Magazine article Women & Environments International Magazine

The Avengers Movie - Marvel Comics and the Asbestos Lady

Magazine article Women & Environments International Magazine

The Avengers Movie - Marvel Comics and the Asbestos Lady

Article excerpt

The entertainment world is buzzing with the release of the new comic book movie, The Avengers, which features a group of heroes from the Marvel Comic book universe who work together to overcome long odds to save the world from an inter-dimensional evil genius and his extra-planetary army. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye; a media reboot of the comic book characters that first appeared in the 1940's and continued to be popular into the 1960's and 1970's.

However not all the characters from the Marvel Comic book universe are making an appearance. One character whose significance goes beyond its fictional story line is not appearing, the Asbestos Lady.

The Asbestos Lady

First appearing in Captain America comics in 1947, the Asbestos Lady was the super villain alter ego of Victoria Murdoch. Ms. Murdoch was the sister of "Killer" Murdock, a racketeer, and used her brother's connections to begin a career as a criminal scientist. She provided herself and her accomplices with asbestoslined clothing to protect them from fire and she would then set fires to hold back the police while they robbed banks. Wanting to exploit her asbestos gimmick even further, the Asbestos Lady looked up Fred and Nora Raymond, a pair of leading asbestos scientists, intending to force them into assisting her.

The android hero of the 1940s, the Human Torch, came to the rescue of Fred and Nora Raymond and rounded up the Asbestos Lady's gang while she escaped. Determined to make the Raymonds pay, the Asbestos Lady spied on them, and when the couple left town on a train, she placed a tree trunk ahead on the tracks, derailing the train and killing them both. However, the Raymonds' son Thomas survived, and joined a circus where he became Toro, the Fire-Eating Boy. Hearing of his act on the news, the Asbestos Lady decided to kidnap him. Expecting the Human Torch to appear again, she and her gang drove a truck full of water towards the circus and pretended to spin out of control when they saw the Torch. When the hero came to assist them, they hosed him with water and threw him in the tank. However, the Human Torch generated so much heat within the tank that the steam burst the truck open, and he melted the Asbestos Lady's feet to the asphalt road to keep her from escaping.

The Asbestos Lady later continued her career and in the midst of one crime was captured by the Black Marvel. She was later approached by a collection of businessmen who feared the coming of superheroes, and they funded her to continue on as the Human Torch's chief adversary. When her brother was captured by the Human Torch and Toro and was ultimately executed, she attempted to take his place in racketeering, taking control of his gang and assuming possession of a disintegrator gun he had found in Germany.

The Asbestos Lady is from a time when people were unaware of the significant dangers associated with asbestos exposure, a time when asbestos was used as stuffing to fill baseball gloves and football helmets. The comics are a lasting reminder of the significant cover-up perpetrated by the asbestos industry, regarding the danger associated with asbestos exposure.

By the time the Asbestos Lady first appeared in Marvel Comic books, in 1947, the relationship between asbestos exposure and disease was well documented. The following examples were exposed in a report by Wendy Moyer (Moyer, 2012):

* 1918 - Health care statistician Frederick Hoffman, an employee of the Prudential Daily life Insurance Business, noted that lifestyle insurance plan companies in the United States usually denied coverage to asbestos personnel because of the "assumed wellbeing-injurious problems of the sector."

* 1922 - A statistician for the Metropolitan Lifestyle Insurance coverage Organization, Louis Dublin, wrote that asbestos staff are at chance of harm to their lungs. …

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