Tag Archives: Mockingbird

Spotlight: Strong Women – A Return to the Question

Image result for the walking drum

We had met as equals, rarely a good thing in such matters, for the woman who wishes to be the equal of a man usually turns out to be less than a man and less than a woman.  A woman is herself, which is something altogether different than a man. – (Emphasis added.)

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This quote is from The Walking Drum, written by Louis L’Amour.  While Mr. L’Amour is best known for his Western fiction, the truth is that he wrote a great many other stories as well.  He served in World War II and “yondered” much of his early life.  He was many things and he saw many things.  The Walking Drum is a novel he wrote – and it is set in the twelfth century.

Why start a post off with this quote?  Because it is a timely admonition.  A woman ends up being less than herself when she is trying to be something she is not.  And yet we have no end of “experts” proclaiming that women are equal to men.  It makes the observant wonder just what they are selling.

The research I did for the post “Offended, Insulted, and Not Shutting Up” is what got this article rolling.  And before anyone asks, no, I have not shifted my position on Marvel’s decision to make Jane Foster the latest version of “Thor.”  It is a stupid decision which they will soon learn is not helping them.

My research into the opinions of others regarding “Thorette” allowed me to find comments and articles that expressed what I have thought for some years.  They were not all as delicate in their statements as I would have been but, to borrow a line from Mr. Spock and the Vulcans, that is part of the wonder of living in a world of “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.”  With this research tumbling around in my head, I began to think not only about “Thorette” but about what the intelligentsia says we are to praise in the female characters being created these days.

This brings us back to the question I asked in the previous “Strong Women” post.  Just what makes a strong woman?  Looking at “Thorette,” it seems safe to say that many writers and artists think a woman is only strong when she has an above-normal muscle structure.  This sort of physique also happens to look good in some form of armor-plated swimsuit or underwear, which conveniently guarantees a male audience of some size.  (These are probably not the guys a girl should accept the offer of a date from, by the way.)

Being a curious observer, I have a question to ask the writers and artists at Marvel and elsewhere.  Do they know how many female fans Carol Danvers has?  Do they know how many women are in Thundra and “Thorette’s” fan clubs?  Has anyone taken a poll of female Marvel fans to ask them what they think of these characters – not to mention what they think of all the other heroines on Marvel’s roster?

If Marvel were to poll its female fans, I believe that they may get answers like mine.  For instance:  I have never liked or admired Carol Danvers.  And I cannot seriously contemplate Thundra, a character from an alternate dimension where women are the dominant sex, without stifling the reflexive urge to throw up.  She has to be one of the few characters Marvel has created which I find utterly repulsive.  I know and prefer her only as a convenient villainess.

My opinion of Jane Foster/“Thorette” is well documented.  Jane Foster has been warped and nearly destroyed as Marvel’s writers, editors, managers, et al attempt to gain fashion and political points from her “new look.”  But what they fail to comprehend – or perhaps to admit – is that she looks horrible!

Now, does everyone feel this way about these characters?  Hardly.  But in my humble view, these female characters do not appeal enough to be worth any kind of money.  Judging by “Thorette’s” anemic reception and the letters Marvel received about Carol Danvers years ago, I do not think I am that alone in disliking them.

What kind of female characters, then, impress me?  Allow me to pull out another quote from Mr. L’Amour to illustrate my answer:

 

 Image result for chancy by louis l'amour

A man you can figure on; a woman you can’t.  They’re likely either to faint, or grab for a gun, regardless of consequences. – from Chancy

 The Cherokee Trail

These are the kind of women who fascinate me, and whom I wish to emulate.  Remember, fainting can easily be faked.  How is a man to know a real faint from a false one without putting himself in danger?  Louis L’Amour’s female characters are like this.  They are iron-willed women who have bones of steel.  They can handle a pistol, a rifle, or they can use some other object as a weapon.

You will not find any of L’Amour’s female characters holding up stages, taming broncos, or riding the range as cowgirls, it is true.  But you will find women in his stories that are leading cattle drives, managing ranches, and defending their homes from Indians or bandits.  And plenty of his women are quite happy to back up their men in a fight by holding a shotgun on the group of ruffians looking to make trouble.  The women in L’Amour’s novels of seafaring and in his football stories are no different.  Admittedly they do not carry guns in the vicinity of a football game, but they are just as determined and forceful as the frontier women who were their ancestors, in spirit if not in fact.

