Sunday, July 12, 2015

1981: The Jocasta's On You part III: Membership Drive Away

By Jef Willemsen (clarmindcontrol.blogspot.com)

In the third part of our Jocasta retrospective, everyone's overlooked mechanoid finally has her day. After they treated her like a prop for what seemed like forever, the Avengers finally asked Jocasta to join them as a full fledged member. There's no I in team... but apparently, there's no J, O, C, S, T or A either... Which is odd, cos those last two are on full display.



"Lady, we've had a tendency to overlook you in the past (...) But that's about to change"

In the closing pages of Avengers I#196, after she beat the Taskmaster all by herself, Captain America and the others finally realize Jocasta is quite the assett and offer her membership. Which, of course, is all the metallic maven longed for. For a while, everything seemed to be moving in that direction... Case in point, this scene from Avengers I#197 which hinted that her induction process was little more than a formality...


"I think it's an excellent idea, in fact... I'll bring it up at the next regular business meeting"

Now, other than the rather curious fact that Jocasta had seemingly forgotten she was already promised membership an issue earlier... Keep in mind that the Avengers hold regular meetings every week to discuss team business like new members. So, it shouldn't take more than seven days for her to be elected the latest member of Earth's mightiest. Overjoyed, she ran off to tell the others, like her reluctant confidant Vision who was right in the middle of using his superpowers for the betterment of all mankind...


"I appreciate you heating the percolator, master Vision...
Iron Man does so like his Colombian Excelso"

In his classic passive agressive approach to her, Vision gave Jocasta the coldest of shoulders. But hey, within a week they'd be teammates, right? Well... After this issue they fought Red Ronin for the better part of a day (#198 & #199). Then, they came back home to deal with Ms. Marvel's freak pregnancy and subsequent fall out in Avengers I#200 which took 48 hours give or take. The team spent at least a day or so cleaning up the mess left behind by Carol's baby (daddy) Markus Immortus in #201, which saw Jocasta doing little more than making a sammich... Then, in #202, a mind controlled Iron Man rebuilt Ultron and took care of Jocasta too.


"... 'Casta's here in the lab, lookin' like her brain's been scrambled, poached an' pan-fried"

She turned out to be fine in #203, thanks to Jarvis' first aid. Then, another 2 days passed until the Avengers finally had a weekly meeting in the opening pages of #204. However, before Captain America could start the meeting, he spotted an urgent request for aid that led the Avengers to rush out and stop the Yellow Claw from sterilizing mankind as part of his latest master plan. 

Moving right along to #206 which was clearly meant as a fill-in and had the Avengers facing the threat of Pyron the Thermal Man... By now, over a week had passed, no one had even bothered to make sure Jocasta got inducted. But that still didn't stop her from once again risking her life and, indirectly, proving herself the most valuable member of the team.


"Our mechanical maiden is melting!"

Even though the heat was melting her alive, Jocasta refused to retreat. Despite her protests, Wonder Man carried Jocasta out of the combat zone. In the end, the threat of Pyron was dealt with and even though Jocasta sustained serious injuries in the line of fire (literally) that would have gotten her a purple heart, no one ever brought up her impending membership. Jocasta also appeared in two more fill-in issues, #207 and #208, that featured the equally forgettable threats of Shadow Lord and Berserker. The Jocasta less #209, written by J.M. DeMatteis who pretty much turned it into a Defenders story featuring Beast, Wonder Man and the Scarlet Witch.

Next up was Avengers Annual I#10, the infamous issue in which Carol Danvers returned to chew the Avengers out for just letting her go off to Limbo with Markus, the man she gave birth to back in #200... The same man who cheerfully admitted to mentally manipulating her to fall for him. But before Carol had her say, the Avengers were attacked by Mystique and her Brotherhood of Mutants. The attack actually prevented one of the Avengers' weekly meetings...



