Tag Archives: Marvel’s X-Men

Five Decades of the X-Men edited by Stan Lee

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Today’s topic is an odd one because normally I don’t read books about the Marvel characters I enjoy. This is due mostly to the fact that there are so few novelizations that don’t relate specifically to the comics. The Marvel Masterworks anthologies contain replicas of the original comic books, not black and white original tales or blow-by-blow accounts from the comics themselves.

Five Decades of the X-Men is a collection of short stories, one of which is almost certainly a translation from the first X-Men comic ever written. Published in 2002, the writing here isn’t very good. I don’t know if Stan Lee himself actually edited it but typos, bad grammar, and similar errors abound throughout the anthology. That doesn’t hurt the stories in any major way but it is annoying.

As the title suggests, each piece within this collection is from a different decade of the X-Men’s extensive history. The first tale is from the 1960s, the second from the ‘70s, and so on until the early 2000s, just before Marvel went really crazy. They were drifting that way in the mid-90s, but everything began truly falling apart around ’05, with the famous/infamous Civil War arc.

That’s a topic for another day, though. Five Decades of the X-Men begins, fittingly enough, with a near-direct translation of the first X-Men comic. Titled “Baptism of Fire, Baptism of Ice,” it is told from Bobby Drake/Iceman’s viewpoint. Jean Grey is introduced to the X-Men just before the team has their first battle with Magneto. In the finale, while on a date with a pretty girl, Iceman ends up in a fight with (possibly) a Frost Giant from Jotunheim.

As a story, this installment is just fine. It demonstrates the problems which Jean (known as Marvel Girl early in her career) had to face joining a team full of curious and flirty teenage boys. Since he was the youngest boy and uninterested in dating her, Bobby caused Jean less trouble on this front than Angel and especially Beast did. Surprisingly, Beast made some pretty blatant, determined passes at the new girl during this tale. Given his later, more mature depictions, I never expected to see this kind of behavior from him.

The end for this story was good, in no small part because it showed Stan Lee’s recognition that not everyone fears mutants on sight. Some actually like them and think they are amazing. Although these normal humans might be surprised by a display of astonishing powers, that doesn’t mean they automatically hate mutants. But on the downside this translation adheres far too closely to the original comic’s perspective. It is clearly a narration of a visual story. It gets a little better toward the end, but not by much.

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The original team of X-Men: Marvel Girl, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, and Angel.

 

Following this tale is “First Commitments.” This piece is much better written than the previous story. Jay Sanford, a normal human, is waiting for a job interview at a company called Genetech. Sitting beside him is Hank McCoy – The Beast. To pass the time the two strike up an amiable discussion. Jay feels far inferior to Hank during their chat, as the latter’s intelligence is evident even in a relaxed conversation. So he isn’t surprised when the X-Man gets the job and he is passed over.

However, he is surprised when Genetech calls a few days later and offers him the job Hank supposedly got.

Jay sets to work with a will, studying mutant cells “donated” to Genetech for research purposes. Unfortunately, what he discovers too late is that the company is a front for an organization called the Secret Empire. As power hungry as HYDRA but a bit more subtle, the Empire has infiltrated almost every government branch, police force, etc. in the U.S. In the comics, they actually managed to frame Captain America for a crime and make him a wanted fugitive – until he defeated them on live television on the White House lawn, that is. 😉

Right now, though, the Secret Empire is still in the clandestine stage. And they have used Jay’s discoveries to turn mutants – specifically a number of captive X-Men – into human batteries. Angry and afraid, Jay cannot report the Empire to the authorities because they have been infiltrated to such a degree. Then he gets an idea. Slipping away from the spies that he knows are watching him, Jay manages to get the X-Mansion. Once there he tells the X-Men what he knows and asks for their help.

This has to be my favorite story in the collection. Jay is presented as a thoroughly decent guy who doesn’t care that mutants are different from normal humans. He only cares about what is right, to the point that he risks his life to help stop the Secret Empire in the only way he can. It’s an excellent tale, and possibly the best in the anthology.

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 “Up the Hill Backwards” is next. Set in the 1980s, it takes place after a battle in NYC that decimated the Morlocks and left a number of X-Men severely wounded. The Morlock survivors and injured X-Men have been taken to the Muir Island Research Center to recover. Since it is run by friend of the team Moira McTaggert, they know they can convalesce without fear of being attacked. But until the injured team recovers, the X-Men are officially out of commission while the downed members to recover.

While they are doing this, Storm and Wolverine head out to deal with some…personal matters. This means they can’t train the new X-Men – Rogue, Psylocke, Dazzler, Longshot, and Havok – who will be required to maintain Professor X’s dream of human/mutant coexistence. So Storm asks Sean Cassidy – formerly known as Banshee – to teach the newbies the ropes.

It is not an easy assignment. Psylocke is arrogant and far too sure of herself, while Rogue is still regarded as a potential enemy due to her mishap with Ms. Marvel. Dazzler is withdrawn, nervous, and has a grudge against Rogue due to an entirely different misunderstanding. And Longshot is as naïve as a child because he’s from an entirely different dimension and has no idea what this world is like.

Worst of all is Havok, Scott Summers’ younger brother Alex. Banshee hopes he will lead the team, but Alex doesn’t want to do it. This isn’t just because he is tired of super heroics and desires a normal life. He’s certain that Sean only wants him to lead the team because of his relationship with Scott, the legendary leader of the X-Men.

That’s not Sean’s intent at all, but Alex won’t listen to reason. He doesn’t recognize his own leadership potential, and combined with his distaste for the role, he only succeeds in making things harder for Banshee. Until an exercise with British intelligence goes horribly wrong, the group looks more like a band of squabbling children than a united team of superheroes.

In terms of storytelling, this installment is very good. Unfortunately, it comes with an attached Warning for Younger Readers. There is a fair bit of foul language present in this tale, which surprised me. I was under the impression that sort of thing crept into the comics in either the ‘90s or the 2000s. Apparently that wasn’t the case. There is also quite a bit of gore, but it isn’t particularly graphic. Not by my standards, at least. So “Up the Hill Backwards” is still a good read, but the language and gore may be a serious problem for some young readers.

Now “The Cause” I disliked a fair bit. Set in the ‘90s, this story revolves around the release of one of the X-Men’s enemies from prison. Reverend Striker – no preacher in the X-Men films – is being released on good behavior. But that performance doesn’t extend to mutants in general or the X-Men in particular.

