Medusa of the Inhumans: Villain or Misunderstood Fugitive?

 Medusa was first introduced in FF #36 in a flashback told by the Wizard as he muses over how fortunate it was that Paste Pot Pete (soon, the Trapster) and Sandman stole a jet plane after breaking out of prison and snagged him from floating away in the upper atmosphere.  All three hated Johnny Storm, and something one of them says triggers a thought, a memory from the Wizard that if only they had a fourth, female member, they could be the equal of the FF...an evil FF. The Frightful Four...

He thinks he has just the candidate, a wild, ferocious woman wearing tattered buckskin dress* that he witnessed make short work of a team of French policemen. It was Medusa, hiding from the law. Her long live flowing tress whipped the police in short order. He says she was magnificent.  He's sure he could convince her to join them.

Flash forward to a few days later as he introduces Madam Medusa in a violet and purple outfit to Pete and the Sandman. She asks "why does HE not have a costume" of the Sandman, who makes a play for her saying, "I don't NEED one, baby. Wait til you see me in action, Then you'll know why."  hehehe...  The Frightful Four assemble for the first time. (Note the bizarre French headdress she wears this time only. It will be almost 30 years later before DC tries to re-invent the Creeper as a french woman that we see this style of headress again!)

The Evil FF set up the good FF during the planning for Reed and Sue's wedding, and Medusa proves to be a cunning and possibly deadly adversary.  The Evil FF escape and return, beating the FF through divide and conquer time and time again, and in #38 they lure the FF to a pacific atoll where an A-bomb has been left behind, and strand the FF there to take the impact of the bomb (similar threat used in #28 with the X-men guest-starring)...and they figure they're gone when the bomb goes off. But they hadn't reckoned with Sue's force field. 

The evil FF are cautious in their return to the Baxter Building to loot it, and in a clever cross-over with Thor's adventure, they mistake Balder's flaming arrival on earth for evidence that the Torch has survived the A-bomb, and flee.  But a short time later after a pitched battle with Dr. Doom on the streets of manhattan, they are in hidding in the suburbs. and when they lure Ben away from the FF and use the Wizard's I.D. machine (hither to unknown or unmentioned) to try to tinker with his mind and turn him against the FF, a battle royal ensues.  Johnny is captured and also subjected to the I.D. machine. However, unknown to all, Sue had turned invisible and sabotaged the machine...Johnny's faking his agressive allegence to them. 

Reed and Sue kidnap a fighting mad Thing from the Evil FF and take him home to the HQ, where Reed trys to reset Ben's mind. The Evil FF show up with Johnny held hostage, and demand their surrender (for what purpose?) and Reed stalls for time as Ben wakes up. In one of the most dramatic turn-arounds of all time, Ben grabs the Wizard by the chest and crushes his suit, freeing Johnny as well, and the evil FF are rounded up...all except Medusa, who Johnny "lets" escape, as he starts daydreaming/fantasizing about her as she runs into the ship to fly off.  End of the 3 part story arc as Reed and Sue are about to get married.

 

Medusa, on the run from someone named "Gorgan", stows away in Johnny's car at Empire U campus and the tale of the Inhuman's arc begins. Medusa is painted sympathetically "on the run", fearing Gorgan who is hunting her, and Gorgan succeeds in kidnapping her and flying away in the FF's helicopter (guess he knows how to fly stuff).  From there out, Medusa is painted as a quasi-heroic misunderstood member of the royal family, all on the run from The Keeper...sent by Maximus the Mad to collect the royal family... and the rest is history.

 

*No, Medusa was shown in flashback as a "hardened criminal" in clothes much like Rachael Welch wore in 2 Million Years B.C. or Ursula Andrews in Dr. No.  There is NO indication she is anything but a criminal on the run on some unnamed Mediterranean Island (near France?) at first...but as this is a flashback told by the Wizard to his rescuers, who he is scheming to dominate and lead, who knows. (My theory is that he had to find her and subjugate her to his will with the I.D. Machine.)

The concept of the Inhumans is not introduced until #45, about 9 months later, after multiple appearances as a wicked threat and temptress who enjoys playing men against each other.  Jack and Stan retooled her on the fly when the response to rumors of Joe Simon starting a superhero line up fell through.

She's had a varied path since that first year, but usually as interpreter for Black Bolt, wife of the king, sister of Crystal, and more than once, substitute team member in the FF, and fast friend of the Richard's/Storm family.  More than once, the evil FF have attempted to manipulate her back into their fold, to their regret and dismay, she's foiled their plans. (Marvel Super-Heroes #15 and others)

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That must have been when her run in with Spiderman occurred.
http://members.ttlc.net/~mso/1570_4_0062.jpg

When I first started reading comics the first time I saw the Frightful Four was when they captured the FF, took over their headquarters and advertised for a fourth member. At the time they seemed pretty threatening. I guess the main problem they had was that Medusa was a great fourth member and they never really did find a replacement.

