Monday, March 4, 2013

Derivative Ladies: Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel #1 (January 1977)
"This Woman, This Warrior!"
Gerry & Carla Conway-John Buscema/Joe Sinnott

Doug:  Today we're going to begin a four week look at three heroines and a hero who were either derived from another existing hero by some connection to the original's origin, or in a couple of cases were specifically named to secure a copyright.  We'll start off with the lovely half-naked lady you see above (sporting a Farrah-like coif, no less), and then check in on Spider-Woman, She-Hulk, and Black Goliath.  In Big Bill's case, we're going to review Black Goliath #1 rather than his actual first appearance, which was in Power Man #24.  As we've done over the past year or so with first appearances, the trade paperback Marvel Firsts: the 1970's (volume 3) will be our resource for reading and images. Below you can see Sean Howe's mention of Ms. Marvel in the BAB recently-reviewed Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.  We'll consult Howe as we go through this month's series.

From Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, (c) Sean Howe

Doug:  I'm going to start off by saying that it's a shame there's a UPC code on the cover of this book, because it really prohibited the inclusion of one more call-out!  Sheesh -- we get it already!  Number one book, exciting heroine.  Enough!  But the main image of Ms. Marvel as drawn by the Jazzy One is pretty nice, isn't it?  Do you want to start in on the costume now, or wait?  I say we hit it right now.  To begin, her midriff was bare until the 9th issue.  Does that express a confident, independent woman, or is it sexually exploitative?  Most people feel Dave Cockrum rescued Ms. Danvers near the end of the series.

Karen: Oh boy, that costume... I mean, they took a costume designed for a male character, what with the broad bands at the shoulders and hips, which is really not flattering for most women, and then to make it worse, they just sort of nonsensically removed the lower front and back of the suit!  It's not a two piece, it's just two strangely shaped cutouts. I'm not even sure how that thing stays adhered to her body. So yeah, it's sexist, but certainly not sexy. It's just ugly. But to top it all off, they must have realized it didn't look very feminine, so somebody thought it was a good idea to throw a scarf on it! Oh good lord. Yes, thankfully Dave Cockrum showed up and saved poor Ms. Marvel. Not only that, he gave her a really memorable outfit, perhaps one of the best female costumes at Marvel.

Doug:  Gerry Conway drops us right into the action, as our heroine swoops in on a bank robbery in progress.  Some thugs with nylons over their heads (man, that's a creepy look.  You ever do that when you were a kid to get a rise out of a sibling?) are making a break for it when Ms. Marvel arrives to quickly mop up the place with them.  The scene is really a showcase for her powers:  flight, super strength, and a mysterious "seventh sense" (uhhh....).  Of course, the assembled crowd just gawks at her, and we get the sometimes painful pop-culture reference "I've seen tough... but that little lady makes Lynda Carter look like Olive Oyl!"  As an aside, if like me you were wondering about the temporal proximity of the Popeye live-action film to that line, the film was not released until 1980.  Anyway, back in the bank we see who the mastermind of this caper really is:  none other than the Scorpion!  Now, while it was good to see ol' green-scales, that he'd mastermind anything seems a bit of a stretch to me.  He makes his getaway out a side door, on his way to see a Professor Korman, and we're sent back to the street to survey the damage.

Karen: Buscema and Sinnott do a great job of showing off our heroine's powers. She's certainly strong and tough, not afraid to throw a punch, and the seventh sense is intriguing. You know, it seems like at some point they dropped that power from her repertoire. At least, I don't seem to recall her using it later on. The Scorpion seems like an odd choice of villain, but as we'll see, he was not the only Spider-Man element to grace this mag.

