back issue #54

Big Barda TM & © DC Comics. All Rights Reserved. BIG BARDA • MS. MARVEL • PHOENIX SAVAGE SHE-HULK • STARFIRE • VALKYRIE February 2012 No.54 $8.95 JILL THOMPSON, GAIL SIMONE, & BARBARA KESEL in a Pro2Pro interview! LIBERATED LADIES! 1 8 2 6 5 8 2 7 7 6 2 8 0 1

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BACK ISSUE #54 (84 pages with FULL-COLOR, $8.95) gives equal time to “Liberated Ladies,” eyeing the female characters that broke barriers in the Bronze Age: Big Barda, Valkyrie, Ms. Marvel, Phoenix, Savage She-Hulk, and the sword-wielding Starfire. Plus a “Pro2Pro” interview with creators JILL THOMPSON, GAIL SIMONE, and BARBARA KESEL. Featuring art and/or commentary by JOHN BYRNE, GEORGE PEREZ, JACK KIRBY, MIKE VOSBURG, and more, with a bombastic Big Barda cover by BRUCE TIMM. Now in FULL COLOR! Edited by MICHAEL EURY.


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Volume 1,Number 54February 2012

Celebrating theBest Comics ofthe '70s, '80s, ’90s and Beyond!

EDITORMichael Eury




COVER DESIGNERMichael Kronenberg


SPECIAL THANKSJohn ByrneChris ClaremontGerry ConwayDC ComicsTom DeFalcoKevin DooleyJo DuffySteve EnglehartJim FordCarl GaffordGrand Comic Book Database Jean GreyCharles HatfieldKarl HeitmuellerHeritage Comics AuctionsBarbara Randall KeselJames KingmanDavid Anthony KraftDaniel LangAlan LightAndy MangelsDavid MichelinieJonathan MillerDoug MoenchBrian ReedShannon E. RileyPeter SandersonSteve ShermanGail SimoneAnthony SnyderJennifer K. StullerJoel ThingvallRoy ThomasJill ThompsonMike Vosburg

BACK ISSUE™ is published 8 times a year by TwoMorrows Publishing, 10407 Bedfordtown Drive,Raleigh, NC 27614. Michael Eury, Editor. John Morrow, Publisher. Editorial Office: BACK ISSUE,c/o Michael Eury, Editor, 118 Edgewood Avenue NE, Concord, NC 28025. Email: [email protected] subscriptions: $60 Standard US, $85 Canada, $107 Surface International. Please sendsubscription orders and funds to TwoMorrows, NOT to the editorial office. Cover art by Bruce Timm.Big Barda TM & © DC Comics. All Rights Reserved. All characters are © their respective companies.All material © their creators unless otherwise noted. All editorial matter © 2012 Michael Eury andTwoMorrows Publishing. BACK ISSUE is a TM of TwoMorrows Publishing. ISSN 1932-6904. Printedin Canada. FIRST PRINTING.

BACK SEAT DRIVER: Editorial by Michael Eury . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

FLASHBACK: Big Barda – She’s Strong, She’s Sexy, and She’s Liberated! . . . . . . . . . .3Jack Kirby’s former Female Fury and her rollercoaster ride through DC lore

FLASHBACK: The Ride of the Valkyrie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12From her Lady Liberator roots to her service as a Defender, our gal Val has earned her wings

FLASHBACK: Ms. Marvel: A Binary Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21The tumultuous, and sometimes troubling, career of Carol Danvers

PRINCE STREET NEWS: High Heel Fighting! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .34Karl Heitmueller re-toons with a fashion statement about superheroines

PRO2PRO: Women in Comics Roundtable with Barbara Randall Kesel, Gail Simone, and Jill Thompson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36A lively discussion with three popular and influential creators

BEYOND CAPES: Swords & Science & Starfire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .52No, not the golden-hued Teen Titan, but the sword-wielding DC warrior

BRING ON THE BAD GUYS: Phoenix Rising… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .61The story of an X-(Wo)Man transformed

FLASHBACK: The Humble Beginnings of the Savage She-Hulk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .71Despite a shaky start, the Hulk’s cousin went from knock-off to actual character in the space of 25 issues

BACK TALK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .78Reader feedback on issue #50

The Retro Comics Experience!

L i b e r a t e d L a d i e s I s s u e • B A C K I S S U E • 1

Background image: Women In Comics 1978 Convention program cover by Marie Severin, Delaware Valley Comicart Consortium.All characters TM & © 2012 their respective copyright holders.

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This article’s title contains three perfect descriptions ofBig Barda: strong, sexy, and liberated. She was alsorough, tough, and smart, and would not take flak fromanyone. Though in peerless command of her emotionsdue to relentless military training, she was capable ofdisplaying great sensitivity and naivety. She was notabove confronting what she felt was personal weaknessto make herself a better person. In the early 1970s, she

may have been the most physically and emotionallybalanced of all the characters in writer/artist JackKirby’s Fourth World, published by DC Comics (thenNational Periodical Publications) in four ongoing titles:Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, The New Gods, The ForeverPeople, and Mister Miracle.

Big Barda was an extremely beautiful woman,whether traipsing around in a weapon-adorned red

by J i m K i n g m a n

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bikini while hoisting up a large cannon, lunging intobattle in full Apokoliptian military attire, or leaping intothe fray in a comely skirt to protect friends from harm.Looks were not everything, of course. Barda’s loyaltywas fierce, her sense of humor biting, her maternalinstincts impressionable, her desire for peacefulmoments commendable, her love for battle insatiable,and her temper quick to ignite. Foremost of all was herunconditional devotion and love for Scott Free, MisterMiracle.

Yet Barda was not raised and trained to be emotion-ally balanced, or a pin-up girl, or a liberating force. Shewas molded in Granny Goodness’ “orphanage” on theplanet Apokolips to be a warrior woman supreme, andher leadership qualities won her command of theFemale Furies, an elite military unit in the service ofDarkseid, the epitome of evil in Kirby’s Fourth Worldsaga. This service did not last long, however, becauseBarda was meant for greater achievements. She hasattained all but two: her own comic book and her ownongoing back-up series, although in both instances shecertainly came close.

REJECTING HER DARK SIDEBig Barda’s statuesque body and strong facial featureswere inspired by actress and singer Lainie Kazan, whileaspects of her personality came from right at home,that of Kirby’s beloved wife, Rosalind (Roz). “One thingnotable about Barda,” explains Charles Hatfield, comicsscholar and author of Hand of Fire: The Comics Art ofJack Kirby, “is that, like Medusa of the FrightfulFour/Inhumans in Fantastic Four, she began as a sort ofanti-heroine, or at least someone with a checkeredpast. Medusa is a good point of comparison, because inboth cases Kirby played up sensuality in the character’sdesign: for all ofBarda’s fear-s o m e n e s s ,when she’sfirst intro-duced it’swith a strongelement ofsexual titilla-tion (just look ather first scenewith Oberon, inMister Miracle

Big Plans(above) Courtesy of

The Jack Kirby Collector,Kirby’s unfinished

splash for his proposedBig Barda spin-offbook, circa 1972.

TM & © DC Comics.

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by J o n a t h a n M i l l e r

Valkyrie! Valkyerah!Detail from John Buscema and

Frank Giacoia’s cover art gracing The Defenders #4 (Feb. 1973).

© 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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Marvel Comics’ Valkyrie made her first appearance onthe cover of The Avengers #83 (Dec. 1970), an iconicimage that heralded a new age in mainstream comics interms of the depiction of women in the medium. Flankedby a quartet of A-list Marvel heroines, the Wagnerianwarrior stood over the defeated forms of the maleAvengers and announced that the era of their predom-inance had passed. Inside (“The Revolution’s Fine”),she related her origin—a typical comic-book tale of ascientific laboratory accident, but in this case one facil-itated by male chauvinism and arrogance—and con-verted the heroines to her cause, namely the humilia-tion and defeat of their male counterparts. Her argu-ment used nothing more than the way female charac-ters such as themselves had historically been sidelined,ignored, or dismissed altogether, and in truth herclaims were hardly exaggerated.

LADY LIBERATORSSo motivated, the newly formed Lady Liberators sur-prise their men friends at Rutland, Vermont’s famousHalloween parade and proceed to thoroughly kick thecrap out of them. It is only following this that Valkyrie’sstory, motives, and indeed her very identity arerevealed to be entirely false, a ruse perpetrated bylongtime Avengers nemesis and perennial femme fatalethe Enchantress, recently jilted by erstwhile partner-in-crime the Executioner and looking to revenge herselfon the entire male population. Their newly found causeceleb thus betrayed, the heroines must then quickly

reverse their positions and rally to their fellow goodguys’ side. Although the final panel has the ScarletWitch defiantly proclaiming that their movementtowards equality would not be sundered by the betray-al of their leader, the status quo of gender roles seemedcomfortably in place once more by the next issue.

Cultural critic and author of Ink-Stained Amazonsand Cinematic Warriors Jennifer K. Stuller takes issuewith the characterization of feminism, particularly theway “the Wasp walks in and refers to their group as a‘Powderpuff Protest Meeting’—again suggesting thatwomen who seek better treatment in the workplace aresimply girly-numbskulls who ask too much and don’tknow their place, and even women think so, too. But asthe Valkyrie monologues about her origin story and hermistreatment at the hands of men, the women, includ-ing the Wasp, are quickly recruited into Valkyrie’scause. As they jump to become the Lady Liberators, weare given the impression that women are easily brain-washed and will do anything for a seemingly abstractconcept they call sisterhood. And brainwashing it is …or at least in this case, magic.

