I’ve been mulling over a new project lately. Some weeks ago, I bought myself Essential Ms. Marvel and Essential She-Hulk, collections of the very first comics these female superheroes appeared in. The first Ms. Marvel was published in 1977, and Savage She-Hulk was published in 1979. The influence of Women’s Liberation is obvious in these comics, and I’m really intrigued by this period in Marvel history, especially in contrast to the modern Marvel. I’d like to examine how feminism affected Marvel comics in the 1970s and how it affects Marvel now.
I recently wrote this piece on Ms. Marvel, which should demonstrate what I’m interested in exploring through this project.
I’m a comics novice. I jumped into the world of comics because—you guessed it—I really liked the Avengers movie. I approached comics cautiously, aware that as a woman, this was not really a place where I was welcome, especially since I only wanted to read about female characters. I picked out three trades to cut my teeth on: In Pursuit of Flight, The Name of the Rose, and Spider-Woman: Agent of SWORD.
So my first meeting with Carol Danvers was as Captain Marvel, and I liked her right away. My favorite trait in a female character is punching everyone in the face, and Carol is definitely one for punching people. Of course I subscribed to Captain Marvel right away, determined to both support a female character and a female writer.
I have to confess, though, that I didn’t become really interested in Carol Danvers as a character until I bought myself Essential Ms. Marvel, Volume 1. I’m a fan of vintage comics, especially from the ’70s and ’80s. They’re cheesy and dated, and I find them just delightful.
The early Ms. Marvel comics have some moments and lines of dialogue that had me rolling my eyes, I have to admit. But reading these comics, it’s obvious that Ms. Marvel is part of the Marvel’s response to Women’s Liberation, and I find this moment in Marvel history fascinating.
There was nothing subtle about Marvel’s response to Women’s Lib. They brought out some straw feminists in the form of Thundra and Valkyrie, but they also introduced superheroes like Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk.
Wild Geese, Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.