What is more, Striker’s followers are letting them know it. Led by his right hand man Gabriel Merritt, the “Striker Crusade” has been murdering mutants left and right to send the message that they are ready and willing to kill them all regardless of race, sex, or age. They’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest that has started race riots all over the country. Merritt is pleased with these events but he is not so happy with one of his Crusaders.

More than a little crazy, this girl has developed an intense crush on Merritt. She makes her murders or the murders she participates in more gruesome and twisted for that very reason; she is hoping to impress him and make him fall in love with her. So when he gives her the cold shoulder, she’s more than a little upset. And when his attempt to boost the Crusade by having Striker murdered goes awry, “the voices in her head” give her a new target to focus on. (Hint: it isn’t Striker.)

Thinking back, I believe that this story probably qualifies for a Warning for Younger Readers, too. “Cause” starts with the brutal murder of a young mutant making a living as a stage magician, and it’s about as cruel as you can imagine. So this is a story some younger readers may wish to pass over for a few years along with “Up the Hill Backwards.”

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Finally, we have “Gifts.” Set in the early 2000s, this tale follows a more mature Rogue, a humbled Psylocke, and Nightcrawler as they race to save people from Laguardia Airport during an apparent earthquake. With Cerebro detecting mutant activity in the area, the X-Men know they are dealing with one of their own. The problem is they don’t know who they are dealing with. The damage has no discernable pattern or purpose, no one claims credit for the wreckage and, luckily, no one is killed. It looks less like their new mutant is trying to make a statement and more like he/she is just having a temper tantrum.

In addition, each of the X-Men experience strange sensations of increased power during their midnight rescues. The source isn’t immediately visible to these mutant combat veterans/ first responders, but it proves to be as amazing as it is dangerous. By the time they get everything sorted out, dawn is coming.

I enjoyed this story almost as much as “First Commitments.” “Gifts” is vintage X-Men, following the team of three as they search for a mutant just discovering the power they have. There are no villains here and, aside from the constant trouble with earthquakes, no huge stakes. Best of all, this story is very young reader friendly. No curse words, no gore, and no sex. 😉

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Pick up Five Decades of the X-Men at your earliest convenience, readers. Despite the poor grammar (and “The Cause”), this is one Marvel book anyone would be proud to have on their shelf!

‘Til next time!

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Spotlight: Some Under-Used Marvel Heroines, Part 1

One of the most annoying things that I keep encountering on the web is the call for more heroines in comics and the films based on them. I understand that comic books are not everyone’s forte – before saving a few from the trash, I had been drifting away from them myself.

But if the actors and actresses who play these characters onscreen have to read the comics to prepare for their parts, I wish at least some of the people who review the films and TV shows they make would do an Internet search about the material, too. If they did this, it would go a long way to improving the dialogue swirling around newly released films and shows.

This is one of the reasons why I started Thoughts on the Edge of Forever, readers. I could not stand running across article after article on the ‘Net that either misunderstood something in a Marvel film or which was toeing the “comics need more heroines” line. The overwhelming ignorance/laziness/political agendas of these writers drove me up the walls, and I had to get my two cents out there or burst.

I do not know how good a job I have been doing. All I can say is that I tried my best, first to tell everyone the truth, then to stop the destruction of an entertainment medium I have come to enjoy. Whether or not that has made a difference anywhere is not for me to know.

However, you came here to learn more about under-used Marvel heroines, not to hear me complain! 😉 Today I am listing some Marvel heroines no one talks about in large media circles – even with the debut of the bizarre, dark New Mutants movie and other ongoing projects. While Sue Richards was discussed for some time by the media, since the Fantastic Four movies finished she has sort of been forgotten. Given the fact that she was the first heroine in the Marvel universe, I think she deserves a mention, which is why she is on this list.

Anyway, readers, I hope this two part directory is helpful to you. Marvel has many, many more heroines on its Rolodex. They cannot all fit in a film, which is why we do not see too many of them on the silver screen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But they do exist. If you want to know more about them, Google some of the ladies below and see where the links to their friends and acquaintances take you. You might be surprised and excited by what you find.

Excelsior!

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Mirage/Danielle Moonstar: Danielle Moonstar was introduced in the 1980s as a member of the New Mutants. The New Mutants were a team of mutant tweens and teens being taught regular academics at the X-Mansion, where the X-Men live. In addition, they were trained in the use of their powers, landing them in battles with the baddies from time to time.

A Cheyenne Indian, Dani is an empath with quasi-telepathy. She can scan the minds of those around her and use this scan to project a 3-D image of these people’s worst fears or greatest desires.This is where her codename, Mirage, comes from. She can also use this power to communicate with most any animal on the planet, and I know of one off-world creature she can “speak” to by this method as well. This power allows her to live in the woods undistrubed by wild animals and grants her a Jedi-like “danger sense” as well.

When her powers first manifested, Dani could only project images of people’s or animals’ worst fears. Not knowing how to turn her ability on and off, she ended up alienated from everyone she knew. This was made worse when her parents disappeared, leaving her in the care of neighbors who didn’t like her. Eventually, she ran away to live with her grandfather, who was later killed by a member of the villainous Hellfire Club. It was not a great way to grow up.

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Life at the X-Mansion was not exactly a piece of cake for her, either, in the beginning. Gradually, Dani learned to control her power and use it to generate images of a person – or an animal’s – greatest desire, not just their worst fear. She also went on to make a lifelong friend in a fellow New Mutant from Scotland, one Wolfsbane/Rahne Sinclair. (Rahne rhymes with “rain,” just so you know. ;)) Rahne’s mutant power allowed her to morph into a wolf, or to stop halfway between human and wolf, making her look like a werewolf. Because of her ability to “speak” to animals, Dani could talk to Rahne while the other girl was in either of her alternate forms.

It was painful for her to do this at first. Since Rahne is human, her mind is not like an animal’s, which meant that Dani’s power did not work with her as it did with beasts. After a while, though, “speaking” to Wolfsbane like this stopped being painful, and the two women have been close friends ever since.

Dani is also a Valkyrie. Yes, I do mean Valkyrie, like the one Tessa Thompson plays in Thor: Ragnarok. The only difference is that Dani, while a member of the Valkyrior, is still mortal. And, yes, she’s an American Indian.

