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Mockingbird - Marvel Comics - Earliest - Bobbi Morse

Doctor Barbara “Bobbi” Morse

(Profile #1 - before Mockingbird 1971-1973)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

“You are always quite forward — for a female ! Women have changed since I last ventured into civilisation !”
– Ka-Zar, Lord of the Jungle ! (and awkward statements !)

Context

Marvel Comics’ Bobbi Morse first appeared in 1971, and became Mockingbird in 1980. I’m not going to pretend that she’s more than a C-lister, but she’s a cool C-lister.

This first profile covers the first two years of her career, when she’s not yet an heroic fighter.

We have some very old, nigh-useless Mockingbird notes as well. This here profile is the first step in replacing these with better articles.

Sequencing

  1. Bobbi Morse — 1971/73.
  2. Bobbi Morse — 1973/1980 (Huntress era, earliest Mockingbird era).

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Background

  • Real Name: Barbara “Bobbi” Morse.
  • Other Aliases: Agent 19, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent #9317.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Susan Morse (mother), Ben Morse (brother).
  • Group Affiliation: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D..
  • Base of Operations: Mobile.
  • Height: 5’7″ Weight: 120 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Blonde.
  • Note: Officially, Morse is 5’9″ and 135 lbs. The vitals above instead describe how she’s drawn during this era.


Powers & Abilities

Early on, Bobbi appears to be little more than a damsel-in-distress. However, the story gradually reveals such skills as :

  • High natural intelligence, and a gift for the hard sciences.
  • A rare mastery of biology, especially biophysics. Dr. Morse is among the top experts about the Super-Soldier Serum (aka the Erskine serum, the Reinstein serum, the Weapon I serum, etc.).
  • Solid vehicular skills. She could drive an ambulance a top speed in New York City, or pilot a Harrier jump jet .
  • Good training in unarmed (and presumably armed) combat.

Bobbi also has a good rapport with Zabu, Ka-Zar’s sabretooth tiger companion.


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You must be psychic !

In her earliest appearance, Bobbi Morse claims that she has psychic powers. These are never demonstrated. And it sounds like a fast-talking gambit.

Marvel secondary sources  confirm that it was a subterfuge. Still, she is familiar with parapsychology research.


To retcon a mockingbird

The Astonishing Tales development of Ms. Morse was chaotic and spread over several writers.

A Marvel continuity expert, writer Mark Gruenwald , then bravely parachuted in to fix this. His reorganised version of Morse’s biography first appeared in the second issue of the 1983 volume of Hawkeye.

His take works fine, and is the official Marvel one. However, from the writeups.org’s point of view details in this remix still feel off. Mostly “wait, if she was already combat-trained, why didn’t she take action at such and such point ?” stuff.

So the History section in the first two profiles uses a *slightly* different sequencing of the same events as the Gruenwald take. It’s barely noticeable, but we’re a bit details-minded.


Soundtrack

Something from these years that sold well and suits this profile… No, not Amos Moses. I know the story takes place in a swamp but we did that already.

Oh hey, Helen Reddy. Excellent fit for Bobbi.

 

Available for download on Amazon .


Chronological notes

Barbara “Bobbi” Morse was born circa 1944.

Which, if you’re new to writeups.org, might require additional explanations.

We assume to events take place as per date of publication, without “sliding time scale ” malarkey. Thus, Bobbi was born circa 1944 so her biography can fit before her first appearance in 1971.

Then she starts ageing in slow motion. Because she’s a comic book character.

See our “ageing in comics” article for more.

2016 flashbacks

A 2016 flashback has clear chronological markers. When Barbara is about 12, current events point at the vicinity of 1973.

However, this run’s conceit is that it’s told by Ms. Morse. And she’s is abundantly injecting goofy allusions, sarcasm of varying subtlety, and massaging of the truth to glamourise her life. So it’s *not* meant to be taken literally. Unreliable narrator. Instagram  reality.

