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Mockingbird (Marvel Comics) (West Coast Avengers) vs. Kraven fight

Mockingbird

(Bobbi Morse) (Part #3 - 1983-88)


Sequence

This profile is part of a series, to be read in order :

  1. Bobbi Morse — 1971/1973 (start there).
  2. Bobbi Morse — 1973/1980. Also covers her Huntress and early Mockingbird identities.
  3. Mockingbird — 1983/1988. This here profile.
  4. Avengers West Coast team profile — part #1.

In 1983, geek-favourite writer Mark Gruenwald tidied everything up and relaunched her as an Avengers associate. So Bobbi stepped from the margins of the Marvel Universe and into one of its hearts.

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Background

  • Real Name: Barbara “Bobbi” Morse.
  • Known Relatives: Susan Morse (mother), Ben Morse (brother), Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (husband). Her Barton in-laws are all thought deceased at that point.
  • Group Affiliation: West Coast Avengers.
  • Base of Operations: Avengers Compound, near Los Angeles.
  • Height: 5’9″ (1.75m). Weight: 135 lbs. (61 Kg.).
  • Eyes: Blue. Hair: Blonde.

Soundtrack

The classic “Blue Monday” is both a strong marker of 1983, and lyrically suitable.

New Order was part of the electronic music wave in early 1980s Europe. Which built upon the groundbreaking work of German band Kraftwerk to create proto-synthpop.

“Blue Monday” didn’t chart well in the US at first, but has since been used as a musical symbol of the 1980s. Say, in Wonder Woman 1984 or Atomic Blonde.

Powers & Abilities

Mockingbird is a spy and a martial artist and an acrobat and a scientist and a stealth/intrusion expert and a pro driver and a pilot and a researcher and a paramedic and a stick fighter and a staff fighter etc..

Her physical skills are now at the level of a spectacular action movie. In her second appearance during that era, she wins a brawl against eight guards, using her sticks.

Mockingbird could take on Razor-Fist (Douglas Scott). Her clear victory was hastened by Scott’s misogynistic overconfidence, making him badly misread a feint.

She also performed well against Captain America (Steve Rogers) himself. The fight is difficult to analyse, due to Cap’s odd tactics, but it showed :

  • Her advanced mastery of the S.H.I.E.L.D. close combat training (designed in part by Cap).
  • Her proficiency as a fast, technical, flexible stick- and staff-fighter.
  • That she could disarm Cap (though he also disarmed her).

Bobbi once mentions that she’s also trained in an unspecified form of kung fu.

Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries !

There’s a minor theme that she taunts and mocks her opponents to destabilise them. Hence the “Mockingbird” moniker.

In the material it’s not that pronounced. Her combat dialogue isn’t that different from stock super-hero banter. And few opponents make serious mistakes as a result of it.

She clearly uses this tactic but once. And that’s during a fight against an undead simulacrum of the Red Guardian (Alexei Shostakov), in a reality with different “rules”.

(Bobbi might also be doing that against Kraven — the scene in this article’s header illustration — but it’s unclear).

Mockingbird (Marvel Comics) from the early handbooks

Even MOAR SKILLZ !

Bobbi also demonstrates new skills.

  • Robust sewing and mending skills. She presumably learned this as a kid, back when clothes were much more expensive and had to last. It only shows up once, as a rationale to change Hawkeye’s costume.
  • Perimeter security, particularly to detect whether her living quarters have been tampered with.
  • Training to resist brainwashing and interrogation, and to overcome psionicPsionics are sci-fi style psychic powers illusions. Bobbi once focused hard enough to see past an illusionary image of Headlok (Arthur Goddard) and perceive where he really was.
  • Parrying arrows and the like with her sticks or staff. She’s really good at this – training with Hawkeye helped.
  • Piloting sky-cycles and Quinjets.
  • Studying the Avengers’ files of past cases and enemies, plus similar S.H.I.E.L.D. files (which she didn’t previously need).
  • Speaking a bit of French.
  • Good horsewomanship.
  • Good massage technique.
  • At least basic explosives handling.

Her domestic skills are about zero, though. She never had much use for cooking and the like. And housekeeping is inadvisable when you routinely trap your place against intrusion and surveillance.

