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Last post, I started talking about the relationship between Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch) and the Vision as a metaphor for interracial intimacy during the early 1970s, only five years removed from the Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia. Today, I want to finish up that discussion by looking at Avengers #113, an issues where a group of terrorists known as the Living Bombs attack Vision because they do not like the fact that he is in a relationship with Wanda.
The beginning of Avengers #113 is symbolic in its own right. On the first page, we see the Avengers–Scarlet Witch, Vision, Black Panther, Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America–rebuilding the Statue of Liberty after Cog tore the monument up in Astonishing Tales #18. Lady Liberty’s torch-baring hand breaks free of the statue and falls towards the ground, Wanda in its immediate path. Vision leaps into action, transforming his body into the density of a diamond, resulting in the falling arm breaking upon his back. Once they regain their composure, the couple embrace and share a kiss.
From the ground, a man gazes up at the couple as they share an intimate moment and angrily asks, “What in the world? The android kissing a mutant?” Even if the man has a problem with mutants, he recognizes, in his equation, that Wanda is human. This is the same argument that Pietro deployed against Wanda in Avengers #110. Both men see Wanda as human and the Vision as other, an android in the case, and not human. Thus, they perceive the love that Wanda and Vision share as an abomination and as a threat to their very existence. This, of course, are the same feelings that those opposed to interracial relationships expressed and, unfortunately, continue to express.
On the ground, Mike Williams, a reporter, interviews the crowd about “the recently revealed romance between the Vision and the Scarlet Witch.” A young boy responds, “Who needs an opinion? They’re happy, it’s great!” A man lauds the Avengers’ saving the world countless times and adds, “Any joy that comes to any of them is richly deserved.” A woman then lists off multiple famous couples before stating, “I just love famous people in love!” Finally, the man we saw earlier proclaims, “They aren’t people! It makes me sick!” At this point, Williams tells his crew to edit this guy out of the piece.
The man gets his crew together and even sends a threatening letter to Avengers’ Mansion which Captain America opens and reads. The man writes that Wanda and Vision “will bring hellfire and Brimstone to america,” a sentiment echoed, again, in reality as Donna Pinckley’s photograph series Sticks and Stones shows. Captain America crumbles the letter up and hurls it into the fire, proclaiming, “Mister ‘frend,’ I don’t know about your God, but a God of love is mine!” (emphasis original).
At a meeting to plan the attack on Vision, the man plays upon the groups fears that Vision represents a contagion that will take over humanity. He tells his followers, “And mark my words, if Vision finds his place in society, there will be more androids , and more after that, until all humanity will become second class citizens, under a super-race of robots!” Just like individuals who oppose interracial relationships, the man argues that the contamination and contagion of Vision becoming “human” will ultimately lead to the downfall of the human race. Again. this is the same argument, as I have shown on this blog, that racists project in opposition to interracial intimacy.
As the fight begins, the narrator informs the reader, “Twisted: the only word to describe these people. Acting from deep-seated fears, they’ve chosen a path of hate instead of understanding. And isn’t it sad hat such people are not uncommon?” Like the EC Comics “preachies” in the 1950s, the Avengers‘ arc of Wanda and Vision confronts the reader with the psychology of racism. The big difference, however, is that the Avengers presents its lesson through metaphor instead of reality. I plan to look at the letters’ sections of these issues to see how readers responded, and I wonder if the message came through.
One of the Living Bombs blows himself up and injures Vision. The Avengers take him back to the mansion and try to save him. During the battle, Black Panther comments on the Living Bombs’ leader: “The man’s a demagogue. He builds emotional arguments on illogical premises! All of his conclusions are wrong, which must be why he’s the vision’s natural enemy!” Interestingly, T’Challa thinks these lines, unlike the earlier instance where we see the other Avengers’ thoughts and not his. This is important because it links, in a way, T’Challa’s blackness with the relationship between Wanda and the Vision.
After the Avengers defeat the Living Bombs, Tony Stark tells the group that Vision will pull through. Wanda appears conflicted with the news as she says, “Of course! he hero never dies in the final reel!” An angry Captain American then asks, “Wanda! What are you saying?” This question prompts Wanda to respond in the final two panels of the issue. She tells the group,
I’m saying that the Vision is a hero. He’s helped save this rotten planet again and again! And more that that, he’s the best man I’ve ever met! But those humans only saw him as a threat! A threat!! Even my own mutant brother hates him. And he of all people should know what the Vision is like! All right, if it’s the two of us against the world, that’s the way it will be! But, look out, world!
Within Wanda’s comments, she refers to Vision not as the other or as an android. Rather, she calls him a “man.” This is important because it highlights the way that language constructs meaning. By referring to Vision as a man, she refers to him as human and equal to herself, not as inferior.
Along with this moment, there are two others that I want to touch on. The first is the opening scene I describe above. There, it’s telling to note that Wanda and the Vision kiss after part of the Statue of Liberty falls off. This presents a symbolic image of America and it’s ideals of equality, ideals that sadly we still have not achieved. By having the statute crumble, the message becomes that liberty and equality for all has not been achieved. On the opposite side, having Captain American destroy the racist letter is a symbolic act that the American ideal of equality is achievable and that the nation is striving towards hat equality. This could be, in a way, a comment on the progress of the Civil Rights Movement and Loving; however, I do not totally know.
This, of course, not all that could be said. What are your thoughts? As usual, let me know in the comments below. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @silaslapham.