“Though ironically, most of what the Valkyrie saysto convince the women to band together is true: Themale heroes grab all the attention for themselves, menwrite newspaper headlines that neglect contributionsof women allies, and that the Black Widow is just afemale Spider-Man (something she herself has alreadyadmitted elsewhere). Though the girls pony up, it islater revealed, as it so often is with depictions of other

Sisters Doing Itfor Themselves!(above) The veryfirst appearance ofValkyrie also gave us the singularappearance of theLiberators! Art byJohn Buscema andTom Palmer fromThe Avengers #83(Dec. 1970).© 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc.

L i b e r a t e d L a d i e s I s s u e • B A C K I S S U E • 1 3

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strong women in popular storytelling—especially femi-nists—that the Valkyrie is not interested in equal rightsfor women, but in her own twisted pursuits. She is, infact, a villainess—scorned by her lover and mentallyunstable. As a result she believes all men must suffer forher lover’s misdeeds. And the lesson learned is thatwomen who demand respect aren’t to be taken serious-ly, and that women’s liberation is trivial and a joke.”(Emmapeelers, DiscoDivas, and the Feministas of Justice:A Look at Superwomen in the American 1970s. Presentedat the Comics Arts Conference at Wondercon, 2009.)

Roy Thomas, writer of the story that introducedValkyrie and—along withartist John Buscema, herco-creator—offers hisperspective: “Over theyears, some people (notnecessarily alwayswomen) assaulted theview of feminism in theAvengers story, butothers defended itand I often see it list-ed as someone’s‘favorite story’ orsome such thing. Ithink most peoplesaw that it was notan attack on femi-nism, just a storyabout how it couldget very stridentand out of hand.The feministmovement inthose days wasderided fromtime to time ashaving no senseof humor …but, of course,that was donepartly becausefeminism was-n’t taken asseriously insome quartersas, say, the

civil rights movement (of which feminism was really apart). I don’t recall people saying, for instance, thatAfrican Americans should have a sense of humor abouttheir situation … although that wasn’t a bad idea, noone would have dared.”

Acknowledging that the superheroines do at leastacquit themselves quite well, Stuller still laments, “Forme, these moments feel like tokens and are negated bythe fact that ultimately, feminism and/or the women’sliberation movement are depicted as politics that dupewomen and are not to be taken seriously. So often inpopular culture we see a young woman swayed by thedangers of feminism. Usually she looks up to a feministmentor who turns out to be crazed or scorned. She’s afeminist because she hates men or is mentally ill. Thenthe young woman learns a lesson and is returned to alife of safe heteronormativity. So for me, seeing thissexist trope time and time again, this misunderstand-ing or undermining of feminist politics and activismdoesn’t necessarily negate those tiny moments (likeScarlet Witch), but it certainly compromises them. Asyou’ve suggested, it’s important to point out those lit-tle progressive moments alongside those that are moreobviously problematic.”

VALKYRIE, v.2So, somewhat of a caricature and exposed as not onlya fraud but, ultimately, a fiction, Valkyrie had neverthe-less far from exhausted her potential. She returned inThe Incredible Hulk #142 (Aug. 1971), this time in real-ity a young activist named Samantha Parrington, trans-formed by the Enchantress for the purpose of battlingthe Hulk, effectively giving Valkyrie an identity as anindependent person in a story with elements of socialsatire. “I saw very quickly that the Valkyrie concept wastoo good to be a one-shot, so I soon had a new womantake on that persona,” says Thomas. “In a sense, I guessI created (or rather, co-created) the Valkyrie twice,though I only did a single story about her each time.”Samantha’s true self is restored at the end of the issue,leaving Valkyrie more concept than actual character,but Thomas was clearly taking steps towards realizingValkyrie as a full-fledged member of the MarvelUniverse, “although it was left to Steve Englehart andvarious artists, especially Sal Buscema, to do so,” heconcedes.

Englehart and Buscema accomplished said taskwhen Valkyrie returned again in The Defenders #4 (Feb.

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Val from Valhalla(above) Valkyrie makes

her first return in thepages of the RoyThomas-scribed

Incredible Hulk #142(Aug. 1971). Panels and

cover (below) by theHulk-ilcious team of HerbTrimpe and John Severin

© 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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Danvers Defiant!A melange of Ms.Marvel imagery.Main figure is ourheroine detailedfrom the cover ofMs. Marvel vol. 1#18 (June 1978),and backgroundtriptych (from left) isCarol Danvers in herspiffy new costume(cover, Ms. Marvel#20, Oct. 1978); asBinary (cover,Uncanny X-Men#164, Dec. 1982);and her modern-daythreads (standing inas her guise asWarbird) from thecover of Ms. Marvel#12 (Apr. 2007).First three are byDave Cockrum andlast is by Greg Horn.© 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc.

One of the most difficult things

about writing (andwriting about) super-

heroes that have existedfor decades is that it’s hard

to continually recapture thecontext and zeitgeist surround-ing their creation. If comicbooks are mirrors for society,and their characters reflectspecific historical momentsand movements, then super-heroes start losing a bit oftheir relevance as soon asthe moment of their cre-ation is over. Dazzler,Luke Cage, and evenSuperman are verymuch products of theirtime. Some have worn

better than othersbecause their symbolism

is more enduring orbetter able to adapt.

by A l e x B o n e y

L i b e r a t e d L a d i e s I s s u e • B A C K I S S U E • 2 1

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But when time passes, and American society shiftstoward new interests and concerns, creators struggle tomake extant superheroes keep up with that change.Sometimes they take drastic measures to keep charac-ters relevant, and sometimes the heroes end up worsefor that wear.

One of the characters who has experienced some ofthe greatest, most drastic, and most troubling transfor-mations over the last 35 years is Carol Danvers.Originally created as a bit supporting character forMarvel’s 1960s Captain Marvel series, Carol went on tobecome Ms. Marvel, Binary, Warbird, and Ms. Marvel(again). In some ways, Ms.Marvel is the Marvel equiv-alent of DC’s Power Girl.Both characters were cre-ated during a rising tide offeminism in the 1970s,both have been poweredup and depowered fre-quently by male creators,and both have sufferedextraordinary physical vio-lations including rape andmysterious supernaturalpregnancies.

It’s easy to make thecase that superheroes(male and female alike)have suffered variousforms of horrible tormentover the decades. After all,torment creates drama.But there’s somethingpeculiar and almostfetishistic about the gen-dered nature of the tor-ments devised for CarolDanvers—a character whowas created to be anembodiment of femininestrength and willpower.Carol hasn’t necessarilysuffered more than hermale counterparts. But she

has suffered differently. Despite all of this—perhapseven because of it—Ms. Marvel has remained one ofthe most resilient, enduring, and determined heroinesin comic-book history. And when it comes to “liberatedladies” of comics, she provides a useful and instructivecase study.

CAROL DANVERSAlthough Ms. Marvel debuted in the late 1970s, CarolDanvers had already been a part of Marvel continuityfor nearly ten years. Carol debuted in Marvel Super-Heroes #13 (Mar. 1968) as a background character inthe story that introduced Captain Marvel (or Mar-Vell—an alien officer who was sent by the technologicallyadvanced Kree Empire to spy on Earth’s space-agecapabilities). General Bridges, a commander at anunspecified Cape (presumably Kennedy at the time),introduces Carol Danvers in the following way: “Dr.Lawson, this is Miss Danvers! Man or woman, she’s thefinest Head of Security a missile base could want!” Thiswas high praise for a woman who had achieved such alofty military position in the 1960s, and it establishedCarol as a tough, independent career woman from thevery beginning.

When Captain Marvel graduated to his own ongo-ing series a couple months later (May 1968), Carolcame with him as a recurring part of his supportingcast. She was not just strong-willed, but almost precog-nitive. Carol immediately distrusted Dr. Walter Lawson(Mar-Vell’s stolen secret identity), who she correctlythought was hiding a secret. While her initial skepticismwas based largely on intuition (and Lawson’s suspiciousbehavior), it was also egged on by Lawson’s regressiveattitude toward women in power. In Captain Marvel #5,Lawson tells Carol that her wariness is “perfectly obvi-ous! You’re a woman—a lovely woman, in fact! Andyou’ve been given a very masculine role in life!

Naturally, psychologicalconflicts must arise when abeautiful young woman isasked to play at police-man!”

This sort of condescen-sion was part of thehumorous wink/nudgeappeal of Carol’s role inthose early issues. Whileshe was strong and profes-sional, she occasionallyacted “like a skittish girl”(Captain Marvel #6) andserved as a love interest forMar-Vell during the book’sfirst couple years. She con-tinued to distrust Lawsonwhile fawning over Mar-Vell—a romantic-triangledynamic that changedconsiderably in CaptainMarvel #18, which provedto be a major turning pointfor Carol Danvers. WhenYon-Rogg (another Kreeofficer) travels to Earth toattack his arch-foe Mar-Vell, Carol is caught in themiddle of the battle. Shefinds herself trapped in acavern when a Kree device

Danvers’ Debut(above) The future

Ms. Marvel was firstintroduced within the

Marvel Universe asfoil for Captain

Marvel, the Kree warrior, in MarvelSuper-Heroes #13

(Mar. 1968). Wordsby Roy Thomas and

art by Gene Colanand Paul Reinman.© 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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“This Female Fights Back!”

