Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Liberation Lost

Avengers #83 makes great reading for Defenders fans. The Halloween tale set the stage for the heroic careers of Valkyrie and Nighthawk (although neither of the to-be Defenders technically appeared in the issue).

The story began with a meeting of several prominent super-heroines: Medusa, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, and Wasp. They were organized by a costumed woman calling herself Valkyrie.

But this was not the Valkyrie who later joined the non-team (Defenders #4). Rather, it was the villainous Enchantress using that guise to fashion herself as a new heroine, with a false origin story about gaining super-strength in a scientific accident.

And yet, this fake Valkyrie accurately described how male heroes took for granted or unfairly overshadowed each of the heroines, convincing them to form an all-women's group called the Lady Liberators.

As a backdrop for the story, Black Panther, Quicksilver, Vision, and Goliath (Clint Barton, on a break from being Hawkeye) were appearing at the 11th annual Halloween Parade in Rutland, Vermont. Sporting a Nighthawk costume (before the character reformed in Defenders #13-14), parade organizer Tom Fagan explained that it was okay to dress like a villain on Halloween.

When a group of real super-criminals showed up, the Liberators and Avengers worked together to defeat the Masters of Evil. Then the Liberators took out their pent-up frustration against the male Avengers, revealing some of their chauvinistic beliefs.

Black Panther: Stay Back! I don't know what's going on here--but I don't fight women--even super-powered ones!
Black Widow: Then you had better learn to Avenger--if you wish to survive!

After learning that the so-called Valkyrie was the Enchantress in disguise, the heroes overcame the Asgardian spell-caster's plans to turn them against each other. But it's a shame that it took a supervillain to raise feminist consciousness in the comic book—and that the impact was relatively short-lived. The issue ended with the heroes giving only lip-service to women's liberation.
Goliath: You birds finally learned your lesson about that women's lib bull!
Scarlet Witch: That's what you think--Male Chauvinist Pig! One of these days the Liberators will stage a comeback--right, Jan?
Wasp: You know, Wanda … they just might, at that.

For continuity buffs, this story took place one year before Marvel Feature #2, which showed Rutland's 12th annual Halloween Parade and a one-panel flashback to Avengers #83.
Avengers. Vol. 1. No. 83. December 1970. "The Revolution's Fine!" Stan Lee (editor), Roy Thomas (writer), John Buscema (artist), Tom Palmer (inker), Herb Cooper (letterer).

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