The superhero code name Ms Marvel carries a lot of weight in the Marvel Universe, symbolising the same level of responsibility as titles like Captain America or Captain Marvel. There’s a legacy of strong female characters taking up the mantle, which started with Carol Danvers and more recently passed to Kamala Khan.
Sharon Ventura also went by the title of Ms Marvel and while she’s a lesser-known character she is deserving of the moniker. Ventura has been through a lot in her superhero career, dealing with the trauma of rape, low-self esteem, depression and body dysmorphia. The story of the forgotten Ms Marvel deserves to be told.
A rough family life
The daughter of a career officer in the United States Army, Ventura’s childhood was filled with disruption. Her mother died when she was young and she had to get used to being shipped to various towns when her dad was transferred. The relationship with her father was difficult, as he’d wanted a son and never praised or encouraged Ventura.
Wanting to prove herself to her father, Ventura joined the military, only to be kicked out when she refused to testify against a roommate who was accused of cheating on exams. Her dad refused to forgive her and died a year after the incident, with the two of them never reconciling.
Let the bodies hit the floor
Ventura spent the next few years training to improve her physical strength, earning a living as a movie stunt double and motorcycle rider. This led her to join the Thunderiders motorbike stunt team and while part of the group she met Ben Grimm/The Thing of the Fantastic Four. Grimm developed an attraction to her and while Ventura became fond of him, she couldn’t return his feelings.
Around the same time, Ventura became interested in a career as a professional wrestler, wanting to join a group of female wrestlers called the Grapplers. The manager of the team, Auntie Freeze, offered Ventura a spot if she’d take part in an experiment to give her superhuman strength that was provided by a man called the Power Broker.
This treatment was administered by the criminal Dr Karl Malus as part of a scheme to make the test subjects addicted to a new drug that would make them dependent on the substance in future. Ventura realised she was cheating herself and refused to go through with the final experiment.
When Auntie Freeze found out, she ordered the Grapplers to capture Ventura. Even though she hadn’t been injected with the final drug, Ventura gained superhuman strength and was able to defeat the Grapplers with the help of the Thing. It was during this time that Ventura called herself Ms Marvel and dedicated herself to fighting crime.
Joining The Fantastic Four
Ms Marvel went on the hunt for Malus, but she was sold out by her boyfriend to Malus and the Power Broker, who imprisoned her and tried to remove her powers. While captured, the guards in the facility raped her. Although she was eventually rescued, this ordeal traumatised her, making it difficult for her to trust men.
Seeking to move forward with her life, Ms Marvel joined the Fantastic Four when the Thing reached out to her. During a mission in space, Ventura was exposed to the same cosmic energy that had given the Fantastic Four their powers, mutating her into a female version of the Thing.
This experience further damaged her self-esteem and she attempted suicide on several occasions. Ventura became so desperate for a cure that she agreed to work for Doctor Doom. She was cured but Doom ordered her to spy on the Fantastic Four. Although she fought back against Doom, it ruined her friendship with the Thing and Doom turned her back into She-Thing.
Life as a villain and redemption
Psychologically broken, Ventura fell back into depression and suicidal thoughts. This made her vulnerable to The Wizard, who successfully recruited her into the Frightful Four. She-Thing battled against the Fantastic Four on a few occasions, though she was convinced to reevaluate her life on advice from Wyatt Wingfoot.
Wingfoot offered her a place on his reservation to discover who she was and Ventura accepted. She was able to come to terms with herself and accept all aspects of her personality. Eventually, Ventura found a way to switch between her human and She-Thing form’s, rejoining the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation and mending her relationship with Ben Grimm.
Relationship with the Thing
Ventura’s bond with the Thing is a major part of her story arc, featuring themes of body acceptance, inner peace and unconventional love. Grimm’s initial attraction to her was based on Ventura looking similar to his dream girl Tatiana, who he’d lost in space. The Thing needed to move beyond this superficial attraction before he could really start to feel something genuine.
On the other hand, Ventura did care for the Thing but couldn’t reciprocate his feelings. Their relationship strengthened when she joined the Fantastic Four and Grimm helped her work through her issues with men.
When she was transformed into She-Thing, Ventura finally had an idea of what Grimm experienced on a daily basis. But it took her a long time to accept the physical changes and her insecurity caused her to betray the team and Grimm to Doctor Doom. The Thing had a hard time forgiving her, though they did find their way back to each other and had a romantic relationship for a while.
Whether going by the title of Ms Marvel or She-Thing, Sharon Ventura is an example of the kind of struggles that people can overcome. She developed from an insecure girl with abandonment issues to a well-rounded, brave woman who accepted every part of herself.
Another female superhero who’s been able to reinvent herself is Monica Rambeau. She’s gone by Pulsar, Captain Marvel, Spectrum and Photon but through all those titles she’s never stopped being herself. Find out more about her background by reading Reinventing Yourself Like A Superhero: The Monica Rambeau Story.