Mirage became a Valkyrie after finding one of their winged horses out in the woods. This horse, Brightwind, was more intelligent than any other animal she had met to date, though he is still not a rational creature. Not long after finding him, Dani was surrounded by mounted Valkyries out looking for Brightwind. Learning that she could see both them and the horse, they asked her if she wanted to join their ranks. She said yes.

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Because she is a Valkyrie, Dani can tell when someone is in danger of death. The person is surrounded by a “deathglow” only she (and other Valkyries) can see. This “deathglow” signals a person’s imminent demise, but it does not mean the person will die. Besides being able to see the threat of impending death, as a Valkyrie Dani has the power to tell Death or death deities – like Asgard’s death goddess, Hela – to buzz off. She can literally defend a person from death, though this does not grant whomever she is protecting immortality. It just means their death date gets moved forward to an unspecified time. Still, this is a pretty cool power to have, don’t you think?

On top of this, Dani is a very athletic woman. She is skilled in hand-to-hand combat and the use of various weapons such as spears, swords, and knives. She is also an excellent archer; she once won some arrows from Hawkeye in a shooting contest. Dani can use a rifle really well, too. She is a good swimmer and horsewoman, a talent she had before she met Brightwind. Danielle Moonstar is one tough cookie, readers – and even with the post-2015 comics, the writers don’t give her nearly enough credit these days.

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Misty Knight: Anyone who has seen Netflix’s Luke Cage, Iron Fist, or Defenders series probably knows something about Misty Knight. Admittedly, I am not an expert on her. What I do know is that Misty is a normal human detective from New York. She was room mates with Jean Grey in college, too.

So in the comics, she came to the aid of the X-Men on occasion, and she did/does work with Heroes for Hire pretty often. Considering Daniel Rand/Iron Fist is her boyfriend, this is not much of a surprise. At some point, I believe she also ran a private detective agency with her friend, Colleen Wing.

While working for the police, Misty lost her right arm. It was replaced with a prosthetic created by Stark Industries, and it hides a number of tricks in it that vary from comic to comic. I think it can cloak itself to look like a flesh and blood arm, too. With this arm, Misty is a lot stronger when she uses that “hand,” but only so long as whatever she’s lifting is not extremely heavy. The arm itself is stronger than she is, so she has to be careful about what she decides to pick up, or whatever it is could squash her. Or break her back. Or have some other unpleasant result that will lay her out flat on the floor.

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Throwing and punching with this arm – well, there’s a little more leeway in that regard, I think. At the very least, I would recommend not offending her to the point that she decides to hit you with her mechanical hand.

In addition to her prosthetic arm, Misty is well trained in the use of firearms, making her a good to excellent markswoman. I believe she also knows some martial arts; I could be wrong but her romantic tie to Iron Fist may have been what led to her training in this area.

Despite her line of work, my impression from the one “encounter” I had with Misty Knight in the comics was that she was a generally positive and friendly character. I do not know if any of that makes it into the Netflix shows or if it has been beaten out of her in the comics. All I can say is that it is a shame if she has lost this balance between work and her own personality over the years. I also think it sad that she sided with Tony Stark in the first Civil War event in Marvel Comics, while Iron Fist sided with Cap. Ouch, that is totally not fair, Marvel writers.

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Firestar/Angelica Jones: Among my favorite TV shows growing up were reruns of the 1980s Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. This series focused on Peter Parker/Spider-Man (naturally), Bobby Drake/Iceman, and Angelica Jones/Firestar. They fought as a team against villains like Magneto, Swarm, the Green Goblin, Red Skull, and several other bad guys every Saturday. I absolutely loved that series.

So it was a surprise when I learned, years later, that Firestar was not original to the Marvel Comics universe(s). As it turns out, she had been created specifically for this TV series and had never graced any page in the books. Luckily, she was so well-received that Marvel decided to add her to the comics in the ‘90s.

In Amazing Friends, Angelica was introduced as a mutant whose powers manifested at an early age. She could generate heat and, later on, blasts of fire from her body, specifically her hands. Eventually, she learned to use her power to fly as well. Due to her mutant power and the fact that her father, who was raising her alone, had little money, Angelica was an outcast among the neighborhood children during her youth.

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But this persecution did not get her too down in the mouth. She had her father, who accepted her strange power, and she experimented with her abilities in order to get them under her control. In the ‘90s comics, she joined the Avengers as a teenager alongside a fellow mutant who used the moniker Justice. Justice was a nice boy with telekinetic powers. He was greener than grass and gung-ho, while Angelica was a little more nervous and reticent.

A good illustration of her character in the comics came when she put on a costume designed for her by Janet Van Dyne/Wasp. The suit resembled the one she wore in Amazing Friends except that it had a deep V down the front, and no face mask. Angelica felt the V in her suit was highly inappropriate, a sentiment Justice did not exactly share. “Fine!” she retorted when he would not stop goggling at her reflection in the mirror. “If you like it so much, you wear it! I’ll wear yours!”

Her sense of modesty eventually won out, and Firestar’s comic book costume came to resemble the one she wore in Amazing Friends, complete with the red mask over her eyes. Unfortunately, the writers have let Angelica fade into the background in both the comics and the cartoons since the mid 2000s. As a fan of this character, I think the writers’ decision to relegate her to limbo is a mistake. She is an underutilized heroine whom I wish the show writers would bring back – pronto.

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She-Hulk/Jennifer Walters: I do not know if Jennifer Walters qualifies as an under-used heroine, readers. I believe she is actually rather popular – though you would not know it, since she has not appeared on television since the end of the Hulk-focused TV series Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. If anything, she deserves a mention for being ignored on the small screen following the cancellation of that show.

The cousin of Bruce Banner, Jennifer Walters was a tomboy who was outgoing and loved sports. She would stand up to the bullies who pushed Bruce around and tried to do the same to her. It is no wonder, therefore, that she grew up to become a lawyer.

Back in the days when Banner was still a hunted fugitive, he dropped by to visit Jennifer for something/some reason. This was actually fortuitous because Jen’s latest court case almost got her killed. She landed up in the hospital after an assassination attempt, and the only way to save her life was with a blood transfusion. As a near relative, Bruce’s blood was a perfect match to hers. So Bruce threw caution to the wind and gave Jen his blood secretly.

At first it did not seem to work. Then the bad guys came to finish the job and Jennifer, angered and frightened by their appearance, Hulked out. Unlike her cousin, she kept her mind and remained able to speak coherently when she did this. She knocked the hit men over and went on to win her case in court.