Doug:  Ms. Marvel stands amongst her handiwork while the residents make claims of a publicity stunt and the like.  She scoffs to herself, and as the NYPD arrives she takes flight.  We then get dropped right into a projection room at the Daily Bugle, where none other than J. Jonah Jameson is watching film of Ms. Marvel.  Seated beside him is one Carol Danvers -- we've met Miss Danvers earlier on this blog in our reviews of the "Kree/Skrull War" and a Captain Marvel yarn that Karen reviewed, as well as in various Avengers stories.  JJJ tells Carol his vision for a new magazine he's launching, one for women that would contain pretty sexist fare.  Carol reminds him that although she was once tops in the field of military security, over the past year she's acquired a reputation as a writer (really -- in a year?).  They negotiate her salary, and Carol wins; she also makes it clear that the magazine isn't going to include recipes and fashion spreads.  This is not the JJJ we've come to know and loathe over the years.  As Carol takes leave of Jonah, who should she bump into but Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson?  Mary Jane takes a shine to Carol and they begin conversing while Pete heads in to see Jonah.

Karen: Wow, they developed that film pretty fast. So what did you think of them co-opting Spidey's cast? It seemed kind of odd to me. I don't know that I think it's a good idea, although I suppose it's easier on the writer, not having to come up with a bunch of new characters. But it feels like exactly that -a cheat. 

Doug:  The next scene shows our boy Mac Gargan hightailing it across town, money bags still under his arms.  He's reached his destination, the lab of Prof. Korman.  The joint's booby-trapped, though, and the Scorpion has to run a gauntlet of hazards to get to the lab.  The Scorpion hands the cash over to Korman and in return receives a high-tech key.  And, the use of the space apparently.  Korman lets on that he's a big-time weapons designer for Hydra and others, but wants to get out of the game; the loot the Scorpion's just given him will go a long way toward that desire.  Nit-pick:  Did you notice that Korman's name was spelled two different ways in the same narration box?  Talk about oversight!

Karen: That was all rather mysterious. And yes, some carelessness with the spelling. Doesn't $200K seem like pretty small change for a robbery now? It's like the "$1 million dollars!" joke in Austin Powers.

Doug:  Back to Carol and MJ, who've apparently become fast friends...  They arrive at Carol's deluxe apartment in the sky, complete with doorman (who looks a lot like the guy on The Jeffersons), and ascend for some coffee.  They chit-chat, when all of a sudden Carol collapses.  MJ helps Carol to her feet.  Carol says that she's had migraines, and if MJ just leaves it will get better.  Carol vehemently denies MJ's offer to call a doctor.  As MJ heads out, we see Carol stagger into her bedroom and collapse on the bed.  Back on the street, JJJ is in a bit of a snit.  His driver is late, and Jonah ain't happy about it.  Suddenly the Scorpion's tail (in broad daylight, people) knocks Jonah clean out, and we see our nasty-of-the-day spiriting the publisher up the side of a building and away.  As he climbs, all the Scorpion can think of is revenge for what Jameson did to him and how he'll now pay with his death!

Karen: Well, I get migraines, and I've never collapsed like that! I kind of doubt Gerry Conway had ever experienced one. But really, Carol could afford that ritzy apartment from the royalties off one book? On the space industry?? Uh huh... It's interesting though that when they decided to create a female Captain Marvel (to protect the name?) they went back to the Carol Danvers character. They could have just come up with a brand new person but instead they chose to really tie it to the old Captain Marvel series, as we are reminded several times over by writer/editor Conway's footnotes. Apparently (based on the text piece in the back of the book) it was Conway himself who made this choice, partly because he was a continuity fan, and partly because he thought a woman who could be a security chief at NASA could be a super-hero too. I guess that's not bad reasoning.

Doug:  Ms. Marvel flies across Manhattan, telling the reader that she felt that Jameson was going to be kidnapped, but could do nothing about it.  She flies to the Daily Bugle offices to "pick up the necessary vibrations" that will help her track down her enemy.  Landing through an open window, she has a funny feeling that she's been in the offices before.  She meets Joe Robertson, and when he asks her for her name, she tells him that she doesn't have one!  As her "seventh sense" allows her to "see" where Jameson's been taken, the police arrive.  That's her cue to leave, and she does.  As she flies past Carol Danvers' apartment, she makes no notice of it.  OK, I can't take it anymore -- obviously this book's 36 years old by now and we all know how this plot device would turn out.  But are we to assume that a different hairdo is any better disguise than a pair of thick-rimmed glasses?  The whole "mystery woman/dual identity" schtick -- I'm just not feeling it here.