I noticed that in ASM and MSH she wore 2 different costumes that she never wore before or since.  Since MSH had a tendency to run stories that had been sitting around for months before they were published, and both books came out the SAME month, I'd guess MSH took place before ASM.

I get the feeling that Medusa was meant to be "evil" at the beginning but Stan and/or Jack got fond of her and made her the third Marvel villainess to reform after the Scarlet Witch and the Black Widow. As for her link with the Inhumans, they may have been created seperately but with names like Gorgon and Triton, absorbing the not-given-an-origin Medusa wasn't that hard.

Still the heroes had to consider her dangerous given

and

Interesting to note that the three reformed villainesses were all picked by "Valkyrie".

 

At least 2 other MSH stories had clearly sat on the shelves for months before being printed.  The KA-ZAR story begins in England, and features his return to the Savage Land.  Yet I believe it came out a few months after the 2-parter n X-MEN where he had already returned there.  (When I set up a KA-ZAR page at the SA Marvel website, I put the books in order according to when they should be read, not when they came out!)

The other that comes to mind is the SPIDER-MAN story, which was Ross Andru's 1st Marvel work.  In years past, I had only read that completely out of sequence.  But a few years ago, I read it as part of my general chronological re-reading project, and I noticed something funny.  If you focus entirely on the pictures, and ignore the dialogue, all evidence would suggest that Harry & Gwen are a couple, and Pete & MJ are a couple.  But by the time it was published, things had changed... and so, in the dialogue, Pete & Gwen are a couple.

If you ask me, when they reprinted all the Spidey stories from that period (assuming they included that one), they should have slotted it in sequence where it was originally intended... and "fixed" some of the dialogue.

This is actually similar to how I feel about the FRIGHTFUL FOUR and INHUMANS stories Kirk is discussing here.  In the comics, Jack Kirby was writing the stories entirely on his own, with virtually no input from his editor.  Afterwards, Stan Lee, with no discussion with Kirby, and having no idea what was going on except for the evidence of the illustrations and Kirby's margin notes and dialogue, would write or RE-write dialogue to fit his preferred "hip" style. And because you have 2 writers working on books who were NOT actually "collaborating" (collaborating, to me, is two guys who are working together, talking and exchanging ideas all the tme, and working toward a MUTUALLY-desired and agreed-upon result), MISTAKES would creep in.

Now here's something WEIRD.  Some years back, my best friend sent me a videotape with a few FF cartoons from the early 90's.  They happened to be doing some adaptations from the comics.  To my own personal taste, I didn't like the character designs, the drawing, the animation, the voices, the music.. I mean, this show really DID NOT "do it" for me.  Except for ONE very odd thing.  They adapted the FRIGHTFUL FOUR / INHUMANS issues (while skipping the wedding in between).  And when they did... they FIXED the MISTAKES!!!  It blew my mind when I saw it. Every single aspect of those cartoons rubbed me the wrong way, especially when compared to the 1967 Hanna-Barbera series that Alex Toth supervised.  But they FIXED the logical and continuity errors that have plagued the comics since they were published.  I could hardly believe it.  Someone on that show had really done their research!

It made me wish someone would take the script from the cartoons, go over the original comic-book version, and FIX the dialogue at certain key points, so the damned story would MAKE MORE SENSE.  And you know what?  I don't remember the details (so, please don't ask), but I have the strongest feeling it wouldn't take much "fixing".  Maybe only a FEW word balloons in the entire story.

Jim Steranko was right.  Marvel really DID need an editor!     : )

Mark, Re-reading your comment about Medusa's conflict with Spidey in ASM #62...it dawns on me that you're concluding that conflict occurred during her "fugitive from the French period" or while affiliated with the evil FF.  

But that's not true. If you read the single issue adventure with Spidey you'll see that she's on another re-con mission for Black Bolt, trying to see if it's safe for them to come out of hiding yet...and concluding that they're not ready to mix yet.

She's written very different with each appearance.  I would say this is the new, modern Medusa, mixed with a streak of independent woman and women's lib mixed in.

The story in MSH #15 was the second attempt. The first effort was scrapped entirely as the direction was deemed not right. And if you read the published story, it's obvious that the evil FF is trying to recruit her again for something, and  that they've lied to her. She gets them in the end, though she has to be saved from falling by Black Bolt at the end. So, yes, it's likely the MSH story had been delayed a bit.

I didn't particularly care for either of her solo outfits. Nor do I care for many of her outfits while she's on the FF team [nor her first original headdress ..which hides most of her head... The Second costume was much much better. Let that red hair fly (much as Marvel Girl did too!}]

Recently, I went through the MSH 15 story and looked for padding or natural story breaks at 10 or 20 page intervals, and found what I thought might have been some places where the story could have been broken up...as if it had been intended for the Tales of the Inhumans back-up feature in Thor... however, it was drawn by a totally different artist (Gene Colan vs. Jack Kirby), and so, I think that it wasn't likely it ever was intended for that use.