Here, the 1973-ish markers (a Ms. Magazine  logo and an Equal Rights Amendment  ratification march) likely are snarky hyperbole on her part about having acquired a feminist sensibility at young age. Or rather, a visual translation of her words.

(Furthermore, being 12 in the early-to-mid 1970s would mean Bobbi was in her mid-50s in 2016. So these flashbacks cannot be a product of the sliding time scale *anyway*.)


Herstory

As a little girl, Barbara Morse was fascinated by super-heroes such as the Invaders. She made herself a cape (perhaps inspired by that of the Angel (Thomas Halloway)), and constantly fantasised about acquiring super-powers.

Mockingbird - Marvel Comics - Earliest - Bobbi Morse - Huge glasses

Little Bobbi read a lot of comic book and pulp  stories about superhumans. Right as the reaction to ban these  was in full swing. This may have helped with her interest in science. Even in middle school, Bobbi loved physics and biology.

(Back then it would have been unremarkable for that young a reader to be into comics. And Bobbi presumably learned to read particularly early. The vast majority of kids of her generation were reading comics, irrespective of gender – nearly all of them if we include the funnies pages in the papers.)

(Also, a science education during middle school wouldn’t have been rare back then. There was a big push during the mid 1950s in science education in the US, as part of the Cold War. I’ve seen it argued that mid-1950s to 1970 ish was the peak of proper scientific ed in the US.)

It seems likely that Barbara grew up in Georgia. This is where she went to college, and in 2010 her mum was living in GA.

She goes to college, gathers knowledge

A brilliant student, she eventually became a doctoral candidate in biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology . Her mentor was Dr. Wilma Calvin. Dr. Calvin was one of the top American biochemists, and the Dean of Chemistry at Georgia Tech.

(Dr. Calvin was an aged woman by 1971. This means that she was among the first African-American women to hold a higher diploma in chemistry. She’d be roughly of the same generation as, say, Dr. Ruth Moore  or Alice Ball .)

Even as a freshman, Bobbi still daydreamed that she had psychic powers. She toyed with parapsychology experiments as part of her fantasy that perhaps she was superhuman.

But as she matured and her workload increased, she left that behind her.

We were working secretly for the military

S.H.I.E.L.D. developed an interest in applying Dr. Calvin’s work. They paired her with Dr. Ted Sallis to rediscover the Super-Soldier Serum behind the likes of Captain America or Protocide.

This long-term project was code-named Gladiator, perhaps as a reference to Hugo Danner.

Gladiator was hidden deep in the Everglades. The two head researchers came with a scientific staff, and Dr. Calvin chose Ms. Morse.

Project: Gladiator

Morse likely wrote her dissertation about her Gladiator work. She obtained her PhD during those years, and she is considered an authority on the Super-Soldier Serum. Her competence made her the third in command at Gladiator despite her youth.

(For Morse — then still in her 20s — to be considered the thirdmost senior researcher at Gladiator, she must have solved at least one key biophysical problem. Not something at the core of the research — otherwise she’d know how to replicate the Calvin/Sallis breakthroughs — but something without which you can’t have super-soldiers.)

(Maybe something about enhancing tendons to make sure they can keep up with the muscles. Or something about preventing lactic acid build-up due to defects in the process. Or something about the role of myosin heavy chains contraction speeds in enhanced musculatures. You get the idea. Which means that it would be publishable research after a S.H.I.E.L.D. security scrub.)

While she was setting the lab up along with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Morse developed an interest in the agency. She enlisted, and split her time between Gladiator research and the S.H.I.E.L.D. academy.

Her early training focused on counter-intelligence, to help with Gladiator security, rather than action skills.

(If anybody’s counting, our proposed chronology assumes that she obtained her PhD circa her mid-20s. It’s a bit slower than you’d expect from someone with Bobbi’s academic skills. But it takes into account the delays caused by S.H.I.E.L.D. work and training. And Dr. Calvin, her probable thesis adviser, had an academically demanding vibe.)

