What Were They Thinking?: Worst Western

Time travel is a tricky thing. For a start you have to avoid changing history and breaking the laws of causalit,y both of which are not things you exactly want to do as they usually result in your potential erasure from existance (see Back To The Future) or an almighty space-time paradox (see Doctor Who). However, there is another danger that is often overlooked when it comes to going for a quick jaunt back in time, which is that you have a high chance of being killed by the locals. When considering where to travel in time to, your best bet is to consult a history book as if it were a weather forcast. "Ok, 1918. The year starts of with some rather heavy war, but that is expected to die down towards the end of the year and in its place there will be a strong front of Spanish Flu. Throughout the year there may be some smatterings of institutionalised racism and sexism along with some sufferage showers. Time travellers are advised to take an umbrella."

So, what happens when superheros from, say, the 1980's get transported back in time to both the Wild West and Ancient Eygpt without having time to consult their handy History Forecast. Well, this is What Were They Thinking, the place where we look at the stupidest, most ill-advised things in comic book history, so what do you think happened?

Ok, so the story we're talking about today is a little thing called "Lost In Space-Time" and I think it's both the time and space for some plot synopsis. The West Coast Avengers (at the time made up of Iron Man, Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Wonder Man and Tigra) are sent back in time by the super computer Dominus, first to the Old West, where they met with a number of Marvel's Western genre stars (including the original Ghost Rider, Lincoln Slade, now known as The Phantom Rider), and then to Ancient Egypt, all whilst fighting various z-list villains with vaguely desert themed powers and costumes. So pretty par for the course for The West Coast Avengers and, to be fair, it's actually not a bad story all things considered. No, actually, I lie, it's not a bad storyline as long as you take out the part where Hank Pym decides that he should kill himself (which he is unsuccessful in doing due to interferance from Firebird). Oh and then this happens.

So, the West Coast Avengers have been stuck in the old west for a bit and have met all the western heroes. Phantom Rider has developed, how should I say, somewhat of a slight creepy obsession with Bobbi Morse (a.k.a Mockingbird, a.k.a Mrs Clint Barton). Rider then abducts and drugs Mockingbird, drugging her so much that he can basically brainwash her into believing that she was never a hero and was his wife/ girlfriend. Then there's some rape. And it is rape because one of the parties involved was drugged to all hell and back during it, so that's nice. I mean, it's never explicitly shown, but is pretty much stated outright by Mockingbird, so, yeah...

So, things start going south for Rider when Mockingbird manages to shake herself out of her drug enduced state, and she is, to put it lightly, not happy. The whole scenario ends with Mockingbird letting Phantom Rider plumet to his death from a cliff and making no attempt to save him. Not exactly the most heroic thing to do, but I can't say I blame her.

Oh wait, did I say that's where the scenario ends. Sorry, I lied. You see, Hawkeye finds out about all of this and is quite pissed off. Not with Phantom Rider, the dude who drugged and raped his wife, but with Mockningbird for letting him fall to his death, as he felt it was against the Avengers "no kill" policy, and threatened to divorce her. So, Hawkeye, a "hero" put the blame on his wife, a victim, for not preventing the death of Phantom Rider, her rapist, rather than being by her side at this hugely traumatising time. Good work Clint, gold star for being a dick. Fortunately, Mockingbird does not apologise for her actions and leaves both Clint and The Avengers due to their disapproval and lack of support for her, which is freaking fantastic. Now that is a feminist agenda that you can talk to me about Bobbi, standing up for yourself in the face of an obvious victimisation culture when it comes to rape. I mean, it's not like The Avengers hadn't already got a bad rep for how they treat victims of rape *cough*Carol Danvers*cough*, so it's nice to see a female superhero in the team stand up and take the guys to task for it. Still doesn't mean that the rape aspect of the story should have been run at all, or that how the writers handled the male Avengers reactions to it was in any way acceptable, or that they should run a rape storyline in the same storyline that they'd already had an attempted suicide, but at least Mockingbird didn't run off with her rapist, so it's a slight improvement over the last Avenger rape story we covered. And that's a sad inditement of the Avengers in the 80's that we're able to cover 2 rape storylines. Who do Marvel think they are? Early 00's DC? But that's another story for another time (and not another Space-Time).

And with that

JR out.

About JR19759

Email: jr19759@hotmail.co.uk Twitter: @jr19759 Deviantart: JR19759 Deviantart HM Group: Heromachine-Art

3 Responses to What Were They Thinking?: Worst Western

  1. Gene says:

    I remember that story, I was reading/collecting at the time it was published. And you are correct on all points 🙂 Hawkeye was a d**k to her over the whole situation, and I’m glad she walked. The only thing that would have made it better would be if she had wrapped him on the head on the way out with her staff.

    Hawkeye get’s to join Cyclops in the Superhero D**K hall of fame. Maybe they could form a club or something.

  2. Funkmachine7 says:

    Given how often rape story lines just leave a bad taste in every ones mouth, why do them?
    There uncomfortable and generally hard to resolve with out one party being for ever labelled as a rapist.
    This one made The Phantom Rider in to a rapist that drugs and abducts women.
    Just changing it in to an Amnesia angle makes the Phantom Rider a good guy if a little miss guided.

  3. JR19759 says:

    @Funkmachine7- I believe that comic book publishers often use rape as a method to make their comics feel more gritty and, in some cases (especially post-millenium), feel more “realistic”. Back in the 80’s it was more likely a remenant of the “damsel in distress” trope left over from the Golden and Silver Ages, whilst trying to move towards stronger female characters. However, in recent years, publishers are trying to catch up with modern trends towards “realism” and darkness, so rape is a very easy get out to add those two things to a female character. It isn’t always done to female characters either, DC have done rape storylines where both Green Arrow and Batman have been drugged and raped by female characters (FYI that’s how Damien Wayne was brought into existance), but generally it’s female characters. And it’s not always done badly. I defy anyone to argue that Alias (the first and best Jessica Jones story) is anything but a masterpiece and it deals heavily with the effects of rape on victims. As a topic, if handled delicately and with care and consideration for those who may have gone through simular things in real life, topics such as rape can be increadibly powerful storytelling tools, just like war and religion. But when handled poorly (as with this story) it is a subject best left alone. But again, that doesn’t mean that the subject shouldn’t be touched, just very sparingly.
    I’m only planning to cover one more storyline that has an explicit case of rape in it, because it’s a very famous storyline and is a real doozy, though I am planning to cover a few cases of sexual harrasment and a storyline where a “hero” gets accuess of simluar crimes. That is, unless anyone has any storylines that they feel really need to be covered.