Jerry Ordway on the Darkening of Mary Marvel

by  in Comic News Comment
Jerry Ordway on the Darkening of Mary Marvel

With the release of Countdown #47, I thought it would be interesting to hear from one of the creators who has spent the most time working with the Marvel Family, Jerry Ordway. Here’s Mr. Ordway’s thoughts on the darkening of the Marvel Family. – BC

I think that I, like most Captain Marvel fans, am very loyal to the original concepts. But I sure don’t mean to come across as someone who thinks it can only be done by CC Beck. During my run on the title, I honestly tried to do the character as a 1960’s Marvel comic, as my way of updating it, but not trashing the groundwork that Fawcett had. I know even at that time, certain comic fans wanted us to ditch the wholesomeness, and go for grim and gritty, but I think that would be a slap in the face to the original creators.

I had issues with the time that Peter David “borrowed” Mary Marvel for a Supergirl crossover, and immediately wanted to have her sexually molested in his story. Then Keith Giffen wanted her to lose her virginity in Formerly Known as the Justice League! Now it looks like the movement to gritty Mary up are finally getting their way in Countdown.

I know there are fans out there who are disdainful of any character who is wholesome and good, and dream of dragging that character through the mud just for spite. I go to comic stores, and have heard it all.

As to the dark Mary Marvel– it’s just playing into a few fans’ hands. Whether it turns out well or not will play out in Countdown. I have 3 kids who like different stuff, and variety makes the world go round, but I do steer them clear of most of the mainstream comics. They can read what they want when they are older, but I have introduced them to appropriate material first. But having every comic book feature dark, moody and self-centered teens or adults is shortchanging the marketplace of positive, heroic, self sacrificing HEROES. With dark, you must have some light. The Marvel Family and Superman were heroes to look up to, because they did the right thing, even when that choice meant sacrifice from them.

I’m no prude, but if you want to “violate” the intent of a character, create a new damn character, will you? Just my opinion.

Edited to add: Jerry added the following in the comments of this piece:

Brian Cronin forwarded a little rant I had to this thread, and it’s stirred up some comments, which is great. I certainly wasn’t judging Countdown prematurely, as I hope to like it as much as “52.” My feelings on the overall darkening of comics in general, is what the post is really about. I read a fair amount of comic books, and I guess I’m an old fart, as I would like to see a little more optimism, and true heroics in the industry. Almost every character has been recast, it seems, for today’s audience, but many have lost what made them special. My original post addresses my own battles for 4 or 5 years, when I was writing Power of Shazam, with other editors “borrowing” the books characters for their own stories. I am not criticizing Peter David for wanting to write a comic about child molestation, just his inclination to use Mary Marvel as his victim. In the printed comic, his original storyline was watered down at the insistence of the Shazam editor and myself. If he’s writing Supergirl, he can do whatever he wants to her, so long as the editor approves. When borrowing a character, you don’t have that right. Again, I have no beef with Peter.

As for the Giffen story about wanting to have Mary Marvel lose her virginity and revert to the red costume, it was something I heard from a decent source, and sounds like the type of thing Keith would pitch, if only to shake up the room. Again, no beef with Giffen, whose work I love. Just trying to illustrate what I have observed, of the seeming need of fans/creators to drag a so-called innocent character through the mud.

Someone else pointed out that it would be boring for heroes to not get dragged through the mud, and that conflict equals good story. I agree wholeheartedly, but one can do that without turning a character into a murderer, or something. Spider-Man was a hero. He did the right thing whether it cost him personally. Sure he moaned about it later, that the police were after him, or the Daily Bugle was after him, or whatever, but he STILL was heroic.

I just read the current Countdown, and I am fine with it. I don’t own the Marvel Family characters, and no longer control their stories. When I read it, I am just a comic fan. Best, JEr