Friday, July 16, 2010

Part Ten: Do These Metal Eggs Do Anything For My Bust?

Doug: Was Madonna influenced by Barbara Norris? Who knows? But what we do know is that this lovely lady certainly pushed female-warrior-fashion to new levels in the Bronze Age of comics, and beyond.

Doug: First appearing as part of the Lady Liberators in the pages of The Avengers #83 back in December 1970, she was drawn by John Buscema and Tom Palmer. She was originally the Enchantress in disguise, and led a female fighting force of the Black Widow, the Scarlet Witch, Medusa, and the Wasp. The story raised issues of the women's liberation movement which was gaining steam in the States at that time. She next appeared in The Defenders #4 in February 1973, drawn then by Buscema's younger brother Sal and inked by Frank McLaughlin. The page at left depicts her first appearance in that book and again involved the Enchantress. From that issue on, Valkyrie lived a two-in-one existence with a young American named Barbara Norris, in effect replacing her with an Asgardian spirit and past. A running plot through the first few years of the Defenders book involved abandoned husband Jack Norris' efforts to restore his wife's personality and memories to the body now inhabited by the warrior-woman.

Doug: The outfit above certainly has its influence in our sometimes-humorous vision of the "fat lady" of opera.
The metal breast cups, the long blond braids, the spear -- really, it's all here. I think John Buscema chose, and rightfully so, to depict this heroine (although villain at the time) as typical of his females: shapely yet strong. I'm thinking if ol' Val had been originally drawn like the Nordic babe at right, she might not have caught on... But in regard to her original clothes, which have endured for the character the longest, it really is a nice costume. The black and royal blue is a good color combination, and the silver accents (OK -- is it just me, or does the costume just scream out "Look at my boobs!!"?) are good. Lastly, the footwear, although perhaps impractical (seems a little skimpy for 24-7 butt-kicking), is fine. Taking all things into consideration, though, I do like the original costume the best. I've always liked the way Sal Buscema drew Val's hair sweeping across one eye. Sexy, and mysterious. She shows strength and obviously means business. And the nod to Asgard is inherent in the character and important to the credibility of her as well. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

Karen: I've always thought this original costume was a great look. It's hard to go wrong with that color combo, and it does evoke the whole Viking thing. As far as her, er, bombshells go: it's kind of funny that while they are very prominent, the metal cups actually in a sense hide her natural assets. Who knows what's inside those cups! In some ways this is a rather demure outfit.

Doug: After a few years of Defendering, Val decided to wrap herself in some new-look textiles. The result was curious at best. I guess the main part of the suit is metal, or at least metallic in nature. Most artists/colorists seemed to depict it as having a gloss or glimmer, hence my conclusion. I don't think the color scheme is good at all, the royal blue cape now seeming at odds with the peach or orange hue of the costume (which also clashes with Val's blond hair). And what's up with the boots? I know I had a slight concern over the foot-coverings of the first costume, but this is to the opposite extreme. So while this one isn't a complete disaster, I'd label it a "fashion concern".

Karen: The gold just doesn't cut it. Maybe if they had stayed with the black it might have worked. I know they were trying for something different, but I would agree, it just isn't quite there.

Doug: Lastly, we'll look at what I can only describe as a slut-suit. I'm talking about the get-up (or get-out, depending on one's perspective...)
that debuted in the pages of The Ultimates 2 #6 and showcased the assets of young Barbara Norriss of the Ultimate Universe. The little vamp wooed neurotic Hank Pym away from the memories of Janet van Dyne, becoming Hank's lover. To be honest, I'm surprised this version of Barbara was written as being 19-years old; certainly had she debuted in The Ultimates 3 under the watch of Jeph Loeb, he'd have kept the same storyline but made the character only 15. Or 14. Yuck. But, that's a story for another day. Obviously artists Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary have paid homage to the original Valkyrie costume, but isn't this just trashy? I know it fits in with the way modern waistlines are in pants, and it hearkens to the days of Brittany Spears' belly, etc. But c'mon. I guess I am getting to be just too old for some of this stuff. Needless to say, this last entry is a Fashion Disaster!

Karen: Terrible. May the wrath of Odin be felt by whatever miscreant designed yon outfit!


Edo Bosnar said...

Another vote for the original costume. I like everything about it, except the armored ... hm, breast cups? Or perhaps bowls would be a better term? I remember even as a kid I did a "wha... huh?" when I saw it the first time.
As for that last version - let's not even go there. I think gallons of virtual ink have been spilt on the internet over the past years discussing the - and I'm sorry, there's no better word for it - slutwear donned by so many superheroines since roughly the late 80s/early 90s...

Doug said...

NOTE -- it looks like my online source for the cover to Ultimates 2 #6 is down this morning. The image should return later whenever the problem is fixed.

Edo, I fully agree with your last comment. There aren't very many books from the past 20 years or so that I would go back to for a re-read. There just wasn't (for me) much that remains memorable. And much of that has to do with the themes, content, etc. I just want to have fun when I read a comic -- even if it does involve metal breast bowls... :)

That was bad...


ChrisPV said...

Ah, the Ultimates. Needlessly grimdarking great characters on a "whenever-we-feel-like-delivering-it" schedule for years now.

I have a lot of distaste for that book, just because it was one of the first I can remember coming out, say we say, sporadically and everybody just being fine with it. That made me fussy. Plus, I don't find any of the Ultimate versions of the characters all that terribly appealing.

That said, who doesn't love Val? She's awesome and handles a mean sword. In a perfect world, we'd have a book where she and Wonder Woman get together to fight monsters and then toss back a tankard at the mead hall.

MaGnUs said...

Ultimate Valkyrie's first costume is supposed to be trashy, because the Defenders are 21st century teens/twentysomethings playing at being superheroes; they're supposed to be shallow.

That said, 616 Valkyrie needs a new, cooler costume, but that harkens to her original one.

Herb Trimpe's Hulk said...

I love Val's original costume - and Val herself - though I can't imagine that belt could have been very comfortable.

PS. While I'm here I might as well mention that you've done Val an injustice. Her second appearance wasn't in Defenders #4 but in Incredible Hulk #142 where she beat the Hulk while barely breaking sweat. In that instance she was the alter ego of Samantha Parrington, meaning the Val who turned up in Defenders #4 was actually the third incarnation of the character.

Karen said...

Ugh! HT Hulk, I had that issue of Hulk with Valkyrie in it yet it completely escaped my mind when doing the post. The memory is definitely getting worse as time goes by...thanks for pointing that out.


Doug said...

Cryptic Critic --

My mistake on Val's appearances. I used the Comic Book Database, and only checked Brunnhilde and Barbara Norris. I had never heard of Samantha Pennington, so assumed she was a newer character outside the Bronze Age. Here is a link to the resource I used -- if you scroll to the end of the character list, you will have four choices for Marvel characters.

As a history teacher, I will now go remove the egg from my face...

Thanks for pointing it out -- I do appreciate it, and it's that sense of community that make this a fun place to be.

Have a great weekend,


MaGnUs said...

Doug, I recommend the following two sites for character inquiries, they're usually very complete as to different incarnations of a character:

C.A.S. said...

"The Ultimates"....yuck.

Valkyrie is back in her original uniform in Secret Avengers, with a change of footwear, and sporting 2 braids even.

And yes, I am purchasing the "new stuff"...but not for long.

Doug said...

MaGnUs --

Thanks for the sites -- I'd been to the Marvel one, but didn't know of the DC site. Both have been added to my references bookmarks.



MaGnUs said...

Welcome... those two are part of my arsenal for column writing. :)

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