Why Shamrock Is One Of The Most Controversial Comic Characters

Comic book characters can sometimes be too on the nose. Captain America literally wears the stars and stripes. Superman has an S on his chest. Spider-Man was bitten by a spider. You get the idea. Sometimes comic book characters go from literal to controversial. While some characters become offensive because they were created before our more enlightened times, they're sometimes written for comic relief, and it just backfires. Sometimes, the characters trade on so many stereotypes that it just gets to be too much.

Take the character of Shamrock, an obscure super-powered character from Marvel. You can probably guess from the name: Shamrock is Irish. Shamrock's real name is Molly Fritzgerald, wrote Comic Vine, and was born in Dunshaughlin, Ireland. She has red hair and wore a lot of green. She also has the power of luck. She only needs a pint of beer, a sack of potatoes and a pot of gold and she'd be the walking embodiment of an Irish stereotype. Her whole back story revolves around her family's involvement in the IRA, because she's not Irish enough, so her family's got to be in the IRA somehow.

Shamrock first appeared in 1982's Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions issue 1, aka Marvel's first universe-wide event. That story featured several super-powered characters kidnapped by the villain Grandmaster for a contest. During that contest, she meets Captain Britain, and they hate each other because of UK and Irish history.

Being Irish was her identity

Shamrock's backstory gets interesting, though still laden with stereotypes; after all, that's literally her identity in the comic books. Just ... be Irish.

When Molly was three years old, her father took her and her brother to the mountains and called out to the heavens to grant powers to her brother Paddy to strike down his enemies, explained Game of Nerds. At first, it seemed like nothing happened, until Molly was in college. Her freshman year, Molly began to notice she exuded an aura granting her good luck. It turns out this aura was the spirits of innocent victims of wars that use her body as a vessel, and affects everything within a 20-foot radius of her. These spirits bring her good luck and help her in fights. Comic Vine stressed she had no power over the spirits.

She uses her powers for good (and also become a teacher), but when her brother Paddy is killed during an IRA mission, she begs her father to turn his back on the organization. Her father had other ideas and drugged her so he can turn her in to Arnim Zola in a bid to replicate her luck powers. While Zola experiments on her, the spirits start to act out and, when her father turns a gun on her, her good luck caused the gun to explode, killing her father.

Marvel could reboot her

She continues fighting crime but then breaks her leg, indicating her luck has run out, and she retires to inexplicably become a hairdresser to superheroes. Other than the utter injustice of making Molly go from a teacher to a hairdresser and unceremoniously making her retire, Shamrock's very stereotypical presentation is a problem, mostly because she's such a minor character. After all, Irish immigrants faced discrimination in the US during the Great Famine of 1845, according to History. And while Shamrock's stereotypical characteristics don't tread on the "dirty Irish" ones historically used, pigeonholing her as only that is unfair to Shamrock.

Comic books have long traded on stereotypes. That's why characters like The Mandarin and Red Skull exist. But for every fleshed out Captain America, you get characters like Shamrock, who remains in the background and stays firmly rooted in their category as an Irish hero. Shamrock, of course, is not the only one, there are more questionable controversial characters that trade on stereotypes. 

But maybe, Shamrock might get a chance at redemption. As Marvel commits to encouraging more diversity in its movies and comic books, there might be a spate of forgotten superhero characters given a facelift. If this happens, the Irish Post has several things on their Shamrock movie wish list: make her more than a one-dimensional character, tone down her costume design, and of course, cast Saoirse Ronan. Okay, Marvel, the ball's in your court.