Karen: I have to agree with you partner. What bothers me even more is the fact that she has amnesia. Again, going back to the text piece, Conway thought he was making some sort of statement about modern women not knowing who they were, or trying to find themselves, but the whole thing about Ms. Marvel and Carol Danvers not being aware they were one and the same is tiresome and we're not even through the first issue.

Doug:  Back at the tenement laboratory, ol' Scorp has JJJ suspended above a vat of bubbling acid while he rails on about how Jameson ruined him.  Of course, Jonah can't understand why, when Gargan had been offered a membership to the private club, he'd turn on him this way.  We get a 2-panel recap of the Scorpion's origin and how the super-suit has actually bonded to his skin.  And then he sticks the magic key in the magic keyhole and boom -- Jameson begins to lower into the vat.  But since this is a hero mag, the hero(ine) arrives in the proverbial nick of time.  She enters the front door, thwarts three deadly defense mechanisms, and flies into the lab.  The Scorpion is happy to see her (shoot -- he doesn't even know her!), and is probably less happy when she jacks him in the jaw.  Ms. Marvel surveys Jameson's predicament, and as she's about to set him loose she gets knocked to the ground by a hunk of machinery.  As the Scorpion pounces, he remarks that her costume is like that of Captain Marvel; we then see another of our lady's powers -- super-agility.  Suddenly Ms. Marvel seems to come to life, calling herself a Kree warrior.  Apparently the reference to Mar-Vell stripped away some mental barriers and she now finds herself mentally unchained and fighting like a tigress.  What we the reader get is the wordiest slugfest in comics history as Ms. Marvel works through all of her problems and shortcomings for our benefit.  Finally, she grabs Gargan by his tail and swings him into the vat -- it bursts, spilling acid all over him.  He runs from the building screaming, and Ms. Marvel helps Jonah down.  She tells him her new superhero name, and leaves with a coy smile as Jonah screams at her to free his hands.

Karen: Wordy is right! It's like a very aggressive psychoanalysis session! One thing though: Mar-Vell's red and blue togs were not an official Kree uniform. If her powers really came from the Kree, you'd think she'd wind up with an outfit more like his old green and white one. But yeah, they want it to look like Captain Marvel's, and blue and red probably sells better than green and white, I get it, I get it. 

Doug:  The last page is sort of an "awakening" page that is used for recap, set-up, and further mystery.  Carol Danvers has been commissioned by Jameson to write an expose' on Ms. Marvel.  What we find out is that Carol still does not know that she is indeed Ms. Marvel, but she feels a weight on her mind and soul whenever she hears the name or thinks of the other woman.  The plot remains a bit thick, and we're promised an origin for Ms. Marvel -- next issue!

Karen: Well, not awful, but certainly not great. I did buy this issue when it first came out, and I recall feeling the same way then. I only picked up the title sporadically. It really never caught on with me, although I gave it a more of a chance after the costume change. Still, it was never a book I read regularly.

Doug:  Here is the letters page from the first issue, which is included in the Marvel Firsts, volume 3.  You can see author Conway's musings on the character and his goals --


Edo Bosnar said...

Karen & Doug, thanks for the review. I've always liked Ms. Marvel, based mainly on her appearances in the Avengers and currently I'm seriously thinking about tracking down a copy of the Essentials volume.
A few things struck me here: I didn't know she initially had some kind of dual-personality/amnesia thing going on - I agree with both of you that it's really a pretty pointless gimmick, and I can see where it would get annoying real fast. A few things I like include the using of an existing character, Carol Danvers, and the fact JJJ is part of her supporting cast - he's supposed to be this NY big publishing magnate in the Marvel Universe, so why not use him elsewhere?
Now that I've read your review, I'm even more curious about the later issues when Claremont took over as writer.

