The Cat, and other STRONG Women of the '70s Marvel

I was reading the advance excerpts from the new book "Marvel Comics: The Untold Story" that is due out October 9th.


I am very interested in this, as it gave me insight into a era of Marvel Comics that I had tuned away from as a young man in high school.  SOME of the issues and developments that they discussed, I recalled seeing hit the stands, and most discouraged me. It just seemed like they had lost their way.

I vaguely recall seeing a copy of "The Cat" #1 hit the stands, but I'm sure if I saw Commander Kracian on the cover I would have fled big time.

 

I was amazed to read in the extended excerpt about a stunt alledgedly pulled by Wally Wood, where it was said that he had inked the cover figure of the Cat, and that she was without clothes.  It's not clear if that was the intent, or if that was just the impact of the inking job.  The excerpt went onto say that white out was used to remove nipples and pubic hair. (see quote below)...

 

"Like Luke Cage, the Cat was subjected to medical experiments that gave her super powers. Instead of just super-strength, though, Greer Grant, formerly a docile homemaker, was given an intensified "women's intuition." (Two years later, the character was subjected to radiation, which transformed her into a furry, striped feline named Tigra. Her costume was simply a bikini.) Alas, the message of empowerment was lost on Wally Wood, whom Stan Lee hired to ink the cover of The Cat #1. Wood sent back Marie Severin's pencil art with the heroine's clothes completely removed, and Severin — who'd had more than her fill of boys' club shenanigans over the years — had to white out the Cat's nipples and pubic hair."

 

I've been looking on ebay and GCD at the cover of the first issue, and now that it's been mentioned, I think I can see this. But I'm wondering if the original artwork is around.  What do you think it showed?

 

Also, considering that The Cat became the fury, nude Tigra in the next integration, I wonder if there had been some thought that she was ALWAYS supposed to be rendered this way? (that is, in the fury all-together.)  Does anyone know?

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I found an image of what is described as Wood's "character design sketch" for the character in which she's posed as she is on the cover and in which her body was apparently drawn nude, for which reason I feel unable to link to it. I don't recall having heard that Wood designed the character - Marie Severin pencilled the issue - but it's possible. It may be the story properly has to do with Wood's concept sketch rather than his handling of the inking of the issue. A page of the original art from the issue can be seen here and a review with an image of the same page as published is here.

Her mask resembles Wolverine's as designed by John Romita, which might mean Romita had a hand in her design too.

I thought that story was hilarious.

THE CAT #1 was reprinted in THE SUPERHERO WOMEN, which is where I have it.

All 3 "women" books strike me as being so hoplessly "generic" in design & intent, it seems clear they were "editorially-driven", as was LUKE CAGE HERO FOR HIRE.  Unlike the latter, the 3 "women" books never quite got top talent, or even consistent handling.  Not a way to start any new series successfully.

I've always felt it would be much better if some creative person came up with a series they wanted to do, and pitched it to a company... as opposed to that company's editor(s) coming up with a concept, then looking around for some hired hands to do it for them.  (Look how long it took before IRON FIST settled down to a stable team... of course, in that case, I've always felt Moench, Hama & Giordano were better than what came before or after them.)

As for THE CAT, I think Wally Wood was probably doing CANNON and SALLY FORTH for an armed forces newspaper at the time.  Both features had nudity on every single page!

I take it the other two women books were "Night Nurse" and "Sheena the She Devil"?

Kirk, I've sent you a message with a link to the image. It might be an inked version of someone else's sketch, but I don't know for sure.

I see slight variations between the Wally Wood character sketch, and the printed cover.  No question that it's the same pose, but I see some changes in the position of some fingers, the size of the cowl, and, of course, the costume itself.

Frankly, I don't see it as pornographic... but frank, and revealing...yes.  I can understand why rumors might grow up around it and the purpose of the image.

I agree with Henry that there is no heart in a character that is created 'for' the reader. The "Hey, there is a gap in the market for a [[whatever]] character, lets make one up!" Especially as The Cat was a take off of DC's Catwoman.


I couldn't understand why Marvel just didn't persevere with the Black Widow myself. I'm sure I read that Ms Marvel was originally planned to be Jean Grey which I though was an interesting idea.

I reread The Cat #1 from The Super-Hero Women and found it amusing that Greer Nelson was totally dominated by her police-officer husband whom she loved dearly. Her "liberation" came from being a widow; to quote Madeline Kahn from Clue, "It's a matter of life after death. Now that he's dead, I have a life!"