It was not long after this that she entered the superhero gig, of course, keeping a hand in the legal world at the same time. Much more level-headed and calm than her cousin, Jennifer usually has more control of herself when she becomes the She-Hulk. This meant she could transform at will from the get-go, not to mention speak in complete sentences and “smash” things thoughtfully right from the start. Her new power also brought out her zest for life and fun, meaning she laughed a lot when she got into a fight.

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Jen’s biggest weakness is the fact that her ability to keep her head when she changes means she is nowhere near as powerful as her cousin, the Hulk. Even whipped into a deadly frenzy of rage, one of her other vulnerabilities, she cannot match him in power. That does not mean she cannot kill people in a fury nor do massive amounts of damage to everything around her. It just means that, in a cage match with Big Green, the Hulk would still win the fight.

Her other disadvantage is her susceptibility to mind control. Though not easily defeated in this arena, like Carol Danvers is, Jennifer has a history of being unable to withstand mental assaults/control for extended periods of time. It may be one of the reasons why she has never been on my short list of favorites; she’s okay, but I do not typically get excited when she appears on screen or in the comics.

Stan Lee is fond of her, though, and has compared her to DC’s Wonder Woman. I do not see the likeness, but that is probably because Jen has never been able to truly impress me. However, I will not take issue with Stan “The Man” Lee on this one. If he thinks She-Hulk is Marvel’s equivalent to Wonder Woman, then she is Marvel’s answer to Diana – end of debate.

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The Invisible Woman/Susan Storm Richards: As I said above, Sue was the first Marvel heroine ever. Part of the “founding family” of Marvel Comics, Susan Storm and her younger brother Johnny were members of a space mission gone wrong. Little did they know that the accident during their flight would put them on the path to becoming that famed and fabulous superhero team, the Fantastic Four.

Sue is a great super heroine. She’s one of the few heroines in the Marvel universe(s) who has managed to have and raise children, not to mention be a homemaker, while remaining an active duty super heroine. Jessica Jones Cage has come close to this success, but since the writers lost their minds in 2015 I do not know precisely what has happened to her.

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Sue has been wife, homemaker, and mother while maintaining her super heroine career for a good part of Marvel’s history. She’s made dinner for the FF and put her children to bed after dealing with alien invasions and villainous plots morning, noon, and night. If that does not impress you, readers, I guess nothing will.

One of the most powerful super heroines in Marvel Comics, Sue can bend light to become invisible to the naked eye, and she can create telekinetic shields around herself, her family/friends, or inanimate objects. She can use this same telekinetic power to lift or hold up things. If whatever she is trying to hold up or move is heavy, though, it taxes her strength a fair bit. In this same manner she can “fly” by forming a telekinetic “plate” under her feet and moving it – and therefore herself – through the air.

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Sue and Reed Richards

Her power to shield things or people extends to physical attack and energy based threats, too. For instance, if Reed Richards, her husband, ever needs to reach down a long nuclear shaft to hit the off switch for the device, she can shield his arm the whole way to the console, thereby preventing the radiation from harming him. Sue is typically mild-mannered and polite, but you threaten her or her family at your own risk, readers. When the villains make Sue angry, they get hurt – bad.

Faithful to her husband through thick and thin, Sue has been the peacemaker in her super family for years now. Well respected by the superhero community, people listen when she speaks or brings a warning, as outlandish as it might seem at first glance. She’s also a great mom to her children, Franklin and Valerie (a recent addition to the family). All of this makes Sue Richards a forgotten Marvel heroine who needs waaaay more time on stage than she has been getting of late.

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Princess Ravonna: I do not know nearly enough about Princess Ravonna’s history in the comics. I only “met” her in the original comics in my Marvel Masterworks # 3 volume and, briefly, in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. She was feisty and fierce in the comics, refusing Kang’s advances from the beginning. That was not hard to do, considering he is the galaxy’s conqueror in her time (the thirtieth century). The only reason he did not take hers and her father’s kingdom earlier is he fell in love with Ravonna on sight.

Well, after conquering her kingdom anyway, Kang ended up freeing her to save his own empire. One of his lieutenants turned traitor, and Kang needed the help of Ravonna’s people to stop him. He couldn’t get that help without freeing her, which he would have done anyway because he really, truly was in love with her. Ravonna nearly died (or maybe she did die?) to protect Kang from said traitor’s bullet at the end of that adventure.

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In contrast, we only see her walking and talking once in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. And here, she was already married to Kang. I do not want to spoil the series, but what happened to Ravonna led Kang to start giving the Avengers trouble in that show. It is a pity the writers have not brought her in to Avengers Assemble. I would like to see some of what she was before she fell for Kang. Maybe he would be less trouble for the team, too, if he fell in love with and married her.

Yeah. Sure.

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Songbird/Melissa Gold: While Songbird got to appear several times in Avengers Assemble’s third season, the fact is the writers did not allow her nearly enough time there. They also did not bring her back for season four, which has me seriously miffed. I have also totally lost track of Songbird in the mess that is the post-2015 Secret Wars comics, so I think she will fit in my under-used heroines’ post rather nicely.

Melissa Gold grew up with an abusive mother. When she was a teenager, she ran away from home and got involved in an illegal women’s wrestling ring made up of supervillain girls like Titania. After a stint with this group, known as the Femizons, I believe, she joined up with a bunch of thieves who had been bionically augmented. Her augmentations were in her throat and vocal chords, which is why she took the codename Screaming Mimi, a play on the phrase and her childhood nickname. These enhancements allowed her to generate a high-pitched, earth-shattering, earsplitting scream. When she cut loose, it would be like having a jet engine passing you at five feet of distance – without ear protection.

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Melissa as Screaming Mimi

Using these enhancements, Melissa could also achieve a variety of effects against opponents by screaming a different note on the music scale. She could induce dizziness, vertigo, panic attacks, nausea, euphoria, stupor, and even blindness in her opponents by hitting different notes. Rapid oscillation between notes allowed her to combine these effects on a target. Naturally, she was immune to the results of her own power, meaning she never had to worry about being blinded or queasy when she screamed.

Her boyfriend in the gang, Angar the Screamer, had similar implants, and so they were able to combine their powers in battle. But he eventually died when one of the band’s heists went wrong. When he died Melissa went into a hysterical fit and screamed her lungs out at the sky – for 43 minutes. This not only burned out her enhancements, it actually liquefied the plant life around her. Her burst of insane screaming formed a large blast crater as well, with her at its center.