If only Rogue hadn't attacked and taken out Captain America and Iron Man before the meeting. Who knows, maybe Jocasta would have been inducted then. Still, it is interesting to note that even Michael Golden, by no means the regular artist on Avengers, seemed to instinctly sense Jocasta's place on the team. While outspoken, flamboyant members like Wonder Man and Beast were featured in the foreground and established, old friends Hawkeye, Vision and Wanda were comfortably in the middle shooting the breeze, Jocasta was placed way in the back... Almost as if she was part of the decor. Even Jarvis has more of a stage presence... and he's the one serving tea and cakes.

But even though she continued to be denied something she was promised, Jocasta remained a stalwart and dependable ally when the Avengers and the visiting Spider-Woman took the battle to the Brotherhood. 


"That pit won't hold him long."

Moving right along to #210... It's now been 14 months since #196 announced Jocasta's imminent induction. The lady's been patiently waiting, living at the mansion and helping out whenever she could, often risking life and limb in the process. So, you'd think that by now she'd be considered an essential part of the team, whether or not she'd been officially admitted. Heck, the likes of Mantis and Captain Marvel never signed on as members, but were called on at every other turn. However, when the Avengers assembled in the opening pages of #210 to deal with a number of systematic, freak weather incidents she wasn't even notified or missed. Through sheer coincidence she learned of the current crisis and decided to go down to the meeting room.


"I was not summoned, and only now learned that a meeting had taken place from Jarvis, our butler"

Even though Thor attempted to assuage the robot's concerns about feeling different from the others, he did very little to actually include her in the current mission. In essence, all he does is tell her to don't feel too bad about being left out... before leaving her out altogether. Still, Jocasta is smart and capable enough to determine that the threat the Avengers are facing, the self styled Weathermen, are actually a bunch of meteorologists, mind controlled by the sentient weather satellite Samarobryn orbiting Earth. Jocasta flies a Quinjet there to confront the malovelent space station.


"The fact that I am a machine does not make me less than human!"

Jocasta keeps Samarobryn distracted, allowing the Avengers the opportunity to confront and defeat the Weathermen. Discovering their link to an orbital platform, Thor fires bolts of lightning to deal with the menace, which causes Samarobyrn to go dark. Figuring the threat has passed, Jocasta returns to the mansion where she eventually encounters her neglectful comrades in arms.


"Again, Jocasta, we are sorry that you were overlooked when Cap sent out that emergency alert"

... Yeah, especially since it was her one-robot stand that immobilized the Weathermen long enough for Thor to strike at Samarobryn. But hey, the Avengers were finally ready to officially make her a member... And it almost would have happened, if not for the fact Jim Shooter (Jocasta's creator!) was returning as regular Avengers scribe in #211, forcing fill in writer Bill Mantlo to have Cap and Iron Man announce that next issue "the old order changeth!"

The 1980s Shooter era Avengers is much maligned, a fact covered extensively on this blog in years past. In a nutshell, Captain America out of nowhere decided that there was only room for six Avengers, allowing the active membership until the end of the day to decide whether they wanted to stay or not. Oddly enough, it led to a lot of soul searching on Jocasta's part, even though she wasn't even a full member. Though she probably should know better by now, she turned to the Vision for advice...


"I feel like an outsider here... And yet, I have nowhere else to go! You've learned to fit in, even though you're a robot, as I am. Please... help me to..."

Vision's response to Jocasta's obvious distress is enough to turn not just a synthezoid's face red: "I am a synthezoid, not a robot! As such, I am a perfect meld of computer micro-circuitry and living, synthetic flesh! In all ways, I am a fully functional man! I have a wife... Who needs me now! I cannot help you with your dilemma." It's hard not to feel disgusted while reading this. Yes, there *is* a noteworthy difference between synthezoids and robots. In spite of Vision's continued, self superior denial, the fact remains they share more similarities than differences. Which is something Jocasta finally caught wise to as well when she was left alone in a corridor.


"Why then, am I less than you? Is it because you are loved... And I am alone?
Ultron... loved me..."

Jocasta's morose musings were interrupted by a veritable mob of superheroes who besieged Avengers Mansion, eager to apply for membership. After the likes of Moon Knight, Angel, Iceman, Tigra and Dazzler had barged in for impromptu auditions no one quite felt at ease with, it was Jocasta (who else?) to find out the true culprit behind these cattle calls.