What does all of this have to do with Marvel?  The comic book company already has a Rolodex of formidable heroines.  To name a few, there is the Wasp, the Black Widow, Mockingbird, Wanda Maximoff, Silverclaw, Jean Grey, Rogue, Storm, the Invisible Woman….  The post “Offended, Insulted, and Not Shutting Up” has a more comprehensive list, if you would like to learn of more heroines in Marvel’s Universe(s).

The fact is these women can all hold their own in a fight.  Yes, these characters have an extra asset of some kind during combat.  Mockingbird and Black Widow have extensive hand-to-hand combat training, while Storm, Rogue, and Jean Grey have mutant powers.  Many other female characters within the Marvel brand also have superpowers.  But a pistol or a rifle is an asset, too, and no frontier woman who wanted to survive would shun either weapon because it was not natural to her.  It was often the only thing standing between her and harm – or death.  You respect that kind of tool; you do not toss it aside.

So do any of these Marvelous assets cheapen who these women are as characters?  No, they do not.  Nor do they enhance their characters; they are simply stand-ins for the rifles, pistols, or the various weapons women have used throughout the centuries.  Sometimes they are even extensions of the abilities women have always had:  intelligence, mental agility, and outright strength of will.

As a result one never knows just what any of these heroines are going to do in a given crisis.  One can never know just how they are going to play the game, how they are going to react to the villain’s bait.  They may play on his arrogance or they may pretend to be simpering, frightened damsels.  Whatever they do it is bound to be interesting and exciting, for the simple reason that it has the potential to be totally unexpected.

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Carol Danvers or Thundra, in comparison, can always be counted on to hammer at a problem until it goes away.  Why is this so?  It is so because they are women who are less than women.  The writers have decided to make them something they are not.  As a result, they have personalities that are as stilted as a puppet’s limbs, making them very uninteresting.

The other heroines do not have this built-in handicap.  They are women who are not afraid of being women.  This means that they do not think like the men around them.  This gives them their edge in a battle.  It is not their superpowers, skills, or weapons.  It is who they are as people, as women.

When these heroines are safely captured, they are often deemed by the villains as no longer a threat because they cannot use their powers, kung fu, or technology.  With Danvers or Thundra this is usually a true assessment.  They are not used to thinking outside the box – or thinking much at all, from what I have seen.  In a pitched battle they simply react.  This makes them relatively easy for their opponents to overcome or dispatch.

Many of Marvel’s other heroines, however, never stop thinking.  They are always watching, listening, assessing, and working out a plan of some sort.  If the only possible plan they can make is to wait for back up, then that is what they have to do.  Their male counterparts have experienced similar crises, though you will not hear these mentioned by very many critics.  If they could survive the wait and not be diminished by it, then why can’t their female counterparts?

From Marvel to DC, from Star Trek to Andre Norton’s Witch World series, from Star Wars to Howl’s Moving Castle and its sequels, there is no end of proof that women can be as bold and brave as the men in their lives – and they can be as bold without compromising their womanhood.

This is what modern writers, filmmakers, and artists no longer consider.  In fact they are actively running away from this truth because it has become passé to portray a woman as she actually is.  Instead a fictional heroine must be displayed as something other than a woman.  You go to the theaters to see the latest films and most of the women in these movies have no problem cutting off men’s heads or disemboweling them.  Not only do they have no physical problem doing it, which many of them should, but they also have no moral qualms about doing it.

Image result for wonder woman filmThe Wonder Woman movie out next year promises to be a case in point.  I was once a big fan of Wonder Woman.  This was not because of her strength or because of her Lasso of Truth.  No, I liked her because of these things and the fact that she was still a woman.  Throughout her adventures with the JLA, Diana learned to respect and like her male teammates, to appreciate their abilities and welcome them as friends.  Later series even had her dating Batman!

But recent rewrites by DC Comics have turned Wonder Woman into a bloodthirsty man-hater.  It is true that in the coming film she is going to fall in love with Steve Trevor (portrayed by Chris Pine).  While she is doing that, though, she will also be happily carving men to pieces and telling women that being secretaries is the equivalent of slavery.  You would think she came from an alternate universe and not an island inhabited by Greek warrior women.

All of this detracts from the real power of women.  By portraying a woman as what she is not, these writers and artists are not elevating women.  They are demeaning and demoting them.