She was sent to prison after this, of course, and remained there for some time. Then the Avengers – and most of Marvel’s other heroes – got zapped to another dimension after defeating an über villain known as Onslaught. (Long story, very complicated, I don’t have all the details, and I find that whole event more than a little stupid.) After this, Baron Zemo broke Melissa and a bunch of other villains out of prison. With most of the hero population in Marvel Comics gone, Zemo figured the time was right to take over the world.

Interestingly, he decided he wanted to be subtle about it rather than glaringly obvious. He outfitted himself, Melissa, and the other villains in his crew with new identities, forming a “superhero” team known as the Thunderbolts. The idea was that they would fill the public’s need for heroes and, when everyone least expected it, take over the world. Melissa’s new codename was Songbird, and she was given new technological implants that allowed her screams to manifest as “solid sound,” which she could shape using her will.

But Zemo did not count on the public adulation his new team received going to their heads and hearts. He also did not think the Avengers or any of the other heroes would return. So he got a doubly unpleasant surprise when the heroes came back from the alternate dimension at about the same time his team of supervillains decided to become real superheroes.

Hawkeye was the catalyst, saying that if the Thunderbolts really liked being heroes, they should make the change right there and then. He eventually had to go to prison to buy their pardons from the government because the Thunderbolts were all still, legally, criminals. After this, most of the Thunderbolts went back to being villains. Clint was apparently the only thing holding them back from their prior evil habits. Without his guidance the Thunderbolts fell apart, to be reformed later on by others trying to make villains into heroes. (It hasn’t worked out nearly so well for them as it did for him to date, from what I have heard.)

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Songbird was the only original Thunderbolt to make the transition to heroine and stick with it, no matter the personal price. Due to her time in the wrestling ring, she is a good hand-to-hand combatant and wrestler, and she has been physically enhanced so that she is stronger than a normal woman of her height, weight, and build. Her ability to make constructs out of “solid sound” and to fly means she is a tough opponent in a fight. If you want a demonstration, readers, check out the episodes where she appears in Avengers Assemble’s third season. They presented her well in that series.

Even so I really, really, really wish they would make her a member of the team permanently. Songbird is a great heroine, and she does not get enough time in the limelight today.That is why she qualifies as an under-used heroine and is on this list, readers.

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Mary Jane Watson: Yeah, I know, she is not a super heroine. But MJ is still a cool girl, and she has had a huge impact on Spider-Man/Peter Parker’s life. It is too bad, to me, that the writers split them up. I liked having them married, and I liked the MC2 idea of them settling down to have a family together.

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The Spider/Parker Family

Funny thing, I also did not mind MJ’s interest in being a fashion model. I was rather put out by the writers for Ultimate Spider-Man making her a wannabe reporter, instead of giving Spidey a photography position at the Daily Bugle, a job which he had always held in the past. While I am in no way, shape, or form a fan of fashion models or modeling in general, shoehorning MJ into Parker’s act for Ultimate Spider-Man just bugged me (pun intended).

If they wanted to ditch Mary Jane’s desire for a career as a model, I think the writers could still have kept her character intact by making her an artist, a designer, or something of that ilk. Mary Jane was tough and fierce, but she was also creative, and I missed that about her in Ultimate Spider-Man. A lot. That’s part of the reason why I never wrote any articles about the show here. All I would have done was whine about it. I do enough growling already with Assemble and the comics, so I figured you did not need to hear more of it, readers.

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Anyway, this is why Mary Jane Watson makes my under-used super heroine list. She does not have super powers, but she does have a tremendous heart and a quick mind. That is all any woman really needs to be powerful, readers.

Well, I think this will do for the first half of my Under-Used Marvel Heroines’ list. I will take a break here and finish up tomorrow. Stay tuned to learn about more amazing Marvel heroines, everybody! You do not want to miss who comes next!

Spotlight: X-Men – Storm/Ororo Munroe

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You may or may not remember the introduction I wrote for the Spotlight! post on Rogue, readers. I happened to find some articles about the “Strong Female Character” model Hollywood and the usual suspects have been trying to force on us lately. I have already written two posts of my own on this subject, both with the title “Strong Women,” but these other articles got me thinking harder about the subject. How can Marvel’s heroines, most of whom have superpowers, be strong women without being “SFC”s?

Well, in the case of Storm/Ororo Munroe, that question is not hard to answer. But it is a little time consuming, as I am going to give you a history of the character to deepen your understanding of her. A lot goes into making a competent heroine, while not much goes into the making of a stereotypical SFC, and the difference should be illustrated.

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One of the reasons I was disappointed by the X-Men films was Storm’s appearance. Storm had always been one of my favorite X-Men. In fact, when reading the Animorphs series, I was upset when one of the characters was compared to Storm. This character was Rachel, a blonde, blue-eyed beauty with the heart of an Amazon. I was not happy with another character choosing to compare her to Storm; the only thing Rachel and Storm had in common were their blue eyes, readers. After that, they were as different as apples and oranges.

So I thought having Storm in the films would be great. But when I saw Halle Berry playing the character, I was let down by the fact that a) she did not look like the Storm I knew, and b) she seemed to be completely watered down as a character.

If you are scratching your head and wondering why I would think this, allow me to explain. Storm is actually an African-American character, something that is never mentioned in the movies. Her mother was a Kenyan princess but her father was an American photojournalist. This is presumably where Storm gets her blue eyes; I cannot say for sure, but I think her father may have been white. I know he was American, and this is what makes her African-American.

Anyway, the couple married and moved to Cairo, Egypt, after Storm was born in New York City, New York. When Ororo was four years old, her parents’ apartment complex was accidentally bombed by a fighter jet flying overhead. Both of Ororo’s parents were killed and she herself was buried in the rubble for days. The extended confinement at this tender age left her with severe claustrophobia; even as an adult who has fought hundreds of battles against the nastiest people you can imagine, Ororo is terrified of small spaces. It is her biggest weakness, but luckily it is not always exploited by her enemies.

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After she was orphaned, Storm lived on the streets of Cairo for the next few years of her life. She made a meager living by picking pockets and stealing during this time. (That was not a very heroic start to life, huh, readers?) Finally, about the age of twelve or thirteen, Ororo did decide she had had enough of this life and left Cairo on foot.

