December 1, 2022

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #290: Free Spirit

A young woman goes from hating all men to helping Captain America.

The late Marvel writer and editor Mark Gruenwald spent a lot of time writing the adventures of Captain America. and when I collected regularly, I distinctly remember how for three months every summer, the series did a biweekly six parter, meaning the reader got 15 issues a year.  Now, one of those summers, one I remember distinctly, was the infamous “Cap-Wolf” story where Captain America was temporarily changed into a werewolf.

But I do recall another one, one that introduced a new villain that eventually led to a new hero named Free Spirit.

So, how does she not just…pop out of that outfit?

Now, Gruenwald was, as a writer, a man possessing something of a photographic memory when it came to remembering old comic storylines, and was the one man Mark Waid apparently couldn’t beat in a trivia contest.  As such, Gruenwald had a habit on books he wrote where, rather than invent new villains, he’d just dust some forgotten bad guy off and use that fellow instead.  He likewise loved to pop forgotten Marvel heroes into books for team-ups.  Basically, I could probably get a few months worth of columns at the least if I just reread his work.

That said, he did sometimes create new villains, and that led to that second six-parter I remember, one where a new villain named Superia invited a bunch of female supervillains to her remote island as part of a plan to sterilize the male half of the human race.  Superia got wind of an alternate future ruled by a woman named Thundra where women ran everything, and being a misandrist, she decided she was one of Thundra’s ancestors and it was time to speed up the process.  As it is, among the women she invited where the female members of the Serpent Society, and one of them was Diamondback, at the time Captain America’s love interest.  Cap and a superhero mercenary, Paladin, snuck onto the island and, with help from Diamondback and two of her Serpent Society friends, they eventually stopped the Sterility Bomb.

Then again, this came after points where Cap and Paladin put on two unconscious villain’s costumes and were somehow able to pass themselves off as women despite obviously being men, and at one point, Cap got dropped into a tube full of bubbling liquid to turn him into a woman too.  Now, the “turn into a woman” thing never happened, but this same writer did also make Cap a werewolf, so who knows?

Of course, this just meant Superia had a different idea.  She took a woman named Cathy Webster and brainwashed her into hating men while also giving her an approximation of the Super Solider Serum.  Now dubbed Free Spirit, Cathy was sent off to defeat Cap.

Granted, with a name like that, Cathy didn’t stay a man-hating villain for long, and as for Superia, the Red Skull killed her off later, so we don’t need to worry about her too much,

Cathy then went to work for the Captain America Hotline, an actual honest-to-God concept from his book where ordinary Americans could call the Captain by a special number and try to get his help.  That led to Cathy meeting another patriotic-themed hero, Jack Flag, and both were trained to be heroes by Cap himself.  And yes, they were partners romantically as well.

See? They work well together.

Now, this same Jack was killed by Hyrda-Cap in the run-up to the Secret Empire, but Free Spirit is still out there.  Maybe when she’s done mourning Jack, she’ll go back to manning the phones.  Cap might have some calls coming in.

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