Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

New to the Marvel Universe: Statutory Rape

Posted by Don MacPherson on December 18th, 2011

Squirrel Girl, a rare 1990s creation of the legendary Steve Ditko (along with writer Will Murray), was clearly meant to be a cute character from the start. Some might view as a joke, others as an endearing tribute or even satirical comment on the campiness of the Silver Age. She’s been a relatively obscure character, popping up from time to time, but lately, the character’s profile has been significantly boosted by writer Brian Michael Bendis’ decision to incorporate her into the cast of New Avengers, not as a member of the team, but as a superhuman nanny to the infant daughter of Avengers Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.

Since this boost in visibility, readers have “learned” a lot more about her, in that Marvel writers have started tossing out little tidbits of her history, perhaps the most significant of what was this nugget…

Above sequence from New Avengers v.2 #7

… that Squirrel Girl and Wolverine have a history. Making a D-list (or lower) character a part of Wolverine’s ever-mysterious past is a sure-fire way to amp up interest in that character. The overall tone of the scene seems to suggest she and Wolverine were once lovers. The body language artist Stuart Immonen instills in the characters in the scene certainly reflects a kind of awkwardness that might arise when two people who were once intimate only to part ways on a sour note unexpectedly encounter one another again.

Writer Jason Aaron and artist Daniel Acuna created further support for the notion of a past sexual connection between the two characters with a sequence in Wolverine earlier this year:

Above sequence from Wolverine #8

Here, we see a buxom Squirrel Girl inhabiting a prominent place in Logan’s subconscious. I suppose one could argue this limits Squirrel Girl to only a fantasy of his, rather than an actual sexual “conquest.” It’s likely he hasn’t had sex with all of the women in his sexual-fantasy room; there’s been no suggestion he’s bedded Jessica Jones, for example (see in the above scene in her Jewel costume). Still, it stands to reason some of deeply seeded fantasies have come true, while others remain wishful thinking.

So why is this relevant? Well, in the most recent issue of New Avengers, I spotted the following paragraph on the synopsis page:

Above text from New Avengers v.2 #19

The description of Squirrel Girl as a teenage heroine is a new one, as far as I can determine. In a previous issue’s synopsis, Squirrel Girl is referred to as an “arboreal hero,” not a teenage hero. Even taking the most liberal definition of “teenager,” that would make Squirrel Girl, in continuity as it stands now, 19 years of age at the most. To be realistic, though, most people wouldn’t refer to a 19-year-old as a teenage girl. So we’re faced with the prospect of Squirrel Girl being in her mid-teens. And judging from the tone of the first scene pictured above, it’s been some time since Squirrel Girl and Wolverine have crossed paths.

Of course, it’s possible the synopsis from New Avengers could be in error — unless one considers the following sequence from early on in the same issue:

Above sequence from New Avengers v.2 #19

The scene tells the reader a couple of things. One is the fact Daredevil is uncomfortable with someone of such a young age coming onto him, serving as another cue of Squirrel Girl’s tender age. The other is the choice of words. “Do you have a girlfriend?” is something a young girl would ask of someone in which she’s interested. An adult woman being this forward would likely be more… overt, or would at least ask about a wife, not a girlfriend.

So… eww.

Of course, the notion Bendis intended to suggest such a sleazy element in Wolverine’s unknown back story is hard to accept. It’s likely the product of poor communication, poor editing and poor decisions about what to do with a cute, footnote of a character in Marvel’s stable of thousands of properties.

I certainly hope so, anyway.

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29 Responses to “New to the Marvel Universe: Statutory Rape”

  1. Matches Malone Says:

    Fascinating. It would seem that supposition is running rampant. There’s no overt evidence to suggest that a rape did indeed occur, and 18 and 19 yo girls are referred to teenagers all the time.

  2. Rich Says:

    Matches, it says “statutory rape,” not simply “rape.” If you’re not familiar with the difference, I suggest you inform yourself.

  3. A.E. Says:

    Likely (hopefully) this will turn out to be a story about how one of Wolverine’s teenage sidekicks came on to him, and he turned her down and subsequently sent her away.

