Thursday, July 9, 2015

1978: The Jocasta's On You part I: This Eager Avenger In Waiting...


By Jef Willemsen (clarmindcontrol.blogspot.com)

In today's Marvel Universe, you're more likely to catch membership to Earth's mightiest than the common cold. That makes the story of Jocasta all the more tragic. She desperately wanted to join only to be snubbed and ignored throughout the 1980s... And to think she was the most competent Avenger ever, as this retrospective will show.



"The first Avenger who touches her answers to me!"

Iron Man protecting a woman's virtue? Guess there's a first time for everything. All kidding aside, just who was Jocasta? For that, we need to revisit the mid 1970s. By then, Ultron had established himself as one of the team's most implacable foes, with ties to both the Vision (who he created) and Hank Pym (his creator). When Jim Shooter took over the series, he figured the next step in Ultron's evolution was him taking a wife. In classic oedipal fashion, Shooter decided that mechanical mate's mind had to be based on the brainwave patterns of Janet van Dyne, his "father's wife.

Long story short... A temporarily insane Pym delivered Janet to Ultron and helped set up the mind transfer. But, even though she was already alive by the time the Avengers arrived, Jocasta wasn't much of a threat. In fact, she almost immediately turned against her creator/father/husband-to-be by cybernetically ordering Pym's ants to lure the Avengers to them. And no one seemed to notice her role in their victory...

Talk about establishing a pattern from the word go.


                     "In her brief, half-living existence, perhaps she was more human, more like Jan
                                                                 than even Ultron suspected!"


But the Avengers didn't give it too much thought. With Ultron seemingly defeated, they left the now inert Jocasta behind and returned home to deal with threats like Whirlwind, Living Laser, Power Man and their employer Count Nefaria. They were also alarmed by the arrival of the 30th century heroes the Guardians of the Galaxy who had returned to the past to find their archenemy Korvac... And amidst all the hubbub, a package was delivered to the mansion in Avengers I#170...


                      "She was undoubtedly his masterwork... the product of dark inspiration!"

Coming from Yellowjacket, a split persona Hank Pym created when he was once again mentally disturbed, that's saying a lot. The Avengers gain custody of the seemingly lifeless Jocasta. But, as all technically inert lifeform are wont to do, she soon reactivates, breaks free, almost squeezing the life out of the Wasp and Yellowjacket before fleeing the premises. Captain America and Iron Man stop the others from tearing her to pieces because, well... 


  "We're going to give her a headstart... and she's going to lead us to... Ultron!"

And lead them to Ultron she did... This time, the recalcitrant robot was holed up in a local monastery, where he had replaced most of the inhabitants with murderous mechanical nuns straight out of a catholic school girl's nightmare. Despite the fact Ultron had forced her to come to him via remote control, Jocasta once again saved the day by resisting her perfect mate's desires and plans.


"I love you, Ultron! I exist only to love you, to serve you, for so I was created... 
and thus I must destroy you!"

Jocasta's open act of rebellion allowed the Avengers to free themselves and to finally (or so they thought) deal with Ultron. In the aftermath, they were suddenly confronted with another mystery when Jocasta disappeared along with several Avengers.


                                                   "HEY! The tin lady... she vanished!"

And so she did... Even though she was still far from officially being a member, Taneleer Tivan, better known as the Collector, had grabbed Jocasta to add to his collection of Avengers. Y'see, the Elder of the Universe was aware of Korvac's plans (because Tivan's daughter Carina was dating him)... And the old man was desperate to capture and save as many of Earth's mightiest before Korvac could carry out his plans to reshape the cosmos. 

Over the course of several issues, the Collector quietly nabbed most of the Avengers until a small contingent including the Wasp and Hawkeye managed to stop him. In the process, they freed the others and the Collector's shenanigans were finally noticed by the almighty Korvac who turned the Elder to ashes as punishment for trying to deceive him.

A fate Jocasta faced in Avengers I#177, when she decided to join the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy in opposing Korvac and his lover. She was unceremoniously dealt with...