The fictional heroine who easily encapsulates what a real warrior woman can and should be is Éowyn of Rohan from The Lord of the Rings.  Secretly joining the Rohirrim’s army as it marches to battle in Gondor, she is the one who defeats the Witch-king, the leader of the Nine Ringwraiths or Názgul.  Merry, taken into Gondor by her when she wore the guise of a male Rider, helps her with a well-placed sword-thrust.  But it is Éowyn who ultimately strikes the fatal blow and wins a great victory in the glorious Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

Still, many Feminists go into apoplectic fits over Éowyn’s role in The Lord of the Rings novels despite her amazing display of courage and fighting skill.  Why?  They do this because Éowyn leaves war behind forever when she decides to accept Faramir’s proposal of marriage after recovering from her battle with the Witch-king.  That particular passage reads thus:

Image result for eowyn battle of pelennor fields

Then the heart of Éowyn changed, or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her.

‘I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun,’ she said; ‘and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.’

Image result for eowyn and faramirThe thing Feminists do not understand – or the thing which they absolutely refuse to accept – is that Éowyn’s triumph in battle does not define her.  She did an amazing, wonderful thing, which most other people could never accomplish.  Her decision to marry Faramir does not render her defeat of the Witch-king any less; rather, her decision to marry is the reward she earned in that fight.

Éowyn’s part in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields does not define her identity, and most Feminists want that stereotype to define and limit her.  This is most of Éowyn’s own problem in the trilogy until she falls in love with Faramir.  Up to that point, she believes that battle will give her satisfaction.  Poisoned along with Théoden by Wormtongue’s whisperings, in her confusion and slow descent into despair Éowyn decides that only death in battle will give her a chance at glory and renown.

Now, readers, the fact is that death is not a fulfillment of life.  It is the end of life, and if you ally yourself with death, you are allying yourself with the Enemy.

In Minas Tirith – originally named Minas Anor or ‘Tower of the Sun’ – Éowyn finally comes to see that battle is not where she can be most useful when she is at last confronted by Faramir’s genuine love for her.  Being a warrior is not her calling, although she can certainly wield a sword as well as any man.  Her vocation in life is being a woman, a wife, and eventually a mother.

Through Éowyn the author of the trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien, demonstrates that a woman is not made by her fighting ability.  She is distinguished by her will, her womanhood and – if she is lucky – by her motherhood.  “For the hand that rocks the cradle is that hand that rules the world.”  Mothers shape their children, daughters and sons both.  These daughters and sons will grow up to change the world through the things they do, the things they create, and the children they bring into the universe.

Modern media has largely forsaken this understanding of womanhood at the behest of the Hegelian/Nietzschean complex, the modern incarnation of Sauron.  There has been a war going on for the past century or three which most have not paid heed to.  This has led to nothing but a lot of pain for women, who have been persuaded as a group to throw away the knowledge that they once possessed. Their honor is their womanhood and it is our societal honor to know them as such.

Mockingbird

This is why I have taken issue with Jane Foster’s identity change, not to mention the identity change of several other formerly male characters.  This is why I have written two posts on strong women.  It is an attempt to remind women of what we truly are and what we can actually achieve.  For when women stop valuing themselves as women, society stops valuing them as well, and then that society sooner rather than later treats them like chattel.

ISIS does this on a daily basis.  Slave traders and sex traffickers rely on such attitudes to do “business.”  The shout of “I am Woman, hear me roar!” has led to nothing but pain and sorrow for millions of women.  They have chosen to debase themselves.  This means they are no longer worthy of special respect and value to men.  For if women do not value themselves as women, as potential wives and mothers, then why should men?

Does all this mean that a woman cannot fight?  Pshaw.  Éowyn fought, did she not?  It is not possible that she forgot how to swing a sword after marrying Faramir.  She simply did not make a living fighting – and for the record, neither did he!  The heroines of Marvel Comics fight; the women in Star Trek and Star Wars fight.  The will to fight is the influential factor.  Just ask the mothers and wives who grabbed a gun to help defend against Indian raids or bandits back in the Old West!  Or those that defend themselves and their families similarly today.

But if a woman wants to make a career as a warrior, she cannot try and be the equal of the men.  This can never be, for the simple fact that no amount of human interference – psychological or scientific – can overwrite what she is.  And if a woman decides she wishes to be a “shieldmaiden,” then she had better be prepared for what could happen to her on the field of battle.  Torture, the loss of life and limb, rape – these are just some of the risks which I can see ahead of a female soldier.  An enemy who does not value life – and there are many of those today – can be abominably creative in the management of prisoners.  Just ask Dean Koontz.

Han and Leia

Does all this mean that I believe a woman should not be prepared to fight?  Civilization is a very, very fragile construction.  One small thing goes out of whack and entire nations fall to their knees.  Women definitely need to know how to defend themselves.  They have always needed to know this.

