Yes, I’m calling it.
I can almost hear you now: “Sure, Mark, you’ve wasted half your life and most of your money on those four-color funnies, but how can you really single out one – one – comic book and claim it is the worst ever published?”
True, I haven’t read every single comic book ever published, and there is a lot of dreck out there (DC’s “Convergence,” the stink is mighty from your direction), but I’m confident in my pick.
“The Avengers” No. 200, issue date October 1980.
As this “Special Double-Sized Anniversary Issue” opens, in “The Child is Father To…?” Ms. Marvel – also known as Carol Danvers – is in full labor – despite having no memory of being intimate with a man and only showing signs of pregnancy three days earlier.
In a matter of hours, her baby grows into a full-grown man who calls himself Marcus. Marcus reveals himself to be a resident of a limbo dimension, the son of the Avengers’ sometime ally, sometime enemy Immortus. Lonely, he plucked Ms. Marvel from the timeline and spent weeks in his dimension “seducing” her “with a subtle boost” from his cosmic machines.
He tells Ms. Marvel, “Through the electronic wonders at my command and with my own inherited powers, I was able to implant my essence with you, causing a condition that resembled pregnancy.” (The House of Ideas is trying to spin the notion that there really is a condition as being “almost pregnant.”)
After he was finished with her, he returned her to her timeline a split-second after taking her – with her memories of her time with him wiped.
But now that she’s given birth to him, he can’t stay in our dimension because he couldn’t make some doohickey transdimensional device work (dumb MacGuffin) and must return to limbo.
And Ms. Marvel startles her fellow Avengers by stepping forward and telling Marcus: “While I still don’t know what I felt for you in limbo some of that feeling still lingers. And that, combined with the fact that by some bizarre logic, you are my ‘child’ – makes me feel closer to you than I’ve felt to anyone in a long, long time.
“And I think that just might be a relationship worth giving a chance. So I’m returning to limbo with you.”
She tells Iron Man to wish the others well, and Thor helpfully transports the couple back to limbo, where they can spend eternity together. Hawkeye closes the story with the wish that Ms. Marvel “lives happily ever after.”
And so ends the company’s idea of a special anniversary issue for one of its flagship titles.
Let’s review: Ms. Marvel – the heroine named after the comics company itself – has been kidnapped, raped, impregnated, memory-wiped, given birth to her rapist, fallen in love with her rapist and gives up her super-hero career to be with her rapist.
What insane bullshit batshit shit shit fuckery.
Cough. What hooey.
I can almost hear someone object: It was a simpler time. You can’t judge a 35-year-old comic book by today’s standards.
It was 19-freakin’-80.
We didn’t have cell phones glued to our hands, but it was hardly the Dark Ages. Everyone involved in this misogynistic epic should have known better. Even the dumb kid who passed for me in 1980 knew this story was monstrous when it hit the stands.
I almost feel a teensy-bit bad about ripping this one a new one, because I otherwise have a bit of respect for at least three of the four credited plotters – Jim Shooter, George Perez, Bob Layton and David Michelinie. Michelinie is billed as writer, and up until this issue, Michelinie had spun some great, underrated “Avengers” stories.
The acknowledgement of four plotters for the issue suggests some behind-the-scenes desperation.
Someone really wanted Ms. Marvel out of the Avengers, and he picked the most vile way of doing it.
But there is a kicker to this story, and its existence suggests someone at Marvel – one writer in particular – knew this story was crap and Ms. Marvel had to be, well, avenged.
In “Avengers Annual” No. 10, issue date 1981, “By Friends – Betrayed,” after a brutal battle with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the Avengers are reunited with Carol Danvers. She has been back on Earth some time – but she wanted nothing to do with her former colleagues.
Because they failed her.
Marcus brainwashed her, she reminds them, and they let her go off with him. What the hell were they thinking?
The Avengers are chastened by their mistake. It’s a remarkably sad ending for a title and a team known for more upbeat adventures.
Writer Chris Claremont had written several issues of the first run of “Ms. Marvel,” and he was known for creating and developing strong female characters. Over the next few years in “Uncanny X-Men,” he built the character back from the ground up, even turning her into a cosmic powerhouse known as Binary. Eventually, she became Ms. Marvel again and then “promoted” herself to Captain Marvel. (A teenager now carries the mantle of Ms. Marvel.)
It’s remarkable that another writer would step in and essentially rewrite a story. Nowadays, of course, it’s nothing. DC and Marvel routinely throw out continuity as if it were yesterday’s diaper. Marvel’s summer event “Secret Wars” is essentially hitting the reset button on about 60 years of continuity. But in the ’80s, there was almost an unspoken agreement that writers treated each other’s work as if it were plutonium. But this was a story that demanded a sequel and a course correction.
Flashforward to this week: “Captain Marvel” No. 1 hit stores Wednesday. Marvel has big plans for the character. She’ll headline her own superhero film scheduled for 2018. Bryce Dallas Howard and “Game of Thrones’ ” Natalie Dormer are the two of the names mentioned in contention the role.
Nobody knows what the script will cover – but I know one story Marvel Comics would just as soon bury.