Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Tale Of Two Sues

Here's a multiple-choice quiz for you.

Klaw, the murderous Master of Sound, has broken into FF headquarters and found the Invisible Girl alone. As you can see, he wastes no time in cornering her:

Now, you know Sue. Does she:

A. Take the offensive against Klaw, telling him how much he'll regret finding her first, and using her powers to kick him on his sonic backside;
B. Refuse to lose her resolve, matching the strength of her own power against that of Klaw's; or
C. Break into despair and run away, feeling so helpless that she doesn't even try to put up a fight?

The correct answer is:

Come on, she's a member of the Fantastic Four. What do you THINK she does?


Yes. Dropping your protective field and turning your back to a deadly foe while you run away like a helpless cry-baby is the thing to do in order to help your friends. One shot to your back to lay you out, and he moves on to them. Brilliant.

Yes, this was Sue Richards, in the Fantastic Four's Silver Age. Not exactly the bravest soul you'll ever meet. And villains didn't exactly quake at her approach.

Sue in those days balanced out the FF. True, she had her share of being taken hostage, and she used a lot of phrases filled with despair, always asking things like "Reed! What are we going to do??", and she was always taking her battle cues from Reed--but she stuck with it. She was a card-carrying super-heroine who didn't really want to be a super-heroine. She didn't want that kind of life. She wanted to be Reed's wife and care for her family, period. But given a choice between accompanying the team or being left behind, she always chose to share the danger. And being a reluctant super-heroine, she's probably what set the FF apart from any other group with super-powers. Her less aggressive contribution to the team may have played the greatest part in forming the bond between them that still exists to this day.

Of course, Sue's been amped up since then, both in power and in attitude. She's taken martial arts training from Iron Fist, and beaten him. (Courtesy of writer Chris Claremont, as if I had to tell you.) She's fought Galactus single-handed. She's held her own against a Celestial. Most of all, she's grown into her role as part of the team. Hell, when Reed was missing in action, she led the team. You may have noticed that Sue doesn't render herself invisible too much anymore--it coincides with her attitude of being a very active member of the FF. She may defer to Reed when the situation calls for it, but her days of sneaking around and engaging in a hit-and-run style of battle are over.

But as glad as I am to be rid of the whining, uncertain Sue, I liked a lot of those Silver Age stories. As I said, Sue in those days did a lot to balance the team. While Reed, Ben and Johnny threw themselves into the FF, Sue was their focal point to normality. She was there to shower the brooding Ben with concern and love; she was adept at playfully dragging Reed away from his all-consuming work, and at times sternly reminding him of what was more important; and of course she was the big sister that Johnny still sometimes needed. These three men were her family--of course she'd go into battle with them, even though she might be terrified of doing so.

There was a time in one story where the more mature Sue tangled with her less experienced counterpart. It shows the graphic difference between them:

I can certainly understand the need for Sue to have evolved. But, you know, there are times when, for the sake of the FF that used to be, I wish the old Sue was still around to nurture them.

1 comment:

Warren JB said...

Bleedin' Nora. I often complain that modern Sue is too eager to go around threatening to murder various people with head-bubbles, lung-bubbles, bloodstream-bubbles and so on; but doing it to herself (if only to knock her out) takes the cake.