But what women need to relearn is that it is not battle which will define them.  Battle does not define a man, so how can it define a woman?  A man or a woman is defined by who and what they are.  A man is defined by his manhood, a woman by her womanhood.  That is all there is to it.

This is not weakness.  It is not slavery.  Knowing who and what you are is not a defect; it is a strength.  Being proud of being a man or a woman is what gives one the will to fight, to protect oneself from those who do not appreciate you for who and what you are.  Muscles, weapons, skills – these are the tools.  They are not the determining factors.  We, men and women, are the weapons.

Until writers at Marvel, DC, Star Trek, and elsewhere figure that out, though, we will have to endure continuous watered-down portrayals of heroines in many stories.  Until these “artists” ask themselves, “What really makes a strong woman?”, they will continue coming up with the wrong answers.

Readers, I will give Mr. L’Amour the last word on this subject:

Image result for the warrior's path by louis l'amour

She’ll stand to it.  There’s a likely craft, lad, and one to sail any sea.  You can see it in the clear eyes of her and the way she carries her head.  Give me always a woman with pride, and pride of being a woman.  She’s such a one. – from The Warrior’s Path

Amen, readers.  Amen!

The Mithril Guardian

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Spotlight: Strong Women

Pepper and Tony

The scene I want to Spotlight! today occurred during Marvel’s The Avengers. It is the scene where Coulson arrives to enlist Iron Man’s help in stopping Loki, ruining “twelve percent of a moment” between Pepper Potts and Tony.

In this scene, Pepper realizes that something important is in motion and, to stop it, SHIELD needs Iron Man’s help. Tony, naturally, does not want to help SHIELD. Apart from the fact that he rightly distrusts the huge ‘peacekeeping’ agency, he does not want to leave Pepper. She is, quite frankly, the first woman he has ever truly loved in his life, and people do not want to part from those they love.

But Pepper, on seeing the “homework” Coulson has detailed for Tony, realizes that their “moment” must wait a little longer. Tony is needed elsewhere, and as much as she would prefer he stayed with her, if he does they may still be separated later on and in a worse way. So she does the sensible thing and tells him to go help SHIELD. Pepper does not tell him to do this because SHIELD needs help, but because there are lives at stake, maybe even their own. In verbal shorthand, she instructs Tony to go out and save the world; she will be waiting for him when he returns.

From my perspective, this is Pepper’s strongest moment so far in the Avengers’-themed films. In this scene, Pepper proves herself the fictional descendant of Ulysses’ wife Penelope. Penelope waited for Ulysses’ return from both the Trojan War and his years of roving. The Trojan War took ten years, and Ulysses went wandering the seas for ten years. So Penelope waited for Ulysses’ return for twenty years, during which time everyone else in his home town believed him dead. Waiting for him to come back took determination, to say the least!

Now allow me to contrast Pepper with another female Marvel character. This may get me in hot water, but I have yet to learn why so many people fawn over Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. For those of you who have never encountered the character, Carol Danvers was a U.S. Air Force pilot who ended up with Kree abilities (the Kree are a humanoid alien species which inhabit the Marvel Comics universe). Danvers possesses the capabilities of near supersonic flight, near invulnerability, the ability to fire energy blasts from her hands, and apparently the ability to predetermine her opponent’s moves in battle – though this one is news to me and seems to be a recent addition to her power roster.

I have to admit, Danvers’ powers are impressive. The sad fact is that Danvers’ powers are the only remarkable things about her. If a person stands Danvers next to other female Avengers such as Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Wasp, Rescue (Pepper Potts), or Mockingbird, that person quickly gets the impression that a novice’s sculpture has suddenly and inexplicably been set amidst statues fashioned by the Ancient Greeks. Danvers seems too clean cut, too perfect, when compared with her fellow Avenging females. She has immense power, yet she thinks and reacts like a California “Valley girl” (which may explain why she is so susceptible to psychic attacks and mind control).

I have considered Carol Danvers to be a “hollow character” since I first researched her. Her existence as a character appears – to me – to be based solely on her physical strength and not on the force of her personality (or lack thereof). In contrast, Pepper has a lot of personality: she is witty and smart, but also kind and compassionate – sometimes to a fault. Danvers lacks the former traits and if she has the latter then they are, at best, exhibited lukewarmly and infrequently.

Why do I bring up Carol Danvers in relation to Pepper Potts and her best scene from The Avengers? Because of the two, Danvers has received more acclaim from reviewers and fans than Pepper. Most seem to think Danvers is strong and Pepper is not – at least, they do not think Pepper is “strong” until she swallows an unstable Super Soldier Serum and gains inhuman abilities from it.

