Miss America
Miss America Comics #1 (1944). Cover art by either Ken Bald or Pauline Loth (sources vary).
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceMarvel Mystery Comics #49 (Nov. 1943)
Created byOtto Binder (writer)
Al Gabriele (artist)
In-story information
Alter egoMadeline Joyce
Team affiliationsAll-Winners Squad
Liberty Legion
Invaders
AbilitiesSuperhuman strength
Flight
Enhanced stamina
Formerly:
X-ray vision

Miss America (Madeline Joyce Frank) is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. She first appeared in Marvel Mystery Comics #49 (Nov. 1943), and was created by writer Otto Binder and artist Al Gabriele for Timely Comics, the 1940s precursor of Marvel, in the period fans and historians call the Golden Age of Comic Books.[1]

Publication history

As superheroes began to fade out of fashion in the post-World War II era, comic-book publishers scrambled to explore new types of stories, characters, and audiences. In an attempt to appeal to young female readers, comics companies began introducing more female superheroes, including Timely's Blonde Phantom, Golden Girl, Namora, Sun Girl, and Venus, and its teen-humor star Millie the Model; Fox Comics' revival of Quality Comics' Phantom Lady; and DC's Black Canary.

Quality Comics had featured an unrelated character called Miss America in Military Comics in 1941 and 1942. In 1943, Timely Comics published Marvel Mystery Comics #49, featuring a new character by the name "Miss America".[2]

Following two appearances in Marvel Mystery, Timely's Miss America received her own book, Miss America Comics (no cover date) in early 1944.[3] She was the third female comic book heroine to get her own solo book, after Wonder Woman and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.[4] Some sources list Ken Bald as the cover and interior artist, though Vincent Fago, Timely's interim editor for the drafted Stan Lee, recalled, "I hired a friend from the animation business, Pauline Loth, and she did the art for the first Miss America book".[5] Fago has also stated, "I hired her at Timely when she left Fleischer's and came to New York. She did "Miss America" for us and created her costume."[6]

The series changed format with its second issue to become the larger, magazine-sized Miss America, though with the conventional comic book combination of glossy covers and newsprint interior. Initiating this format as vol. 1, #2 (Nov. 1944), the publication relegated its superhero to a secondary role and began focusing on teen-romance comics stories plus articles on such topics as cooking, fashion, and makeup. This second issue—which featured a photo-cover of an unknown model dressed in the Miss America costume—also introduced the long-running, teen-humor comics feature "Patsy Walker".

According to Jess Nevins' Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes, Miss America "fights ordinary criminals, Axis agents, Baron Shinto the Gouger, the murderous teen the Cherub, King Cobra, and the human electric eel the Shocker."[7]

Together with the single superhero comic, Miss America ran 126 issues in a complicated numbering that continued through vol. 7, #50 (March 1953), the 83rd issue. It then reverted to comic book format as Miss America vol. 1, #51–93 (April 1953 – Nov. 1958). The magazine format had used photo covers of everyday teens. In 1951, starting with vol. #7, #42 ([8]), the logo changed to Patsy Walker Starring in Miss America, with covers now depicting high schooler, Patsy, boyfriend, Buzz Baxter, and romantic-rival, Hedy Wolfe, in cartoon art by, variously, Al Jaffee or Morris Weiss.

The character appeared in a posthumous flashback in the Marvel Comics publication Giant-Size Avengers #1 (Aug. 1974).

Fictional character biography

Socially aware teenaged heiress Madeline Joyce was born in Washington, D.C., and was the niece and ward of radio mogul James Bennet, who was sponsoring a Professor Lawson, a scientist claiming to have gotten superpowers through a device that had been struck by lightning. Joyce, secretly tampering with the contraption during a thunderstorm that night, herself gained the ability to fly and great strength after lightning similarly struck, knocking her unconscious (she originally had x-ray vision, as well as other powers, but after her few early appearances they were retconned). The panicky scientist, seeing the apparently dead young woman, destroyed the device and then killed himself. Joyce survived to fight crime as the patriotically garbed Miss America, appearing regularly in Marvel Mystery Comics and All Winners Comics.

