Saturday, September 29, 2012

Not So Frightful

Before Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-In-One came along and milked the concept for all it was worth, Marvel would occasionally concoct unlikely match-ups between its characters within their own titles--meetings which would make you scratch your head and wonder whatever made the writer think of having these two characters meet at all, much less fight. But your curiosity got the better of you--you wondered how the battle would play out, no matter how mismatched the characters were in abilities.

Would might or power triumph? Or would cunning and tactics win the day?

We'll find the answers in a series that could only be called:

I was thinking about all of these meetings there are to choose from, and I thought we might as well start with this unlikely pairing:

No, you're not seeing things. Spider-Man--humbled by hair. Like life wasn't already kicking him in the shin.

Get a good look at that cover, though. It's the first and last time you'll see Medusa with the "red" hair that you and I are used to seeing on other real-world people--i.e., more orange in tint than pure "red." Within the book itself, however, the colorist shifts Medusa's hair color back to red (and I mean RED, brother), as it's always been previously portrayed. And that treatment isn't exclusive to Medusa--redheads like Jean Grey, Mary Jane Watson, et al. have, with few exceptions, had their hair colored in stark red. Perhaps it's because it "comes across" better in a medium like a comic book, whatever that means. Less of a distraction? Blends more easily with the other colors in the comic? I don't know. But it seems like an across-the-board edict for practically every title I've ever "red," heh heh.

As for this particular story, it's all, of course, a misunderstanding, as many of these early meetings between characters were during the day. Medusa is studying average humans, in order to give Black Bolt a comprehensive report on which to base his decision regarding whether or not to rejoin the human race. She decides to accept an offer from a sleazy hair spray company exec who wants to use her to promote his product, but eventually she walks out on him. Pissed about the money he might lose, he spots Spider-Man swinging by and fabricates a story about how Medusa went wild and is threatening to take it out on the city--and Spidey swings off after her.

Unfortunately, Medusa's arrogance doesn't exactly lend itself to a peaceful Q & A:

One thing I didn't realize until going over this story again is that we learn that this is Spider-Man's first battle with a woman. In later issues (and not necessarily in his own book), we'll see more earnest and evenly-matched battles between Spider-Man and women opponents. Yet here, it's clear that Medusa, though obviously of the opinion that she is Spider-Man's better in every way, is outmatched by the wall-crawler--in strength, surely, but also in speed and agility, no doubt. Though speaking for the Medusa I've seen in battle over the years, I think whatever writer wanted her to come out on top in this fight could have thought of half a dozen ways for her to do so.

Still, she gives a good showing of herself, before the battle concludes:

It's funny how often Medusa decries mankind's "violence" and their "insane" world--when, as a member of the Frightful Four, she was very much a part of that world and, indeed, reveled in it. Here, writer Stan Lee takes the opportunity to completely shift her from ruthless villainess to proud Inhuman, severing all references to the evil FF. (Even Spider-Man makes no mention of it--he certainly had enough openings, and he would be as aware of Medusa's past with the Frightful Four as anyone.)

Spider-Man's next battle with a woman would be with the Black Widow, yet would take 24 issues to happen--an odd two-year gap which unfortunately shows Marvel's priorities at the time regarding a woman's threat level as an opponent. In that battle, the story makes perfectly clear that the Widow is way out of her league. Given the mindset of the time, frankly I'm surprised Medusa was able to stand out in the company of men like the Wizard and the Sandman as well as she did. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised at Lee's abrupt removal of her as a threat whose bite was once equal to her bark.


Pat said...

I don't think Stan and Jack ever did satisfactorily answer the question as to why Medusa started out as a villainess in the Frightful Four.

Comicsfan said...

Yeah, her reasons for falling in with the Frightful Four were as short on specifics as her reasons for breaking off with them. (I suppose fleeing from Gorgon and her odd connection to him was meant to quickly sweep her role as a member of the evil FF under the bridge.) She seemed to be on the run from the police when the Wizard found her on a Mediterranean island, and accepted a place in his group pretty much without question. Other than that, the only info we have on her backstory is from that X-Men story I mentioned--which was a decent attempt to try and make sense of it all, but hasn't been repeated either by Medusa or the Inhumans in any of their many appearances. (Though I'd recommend the Medusa story in Marvel Super-Heroes #15, which would have been the perfect place to follow up on this issue, but at least doesn't sweep Medusa's criminal past under the rug.)

Anonymous said...

If I had my way, Medusa would never have left the Frightful Four! She was a perfect villainess - sadistic, confident and powerful!

Jon H said...

"If I had my way, Medusa would never have left the Frightful Four! She was a perfect villainess - sadistic, confident and powerful!"

There's always the villainous PowerPuff Girls version, "Sedusa".

Big Murr said...

I don't know if this counts as a "really?". In a purely physical confrontation, Medusa is pretty much equivalent to Doc Ock. The octopus tentacles have a greater reach, but there is a lot more than four appendages to watch out for with the hair. And on the other end of the tendrils/tentacles, Medusa is a much abler combatant than old "Dr. Tubby McFoureyes"

Medusa can certainly match Octopus word for word in pompous ego and dialogue