Tuesday, July 14, 2015

1981: The Jocasta's On You Part IV: Jocasta of Arc

By Jef Willemsen (clarmindcontrol.blogspot.com)

In the fourth and final part of our Jocasta retrospective, the metal madame strikes out on her own, only to find life outside of Avengers Mansion ain't what it cracked up to be. And boy, does she end up cracked a lot. 




After being treated like dirt by the Avengers for close to five years worth of comics, Jocasta left the team in September 1981's Avengers I#211. She didn't make any further appearances until over a year later when Tom DeFalco decided to include her in a Marvel Two-In-One two parter. In those days, the series was a vehicle for the Thing to have adventures with the guest star of the month, showcasing the most popular FF member with whatever B-lister most in need of a plug.

To be fair, though the bulk of the DeFalco era Marvel Two-In-Ones consisted of perfectly fine, well crafted tales, they exactly contain any major status quo shaking events... That is, unless no one cared about the character. Oh Jocasta, I got a bad feeling about this...


"I was always present in the background... like a trained pet... or a forgotten piece of furniture!"

It's striking to see it took DeFalco only four panels to hammer home Jocasta's plight. The Avengers took her for granted and that's why she left to make a life for herself in "the real world". However, she soon ran into trouble there as well, suffering from strange, debilitating dreams. Ashamed to return to the Avengers for help, Jocasta turned to the FF for aid to find allies in Thing and his girlfriend Alicia Masters.

However, the reason for her strange dreams soon became apparent: they were caused by a post-hypnotic command implanted in her mind by her creator/husband Ultron who had planned to have his bride rebuild him in the unlikely event he was ever destroyed. He left similar instructions in the mind of Iron Man, who helped remake the adamantium baddie back in Avengers I#202... And oddly enough, he had Jocasta short-circuited to make sure she wouldn't catch wise to what he was doing.

That confrontation ended with Ultron trapped in rapidly hardening adamantium, but the mind controlled Jocasta found a way to release her husband. Moments after regaining his freedom, Ultron thanked his "wife" the only way he knew how.


"Though you are my chosen mate, you were ever the pawn, ever the plaything!"

Ah yeah, that elongated arm coming to Jocasta's rescue belongs to Machine Man. He got involved in this caper when the Thing happened to be visiting with him when Alicia called Ben to report "a lady robot" had gone mad (Under Ultron's influence, Jocasta had freaked out during one of Alicia's exhibits before running off to free Ultron). Intrigued by the notion of a "lady robot", he used his own cybernetic senses to find her before Thing could.  

In the end, Thing arrived on the scene only to fall prey to Ultron's hypnotic powers. He sent the FF member against Jocasta and Machine Man who had gotten pretty banged up fighting Ultron. The two automatons decided to beat a hasty retreat, leaving behind the gloating Ultron and his accomplice.

In Marvel Two-In-One I#93, the impossible happened when Jocasta realized she wasn't alone in this world. Machine Man showed her he was just like her: a robot in a man's world, fighting to make a life for himself. It sparked the beginning of an unexpected romance between the two characters that some considered hastily contrived and completely out of left field...

"We'll beat him! I promise."

And while it's true that DeFalco didn't waste any time pairing off these two tin plated paramours, it does make a decent amount of sense. For most of her time with the Avengers, which is pretty much all her life, Jocasta was looking for someone to connect with. Machine Man experienced a very similar sense of alienation, even though he was part of everyday life as Aaron Stack. In the end, having the two connect felt ever so meaningful and well deserved.


"You don't have to be alone anymore!"

Alas, the budding robotic romance would prove to be short lived. Machine Man and Jocasta decided they needed to stop Ultron from carrying out his latest master plan against mankind. During the struggle, Jocasta once more faced the creature that created her to be his.


"I created you! You belong to me!"

But Jocasta once again denied her creator, proving she was more than her programming. She tried to prevent Ultron from killing her friends, only to catch the brunt of his power cannon. The metal lady didn't live to tell the tale. 


"Jocasta, you were always the misguided, optimistic fool... The witless pawn!"

Enraged, Machine Man and the newly freed Thing eventually took down Ultron, only to be left with the sad realization that even in victory there could be defeat.


"Goodbye, Jocastta. Your friends will miss you..."

Back in November of 1982, Tom DeFalco probably had no idea how true those words would turn out to be. After all, the defining part of Jocasta's shtick was the fact even her closest friends had trouble remembering she was around... on a good day. That makes the following scene from the Roger Stern penned Avengers I#231 all the more poignant. Cover dated May, 1983... The Avengers assembled to pay tribute to one of their own who never truly was.

Of all people, Vision decided to deliver the eulogy.


"The robot Jocasta was never officially an Avenger. In truth, we barely knew her."