(right) John Romita,Sr.’s art graces

this bust-out, navel-gazing cover for Ms.

Marvel #1 (Jan. 1977).© 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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called the Psyche-Magnitron explodes and bathes herwith energy. While Carol is seemingly still alive at theend of the issue, she disappears from the book for sev-eral years.

When Carol appears again in Captain Marvel #34(Sept. 1974), she has moved on from her position atthe Cape to become the Security Advisor for theDefense Department. While she demonstrates no phys-ical side-effects of the Psyche-Magnitron, she has hadto deal with the professional fallout of her time at theCape: “Ever since the Walter Lawson/Captain Marvelfoul-up at the Cape, I’ve been on the spot with somefour-star chauvinists—so I’m running this show tight.”Carol’s reappearance in a couple late issues of CaptainMarvel connected her back to Mar-Vell’s beginnings,but her status as a major supporting character wasclearly at an end. She’d have to wait a few more yearsto step back to the front of the stage.

MS. MARVEL (ORIGIN)In a premiere issue cover-dated January 1977, GerryConway and John Buscema reintroduced Carol Danversas an independent career woman in a completely differ-ent context. Whereas Stan Lee (editor), Roy Thomasand Arnold Drake (writers), and Gene Colan (artist) hadpresented Carol as a security officer in a decade of mil-itary escalation, Conway and Buscema adapted thecharacter to a new decade and repackaged her asMarvel’s strong, vocal representative of the Women’sLiberation Movement. When Ms. Marvel #1 hit thestands, Carol Danvers was no longer a military officer orsecurity advisor of any sort. Rather, she was the editor-in-chief of a new magazine (published by J. JonahJameson, of course) called Woman. If the name and pro-fessional position looked familiar, it was by design.Feminist author and advocate Gloria Steinem had start-ed a magazine called Ms. five years earlier.

The gendered nature of Ms. Marvel wasn’t justapparent from the title and the protagonist; feministsensibilities were woven through the entire book. Thecover of Ms. Marvel #1 announced her as “A bold newsuperheroine in the senses-stunning tradition of Spider-Man!” The thugs attacking her in the first few pages callher “dame” and “broad.” One bystander says, “I’veseen tough—but that little lady makes Lynda Carterlook like Olive Oyl!” After the street fight, a little girlsays, “Mommy, I’ve never seen a woman like that—have you? Wow! When I grow up—I wanna be just likeher!” And naturally, J. Jonah Jameson’s chauvinism isintroduced as a major thematic antagonist to Carol’sprogressive leanings. Jonah laments that “Lately … Ihaven’t had the time to devote myself to our magazinedepartment—particularly, our women’s magazines—and let me tell you, Miss Danvers, it shows. Articles onWomen’s Lib, interviews with Kate Millet, stories aboutcareers for women—yecch.”

Even the end of that first issue is important. For theletters-page back-matter of Ms. Marvel #1, Gerry

Conway wrote a letter thatremains one of the mostsignificant statementsabout Ms. Marvel as a char-acter (and men writingfemale characters) everwritten. In the letter,Conway argues that “youmight see a parallelbetween her quest for iden-tity, and the modernwoman’s quest for raisedconsciousness, for self-lib-eration, for identity. In away, that’s intentional. Ms.Marvel, because of hername if nothing else, isinfluenced, to a greatextent, by the move towardwomen’s liberation. She isnot a Marvel Girl; she’s awoman, not a Miss or aMrs.—a Ms. Her own per-son. Herself. But she doesn’tknow who she is….Naturally, in time, she’lllearn her true identity (intwo issues, to be exact, if you’re statistically inclined),but that search for self will continue for as long as thecharacter lasts. Ms. Marvel is many things, but most ofall she’s a growing personality, constantly reaching fora better understanding of herself as a human being.”

While it seemed clear that the socio-political windsof change provided the drivingforce behind the creation of Ms.Marvel, Conway now looksback on the creation of thebook with a more practicalperspective. “It actually cameabout for fairly uncreative rea-sons,” Conway recalls. “I hadbeen brought over to Marvel tobe an editor-in-chief, and thatdidn’t turn out so well for me. Ididn’t really enjoy the time Iwas there, and the people whowere under me were nothappy with having to workfor me, and it just becamemore hassle than it wasworth. One of the things Ihad been attacked for bypeople there was theidea that I was kickingthem off books inorder to take over[writing] theirbooks. This

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Marvelous Ms.(right) Panel from Ms. Marvel #1 (Jan. 1977), with words by Gerry

Conway and art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott. (below) Snaggedfrom the Fireside book, The Superhero Women, by Stan Lee (1977),

is John Romita, Sr.’s frontispiece to the Ms. Marvel tale, itself a detail originally from his Spidey Super Stories #22 (Apr. 1977) cover.

© 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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A Gal of Many Guises(left) Artist GregHorn depicts CarolDanvers in her vari-ous personificationsover the decades inthis Ms. Marvel #22(Feb. 2008) paintedcover.© 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc.

Setting aside her former identity, Carol embraces a newidentity that embodies both her newly discoveredpower and the empty canvas that connects her emo-tional losses to the vast, open void of space: “My oldfriend Captain Marvel was gifted with cosmic aware-ness—an ability to become one with the universe. Ithink I’ve gone beyond that. His was a spiritual merger,mine is physical. Somehow, when I use my power, I tapinto a white hole—my energy source is the primal fab-ric of a universe. Like a star, I can generate heat, light—radiation across the spectrum—gravity.”

After traveling with the X-Men for a few moreissues, she leaves the team after Rogue approaches theInstitute seeking asylum (Uncanny X-Men #171). WhenProfessor X accepts Rogue into the fold, Carol is so out-raged that she flies off into space. She eventually joinsthe intergalactic space pirates called the Starjammersand engages in a series of adventures as part of thatteam. For Claremont, this rehabilitation provided Carolwith a fresh start that was worthy of her character. “Itallowed her to play on the big guys’ field,” he says.“Ms. Marvel was born of Captain Marvel, who was aninterstellar being. He was Kree. This enabled her towalk in that territory for a while. It broadened her hori-zons.”

WARBIRDCarol spent most of the 1990s as Binary, though shewasn’t often featured prominently. She was the cosmicpower she had always dreamed of being (from her

childhood dreams to her NASAdays), and she was copingwith her recent losses by chan-neling newfound might towardproductive ends. But in Quasar#34 (May 1992)—part of themassive Avengers crossover“Operation: Galactic Storm”—Carol sacrifices a great deal ofher Binary power by savingEarth’s sun. Her powers drained,she returns to the AvengersMansion infirmary to recover. Shespends the next few years in spaceas Binary, but her powers beginto become erratic and unpre-dictable in X-Men Unlimited#13.

When Kurt Busiek andGeorge Pérez launched a newAvengers series in 1998, Carol isinvited to be a part of the re-assembled group. She initiallyappears as Binary, but Avengers#4 reveals that the events ofQuasar #4 depleted the vast majorityof her cosmic powers. Now de-pow-ered, she still agrees to join the Avengersand chooses the codename “Warbird”—anod to her childhood dreams of flying and her Air Force

days. But before theAvengers reveal their newlineup to the public (a cel-ebratory ritual), Caroltakes a drink from thestocked bar at the Mansionto ease her nerves. Fromthere, things only continueto get worse.

In “Live Kree andDie”—a four-part cross-over that ran through IronMan #7, Captain America#8, Quicksilver #10, andAvengers #7—Carol’s drink-ing has escalated consider-ably and her behavior hasspun completely out ofcontrol. Now that the fullweight of her recent past issinking fast, she has turnedto alcohol as a copingmechanism. In Avengers#7, she is kicked off theteam until she can pull her-self together. Her alco-holism is then carried overto Iron Man, where she hitscomplete rock bottom. InIron Man #24, Carol wakesup in a drunken stupor,gets drunker, and kicksTony Stark through a pas-senger jet in mid-flight. Inthe next issue, she realizeswhat she’s done, attendsher first AA meeting, andbegins to pull her life backtogether.

The MarvelMarvelsCaptain Marvel andMs. Marvel as drawnby George Pérez.© 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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They’ve made significant contributions to the world ofcomics, making inroads for other female creators andleaving their own personal mark on some of the biggesticons. Now, the always brilliant, funny, and passionateBarbara Randall Kesel, Gail Simone, and Jill Thompsontalk to BACK ISSUE in an exclusive “Pro2Pro” interview—sharing their thoughts on the industry, the power ofBarbara Gordon, and the rise of social media.