"You are merely loyal to those you think are friends! I am sorry it must be thus!"

Korvac and his love proved unbeatable, until they realize their mission of covertly taking over the universe and forcing their version of peace and love on everyone is botched because of their fight with the heroes. The two nigh omnipotent beings commited suicide and used their final energies to restore all their deceased opponents back to life. Jocasta lives... And remains with the team for a few more issues, even though not everyone seems quite aware of the fact that, well, she's there.


"Seven of you will remain as Avengers... the rest are out!"

Case in point... The Avengers' government liaison Henry Peter Gyrich had no idea the walking, talking Jocasta was actually alive when he showed up in Avengers I#181 to read the team the riot act. In order for the government to trust the Avengers again, Gyrich demanded the organisation cut their active membership back to seven members... of Gyrich's choice. To no one's surprise, Jocasta was not elected or even considered a possibility. 

In fact, Gyrich pretty much had a conniption when Jocasta spoke up during this scene from Avengers I#182


"Hey! I thought this tin woman was just a trophy or something!"

Pleasant as always, Jocasta seemingly doesn't take offense to Gyrich calling her a meaningless trophy, pointing out that if he feels she's a machine, why should she even require security clearances or passes? 

But considering the Avengers' long established history of inclusiveness, scenes like this leave a bitter taste in any fan's mouth. By now, Jocasta has more than proven her worth... She fought against Ultron, her ideal mate, twice... Helped against the Collector, sacrificed her life fighting Korvac... Heck, the Vision is equally as artificial and he got voted in after his first appearance in which he tried to kill the Wasp and was a willing accomplice of Ultron's...


"You accept me... though I'm not truly a human being?"

Now, I'm not saying Vision was accepted because the Avengers were pretty much an all boy's club back then... But it is odd to see how much difficulty they seemed to have acknowledging an equally artificial lifeform like Jocasta. Still, she bravely soldiered on in obscurity and didn't even balk when it was her cybernetic sensory array that led the team to locate the missing Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (who were captured by their alleged foster father Django Maximoff).


"I sense that the energy stream emanates from that rooming house."

Once again, Jocasta proved crucial in finding, fighting and defeating a foe. But just like the Avengers themselves, the writers of the book would sometimes just forget that she was even there. Jocasta lived at the mansion at the time and even though Gyrich's government edict had limited them to seven active members, there were rules that allowed the team to call in reservists/back ups if needed.

In other words: Jocasta could have been on active duty since day one... But, for instance, where was she when the team faced Crusher Creel in Avengers I#183 & 184?


"I ain't gonna stop 'til this harbor runs red with Avengers' blood!"

Or a few issues down the line when Pietro and Wanda run into trouble once again while searching for their true origins in the Balkan nation of Transia? Iron Man proved unavailable, so you'd think the perfect substitute would be the Avengers' resident Iron Maiden... You'd be wrong, though. Captain America decided to call in a rather wonderful reservist instead.


"We're going to need all the "muscle" we can get!"

Of course, the Avengers had no idea they were flying into a combat zone ruled by a Ch'ton possessed Scarlet Witch... Given the fact that magic is vulnerable to metal, having an honest to goodness, super powered metal woman on the team would have been quite the assett. But no, Jocasta was unavailable and the Avengers made due without her... A trend that would continue on into the 80s as we'll see in part II of The Jocasta's On You: I'm Still Here.

1 comment:

  1. Loving This entry. jocasta is my favourite fictional character. I remember how ignored she was in The Avengers, not to mention under-used. In a way i liked her more because i shared her isolation with her as a child.
    There are so many gaps on her story, Marvel could publish a Jocasta: The lost years. Every so often she pops to the fore, only to disappear again into oblivion.
    To me the original version, created by George Perez, no less is the best. Hated the boxy one in Machine Man, the gold version and the green bald one too. Once a classic design is establish, it should be left alone.
    Thank you for this great blog, and this specific entry. looking forward to part two.

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