Also interesting was that her powers were not connected to her costume. Yes there were the extendable claws (pre-Wolverine) and the night vision. But the strength, speed and agility were given to her by treatments. She also had hyper-intelligence and empathic senses, which were never brought up again when she became Tigra.

Apparently Steve Englehart used the scene where Greer finds multiple Cat-suits as the impetus for turning Patsy Walker into the Hellcat, claiming it's the suit that grants the powers but that was never the original intent.

In The Super-Hero Women, Stan admits that The Cat was a failure but thinks that she could return. But in the epilogue, Stan lists other Marvel heroines including Phoenix (though Marvel Girl was excluded from TSHW lineup), Storm, Spider-Woman.....and Tigra. $5 would get me $20 that Stan had no idea that the Were-Woman was once the Cat!

Oh, there was the rumor that Ms. Marvel was originally supposed to be a powered up Marvel Girl but most readers thought that would never work!

Am I correct in thinking that the biggest female comic book was Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane? Wonder Woman had a history of always been a poor seller, apart from the Golden Age. I wonder how Betty & Veronica compared as I think Archie outsold everything in 1970.

Dandy Forsdkye:

"I agree with Henry that there is no heart in a character that is created 'for' the reader. The "Hey, there is a gap in the market for a [[whatever]] character, lets make one up!" Especially as The Cat was a take off of DC's Catwoman."

I remember reading about STARMAN. 5 editors and an artist. Looked good, but less filling.

HERO FOR HIRE, somehow, wound up much better than it might have.  Must have been the people involved.  Archie Goodwin, for God's sake!  George Tuska and Billy Graham (WOW!!!). Steve Englehart (WOW!!!!!).  For 16 issues, one of the best things Marvel put out! But then... oy. I often think it never recovered from the change to POWER MAN.  They lost Englehart, Graham, and then Tuska. And the new writer, Len Wein, only stuck around a handul of issues. They might as well have put it on hiatus until or unless they'd found a team who really wanted to do it, and stick around long-term.

The SHAFT film series got derailed as well, come to think of it.  I love all 3 feature films, but the 3rd one is notable because apparently it was taken over by an all-white production team. But that's nothing compared to the utter indiginity done to it when it was turned into a 5th-rate TV-movie series. (I've seen one episode... BAAAAAAD!!! And not in a good way.)

"I couldn't understand why Marvel just didn't persevere with the Black Widow myself. I'm sure I read that Ms Marvel was originally planned to be Jean Grey which I though was an interesting idea."

When I look back, it seems to me MS. MARVEL wound up being Marvel's "answer" to POWER GIRL. Funny, Gerry Conway worked on both of them.  Of course, POWER GIRL had Wally Wood (at first), while MS. MARVEL wound up with Jim Mooney ("the" SUPERGIRL) artist).

Seems like beyond a certain point, nobody was sure whether to keep Black Widow in DAREDEVIL or not.  Then she got pulled out to be part of THE CHAMPIONS (should that book ever have existed at all?) and then a Black Widow series (or mini-series?) by George Perez got delayed for a couple of years... I remember when it finally came out, people were saying you could see George's art had changed and you could see those issues had been sitting around for a long time before finally coming out.

I've got to admit that I never made the connection between "Marvel Girl" and "Ms. Marvel". It seems SO obvious now. And, I'm wondering if that was the genesis behind "Jean Gray" becoming "The Phoenix"... as a way to power her up. Maybe the idea had been kicked around so long, that this became the method of doing it.
Frankly, I could never understand why they did a Ms. Marvel series.... now it makes more sense...and Black Widow started out as an interesting split book, but suddenly did a shift in artists after about 3 issues... and suddenly maimed her with an all-consuming "Widow's Curse"... that would have made more sense if it had been revealed that she was under the influence of Empath or Kilgrave or even Pyscho-Man...

I couldn't figure out why Marvel had created a strong, independant female solo heroine, and then immediately crippled her.

Dandy Forsdyke said:

I agree with Henry that there is no heart in a character that is created 'for' the reader. The "Hey, there is a gap in the market for a [[whatever]] character, lets make one up!" Especially as The Cat was a take off of DC's Catwoman.
I couldn't understand why Marvel just didn't persevere with the Black Widow myself. I'm sure I read that Ms Marvel was originally planned to be Jean Grey which I though was an interesting idea.

"I couldn't figure out why Marvel had created a strong, independant female solo heroine, and then immediately crippled her."

Well, look what went on with Sharon Carter between the last few issues of Kirby (when the dialogue became completely at odds with what was in the pictures) and before Steve Englehart finally turned things around. It was "Gwen Stacy" all over again!

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