighting. The Wasp dreams of new costumes and new hunks to pester. Supergirl cries over a broken date.
These are the stalwarts of comicdom's females. The truly liberated women, those Tigras and Elasti-Girls and Black Widows, are resigned to limbo or just prolonged neglect. As of this moment in the comics industry, only Chris Claremont is portraying a modern woman -- and he manages to do it with every one of them entrusted to his care. People may not agree with all that he is doing, but they must agree that he is lightyears beyond the other writers (even Jo Duffy, who is next in line to him), and that is a very sad picture of comics. This is the Nineteen-Eighties, folks. But who would believe it, to look at the state of comics?
Back in '72 Marvel had created a trio of books designed to hook the female audience: the insipid Night Nurse, the violent and poorly-written Shanna the She-Devil, and the interesting Claws of the Cat, written by Linda Fite and drawn (in its first issue) by Marie Severin and Wally Wood. The Cat was a fascinating character, even if she was a bit heavy-handed in places. But like many a TV series, the book was given only a few shots to make it. Cat #4 was the last issue. The concept was later reincarnated as the vapid Hellcat, whose costume-derived powers were never explained. The original Cat's powers came from scientific treatment and training, but the Hellcat merely put on her emblemless costume to be super. I suppose women can't really be expected to train at anything, but must rely on chance to give them the skills they need to make it in the real world.
In 1974 the Cat was revamped in a different fashion: she was mutated into a horror-genre Cat creature named Tigra. When given a solo shot in Marvel Chillers a year later, she surprised everyone by becoming a stylish, snappy-pattered heroine whose future could have been bright. But she was bogged down in a five-issue continued story, and if anything will lose a reader's interest faster than a multiple-issue tryout story, I don't know what it is. Tigra and the Cat-People have been forgotten by Marvel except in two team-up stories since then. Surely such a sparkling, weird hero should be popular in today's menagerie of sought-after non-humans like the X-Men, Hulk, et al.
1976. Marvel decided to try to cash in on the "liberation craze" yet again with a new spin-off from the popular Captain Marvel to be called Ms. Marvel. She would, like the Cat, be a symbol of the liberated woman. They plastered the words "This Female Fights Back!" on the cover and bared a lovely blonde woman's navel -- thus began Ms. Marvel. For the same number of beginning issues, both the Cat and Tigra had Ms. M beat hands down. But for some reason Ms. Marvel stuck with it. There was a shuffle of writers; Chris Claremont admits that he didn't give Ms. Marvel his entire attention at first. Thus it was that Marvel's own origin remained a jumbled mess until almost her twentieth isuse.
Once Mr. Claremont settled into his job, though, Ms. Marvel began to do things. Things few, if any, women characters (or men, for that matter!) had done before. While her first adventures had been composed of the obligatory fight scenes upon more fight scenes, now her stories began to have plots, now her life as a hero was being tied into her life as a civilian. By the time Carol covered her navel in a Cockrumized costume, the comic had hit new heights of interest in plotline and artwork. Notice I didn't add "for a heroine" there. That's because Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum were both looking at Ms. Marvel as a person -- a beautiful, female person, yes, but a super-hero above all! There is only one drawback to this duo of issues: that existing artwork was changed from showing Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel's alter-ego) in sensible desert-exploring wear to having her in a midriff-exposing blouse. The Word was to make her more sexy, attract more male readers not so they'd get hooked on Ms. Marvel's electric characterization, but so the comic could become a Code-approved girlie mag.
Ms. Marvel was mature, powerful, intense and sure of herself.
Ms. Marvel et al are all trademarked and/or copyrighted by Marvel Comics. Buy their comics.