Every Sunday morning we showcase a classic comic cover, complete with compelling pop culture commentary, for your cordial contemplation. It’s the Classic Comic Cover Corner!
Avengers #83 – December, 1970
Cover art by John Buscema
Over the past few years Marvel Comics has made great strides in trying to improve the perception of women in its comic books (read Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel, Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel, or the most recent iteration of Thor.)
In the big picture, Marvel has always been pretty good at empowering its female characters, even though the male characters still treated them in the sexist manner that was prevalent during the time they were written. But two “heroes” from Marvel’s cinematic universe have recently caused some damage to the company’s otherwise decent reputation.
A few days ago, in a Digital Spy UK interview, Avengers: Age of Ultron actors Chris Evans (Captain America) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) jokingly commented that their on-screen teammate, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) was a “slut” and a “whore,” and something about a prosthetic leg as well, that I honestly didn’t get, but that they thought it was hilariously funny.
I get that this is just guys being guys, but isn’t that the problem in a nutshell when it comes to sexist views towards women? Even though both of the actors have since issued apologies, their crude and thoughtless comments have now caused their names, Marvel’s name, and their upcoming film to be tarnished.
This whole incident is a stark reminder that, for the most part, the actors we admire in superhero films are not the heroes they portray – sometimes far from it. Heck, many of them knew nothing about the characters they are playing before they were hired for the job, and in the end that’s all these beloved and honorable characters are to them. A job.
At the height of the women’s liberation movement of the sixties and seventies, Marvel tried their own little commentary on the cause when a group of their most powerful female characters came together and formed “The Lady Liberators.”
In Avengers #83 (Dec. 1970), in a Roy Thomas story called, “Come on in… the Revolution’s Fine,” the Valkyrie convinces Medusa, the Wasp, Scarlet Witch and Black Widow to stand up for themselves and stop being treated as second class citizens by their male counterparts.
A rather goofy plot unfolds as the Avengers’ Black Panther, Quicksilver, Vision and Goliath (who is actually Clinton Barton on Pym Particles, after giving up his Hawkeye persona for a spell) attend a Halloween parade that is also showcasing a Dr. Erwin and his Parallel Time Projector. Why not?
The Masters of Evil, led by Klaw (who allegedly appears in the Age of Ultron film), try to steal the Parallel Time device, and almost succeed until the Liberators arrive and thwart their plans. But then the ladies find out that Valkyrie is actually the Enchantress, who tricked the women and used them to gain access to the time machine. The Scarlet Witch then dispatches her as well.
It’s fortuitous that, in the last panel of this story, Goliath (Clinton Barton/Hawkeye) makes an offensive comment about the ladies’ “women’s lib bull!” One would like to think that in regards to treatment of women that we’ve come a long way in 45 years, but in many respects we obviously have not.
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