Bruce said...

Edo, the whole run is now collected in The Essential Ms. Marvel. That's an easy, inexpensive way to check those stories out.

These early issues were okay, but I was glad when they dropped the dual personality aspect of the character. I liked Carol's struggles in balancing a high-powered career with superheroics. That was an underexplored theme in comics, I think. Carol's career was a big part of her life, rather than a backdrop to fill time between adventures.

And, yes, the Cockrum costume was a HUGE improvement!

I didn't read this book at the time, but after picking the Essential collection, it felt like it was cancelled just as it was really picking up steam.

Matt Celis said...

never found her very interesting, even after reading the Essentials. those early issues are so condescending in their attempts at a "feminist" heroine, they make me wince. the theft of Spidey's supporting cast and villain is just utterly lazy and blatant. I could see using JJ as the publisher of Woman, but all the rest seemed excessive.

her first costume was pretty awful, and her powers are uninspired. her personality is grating. basically there's
nothing i liked about ms. marvel except her cockrum costume: too bad they didn't make a new character to wear it.

david_b said...

I remember picking up the issue with the Vision guest appearance, that's about it. I recall so many reasons I didn't like the concept..:

1) It was too much a bare-faced steal from the Mar-Vell concept, it seemed like a blatant cop-out, even for my young eyes. The matching uniform, silly and unflattering (as Karen described), showed no imagination. It just yelled 'RIPOFF', not knowing the back-office legal politics of it all.

2) The corner masthead pic of her looks like a HS yearbook photo..

3) I'd label this move as one of the reasons I left Marvel (and collecting in general..). Not only was the spark of the early '70s gone from most storylines I followed, the art in most just left me hangin' (Kirby, Robbins, Tuska, Heck, etc). This idea seemed like a 'final nail' in the coffin to me. Not only dillute my favorite titles I was struggling to maintain interest in, but put a blatant, obnoxious rip-off as a title idea..? Where were the original ideas, oh 'House of Ideas'....? Even if they used the 'Ms Marvel' name (which is a stupid superhero name to begin with, you never hear 'Mr. Black Widow, do you..?) with a better outfit, agreeing the later one was much better, it could have been much darker a concept, worthy of an interesting backstory. This seemed like a cheap dimestore chocolate candy bar..: Once you bite in, there was nothing more to indulge you, all surface level. And it was somehow designed to capture the hearts of readers...?

It made it much easier to say 'goodbye'.

Doug said...

Matt's comment is what I love about this forum -- so far we've had an enthusiastic comment, a middling one, and then Mr. Glass Half Empty entered the fray. And I say all that quite affectionately.

I love it! This is so much like standing around the shop during a big sale or such when you get the opportunity to mingle with fans of all ages and persuasions.

I had a smattering of issues here and there, but when writing this I took a tour of all of the covers and realized that I had fewer than I might have at first told you. The costume redesign perhaps should have come sooner and could have signified Carol's coming out as her own woman, but we all know how important branding is (Banner always wears purple pants, right?). The few books I did have I recall enjoying, and her inclusion in the Avengers seemed to be an easy fit. Obviously it went very wrong later. But overall I have enjoyed the character for her strength and independence.


Doug said...

Obviously David and I were composing at the same time.

Now I would say we have a polarizing concept for today's discussion. This should be good...


david_b said...

I just reread Conway's writeup on (thanks for including this..). What tripe..!!

No qualified female writers to write superheroes..? This sentiment condescending defeats the entire concept they were going for, woman's liberation, empowerment, etc..

Like, how many of Marvel's Silver Age male writers came in 'trained' to write hero comics..?

What industry credentials actually qualified Conway to write a female hero other than 'wanting the challenge'..?