Mock these !

Mockingbird’s battle-staves are two-feet long (60cm) hollow sticks. The steel alloy gives them both high tensile strength and a degree of flexibility.

Each can telescopically expand to twice its base size. And the two staves can be screwed together, resulting in a 8′ (2.40m) pole. This affords the following uses :

She can join or separate her staves in one fluid move, losing little of her combat tempo.

Each baton is kept in a forearm holster, hidden by her wide sleeves. These sheathes are spring-loaded, and can shoot the batons forward with great force. This is her main ranged combat option.

Mockingbird (Marvel Comics) battle staves schematics from the 1983 official handbook of the marvel universe

Technical illustration by Eliot Brown.

Misc. equipment

Morse’s hairpins allow for efficient lockpicking. They likely are lockpicks disguised as hairpins.

The Mockingbird costume is bullet- and flame-resistant. It might be a customised S.H.I.E.L.D. beta cloth jumpsuit.

Mockingbird drives a bright magenta custom convertible car. Probably a 1970s Stingray Corvette  with a new front grille  . Which might be a Barbie reference, given how *pink* that car is.

On occasion she’s seen driving a different, red convertible. It’s probably an art continuity issue, but let’s assume that this car is part of the West Coast Avengers’ fleet.

She sometimes flies her husband’s sky-cycle. If Bobbi’s piloting, then Clint can sit behind her and focus on archery fire.

Whacko

Mockingbird is aware of her lack of raw power. So she focuses on support roles such as :

  • Taking out henchmen and other minor threats to free up the big guns.
  • Field intelligence work, ranging from signal intelligence to infiltration via disguises, stealth and acting.
  • Rescuing incapacitated teammates.
  • Vehicular operations.
  • Keeping more powerful foes off-balance when the big guns need time to recover.
  • Subtle co-leading, usually to provide support to troubled team members. Or to compensate for Hawkeye being about as socially observant as, well, Hawkeye.
  • First aid.
  • Tripping a far mightier opponent with her staff while they are busy fighting someone else. This won several fights.

Mockingbird also quickly adapted to the super-heroic world. However, the more extreme situations (such as time travel) have to be experienced once before she can grow used to them.

History

During the early 1980s, Mockingbird worked as a “freelance crime-fighter”. Presumably, that meant bounties and rewards.

Her finances didn’t seem great, though. She couldn’t afford time off.

A heavy cross to carry alone

In 1983, Ms. Morse heard underworld rumours about illegal tech developed at Cross Technological Enterprises (CTE).

She broke into their research facilities, and clashed with security chief Hawkeye (Clint Barton).

Bobbi was detained, but Clint soon realised that she had been right. He also discovered that his lover, Sheila Danning, had been manipulating him so he wouldn’t stumble upon CTE’s illegal activities.

Teaming up, Mockingbird and Hawkeye survived assassination attempts by the Silencer (Dean Helm), then by Oddball (Elton Healey) and Bombshell (Wendy Conrad). From there they defeated Crossfire (William Cross).

Within nine days of meeting, Bobbi and Clint were married.

Mockingbird (Marvel Comics) first meeting Hawkeye shadows

Mockingbride

After their honeymoon, Clint returned to the Avengers.

Having both lost their living quarters to Crossfire, the couple crashed at the Avengers’ Mansion. Mockingbird’s S.H.I.E.L.D. security clearances made that feasible.

As Morse was getting accustomed to the high-powered weirdness, key super-heroes were abducted by the Beyonder to fight his Secret Wars. That included Hawkeye.

With most the Fantastic Four also missing, Alicia Masters and the pregnant Susan Storm-Richards came to live at Avengers Mansion. They provided emotional support to Ms. Morse.

I’d be safe and warm, if I was in L.A..

A second Avengers team was authorised soon after the Secret Wars.

To his surprise, Hawkeye was tasked with creating this West Coast-based group. Mockingbird was his first recruit, though she felt she lacked the power for this.

The bulk of the subsequent events is summarised in our first team profile for the West Coast Avenger.