PS: The fact that Valkyrie selected three reformed female heroes isn't all that remarkable. They were looking for a team of females...all affiliated with the Avengers....or unattached at the time.  So the pool of candidates to draw from isn't all that large.

Henry R. Kujawa said:

The other that comes to mind is the SPIDER-MAN story, which was Ross Andru's 1st Marvel work. In years past, I had only read that completely out of sequence. But a few years ago, I read it as part of my general chronological re-reading project, and I noticed something funny. If you focus entirely on the pictures, and ignore the dialogue, all evidence would suggest that Harry & Gwen are a couple, and Pete & MJ are a couple. But by the time it was published, things had changed... and so, in the dialogue, Pete & Gwen are a couple.
If you ask me, when they reprinted all the Spidey stories from that period (assuming they included that one), they should have slotted it in sequence where it was originally intended... and "fixed" some of the dialogue.


I used to have the original, but your comment prompted me to dig out the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN MMW VOL 7. This is the volume that reprinted the two magazine-size SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN issues. They reprinted them in cover-date order, printing SSM 1 immediately after the Medusa issue (ASM 62). Looking at the scenes with Peter, Harry, Gwen, and Mary Jane, I can't see what you see.


First, Mary Jane is in a car with Harry, saying hello to Peter and offering him a campaign button for the (evil) politician in the story. Then we see Peter arriving at Gwen's door and pinning a corsage on her. We then see them arriving at a campaign dinner/dance for the aforementioned politician. Mary Jane is there acting as an usher. She makes a kidding comment to Gwen. Peter is all over Gwen in every scene. When we next see Mary Jane she is walking out with Pete and Gwen but the art (not just the dialogue) makes it clear she is just a friend and Pete and Gwen are very lovey-dovey. Then we see Gwen riding on the back of Pete's motorcycle. Harry is only seen in the earlier scene with Mary Jane and later in the story in a single panel in Chemistry class sitting in the vicinity of Gwen at a student desk. Unless they redrew the entire story, I don’t see how anyone could get Harry and Gwen as a couple from all this.

Marvel often struggled with female characters - they were either weeping girlfriends (Bettys Brant and Ross or Jane Foster) or weak team players (Sue Storm, Marvel Girl, Wasp) or reformed villains (Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and Medusa). It wasn't until the Bronze Age we got strong females.

Philip Portelli said:

I get the feeling that Medusa was meant to be "evil" at the beginning but Stan and/or Jack got fond of her and made her the third Marvel villainess to reform after the Scarlet Witch and the Black Widow. As for her link with the Inhumans, they may have been created seperately but with names like Gorgon and Triton, absorbing the not-given-an-origin Medusa wasn't that hard.



Kirk G said:

Mark, Re-reading your comment about Medusa's conflict with Spidey in ASM #62...it dawns on me that you're concluding that conflict occurred during her "fugitive from the French period" or while affiliated with the evil FF.  

But that's not true. If you read the single issue adventure with Spidey you'll see that she's on another re-con mission for Black Bolt, trying to see if it's safe for them to come out of hiding yet...and concluding that they're not ready to mix yet.

She's written very different with each appearance.  I would say this is the new, modern Medusa, mixed with a streak of independent woman and women's lib mixed in.

 

I don't have the issue, just a scan of the cover.



Dandy Forsdyke said:

Marvel often struggled with female characters - they were either weeping girlfriends (Bettys Brant and Ross or Jane Foster) or weak team players (Sue Storm, Marvel Girl, Wasp) or reformed villains (Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and Medusa). It wasn't until the Bronze Age we got strong females.

Philip Portelli said:

I get the feeling that Medusa was meant to be "evil" at the beginning but Stan and/or Jack got fond of her and made her the third Marvel villainess to reform after the Scarlet Witch and the Black Widow. As for her link with the Inhumans, they may have been created seperately but with names like Gorgon and Triton, absorbing the not-given-an-origin Medusa wasn't that hard.

I think that it was a hard era to write women in comics.

When I think about it when I started reading comics in 1974 I didn't notice a lot of weak female characters. Maybe it was the comics that I was reading, most marvel at the time. The Avengers, the FF, the women didn't seem to lack anything that the men did except maybe some raw power. Beverly didn't seem as streetwise as Howard but she was an equal partner.
But it was a very confusing time in many ways for me. I had an older sister and a mother, most of my teachers were women... as far as I could tell women ran things, what was 'women's lib' about? Though it was portrayed often in tv shows I never saw any hint of the rivalry between men and women in my house. I remember being very confused when a critic panned Barbie Benton's sitcom, saying she got it only because of her relationship with Hugh Hefner. What did that matter, it was a funny show. Ever go through a time in your life when you never understand the arguments everyone else seems to be having?

I'm with you, Mark.  I didn't see the need or the clash in Women's lib when I was young either.

Every so often, I'll hear the resentment bubble up these days among co-workers and my wife, but it's not a big issue where we live today.  Still, "It's a man's world..."

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