– Shannon E. Riley

SHANNON E. RILEY: Barbara, let’s start with what Ithink is one of the best stories I’ve ever heard aboutbreaking into the comics industry. You wrote a ten-page letter to DC editor Dick Giordano about theportrayal of women in comics—and he was soimpressed, he hired you! Tell me about that letterand how it came about.BARBARA RANDALL KESEL: Well, it starts with anattempted abduction. Mine. No, really. When I was incollege, a tiny, little thing who looked much younger

than I was, I worked at the library in Pomona,California. I was early and walking along the row ofantique stores on a closed-off section of street whenthis guy ran up behind me, put his arm around me, andcheerfully told me how happy he was about our trip tothe mountains. This was before the first Terminatormovie, but I had the eerie experience of “seeing”instructions in the air in front of me kind of like theTerminator POV: “Stay calm, keep responding to keephim talking, you have 100 yards to get away from himand safe or he’ll catch up to you,” and “Oh, by theway, all of these stores are closed.” Then I saw an opendoor on the left and bolted. I ended up inside a usedbookstore with a startled couple behind the centerdesk. I raced into the stacks shouting, “I’m not hereand you don’t see me!” The guy followed me in andasked them if they’d seen his girlfriend. They told himshe’d gone out the other door into the parking lot.They then locked that door behind him and asked if Ineeded the police. Well, today? Instant AMBER Alert.

Trio of Titanic Talent

(from left) BarbaraRandall Kesel, Gail

Simone, and JillThompson in photos

taken this summer onthe convention circuitby Shannon E. Riley.

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L i b e r a t e d L a d i e s I s s u e • B A C K I S S U E • 3 7

Back then? I said no, because even though I knew I wasin serious danger, he never spoke a direct threat, hecarried no weapon, and I wasn’t even sure I coulddescribe him. I was afraid that the only result would bean incident report with my name and address on it thathe might be able to get his hands on somehow. “But I’lltake one of every one of those comic books on the rackbehind you,” I said. I was just under 20, and I’d neverlived near a store when I could buy new comics everymonth. I’d found new ones on road trips and used onesfrom the little used bookstore next to the Kroger inSeabrook, Texas, but never had a reliable source beforethat. That store must have gotten half my salary for thenext couple of years.

And I got to know Carl and Frances Pfeiffer andsome of the cast of store regulars enough to grouseabout how lame the women in some of the storieswere. Frances was the one to suggest I write in and tellthem my opinion—it hadn’t occurred to me that theywere happening now and I could comment! So I only

ever wrote six letters before the big one. In the letter-col of one of the Batman books, a writer had asked howcome DC’s women weren’t as complicated as charac-ters as the men, and suggested DC hire more womencreators. Dick Giordano’s editorial reply was that hedidn’t think it mattered. So I wrote a tome. I was at CalPoly getting my theater degree at the time, so I out-lined a dozen things they could do to make their char-acters better—tricks we use as actors, playwrights, anddirectors, and how they could apply to comics. So Dickcalled me and asked how far Diamond Bar was fromSan Diego, and could I come to the convention thereto meet him? He hired me to write the Batgirl back-upin Detective when I didn’t take the job he offered mebecause I wanted to finish off my degree. After I grad-uated, I took the next editorial opening. Tah dah! So …I’m in comics because I didn’t end up as a body in acanyon. Or a refrigerator!RILEY: Speaking of which … Gail, your website“Women in Refrigerators” similarly cast a light on

by S h a n n o n E . R i l e yconducted throughout May, June, and July 2011

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the treatment of women in comics. You generatedan extensive character list and their respectivefates—starting with “All of Savage Dragon’s girl-friends (dead)” to “Zatanna (powers severely limit-ed).” Was there a specific storyline that promptedyou to take action and let your voice be heard?GAIL SIMONE: There were a couple, but I should addhere that I think the list is the weakest part of the site… I didn’t write it, I asked readers at the website to make their sugges-tions and not all the answersfit the criteriaestabl ished,as much asone wouldhope. ErikLarsen, forexample, takesunderstandableumbrage withthe SavageDragon mention.I haven’t read hiswork, so I don’treally know.However, the pointof the list and thesite was pretty spot-on, and most of thepros I talked to aboutit at the time, theyagreed, they knew

immediately what I was talking about. There was aGreen Lantern story where the hero came home andfound his very likable and interesting girlfriendchopped up and stuffed in a fridge, and there was alsothe shooting of Barbara Gordon, Batgirl, in the industryclassic, Batman: The Killing Joke. [Author’s note: KyleRayner’s girlfriend, Alex, is killed and stuffed into arefrigerator by the villain Major Force in Green Lantern#54 (Aug. 1994).]

It’s silly on one level—it’s all just stories, right? Butat the same time, all these guys were wondering onlineall the time, “Why don’t women read comics?” And thesheer immensity of the violent and often sexualizedportrayals really weighed down on me as a reader—Iquit reading for a good while. Male heroes sometimesdied, but not in the same manner … the girls werebeing killed just to make the hero’s quest for vengeancemore justified. It got hugely boring on top of beingnasty as a gender issue.

We should have started with a fun question! RILEY: Were you surprised by the response you gotfrom fellow fans and creators in the industry? SIMONE: Well, not from creators, a lot knew exactlywhat I was asking. Some disagreed, that was fine, butalmost all were very respectful. As for fans, I’ve heard somuch nonsense that isn’t on the site over the years—forexample, the site is asking a question, not stating aproposition, you know? And the words “sexist” and“misogynist” are never used. But I’m still being calledvile names from people who never even read the site allthese years later. It’s good fun, I have to laugh at itnow. But at the time, I think it was an unexpectedlypowerful bit of almost unintentional activism. Thephrase has gone far beyond comics and is used in othermedia, as well.

And it made a difference, I wouldn’t have said it didfor a long time, but I have been in high-level meetingsat comics companies where it came up, and the peoplethere didn’t even know I’d made the site. It made peo-ple aware, at least a little bit, that there are femalereaders, something that just wasn’t really acknowl-edged for a long, long time.RILEY: How do you think things have changed since“Women in Refrigerators”? SIMONE: Oh, it’s better. The trope still exists, but nowwe have enough female creators, editors, and readers

that even the goofiest of goofs has to admitthey’re part of the readership.

JILL THOMPSON:There aremore women[working inthe industry].They may notbe workingnecessarily atthe two biggercompanies…

When I start-ed working pro-fessionally incomics, one of thereasons that I wasactually able to getmy foot in the dooror [that] people sawmy portfolio was, Iwas easy to spot. Iwas “that girl that

Detective Debut(inset right) Barbara

Randall got her start aswriter in the comicsfield scripting Batgirlback-ups in DetectiveComics #518 & 519

(Sept. and Oct. 1982,respectively). Cover art

by Jim Aparo.TM & © DC Comics.

Beginnings: Batgirl back-up stories in Detective Comics #518–519(Sept.–Oct. 1982)

Milestones: The Fury of Firestorm / Hawkman / Secret Origins / BatgirlSpecial / Teen Titans Spotlight / Who’s Who in the Legionof Super-Heroes / Hawk & Dove / Who’s Who in the DCUniverse / Spelljammer / Comics’ Greatest World: GoldenCity / Ultragirl / WildC.A.T.s / Superboy / Superman: LoisLane / Elseworld’s Finest: Supergirl and Batgirl / Meridian /Sigil / The First / CrossGen Chronicles / Aqua / RogueAngel: Teller of Tall Tales

Works in Progress: Working with Cat Staggs on anew character for theWomanthology project / Graphicnovel to be announced soon

Cyberspace:Find Barbara Kesel on Facebook



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wanted to draw comics,” because I was pretty muchthat one girl. There were maybe five of us, and if weweren’t at the same convention at the same time, [itwas] “There’s that one girl with the portfolio!” [laughs]Now I’m so happy that there are little girls that comeup to me and show me their comics. They say that Iinspire them. I’ve met so many girls now that come upto me at comic conventions, which I would have neverhad years ago. The last convention I was at [I had] 12girls—which was amazing to me—they said they aregoing to the American Academy of Art because I wentthere. It makes me feel great—they’re my kids! Andthey want to draw comics. It’s like, they want to learnall about illustration and stuff, but they love comics.And manga, too, but they really, really love this form ofstorytelling no matter what the style is. That’s what I’mreally proud of.RILEY: Barbara, how about since you wrote your let-ter to Dick Giordano?KESEL: Well, there’s been one extraordinary change:30 years ago, [if you] did a lineup of comics creatorsand had 30 people in line, you had 29 white males andone “other.” Nowadays, if you take a random selectionof comics creators and you line them up, you can stillset it up [so] that you only get a lineup of 30 whitemales, but there’s so many more voices represented.Technology has allowed so many more people to telltheir own stories. Technology’s been the biggestchange, since pretty much anyone can produce a four-color comic on their Mac and then send it off to thesame printer the big boys use. The only barrier ismoney.