Today we are constantly inundated with news reporters or other TV talking heads yapping about what makes a strong woman. Hollywood frequently praises female leads that shoot impossibly large guns, use martial arts, super powers, or some other weapon when fighting their enemies. I know what you are thinking, and what you may well think throughout this post on this often-argued topic. So first let me state that I am not belittling the achievements of women anywhere.

No, I am asking a question, one I think too many people forget to ask. That question is, “What makes a strong woman?” Who is the strongest female character you have ever encountered, readers, and why is she strong? I do not mean what makes her physically strong, but what makes her a strong woman?

Most of us can think of a number of popular, strong female characters off the top of our heads. Storm, Black Widow, Wasp, Princess Leia Organa Solo, Mara Jade Skywalker, Stella from Silverado, Katniss Everdeen, Seven of Nine, Captain Janeway, and Lieutenant Uhura are all strong ladies who jump immediately into many minds.

But what do these women possess that makes us consider them strong? Is it their super powers (i.e. Storm, Wasp)? Is it their skill with a gun (Princess Leia, Lieutenant Uhura) or a bow (Katniss Everdeen)? Is it their skill with science and technology (Captain Janeway, Seven of Nine)? Or is it their spy skills (Black Widow, Mara Jade)?

If you answer yes to these questions and follow the reasoning to its conclusion, you find a rather thin strength, do you not? After all, what happens in a situation where Storm cannot access her powers, Uhura loses her phaser, or Black Widow is trussed up tighter than a Thanksgiving Day turkey and cannot use her martial arts skills to fight her way out of a tight spot?

And yet, all these fictional women – and a great many others – have fought their way through such situations regardless of the loss of powers, weapons, technology, or skills.

But, by continuing to use the reasoning that said these women were strong because of their assets – powers, weapons, etc. – we are left with a flimsy, incomplete picture of these fictional heroines. After all, if Storm loses her powers – the abilities that make her “strong” – then she is no longer strong when she cannot use them.

As a fan of the X-Man Storm from youth, when I was younger I would have found such a statement insulting to her. “Storm is strong without her powers!” I would have shouted angrily.

Thankfully, time brings growth, and I am at least old enough now to know that not all battles can be won by shouting – although that may be my initial, instinctive reaction. Suppose that, today, someone was to say to me, “Storm’s great, but she’s only strong as long as she has her powers.”

Stifling my kneejerk reaction to shout and lose my temper, I would stumble and say, “No, she’s strong even without her powers. If Storm were to lose her powers – which she has, on occasion – she would still be a force to be reckoned with. Because even without her powers, Storm is determined to survive – when she fights, she fights to win.”

And that is the point right there. “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog,” as they say. Storm and the other leading ladies I have listed here all have a strong will, the determination to survive adversity and evil. These fictional women are not disposed to yield to those who threaten them and/or those they love. They will fight anyone who threatens them. Whether they fight with weather warping abilities, or with something as “simple” as a spoon or a rock, they will fight to the death to protect themselves and those they care about.

So is the true strength of a woman (or of a man) to be judged by how much they can physically do? Should it be judged by the flash, flamboyance, or elegance with which they do it?

Or should the true strength of a man or woman be judged by the force of their will to be strong?

History is already witness to many women with strong wills achieving great things. Women such as Artemisia, Boudicca, Margaret of Provence (queen of France and wife of Louis IX), Catherine of Siena, Maria Theresa of Austria, Isabella I of Spain, Madeleine de Verchères, and Catherine the Great were all strong-willed women who achieved much in their lifetimes. Actresses Hedy Lamarr, Lucille Ball, and Maureen O’Hara accomplished much in their lives as actresses and as career women.

Yet still there are those who see only the outer shell, or who refuse to see it. Still you will hear the shrill Cabbage Patch dolls on TV or in Hollywood proclaim that this leading female in that film is strong simply because she can swing a sword, shoot a gun or a bow, use magic, or ride the wind and cast lightning bolts out of a clear sky. It is sad that so many in this age choose to view women in this light.

So then what do I think makes a strong woman, readers? I think a strong woman is defined by her will to keep fighting, by her determination to do her part, small though it may appear to be. No matter how much it hurts or how unfulfilling it appears, how thankless or humble a job it is, these fictional heroines have kept going. Theirs is an honorable position, whether it is Pepper’s waiting for Tony to return to her or Captain Janeway guiding Voyager on its journey home. It is an honorable duty they each work to fulfill to the best of their abilities. They should be given respect for that strength of will, not for their physical skills.

