I’ve been thinking again about the Jeff Parker Marvel Adventures Avengers series — mostly because my son has me read them to him over and over and over. For those not in the know, this is an all-ages title, featuring an alternate Avengers meant for maximum marketability. Most of the major Marvel properties are on the team: Wolverine, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Storm, and Giant Girl.
I know what you’re saying…Giant who? Giant Girl is the only new character created for the team; in this reality, Janet Van Dyne, the wasp, decided that growing big would be a better way to fight crime than getting teeny. (Which does make a certain amount of sense.)
This is, as I said, an all-ages title; there’s no sex at all, precious little romance, and really little differentiation by gender at all. The women aren’t sexualized; their costumes are skin tight, but so are the guys’. Storm’s look seems somewhat toned down from the classic X-Men comics actually, and Giant-Girl’s costume is as nondescript as a skin-tight purple costume can be. Storm is co-leader along with Captain America. As far as gender dynamic go, you’d be hard pressed to find anything at all objectionable.
Except maybe that the women are kind of boring. Most of the other people on the team, after all, are there because they’re popular, and they’re popular because they’re entertaining. Wolverine is a cranky bad-ass; that’s entertaining. Spider-Man is a wise-cracking jokester (and surprisingly intelligent — he saves the day a very high-percentage of the time) — that’s entertaining. Hulk is super-strong and out of control — fun. Storm, on the other hand, is straight-laced and just sort of there. Giant-Girl doesn’t even really have as much personality as that (she seems touchy about her appearance on occasion, I guess.) If Wolverine’s the mean one, and Spider-Man’s the funny one, and Cap’s the moral-compass leader, Storm and Giant-Girl are the — well, they’re the women, right?
Admittedly, Iron Man is relatively unpersonable as well. And Parker does set up a kind of mother/child, straight-woman/goofball relationship between Storm and Hulk which is quite entertaining (especially when they switch brains, so you get to see Hulk try to call down lightning on his foes while Storm is running around atempting to uproot trees with her bare hands.) But it’s hard for me to imagine that any kid is going to read these things and come away saying, you know, I really want to be Giant Girl rather than Wolverine or Spider-Man or Hulk.
This is something of a perennial problem with super teams. The Fantastic Four: Johnny’s the hothead; Reed’s the super-genius; Ben’s the crusty strong man with a heart of gold — and Sue’s the woman. Or Grant Morrison’s Justice League — Flash and GL are the young, impetuous hotheads; Batman and Aquaman are the brooding bad boys; Superman’s the moral leader; J’onn is the thoughtful voice of reason — and Wonder Woman is the woman. It’s just hard to get beyond the tokenism.
(Not that it’s impossible. The X-Men have distinct female characters (including Storm, who has more of a personality in that title than in the Marvel Avengers.))
Anyway, my point is: Elektra. They should have put Elektra in the Marvel Avengers comic. You can’t go wrong with a ninja, right?
Also in this series: Tom talks about Stan Lee’s women of romance and Bill talks about perfect girlfriend’s in manga. Miriam is fighting valiantly against a ravenous deadline, but hopefully she’ll be posting later today as well.
Update: And here’s Miriam’s Post a cage match between Jaime Hernandez and Terry Moore.