Hey Paul, let’s have a ball

Bobbi was in a relationship with Dr. Paul Allen, another researcher at Gladiator. Allen also received S.H.I.E.L.D. security training, albeit more focused on weaponry and vehicles operation.

Mockingbird - Marvel Comics - Earliest - Bobbi Morse - Captured

But with her new counter-intelligence skills, Bobbi suspected that her lover was an infiltrator. She volunteered to keep a close eye on him, and they became engaged.

By May of 1971, Gladiator had brewed a super-soldier serum. But both Dr. Sallis and Dr. Calvin were reluctant to let S.H.I.E.L.D. have their dangerous work.

(It is possible that Dr. Calvin knew a fair bit about the 1940 experiments. Minister X mentioned that the “Black Captain America” had been an insistent tale among African-American communities. Wilma might have investigated and met with family of those test subjects, up to and including Faith Bradley. OTOH it plays smack-dab into the “in old comic books, all the Black people know each other” trope, so meh.)

For whatever knows fear…

From the start, Gladiator was a prime espionage target for A.I.M.. They infiltrated and surveilled the project.

The first infiltrator to break cover was Ellen Brandt, Dr. Ted Sallis’ girlfriend. She very nearly seized him and the one sample of the 1971 formula.

In desperation, Sallis fled. He then injected himself with the formula in thoroughly uncontrolled circumstances as he died. This consumed the compound, and resulted in Sallis (or perhaps his corpse) becoming the Man-Thing.

… burns at the touch of the Man-Thing !

The prowling Man-Thing soon spooked the locals, stoking their fear that Gladiator was creating monsters. An A.I.M. agent further roused them against the researchers. He led the scared mob against Gladiator, to force them to hand over their results.

On their way they captured Dr. Morse, who had been looking for Dr. Sallis. However, Bobbi deduced that the rabble-rouser was an A.I.M. man. She shouted a warning to Dr. Calvin.

At this point the Man-Thing attacked the crowd, vaguely sensing that Gladiator researchers had been his friends. This likely saved Bobbi’s life.

As the locals fled, Dr. Wilma Calvin examined the Man-Thing. She was considering the possibility that the monster was a mutated Dr. Sallis when the dying A.I.M. agent shot her in the back.

Lord of the jungle !

Gladiator work dramatically slowed down. Lead researcher Dr. Calvin was in a coma, Dr. Sallis was missing, and Dr. Morse went on to train with S.H.I.E.L.D. full time.

Mockingbird - Marvel Comics - Earliest - Bobbi Morse - Pleisosaurs

She interrupted her S.H.I.E.L.D. classes when it was decided to get outside help. Namely Ka-Zar (Lord Kevin Plunder), Lord of the Jungle !

(Back then jungle-themed comics were still popular. That included Ka-Zar — a Tarzan expy . And Lord of the Hidden Jungle !)

With his amazing wilderness skills, Ka-Zar could search the Everglades and find out Dr. Sallis’ fate. Furthermore, he could handle the many A.I.M. field agents also looking for the scientist… and whatever the horrible swamp monster was.

Dr. Morse does extreme recruitment

Dr. Morse fast-talked Plunder’s servants with wild tales of psychic powers. She thus obtained a map to the Savage Land. Morse left for Antarctica along with Dr. Allen.

The pair ran into all the usual Savage Land issues – the inevitable plane crash, the dinosaur attacks, the British and German survivors still fighting World War Two, the man-apes, the lurking constrictor snakes, not wanting to eat the lurking constrictor snake, etc.. But they convinced Ka-Zar to come to the US with them.

However, there already were A.I.M. troops in the Everglades. They shot down the Gladiator helicopter. But everybody survived, Ka-Zar was briefed, and he immediately set out exploring.

So you want to have some fun…

The incident with A.I.M. shooting the helicopter briefly threw off Morse’s suspicions about Allen. But Allen’s own A.I.M. agents had mistakenly shot at him.