In conclusion, I will say this, readers: I preach no sermon, I advocate no crusade. I simply ask you an honest question:

“What do you think makes a woman strong?”

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

Song of the Mockingbird

Mockingbird

Hello, Marvel Writers!

Just out of curiosity, have you ever seen an actual mockingbird?  They’re very pretty birds about the size of the average man’s fist, and they have light brown-grey feathers.  Each wing has a white band across it, and they hold their tails at about a forty-five degree angle most of the time.  They have a beautiful song, when they’re not mimicking other bird calls, that is.  They can be found from rural towns to big cities all across the country.

So when I learned that there was a Marvel super-heroine called Mockingbird, I was immediately put in mind of the talents of this particular little avian.  Imagine my surprise when I found out that not only was she a ‘normal’ human, she was also farsighted and needed glasses!

Heck of an idea someone had to pair her off with the Marvel hero who has the sight of a Middle-earth elf!  Hawkeye and she seemed to be as much of a match as Susan Storm and Reid Richards.  They were definitely a more likeable pair than Jean Grey and Scott Summers, or at least they were to this reader.

And so we come back to the question that I asked in “Fletching and Nocking”: why have Mockingbird finish her split with Hawkeye?

Yes, the escapade in the West Coast Avengers comic line is definitely a cause for tension between them, although I think they could have handled it better than they did.  And yet, after she is a prisoner of the alien Skrulls for several years, once she returns, Bobbi Morse shuts her husband completely out of her life with a divorce (after having a good cry first).

They are currently hinted to still love each other but they continue to avoid acting on that love.  Despite this, when Hawkeye dated Spider-Woman, Mockingbird was shown to be rather embarrassed by the whole idea, the first time she’s shown any emotion over one of his ‘romances.’  Why not have her act on that embarrassment, and at least tell him off?  He’d probably take it from her before he took it from anyone else he knows.

Why is Mockingbird avoiding Hawkeye like this?  Wouldn’t it be more likely that all that time in captivity aboard the Skrull ships would make her miss him more than before?  Say you were held prisoner on an alien ship for an untold number of years, away not only from the planet that you loved but the most important people on it, people who may get killed at some point soon in an alien invasion you were powerless to fight or stop.

Eventually you get rescued and, on seeing them safe, split off from them for most of the next twenty years (after a perfectly natural tearful reunion)?

That’s kind of heartless, depending on who you are.  In other cases, it would be a sign of going crazy.

Right now it looks like Mockingbird has been avoiding Hawkeye and the Avengers.  The last time they fought side by side was at least two years ago, and she never showed up in the entire Avengers vs. X-Men storyline. Not only that, she never thanked Hawkeye for getting her help before she was given the serum mixture that saved her life.  It wasn’t his idea to give it to her, but he let Fury give the juice to her all the same, just to keep her alive.  All that work and she doesn’t even say thank you?

And again, why give her superpowers?  As I’ve said before, Mockingbird’s strength was the same as Hawkeye’s and the Winter Soldier’s.  She was a normal human who fought powerful bad guys and won – rather recently, too – such as when she faced off against the Wrecking Crew singlehanded.  No one was going to argue that she had no place on the team during that fight; she was as accepted by the Avengers before and after that, powers or not.

In that battle, she didn’t have powers.  And that made her even more valuable than any other team member when push came to shove.

After all the hard knocks she’s taken lately, fellow writers, I would say it’s time to give Mockingbird a break.  Let her spread her wings with the rest of the team, and fly beside her Hawk.  The results may be surprisingly fruitful in plotlines.

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Troubled True Believer)

Fletching and Nocking

Hawkeye's New Suit

Hello, Marvel Writers!

Time to roll up our sleeves and get to work, fellow writers! This letter has to do with the World’s Greatest Marksman: Hawkeye. First, the newest costume for the archer is great and a definite keeper, in my mind. The original wasn’t bad, but these days it looks really ridiculous. I would keep the hip quiver as well; as proved in the movie, Hawkeye can run out of arrows quickly.

Back to his persona. Wow, talk about getting tossed from pillar to post. This character has been hammered, and then some. First a reluctant villain under the spell of the Black Widow’s many charms, then the loudmouth upstart trying to prove himself to the fledging Avengers, next a stalwart Avenger, now…

Now he’s not exactly anything.