    Perhaps I’m remembering incorrectly, but weren’t there two different stories (one about Kitty and one about Jubilee) in an issue of Girl Comics with the heavy subtext of, “Hooray, I’m finally old enough to try to bang my mentor”?

  4. Bytowner Says:

    Wolverine’s own backstory suggests a possibility: that Squirrel Girl has enjoyed as long a lifespan as Logan himself…but perhaps has managed or stumbled into a more isolated life than Logan’s up to now. How that happened could have its own believability issues, to be sure…but such an explanation would have its own simplicity to it.

  5. JM Campbell Says:

    Call it a retcon if you will, but New Avengers #15 establishes that Squirrel Girl trained with Wolverine at some point in the past and apparently kicked his butt.

    This makes it so that in the Sexual Fantasy room, aside from Jewel, they are all people that have defeated Wolverine in combat. Maybe Jewel has as well, but I don’t know.

    New Avengers #19 is kind of the odd man out, since Squirrel Girl is known to be a student at New York University, so even if she’s a freshman, she’s at least 17.

    I personally think it’s just adding to the meta of the Squirrel Girl character adding some of the “how old/powerful is she really?” mystery to her. Since Wolverine’s mysteries have largely been resolved.

  6. Nat Gertler Says:

    Well, everything would seem to be explained simply by Wolverine having gone through what Daredevil did with her. And even if not – while most US states have an “age of consent” of 16 (and none lower), until 2008 the age in Wolverine’s homeland of Canada was 14, so as a question of statute, we’d need to know where anything took place as well as when. (I was about to make some comment about the age difference squicking people, but if one considers how old Wolverine seems to be, him having sex with someone his own age would also squick.)

  7. Matt Says:

    Leaving aside the issue of specifically statutory rape, I think it’s incredibly creepy and weird to write any teenage girl as being so sexually aggressive with an older man, or older men–even if there is some bullshit explanation down the line that she’s some kind of “ageless arboreal sprite” or some such nonsense. There’s no context apparent for that scene to be anything but a teenager very awkwardly hitting on a much older man. Couple that with the Wolverine interaction, and blech.


  8. A. David Lewis Says:

    Not to brush off the seriousness of statutory rape, but this is the Marvel Universe we’re discussing: Squirrel Girl could once have been much, much older and de-aged back to a teenager (as Magneto and Tony Stark have been). Or, she could have time-traveled and been intimate with a young James Howlett (as Cable has done). Or, she could be physically a teenager but lived for over a decade psychically in another time-period (as Cyclops and Jean Grey have done). Etc.

  9. kubiak Says:

    “Or, she could have time-traveled and been intimate with a young James Howlett (as Cable has done).”

    I would buy that Cable series.

  10. acespot Says:

    Her relationship with Wolverine was implied a long time ago in one of Dan Slott’s GLA books. I can’t recall which one. But maybe he might come around and a shed a bit of light on the subject? Regardless, it wasn’t at all a surprise to me that Logan knew her…it was just a matter of being the inevitable confrontation. Still, the scene with Daredevil WAS very skeevy.

  11. Don MacPherson Says:

    Acespot wrote:
    Her relationship with Wolverine was implied a long time ago in one of Dan Slott’s GLA books. I can’t recall which one. But maybe he might come around and a shed a bit of light on the subject?

    I doubt Slott could shed some light on the situation, as they would require the latest development to be a part of a long-running plan. If anything, this is an unfortunate convergence of random things writers have done with an inconsequential, female character.

  12. David T.G. Riches Says:

    Wasn’t there a story for Squirrel Girl about two or three years back after one of the GLA minis that had Squirrel Girl wanting to get adaminium like Wolverine and he trying to stop her that got canceled shortly after being leaked that got turned into Wolverine and Vampire Jubilee? I distinctly remember hearing it in quiet conversations on the convention circuit a few year ago. Could this be a subtle reference to that possible mini? You never know what’s going through the mind of those writers….

  13. Foley Says:

    I don’t have the issue at hand, but IIRC, Daredevil’s self-described reason for recoiling from Squirrel Girl has as much to with her smelling really awful to his heightened senses as anything else.

    The Wolverine thing is still ewww-inducing, but I find any supposedly sane character hooking up with Wolverine ewww-inducing.

