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Miss America Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1

Posted: Tuesday, June 9, 2009
By: Shawn Hill

Jen Van Meeter
Andy MacDonald
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Miss America Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, June 10.

Plot: Miss America, with her Liberty Legion allies the Whizzer and the Blue Diamond, must face Nazi-controlled mind slaves in Germany, and back in America Madeline Joyce goes undercover in a female-staffed shipyard.

Comments: Miss America, from what I can judge from limited online research, has had a spotty if literally 70 years-long history. She appeared in solo back-up stories before getting her own title, which immediately became a magazine that didn't really feature much of the title character, and is ultimately better known for debuting Patsy Walker, who was a much more major character into the 1960s. Miss America's adventures, despite a winning costume and plucky attitude, are more or less apocryphal; she's received more back-story from Roy Thomas and the like in the Bronze Age of comics, especially when she and husband the Whizzer were thought to have been the parents of mutants Wanda and Quicksilver.

So there was a lot of room for Van Meeter and MacDonald to do whatever they wanted to enhance her legacy. They make some wise choices in this fun story, reviving the Ur-villains of the Marvel Golden age, using the supermen and women to beat up on those dastardly Nazis. In this tale, young Maddy becomes girl detective, going undercover in an American shipyard to gain some info on Nazi mind-controller Brain Drain. She's got the style and the pluck of a movie reporter/socialite/adventurer of the era.

But even better, the creators treat us to a look into the world of Rosie the Riveter, that other iconic female figure of the 1940s. Maddy fits right in with the tough gal welders (she's "stronger than she looks"--her somewhat nebulous powers involve flight and "excess vitality," enough leeway for Van Meeter to paint her as super-strong despite the small frame MacDonald gives her) and is soon hot on the trail of her real foes, the elite "college girls" masquerading as electrical engineers and plotting to take over the ship.

These "Fifth Column floozies" comprise, when the wigs come off, Madame Mauser, Penny Panzer, the Vichy Vixen, Fraulein Fatale, and Axis Annie! Clichés and stereotypes abound in their dialogue (Annie loves beer, the Vixen capitulates the instant tables are turned, the Fraulein loves her leathers), but I'll put that down to the attempt to capture the feel of the original era graced by Miss America.

Van Meeter's Maddy is plucky, smart, brave, fun and appreciative of her working class sisters. These stalwart riveters stage a revolution when things look worst for our heroine, turning the tide and even recalling other iconic military reversals of the films of classic Hollywood. With their help, Miss America is able to rush back to her fiancée and the Blue Diamond with a solution in a tight spot. The adventure may continue "never" (as the winking cliffhanger blurb promises), but the story succeeds in bringing a fun aspect of Marvel's legacy back to life.

I'm not completely sure why the back-up stories in Miss America's issue are Whizzer solo tales, but it may simply be that more of his stories were made and remain available for reprint. This is hardly a surprising statement on the place of female characters perennially in comic books. Here we get a hint of what a Marvel counterpoint to Wonder Woman might have looked like, had she kept the spotlight longer.







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