I know it was written nearly 40yrs ago, in midst of societal change regarding women (most of us lived through it..), but for a chance to really deliver an important message/explanation, Conway blew it. I still cringe reading it.

vancouver mark said...

811pmoThis glass isn't just half-empty,it's actually an old jelly jar and ugh look there's still old jelly goo all aroung the bottom deam inside.
And ugh it's grape jelly.
Who wants to drink out of this?
And so ends my comment on ugh Ms. Marvel #1.

William Preston said...

Another "hero" to lump in with the series of comics you intend to cover: Red Sonja.

Which leads to my musings: Several #1 issues came out that month or around then, including Ms. Marvel, Nova, and Red Sonja. At 14, I was just getting into the notion of comics as "collectable," so those #1 issues played right into my interest (as Marvel surely knew . . . even without a "seventh sense"). I liked the first issue a lot, because How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, by Lee and Buscema, had so tied me to seeking out more by Big John. Buscema had only rarely done the Spider-man cast (and never quite got how to do Spidey's mask), so I enjoyed his take on the familiar characters. To young Bill, this mag's first issue was a great tie-in to various other aspects of the Marvel Universe (I knew almost nothing about Captain Marvel). Also, at that age, I loved the costume. (I mean, come on!) In fact, I didn't care for the Cockrum redesign, much as I loved Cockrum. It's a great point, though, that the costume makes no practical sense; it's like those outfits they had alien women wear in Star Trek, held on with invisible tape.

Karen said...

David, I also thought Conway's comments were pretty ridiculous. What sort of training do you need to write super-hero comics? It seems like the requirements would be a) an understanding of the medium and b) writing skills. So there were no women at all who met these two criteria? Right. More likely the inherent sexism in the field would have kept them out (see the Howe insert above).

Given that nearly all the women in comics today are drawn to look like porn stars, I can't say that things have improved all that much.

Doug said...

Bill --

Young Dougie's favorite Ms. Marvel covers were #'s 17 and 19. Look 'em up.

Ah, raging adolescent hormones...

Shameful Doug

Murray said...

Never liked the character because she had no character. Carol Danvers was the chew toy of Marvel writers. She's an ace, she's a security, she's a newspaper/magazine editor...oh, wait, let's retcon an international superspy past...yeesh.

Including her in the great "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" really tainted the second season for me.

Some of the other women you mention are coming under magnifying glass started as weak tea, but grew into solid characters. Ms.Marvel/Binary/Warbird/Captain Marvel never ever did.

Anonymous said...

First, just about everyone seemed to be templated with the Spidey-starter-kit. Daredevil actually had Spider Man on the 1st cover and most of his villains were ex-Spidey villains. Nova was actually advertised as a conscious attempt to re-invent the Spidey magic.

Ref. the sex appeal of her costume, and not to lower the tone while I lower the hem-line, I actually found her Cockrum costume a lot sexier than the faux-MarVell one. It accentuated her figure rather than detracted from it, and the way the lightning bolt undulated across her chest certainly caught my 12 year old eye. More was definitely more in this case.

Ref. the 7th sense, I remember thinking at the time that it was brilliant, because I thought it would somehow be linked to her amnesia (i.e. whatever was stopping her seeing the past was enabling her to see the future) and when she cured her amnesia that power might be lost. That was completely wrong, and it was all just random in the end, but I still think my version was better than Gerry’s.

I thought she fitted wonderfully into the Avengers, as the better written female characters (Jan, Wanda) generally do. I liked the way Byrne drew her.

Developing William’s point from the opposite perspective, I was always excited when a new comic started from no #1, because the old ones went so far back, the early issues were always going to be unaffordable. I think the first issue of Thor I bought was #248, so being in on the ground floor seemed very exciting.

Ref. the faux-feminism....well, bad as it was, it was nothing compared to what was to come.....


Anonymous said...

Hi Karen – in defence of butt-floss (’re wondering how the Hell I’m going to manage that, right?). Ok, we agree about the porn star thing and we all yearn for the days when the measure of a super heroine was the pounds per square inch of her punch rather than her cup size? Agreed.

