Favorite Fictional Characters, #80: Mockingbird
I came to the Marvel Universe in the mid-1980s, when most of the established characters and teams had 20-25 years of back story. I poured my young energies into the X-Men mythos, leaving the Avengers to another day. But when Earth's Mightiest Heroes set up a southern California franchise with the West Coast Avengers, I got in on the ground floor, starting with the four-issue limited series and then the series proper. They had Hawkeye and Iron Man for presence and power, as well as Tigra and Wonder Man for variety. But I found Mockingbird to the most interesting of the new team.
A former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Mockingbird was a trained spy and skilled at close combat, but with no appreciable super powers. She was stylistically like a female Captain America, relying on agility and heart among the She-Hulks and Thors of the world, her battle-staves even a stand-in for his shield. Like her husband Hawkeye, she was partial to sarcastic patter with her sparring partners, and had a kind of "I can't believe I run around in a costume fighting crime" esprit.
Speaking of her wedded bliss with Hawkeye, that was, perhaps amusingly, one of my earliest insights into marriage. The two were equals, both capable of kicking the tar out of each other and then laughing about it later. They enjoyed a durable passion, and took turns being tough and vulnerable with each other, and were clearly stronger together than apart. The key arc in her narrative came amidst a bizarre time-travel yarn during which she was abducted in 1876 by the costumed vigilante Phantom Rider, drugged, and forced to "be his wife". (Yes, Virginia, that means what you think it does). Eventually, as she fought free, she had the opportunity to save her rapist as he clung to a cliffside. She elected to let him fall to his death. Back in the present, her ordeal and her choice created major rifts with Hawkeye and the entire team, with fundamental disagreements over whether what she'd done was worthy of an Avenger. Even at ten or twelve, I knew Hawkeye was being a knucklehead about it. It was a schism between the two that would never truly heal.
I still have a soft spot for Mockingbird. And I would totally be OK if Sarah lets the Phantom Rider plummet to his doom. The bastard deserved it.