Hawkeye’s first slide into rampant flings began when he ‘dated’ the super-villainess Moonstone during the time when he believed that Mockingbird was dead (lousy choice of post dead wife date). Later he had a dallying ‘romance’ with the Wasp (she’s taken, people!) and after Disassembled he had a fling with the Scarlet Witch (who ‘killed’ him, twice). In the recent comics since Mockingbird finalized the divorce they started after Hawkeye discovered she had killed a man who abused her, he has ‘dated’ deaf vigilante-turned-heroine Echo (formerly Ronin) and, recently, Spider-Woman.

Despite all this, when told by Cap that Mockingbird was on a list of international spies wanted dead, he rejoined the Avengers so fast it left his teammates practically speechless. Later, he was distraught when she received grievous injuries in battle, injuries that prompted Fury to give her an experimental serum to save her life. Hawkeye was virtually mum on the obvious dangers of the whole idea (a first for a character who regularly has more quips than arrows). I don’t know of any other time the character was so quiet about a dangerous situation regarding Mockingbird.

In light of these instances regarding his ex-wife, why the yo-yo effect with Hawkeye’s romantic life? The character was never this fickle with his flirting in previous stories.

It is also worth noting that this isn’t the only part of the character that is being batted around more harshly than a ping pong ball: once a staunch advocate of the old ‘do not kill’ superhero code, Hawkeye has become somewhat picky when he follows it these days. I think that it’s understandable that he would not willingly spare any Skrulls he was fighting, since one of the aliens successfully impersonated his ‘dead’ wife. Anybody would be killing mad after something like that.

And his decision to permanently take down the Scarlet Witch not too long ago isn’t hard to understand, either, when one considers that she ‘killed’ him (twice). But this would hardly be a decision he wouldn’t wrestle with or have qualms about, something that doesn’t appear to have occurred when he made that choice.

Yet when faced with a criminal such as Max Fury or the ‘new’ Ronin (Black Widow’s ex-husband), Barton suddenly balks at finishing the villain off. Isn’t that a little silly? If he’s willing to finish aliens and former teammates, why not villains who have earned their walking papers many times over, and for whom he had absolutely no feeling?

A brief overview of Hawkeye’s history is enough to make plenty of new readers shake their heads and say, “Ouch. What a hard story!” Over the last twenty years, Barton’s been all but shattered and rebuilt to the point where it’s amazing he’s still recognizable as the character he was in the sixties. It’s nice to see him getting along better with his teammates and stretching his wings as a commander of the team (or one of its auxiliaries) true; however, the rest of his character is practically a disgusting mosaic of the shards of his previous integrity. There’s little farther that ‘mainstream’ Hawkeye has to go before he becomes interchangeable with Ultimate Hawkeye (who is a near-total perversion of the character).

The fact that Hawkeye’s been sent spinning off into one ‘romance’ after another seems, to one who looks hard at the list of circumstances under which he met these ladies, to be more like a search for his wife Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird) than the indecision of a berserk flirt. The pattern is something that she appears to be unaware of, but the threads of different stories point to Hawkeye desperately missing her all the same.

With all due respect, why not make Mockingbird miss him back for a change? Moreover, why not make her act on that? I don’t see anything demeaning or wrong with the idea for either character. They were married in a whirlwind before; why not go about it a little more slowly this time around? Reed and Susan Richards have lasted this long. Why not give another superhero a shot at that life?

Considering what he’s been through, Hawkeye’s definitely earned some happiness and needed respite. Heck, this type of story could open up all sorts of great avenues for both these characters and their teammates.

After twenty years on the rack, fellow writers, I’d say that Hawkeye’s been beaten enough.

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Troubled True Believer)

The Fall of the Self-Made Super Heroes

 Iron Man

Hello, Marvel Writers!

So on May 3 Iron Man 3 hits theaters nationwide.  Kudos to whomever had him bring in all those different versions of the armor; it’s high time we saw them all!  But wait.  Why should he need those different armors now that he’s getting the Extremis serum?

On that point, why did he even get the Extremis serum in the first place?

This is hard for me to understand, or even enjoy, really.  I always thought that Tony Stark was a great character precisely because he had no superpowers.  He wasn’t a mutant, he hadn’t been exposed to any bizarre, deadly radiation; he was just a genius who fought evil in a high-tech suit of armor.  In a way, he was like a modern day version of Sir Lancelot or one of the other ancient knights who guarded the great kingdoms in old stories.