You guys are familiar with the Pet Shop Boys, right? A Brit synth-pop duo famous in the 80’s & 90’s. Well, Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys’ first job out of college was working for Marvel in the UK. Part of his job in the early 80’s was to have the Marvel heroines re-drawn for the UK reprints, because those (compared-to-today) oh so demure costumes were considered too scandalous and revealing for British kids.

(You smutty Americans!).

Maybe it’s just a generational thing? Maybe the illicit thrill I got from Ms. Marvel’s bosom-accentuated lightning bolt actually had more effect on me that the butt floss bikinis do on modern kids? Maybe the butt floss is less shocking/titillating, purely in the sense that kids are less shocked & titillated by it. “In olden days, a glimpse of stocking.....”


Matt Celis said...

If anything, it has worsened since the Code ceased to mean anything.

mr. oyola said...

I always liked Ms. Marvel and am actually enjoying her current series renaming her Captain Marvel (though I feel bad for Monica Rambeau see: ).

But question: Anybody know what happened to her "Seventh Sense"? I feel like they stopped having her use that power at some point - it certainly has not come up in recent years that I have seen.

Doug said...

I want to play off some issues raised by Edo and Matt at the top of today's comments: the use of "other guy's" supporting casts and rogues galleries.

I don't have a problem with it -- to be honest, it always seemed silly to me that with as big as NYC is, with all of its costumed characters cavorting about, that Hero A wouldn't at some point need to deal with Hero B's super-baddy. Specifically, I never understood why the Avengers never squared off against Galactus.

However, this being said, it shouldn't be a carte blanche mix-and-match. Yesterday I pre-ordered a Thor tpb that includes issues #'s 267-271 and Annuals 5 & 6. I looked up the covers to see what would be coming my way, and saw that in one of the books the God of Thunder will be squaring off against... the Stilt-Man. Really?


Anonymous said...

Doug - FF #243. R.

Doug said...

Correct, Richard -- in fact we reviewed that story.

But not solo, to the best (faulty as ever) of my recollection.


Inkstained Wretch said...

Karen is completely right that today's comics heroines are drawn like porn stars. I mean that literally. I was in a comics shop the other day and saw a series of issues of some "grim n' gritty" (arrgh...) take on Grimm's fairy tales where the covers really could have been used to adorn x-rated DVD boxes. I like the female form as much as any red-blooded American male but these were just embarrassing. Is the art of tasteful restraint completely lost?

Regarding Ms. Marvel, I never read it back in the day mostly because I never liked any derivative characters. That holds true today. Ms. Marvel seemed especially weak. At least Spider-Woman had a completely different look and She-Hulk a different personality. Ms. Marvel was a pale copy of something that wasn't very iconic to begin with...

The Gerry Conway column and the bit from Marvel: The Untold story makes it clear she was a classic example of "creation by committee." It explains the inherently schizophrenic nature of the concept: She's a feminist! No, she wears a bikini to fight crime! She's proud and independent! No, she's based on a male character! Nothing better illustrates the cross purposes at work here than Conway's really fatheaded column. Making the character literally schizophrenic was ironic but kind of appropriate...

Getting to the costume: Yeah, it is pretty lame, though I've oddly come to really like the version worn by the Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes version of Ms. Marvel. It is basically the same thing sans the worst elements.

Reading this post sort of makes Avengers Annual #10 a little clearer for me too. I didn't know that Chris Claremont was so involved in the character's creation. Obviously, he was upset that she was so badly misused. The annual is sort of a meta-commentary about that.

Matt Celis said...

I would actually say that in a bigger city they'd be even less likely to run into each other. My city is only a couple million and I almost never run into anyone I know, even in the same
line of work. multiply that by 5 or 6 for the new york metro area.

Garett said...

For her costume, the cutaway on the front is pretty good, but the one on the back is just awkward--doesn't match the shape of the design. All red would be better. The scarf is odd. How many heroes have scarves? I suppose it was an attempt at something different.