There’s [also] a hugely broader accepted range ofwhat makes a comic book. The biggest change hasbeen from the point of educators and librarians. Thesame people who historically pooh-poohed comicbooks as “not literature” have grown up, have done

studies, there have beenscholarly reports where all ofa sudden they realize, “Oh,sh*t, this makes kids intobetter readers. This makesslow readers into betterreaders because the inte-gration of both lobes ofthe brain using both thetext and the artworkcauses you to focus, tofigure through the sidewhere you’re deficientand sum up the storybetter,” so on a schol-arly level people haverealized that comics[are] this incredibleteaching tool. It stillfrustrates me that itdoesn’t feel like any-body is truly takingadvantage of this. Iworked on oneproperty withMarvel wherethey tried to dothis through atextbook com-pany [with] agraphic novelfor kids’ pro-grams. That’sfine, exceptkids don’t liketo read crap-py stories anymore than adults do and whenyou have something that’s been piecemealed todeath by a textbook company, it’s just bland pre-chewed food. There may be some good ideas in there,but it’s [watered down] out of fear that someone willbe offended. I mean, Harry Potter has shown us you canfind a dozen people who will be offended by any onething [in the series], and yet it’s this extraordinary, richstory that has a whole spectrum of different kinds ofcharacters involved in it. This is my particular passion: Iwant to do comics that are socially complicated with-out being overtly sexual or overtly violent so they willfit comfortably in any school library … but I don’t wantto do them through any kind of textbook companybecause I want to be able to do them with characterpeculiarities. Then I want to graft teaching materialsonto that where you have information that’s both beenembedded in the comics to be used that way orinspires people to come in and say, “Oh, look, you canpluck this, this, or this out of it,” and create a teachingtool there that somebody might actually really enjoybeing taught by.

Right now you have a lot of kids learning fromcomics. If they’re looking at mainstream comics, whatthey’re mostly learning is violence and death, violenceand death, violence and death … which is exciting anddramatic and, you know, it’s been a staple of saga andopera and stories for the entire life of human beings,but there’s plenty of smaller drama not being explored,those first moments of embarrassment or disappoint-ment or betrayal.

Oh, and I don’t want to be dumping on the comics

Barbara byBarbaraMany a BRK fan firstencountered BarbaraRandall Kesel’s workduring her memo-rable stint writingBatgirl. Here’s herBatgirl Special #1(1988) with coverart by a young Mike“Hellboy” Mignola.Barbara’s artist part-ner on her first stintchronicling BarbaraGordon’s heroicswas Trevor vonEeden, who drewthe piece at left.TM & © DC Comics.

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but that the women kind of go, “Oh, I’m so hurt.”There’s that disappointment because it’s sad when[you] have a character taken off the table …but Batgirl, like I said, wasn’t really workingfor what they had going in the Batmanmythos at that point. It was the grim-and-gritty he-man Batman era, no girlsallowed! She was not a good dynamic

player. I could understandwhy they felt that thecharacter was extraneousand needed to be removed. Idon’t entirely agree in the longterm and certainly interestingthings have come out of it since.I really like the Barbara Gordon-as-Oracle thing. That worked outokay.SIMONE: I have nothinggood to say about the Babs-shooting, I think it’s anintensely juvenile note in anotherwise very maturebook. Babs is shot andthen pretty muchceased to exist—it’s justcompletely irritating tome in every way. Even

Alan has disavowed it. But it’s still spoken of with suchreverence, and it is a beautiful book, of course. Kim Yaleand John Ostrander are the heroes for making some-thing wonderful out of all that mess by creating Oracle.RILEY: As you mention, Gail, Barbara emerged asOracle in Suicide Squad, thanks to Kim Yale andJohn Ostrander. Barbara, were you involved in theevolution of Barbara Gordon into Oracle? KESEL: I was involved in the sense that I was on a lot ofphone calls with Kim, who was very upset about thewhole Batgirl thing. She was battling cancer at the timeand I think it took on a very strong personal resonancefor her.SIMONE: Wow, I’m a friend of John’s, and a bit of anOracle scholar, and I didn’t know that part of her histo-ry, Barbara. That’s very moving.RILEY: Gail, you took over writing the ongoingBirds of Prey series from Chuck Dixon, whereOracle was one of the principal players. She’semerged as one of DC’s most popular heroes, in nosmall part because of your handling of the charac-ter. What do you think it is that makes BarbaraGordon so popular?SIMONE: Well, one of my thoughts on this is that she’ssmart. In every version of the character, Barbara is thesmartest person in the Bat-family, whether it’s asOracle, or being a librarian, or even briefly a con-gressperson, she’s the smart one. I think people loveher a little bit for that, for being the smart geek whocan also kick your ass when called for, wheelchair ornot. RILEY: The 2010 Birds of Prey series featuresOracle, as well as Hawk and Dove. Barbara, you co-wrote the 1988 Hawk and Dove miniseries withKarl Kesel, and then went on to write the ongoingseries. Tell me about how Dawn Granger came to bethe new Dove.

KESEL: The original Dovewas dead and Karl hadthis sketchbook that he

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far as someone he believed could do such a proj-ect. I think Karen [Berger] kept asking Neil, whosaid he thought it was a good idea but he per-sonally didn’t know enough about manga to doan adaptation—but he thought they should askme to do it. So with the Neil stamp of approval,Karen called and offered me a manga project. Ichose to adapt “Seasons of Mist” because Ithought that story fit well with the Shouju sen-sibility. And many retailers introduce newreaders to Sandman that way because theentire family is featured prominently in it. Ialso thought I could add a cute “in betweenthe panels” escapade and still return every-one to the original ending—no harm, nofoul!RILEY: Did you reference any specificmanga comics or anime while workingon the book?THOMPSON: I love Rumiko Takahashi(Lum) and Miwa Ueda (Peach Girl), aswell as all the Studio Ghibli films, myfavorite old Speed Racer [episodes], andCaptain Harlock (the first anime I’d everseen at a sci-fi con back when I was ateen).RILEY: What are your thoughts on

the Internet and social networkingsites like Facebook and Twitter allowing women to

have more of a voice in the industry?KESEL: I think that technology has allowed many moregirls to participate because the same girls who mightbe intimidated to step into the local comics store havea computer at home and can talk safely to people whocan’t touch them. So that allows a whole lot more peo-ple across the board to get in and to get involved andtalk comics. People can find “like characters.” To me,the most interesting phenomenon of Comic-Con forthe last ten years has been the crews—largely, it’sanime fans—who meet each other online and thenmeet at the convention and it’s almost got nothing todo with the convention itself. It’s their group meetingwith a safe place for girls, so suddenly you have, like,14- to 16-year-old girls who have a safe place to meetat a convention because they have a gang of like-minded girls who can all hang together so they’re notfeeling overly intimidated or afraid to come into thisplace because the guys can be pretty overwhelming.

That being said—oh, my God, the wildfires of atti-tude that you find online can be just overwhelminglyoffensive, because the same people who would notdream of saying something rude or critical in personare unleashed online and have no filter and have nodiscretion. So as much as you have the good parts, youalso have the evil. You have the lack of restraint and alack of tact, so you have the good of the connectionand the bad of the manners. But it’s another new tool.I’m learning the hard way that I have to pay moreattention to that kind of stuff. I just got told I wasn’tconsidered for a job because my “social metrics arenot high enough.” Oh, bother! SIMONE: Well, I was “discovered” as a writer for awebsite, and I came up through message boards andall that stuff. Barbara’s right, there are some reallyawful conversations out there, racist, homophobic,misogynist, all that stuff. But I do think it’s the minor-ity … and the balance is that you can talk to a readerin Singapore, you can read wonderful, innovative web-comics that would never get published otherwise. It’smore than a fair trade, and it’s exciting, it’s involving.The female readership is up and will continue to grow,and the smart companies will take notice. THOMPSON: You don’t see me on Twitter at all!

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Beginnings: Pencils for “Banana Man, the Hero with Appeal!” fromJust Imagine Comics and Stories #8 (Winter 1984) /Pencils for the John Ostrander-scripted “Bad Sports”from GrimJack #32 (Mar. 1987)

Milestones: Fathom / Elementals / Classics Illustrated / WonderWoman / The Sandman / Black Orchid / Badger:Shattered Mirror / Swamp Thing / The Invisibles / Seekersinto the Mystery / Scary Godmother / The Books of Magic/ Finals / The Invisibles: Apocalipstick / Scary Godmother(2001 series) / X-Men Unlimited / Death: At Death’s Door/ Batman: Gotham Knights / Fables / Magic Trixie / Beasts

of Burden / Hellboy / Beasts ofBurden: Sacrifice

Works in Progress: Story with Shelly Bond for anupcoming anthology / Projectwith Steve Niles for Dark Horse

Cyberspace:@theJillThompson on Twitter


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by A n d y M a n g e l s

Although the Women’s Liberation movement was infull swing by 1976, one would hardly have noticed itin the world of comics. Female lead characters werefew and far between. Although The Secrets of Isis ruledSaturday mornings, and The Bionic Woman and WonderWoman had recently been born in primetime, as ofcomics cover-dated in July, only six female charactersheadlined books: Blondie (Charlton), Little Lulu (GoldKey), Red Sonja in Marvel Feature (Marvel), Tigra inMarvel Chillers (Marvel), Vampirella (Warren), andWonder Woman (DC).

Young visitors to the newsstands might have beenquite surprised then to see Starfire #1 (cover-datedAug.–Sept., but on sale in May), an all-new title fromDC Comics that featured a sword-wielding Asianfemale—“A Woman Rebel in an Enslaved World!”promised the cover copy—standing over a defeated-but-thuggish male warrior. The tagline promised “ANew Epic of Swords & Science,” heady words in apre– Star Wars community.

Starfire would lasteight issues, endingabruptly with anOct.–Dec. 1977 cover-dated comic that prom-ised further adventures tocome. But although one

person stayed consistentthrough all eight issues—

penciler Mike Vosburg—nothing else stayed the same.