Mockingbird (Marvel Comics) as a West Coast Avenger

The Phantom Rider assault

In 1987, the WCAs were sent in the past. But as they left the year 1876 to go further into the past, spooky vigilante the Phantom Rider (Lincoln Slade) abducted Mockingbird.

Slade had been driven insane by contacts with the spirits. He :

  • Now saw himself as a doomed and lonely supernatural soul.
  • Decided that Mockingbird was a goddess (the “daughter of darkness”).
  • Considered himself justified in kidnapping her and dosing her with a Comanche love potion.

The Rawhide Kid (Jonathan Clay) and the Two-Gun Kid (Matthew Hawk) tracked the rapist down. But Bobbi, brainwashed by the potion, defeated them.

She then lived with him as Barbara, and joined his vigilante activities as Mockingbird.

Mockingbird was in a drugged haze, but eventually realised that it was all wrong. Using a makeshift Hawkeye costume, the Two-Gun Kid helped her fully recover her memories.

Ms. Morse’s retribution

The trio chased the Phantom Rider. Though Slade would have overcome the Kids, Mockingbird now knew his tricks. Cornering him atop a cliff, she let him fall to his death.

Comanche mystics, who had been working with the spirits-touched Lincoln Slade, came to collect the body.

The Avengers then returned to 1876, and Mockingbird and Hawkeye were reunited.

Knowing that Clint had a strict code against killing, Bobbi told him that the unstable Lincoln had killed himself. She didn’t mention what he had done to her either.

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Tell me sweet little lies

This poisoned their marriage.

  • If Clint learned what had happened, he’d be forced to reject either his wife or his ethical code as an Avenger.
  • Bobbi hated lying to Clint. She also hated that it came easy to her, as an experienced spy.

At a loss, Bobbi even consulted with her former mentor Nick Fury. He advised her to tell the truth before it’d tear her apart.

Clint was then replaced by a Zodiac android impostor. Bobbi thought that he was behaving oddly toward her because he knew the truth about Slade.

She confided in the android, but then realised that it wasn’t Clint. She and Tigra destroyed the fake Hawkeye.

However, when the real Hawkeye was recovered, Mockingbird didn’t find the strength to confess a second time.

From beyond the grave

Lincoln Slade endured beyond death. He came to possess his descendants – including, in the modern era, one Hamilton Slade.

As Mockingbird feared, this returned Phantom Rider came to terrorise her with his supernatural powers.

Bobbi then :

  • Researched and located Hamilton Slade.
  • Took the WCAs on a vacation to the Grand Canyon, where Slade was.
  • Used explosives to free the giant monster Yetrigar. This kept the other Avengers busy.
  • Attacked Mr. Slade and ordered him to leave her alone, or else.

However, Slade was bewildered. Since he had no idea of what happened when he was possessed by his ancestor.

Fellow Avenger Moon Knight (Marc Spector) stopped Mockingbird from beating Slade up too badly, and helped her keep her secret.

Mockingbird - Marvel Comics - 1980s Avengers - vs. Hawkeye

Avenger no more

Whilst the WCAs were detained in Hungary, Bobbi confided about the situation to the majority of the team. Those Avengers present supported her.

The ghostly Rider witnessed this. He rushed to the rest of the team, including Hawkeye, and told them that Mockingbird had murdered him.

Hawkeye was fooled, and Mockingbird met his accusations with anger. Within a few minutes, this communication failure left them determined to divorce.

Furthermore, Dr. Henry Pym was then forced to break Bobbi’s forearm while the WCAs were being mind-controlled by the Voice (Jason Cragg).

Taking sides

Bobbi and Clint had a ugly break-up in front of the team, and Mockingbird left the Avengers.

But the bulk of the team supported Bobbi. The main person wanting her out was her own soon-to-be-ex husband, though Wonder Man mostly sided with Hawkeye.

The dispute was bad enough that Tigra and Moon Knight chose to leave along with Mockingbird.

Mockingbird (Marvel Comics) and Hawkeye just married love tub

Description

Our Background block now uses her official Marvel vitals.

That she’s now (sometimes) drawn taller isn’t always apparent. But that’s because she’s often next to Hawkeye (Clint Barton), a 6’3″ (1.90m) dude with a particularly powerful physique.

