Monday, January 14, 2013

Meet The Team: Miss America

Mysterious Girl, our Miss America.


In the earliest prototype stages of Young Avengers, I hit the “Can’t use Eli” note and decided I’d like someone to fill that visual niche. This was before I’d nailed down entirely what I was doing, and wanted to keep at least some of the “Mirroring Niches Of Other Avengers” aspect of the team. I needed a Captain America in the red-white-and-blue.

Did anyone come to mind?

And in one of those quirks of fate that are so appealing, I’d just finished Casey/Dragota’s Vengeance mini. And right there was Miss America Chavez, who even in the group-cast and dizzying structure,  came across as the lead. Hyper-strong flying hero with lack of respect for traditional heroes and had been doing the save the world thing on the down-low for years. As she put it, you couldn’t pay her to be an Avenger.

Ah. Let’s have her. She’s great.

I didn’t even realise she was re-using the name of an old character. She’s new. She clearly bears no relation whatsoever to her forebear. I half think she doesn’t even know that anyone else used the name, which is why she’s particularly useful for the cast.

One of the themes of the book is about becoming yourself. The previous Young Avengers was all about this relationship with older people, taking on their roles in order to become what you want to be – which is fundamentally, cosplay as life-direction choice. And that’s fine. That’s just how you grow. I’ve written a lot about that transitional stage in books like Phonogram. You find your own way. Anyone who’s written has a shitload of stuff before you find your own voice which stinks of other people’s. This is just how life works.

What Miss America allows is showing someone who is as much a hero as anyone the cast has ever met, but is only a little older. And if she’s doing this, by herself, and has been for years… why not you?  She’s the cool new friend who’s just more worldly than you are, and by knowing them, you get your own expectations scrambled.

In most fiction, you’d probably make her from one of the world’s major cities and move her to the suburbs. In superhero fiction, we dramatise it through the metaphor, and make her have spent a lot of her time in other dimensions. She’s been to places you haven’t. She’s not just living in New York when we first meet her in the .1 story – she’s meeting in a platonic perfect ideal of New York, where the metropolis has swept the entire globe and there’s mountains made of statues of liberty. She’s seen things that Billy and Teddy haven’t even dreamt of. Generally speaking, she’s pretty cool. Which is tricky to write without being try-too-hard.

Mainly I think she pulls it off because she knows that being cool is bullshit.

She’s violent. Which could be seen as skirting a latina-girl-with-fiery-temper stereotype.

But she hasn’t a temper. Or, at least, none that we’ve seen on the page. She’s just terribly direct and believes that appropriate levels of violence are acceptable. She has little tolerance for games. That scene in the .1 issue, we meet her, showing her put up her defences and then start fencing with Loki… before exploding into action.

Before it kicks off, there’s two panels which Jamie renders beautifully.

1) She puts down her chopsticks, very precicely and carefully.

2) She apologises to the waitress and promises to pay for any damages.

That’s not a temper.

That’s control.

Her nailed-down-emotions is absolutely key to her.

She plays her cards close to her chest.

She’s probably swallowed her cards.

Because while everyone’s going to be looking at Loki, what’s the deal with Miss America is as big a mystery. There’s already enough in the .1 to allow people to pick over, and that only grows in her first one. The unspoken we-know-stuff-we’re-not-telling-people between America and Loki is the heart of the dynamic.

Mystery, let us Journey Into It, etc.

I’m not even 100% sure whether I’ll reveal the full extent of her background. I know them. I’ll hint at them, but part of me likes just leaving the pieces there for everyone to put together by themselves.

Or maybe I will.

Man, I’m terrible.

One more thing: the costume. Jamie killed on it. For her to fill the role, she needed to look the part. You know when Jamie hits, because the cosplayers go wild. Hell, if I had the legs, I’d be wearing it too.


(There’s probably an essay on Miss America’s thighs somewhere.)

Honestly, the exact moment when I realised this would actually turn out okay was when Jamie and Mike sent me the first panel of the .1 issue. The scale, the sense of movement and grace, the costume juxtaposed against this imaginary cityscape that offered up more detail the more you looked at it…

You get a panel like that, and you feel exhilarated. I felt I was flying. I immediately paid it the highest compliment a comic writer can give, and stripped captions. Five of them. Why say anything when the image said everything? Cut it down to “I WAS ON EARTH-212” to create the off-handed context and sense of elsewhere and roll with the Azealia Banks nod.

Not a bad job, sometimes.

Don’t Be A Hard Rock
When You Really Are A Gem.


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    As if I needed another reason to love her, I get a 212 reference
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