Thursday, February 10, 2011

Early Black Comic Book Heroes: Misty Knight (5/6)

In the previous post on Out Of This World we saw Misty and Danny break up (Iron Fist 13). Remember that Misty had started rooming with Jean Grey? Well that connection eventually brings her into contact with the upper stratum of the Marvel Universe - godlike mutants, galaxy-spanning alien empires, etc. In such situations she's little more than a spectator, like here in X-Men 105 (June 1977):

Misty seemed to take all that in her stride. She even remained unfazed when Eric the Red got thrown into the mix, and abducted Lilandra before she and Misty really had any time to get acquainted:

It's a little too much for Jean's parents though:

Misty is definitely the most level-headed person left in the apartment, when Firelord returns looking for a fight:

A lot happens elsewhere in the universe in X-Men 106 and 107, and the X-men return safely to New York in X-Men 108. By now John Byrne has taken over the X-Men art from Dave Cockrum. Lilandra and the Professor are re-uinited, as are Misty and her cosmic room-mate, and all seems well:

Onto Iron Fist 15, the last issue in the original series and a Chris Claremont/John Byrne X-Men crossover, and we discover the nature of Misty's mission that she took following her break-up with Danny in ish 13 - to infiltrate the Bushmaster's operation, disguised as Maya Korday:

That plot line continues in Marvel Team-Up 63. Misty eventually breaks her cover and escapes from Bushmaster, only now he's that mad he wants her dead.

Misty eventually catches up with Iron Fist, but only after he's taken one heck of a beating from Steel Serpent, who's also stolen his power.

Marvel Team-Up 64 features both Misty and Colleen, as The Daughters of the Dragon, teamed up with Spider-man and Iron Fist:

Danny's helpless condition rekindles Misty's feelings for him. Colleen and Misty prepare to do battle with Steel Serpent, so that somehow they might be able to restore Danny's power to him.

Spidey soon re-engages in combat with Steel Serpent, but some intervention from Misty and Colleen is needed. Misty's bionic right arm comes in useful.

But it's Iron Fist himself who finishes the fight. Steel Serpent doesn't have the will power to control the Iron Fist, and is consumed by it. Danny reabsorbs his power and is restored to his former self.

So Misty and Iron Fist are an item again... for now. And here, in the final panel, is that piece of expert retcon that ties this all back to Misty's first appearance in Marvel Team-Up 1.

So what do we have with Misty Knight as a character? Not too much background given thus far - less than for Colleen Wing. Misty was a lady cop in the NYPD, who saved Colleen one time and they developed a strong partnership. Misty got her right arm blown off by a bomber, and had it replaced with a bionic arm. She and Colleen went into business as private cops, Nightwing Restorations, but with all their martial arts skills also became known as The Daughters of the Dragon. Misty sports an afro hairstyle, and is generally a stylish dresser. Misty is clearly comfortable in an integrated society - she has a mixed white/Asian business partner, a white room mate, and a white boyfriend. Race hasn't surfaced as an issue in any of  Misty's early appearances. So it seems that she is an African American character contributing to the diversity of the Marvel Universe. I've read suggestions that making her a kung-fu specialist puts Misty in the blaxploitation category, since kung fu was popular with African Americans in the 1970s, but I'm not fully convinced of this argument. Blaxploitation, as I understand it, exploits negative stereotypes of African Americans. Enjoying kung fu movies or being into martial arts doesn't strike me as having any negative connotations, and it doesn't seem to be much of an established stereotype either.

As a person Misty is sometimes cool-headed in highly stressful situations, but at other times will punch first and ask questions later. She's resourceful, intelligent, and extremely brave. She's sophisticated and beautiful. She's capable of warmth, but can erect barriers when necessary - she's learned how to survive. Ultimately we know very little of Misty's background at this point in her comics career, and she's really been mostly a support character, with the exception of those two issues of Deadly Hands of Kung Fu featuring The Daughters of the Dragon. Probably the most significant aspect of Misty's early appearances is her inter-racial romance with Danny Rand (Iron Fist). This occurs matter-of-factly, as something natural, normal, and not necessary to be remarked upon. So Misty's appearance in the Marvel Universe, from the point of view of racial integration, is an example of presentation of fait accomplis harmonious integration.


  1. Spiderman is my favorite superhero so thanks for sharing that.. I had never heard of Misty!

  2. Glad I was able to introduce you to Misty! Thanks for reading, Kim!

  3. Now I'm like Googling everything about Misty Knight.:-)

  4. Misty Knight was a good try for a black super hero but she was a big part of blaxploitation. She represented everything blaxploitation wanted. The biggest part of blaxploitation was that black men and women always fight against each other and love their white counterpart. And that is exactly what misty represent. She is not a move in the right direction at all. And people that don't understand the sociology behind racist images would believe that misty was a good representation. Good try but miss the mark. Look for the documentary X Mark the Spot it will give you the real truth. Don't get me wrong I love your article but I understand the sociology behind racist’s images.

  5. Teal talk: thanks for your perspective on Misty Knight. I'll check out that documentary. I would argue, however, that Misty doesn't have the usual blaxploitation trappings. She is not composed of negative stereotypes but instead presents as a successful, independent entrepreneur. I also don't equate inter-racial relationships with blaxploitation - I see them in popular culture as anti-racist statements. But that's my perspective, and not being African American myself there are going to be subtleties that I'm likely to miss.

  6. I read misty knight as a very young girl. I loved it because I thought she was really beautiful. It was the first time that I saw someone who looked like me who was strong and really in love. I am a black women and I don't see this comic as negative.i loved reading her story. Thank you for posting these for everyone to read. I plan to start collecting the comics. Still love them!

  7. Glad you liked reading about Misty Knight, Gail. If you haven't seen them already, Marvel published a miniseries in 2005-2006 called Daughters of the Dragon.