Sunday, May 13, 2012
YEAR 1963: MARVEL GIRL
Critics like Trina Robbins and Alan Moore have been unjust to the Invisible Girl, implying that all there was to her were her stereotypical "girly-girl" traits, ignoring her genuine gutsy moments. This is particularly egregious in that just two years later Marvel created a female who was guilty of most if not all of the canards directed at Sue Storm.
The most one could say of the early Jean "Marvel Girl" Grey was that she was courageous in a somewhat stereotypical manner. But where Sue Storm often came off as having a certain amount of grit beneath her femininity, Jean Grey was largely a blank slate as created by Lee and Kirby in X-MEN #1 (Sept 1963). Her telekinetic power was rarely of much use in early stories, though admittedly by the late 1960s she became more adept with other psychic talents, such as mind reading and psychic attacks.
Her humble powers, however, were less injurious to her persona than the fact that her Silver Age raconteurs-- including those who followed Lee and Kirby-- used her as nothing but "the girl whom the team-leader loves." X-Men storylines brooded over the difficulties of the group-leader Cyclops as he morosely forbade himself to date Jean, thus almost throwing her into the arms of competitors like Warren "the Angel" Worthington and Cal "the Mimic" Rankin. But there was scarcely anything in the stories about Jean's personality. Modern fangrils may not like the personalities of the Invisible Girl or the Wasp, but at least the characters had definite (for pop culture) personas. The character of Jean Grey went to college, but as I recall the stories never even alluded to what she majored in, or when she dropped classes. To be sure, the FANTASTIC FOUR's Human Torch had a similar abortive college career, but at least he had some valid experiences of his own at college, rather than being someone else's love-object.
Curiously, Jean Grey and the rest of the X-Men made one appearance in the medium of television in 1966, when an episode of THE SUB-MARINER tossed together various scenes from a couple of FANTASTIC FOUR stories into a strange amalgam, with the X-Men being re-christened "the Peace Alliance."
Some years after the cancellation of the first X-MEN series, some creators meditated on the possibility of refurbishing Marvel Girl as a new kickass superheroine called "Ms. Marvel," but in the final version support-character Carol Danvers received the superheroic makeover instead. However, when the X-MEN received its second and most famous relaunch in 1976, within a few years Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum chose to give Marvel Girl an even more radical remodeling as "Phoenix," who will receive her own separate entry.
For some reason, the name "Marvel Girl" wasn't even used for the 1990s X-MEN teleseries, which billed the character as simply "Jean Grey."