"Avengers! Look! My cybernetic senses detect a sudden presence there!"

Yes, it turned out the self-important Moondragon had decided she'd be best suited to help the Avengers determine their latest line up. When the heroes chased her off, most of the involuntary applicants left as well. Only Tigra decided she wanted to stay, while long time members Beast, Vision, Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man decided to quit.

You'd think that would leave plenty of room for someone, anyone, to invite Jocasta to move on up...  Heck, you'd assume that a heuristically inclined cybernetic lifeform would have figured out by now that she had to speak up for herself. Alas, no... she kept quiet when the new team was decided on before her very eyes: Cap, Thor and Iron Man remained on to welcome back their co-founders Wasp and Yellowjacket along with Tigra to fulfill the newly authorized six member mandate. And this is how Jocasta responded...


"Maybe I'll find someplace where I am wanted! Maybe I'l find someone who... loves me!"

And with that, Jocasta lept out of the Avengers' lives... Finally figuring that enough is too much, she struck out on her own. But, in a twist of fate befalling her Greek tragedy inspired codename... If only she'd stuck around for five minutes more...


"I hope she comes back!"

The Avengers had planned to grant her "special substitute Avenger status", allowing her to reside at the mansion so she could be constantly available to pinch hit for members who were unavailable. So... Essentially, after not keeping their promise of full membership for heaven knows how many weeks, the Avengers are dumbstruck when Jocasta left, especially when they were ready to grant her the gift of... well, being allowed to do exactly what she was doing the minute she first associated with the team back in late 1978! 

However, life without the Avengers proved shortlived for our robotic heroine as we'll see in part IV: "Jocasta of Arc"

4 comments:

  1. I don't know if you will mention it but an 'Epilogue' of sorts to this era of Jocasta occurs in What If #38 (published April 1983) entitled 'What if the Scarlet Witch grew old?'. Even though it is not cannon it shows Jocasta making the ultimate sacrifice for the immortal Vision and the elderly SW. In the future, just as SW is about to die of old age, Jocasta kidnaps her and switches consciousness with the SW, putting Wanda in Jocasta's body. Jocasta then dies in the elderly SW body and ensuring Vision and Wanda are together forever. I remember being really touched by it as a kid as I related to Jocasta's person non grata status.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I wasn't planning on featuring any of the What If? Jocasta appearances in this retrospective, but I do remember that issue. It always struck me as a bit odd, considering the already complex and convoluted family relationships. Jocasta's mind was based on the Wasp, who was married to Hank, the "father" of Ultron, who in turn helped "birth" the Vision. So in a sense Vision spent eternity loving a lobotomized copy of his dead grandmother...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Just chiming in to say I love these Jocasta posts. 'Casta was always really cool, and you've showcased some nice moments when she's really stepped up and shown her worthiness to hang with the heavy hitters.

    Boy, do I ever remember that notorious issue 211, perhaps my first instance of fanboy rage. Beast, Wonder Man, Vision and Scarlet Witch all leaving to be essentially replaced by...Tigra? Devastating stuff. And Jocasta jumping out the window was just one more twist of the knife.

    And it was funny because Avengers Annual #10 appeared out of current continuity, so at the same time the main book featured the lame Tigra-ized version, we got to see that same month how awesome the "classic" version was (even if they did all get yelled at by Carol Danvers).

    Fun stuff.

    david p.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Jocasta is one of my favorite characters just because she was not so over exposed like the rest of the other Avengers. After their encounter with the Taskmaster, it seems like Jocasta was taking more front and center position with the team as she was beginning to be featured on the covers. That kind of ended after issue 200, you don't see her gracing the cover afterwards except for 204 when the team was battling the Yellow Claw; and in that two issued storyline, Jocasta have only two or three lines of dialogue. I don't know if her story arc from her debut to #211 was intentional or not. Did the writers deliberately wrote her this way, or they just didn't know what to do with her and she just kind of hung around.

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails