Wednesday, March 30, 2016
RAR #10: WYATT WINGFOOT AND REBECCA RAINBOW
Without a doubt Wyatt Wingfoot stands out as the best-known Real American sidekick, thanks to his prominent appearance in the Lee-Kirby FANTASTIC FOUR series of the Silver Age. His initial appearance in FF #50 occurs when Wingfoot meets and befriends Johnny Storm when both attend college together. Neither character spent much time in classes thereafter: rather, the broad-shouldered native of the fictional "Keewazi" tribe started following Johnny around as the fiery teenager (sometimes alongside his partners) encountered opponents as the Wanderer and the Black Panther. In fact, in the first appearance of the Panther, the Wakandan chieftain very nearly kicks the butts of the ill-prepared quartet, and it's Wingfoot who turns things around for the heroes.
As the above except should suggest, Lee and Kirby almost certainly based Wingfoot on real-life athlete and football star Jim Thorpe. One might argue that at times Wingfoot's creators made him a bit cliche-- he's taciturn; he can track really well-- but he always distinguished himself in terms of his bravery and strength. Following the Silver Age, Wingfoot made peripatetic appearances in Marvel Comics but never again became a major support-character, unless one counts the period in which he was boffing the She-Hulk.
I include Wyatt's fellow Keewazi tribe-member in this post because her history was too brief to justify a separate post. When the Fantastic Four briefly split up in 1978, Johnny Storm went to visit his old pal Wyatt on the reservation in issue #192. There Johnny gets a vivid reminder of his Silver Age history as an amateur race-car driver, a character point that had been shunted aside for many years-- for he meets Rebecca Rainbow, who shows off her skill as a driver and challenges him to compete in an upcoming race. Johnny accepts, but the race gets interrupted by a new super-character, spoiling for a fight with the Human Torch.
Rebecca, created by writer Len Wein and artist George Perez, was probably intended to provide a new romantic interest for Johnny, given the two characters' shared interest in fast cars. However, at the time of her last appearance, just one issue later, the script (by Wein, Bill Mantlo, and Keith Pollard) suggests that "Becky" is actually interested in Wyatt-- after which she disappears. The best explanation that occurs to me is that Wein knew he wasn't going to stay much longer with the series (MarvWolfman soon replaced Wein as regular scripter) and so provided a reason to write her character out, since it was unlikely that the new writer would choose to pursue Wein's plot-threads.
A pity, because Johnny could have used a stronger girlfriend than the next one to appear on his radar-- and because female Native American characters remain in fairly short supply even today.