On her way further into Africa, Storm met her future ex-husband T’Challa, who would someday become King of Wakanda and an Avenger. They did not stay together long, as Storm still did not feel at home in the area where they met. So she kept walking until she found a place that felt right to her (this place was, presumably, Kenya, her mother’s homeland). Here her mutant powers manifested and the locals worshipped her as a deity. In the X-Men: Evolution series, they gave her the name “Wind Rider.”

This village is where the Professor found and recruited Ororo into the X-Men. Partly because she had been playing goddess, partly due to her royal heritage, Storm became one of the most unflappable members of the team.

But there is more than mere instinct and training involved in Storm’s calm demeanor. You see, remaining calm is the best way for her to control her powers. Unlike Thor Odinson, Ororo cannot make a storm or even raise a wind out of thin air. This is Thor’s ability because his hammer does not need existing weather patterns to drum up wicked weather – it can create new weather patterns as instantly as Thor can think of them.

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Storm has to use existing weather patterns to create the weather she needs/wants. She has to draw moisture into one area from another or pull wind from one area to her.

In confined spaces, such as the X-Men’s Danger Room or another building, this is no real biggie as far as I know. Ororo can get the needed air and moisture from the building and nature will not become unbalanced because the internal temperature and moisture of a building is kept at a regular level by the heating/cooling systems.

This is not the case outside of this restricted environment. When she is flying above a city or a continent, if Ororo pulls too much hot air from one region and too much moisture from another, she can upset the balance of the weather in that area for a long time. She may even upset it forever, if she overdoes it.

So while Storm’s powers are fantastic and amazing, she has to be careful when she uses them. Her powers are tightly tied to her emotional state; if Ororo gets angry or becomes frightened, the weather will turn wild and ugly in response. This is the other reason for her quiet, tranquil attitude; Storm cannot lose control of herself in the smallest degree, because the effects will be far larger than a normal temper tantrum or a righteous scolding would allow. She could flood entire cities if she lost her restraint and this is why she rarely lets her temper out of the bag.

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However, this does not mean that Ororo does not have a temper. It just means that you have to work hard to get her to show it. Mystique pulled that off at the beginning of Evolution’s third season; she had kidnapped the Professor and pretended to be him for the last few episodes of season two.

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But her deception was only revealed at the end of season two, to be picked up at the beginning of season three. This was after the X-Men’s first public battle, where some of their members were captured by the government. After Nick Fury gave the X-Men information on their captured teammates, Storm began to plan the rescue operation…

…Only for Mystique to forcibly take command of the rescue mission away from her and put herself in charge. She did this, she claimed, because the Blob had been taken into custody along with the captured X-Men.

Already upset by the previous day’s chain of events, Mystique taking command of her team really got Ororo angry. Without thinking, she drummed up an instantaneous thunderstorm that might have had dire consequences for the town nearby. It took Jean Grey’s quick reminder about Mystique’s threat to the Professor’s life to make Ororo put the genie back in the bottle. The fact that she was able to “turn her powers off” so quickly is a testament to how much self-control Storm exerts over her emotions in times of stress such as this.

So how does this make Storm something other than an SFC? For one thing, Ororo is far more poised and graceful than most of the SFC characters I have seen. She is calm (usually), polite, composed, and does not think herself the better of any of the men in her life. Case in point would be the above episode I mentioned, where Storm bottled up her temper and her powers in order not to put the Professor’s life in jeopardy. It would have been far more of a struggle for Carol Danvers to do that, readers.

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Another thing which separates Ororo from the SFC model is her motherly tendencies. These first manifested in the comics when young Kitty Pryde – eventually codenamed Shadowcat – joined the team. Thirteen at the time in the comics, Kitty and her family had already been approached by a sinister telepath named Emma Frost. Kitty did not like the woman at all, but she sang a different tune when the X-Men – including Ororo – knocked on her parents’ door to ask to see her.

Kitty and Ororo apparently hit it off at once, and Storm has always been something of a “battle mother” for the younger X-Men. Shadowcat was not the last child she took a shine to; Ororo has “mothered” many other X-Men during their first days on the team, though I do not think she did it as obviously in most cases as she did with Kitty.

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The possible exception might have been in Evolution. In that series, Storm was given a sister who was married and had a son, Evan. Ororo is an only child in the original stories, but the writers for Evolution added a sister so they could bring her nephew, Evan Daniels, into the series. Codenamed Spyke, Evan’s mutant power was shooting greenish, bony spikes from his body. This meant that he had to drink a lot of milk to keep his calcium levels on a healthy plane.

But Evan was also a typical New York teen who thought he was tougher than he actually was. Ororo’s maternal inclinations were mostly directed toward him for the series’ duration as she tried to teach him that being tough meant more than talking hard and playing rough. She was also continually trying to get him to be more disciplined, as Evan had a bad penchant for fooling around or goofing off when he should have been studying – either at school or in the Mansion’s Danger Room.

This shows that, unlike the stereotypical SFC trope, Ororo has never demonstrated a dislike of motherhood. She has expressed on occasion a fondness for the role and a desire to someday be a mother, something she achieved in several alternate timeline comics with T’Challa. In two different timelines (or the same one) they had two sons; one was named after T’Challa’s father and the other was named Azari. So Ororo definitely does not check the Feminista boxes for hating children and motherhood.

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Storm and T’Challa’s son, Azari, in action.

Storm also does not have the super education the Femi-Nazis like to hold over everyone’s heads. Like Rogue, she learned most of her lessons on the streets, not in a brick and mortar school. And she actually had to learn those lessons from a younger age; Ororo was living on the streets of Cairo from the age of four. That was not easy or fun, readers.

This does not mean that Ororo is stupid or a rube. But it does mean that she is not a mechanic or super scientist. She is, as Evolution put it, a “weather witch” and a mother figure. Her interest lies in people and nature – and not in the way that the Feminists would want her to focus on these things.

I have never had any gripes with Storm prior to the X-Men film franchise. Halle Berry, most likely due to the directors’ interference, does not do the character justice, even all these long years later. My only gripe with the character in the comics was her first combat suit and a recent remake, which exposes way too much of Storm’s body. Newsflash, Marvel writers, combat includes getting shot at and having knives or other sharp objects thrown at you. The absolute LAST thing a woman – or a man, for that matter, unless he is the Hulk or someone like that – should be wearing on the battlefield is a revealing suit. It looks great on the runway but it is a bad, bad, bad idea in a fight.

