Friday, June 17, 2011

Women in AEMH

I recently ran across a post by the brilliant and talented Corinna Lawson, who is a writer of various things, in which she agrees with Gail Simone about the Wasp on the cartoon addiction of mine, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest heroes. She's pretty dismissive of the Wasp in her post, which I'll let you read so that you get the full context of what she says.  Off you go, but remember your "Back" button, neh?

Back yet?

Oh c'mon... its not that long.

Now, I'm not going to defend the character of the Wasp as such.

Well, OK, maybe a little bit.  But first, time to set my WAYBAC machine to the early 1960's. 

Janet Van Dyne, AKA the Wasp, was created in 1963 as the partner/sidekick to the Marvel Comics superhero Hank Pym, the Ant-man.  Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the character was very much a product of the time, from the same company and creative team which produced an endless stream of melodrama romance comics in that late 1950s/early 1960s period before the rebirth of the superhero genre in the Silver Age.  She and Hank Pym did the same angsty little dance that Captain America did with Sharon Carter, that Thor did with Jane Foster, that Iron Man did with Pepper Potts, et cetera, ad nauseaum.  She was one of the founding members of the Avengers, and one if its mainstays (especially when Pym and Janet stopped having a solo series).  The character developed over time, becoming strong and independent and clever and... well, basically she grew (pun not intended) into the role of the Avengers leader, and the mantle fit her well enough.  She was killed in the Secret Invasion storyline

Drizzle draizle drazzle drome, time for these ones to go home!  Back to the "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" (henceforth to be known as AEMH).

One of the things I admire most regarding AEMH is that they have taken the Avengers comic, and in the first year they have taken the heroes of the original team, and - similar to the live-action movies - updated them to the modern era while keeping the spirit, the flavor of the original work.  One of Ms. Lawson's complaints is that there are not more women on the team; in mitigation, there was only one woman on the original team as well, until the Scarlet Witch joined (and even after, for a long time it was only the two of them).  When the Season One of AEMH was being written, the Scarlet Witch was a character in the Wolverine and the X-men cartoon; as such, she was not available for use in AEMH.

I will say that while there is only one member of the Avengers team, there are plenty of intriguing female characters in the show, both as part of the (often-ignored) supporting cast (the hyper-capable Pepper Potts, the S.H.I.E.L.D. special agents Black Widow and Mockingbird, the Deputy Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Maria Hill, the Asgardian goddesses Sif, Karnilla the Norn Queen, and Valkyrie) and the villains (the clever and manipulative Enchantress, the Hydra agent/lieutenant Viper, Vapor of the U-Foes).  Carol Danvers is introduced and given her Ms. Marvel abilities, and she will appearing in Season Two (I believe as part of the Avengers team, not just an ally).

Since the production team made the decision to start the Avengers at the beginning, their options for female members was somewhat limited. 

One of the other complaints Corrina had - and to a large degree, justly so - is the flighty, immature nature of the Wasp character.  I have heard similar complaints about the Iron Man character, the Thor character, and the Captain America character in that Iron Man's armor frequently malfunctions, Thor is an arrogant prick, Captain America's character is too naive.  My answer to each of these complaints has essentially been the same; although we know these characters in their modern incarnations, these characters are presented to us as they initially appeared in the Marvel Universe.   The characters we know and love have 40-ish years of character development behind them; the Avengers in AEMH have not.  These characters have room for character development;  Iron Man is learning that the 'super-science' others call magic is real, and can be frustratingly potent, that his armor is not the one-answer solution to everything.  Thor is learning that his comrades are not "mere mortals", but allies worthy of his trust and respect.  Captain America is slowly emerging as the leader we know he becomes, without making a testosterone brawl out of it (like Hawkeye would *cough*).  Wasp's character development by the end of Season One has come together nicely, although perhaps not at the pace some might prefer. 

Now, a word about some of the other female members of the Avengers. My comments are based on Avengers history and prior characterization; obviously, if the creators of AEMH totally re-designed the characters, some of my comments may not apply.  Joshua Fine has defined Season One as the "Introduction" season, and Season Two as the "Cosmic" season (with the Secret Invasion, Kree/Skrull war, Guardians of the Galaxy, and more scheduled).  He has said in an interview that he had intended to make Season Three the "Magic" season, but whether or not that holds - or indeed, whether or not we get a third season! - is highly speculative.

  •  The Scarlet Witch - As mentioned above, when the first season was created, the Scarlet Witch was not available because of her inclusion in the cast of Wolverine and the X-Men.  As for her prospects for Season Two, Producer Josh Fine as stated "I will neither confirm nor deny that the Scarlet Witch and/or her brother will appear in Season Two".  I can't really imagine that she won't be showing up and becoming an integral part of the team by the beginning of Season Three, however.
  • Mantis - Unless they adapt The Celestial Madonna story arc, there really is no place for Mantis.  She was initially the girlfriend of the Swordsman, who has not yet been introduced, let alone reformed to the hero he became later.
  • Ms. Marvel - She's already on the way for Season Two
  • Moondragon - She's scheduled to appear in Season Two as part of the Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Sersei - The race of the Eternals has not yet been introduced.
  • Tigra - Tigra was the feminist hero the Cat, who underwent a mystic ritual that changed her into Tigra.  Perhaps if the plans for Season Three hold, we'll get to see her then.
  • Hellcat - Patsy Walker found a Cat exoskeleton suit when she was traveling with the Avengers during the Serpent Crown affair.  Perhaps if that arc is adapted, we'll get her then. Alternatively, if they make the Cat into Tigra, Patsy could have her old suit...
  • She-Hulk - Redundant, with the Hulk on the team.  Granted, I've speculated on a way she could join the team in Season Two (involving Maria Hill's activating the Hulkbusters, Jennifer being injured and getting the transfusion, and Hulk leaving the team so as to not make them Hulkbuster targets as well).
  • Black Widow - Already a part of S.H.I.E.L.D., even though she's not yet cleared of treason by Fury, who went underground (probably to form his Secret Warriors for the forthcoming Season Two Skrull invasion).
  • Mockingbird - Already a part of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Photon - I got nothing, except that her primary introduction and elevation to a leadership role was much later in the Avengers history, and would displace a few decades of Avengers team development.  Disclaimer - her powers also lend an immediate remedy to too many situations; she's too damn powerful for any significant threat short of Galactus, so the writers would have to scale her back or find a way for her not to fry villains at near-lightspeed.
  • Lionheart - The Avengers have yet to go to England.  Yeah, I know, poor excuse - but the character as created wasn't really interesting, either.