Where the Wonder Women Are: #23 Misty Knight (and Colleen Wing)

Misty Knight came as a total surprise to me. I’d never heard a peep about her, not in any of my varied comic reading. But she turned up in an old Chris Claremont X-Men comic from the early 80’s I was reading very recently, and I was intrigued enough to do some research.

Mercedes “Misty” Knight started out as a Marvel Comics heroine 1975, and her characterisation and storylines owed a lot to the blaxploitation and kung fu trends of the time. She has been a cop, a private investigator and a bail bondswoman, and is bionically enhanced as well as being highly trained in martial arts. She also, it has to be said, rocks a magnificent Afro.

For a long time Misty has appeared as a supporting character: she wasJean Grey of the X-Men’s roommate, for one thing, and was Iron Fist’s love interest in the Power Man/Iron Fist title of the 70’s (Power Man being perhaps more widely known these days by his civilian name Luke Cage). Her relationship with Iron Fist (Danny Rand) has continued on and off into the present day, but she often appeared in comics featuring he or Luke in her professional capacity rather than (or at least, as well as) a romantic one.

Formerly a New York cop, Misty lost her right arm when preventing a bomb blast, and received a bionic replacement by Tony Stark. This gave her all kinds of super strength and abilities, and she used them to fight and solve crimes in a private capacity, having turned down the police force’s offer of a desk job.

She is best known for her friendship with Colleen Wing, a Japanese-American samurai warrior detective. They formed professional partnership with the “Nightwing Restorations Ltd.” Detective agency. The duo were also referred to as “Daughters of the Dragon.”Once she and Colleen became freelance detectives and crime fighters, they made regular appearances in support of Heroes for Hire (the team run by Luke Cage/Power Man) in the late 70’s and appeared occasionally in the Marvel Universe over the next 25 years or so before a major comeback in the mid 00’s.

In 2005, The Daughters of the Dragon appeared in a mini-series written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, and then in the revamped Heroes For Hire series in 2006. The modern take on the characters has them more often working as bail bondswomen, specialising in going after those with superhuman abilities who have broken their court dates. (Why on EARTH were they not regular characters in the She-Hulk series which was centred around superhuman law? Never mind S.H.I.E.L.D, Joss Whedon, there’s your epic TV series concept right there)

This tendency to support law and order meant that Misty and Colleen joined the pro-registration side of the Civil War (in which all the Marvel heroes took to the streets in violent opposition for or against a secret identity registration act) and supported Tony Stark, Spider-Man and Reed Richards in pursuing and arresting their former colleagues. It all ended in disaster and emotional fallout, of course, as civil wars tend to do, and led them to question the ethical issues in being heroes “for hire” instead of just heroes.

Most recently, Misty herself took the lead in the Heroes For Hire agency, setting herself up as “Control,” and while this turned into a sinister plot involving the Puppetmaster, she fought and overcame his psychic influences, continuing the agency on her own terms.

I love the concept of a bionic detective, let alone a black female bionic detective who is partnered with a Japanese female samurai detective. Everything I’ve read of these two women (which I’ll admit includes very little of the modern stuff) leaves me with an impression of fun, kickass characters with the potential for action-packed adventures.

As with most female characters in comics (not to mention non-white characters) there’s a bunch of problematic aspects to unpack in how they are often brought to the page, not least of which being the artwork. I have no idea whether the racial aspects of Misty and Colleen’s characters have been considered controvertial or problematic in how they have been portrayed over the years, and I am probably not the person to examine that, but it did distress me how hard it was to find images that didn’t make these women look like porn stars. (As always, I have not used the worst examples to illustrate my post) Funnily enough, both Misty and Colleen seem to have been far more respectfully dressed and drawn in the 70’s than in the last decade, which makes me sigh at comics. Oh, comics.

But the concept, omg! Two non-white female martial arts experts who are best friends, solving crimes and punching bad guys AND ONE OF THEM HAS A BIONIC ARM. I will be hunting down the Gray & Palmiotti mini-series to read, because I love the way they write female characters, but I would love to see Misty Knight and Colleen Wing given far more profile in the future than they currently have in the Marvel Universe.

And, if possible, that they be allowed to wear something other than lycra and body paint while kicking ass and taking names.

Where the Wonder Women Are:
0: Introduction
1: Black Canary
2: Rogue
3: Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman
4: Black Widow
5: Wonder Girl
6: Captain Marvel
7: Vixen
8: Abigail Brand
9. Jubilee
10. Batwoman
11. Catwoman
12. Huntress
13. Robin
14. Batgirl
15. Jean Grey
16. Ice
17. Emma Frost
18. Fire
19. Lady Sif
20. Supergirl
21. The Wasp
22. Gypsy

One reply

  1. […] Tansy Rayner Roberts continues her Where the Wonder Women Are series with Misty Knight (and Colleen Wing). […]

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