Four writers, two editors, twoinkers, cast members disposed ofalmost every issue, costumechanges … to say that Starfirewas a comic in flux is an

understatement. Assembled in the article to follow are therecollections of almost every living creator who workedon Starfire, explaining where the concept came from, andhow it became such a patchwork quilt.

From Beyond Space and Time!

Detail from a beauti-ful Mike Vosburg

commission piece,featuring our heroine,

the siren of swordsand science, Starfire!

TM & © DC Comics.

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STARFIRE ORIGINSThe creation of Starfire can clearly be credited to writerDavid Michelinie, who scripted the first two issues ofthe series. “As I recall, I was asked by [editor] JoeOrlando to come up with a female sword-and-sorcerycharacter to be DC’s answer to Red Sonja,” the authorsays today. “It’s always fun and challenging to createnew characters, especially when you get to create anew world to put them in. But I was already writing afairly traditional sword-and-sorcery book at the time inClaw the Unconquered, and I also had no desire to[copy] Red Sonja and simply put new names on thecharacters. So I came up with the sword-and-scienceangle, putting the series more in the realm of fantasythan barbarian action. I wanted a tone that was morein line with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars and Venusbooks, than with Robert E. Howard’s muscle and magicepics.”

DC was publishing multiple fantasy/barbarianbooks at the time, including Claw, Stalker, Beowulf, andthe on/off Warlord series. Was Starfire an attempt toopen the market specifically for female characters? “Ireally wasn’t in on DC’s corporate reasoning or deci-sion-making,” says Michelinie. “My impression wasthat the company wanted to put more titles on thestands, and hoped to tap into the Conan market thatwas doing well for Marvel. I assume they wanted afemale character because Red Sonja was popular, andthey already had several male characters in fantasybooks.”

Prior to Starfire #1, penciler Mike Vosburg hadworked for Gold Key and Charlton, and regularly donebooks for Marvel including Deadly Hands of Kung Fu,Savage Sword of Conan, and two First Issue Special comicsfor DC (“Starman” and “Return of the New Gods”). “Ihad very little to do with the creation of Starfire,” headmits today. “As I recall, I was working exclusively forMarvel at the time, and the companies were alwayslooking for ways to entice the new talent away fromeach other. So when I started talking to DC, Starfire waswhat they had in the works that fit for me. Roy Thomasonce told me years later I’d been in the discussion forRed Sonja since the female characters were my special-ty; fortunately, they went with Frank Thorne.”

In creating Starfire, Michelinie did add one elementto the visuals and characterization that was unusual forthe generically whitebread world of comics: Starfireherself was half-Caucasian and half-Asian. “It was pur-poseful, but there was no grand scheme behind it,”Michelinie says. “I just thought it would be cool and alittle different. I had also recently dated a Chinese-American woman, so that may have been a fac-tor as well.” Michelinie also reveals that thecharacter was originally called “Akanda,”“Probably because it sounded like ‘ana-conda.’ Fortunately, clearer heads pre-vailed and the more commercial‘Starfire’ was eventually substituted.”

As for the rest of the look of thecharacter, and her world, Vosburgwas totally in control. This includedthe asymmetrical costume Starfirewore, which included a cut-out overher breasts in the style of WallyWood’s design for Power Girl. “I wasvery big into the European cartoon-ists: Moebius, Carlos Jimenez, VictorDe La Fuente, Esteban Maroto, Paul Gillon, and manyothers,” says Vosburg. “In fact, the only bad advice that

Joe Orlando ever gave me was: ‘You’re looking at thoseEuropean guys too much.’ But one of my big influenceswas Guido Crepax and his character Valentina. As I’ve

explained in other interviews, one of the cos-tumes he dressed Valentina in was the inspi-

ration for Starfire’s costume.” As for thesexy aspects, Vosburg also referencesHoward Chaykin, Barry Windsor-Smith, and Frank Brunner. “I’m afraidmy stuff was pretty tame by compar-ison. DC would have probably pre-ferred that I push it a lot further. If Ihad, maybe Starfire would be in issue

#500 by now and I would have missedout on a lot of fun in Hollywood.

“On the first issues I was able todesign all of the characters, whichwas a lot of fun,” Vosburg says. “I doremember one of the creatures was a

lot like something I saw in Victor De La Fuente’s Haxtur.The male lead wore something right out of Errol Flynn’s

L i b e r a t e d L a d i e s I s s u e • B A C K I S S U E • 5 3

Pointer SisterCover of the firstissue of Starfire(Aug.–Sept. 1976).with art by ErnieChan, pencils, andVince Colletta, inks.TM & © DC Comics.

David MicHelinie

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Robin Hood. Certainly the shadowycreatures were from Joe Kubert’sHawkman [story] ‘The ShadowThief of Midway City.’ For me,entertainment isn’t so much aboutoriginality as it is execution. As the series went on andthe direction would change, so would Starfire’s cos-tume. I think it went from elegant to ridiculous. I’msure it boiled down to an attempt to display as muchflesh as Red Sonja.”

ISSUES #1 AND 2: THE MICHELINIE “ERA”Written by David Michelinie, with art by Mike Vosburgand Robert Smith, and editing by Joe Orlando,the debut issue featured a story titled “AWorld Made of War.” In it, readers metStarfire, a beautiful mixed-heritagehumanoid girl who had been raised asa slave since birth by the Mygorg.King Sookarooth of the Mygorgallowed her some education and lux-uries in his palace as he eventuallyintended for her to be his mate, butupon learning of her intended fate onher 18th birthday, Starfire flees CastleMollachon. She is soon caught bySookarooth’s men, but rescued by awarrior-priest named Dagan whoteaches her (in a montage) how to bea fierce warrioress. When Dagan is captured and killedby Sookarooth, Starfire raids the castle, frees the otherslaves, kills Sookarooth, and vows to free the people of

her planet from the Mygorg.The war on the planet was essentially between reli-

gious groups—priests who had used their science tobring to their world the brutish Mygorg and the shad-ow-powered Yorg to fight for them—and Michelinienotes that he took part of his inspiration from ourworld. “I think it was simply because so many wars onEarth are fought because of religion—the Crusades,

Jihads, etc.,” says Michelinie. “So why shouldcreatures on other worlds be immune to this

insanity?” As for the names of the various races

and creatures, he says, “When I was akid I saw a science-fiction movie onTV called Gog. In it there were tworobots named Gog and Magog. Ihave no idea why, but two namessounding similar for similar beings

stuck with me, and that carried over tomy naming the two monster races inStarfire. It’s a common technique inboth science fiction and fantasy togive alien characters, settings, andobjects names that aren’t part of nor-mal English speech. In reality, alien

names would likely be unpronounceable by humantongues, and most conversations with otherworldly

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Voz’s Vixen(this spread) Courtesy

of David Michelinie,Mike Vosburg’s

design sketches forStarfire, including

(far right) Dagan, thewarrior-priest. The

drawing above features a note to DC

executive editor JoeOrlando: “Joe—This is

the final sketch forAkanda [Starfire’s

original name]—Givesher a little moreyouthful look.”

(opposite, bottomright) Starfire #2

(Oct.–Nov. 1976)cover by José LuisGarcía-López and

Vince Colletta.Starfire TM & © DC Comics.


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by J i m F o r d

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“Hear me, X-Men!” Jean Grey shouted as she soaredinto the sky. “No longer am I the woman you knew! I amfire! And life incarnate! Now and forever—I amPhoenix!” Bathed in a corona of fire,her mind burning, Jean then plum-meted unconscious and barely alivein X-Men #101 (Oct. 1976). That shehad survived at all was miraculous.That she was now transformed, aPhoenix forged from solar flame, wasunimaginable.

Jean was a mutant with the tal-ents of telepathy and telekinesis. Shewas kidnapped in X-Men #98 (Apr.1976) and found herself, along withWolverine and other members of theX-Men, held captive aboard an orbit-ing space station. Cyclops, the leaderof the X-Men, had led a team to res-cue her. Their space shuttle was criti-cally damaged. Solar flare activity,unusually heavy and especially haz-

ardous, surged toward the station, threatening themall. Jean piloted the shuttle while the X-Men weresecured inside a shielded compartment. She hopedthat her talents would allow her to survive the solarflares long enough to get home. In X-Men #100 (Aug.1976), Jean gave her life so that others might live. Itwould not be the final time that she would have tomake that choice.

OLD SCHOOLJean was introduced in X-Men #1 (Sept. 1963) as thenewest student to the Xavier Institute for GiftedYoungsters. She was given the name Marvel Girl andlearned that she was among four other students who allhad special mutant talents. Together they wouldbecome the X-Men.

As the only young woman on a team with five othermen (including her teacher, Professor Xavier), Jean wasthe center of attention. It was Cyclops, a reserved 18-year-old, who caught her eye. Jean was 17. She startedflirting with him in X-Men #3 (Jan. 1964), but he waspainfully shy, afraid of the devastation his uncontrol-lable optic blasts could cause should he relax his guard.

Jean, with Cyclops, whose real name is ScottSummers, continued their nervous flirtations until afterJean had left the team for Metro College. A flashback inX-Men #138 (Oct. 1980) showed that they had pro-claimed their love for each other behind the scenes ofX-Men #32 (May 1967), but they were not shown as acouple until X-Men #48 (Sept. 1968).

