Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Something about Mary

Ron Salas got me thinking today about something that's been bugging me for a while. He mentioned that you can't Google image search for Mary Marvel without finding some things you can't unsee. This applies to a lot of things in Google's image search but I find it particularly disturbing when it happens to one of my favorite female characters.

I'll admit that for being as big a Marvel Family fan as I am, I'm largely ignorant about their recent history, the last decade or so. It seems to be a matter of both them not showing up terribly often these days and that when they do I have no idea that it's happened. Only in the last month did I finally read 52 and learn what Black Adam's been up to. So try to imagine my surprise when I happened on this essay detailing Mary Marvel's arc the last couple of years. I thought the black costume she kept showing up in was a fan art thing. I didn't realize that pink-haired dominatrix character was her. I was a little more than disgusted to find out what she'd turned into, and appalled to find out that at the end of it she was no better off. A character I really like, one that symbolizes a lot of what I like about this medium, was damaged for reasons I can't begin to, or would prefer not to, understand. Do go read the post I just linked to, the finer details are stated much better there than I could do here.

The question gets thrown out there a lot about whether The Marvel Family is better or worse off for being part of the larger DC Universe. I've never felt particularly strongly about the issue; there have been some nice things about Cap mixing it up with Superman occasionally. But now I'll point to Mary as a big honkin' reason I wish the Marvels never came to DC.

We're having our first child in August. Regardless of whether it's a boy or a girl I'd like to be able to show them that I'm part of something that shows a little more respect to female characters and readers. I like to think that readers want something more than this. As a big fan of the character I'm more than a little disappointed to see Mary treated as if she's dumb and weak, and horrified to see her objectified so broadly. This kind of treatment tells me that today's comic books are interested in something completely opposed to what I love about these stories; the innocence, the fun, the wonder. Frankly, I want to see this hero with a near-70 year history of inspiring young girls to be their best treated with the dignity she deserves.

And while I'm perched on my soapbox, I'd love to see Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover take a swing at this. I think it may have been Paul that I first heard suggest this, but I would love to see that book. Colleen draws a great Mary, possibly my favorite, and I know that Paul has a reverence for these characters.

Thanks for reading all this, and thank you to you kind folks who have written in the last day with such nice things to say regarding the Captain Marvel dream team poll. I know I don't reply often enough to the comments you all leave here but they mean the world to me.


jack42 said...

I agree with you. While not necessarily a big fan, I always enjoyed Marvel family comics, and in particular I liked Freddie and Mary.

This is pretty disgraceful what has been done to Mary, about on par with what they did with Roy (Arsenal), and for no apparent reason other than "look what we can do"

Dr. Detfink said...

At one point or another every comic book fan endures the fractures of his childhood icons. I had to endure the Final issues of Iron Man volume 1 where Tony Stark was all along a pawn of Kang who fell off the wagon a third time, killed some Avengers, became a villain, only to be beaten by kid Tony Stark from another universe...but became a hero long enough to sacrifice himself. Is it any wonder why that arc was basically ignored?

I could write a book about how every one of my favorite comic book characters were victims of a dreadful short-term plot device.

For the record, the Pink haired, pony tailed punk looking Mary Marvel was possessed by Desaad in Final Crisis. Mary is now depowered at the conclusion of Geoff Johns'next to last JSA arc.

Eventually, DC will remedy the Marvel family. How do I know? Marvel does permanent changes (see Brand New Day)...DC does chapter arcs that ultimately reset themselves.

In the meantime, it's going to take patience until some Vertigo writer who gets it, takes over and reminds us of what made the Marvel family fun.

Michael May said...

Thanks for all that. I'm a big fan of Captain and Mary Marvel (and am learning to appreciate the others) and hate what DC's done with the whole Family lately (with the exception of Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, which is the blueprint for how the Marvels oughta be handled: separate from the DCU and with kids firmly in mind).

I'd never seen Coover's version of Mary and now I want to see her and Tobin do a book too.

Dennis said...

You know Doc I hardly ever write on anyones blog for any reason what so ever but for you good sir I feel I owe ya a pat on the back and at least a word that says Dennis K. Wiles understands and agrees with where your coming from. I fully agree with you and hope to GOD someone out there in the vast universe that is DCU gets it and fixes not just Mary but all the great characters we all grew up looking up to I'm a 31 year old man and I respect comic heritage and moral decency. Thanks a ton for saying something in defense of the characters most of us grew up with Mr. Shaner bless you for it good sir.

Brian Meredith said...

Well said, Doc.

Mark Lewis said...

Just wanted to let you know that you speak to the disappointment a lot of us fans of the Marvels have felt over the years. There are the occasional bright spots (like Jeff Smith's "Monster Society of Evil"), but they're rare. So I'm really happy when I come across other artists like yourself who "get it," and are keyed in to the sense of wonder those characters had (and still should have).

Dean said...

Nicely said.

In terms of the Marvels place within the DCU, I have a three word solution: they are Canadian (or British, or just about anything other than American). Being from a slightly different culture would allow them to retain their charming quirks as markers of diversity.

Sadly, it will never happen with the current hostility to re-boots and retcons.

ThePinkPeril said...

I found that blog entry just yesterday, and I was glad to see I wasn't the only one who was dumbfounded by what Mary has been put through. I'm actually afraid of what Morrison will do to her when he finally writes the multiverse series.