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  1. #1
    Extraordinary Member Mike_Murdock's Avatar
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    Default Rape in the Avengers and Avengers #200

    For the first time, I read Avengers #200 and it was worse than I possibly imagined (even after hearing others who read it who told me it was worse than I would have imagined). I know I'm not saying anything new, but it was so yucky I kind of just want to rant about the story itself. That being said, since I had read the fifty or so issues prior, there was some context for the story that I think is worth addressing more broadly. I think the big thing is I'm trying to figure out what they were going for in that story. My brain is trying to wrap my head around two viable theories:

    The first: All the Avengers are being brainwashed, which is why they're acting so bizzare about the mystery baby. In this version, the Avengers are supposed to be seen as behaving abnormally. There's such strong sentiments that it's a supernatural rape baby the story doesn't shy away from. Then, when Carol sees Marcus, it's magically and instantaneously washed away as well. Even when the story went out of its way to contrast Immortus's brainwashing with Marcus's romantic efforts, it still concedes there was a subtle boost from his mind control machines.

    Second: The goal of the writing is to be a commentary on Feminism, which is exemplified by Ms. Marvel and, specifically, by her desire to not have a baby. Throughout the several issues before (I think it starts in 197), Carol has a strong anti-baby stance that is slowly worn down by seeing the baby she birthed. When she says "I've been denying my feelings for quite awhile," it makes me think the story is trying to say "she didn't really believe all that feminism nonsense." It feels like an appalling theory, but it at least explains everyone else's behavior.

    What complicates this is the very rapey attitude the book had under both Jim Shooter and David Michelinie (I used to think it was just Shooter and could safely blame even this issue on him). There was definitely this idea that, when someone gets ultimate power, they immediately want to use it to have sex with less than willing women. This starts with Graviton who, with his ultimate power, wanted the unwilling woman (as opposed to the other woman who wanted to have sex with him, who is portrayed as an evil bitch). Five issues later, we have Nefaria Supreme where Count Nefaria does the same thing. Finally, we have the Korvac Saga. The difference with the Korvac Saga is the first two villains were literally grabbing women who explicitly did not want him in a very traditional view of forcible rape. With Michael Korvac, there's a completely unnatural transformation of someone from wanting to kill Korvac to instantly falling in love with him that seems to be mind control, but the story never explicitly says it. In the end, the story does, however, say that Korvac was not a villain and was really trying to do good.

    Like I said, I used to think this ended with Shooter. However, when Michelinie took over, he wrote a story where the Absorbing Man came back to life. He takes a woman "in case he gets bored" during his escape. It's slightly different because, in the end, although he wanted to rape her, he didn't want to hurt her and the story ends with him pushing her to safety and fleeing and "dying." There's a slightly romantic attitude towards Creel, but he's still clearly the villain. Finally, we get to Avengers #200 where mind control is, again, explicitly used - once it's used significantly, the other, it's used "subtly" during an attempt to woo Carol. However, at no point is Marcus the villain in the story. At most, he's misunderstood. The tragic action is Hawkeye destroyed his machine, thus forcing him to return to Limbo and it's somewhat redeemed by Carol deciding to go with him.

    So I thought I'd start a thread to see if anyone wants to discuss Avengers #200 or the broader issues of power and mind control in these comics. Or, if they want, if there are other eras or time periods where similar things occurred.
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  2. #2
    Astonishing Member mikeb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike_Murdock View Post
    For the first time, I read Avengers #200 and it was worse than I possibly imagined (even after hearing others who read it who told me it was worse than I would have imagined). I know I'm not saying anything new, but it was so yucky I kind of just want to rant about the story itself. That being said, since I had read the fifty or so issues prior, there was some context for the story that I think is worth addressing more broadly. I think the big thing is I'm trying to figure out what they were going for in that story. My brain is trying to wrap my head around two viable theories:

    The first: All the Avengers are being brainwashed, which is why they're acting so bizzare about the mystery baby. In this version, the Avengers are supposed to be seen as behaving abnormally. There's such strong sentiments that it's a supernatural rape baby the story doesn't shy away from. Then, when Carol sees Marcus, it's magically and instantaneously washed away as well. Even when the story went out of its way to contrast Immortus's brainwashing with Marcus's romantic efforts, it still concedes there was a subtle boost from his mind control machines.

    Second: The goal of the writing is to be a commentary on Feminism, which is exemplified by Ms. Marvel and, specifically, by her desire to not have a baby. Throughout the several issues before (I think it starts in 197), Carol has a strong anti-baby stance that is slowly worn down by seeing the baby she birthed. When she says "I've been denying my feelings for quite awhile," it makes me think the story is trying to say "she didn't really believe all that feminism nonsense." It feels like an appalling theory, but it at least explains everyone else's behavior.