  14. Bytowner Says:

    The bit about Squirrel Girl addressing him as “James”, not “Logan”, got me wondering about the age issue in that particular direction…which leaves me now wondering if she’s perhaps got dual citizenship as well…?

  15. acespot Says:

    More likely, the last issue recap was written by some idiot editor, rather than one of the writers. Since we know that editors nowadays MUST be idiots.

  16. acespot Says:

    Still, ewwwwwwwww.

  17. Joe Young Says:

    (1) Squirrel Girl is not younger than 19 and based upon past appearances, probably older

    (2) Even if she was, 16 is still legal in some states.

    This is why we need a national statutory age of 14.

  18. Judge MANSON Says:

    I don’t think it is a statutory rape in this affair.

    I do not know all the laws applied in each states of the USA, but in France, the adult age is at 18, the “consentient authorized” sexual rapport with an adult is at 16 (but if the adult is a very aged one, the judge can class this sexual rapport as a rape), and below, it is clearly claimed as pedophilia else if the young woman/boy is 14 (which is the non-declared “authorized” age of the first sexual rapport – else if the youngsters are starting very young!).

    In this case, I think that is a footnote on a board and that point wasn’t clearly define in the Wolvie character’s profile. If this is true, it shows a very lack of studying some MU characters’ profiles.

  19. Ray Says:

    Definitions of statutory rape in New York:

    Third-degree rape for anyone age 21 or older to have sexual intercourse with someone under age 17

    Second-degree rape for anyone age 18 or older to engage in sexual intercourse with someone under age 15. The fact that the offender was less than four years older than the victim at the time of the act is an affirmative defense.

    First-degree rape to have sexual intercourse with someone (1) less than age 11 or (2) less than age 13 if the actor is age 18 or older.

    Unfortunately, Wolverine’s older than 21. So he better hope she’s 17.

  20. Don MacPherson Says:

    All of these arguments involving the minutae of age-of-consent laws differing from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and the suggestions the scenes in question mean something different are moot points.

    Clearly, Marvel writers intended to suggest a possible sexual relationship between the two characters, and a subsequent element (dubbing Squirrel Girl as a teenager) brought an ickyness to the mix that’s unfortunate.

    Analyzing the legalities of Wolverine’s actions is pointless. He’s not responsible for his actions because HE DOESN’T EXIST. Writers make his choices — that’s the point. It wasn’t enough for Squirrel Girl to become the Cages’ nanny — writers chose to suggest a sexual component to her dynamics in Avengers Mansion.

  21. GreyMouser Says:

    talk about blowing shit out of proportion! at no time are we given reason to believe they had sex, or even a kiss. its just as likely that SG had a stalker-crush on Logan, and maybe other supes over the years. perhaps things got out of line on HER end and they agreed to avoid each other?
    folks always jump to blame the guy!

  22. Don MacPherson Says:

    GreyMouser wrote:
    folks always jump to blame the guy!

    As I noted already, people are missing the point. Logan didn’t do anything. Squirrel Girl didn’t do anything. THEY’RE FICTIONAL. It’s the writers who have, quite likely inadvertently, created the implication.

    A young Squirrel Girl wasn’t sexually aggressive with anyone. A MALE WRITER decided she was.

  23. acespot Says:

    Really, people? Something as skeevy as this and you’re trying to defend a FICTIONAL CHARACTER using the legal minutiae of “statutory rape”?

    Seek professional help before seeking out girls who fit these legal definitions of consensual. I beg of you.

  24. Trinity666 Says:

    Just FYI, I think it’s bad writing. Doreen (Squirrel Girl) was hired to be Luke Cage and Jewel’s nanny. You can’t even _be_ a nanny unless you are 18 and an agency won’t give referrals unless you are at least 21, assuming Marvel Universe society is relatively close to reality. So the long and the short of it is that the recent skeevy bit is really the Daredevil and Squirrel Girl scene since it has her acting… icky (ageplay?)… and she shouldn’t be called a teenager, even based on Marvel’s goofy sliding time-scale. I mean, she was said to be 14 in her first appearance, and that was _how_ long ago (real time or Marvel time)? If the “past” is 10 years ago, even if we split the difference, she’d have to be 19 to 24 now, so that makes her at least 21-22 now. Which, again, makes the Daredevil scene either skeevy or just badly written. I’m going for the latter.