As I said in my post about Rogue, I think Storm is one of the few characters who can skate by with long hair. With her powers, very few people can actually get close enough to her to grab her hair, let alone any other part of her body. And even if they do manage to tackle her out of the sky, her hair will be the absolute last thing they will reach for because they will not want to grab and hold her. They will want to knock her out as fast as possible so that they can slap an inhibitor collar around her neck.

So no, I do not want Ororo’s hair cut short, as Halle Berry has occasionally worn it. And no, I DEFINITELY DO NOT WANT STORM TO HAVE A MOHAWK. PERIOD!!!!!!!

I can also give Storm a pass on the cape she wears. Normally, I do not care too much for superhero capes. You can thank The Incredibles for this one, readers; the film made a point that capes look great but they can also be as dangerous as long hair.

In Ororo’s case, her capes have rarely been in her way. She also used her cape at one point in the book, Kidnapped in the Catacombs, to snare Callisto’s foot. (Callisto is the leader of the Morlocks, enemies of the X-Men you can learn more about in the post “Spotlight: An Introduction to Marvel’s X-Men, Part 2.”) When Storm pulled on her cape, she sent Callisto flying headfirst into a wall.

The reason she was able to do this with her cape was because it was not a full cape; it was a crescent shaped cape that connected to the back of Storm’s suit and at the cuffs of her sleeves, leaving a space in between her arms and the cape. A regular cape, I do not think, would be able to do this, but I could be wrong.

Either way, my favorite suit for Storm was the silver one we saw in the 1990s X-Men series. The one she wore in Evolution was not bad, but it was too dark for my tastes.

Well, readers, this is my take on Storm/Ororo Munroe, and these are the reasons why I cannot picture her as a Feminista. She just does not have it in her. The writers could try to add it to her character, of course, but that would go over about as well as the Mohawk they gave her did. Storm is not the modern idea of an SFC and she can never be this because she was designed to be a heroine, not a talking point on a Feminist bulletin board.

The idea that some people might put her there, for any reason, is enough to get me pretty angry. If it has not yet been made clear by my posts about Cap, Hawkeye, Gambit, and Rogue, you do not want to mess with my favorite characters.

Excelsior!

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Spotlight: X-Men – Rogue/Anna Marie

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Recently, I found a number of posts dealing with a topic I have addressed on my own blog. Apparently yours truly is not the only one to notice and take umbrage with the current fascination for creating so-called “strong female characters.” There have been a couple of articles on other sites dealing with the subject. I have read them and they have gotten the gears in this cranium turning, which lead me to today’s subject: the X-Man Rogue.

First off we will go down the list of Rogue’s abilities. Those familiar with her history in the comics and television will have to bear with me, because I am going to rehash some old storylines to keep everyone in the loop.

The Marvel newcomer who is not entering the multi-verse via the poisoned comics will find Rogue in the X-Men films. This version of Rogue is close but not quite the same as the one found in older comics and cartoons. There is no slight intended when I say that the film portrayal of the character is actually a poorer presentation than the original. Anna Paquin does a good job as Rogue; it is the writers and director(s) of the X-Men films who have mishandled the character.

Anyway, if you “met” Rogue in these films, then you know that her mutant ability is to absorb the memories, talents, and/or mutant powers of anyone with whom she comes into skin contact. You also think she got that white streak in her hair after Magneto force-fed his abilities to her before the final battle in the first movie, but she had that from the moment she appeared in the comics. (I do not like how they gave it to her in the films; it takes away from her character – in my ‘umble opinion.)

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I have stated many times that I do not like the X-Men films, so I am going to stop talking about them here and go straight to Rogue’s comic book and cartoon histories. Similar to the films, Rogue’s mutant power manifested when she and her boyfriend, Cody, were having their first kiss. Rogue was thirteen at the time and so she was more than a little frightened when Cody suddenly passed out mid-smooch.

Rejected by her family for being a mutant, Rogue ran away from home, afraid to make skin contact of any kind with anyone. Mystique, in a guise other than her real blue-skinned, red-haired form, found Rogue and recruited her into her latest cabal of mutant trouble makers. She practically adopted Rogue as her own daughter….

…But she treated her as a secret weapon, using Rogue to her advantage in fights with the X-Men. Rogue was completely loyal to Mystique because she had taken her in and given her direction when no one else had and when no one else would give her the time of day. She rarely balked when told to use her absorption abilities on an X-Man, security guard, or some other person Mystique wanted knocked out or who had information she desired.

The one instance I know of in the comics where Rogue refused to use her power was when Mystique told her to absorb Angel’s abilities. Rogue was afraid that she would grow wings like his, so she did not want to touch him. As you may know from watching the films, readers, the powers Rogue absorbs eventually fade away. The memories and skills she “downloads” along with them remain like “ghost files” in her head, but they do not (usually) bother her after a while. Prior to 2015, the writers made it possible for Rogue to “recall” individual powers and abilities she had previously stolen from people, something I consider cheating. But in the case I mention above, Rogue did not have that power and she feared she would be stuck with Angel’s wings permanently if she touched him, so Mystique did not get her way in that episode.

Eventually, Rogue’s servitude to Mystique led her into a fight with Carol Danvers. At the time Danvers’ codename was still Ms. Marvel, and so her uniform consisted of a black swimsuit with a yellow lightning bolt emblazed on the front. Because her suit had no sleeves or pants, she was a perfect target for Rogue’s absorption abilities.

Thinking Danvers would be easy enough to overcome, Rogue grabbed hold of her and started draining her powers.

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But unlike Rogue’s other opponents, Danvers did not immediately pass out. Since her powers come from Kree DNA that was somehow bonded to her body, Danvers possesses almost as much physical strength as Ben Grimm. She also has the ability to fire bolts of energy from her hands, sub-supersonic flight, indestructability, a ferocious Kree temper, and a precognitive “seventh sense” that allows her to see her opponent’s next move before it happens. I have never seen this last power demonstrated – and the number of times that Danvers has been smacked, thrown around, or otherwise hit makes me think she does not actually have this power.

Anyway, the Kree DNA kept Danvers awake longer than any of the other people Rogue had touched. It also fueled her anger and she started fighting back. Frightened by Danvers’ unexpected reaction to her powers, Rogue tried to let the woman go and make good her escape.

But Danvers would not let Rogue go. The two struggled for an eternity of minutes before they crashlanded. Once that happened Rogue discovered that, not only was she physically unharmed along with Danvers, but the other woman was out cold at last beside her in the dirt.

