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Things That Turned Out Bad – Marvel’s Strange Celebration of the First Martin Luther King Day

by  in Comic News Comment
Things That Turned Out Bad – Marvel’s Strange Celebration of the First Martin Luther King Day

In this column, I will spotlight plotlines by writers that probably weren’t a good idea at the time and have only become more problematic in retrospect. I’ll try to stick with stuff that’s more ill-conceived than flat-out offensive (like racist stereotypes of characters during the 1940s).

Today, we take a look at the odd way that Marvel handled the first year that Martin Luther King Day was celebrated as a federal holiday…

Written by Steve Englehart and drawn by Richard Howell and Frank Springer, Vision and the Scarlet Witch was a year-long maxi-series that takes place over the course of one calendar year (much of which is taken up by the conception, pregnancy and birth of Vision and Scarlet Witch’s children). Like The Long Halloween, each issue took place around a holiday. For the January 1986 issue, Vision and Scarlet Witch #8, the holiday was Martin Luther King Day, which was being celebrated as a federal holiday for the first time that year (after being approved as a federal holiday in 1983).

The issue sees Power Man and Vision and Scarlet Witch continue from a previous team-up they had had in an issue of Power Man and Iron Fist, involving some demons. Quicksilver ends up taking Iron Fist’s place in the adventure, which begins with Power Man being attacked by a demon in Manhattan, so he goes to Vision and Scarlet Witch for help…

Kind of a ham-fisted way of working that in there, but okay. Now, before we look at the next page, note that Steve Englehart always disliked Quicksilver and regularly tried to turn him into a villain. Along those themes, he has Quicksilver drop some weird pseudo-racist stuff here…

“Some of my best Inhumans are dusky.” I see the bumper sticker already!

So they go off on a mission to find some idols before the bad guys, and in the process, there is a hurricane where Luke tries to grab hold of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver to anchor them down…

In the end, it turns out Scarlet Witch was tricking the bad guys the whole time and the idols they were seemingly racing the bad guys to find were always back at their house, where Crystal was busy using her powers to destroy them.

Once it is all settled down, though, that racist Quicksilver has a problem with Luke Cage touching him…

This lead’s to the end of the issue…

“I’m real proud us blacks finally got a holiday for one of our own”? I know Englehart meant well with this issue, but it really seems a bit patronizing, especially because nothing else in the issue is even ABOUT MLK Day, besides Quicksilver suddenly being a racist moron out of nowhere.

That said, compared to some of the stories I’ve featured in this column, this is pretty darn tame. It’s still ill-conceived, though.

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