Mockingbird - Marvel Comics - Earliest - Bobbi Morse - Face close up badge shield

Ka-Zar clashed with A.I.M. operatives, and saved the Man-Thing. He sensed that the monster held some secret. Intrigued, Dr. Morse correctly theorised about the Man-Thing’s deadly touch.

But the AIM presence was now too strong for Gladiator resources. Bobbi ordered everybody to move to a S.H.I.E.L.D. base to avoid casualties.

…well, break out the big guns

As she hoped, this forced Dr. Allen to make his move and blow his cover. He killed a fellow researcher and abducted Dr. Calvin. The plan had been to let Ka-Zar find Dr. Sallis first, but that was still an acceptable outcome.

Ka-Zar — lord of the jungle ! — and Dr. Morse — agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. !– promptly tracked Allen down. They invaded an A.I.M. base under the Everglades. Allen would have likely shot the still-comatose Dr. Calvin, but the Man-Thing joined the assault.

The monster gestured at Ka-Zar and Bobbi to run out with Dr. Calvin, then blew up the base.

Savage dates

Dr. Morse stated that she never had a romantic interest in Dr. Allen – she was just surveilling him. That created the possibility for a relationship between her and Ka-Zar. This, and having pledged to see Dr. Calvin through her health, meant that Ka-Zar lived in the concrete jungle of 1973 New York City for months.

During this time, Bobbi expeditiously obtained more S.H.I.E.L.D. qualifications, including vehicules operation and the basic combat course.

Dr. Morse and Lord Plunder did get together. But though they quite liked each other and both were remarkably attractive, that never really gelled. Their interests were just too different.

Working for the man

Dr. Calvin’s health slowly improved, but a street gang nearly kidnapped her.

Mockingbird - Marvel Comics - Earliest - Bobbi Morse - Knocking out two AIM agents from behind

Investigating led to the realisation that Wilma’s son Percy was now part of the Pusher’s mob. However, the youth turned against the Pusher to help Ka-Zar. He was hospitalised in the same room as his mother, helping Dr. Calvin fully emerge from her coma.

Ka-Zar stuck around to stay with Dr. Morse. He thus responded when Gemini (Josh Link) stole Dr. Calvin’s only serum sample right in the Helicarrier.

Bobbi and Zabu eventually caught up in a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicopter. She then managed to snatch the serum from Gemini’s ally, the Plunderer (Lord Parnival Plunder).

By that point, Morse had graduated at the top of her class. Colonel Nick Fury took notice of her potential. He code-named her Agent 19. This likely was in the succession of Sharon Carter being Agent 13 and Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine being Agent 14.

She enlisted for additional physical training. Perhaps Ka-Zar also taught her.

She knows how much she’s Morse

Meanwhile, Gemini and the Plunderer allied with Victorius (Victor Conrad). Victorius swiftly came to kidnap Bobbi, to learn what she knew about the super-soldier serum. By that point she and Ka-Zar — Lord of the Hidden Jungle ! — were breaking up, as he was fed up with New York City.

Mockingbird - Marvel Comics - Earliest - Bobbi Morse - Ka-Zar, Zabu, Nick Fury

Using Bobbi’s S.H.I.E.L.D. tracking implant, Ka-Zar came to the rescue. As he fought Victorius, Morse recovered a lost serum sample. She then came back with Zabu, just in time to save the defeated Ka-Zar.

Bobbi offered Ka-Zar the serum so he’d be a match for Victorius. But he refused this, destroyed the sample and prevailed without. Ka-Zar then returned to his hidden jungle, being its lord.

Either with us or against us

Dr. Calvin then decided not to give S.H.I.E.L.D. the serum – which even Dr. Morse couldn’t synthesise on her own. This pretty much ended Calvin’s career, as Fury pulling his funding off made her lose her position at the university.

Meanwhile, Bobbi obtained the highest S.H.I.E.L.D. qualifications in the martial arts. Increasingly convinced of her worth, Fury sent Morse South of the border to investigate a strange criminal going by El Tigre.