Marvel Girl’s talents were subtle, even demure. Shewas able to lift small objects using telekinesis. Later,with experience, and as the demands of the storyrequired, the strength of her telekinesis grew and shewas given the power of telepathy. Marvel Girl may havebeen the weakest of the X-Men. All that changed.

ALL-NEW, ALL-DIFFERENTA new creative team took over the series with Giant-Size X-Men #1 (1975). Writer Len Wein and artist DaveCockrum were the architects of the new team of X-Men. Chris Claremont became writer with the first reg-ular issue, X-Men #94 (Aug. 1975). Cyclops remainedas the only original member while Jean unceremonious-ly left her life as Marvel Girl behind in that issue. Weintold Peter Sanderson in an interview for FantagraphicsBooks’ 1982 volume The X-Men Companion (TXC), “Shewas meant to come back in just a few months. The twoof them couldn’t stay apart and she was going to showup again … with redesigned powers. We were going to

revamp her not quite into whatPhoenix became, but make her a dif-ferent character, because we allthought she was a wimp, that shewasn’t worth it. We had to prettymuch reconstruct Jean Grey as acharacter.”

As for her redesigned powers, thefinal page of X-Men #100 suggestsJean was bombarded with cosmicrays. The “tac-tac-tac” sound effect isreminiscent of Fantastic Four #1 (Nov.1961), when cosmic rays penetratedthe command capsule of ReedRichards’ rocketship. The originalintention may have been that hermutant powers would be augmentedby the same means as the FantasticFour received their powers.

Mutants in Love!Teammates Scott

(Cyclops) Summersand Jean (Marvel Girl)Grey officially becamean item in the pagesof X-Men #48 (Sept.1968). Cover art byJohn Romita. (inset

right) X-Men co-creator Jack Kirby and

inker Chic Stone’spin-up from X-Men

#9 (Jan. 1965).© 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc.

6 2 • B A C K I S S U E • L i b e r a t e d L a d i e s I s s u e

Page 23: Back Issue #54

Cockrum initially did five different versions forPhoenix’s new costume: all-white with gold gloves,boots and sash. The all-white costume was rejected bythen-editor-in-chief Archie Goodwin because readerswould be able to see the opposite printed pagethrough the costume. Goodwin directed Cockrum touse Marvel Girl’s original light-green colors for her cos-tume. “I was really miffed about it for a long time,”Cockrum admitted in TXC. He wanted Jean, who was agreen-eyed, redhead, “…to look terrific and be terrific,and she kind of got clichéd—became a cliché—unfortu-nately.” Cockrum explained, “Because before FarrahFawcett became big she was doing Wella-Balsam com-mercials and things like that and occasionally appear-ing in [Cosmopolitan] and I thought she was terrific,and so that’s who Jean became. And then she had toun-become Farrah Fawcett after Farrah became a bigdeal.” Recalling that Jean had become a bathing-suitmodel when the team disbanded in X-Men #48,Cockrum further explained that they all wanted her tobe more flamboyant than what she had been as MarvelGirl.

“First, Dave and I deliberately set out to make hermore independent and attractive before we made herinto Phoenix,” Claremont said in TXC. “I saw no reasonwhy a young, intelligent, attractive, courageous, hero-ic young woman should look like a Republican frump.”Claremont was building a reputation for writing strongwomen. One such woman was Misty Knight, a support-ing character from Iron Fist. Misty had moved into afashionable apartment with Jean in New York’sGreenwich Village and welcomed Jean’s release fromthe hospital in Iron Fist #11 (Feb. 1977). PerhapsClaremont intended to suggest that Jean’s newfoundstyle was influenced by Misty Knight.

Phoenix was more than simply Marvel Girl with anew look. Jean learned the full extent of her powers inX-Men #105 (June 1977) when Professor Xavier wasattacked by Firelord, a former herald of the world-devourer Galactus. With a thought, Jean transmutedher clothing into her costume. She shot into the air,burning the atmosphere around her. She slammedFirelord with telekinetic bursts of incredible force andshielded herself from his starbolts, the same blasts ofenergy that had stopped Thor. “Dave and I kind of likedthe idea that we had a female character who was cos-mic,” Claremont said in a 1979 interview withMargaret O’Connell in The Comics Journal #50. “No oneelse did. Len [Wein, then editor of Thor] objected stren-uously to our using Firelord if Phoenix beat him. Wecouldn’t have a lady character who’s cosmic, because—well, his argument was that it made the rest of the X-Men superfluous.” With her powers now rivaling that ofgods, she felt an exhilarating—almost frightening—feeling of ecstasy. It was intoxicating, and had sheallowed her emotions to dominate, she would havekilled Firelord. “We got around it,” Claremont contin-ued, “by having the fight be a draw. And by makingsure Phoenix got the last shot, which is blastingFirelord ten or twelve miles into New Jersey.” Phoenixthen demonstrated how cosmic she was by energizinga star-gate, allowing the X-Men to pursue their preyacross the galaxies. Later, she even brought a meteorfrom outer space crashing to the ground. Thereseemed nothing she could not accomplish.

The plasma rippling around Phoenix manifesteditself as a fiery raptor. “Well, I did the bird, but I didn’tdo it the way [John Byrne] does it, and I like his better,”Cockrum said, again in TXC, talking about the unique

Phoenix effect he had created to represent Jean’spower. “Mine was more Kirby-crackle, brush-scratchsort of thing, and he refined it into the very elegant,sweeping stylized bird that it is now.” John Byrnereplaced Cockrum as penciler with X-Men #108 (Dec.1977), when the series began monthly publication.“My early Jean Grey was Raquel Welch,” Byrneremarked in TXC.

On a planet in the distant Shi’ar Empire, Phoenixsaved the universe in X-Men #108. The X-Men foundthemselves pawns in a galactic civil war. Within anextra-dimensional doomsday device called the M’KraanCrystal, Jean was tortured by nightmarish visions ofdying. She realized that she had already died and beenreborn. “We agonized over what the hell she did,”Cockrum said in TXC, “‘Well, she can die and be resur-rected with some super-power.’ I don’t know if wemade it all that clear to the readers, but we knew shedied up there and recreated herself, and later on wemade it more clear, but beyond that it took us a long

L i b e r a t e d L a d i e s I s s u e • B A C K I S S U E • 6 3

A New Shade of Grey(below) A wholenew chapter beginsfor the team whenMarvel Girl is tran-formed into ThePhoenix. Cover artof X-Men #101 (Oct. 1976) by Dave Cockrum. © 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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time to figure out exactly what she did, so we left herin the hospital for several issues, while we thoughtabout it.” X-Men #125 (Sept. 1979) explained thatdriven by her love for Scott, she briefly became a beingof pure thought. “Yeah,” Cockrum added, laughing,“She’s the Force.”

At the center of the M’Kraan Crystal, Jean toucheda dying alien entity that forever changed her. Its deathwould have released a neutron galaxy, obliterating theuniverse. Jean offered her own energy to heal it, butshe was not powerful enough. Claremont said in TXC,“We had originally envisioned that she had a power

level that was equivalent to Storm’s [another of thenew X-Men,] and that the saving the universe was aone-time-only stunt, that it was Jean achieving her fullpotential for that one moment … she was drawing onthe other X-Men for help.”

Frantically, Jean pulled energy from wherever shecould to replenish her own, with her awarenessexpanding outward to encompass the entire solar sys-tem. Emotionally entangled with the alien entity, Jeanfelt a singular, boundless rhapsody at her own powerand beauty. It was an experience she would carry withher until she died, and a craving she would destroy a

From the Ashes(above) These Dave

Cockrum preliminarydesigns for the

Phoenix’s costumeindicate writer Len

Wein and artistCockrum originallywished to see Jean

Grey suited in a white costume, a

color scheme nixedby then-Marvel editor-in-chief

Archie Goodwin.© 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc.

6 4 • B A C K I S S U E • L i b e r a t e d L a d i e s I s s u e

But She Will RiseJohn Romita, Jr. and

Al Williamson’s depic-tion of a critical

moment in MarvelGirl’s transition into

Phoenix. Cover of TheOfficial Marvel Index

to the X-Men #7 (July 1988).

© 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc.

Page 25: Back Issue #54

She stumbled out of the blocks, but the She-Hulk wentfrom knock-off to actual character in the space of 25 issues

There are characters that maketheir entrances fully formed, explod-ing onto comics pages or televisionsor movie screens with definitive qualities thathook readers and viewers from the start. It’s hard to pic-ture James Bond as anything other than a super-coolspy, Wonder Woman as anything other than a powerfulAmazon princess, or Adrian Monk as anything otherthan a brilliant detective who’s afraid of milk.

The She-Hulk doesn’t fall into this category. In fact,when the decision makers at Marvel Comics decided, inthe fall of 1979, to launch a new title based on thecharacter, the only thing they knew for sure was that itwould be a female version of the Incredible Hulk. “Thegenesis of the whole book was that Universal Television

was doing the Hulk TV show,” sayswriter David Anthony Kraft.“Apparently, their attorneys orsomebody over there thought they

had discovered a loophole and that they could basical-ly spin the Hulk off without having to license it fromMarvel. The word at the time was that Universal wasworking on some female form of the Hulk. So Marvelhad to spring into action and Stan basically cranked outsomething really quick, just to get it out there.”

