Ms. Marvel #6 (1977)

On the short list of absurdly stupid super-hero outfits would be a charming little number worn by tonight’s starlet, the one and only Ms. Marvel. No, your eyes don’t deceive you. Marvel’s latest super-hero sensation (in 1976, that is) flew int battle wearing a distaff version of Captain Marvel’s costume. Well, a spectacularly sexist version of Cap’s outfit. She had the wore the same chest symbol, bikini briefs and boots, but she wore an open belly (and open backed) version of the uni, along with bare legs, a scarf, and Farrah Fawcett hair. In other words, no, it is just as it looks: the woman has long sleeves, gloves and a scarf – and a bare midriff, back and legs.
 
Who is the genius who came up with this outfit, which is equally badly suited for very hot and very cold days? Chances are that it was comics great Johnny Romita, who worked as Marvel’s art director in the mid-’70s. Romita designed most of the super-hero outfits of the era, and his style was sometimes quite bizarre. I wonder if Romita ever thought to run this cover past his wife, or one of the female Marvel staffers of the time, or one of his daughters. From their suggestions, maybe they would have given Ms. Marvel some flip-flops or snow boots to go either with the hot or cold theme. Ms. Marvel – the McDLT of her era. The hot side stayed hot while the cool side stayed cool.
 
Inside, Ms. Marvel was just as jumbled. She was created by the infamous Gerry Conway, who was notorious (at least with me) for his bizarre and poorly-thought-out heroes and series. In his short run at DC in ’75 and ’76, Conway bowed to fan pressure to revive the legendary Justice Society of America in their own series, but brought them back as supporting characters to a much-despised Super Squad. He revived Blackhawk, that book with World War II flying aces, but never had then actually fight in World War II. At Marvel, Ms. Marvel might have been Conway’s most notorious book.
 
Setting aside the likelihood that the character was created mainly to keep copyright on the name, the character is a bizarre match of good ideas and ridiculous sexism. For instance, Ms. M. is actually Carol Danvers, who made a mint writing a book about the space program and her involvement with Captain Marvel. Okay, that’s interesting enough. From there, Carol persuades J. Jonah Jameson, the guy who hates Spider-Man, to give her seed money to start a new magazine called Woman.
 
So stop right there. A confident career woman, with a background of security behind her, making her way in New York as the editor of a glamorous magazine published by a sexist pig, in mid-’70s New York. That could be a fun comic book. A bit silly, a bit romantic, a bit period. But this being Marvel, they had to have an overlay of heroic stuff on top of the plot. Okay, then, give Carol some limited powers that help to convey her independence and power at the time.
 
But noooo, to use a catch phrase of the era, Conway had to mess up a great concept. First, Ms. M had to wear in absurd costume. And have derivitive super-powers. And have an extra power, a "seventh sense" that is kind of a magnification of her woman’s intuition that allows her to see the future.
 
Say what?
 
So what I guess I’m saying is that this whole thing is a big damn mess, but it shouldn’t be. If only Marvel had been a little more Ms. in the Equal Rights Amendment sense of the word. If only they had played up something, anything, that would make Carol a unique heroine. but, really, they never do, and in the end it’s just kind of sad and pathetic. This particular issue does feature some very early writing by Chris Claremont, and it’s fine as far as it goes but he’s still learning at this point. The art by Jim Mooney and Joe Sinnott is awfully nice in that kind of generic mid-’70s Marvel style that sends my mind in paroxyisms of glee. But in the end. Ms. M is just a lot of wasted potential.
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