X-Men #102, December 1976
I started reading comics in 1972 at the age of 8. I eventually became a big fan of the original X-Men (in their reprints and appearances in Captain America), and though I missed them, immediately loved their replacements, the “all-new! all-different!” X-Men. I thrilled to see Dave Cockrum’s art (formerly of DC’s Legion of Superheroes) and, like Dave, my favorite character quickly became Nightcrawler.
This sequence scared the shit out of me:
As I recall, I literally shouted “NO!”
And it was frustrating! X-Men was still bi-monthly then, so I had to wait 2 months to see what happened next. (Fortunately, turning the page I saw the little people show up and sneak off with Nightcrawler, so I was pretty sure he wasn’t dead. Still…)
Mmmm, these issues smell so good. Ah-hem.
I miss Dave.
The arrival of the new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan resonated with many readers who were happy to have a character in comics that resembled themselves. One of those of a long time reader MayaK. I asked Maya who has been reading comics for four decades the impact that having a character like Kamala means to her and how much it would have meant when she was a young reader. Her thoughts follow.
When Sue approached me about this piece I envisioned a review of Ms. Marvel and how it resonated with me as a woman of South Asian descent. My parents emigrated from India to the United States in the late 1950s and I was born a day before the Civil Rights Act was enacted. However, the more I tried to write the review the more the larger issue of diversity in general in the genre nagged at me. Why does diversity matter? What does diversity mean? Why are some in the community so resistant to the idea? Why is diversity in comics, really media, such a divisive issue?
In the early nineteenth century, still in the early years of the grand experiment of this republic called The United States of America, some women began to speak up and speak out. Championing freedom for slaves, they were also igniting the flames of feminism.
The internet did not exist, of course, but nearly 200 years ago women were told to mind their place, that they did not know what they were talking about, and of course their sexuality was called into question.
This is a poem from those early days, written and published in satirical response to the burgeoning redditors of the 1800s. I’ve presented it in light of recent (though honestly, perpetually occurring) events in comics fandom. And gaming. And politics. And high schools. And life around the world.
The Times That Try Men’s Souls
Confusion has seized us, and all things go wrong,
The women have leaped from “their spheres,”
And, instead of fixed stars, shoot as comets along,
And are setting the world by the ears!
In courses erratic they’re wheeling through space,
In brainless confusion and meaningless chase.
In vain do our knowing ones try to compute
Their return to the orbit designed;
They’re glanced at a moment, then onward they shoot,
And are neither “to hold nor to bind”;
So freely they move in their chosen ellipse,
The “Lords of Creation” do fear an eclipse.
They’ve taken a notion to speak for themselves,
And are wielding the tongue and the pen;
They’ve mounted the rostrum; the termagant elves,
And—oh horrid!—are talking to men!
With faces unblanched in our presence they come
To harangue us, they say, in behalf of the dumb.
They insist on their right to petition and pray,
That St. Paul, in Corinthians, has given them rules
For appearing in public; despite what those say
Whom we’ve trained to instruct them in schools;
But vain such instructions, if women may scan
And quote texts of Scripture to favor their plan.
Our grandmothers’ learning consisted of yore
In spreading their generous boards;
In twisting the distaff, or mopping the floor,
And obeying the will of their lords.
Now, misses may reason, and think, and debate,
Till unquestioned submission is quite out of date.
- Maria Weston Chapman, 1837
One hundred and seventy-seven FUCKING YEARS LATER and women still have to fight to have their voices heard, their thoughts taken seriously, their concerns addressed rationally.