William Preston said...


Oh yeah. I remember those covers. I might still have every issue, in fact. I don't recall whether I sold my Ms. Marvels.

Regarding the female body's treatment by more recent comic artists: the worst came out of DC, I think. A student of mine, quite a few years ago, passed me a lot of new DCs, and Jim Lee's work in Batman stood out as especially horrific, with Catwoman saddled with . . . well, she was what the characters in Brave New World termed "pneumatic," but clearly she would have been in traction in the real world. (Batman's body was also ridiculous, I must say, though obviously the aim there wasn't to sexualize him but to make him simply impressive.) DC also played with extremes, pitting the Supergirl of the time, to whom they gave a tiny chest but prominent nipples, against Power Girl, with her Ford F-350 chest . . . and the two women, while beating on each other, made reference to each other's physiognomy. At least the writer was willing to call DC out on the absurdity of the art. At least, I think that was his purpose.

Doug said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it strongly implied in New Avengers that two of Spider-Woman's finer attributes were...enhanced... by Hydra? We'll get to Jessica's 1st appearance next week, but this seems oddly topical now.


Anonymous said...

Lurker here....

I was completely unaware of the gender based reaction to Ms. Marvel.
That being said...
I was 7 when this came out and my sexist ass wouldn't dare buy a girl comic.... Back then.

Garett said...

What does Conway mean when he says "I've alienated half a dozen talented women"? Is that how many were writing other types of comics at the time?

Doug said...

About the only women I can think of who were prominent in the industry in the Bronze Age would be Linda Fite, Ramona Fradon, and of course Marie Severin. I'm sure there were others not coming to me off the top of my head.

Cryptic comment, yes.


Fred W. Hill said...

I was deep into Marvel-zombie mode when this came out so I did get this issue along with most of the rest of the series. Despite being a typically horny (and frustrated!) 14 year old, that first costume didn't do anything for me at all. The whole thing struck me as ridiculous -- an apparent attempt to at once woo potential feminist fans and titilate the guys, but giving her a costume and a supporting cast derived from other heroes.
I'll join the chorus in giving a shout out to Cockrum's costume as being a vast improvement and under Claremont's writing I really began to like the mag and was rather sorry that it was cancelled.

J.A. Morris said...

I agree with Karen & everyone else, Conway's line about no women trained to write superhero stories is ridiculous.

Here's something that always perplexed me about this character:

Why bother with the journalism angle? Why not just have her retire from the military and become a superhero?

Anonymous said...

It seemed that Ms Marvel was invented for two main reasons - (1) To keep the copyright on the Marvel name, and (2) as a response to the feminist trend in comics.

Cockrum's blue outfit was a marked improvement on the original blue and red one. Hmm how many superheroines had a Farrah hairdo?

- Mike 'the glass is 3/4 full' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Hoosier X said...

I remember having quite a few issues of Ms. Marvel when it was new and I'm certain I bought #1 as soon as it came out.

But I remember very little about the series. I think the only reason I remember the first issue at all is because it's reprinted in "The Superhero Women," which I still have a copy of, so I've read it relatively recently.

The John Buscema art was great. Did he do a bunch of issues or just the first two or three? I seem to remember MODOK, who's always been one of my favorites.

Rip Jagger said...

I'm a huge Captain Marvel fan and I found Ms.Marvel rather dull actually. It was always a competent book, with the requisite drama and action, but it always felt like a comic done by the numbers. The character never seemed ever to come into focus.

Rip Off

Matthew Bradley said...

I've always had a soft spot for Ms. Marvel of a kind that I do not have for the She Hulk or, most especially, Spider-Woman. I did buy every issue of her too-brief book back in the day, as I did virtually every Marvel super-hero title at the time. A babe with a bare midriff certainly wasn't going to bother my 13-year-old self (although I hated the scarf), but many of my current comments are based more on 20/20 hindsight than actual memories.