In late 1985 Mockingbird debuts a variant costume, using medium grey instead of dark blue. Her hair is also shorter (it was too much of a weak point in combat) and tied in a small queue.

In 1986, she switches to another variant. It’s back to dark blue, but the legs are no longer covered – to deal with the Californian heat. She also lets her hair grow back a bit, at her husband’s insistence. It’s now worn in a short, working girl version of the 1980s Farrah Fawcett feathered shag.

Personality

Hi-speed, low-drag, snarky, professional, smart, focused, in-your-face.

The “snarky” part :

  • Builds on the 1970s archetype of the big city, progressive “liberated woman”. Who aims for a frank, peer-to-peer communication that may seem brash and confrontational. Since the established standard was far more demure.
  • Occurs ten years before the Joss-Whedon-produced style of sassy, witty, abrasive dialogue.

So she often goes with sarcastic — but not mean — little zingers. And only slightly overdoes it, frequency-wise.

There’s a sense that she’s doing this to help regulate her aggressive personality. But at this point there’s no exploration of this from her own point of view.

Her aggression level is high enough that if her husband gets on her nerves, she might engage him in a sparring match. They are both skilled and tough enough that the risk of accidental injury is minimal.

This assertiveness and snark were much less common characterisation hooks back then. They thus were sufficient to be her core hooks, though for XXIst Century readers they aren’t distinctive.

But I’m talkin’ ’bout shafts

Morse felt an immediate, intense attraction toward the exceptionally handsome Barton. Since she also reacted strongly to Steve Rogers, one guesses that she had been on the prowl for some sexual action after a dry spell. So to speak.

A man of strong and obvious emotions, Barton was also in Sad-Eyed Puppy Mode over Sheila Danning’s betrayal, and having lost his job. That sealed the deal on Morse’s end.

Both were enthusiastic about their relationship – a textbook whirlwind romance.

Mockingbird (Marvel Comics) (West Coast Avengers) shoots staff smoke shroud

A woman for the ’80s

The comics also convey that they had a strong physical chemistry. By then-current standards, that Bobbi expressed sexual appetite was also part of the “1980s woman” behaviour.

The phrase “a 1980s woman” is used multiple times to describe Mockingbird. But the expression was vague (beyond “seeks to be treated like a person”). And there isn’t enough slice-of-life material to get a better sense of it.

By contrast, Hawkeye is old-fashioned. His views of a relationship are more those of a well-meaning man from the mid-1960s.

But at this stage of her life, it’s a way to live together that Mockingbird finds romantic and attractive.

Other traits

Mockingbird supported Tigra, who was struggling with psycho-magical issues. She also advocated for giving Firebird (Bonita Juaez) more of a chance. Her best contacts within S.H.I.E.L.D. were women, whom she presumably supported against the macho culture there.

Bobbi hates it when somebody badmouths S.H.I.E.L.D.. This is a bit of a blind spot, since S.H.I.E.L.D. does have considerable problems. But then she worked for years — and nearly died — to clean a large chunk of it.

This reflexive loyalty weakened once she realised that Fury, with his siege mentality, no longer considered her as an insider. But she nevertheless remained loyal toward Fury himself, and demanded that he treat her with consideration.

Mockingbird (Marvel Comics) (West Coast Avengers) with team

Quotes

“Listen, jerk.” (her first words to Clint Barton).

“Forget it, Hawk. We’re even. Here — put this on. Half-naked men with guns make it hard for me to concentrate.”

“I was afraid you boys would be unfriendly… well that’s okay. I thrive on hostility !” (knocks out henchmen)

Tigra: “[I’m] a weak part [of the team] — a part you have to save from her own mistakes !”
Mockingbird: “As opposed to whom ? You think I haven’t made mistakes on occasion ? And Hawkeye’s the world record holder !”
Hawkeye: “Gee, thanks.”

“Don’t feel bad, honey. I’ll redeem your honour when it’s my turn at bat !”

