Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Who Was Barbara Norriss?

Long before she was physically and mentally restored as one, an ongoing burden faced Valkyrie. She was living in the body of someone else.

The armored adventurer joined the Defenders with her mind mystically bonded to the body of Barbara Norriss, a woman rescued from another dimension, but driven mad by the netherworldly imprisonment (Defenders #3-4).

With no memory of this other woman, and only a general sense of her own self, the spirited Valkyrie found friendship and acceptance among the Defenders.

But there was still one problem. Barbara Norriss was married. And explaining the situation to her husband was an uphill battle (Defenders #21).

Valkyrie: Must I remind you again, Mr. Norriss? This is your wife's body--but I am not your wife. And my name is Valkyrie--not "Barbara." The personality of Barbara Norriss has been submerged 'neath my own by the magic of the Asgardian Enchantress. I am what I am--the woman warrior. The Defender. And you, Mr. Norriss, are a stranger to my eyes and to my heart.

Out of obligation, Valkyrie tried to play the role of wife to Jack Norriss. But he disapproved of her life as a hero, and she did not love him. The feminist subtext played out topically in the 1970s, with Valkyrie symbolic of a woman forging her own identity amidst social expectations to be someone she was not.

Because of the fragmented nature of her psyche—with the madness of Barbara Norriss and the manipulative intentions of the Enchantress in the mix—Valkyrie often swung her sword when men behaved chauvinistically, only to second-guess her rash behavior afterward.

The inner conflict came to a head in Defenders #64. While fighting a minor villain named Joe the Gorilla, Valkyrie began to hallucinate that all of the nearby Defenders for a Day were Norse trolls. When she realized what had happened, Valkyrie knew she could not continue this way.

An initial trip to Asgard seemed to remedy the situation, with the mind of Barbara Norriss resting safely in Asgard and Valkyrie returning to Earth (Defenders #66-68). But not until Defenders #109 was Valkyrie back in her own body, with her full sense of identity intact.

Along with peace of mind, Valkyrie also gained more strength. The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (1983) ranked Valkyrie with the power to lift 45 tons (in her restored Asgardian body).

Though not precisely recorded, her strength level in the human body of Barbara Norriss was much less than that.


Brian said...

I've been reading the Defenders again through the "Essentials" collection and I have to admit the whole Valkyrie/Norriss identity thing was confusing. I can't imagine having to deal with that over a period of years with the character.

demoncat_4 said...

not only was that whole barbara /Valkryie thing a confused mess. two minds in one body but also marvel decided her weakness was that she could not raise a hand against another female.

Mark Kusenberger (Koos) said...

in this context, I see that the Valkyrie weakness is also part of the feminist subtext. many women who disagreed with any aspect of conventional feminism were reluctant to speak their mind, lest they be seen as a traitor to the cause. where these women felt they could not attack other women idealogically, Valkyrie was unable to attack other women physically.
man, Steve Gerber could write. I miss him.

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