1975 and 1976 were my two favorite Marvel years, so her debut was at the cusp of my personal "golden age." I certainly consider Gerry Conway a giant of the Bronze Age, and since Buscema and Sinnott are my favorite art team, she could not have been in better hands at the outset. But I liked the book even more when Claremont took it over, and agree it was cancelled just when it was hitting its stride. I have yet to see them, but I understand that one or two issues that had been created or at least started when the axe fell were published many years later.

At the time, I already knew and loved Captain Marvel from the Starlin era, so that was a very pleasant association, although I hadn't seen the earlier issues with Carol in them. On top of that, the Scorpion has always been one of my favorite villains, and I was young enough to consider the appropriation of Spidey's milieu a treat rather than a transgression.

Gerry Conway said...

Hey guys -- agree with your sentiments about the awkwardness of this material, because I certainly don't think it was my best work. Still, there's one point I will contest -- if you'd make the effort to do a little research you'd see that there were practically no women writers working in comics back when Ms. Marvel was published, and the one or two who were writing in the field (my wife at the time among them) had little experience writing superhero comics (or, truth to tell, little interest in doing so). Obviously we, the editors and publishers, should have done more to encourage and support women who wanted to participate in the field -- but in point of fact there were very few who expressed an interest. So, we weren't trying to keep them out -- but to be fair we weren't exactly doing much by way of outreach either. (Yet we didn't do much outreach for male writers or artists as far as that goes -- writing and drawing for comics back then was something you pursued as an individual; companies didn't seek you out they way some do now at conventions, etc.) So the excuse that we didn't have access to "trained" female writers was partly an excuse and partly the literal truth. Sincerely, if we'd had a Kelly Sue DeConnick available in 1976 to write Ms Marvel I'd like to think we would have handed her the book without a second thought. But there's another point I'd also like to make: yes, writing a good superhero comic *does* require training, or at least some experience. Otherwise every comic would be brilliantly well written (and as my work on Ms Marvel shows that isn't always the case). Training counts; experience counts; talent counts. Your worthy criticisms of the faults in the material here proves that. So while I'll cop to the fact that we could have done a better job reaching out to find talented female writers, the general proposition that we should use trained, experienced writers, is hardly a facetious or even a particularly remarkable proposition. Like I said, I can't defend the failings of my work on this book, but I do insist that those failings weren't due to a (blind) or a (completely) chauvinistic mindset. It was 1976. We did the best we could do, within the limits of the sensibilities and business and cultural realities of the time. No one is happier than I am that the field has outgrown many of those limitations. Obviously we still have a long way to go. Happily, we're getting there... And for all its faults, Ms. Marvel was an early, stumbling step in the right direction.

david_b said...

Mr. Conway, THANKS for providing us a wonderful response to one of our more 'livelier' discussions here reflecting, above all things, just how much we cared about our heroes, the Bullpen, and stories both masterpieces and tripe alike.

And incidentally, your lesser-heralded Miracle Man story in FF 138 will always be my favorite childhood story ever.

Ah, memories.

Edo Bosnar said...

Mr. Conway, I'd also like to thank you for your response to this post. But I have to say, I'm having a bit of trouble wrapping my head around the insistence on the need for training and experience in comics writing from the guy who began writing Amazing Spider-man at the age of 19... ;)

Matt Celis said...

Heck, it's still better than any of the versions that came later.

Karen said...

It's a pleasure to have Mr. Conway come to the BAB and join the discussion. All the excitement happens when I'm on vacation! I can honestly say after having the opportunity to speak with him twice now for Back Issue, Mr. Conway has been one of my favorite people to interview, as he tells it like it is, but in a very friendly and even self-deprecating manner. Obviously this post generated a lot of commentary and even today, the depiction of women in comics is still something we struggle with. In general though, I feel like this era is when things started to turn around and female characters became more than girlfriends and hostages. Ms. Marvel felt very manufactured, at least initially, but she eventually became a solid character.

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