It didn’t matter what tech or tools he had to work with, whether they were top of the line or rusted hunks of metal from the local scrapheap, Tony could whip up any gizmo from whatever he had to hand.  And it would work, often spectacularly, to trounce whatever leviathan monstrosity that Dr. Doom or Kang the Conqueror or, yes, the Mandarin, was aiming at him at the time.  No magic tricks, just astounding ingenuity.  What a feat to watch (or read)!

But, with Extremis, does he even need that anymore?

Yes, Extremis is fantastic.  It allows Tony to interface with computers using only his mind, process information from the Internet or nearby machinery at lightening speeds, and even detect technology that’s in the vicinity of the fight in which he is participating.   And, yes, it certainly speeds up the time he takes to don his armor, which is a plus.  I’m not saying that a super-powered Iron Man is lacking in benefits.  What I’m asking is, “Doesn’t it rob him of a special little something?”

Tony, in the majority of the comics, had to rely on his ingenuity where other heroes and heroines could call on inborn or acquired powers.  He didn’t have to use telepathy like Professor Xavier to defeat a bad guy.  He just had to out-think him.

Tony didn’t need the Hulk’s great strength.  The armor let him dish out almost as much punishment as it let him take.

He didn’t need Kree DNA in his system so he could shoot laser blasts.  He developed flight stabilizers (repulsors) that doubled as neat plasma guns.  And they fit right in the palm of each hand!!!

Why give him, almost out of the blue, superpowers?  Were the sales of Iron Man comics falling that sharply?  And if they were, weren’t there better ways of raising them again than altering Iron Man’s star gift?

I have heard many times that Tony Stark is popularly assailed by doubts about whether or not it is the man who makes the armor or the armor that makes the man.

Really?  Without Tony Stark, there would not be any Iron Man suits.

And if there were, without a hero to pilot them (and that hero would have to know every system and circuit in the suits like a well-read book) the armors would all be decorating the halls of some billionaire’s mansion as displays of wealth.  All this is what Stark could have done.  Instead, he chose to use the armors for the greater good, improving them to the point where only the most arrogant villain is unafraid of facing him in battle.  And there are still a lot of improvements that could go into future suits.  With Extremis, what need would Tony Stark have to focus on those improvements?

On that note, why should he wear a suit at all?  He could fight, using Extremis, in only a business suit if he wanted to do so.  If the mood struck him, he could do it in his pajamas.  Why use a metal suit when you can control machinery?

And worse, Stark’s not the only hero in the Marvel Universe gaining superpowers.  Mockingbird and Winter Soldier (whose only enhancement once was a robotic left arm) have both been given serums that blend Cap’s Super Soldier serum and Fury’s Infinity serum so that they could survive life-threatening injuries.  Young Avenger Patriot gained Super Soldier abilities after getting a blood transfusion from his grandfather, a soldier in WW II who was also given a variant of Cap’s serum, for the same reason.  Before that he was using enhancement drugs.  In the alternate, Ultimate comic line, Hawkeye has been given optical enhancements so that he has the most accurate eyesight on the planet.

I see these new ‘enhancements’ only as thefts from the integrity of these heroes.  Mockingbird and Winter Soldier won many battles where their super-powered compatriots could not even make slight headway, all for the simple reason that they were ‘normal’ humans.  Hawkeye has always been a very gifted shooter; his powers come not from mutant genes or scientific meddling, but from nature.  Despite Ultimate Hawkeye’s alternate history and life in the Ultimate Marvel Comics, the fact that he was not born sharp-eyed detracts a great deal from his (admittedly changed) personality.

And Patriot?  Several heroes in the ‘mainstream’ Marvel Universe, of which he is a part, continue to fight crime with nothing more than finely-honed skills.  Why couldn’t he have become Kate Bishop’s equal, fighting crime without powers?  Certainly, that would cement any romance blossoming between the two, as it has for other heroes in the past.  And it would give him a better standing as well.  He would be a ‘self-made’ super hero.

Iron Man was the first, and is the best, self-made superhero.  In fact, he was the inspiration for several other Marvel characters to don a costume and fight crime with only their natural skills (just ask Clint Barton).  It seems that just as he was the first to become a superhero on his own so he is the first to fall from the humble yet highly honorable position of a self-made hero.  And who can say who will be next after Tony Stark; Mockingbird, and Winter Soldier?  Jarvis?  Kate Bishop?  J. Jonah Jamieson?  Flash Thompson?  Maria Hill?

Yes, Extremis is an amazing advantage.  But the more amazing and the better advantage was Tony Stark’s boundless resourcefulness.  Until it returns, it will be a talent sorely missed by many Marvelites, my fellow writers.

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Troubled True Believer)