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Tracy Burke

Contributed by Mike McDermott

Theresa Burke was once one of the world’s top photojournalists, but the pressure eventually got to her and she developed a drinking problem. Her alcoholism derailed her career, and she fell out of the spotlight for many years–to the point many people thought she had died.

While she was still working as a photojournalist, Tracy met Theadocia “Teddy” Matthews. Teddy followed Tracy for two blocks and chased her into a subway to return an address book that she thought Tracy had dropped. Tracy blew off a meeting and went to dinner with Teddy, and fell in love with her before the appetizer made it to the table. The address book wasn’t really Tracy’s, and for years the two of them played a game of making up biographies and stories for every name in it.

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When Carol Danvers was looking for an assistant editor to work under her at “Woman” magazine, Tracy was now 5 years sober and looking for work. Carol hired Tracy for the job, over the objections of J. Jonah Jameson. Due to the demands of Carol’s superhero activities as Ms. Marvel, Tracy was often left to run the office by herself and do Carol’s work as well as her own. The pressure was starting to get to Tracy and she was afraid that she might relapse into her alcohol problems but she managed to stay in control.

Tracy was offered the editor position after Jameson fired Carol. She was originally hesitant about accepting it but Carol encouraged her to take it, pointing out that she had essentially been doing the job most of the time anyway and that she deserved it.

Tracy turns up again years later when Carol moved to Seattle. Tracy was working there as editor of Tech Magazine and gave Carol freelance writing assignments as well as using some of her editor contacts in New York to get Carol a 3-book contract for the novel she wrote.

Tracy noticed that Carol had developed a drinking problem herself, but was unable to get through to her but encouraged Carol’s fellow alcoholic friend Tony Stark to try and talk sense into her.

After Carol eventually revealed her secret identity to the public her friendship with Tracy grew even closer as she could finally be fully honest with her about her life.

When Teddy was in the hospital, dying, Tracy called Carol for emotional support. Carol was in the middle of a fight with the Rhino at the time, but quickly knocked him out and arrived within minutes, but Teddy had already passed away. Tracy spent the next few months in her apartment, barely eating or sleeping while she was consumed by grief. Eventually Carol was the one who got Tracy to start living life again, and took Tracy to the beach to scatter Teddy’s ashes.

A few years later, Tracy got sick with cancer. As Tracy had no surviving family, Carol took charge of supervising Tracy’s care, getting her to appointments, etc. If Carol–who was now Captain Marvel–was ever tied up with her superhero activities, she made sure that one of her other friends (usually Jessica Drew, aka Spider-Woman) looked after Tracy in her absence. Tracy returned the favour by supporting Carol when a mysterious illness was causing her brain damage and costing her the use of her powers, as well as giving Carol a needed verbal butt-kicking when she was stubbornly ignoring the doctor’s orders.

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Tracy left her cane and the address book to Carol after she died. She also left instructions for Carol to scatter her ashes at the beach where Teddy’s were…but when Carol opened the urn there were no ashes, just a note from Tracy. Tracy said it was her last gift to Carol–a day at the beach with her friends. Tracy joked that she should be able to enjoy it without having to deal with a dead body; “I donated mine to science, like a rational person”.

Tracy is an impressive example of a minor supporting character who managed to endure and thrive for years longer than anyone would have expected. She and the rest of the Woman Magazine staff were written out of the original MS. MARVEL book a few issues before the series was cancelled back in the 70s–and yet decades later she was brought out of limbo by Kurt Busiek during Carol’s alcoholism storyline. Later still Kelly Sue DeConnick brought her back again for the CAPTAIN MARVEL series starring Carol Danvers and really made her an integral part of Carol’s life again and breathed a whole new life into the character.

Tracy’s snarky attitude, scathing tongue and blunt honesty made her a very entertaining and refreshing character. She was a feisty old broad that even superheroes–like Jessica Drew–feared to cross!

She is also a wonderful example of how a long-time character can be outed. Since Tracy’s personal life never really came up in any of her stints as a supporting character, readers never learned about Tracy’s orientation or her relationship with Teddy until after she died.

Chris Claremont has a reputation for layering lesbian subtext into many of his female characters. How ironic that Tracy is one of his few creations where he did not do that–and she actually turned out to be a lesbian anyway.

Created by Chris Claremont and Jim Mooney. Tracy’s first appearance is in Ms Marvel #8 (vol 1) 1977 and she is outed in Captain Marvel #15 (2015). The character is given a richer back story by Kelly Sue DeConnick. Art by David Lopez and Lee Loughridge.

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September 28, 2021
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