Friday, June 09, 2006

This Witch doesn't melt

On our last Comic Art Friday, we cast an affectionate gaze toward the mother of all superheroines, Wonder Woman, who began a new chapter in her published life this week. Today, let's take a similarly fond approach to the character I consider Marvel Comics' "opposite number" to our favorite Amazon — Wanda Maximoff, better known to the world as the Scarlet Witch.

In general, Marvel outstripped rival DC comics in promoting the interests of female super-doers back in comics' Silver Age (basically the 1960s, although the era technically began in the mid-'50s). During a time when DC really had only Wonder Woman on the distaff side of costumed capery, Marvel created several historic heroines: Susan Storm Richards, the Invisible Girl/Woman of the Fantastic Four; Jean Grey, Marvel Girl (later Phoenix) of the X-Men; Janet Van Dyne Pym, who as the Wasp was a charter member of the Avengers, and the Scarlet Witch, who joined the Avengers as the Wasp's replacement.

Perceptive readers will note, however, that Marvel's early heroines were never solo stars, but team players with unimposing, second-rate superpowers — invisibility, telekinesis, shrinking to insect size, and the ability to manipulate the probability of events. It wasn't until the creation of Ms. Marvel in the late 1970s that Marvel had a female character with the Herculean power level (and headliner status) to match Wonder Woman.

Although Sue, Jean, and Janet preceded her to the comics page, I've always thought of Wanda as Marvel's first truly great heroine. She began her career as a villain, a member of the self-styled Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, so she came equipped with a bit of an edge. She was required to play the hapless damsel in distress less often than her female colleagues. She called herself a Witch — none of that wimpy "Girl" business in her nom de guerre. Her father was Magneto, one of Marvel's greatest villains. She wore that crazy face-framing M-shaped tiara. And she married an android out of true love. How cool is that?

Today, Wanda has pretty well established herself as one of the most powerful (if not necessarily the most mentally stable) characters in the Marvel Universe. I only wish the writers would treat her more kindly — she's taken an undue amount of abuse in recent years. Artists seem to love her, though. Witness the gorgeous presentations above from (starting at the top) pencilers Michael McDaniel, Kirk Lindo, and Jeffrey Moy.

That's your Comic Art Friday, kids. School's out for summer, so don't play ball in the house.


2 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Anonymous Tom Galloway offered these pearls of wisdom...

"shrinking to incest size"

Um, what kind of power is that again? : -)

2:18 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

What can I tell you, Tom? Those Van Dynes were a close family.


Thanks for the catch, and the chuckle!

2:22 PM  

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