There’s No Force Equal to a Woman Determined to Rise
If you’d asked me forty years ago if I thought Marvel Comics had any positive role models for women, I would have laughed. Not because it was outrageous but because I was ten and easily amused.
Marvel Comics hit its stride back in 1961. It was a creative time for the company in those early days as they came out with many of their longtime brands. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others were producing characters like a great churning machine. They came up with the Fantastic Four, The Hulk, The Avengers, Ant-man, Iron Man, Spider-man, Daredevil, and Doctor Strange all in a four year period.
And people were mad for them.
But there weren’t many women in them outside of the Invisible Girl, Marvel Girl, and the Wasp. Women back then were doomed to play secondary roles like the love interest or were a damsel in distress. Most of the time, it was due to their own ineptitude. Think about it. The first woman hero of 1961, the Invisible Girl, was a young woman whose powers were to blend into the background and not be seen. The same could be said about the Wasp. She could make herself tiny and not be seen – or she could fly away.
I’m happy things have changed.
The Marvel women have come a long way.
Today in 2016, Marvel is gearing up to make Iron Man’s successor, Riri Williams, a black woman. The queen of the richest nation in the Marvel Universe is herself a powerful warrior mutant. The Marvel movie franchise is ready to cast Tessa Thompson as the new Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok. And when we look locally in the New York stories, Misty Knight, a woman with a bionic arm, is fighting crime in Harlem along with Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. I hope we see her on Netflix, preferably with The Defenders.
In these days where young girls seek role models, they should look no further than their comic book store or movie theater. Marvel is showing young girls, regardless of their backgrounds, making an impact and having the strength to reach their goals.
As each of these characters is profoundly remarkable, I’ve decided to break this piece up into six chapters. Part one will focus on…
The Invisible Girl Woman
Stan Lee had a very simple group dynamic for his first super-team. I’m sure he built it on the requirement of needing a scientist, a tough guy, a hot head, and a woman. He must have had a formula. Stan wasn’t really writing stories, he was writing dialogue. He was a busy man, having to edit multiple comic books all by himself; he didn’t want to spend a minute longer writing than he had to.
What Stan did was later dubbed “The Marvel Method”. He’d give his artists a broad overview or summary of his ideas and based on the pictures the artists drew he’d come in later to put in the words and dialogue balloons. Fortunately for him, he had people like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko on staff. Jack Kirby was nothing less than a visionary who saw stories on an epic scale.
Don’t believe me? Pick up a copy of The New Gods and if that doesn’t impress you, you can call me a liar. Kirby saw beyond what Stan envisioned and created worlds and universes that worked within each other.
I’m sure Kirby saw a representation of nature’s elements in the Fantastic Four. Earth, air, water, and fire. When he got to Sue Storm, he made her “air” and invisible. Sue spent the first few issues either trying to control her powers or conveniently using them to sneak around places as a dashed outline. Later she discovered she could make other things invisible and create invisible force fields.
With these upgrades, readers soon found Sue to be the most powerful member of the group as she could easily imprison the Thing or put an invisible globe of force around anyone’s head and suffocate them. An invisible force field is a handy tool for defense and a lethal weapon when needed.
Sue Storm’s life has been one challenge after another. She’s been part of a love triangle with Reed Richards and Prince Namor the Submariner. She gave birth to one of the most powerful mutants in the world. Which I’m sure is a challenge. It’s hard enough to be a new mother, but when your child has a temper tantrum and can mentally rearrange reality it adds a new dimension to disciplining the little brat.
Susan Richards decided after becoming a wife, mother, and eventual leader of the team, that she wasn’t going to be a “girl” anymore. Instead, she decided her code name would be The Invisible Woman.
She didn’t ask anyone for their permission and if anyone had an issue with her name, it was their problem.
The Invisible Woman marked a new chapter in Susan Richards’ life as she showed her true power when she was corrupted by Malice. With her natural might, she subdued the rest of the team without breaking a sweat.
The Invisible Woman is what women should strive to be – unafraid to take charge of their lives and letting other people deal with it.
What We’ve Learned from the Invisible Woman
When we look at role models, they give us a template on how we can live our lives more effectively. Despite the fact that the Invisible Woman is a fictional character, her lessons are powerful ones.
From her humble origins written at a time where women were best seen and not heard, we have seen Susan Storm evolve from being cast as someone who was cast into the background to run and hide to a major asset on Marvel’s premier superhero team.
The Fantastic Four’s purpose is not just to fight the bad guys but, more than anything else, to explore the unknown. They’ve traveled to the Negative Zone, the Microverse, parallel dimensions, alternate realities, counter-Earths, time’s future and past, and to the very edge of the universe.
When they go into these dangerous places they need someone like the Invisible Woman to keep them safe. If it weren’t for the Invisible Woman’s force fields, she and her friends would be dead a thousand times over.
The Invisible Woman is a protector, a leader, a mother, a wife, and an innovator. When it comes to her striking out and crossing lines that have not been crossed, she does so boldly. She moves forward and unafraid over that line whether it is for adventure or part of challenging a social norm.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter of Positive Marvel Role Models for Young Girls. Look for Part 2 of my 6 part series: Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel.