Race + Comics Notes: The Missing Women Of Marvel

By Site Lead Arturo R. García

That’s Pepper Potts – Gwyneth Paltrow’s character from the Iron Man films – on the variant cover to Invincible Iron Man #29, part of Marvel Comics’ “Women Of Marvel” campaign.

Now check out the array of faces lining the cover. Sure, She-Hulk is green, marking her as a POC according to Ian Sattler – but aside from Storm, the image brings a certain song to mind:

Here’s some of the POC heroes Marvel decided to pass over for this project:

Misty Knight & Colleen Wing: this duo will be part of the Daredevil-centric “Shadowlands” event.
Monica Rambeau: her character was brought back from obscurity in Warren Ellis’ Nextwave mini-series and Reginald Hudlin’s Black Panther run (and say what you will about Hudlin, his Panther comics showed Marvel’s black heroes actually enjoying each other’s company, and that brought me no small amount of joy).
Araña: Received a promotional push a few years back. She’s currently part of the new Young Allies book, but the spotlight there is sure to fall on the new Nomad (top left-hand side).
Psylocke: Somewhat surprising, as the company’s usually keen to show off her Ninja Hyper Thong powers.
Firebird: Marvel’s only Mexican superheroine.
Jubilee: The It Girl/Kitty Pryde surrogate in the X-Men books of the ’90s, it seems she’s been replaced by Pixie (pink hair, right-hand side). The same could be said of current team members Armor and Surge.
Karma: Vietnamese X-Man. Recently lost her leg in the Second Coming mini-series, though with X-tech being what it is, that shouldn’t stick for too long. Emphasis on shouldn’t.
Dani Moonstar: Cheyenne Valkyrie. Badass.
Nico Minoru: Sorceress and leader of the Runaways team, which is instead represented here by “cute” member Molly Hayes (pink hat, bottom row).
Dust: We invite you to revisit Jehanzeb Dar’s excellent analysis of why she matters.
The Black Panther: Not T’Challa, but his sister, Shuri, who recently took over the mantle in the comic of the same name.

And here’s some of the ones who made the cut:

Nova (flame-head, bottom row): Dead.
Jean Grey (redhead, top right-hand side): Dead. Again.
Scarlet Witch (fourth from the top, right-hand side): Dead … for now. There’s already a mini-series in the works likely designed to bring her back.
Janet Van Dyne (small character, wings, left-hand side): Dead.
Blonde Phantom: Golden Age representative.
Spider-Girl (third from the left, bottom row): Homegirl’s had more series canceled than Joss Whedon.
Valkyrie: Formerly dead. Now part of Marvel’s heavily-promoted Secret Avengers book. Actually, looking across Marvel’s “Heroic Age” line of books, the only women of color featured are some trainees in Avengers Academy – unless Shuri gets promoted, “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” looks like an even more exclusive club than Marvel would like us to believe.

One more so-sad-it’s-funny note on these covers: they’re actually less diverse than Marvel’s past attempts to highlight its’ anniversaries. At least in these two images below, Storm had Luke Cage and/or Shuri (and, to be fair, Psylocke in one case) around to ease the potential awkwardness.

As a result, the image that’s supposed to represent a step forward for characters like Pepper ends up marking a shove to the back for way too many others.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, this. She was a rich, upper class English woman with political connections (her brother is/was Captain Britain) who was either surgically modified to “look” Japanese or else had her brain meats decanted into a different body. Both the way she was treated (her physical body was basically disposable) and the way her appearance was treated (exotic! sexy! fetishized! costume is just a thong and strips of cloth!) is pretty gross.

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