In order to launch the character as quickly as possi-ble, they turned to artist John Buscema, another story-teller in the Marvel fold who could turn out high-qual-ity work as fast as the legendary Stan Lee. “Stan notonly works incredibly quickly, he’s somebody who can

by D o u g l a s R . K e l l yBusting OutPanel from the StanLee (writer), JohnBuscema (penciler)and Chic Stone(inker) story in TheSavage She-Hulk #1(Feb. 1980).© 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc.

L i b e r a t e d L a d i e s I s s u e • B A C K I S S U E • 7 1

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make gold out of straw,” says Jo Duffy, who wouldbecome editor of the book beginning with issue #3.“Having Stan and John do it was a blessing, becausethink of what it could have been if it had been done bypeople who were not inlove with the idea—anidea that did not groworganically, out of thecreative force. And JohnBuscema—you couldn’tget a better artist. Ifyou’re going to dosomething in a hurryand have it look heart-felt and brilliant, youget Stan and John to doit.”

Reaction around theMarvel Bullpen to theidea of doing a female

Hulk was somewhat less than enthusiastic. “The wholeidea was appalling to me,” says Kraft. “We all groanedin horror. There was something so perverse about thesituation that I got to thinking about it and the onething I didn’t want to see happen was [that we would]take the Hulk and just clone it as a female. So, becauseI have a strange way of looking at things, I thought, ‘Ineed to do that book.’ I actually went to [editor-in-chief Jim] Shooter and said, ‘This is horrible, but ifthere’s going to be a She-Hulk, I need to be on that.’”

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILYFirst, though, that Lee and Buscema premier issue ofThe Savage She-Hulk hit the stands with a cover date ofFebruary 1980, with Chic Stone’s inks complementingBuscema’s pencils. Lee wasted no time ensuring thatreaders would make the Hulk connection right out ofthe gate. He made the central character, attorneyJennifer “Jen” Walters, the cousin of Bruce Banner, alterego of the Incredible Hulk. The issue begins withBanner visiting Jen in Los Angeles, where she’s a prac-ticing criminal lawyer. During the visit, Jen tells Bannerthat she’s defending a hood named Lou Monkton,who’s been accused of murdering the bodyguard ofmobster Nick Trask. After the two of them areambushed by a couple of thugs working for Trask,Banner saves Jen’s life by giving her a blood transfusion(he is a doctor, after all). By giving her his own gammaray-infused blood, he inadvertently creates the She-Hulk, and then leaves town the next day once he learnsthat she’ll pull through.

When the thugs try to finish her off at the hospital,the stress of the situation triggers a monstrous changein Jen: She turns into a 7-foot, 300-pound raging behe-moth and trashes the hospital room and elevator.When one of the hired guns yells, “It’s like … she’ssome kinda She-Hulk!” she responds, “You called me aShe-Hulk! And a She-Hulk I’ll be!” She chases down thethugs and hands them over to the police after one ofthem admits they were hired by Trask to kill Jenbecause Trask is afraid Jen would prove that he mur-dered his own bodyguard and framed Monkton.

Issue #1 closes with Jen realizing she has become amonster like her cousin. But she decides that “Fromnow on, whatever Jennifer Walters can’t handle, theShe-Hulk will do!” Interestingly, there is no editor’s orwriter’s message page in this first issue to kick off thenew series, although the new series is briefly men-tioned on the “Bullpen Bulletins” page as one of themany books slated to appear that month.

David Kraft perceived that first issue as an opportu-nity: “Stan gave her the Jennifer Walters alter ego.Beyond that, there really wasn’t anything there. So I

Shaggy Lady(above) A rare

instance of JohnBuscema inking his

own pencils on this,the cover of The

Savage She-Hulk #1(Feb. 1980). (inset)

Cousin Bruce Bannershares his Hulk-ified

blood with JenWalters, who will

become an emeraldgreen giant herself.© 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc.

7 2 • B A C K I S S U E • L i b e r a t e d L a d i e s I s s u e

Page 27: Back Issue #54

was like, ‘I can go in any direction I want with this.’”As Kraft worked on the story for issue #2, Mike

Vosburg was tapped to take over the art chores on thebook. He recalls being impressed with Buscema’s workon issue #1. “John taught me everything I should bedoing,” Kraft says. “His stuff was amazing and it wasthe perfect road map in terms of starting that series.”Following a brief retelling of the origin story from issue#1, Kraft introduces several characters who will provecentral to the story of the She-Hulk as time goes on:Assistant District Attorney Dennis “Buck” Bukowski is aself-confident blowhard who loves nothing better thancrossing swords with Jen; Jen’s father, Morris Walters, isthe sheriff of Los Angeles County and a widower follow-ing the murder of Jen’s mother by Nick Trask; and med-ical student Dan “Zapper” Ridge is Jen’s neighbor andwould-be boyfriend.

Also introduced is Jen’s friend, Jill, who is mistakenfor Jen when she borrows Jen’s car and is targeted byTrask’s men. Jen changes into the She-Hulk and giveschase, intending to save Jill. D.A. Bukowski also mis-takes Jill for Jen and intervenes in the chase, stoppingthe She-Hulk from saving Jill and in fact causing Jill’sdeath. Bukowski believes he was stopping the She-Hulkfrom harming Jen, and when he sees the She-Hulk pullJill’s lifeless body from the wreck, he accuses the She-Hulk of murder in front of witnesses who have gatheredat the scene.

In issue #3, the papers get the story wrong andreport that Jen Walters has been killed by the She-Hulk,and Monkton and Bukowski agree to play along withthe story until Jen can nail Trask for murder. SheriffWalters, believing his daughter Jen is dead, announcesthat the She-Hulk is a murdering monster and that hewants her taken into custody, dead or alive.

She-Hulk has it out with Sheriff Walters in issue #4.The sheriff has reluctantly borrowed a laser cannonfrom Trask to try to destroy the She-Hulk, but she man-ages to disarm him before anyone can be injured. Atthe end of the issue, the media reveals that Jen Waltersis in fact alive, and she and her father are reunited.Despite their telling one another “I love you,” Jen is stillbothered by the fact that, just a few hours earlier, herfather tried to kill her when she was the She-Hulk.

Throughout issues #2 through 4, Zapper is a loyalfriend to Jen, even saving her life at one point when sheaccidentally overdoses on tranquilizers in an attempt toprevent herself changing into the She-Hulk. He knowsthat she’s the She-Hulk but keeps her secret, and it’sobvious he has feelings for Jen that go beyond friend-ship.

MINDING HER OWN BUSINESSJo Duffy came aboard as editor of The Savage She-Hulkbeginning with issue #3, sharing that duty on someissues with Al Milgrom. But unlike Kraft, she says didnot seek out the assignment. “I was an innocentbystander,” Duffy says. “I’m good friends with PatyCockrum, and at the time, she and I were working inthe same office. I was at my desk, minding my ownbusiness, and Paty happened to be in my office and shewas talking about the fact that people didn’t know howto do good female characters in comics. Paty was rant-ing about this, and Jim Shooter ducked his head in tosee what was going on, and Paty was like, ‘Why can’tyou get someone to get your female characters right?’And Jim said, ‘You’re right, and it would take a femaleto do that. Mary Josephine, you are now the editor ofthe She-Hulk.’ He meant it nicely and he was giving me

more responsibility, but I was like, ‘But, I’m editingDaredevil … and I want to be editing Doctor Strange! Idon’t like She-Hulk!” I actually didn’t at the time. Notthat I disliked the character, but I got into MarvelComics because I had my pet favorite characters, and ifI was editing She-Hulk, that meant I wasn’t available forthe next one of my favorites that came open. In anyevent, Paty and Jim cooked it up between them, and Isaid okay.”

At the time, Duffy was in the early part of a careerthat would see her go on to write and create charactersfor DC and Image as well as for Marvel. Because Kraftlived in Georgia, she worked with him mostly by longdistance. “Dave was not in New York,” she recalls. “Wefrequently worked by phone, more than in person.”With Mike Vosburg being based in Battle Creek,Michigan at the time, collaboration on story ideas andartwork was understandably limited in thosepre–Internet days. But the working model seemed toclick. “I enjoyed having Jo as an editor,” says Kraft.“She had all these ideas for characters. She’d look at[different characters] and say, for example, ‘Why, if I

Later, Gator!(above) Page fromThe Savage She-Hulk#8 (Sept. 1980).Words by DavidAnthony Kraft;breakdowns by MikeVosburg; and finish-es by Chic Stone.© 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc.

L i b e r a t e d L a d i e s I s s u e • B A C K I S S U E • 7 3

BACK ISSUE #54“Liberated Ladies” eyeing female characters that broke barriers inthe Bronze Age: Big Barda, Valkyrie, Ms. Marvel, Phoenix, SavageShe-Hulk, and the sword-wielding Starfire. Plus a “Pro2Pro” inter-view with JILL THOMPSON, GAIL SIMONE, and BARBARAKESEL, art and commentary by JOHN BYRNE, GEORGE PEREZ,JACK KIRBY, MIKE VOSBURG, and more, with a new cover byBRUCE TIMM!

(84-page FULL-COLOR magazine) $8.95 (Digital Edition) $2.95