Mockingbird (Marvel Comics) (West Coast Avengers) vs. Razor-Fist

DC Heroes RPG

Mockingbird (1980s)

Dex: 06 Str: 03 Bod: 04
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 05
Inf: 05 Aur: 06 Spi: 05
Init: 018 HP: 055

Skills:

Acrobatics: 06, Accuracy (Blocking subvelocity projectiles with her battle-staves): 09, Animals handling (Horses): 03, Artist (Actress): 05, Evasion: 07, Martial Artist (AV, OV): 07, Martial Artist (RV, EV, Technique): 06, Medicine (First aid): 04, Military Science (Demolitions): 03, Scientist: 06, Thief: 06, Vehicles (Air, Land): 05, Weaponry (Firearms): 04, Weaponry (Battle-staves): 08

Bonuses and Limitations:

Evasion requires Mockingbird to wield her battle-staves.

Advantages:

Scholar (Biophysics, Super-Soldier serum), Expertise (General biology, Espionage), Familiarity (Parapsychology, S.H.I.E.L.D. equipment and protocols, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Avengers cases and foes archives, Chemistry, Clothes mending), Schtick (Disarmer – battle staves, Precise Blocker – battle staves).

Connections:

Underworld (Low), S.H.I.E.L.D. agents (Low – usually Josyane, a francophone S.H.I.E.L.D. aide in L.A. who hears a lot of things).

Drawbacks:

None demonstrated.

Motivation:

Responsibility of Skills.

Occupation:

Avenger.

Wealth:

005

Equipment:

MOCKINGBIRD JUMPSUIT [BODY 04, Blunting: 04, Enhance (RV vs. flame): 02 (cap is 07), Enhance (RV vs. plasma): 01 (cap is 07), Partial Coverage (Long Coat)]. The variant with the bare legs doesn’t change the Coverage, because super-hero comics.

Mockingbird (Marvel Comics) (West Coast Avengers) vs. Phantom Rider cliff

Battle-staves

The stats depends on the length and numbers of sticks in her hands :

  • Baton-sized [BODY 07, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 05), Enhance (Wrestling/Grappling EV): 01 (cap is 07), Limited Penetration, Descriptor: Blunt)].
  • Jo-sized [BODY 07, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 05), Enhance (Wrestling/Grappling EV): 01 (cap is 07), Limited Penetration, Descriptor: Blunt)]. When fighting a person with a significantly shorter melee weapon, that opponent receives a -1 penalty to their final roll when attacking the Skilled Use medium staff wielder.
  • Quarterstaff-sized [BODY 07, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 06), Enhance (Wrestling/Grappling EV): 01 (cap is 08), Descriptor: Bludgeoning].
  • Vaulting pole [BODY 07, Jumping: 01, Limitation: Jumping requires conditions that allow for pole-vaulting].

The forearm ejectors have [BODY 05, Projectile weapons: 04, Ammo: 02, Schtick (Fast-Draw (battle-staves))]. Each spent Ammo shoots a baton, but Bobbi can usually recover these very quickly.


Design notes

The brainwashing resilience training is simply rolled into her MIN, SPI and Hero Points.

Benchmarking her combat APs was frustrating. There’s always *something* that prevents a clean assessment. So, best stab at it.

I was careful not to lowball her Hero Points, as I tend to do. Bobbi is clearly making good use of those, which is also convenient since I’m not sure how high some of her scores should go (per above).

There’s a tiny layer of additional complexity (Evasion, mostly) to model how she now seems more comfortable fighting with her sticks. Prior descriptions of the characters emphasised her empty-hand approach.

As often with street-level characters, the nuance in her numbers are ±1 AP matters. Here it works well, since 6 and 7 are in different Columns. But much of the time, such small differences are there :

  • For those using single-AP-Columns tables (say, Double Scale DCH).
  • For those converting to other game systems.


Illos reserve

Here are some illustrations for Mockingbird’s cool 2010 redesign. These were used in our old, now deleted notes about Mockingbird and I have to store ’em somewhere.

Mockingbird (Marvel Comics) during the 2000s

•••

Mockingbird character model sheet by David Lopez

Character model sheet by David Lopez.

Mockingbird (Bobbi Morse) in a fighting stance

Writeups.org writer avatar Sébastien Andrivet

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Marvel Mockics.

Helper(s): Jackson, Adam Fuqua, Ethan Roe, Darci.

Writeup completed on the 25th of August, 2022.