    What complicates this is the very rapey attitude the book had under both Jim Shooter and David Michelinie (I used to think it was just Shooter and could safely blame even this issue on him). There was definitely this idea that, when someone gets ultimate power, they immediately want to use it to have sex with less than willing women. This starts with Graviton who, with his ultimate power, wanted the unwilling woman (as opposed to the other woman who wanted to have sex with him, who is portrayed as an evil bitch). Five issues later, we have Nefaria Supreme where Count Nefaria does the same thing. Finally, we have the Korvac Saga. The difference with the Korvac Saga is the first two villains were literally grabbing women who explicitly did not want him in a very traditional view of forcible rape. With Michael Korvac, there's a completely unnatural transformation of someone from wanting to kill Korvac to instantly falling in love with him that seems to be mind control, but the story never explicitly says it. In the end, the story does, however, say that Korvac was not a villain and was really trying to do good.

    Like I said, I used to think this ended with Shooter. However, when Michelinie took over, he wrote a story where the Absorbing Man came back to life. He takes a woman "in case he gets bored" during his escape. It's slightly different because, in the end, although he wanted to rape her, he didn't want to hurt her and the story ends with him pushing her to safety and fleeing and "dying." There's a slightly romantic attitude towards Creel, but he's still clearly the villain. Finally, we get to Avengers #200 where mind control is, again, explicitly used - once it's used significantly, the other, it's used "subtly" during an attempt to woo Carol. However, at no point is Marcus the villain in the story. At most, he's misunderstood. The tragic action is Hawkeye destroyed his machine, thus forcing him to return to Limbo and it's somewhat redeemed by Carol deciding to go with him.

    So I thought I'd start a thread to see if anyone wants to discuss Avengers #200 or the broader issues of power and mind control in these comics. Or, if they want, if there are other eras or time periods where similar things occurred.
    The next thing you need to read is Avengers Annual #10. This was Chris Claremont's responce to Avengers #200.
    Here are a couple of articles that deal with Avengers #200 and the aftermath:
    www.carolastrickland.com/comics/msmarvel/
    www.geekinsider.com/on-the-rape-of-ms-marvel
    Last edited by mikeb; 01-08-2018 at 07:37 AM.

  3. #3
    Extraordinary Member JKtheMac's Avatar
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    Very briefly, I think your analysis is very sound. Most importantly because you have taken the time to place the story within the wider context of the run. I am sure somebody must have written a thesis about this by now, which depending upon its depth would need to expand the context to other books on the shelves from various publishers.

    Where I am always a little reticent is naming and shaming. Because these are issues prevalent in the culture of the time (and in our own time lets face it), it always feels a little off to call out the individual writers. Yes this may be a particularly bad example of confused and inappropriate dealings with issues of consent in gender relations, but I honestly don't think either writer was trying to make the point that Ms. Marvel was 'just a woman', that 'women don't know their own mind', or the underlying idea that 'no can often mean yes' or any such deliberate statement. There may indeed have been an attempt to explore feminist issues that got warped by a problematic approach, resulting in poorly expressed storytelling.

    That being said, the stories almost certainly do reflect on the attitudes of the writers at that time, they were a part of a wider cultural discourse that was struggling with the ideas being expressed in this era. Feminism, while not new, was becoming more widely expressed and was more widely discussed by the growing number of women in education (and indeed the growing percentage of women in the US). Feminism was also making headlines, but the media tended to sensationalise the context and the points being made. I doubt either writer had taken the time to research what feminists were actually saying, other than to read the paper or watch TV.
    Last edited by JKtheMac; 01-08-2018 at 07:34 AM.

  4. #4
    Extraordinary Member JKtheMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeb View Post
    The next thing you need to read is Avengers Annual #10. This was Chris Claremont's responce to Avengers #200.
    Actually I wouldn't jump straight to that, because more context regarding Claremont's career is worth delving into first. And I have never been a fan of his response either, which seems very reactionary to me.

  5. #5
    Extraordinary Member Mike_Murdock's Avatar
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    FWIW, I have read Avengers Annual 10 and will read it again after the next set of Avengers reading (which will be the also problematic court martial of Hank Pym story). I read it back when I was either doing a Ms. Marvel reading or my X-Men reading. Claremont, in fairness, can be very catty and has no problem using his comics to vent his frustration. There's the wonderful back and forth with John Byrne where Claremont was upset that Byrne had the Fantastic Four save Galactus's life after he was forced to kill of Jean Grey (for, in his view, far less serious crimes). So he had Lilandra appear to Reed Richards and say that, next time Galactus destroys a planet, it'll be on his head. John Byrne, of course, decided to run with that scene for the Trial of Reed Richards. Oddly enough, from an outsider, it feels like world building. Something in one book leads to something in another book, which gets built on again in the first book. It's only knowing the background that it becomes obvious that this was more a happy byproduct.

