(December 1970 issue, on the shelves in September)
“Come on in—the revolution’s fine!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: John Buscema
Inker: Tom Palmer
A Retro-Review by Bob Reyer (as if it’s 1970, and he’s 14–get out your lava lamps!)
Man, this hasn’t been such a groovy year for comics, what with Jack “The King” Kirby just now leaving Marvel for the Distinguished Competition, and the X-Men saying “Adios”, both of which really bummed me out. Lately though, I am getting some positive waves from that crazy Conan mag, and then there’s that Inhumans/Black Widow double-header book–I’m really digging her new “Emma Peel” costume!
The comic I really got behind this week is the newest Avengers, #83 by the counting, which is worth every penny of that new 15-cent price. (It’s been a year, and I still can’t get over that increase from 12 to 15 cents. What’s next; a full quarter?!?) First, you gotta groove on the cover by Big John Buscema, Tom Palmer and Morrie Kuramoto. It’s The Avengers, but they’ve been laid low, and not by a bunch of super-villains, but by their own female team-mates, plus some new super-lady calling herself The Valkyrie. Isn’t that just too cool? Y’know, I never knew that the Wasp, the Widow and Wanda could be such powerful women, although I always figured that Medusa could take care of business in a fight; after all, she’s a queen, right?
The story, by Rascally Roy Thomas, Stan the Man’s heir on this far-out book, goes like this: The Wasp, back from a mission, drops in to chill out at Avengers Mansion, and finds the foxy ladies named above gathered at the round table. Val lays down how the male heroes hog the spotlight, and tells the girls that her own origin is due to some glory-hound male fellow-scientist putting her down–“If I need a secretary, I shall contact you.” To prove she’s up to it, she over-works herself into exhaustion and collapses, taking a whiff of some weird, smoking vial of chemicals. When she wakes up, she’s super-empowered, and ’cause it’s comics, she renames herself The Valkyrie and puts it out there: “Male chauvinist pigs–beware!!”
Val gets the girls to grudgingly admit that the guy heroes are holding them back, and they decide to join her in a new group, The Liberators. (No way, right–something’s rotten in the state of Denmark!) Their first mission: to lay a radical beat-down on the male Avengers for their oppressive ways! This new team heads out on Valkyrie’s flying horse-and-chariot to confront the Avengers (in this case Vision, Black Panther, Quicksilver and Clint Barton, the new Goliath)who are up at the Rutland Halloween Parade, trying to prevent the kidnapping of a scientist named Prof. Erwin, and wouldn’t you know, he’s the same loser that Val’s all ticked off at!
At the parade, the Masters of Evil (Klaw, Melter, Whirlwind, Radioactive Man) are there, too! (It’s like one of those new comic book conventions they’re starting to throw!) It turns out, that just like the rest, they’re looking for this same scientist from Miskatonic U, which if you’ve read any Lovecraft, you know is a place to avoid. (Love reading about it in those new PB’s though!) In an upset, the Avengers lose to the bad guys, but the ladies of the Liberators save their bacon by trouncing the Masters, but in a crazy turn, they next take on the Avengers in a boss sequence by John Buscema (who was born to draw this book!), knock them silly, and make them “damsels in distress” for a change!
There’s a surprise right after this, which I won’t won’t spoil for you, ’cause you should check this issue out yourself for the full impact!
VERDICT: I don’t like passing judgment about art and all, but on the social side, Roy Thomas makes some good points about the women/men thing, even if he is one of the Establishment–I think he mostly gets it. I’ll tell you what; if this comic can make one guy realize how cool super-heroines are, it’s a win! But if we can get the masses to think about solidarity with our sisters, maybe 40 years from now, there’ll be equal time for the super-ladies of the comics world, and they won’t get exploited or objectified!
EXTRA: Clint Barton, whether he’s Goliath or Hawkeye, just doesn’t understand women one bit! He tells the Scarlet Witch –and this comes after she’s helped save the Avengers, mind you:
“Well, at least I’m glad of one thing. You birds finally learned your lesson about that Women’s Lib bull!”
Wanda: “That’s what you think–male chauvinist pig! One of these days, The Liberators will stage a comeback. Right, Jan?”
Jan: “You know, Wanda…they just might at that.”
Post-Script: Your Cranky Old Uncle Bob here, back to the present for a brief afterword. Seen from all these years later, although it could be judged as a nice effort, Roy Thomas’ script is heavy-handed and a bit obvious, with much of the dialogue ringing shrilly false and jingoistic, a conclusion that I’m sure even Mr. Thomas would not disagree with! Beyond that, having the serious issues espoused by a character that turns out to be a disguised villain undercuts whatever good points were being rightly addressed, and that the super-heroines join in so readily perhaps hints at an unconscious bias of the writer toward regarding women as people who follow without logical thought. Looking back, this was a lost opportunity to make an early statement about something that would plague the comics industry, and the world at large, through to the present. All that said, and all those imperfections that I now see aside, Avengers #83 helped make me one of those guys who realized how great super-heroines were, and fueled my interest in the distaff roster of comic book characters, and that continues to this day. So to The Valkyrie and her Lady Liberators, I’ll say a hearty “thanks” and a rousing “Right on, Sister!”
Soundtrack: It seems only fitting to use Jimi Hendrix’ “Foxy Lady”, as he passed away on September 18, 1970, as this issue of The Avengers would have been on the stands.