  25. chieflewal Says:

    Wolverine’s from a different time. In his day, it wasn’t so uncommon. And it certainly wasn’t illegal, especially in the cultures Wolverine’s lived in. Also, despite being a mutant, the character is human, and is a man. If you, being familiar with this character, think he wouldn’t do something because society says it’s shady… well you just go ahead and think about that for a minute.

  26. Don MacPherson Says:

    Chieflewal wrote:
    Wolverine’s from a different time. In his day, it wasn’t so uncommon. And it certainly wasn’t illegal, especially in the cultures Wolverine’s lived in. Also, despite being a mutant, the character is human, and is a man. If you, being familiar with this character, think he wouldn’t do something because society says it’s shady… well, you just go ahead and think about that for a minute.

    You’re missing the point. Wolverine didn’t decide to do this. Writers who aren’t from a different time made these decisions. I’m not criticizing a fictional character.

    And why some are so desperate to defend the plausibility and morality of a possible portrayal of sex between a grown man and a young, teenage girl is baffling to me. Chieflewal’s use of the phrase “because society says it’s shady” is unsettling.

  27. chieflewal Says:

    Yes but you’re holding the writers accountable for what? Writing something entirely plausible given the circumstances? First, statutory rape isn’t always as wrong as it is illegal, we all know this (as we can all come up with reasonable examples). The law was put into place to curb vulnerable naive young people being taken advantage of and often leading a lower quality of life as a result. Does Doreen seem like this applies to her? Secondly, it happens. It does. Regardless of the law, sexually mature young people will have sex. Period. Sometimes they do it with people older than them (shock). I’d reiterate that a writer saying “Hey, isn’t Wolverine from like 200 years ago or some crap?” and recognizing that a lot of cultural differences might be relative to him as a result would just sound like an insightful writer to me.
    Furthermore, a writer who stays true to the character, since Wolverine isn’t known for a past that’s rife with moral highgrounds. He’s a character with a very long and very sordid history. You don’t think he ever bedded a prostitute we’d consider underage today at some port while he was with the merchant marines in 1927? Pandering to hero worship would be dishonest writing. I’d say kudos to the writers for a clever little twist on the character. Wolverine’s “John Wayne/Slingblade perspective on morality” bit gets old.

  28. chieflewal Says:

    They could justifiably write it off as “Wolverine was a drunken dog and people didn’t ask ages back then,” but they’d probably cave and say it’s a joke. And why not? It’s Squirrel Girl. Almost everything about her is a joke.

  29. Robert C Says:

    Let’s get the facts straight.

    Squirrel Girl is a teenager. It was stated as such in relatively close proximity to the ‘incident’ in question.

    Squirrel Girl attends college. She is a college age teenager. There is nothing to suggest that she is of exceptional intelligence that would have gotten her into college at an earlier age. It is reasonable to assume that she is 18 or 19 years old. That right there should end the whole controversy in that there’s no statuatory rape having taken place.

    No where anywhere does it say that Wolverine and Squirrel Girl had sex. The two shared an awkward moment where it was revealed that the two mutually agreed never to see each other again. There could be any number of reasons for this, but sex is never implied by anyone other than various fans and other readers.

    Wolverine has, according to telepathic inspection of his fantasies, been revealed to harbor sexual feelings for Squirrel Girl. And look at the image of his fantasy women… she is highly sexualized in that image, more so than any previous appearance of the character which should lead one to believe that it is what its portrayed as: Wolverine’s fantasy.

    As someone previously pointed out, all of the women in that fantasy image have defeated Wolverine except Jewel. Okay, Jewel and Wolverine never fought, but back when her and Luke Cage were still just dating, Cage was hospitalized and then disappeared. Jessica Jones, detective woman that she is, went looking for him and found Wolverine in a bar. Wolverine had recently been mind-controlled and was working for… what was it, Hydra? …some terrorist organization anyhow, and had then only recently learned that Nick Fury had used him (and other heroes) in his Secret War against Latveria and had his mind wiped. Wolverine was quite drunk and started coming on to her until she told him she was dating Luke. She stood up to him, even after he went into his ranting about being used by everyone and holding his claws up to her face. So while she didn’t beat him, she proved herself a strong enough woman that he can respect her… and have his lustful fantasies.