    When I re-read Avengers Annual 10, I'll be curious to see whether they make any attempt to explain the Avengers behavior (such as them being mind controlled). What stands out so much with Avengers #200 isn't that one could read it as a messed up rape story, it's that the story spends so much time paying lip service to exactly that. Without calling it rape, Carol absolutely expresses quite a bit of the language of someone who has been raped. To her, that is exactly what the baby is a byproduct of. And, in the end, there's a chance that the story could go "oh don't worry, it wasn't, you just lost your memory of this consensual encounter," but it doesn't entirely do that either. It ends up looking like it's saying "date rape is OK as long as you aren't grabbing a stranger and dragging them into the woods like Graviton or Crusher Creel would have."
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  6. #6
    The King Fears NO ONE! Triniking1234's Avatar
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    When the cartoon was popular Avengers Annual 10 was reprinted in the 1st appearance magazine which was how I read it. The Carol back-story is written in a way that the Avengers knew that Marcus was a baddie all along and were too stupid to notice that he was taking Carol away for nefarious reasons. Shooter's #200 is written like some creepy Doctor Who story where he tried to stick on a happy ending at the last minute. I guess if Marcus was portrayed in a more heroic manner and there was more objection from the Avengers things would've played out differently.

  7. #7
    Astonishing Member cranger's Avatar
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    http://jimshooter.com/2011/12/avengers-200.html/
    There are some comments which include statements from Mark Gruenwald and David Michelinie and the gist of it is that the story was changed at the last second because a similar story was just told in an issue of What If.

    The one thing I found of interest was the mention of feuding writers. Makes me wonder if anything like that still happens these days, or if any of them care enough.

  8. #8
    Extraordinary Member JKtheMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Triniking1234 View Post
    When the cartoon was popular Avengers Annual 10 was reprinted in the 1st appearance magazine which was how I read it. The Carol back-story is written in a way that the Avengers knew that Marcus was a baddie all along and were too stupid to notice that he was taking Carol away for nefarious reasons. Shooter's #200 is written like some creepy Doctor Who story where he tried to stick on a happy ending at the last minute. I guess if Marcus was portrayed in a more heroic manner and there was more objection from the Avengers things would've played out differently.
    I think you are spot on that Shooter was aiming at a science fiction paradox story and forced the issue to the detriment of the characters, all in service of his 'cool idea'.

  9. #9
    Astonishing Member cranger's Avatar
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    Just to be clear, people know that Shooter did not "write" Avengers #200, yes?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by cranger View Post
    Just to be clear, people know that Shooter did not "write" Avengers #200, yes?
    IIRC it's a bit more complicated.

  11. #11
    Extraordinary Member JKtheMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cranger View Post
    Just to be clear, people know that Shooter did not "write" Avengers #200, yes?
    Credit for the story and exactly who did what is understandably in dispute. It is probably best not to take any one party's word for it.

  12. #12
    Extraordinary Member JKtheMac's Avatar
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    I usually refer to this quote, mainly because it shows that Shooter isn't above taking responsibility even if he didn't write it (which is not as clear cut as Shooter makes it seem):

    ...possibly I made some suggestions that garnered me a “co-plotter” credit, and if so, what was I thinking?
    And, I guess I signed off on this book.
    I regret it.
    But, in those days, in any case, the buck stopped at my desk. I take full responsibility. I screwed up. My judgment failed, or maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention. Sorry. Avengers #200 is a travesty.
    From Jim Shooter I did not write Avengers #200

    And this only highlights why I don't really think analysing this book should lead to finger-pointing.
    Last edited by JKtheMac; 01-08-2018 at 08:37 AM.

  13. #13
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    As a kid I didn't notice how messed up Avengers #200 was.

    But even as a kid, I figured out what the Absorbing Man wanted to do with that random lady he kidnapped.

    It's worse when Michelinie has the lady feel bad for A.M. at the end.

    Creel/Absorbing Man's cornered by the Avengers, so lets his hostage go and seems to commit suicide by merging with the ocean. Said hostage even asks the Avengers if they couldn't have just let him get away (I assume after freeing her...but still).WTF.

    Even as a kid I thought something was off about that one.

    The idea that women can be won by men, despite themselves, looks to be more of a Shooter thing than Michelinie thing, though I don't remember any of his Legion
    stories being that rapey.

  14. #14
    Astonishing Member Jokerz79's Avatar
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    That issue came out in October 1980 a different era I mean the biggest "love" story of that year was Luke and Laura on the run in the summer of 1980 that led to a 1981 wedding that had 30 million viewers on Daytime and Luke and Laura went on the run after Laura's husband Scotty learned Luke had raped her.

  15. #15
    Astonishing Member Nomads1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vic Vega View Post
    As a kid I didn't notice how messed up Avengers #200 was.
    Yeah, I was a clueless kid too, but I did find the whole mess of Carol's baby being his own father kind of head scratching. Other than that it was just, "oh, so many Avengers, pretty George Perez's art", and "I liked Carol. Too bad she left". Only years later, upon rereading, that I caught up on how messed up it was (I think I might have read Avengers Annual #10 by then, which clued me in). Still, it's an issue that actually brings up good memories for me (I was on a trip with my cousin and my grandfather to São Paulo and I got to buy, at the same time, the extra-sized Avengers #200, X-Men #137, and another big Spider-Man book with art by Frank Miller - I think it was a Marvel Team-Up annual, but I'm not sure. You have no idea how hard it was to get those special issues here in Brazil back then. It was I was in heaven).

    Peace

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