Description

During this era, Morse is fond of bright red, tight minidresses  (red goes faster !) or short rompers . These are usually accessorised with leather boots, some silver jewelry, and smoked designer glasses.

Bobbi sometimes wears ordinary glasses, but at this stage these seem to be decorative. Or maybe they’re a camouflaged S.H.I.E.L.D. gadget ! Of the jungle ! No, not of the jungle.

When she appears, Bobbi is a brunette… for exactly three pages. Then she gets in the plane to the Savage Land and she’s blonde. It’s simpler to handwave this as a brief colouring mistake.


Personality

At first she’s a near-damsel-in-distress, albeit a mission-focused one. She then gets increasingly assertive.

Mockingbird - Marvel Comics - Earliest - Bobbi Morse - Surprised by thrown axe

Since this is the early 1970s, this assertiveness gets presented as the cliché “liberated New York City chick”. She’s impatient, strongly opinionated and undiplomatic.

As time goes by, Ka-Zar’s longing for the great outdoors (by which he means stinking, 110% humidity jungles full of giant mosquitos and dinosaur poop) gets on Bobbi’s nerves. She loves the big city, even as the stories present New York as a brutal, squalid, crime-ridden concrete jungle.

Other traits

Dr. Morse is very much aware of how devastating the Calvin/Sallis/Morse super-soldier serum could be in the wrong hands. She is highly driven to prevent that.

Bobbi is fond of Zabu, who quite likes her. She’s aware that he pretty much understands English. Morse thus talks to the tiger much like Ka-Zar does.


Quotes

“Well — are you gonna say hi — or do you just talk to your cat  ? That’s me — Barbara Morse — forgotten lady biologist !”

(Shooing off a cop) “This is a S.H.I.E.L.D. badge – overriding any orders you have ! Ka-Zar is on special assignment — with me ! Either you honour it, or you’ll find yourself guarding high school proms !”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Dr. Morse (1973)

Dex: 03 Str: 02 Bod: 03 Motivation: Responsibility
Int: 04 Wil: 04 Min: 04 Occupation: Biologist, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Inf: 03 Aur: 03 Spi: 04 Wealth: 005
Init: 012 HP: 015

Skills:
Artist (Actress): 04, Martial Artist: 04, Medicine (First aid): 03, Scientist: 06, Thief (Escape artist, Stealth): 03, Vehicles (Air, Land): 04, Weaponry (Firearms): 04

Advantages:

  • Credentials (S.H.I.E.L.D., Low ; NATO countries law enforcement, Low).
  • Scholar (Biophysics, Super-Soldier serum).
  • Expertise (General biology, Espionage).
  • Familiarity (Parapsychology, S.H.I.E.L.D. equipment and protocols, Chemistry).
  • Rank (equivalent of a Sergeant wrt S.H.I.E.L.D. rank-and-file).

Connections:
Dr. Wilma Calvin (Low), Ka-Zar and Zabu (lords of the jungle !) (Low), Colonel Nick Fury (Low).

Drawbacks:
None demonstrated.

Equipment:

  • TRACKING IMPLANT [BODY 01, Radio communications: 15, Miniaturisation: 06, Limitation: Radio Coms can only emit a S.H.I.E.L.D. tracking signal].
  • Miniature radio [BODY, Radio communications: 11, Miniaturisation: 04, Insta-Change]. This tiny walkie-talkie is camouflaged as a link on her 1970s chain hoops belt.

The Morse with the most

There are three stages :

  1. When she first appears, Bobbi has but 02s in her Physical Attributes, 03s elsewhere and her scientific Skills and Advantages. She’s got 10 HPs.
  2. She then augments her Mental and Mystical attributes to the levels above. She also gains counter-intelligence-related, S.H.I.E.L.D.-related, non-action Advantages and Skills.
  3. Then she reaches the stats block above.

Bobbi will later be established as nearsighted, but at this stage the glasses seem decorative.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Marvel Comics.

Helper(s): Darci.

Writeup completed on the 5th of September, 2018 – of the jungle !

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