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Friday, December 11, 2020

Lord of the Wings

Defenders #6 (Vol. 2) revived the costumed adventurer known as Red Raven. Orphaned as an infant and raised on a floating island of bird-people, the character returned to human society as an adult. Equipped with a pair of artificial wings, Red Raven made his crimefighting debut in 1940. Like many Golden Age heroes, however, Red Raven fell into obscurity after World War II.

When the Defenders encountered the floating island decades later, Red Raven asserted the isolationist stance that he and the bird-people wanted nothing to do with surface-dwellers. Parallels between Red Raven's abrasive disposition and that of Sub-Mariner did not escape the Defenders.

Red Raven made his first comeback in X-Men #44, when the winged mutant known as Angel accidentally discovered the hidden civilization of bird-people. The territorial Red Raven violently defended his adopted homeworld from the intruder. Gaining the upper hand in combat, Angel made an unusual remark, saying that he now knew he could lick Red Raven's weight in hobbits.

There certainly is a possibility that Red Raven could have read The Hobbit. Published in 1937, the novel was available during his time living among humans. The bigger mystery, however, is whether or not Angel actually read The Hobbit either as a student at Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters or on his own. Of all the creatures described in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, hobbits were among the least formidable. A human-sized hobbit, or the number of hobbits equal in mass an adult human, would hardly pose a threat to the average superhero—even a hero whose only power was flight.

As far as temperament, it would be a stretch to liken the headstrong Red Raven to that of a homebodied hobbit. All things considered, Angel's attempt at trash talk didn't land.

This image of Red Raven and Angel comes from X-Men #44 (May 1968).

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