Cover detail, All Winners Comics #21 (Winter 1946–47): In a superhero rarity, Miss America wears glasses.
Cover detail, All Winners Comics #21 (Winter 1946–47): In a superhero rarity, Miss America wears glasses.

In the latter, she was a member of Timely's superhero team the All-Winners Squad, fighting alongside Captain America and Bucky, the original Human Torch and Toro, the Sub-Mariner, and the Whizzer in the group's two Golden Age adventures. In the second of these, she wore glasses, one of the extremely few superheroes to require them. Miss America made her final Golden Age appearance in Marvel Mystery Comics #85 (Feb. 1948).

Joyce was later revealed to have married fellow Golden Age superhero Robert Frank (the Whizzer). Because the two had been exposed to radiation, their first child was the radioactive mutant Nuklo. However, Joyce died of complications stemming from childbirth with her second, stillborn child due to radiation poisoning from her first offspring while at Wundagore Mountain, Transia.[9] It was also suggested during this time that Joyce and Frank were the parents of Avengers members Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, although this was ultimately refuted when it was revealed that Magneto and his wife Magda were those twins' biological parents. Miss America was then retconned in 1976 as a member of the World War II super-team the Liberty Legion, set between the creation of the Invaders and the post-war All-Winners Squad. As a member of the Liberty Legion, she battled the Red Skull, and alongside the Liberty Legion and Invaders she batted the Nazi super-team Super-Axis.[10]

Miss America returned from the dead for 24 hours in the 2006 miniseries X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl, where she was revealed to be spending an eternity in Hell. However, in the All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z, select entries of characters featured in that miniseries, including that of the Ancient One, state that the characters in hell were impostors.

Miss America's reanimated corpse later appears as a cyborg resident of the Core, a subterranean city populated by advanced robots.[11] The cyborg does battle with Miss America's former teammate, the Human Torch, and attempts to lull him into a false sense of security. The Torch however, realizes that the cyborg is not really his old friend, merely a puppet using her body.[12]

Powers and abilities

An electrical discharge from an unknown experimental piece of equipment gave Madeline Joyce the ability to levitate herself through psionic means. By using her levitation ability in connection with carefully planned leaps, Miss America could use her power to fly. She could attain any height at which she could still breathe (approximately 20,000 feet). She could use this power for about 2 hours before mental fatigue would force her to rest. Also fatigue poisons accumulate much slower in her body than that of a normal human, giving her a heightened "vitality." Miss America also possessed the "Strength of a Thousand Men", allowing her to lift weights far heavier than a normal human would be capable of lifting.

In addition, Miss America originally possessed the power to project "X-Ray Vision". This power faded over time, leaving her with a need for glasses.

Other characters named Miss America

In other media

References

  1. ^ Mitchell, Kurt; Thomas, Roy (2019). American Comic Book Chronicles: 1940-1944. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 194. ISBN 978-1605490892.
  2. ^ Benton, Mike (1992). Superhero Comics of the Golden Age: The Illustrated History. Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company. p. 119. ISBN 0-87833-808-X. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  3. ^ Markstein, Don. "Miss America". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  4. ^ Mitchell, Kurt; Thomas, Roy (2019). American Comic Book Chronicles: 1940-1944. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 255. ISBN 978-1605490892.
  5. ^ Daniels, Les (1991). Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics. (Harry N. Abrams, Inc. p. 54.
  6. ^ Amash, Jim (November 2001). "Of Fago and Fleischer". Alter Ego #11. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  7. ^ Nevins, Jess (2013). Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes. High Rock Press. p. 183. ISBN 978-1-61318-023-5.
  8. ^ GCD Cover Gallery showing the change
  9. ^ Giant-Size Avengers #1 (Aug. 1974)
  10. ^ Marvel Premiere #29–30
  11. ^ Secret Avengers #23
  12. ^ Secret Avengers #25
  13. ^ Morse, Ben (25 May 2011). "A Dozen Days of Vengeance: Miss America". Marvel.com. Archived from the original on 2012-07-16. Retrieved 2016-12-02.