... Yeah, and not for lack of trying either, Vizh. His words truly rang hollow, given the fact poor ol' 'Casta bent over backwards to get to know you and all the other Avengers the second she arrived at the mansion. It's also telling that the Avengers didn't decide to posthumously vote her in, like they did when Captain Marvel and Mantis seemingly passed beyond the veil. Still, to be remembered at all is preferable to being totally forgotten and artist Al Milgrom did a bang up job showing the individual Avengers' reactions to the departure of one of their own. 

But truth be told, Jocasta wasn't forgotten, not by Machine Man at least. In the latter days of Roger Stern's Avengers, a storyline popped up in which the Supreme Adaptoid went around recruiting sentient robots as part of his "Heavy Metal" team. He even got Machine Man to join after promising Stack to help rebuild Jocasta (which would mean the Avengers buried an empty coffin). 


"My hopes for your revival have risen again, my Jocasta."

Unfortunately for Stack, the Avengers would stop the Adaptoid well before he even had half a chance to rebuild Jocasta. However, right before the 80s came to a close she briefly returned back to life in Avengers Annual I#17, the closing chapter of the rather abysmal Evolutionary War crossover. The High Evolutionary had built a genetic bomb that upon detonation would evolve all of humanity, Figuring the Avengers might be a problem, he ordered Jocasta's reconstruction when he deduced her accurate cybernetic memory might contain all the data he needed to deal with his possible foes. Using the robot's remains, the Evolutionary's accomplices rebuilt Jocasta.

Turns out she still wasn't ready to help a villain, any villain.


"Thrablam!"

Now, I'm no counter intelligence expert... but if one needed to gather information from a possibly hostile source, you probably don't need to arm her to the teeth. In fact, since most of the knowledge you want is inside her head, why bother with the rest? Finding herself restored, Jocasta quickly defeated her captors and rushed to phone the Avengers about the current crisis.

Of course, technically there weren't any Avengers to contact. The team had disbanded following the recent Dr. Druid tragedy, so Jocasta's call was handled by the Hydrobase automated phone service. It decided the threat warranted a response and summoned a rag tag team of reservists: Falcon, Beast, Hulk, Hercules, Captain America... and Rita DeMarra, the female Yellowjacket who was drawn to Hydrobase just to shut off the alarm that kept going off in Hank Pym's old helmet. Together, they located Jocasta, learned of the Evolutionary's plans and decided to stop him. But not before the good Captain got in a nice lil' dig at her expense. 


"Yes, you did, ma'am... Before we could ask you to join us on special status"

So much for "Jocasta! Thank heavens you're still alive". First, they question her allegiance, then they doubt if she's even real, topped off by Cap's stern lecture on her leaving the Avengers before they could do her the tremendous favor of not allowing her to join. And the irony of it all is that the High Evolutionary brought on his downfall by reconstructing Jocasta. If she hadn't been around, his master plan would have gone unopposed. By the time they reached him, the Evolutionary decided to repay her in kind.


"OH!"

Talk about the shortest comeback in the business... The other Avengers fight on, with Hercules finally taking the Evolutionary down by "evolving beyond godhood" (don't ask). And guess what, Jocasta was still alive, thanks to Yellowjacket's aid. Instead of just laying there in pieces, Jocasta had plugged herself into the base's mainframe, cracked the computer's security code only to discover the genetic bomb was about to go off... She decided to stay behind and force it to self destruct.



So, here we go again... 


"You must leave now, hurry. And godspeed. Goodbye, Captain"

And with that send off, Jocasta died for the second time in one decade. The 80s weren't too kind to a character that basically needed a little love, just like the humans and synthezoids who denied her. After saving humanity, Jocasta was finally made an Avenger but, to add insult to injury, that didn't exactly mean a thing because the team was still disbanded. 

Jocasta was gone but not forgotten. In the years that followed, she reappeared in numerous forms: an alternate reality, golden Jocasta fought the Avengers as a member of the Gatherers, Some time later, Iron Man discovered that Jocasta's computer mind had survived as programming. He used her services as a major domo of sorts before at long last in the late 2000s Hank Pym rebuilt her... And then started dating her. Because hey, sleeping with the robot whose personality was a copy of your ex wife is healthy.

Then again, who could say no to this doll*?



*... Except for most everyone all the time during the 1970s and 80s, of course.

2 comments:

  1. Jef and Jason, thanks for this tremendously entertaining and informative four-part Jocasta series. I agree completely with Jef's views on the character and appreciate his humorous but dead-on appraisal of her history and treatment by the Avengers. This fourth entry has led me to purchasing #92-93 of Marvel Two-in-One as well several more in that series, which was a comic I never read as a kid(!). Thanks to this post I also have a new-found appreciation for Ben Grimm, too.

    My second-ever issue of The Avengers was #231, the issue with Jocasta's funeral. My first issue was #190 so I really had no idea who she was. I had to go back and learn about her through back-ish-buying and I'm so glad I did. She is a tragic character, indeed, and so striking looking. In fact, Bowen Designs did a remarkable job on her with their Jocasta chrome variant--look it up when you get the chance.

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  2. Hey C.K., thanks for the comment. Glad you enjoyed the series. Jef did a great job, as usual!

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