Monday, September 15, 2014


Welcome to Defenders Week on Gone&Forgotten, a celebration of Marvel's inspired and neurotic team of D-Listers, third-stringers, and orphaned heroes bereft of their own titles. Every day this week, you'll receive a re-blast of an old Defenders-centric piece, plus new articles about the non-team that anyone can join!

To start us off, let's remember that everyone loves forcing themselves on Valkyrie!

Valkyrie has the dubious honor of being Marvel’s first “liberated female” superhero, except that she actually was the Enchantress in a secret super magical disguise and was using women’s lib as a tool to trick the female Avengers into turning against their male partners. Baby steps there, folks.

Many a years later, Doctor Strange transferred the soul of a woman named Barbara Norriss – who had been trapped in an alien dimension and driven totally bazonkers – into the body of the Valkyriefor some reason, at which point Valkyrie became essentially the first new recruit of the Defenders.

Valkyrie was supposed to be a new vanguard of female character, was probably a transparent piss-take on Wonder Woman (Who, in the Seventies, was hovering in a nebulous position between celebration and scorn, being as Ms.Magazine had - either in a sense of camp or reclamation - had adopted her as a mascot but publisher DC was rendering her a palsied mess in her own book). While intended to be the model of the self-possessed Seventies’ woman,  mostly Valkyrie just got made out on by all her teammates when she wasn’t looking.

Unsurprisingly, the first guy to take advantage of Valkyrie was then-ex-Avenger Hawkeye, a genuine bro-ham whom you can imagine eats every meal at Hooters and still thinks rock hasn't topped Smashmouth.

I'll spare you the actual clinch, Hawkeye's last line is bad enough.

Naturally, Val ends up sort of liking the attention, because that’s … I dunno, irony? Base condescending tripe? Something?

Next up is teammate Nighthawk, who has to ruin a nice moment by reminding us all that he’s the privileged son of a billionaire and he can do whatever he wants.

If this seems threatening it's because it's assault.

Valkyrie starts to finally get sick of dudes cramming their tongues down her gullet like they’ve got worms on the end of ‘em and are angling for sturgeon in her abdomen. Problem is that, this time, the tonsil-hockey all-star in question is Barbara Norris’ (that’s Val’s braindead host body) estranged husband and full-time schmuck Jack.

Jack trying to get into Valkyrie’s pants turned into one of the single most annoying subplots in Defenders history – and this is the comic that brought you the elf with a gun (see a later entry) and an evil deer (ditto). Nick Fury eventually showed up to induct Jack into SHIELD, and then ideally shot him on the way back to that magic barbershop where SHIELD used to have their headquarters, and fed his body to the Hulk. I can dream.

There's no comic character I hate as much as I hate Jack Norriss.

Engelhardt was hilarious enough to acknowledge that his “Valkyrie trapped in a women’s prison” storyline was directly lifted from exploitative B-Movie dreck, and where would those films be without the warden trying to make it with the fresh meat?

Misandry is real!

Lastly, Valkyrie ends up hanging out with - as near as I can tell – an extra-nerdy film school dropout version of John Byrne and hanger-on Jim Shooter, meaning that she’s been so soured on all experience with men that she’s just giving up. This doesn’t stop the advances of exciting new villain LUNATIK, whose primary weapon is … LOVE.


Now, see, the thing is, there might be more occasions of dudes getting in cheap tongue-locks on Valkyrie, but these are all the incidents from the issues I’ve read so far. Who else tried to slip her one, do you think – Hulk, Doctor Strange, Namorita? They’re all possibilities, because if I’ve learned anything from the Defenders it’s that … EVERYONE LOVES FORCING THEMSELVES ON VALKYRIE.


Michael Hoskin said...

Man, for me Jack Norriss was the series' breakout character - once he left the book it became a lot less interesting. I like that he never does get what he wants (his wife), but is more-or-less resigned to it by the end.

Calamity Jon said...

Hm. I might agree if he'd ever grown as a character, but the entirety of his arc portrayed him as a petulant, sarcastic and self-pitying character with no real arc. Even as Fury recruits him into SHIELD, he exits with a sneering broadside at his ex-wife. Just grossly unpleasant male entitlement portrayed with the veneer of unrequited romance.

He was good for Valkyrie's arc, though, I'll give him that - she had to struggle against being constantly defined by the expectations of this man who claimed ownership of her identity, and wasn't allowed to, you know, drop the guy off a building because she was expected to put up with him because of a past relationship. Metaphors abound, really.

Michael Hoskin said...

I think I'm disposed to give Norriss a pass because the defects in his character were intentional - a feature rather than a bug (as opposed to the extremely buggy Nighthawk).

Flying Tiger said...

Norriss was hellaciously irritating and horrible, as written, but he helped make the already realistic Defenders achieve a new level of verisimilitude- whilst still featuring homicidal elves, harmonicas of destiny and so on. :)

Carlos Millan said...

As a little kid I always felt somewhat bad for Norriss. He was a miserable normal guy caught up in a scene that was anything but-- THE outsider among a team made up of notorious outsiders... and outclassed by every single one of them.

Plus there was something very sad about his struggle to deal with the fact that although his relationship with his wife never actually ended and she is technically alive and walking around in front of him, in reality he HAS been left... or could at least be considered a sort of widower. I mean, his initial willingness to adapt to the Defenders' kind of existence versus doing the smart thing of just accepting the reality that Valkyrie is not Barbara IS pretty weird, but at the same time also pathetically understandable.

Fred W. Hill said...

The classic Headmen/Nebulon saga that ran from Defenders 31-40 and was concluded in their first Annual, and which included the Valkyrie in prison segment, was entirely written by Steve Gerber, not Englehart, who had written the first 11 issues of the Defenders.

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