    Squirrel Girl was also shown to utterly overtake Wolverine in a subsequent issue of the Avengers during sparring sessions out back behind the Avengers Mansion. Wolverine challenged her, and with some prodding from Jessica Jones who wanted to know if Squirrel Girl had what it takes to protect her baby in case of threat, the squirrelly mutant reluctantly stepped up. As she faced off against him, Wolverine added, “Just like old times,” implying that they’ve faced each other before. Then she proceeded to show him up with a ferocity and tenacity that was only undone by her enthusiasm for having taken him down. (Wolverine moved on her when her back was turned telling her not to turn her back in a fight only to be reminded that she has more than the moves to take him down, but a hoard of very angry looking squirrels which appeared seemingly out of no where and ready to attack him.) Anyway, yeah, any previous encounter with Wolverine in which they parted company under the mutual agreement to not see each other again was most likely a result of her having humiliated him once before and then being the uncommonly polite person she is agreeing that she wouldn’t intentionally do so again. However, she didn’t know he was with the Avengers when she hired on as the Cages’ babysitter… and Wolverine was the one who challenged her this time around.

    Daredevil was uncomfortable with Squirrel Girl’s come on. We are shown two panels above which don’t actually show several additional factors of Daredevil’s apparent discomfort. When he first sees her, his FIRST thought is “Baby smells.” Remember, this is a guy with enhanced senses. His sense of touch is so fine that he can read regular newspaper print by feeling the inked letters. He can identify people by their scent like an animal. Think about that… ever get stuck in an elevator with someone sweaty or who just passed gas? Its uncomfortable. His life is way worse thanks to that enhanced nose. His SECOND thought is “Baby smells and squirrel musk.” Okay, its been established previously that Squirrel Girl’s lips taste like hazelnut… but now we also know that she smells like an squirrel. Maybe she doesn’t smell offensively like an animal, but to someone with his sense of smell –YES, she does!! In fact, his THIRD thought is him wondering how she can’t herself smell it, which means it must be way more scent than even he is used to. They talk for a bit, and then he awkwardly asks if that’s the Cage baby she’s holding… and as he’s asking, his FOURTH thought is “Get it out of here.” In the panel following, where she calls the infant cute, baby girl is now throwing up on her!!

    Daredevil is DISGUSTED by smells, and then… THEN… he notices that her heart is pounding. Under different circumstances, maybe he would still have given her the brush off. Maybe not, though, as he is known as something of a horn-dog. But in this case? Imagine Scarlett Johansson / Brad Pitt (or whoever your ideal preference may be) covered in raw sewage because s/he had been swimming in it… and its so overwhelming that it makes your eyes water and vomit start welling up in the back of your throat. And then this individual starts coming on to you? Are you going to be in the mood? Yeah, yeah… I can see some answers already. “Wash that bitch and hit it,” or “I’d do him no matter what he was covered with.” Weird people aside, most normal people are going to be put off and try to get away from the offensive odor.

    So, was Daredevil really concerned about her age or just using it as an excuse? Remember, he can’t actually see what she looks like –he’s blind. He can tell that she’s small of stature and everyone knows she possesses a youthful exuberance… maybe he would still have been concerned, the same way any rational adult male would be worried about a girl acting in a rather suggestive manner. You have to be sure or else. But when he asked how old she was, she stated that she was old enough. Okay, its not like underage girls haven’t lied about this in the past, but two things: 1) Squirrel Girl is the epitome of hero, and she would never lie. 2) Even if she was, Daredevil would know it and none of his thoughts indicated that he believed she was too young. Rather, after he successfully shooed her off by pointing out that the baby needed changing, he turned to look the reader in the eye while thinking, “Squirrel Girl,” as if to imply his incredulity over her entire existence (which mirrors many fans’ own thoughts considering that she is often viewed as nothing more than a joke character).

    End score?
    Statutory Rape: 0
    Actual Sex: 0
    Sex Fantasy: 2 – Wolverine, and numerous fans who want to believe that ANY implied relationship automatically means people “banging”