After this, Rogue found she had absorbed Danvers’ capabilities of flight, indestructibiliy, and superhuman strength. These powers did not fade over the next two or three days, as all her other “borrowed” powers had, and it looked like they were hers for keeps.

But she soon discovered that these fantastic powers came with a terrible price. Her prolonged contact with Danvers’ meant that she didn’t just have the woman’s memories and powers; Danvers’ psyche was stuck in Rogue’s mind and body at the same time Danvers’ own body remained in a hospital in a coma. Her personality – almost her entire being – was seemingly just as much Rogue’s property now as her powers were.

This unintended arrangement left Ms. Marvel less than pleased, and Rogue soon found she didn’t like it either. If Ms. Marvel really made an effort at it, she could commandeer Rogue’s body. Rogue would black out in one place and wake up in another, sometimes wearing Danvers’ suit or accoutrements and surrounded by the things Danvers enjoyed. This was more than a little frightening and upsetting for her, and it brought her to the realization that she had practically committed murder by absorbing Danvers’ mind into herself.

As Rogue’s guilt grew, she asked her “Mama” to find a way to make Danvers go away or to transfer her out of her body. But Mystique did not know how to do that and, what is more, she did not want to do that. She might have thought that Rogue could adapt to having Danvers in her mind or something like that, too, because she wanted Rogue to go on using her powers – despite the fact that her “daughter” was sharing space with another woman who could take control of Rogue’s body at the most unexpected or unwelcome moments.

This led Rogue to run away again. Knowing the X-Men as well as she did, she went to them for help in removing Danvers’ psyche.

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Her reception was not a warm one. Danvers had worked with the X-Men on more than one mission, so they considered her a friend (for what reason, I have no idea). Wolverine was especially upset, since he and Danvers were particularly close. (Again, I have no idea why they were such good friends. Danvers should have driven Wolvie half crazy ninety percent of the time, but this did not happen, probably because the writers were working overtime to make their “uber woman” more acceptable to their audience through her acceptance by the other characters in the Marvel Universe.) Aside from the Professor, no one on the team saw anything likeable about Rogue, and she was a virtual outcast in the team she had sought out for help, as well as to begin to make amends for her past misdeeds.

But Rogue did finally earn full acceptance by the X-Men, becoming one of their most valued members and friends. Wolverine ultimately thawed to her as well, to the point that he became her informal protector and mentor during her early days on the team. She has since become one of the most recognizable and loved characters in Marvel Comics, as evidenced by the fact that yours truly is a fan of her.

What does Rogue have to do with the push for feminization in fiction? For a long time in the comics and cartoons, Rogue’s most apparent abilities were the ones which she had stolen from Danvers, to the point that I, as a young viewer, thought they were her actual mutant powers. Throughout the 1990s comics and cartoons, Rogue would punch or throw the villains into walls, knock down buildings, or hold up heavy pieces of buildings during different battles.

This meant that she was able to shake off resultant punishment in a battle as well. While fighting several Sentinels in the 1990s pilot, one of the robots hit Rogue in the back with his fist, sending her smack into the floor. Lifting herself up on her hands and knees at the bottom of the crater, Rogue shot the robot a smile and chided it for its bad behavior. Then she flew up, grabbed it under the arm, and threw it to the floor, where it promptly flew to pieces.

That is a pretty impressive display of strength, you have to admit. And I was young enough that such displays excited me. I happily rooted for Rogue whenever she pulled off an amazing feat of strength like that. I was a young, impressionable child who loved superheroes. I wanted to be strong when I grew up, strong enough to fight evil the way that I saw my heroes fighting it every Saturday morning. It is completely normal.

I do not know when it happened, but after a while Rogue’s apparent superpowers stopped being the main reason for my interest in her. It might have been the episode where she and Nightcrawler learned they were related through Mystique, or it might have been a different show entirely. All I know is that, after a while, I liked Rogue for Rogue and not for her superpowers.

Again, you ask, what does all this have to do with the strong woman trope we are having forced on us in fiction today? Some people have said that the feats of strength Rogue pulled off in the ‘90s might have been overdone.

This is entirely possible, even probable, but I would like it if these critics would keep a few things about her in mind. Some of the reasons Rogue’s fighting style in the ‘90s (and before and after in the comics) may have looked improbable were because Rogue herself did not actually know how to use her strength, or she was relying on Danvers’ understanding of how to use increased strength during a battle.

And, because she had Danvers’ indestructability, Rogue might have thrown herself into certain situations for no other reason than to protect a teammate who would squish far more easily than she would. These are possibilities I would suggest for any maneuvers the writers had her perform which people find hard to believe. I think they should remember that, from Rogue’s point of view, these maneuvers might have seemed totally normal or reasonable to her, given what she knew of using her super strength. Rogue did not have the best education, which we’ll cover in more depth below, and so she did not and does not know as much about physics as readers/viewers and others do.

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The other thing viewers and readers should keep in mind when they watch Rogue fight is her absorbing ability. If she suddenly acquires the strength of the Unstoppable Juggernaut and begins throwing him around, it can look a little silly to us. Here is a girl who barely comes up to Juggernaut’s hip whirling him around over her head like a ragdoll. Under normal circumstances, it is totally implausible and stupid looking.

But Rogue is not normal, especially when she absorbs the powers of others. If she absorbs Juggernaut’s power, then she has his strength. Whether she has it in proportion to her size, weight, and height does not matter; you could drop a building on her while she has Juggernaut’s powers and she won’t even get a bloddy nose, for the simple reason that he would not get a bloody nose. Unfair? Maybe, but this is fantasy we are talking about here. We enjoy it precisely because it allows us to imagine stuff we cannot actually do.

The other thing to remember is that Rogue cannot just activate the powers she steals willy-nilly. She has to access the memories of the people who actually own these powers so she can avoid blowing up the countryside or flooding Manhattan. If she wants to use Juggernaut’s own strength against him, she will rely on his memories – muscle and conscious/subconscious – to make the best possible use of his powers. Juggernaut’s fighting style is not Rogue’s, nor should it be. But when she immerses herself, however shallowly she does it, in his memories this means that we will see her fighting the way that he does. It looks ridiculous, but when you keep this aspect of her powers in mind it becomes understandable and allowable.

Now this does NOT mean the writers should not be held to a high standard when they portray her pulling off these feats, but it does mean that it behooves us, as the audience, to remember the McGuffin that allows Rogue to survive these battles and/or perfom these stunts. It is a balance between the writers knowing their craft and the audience accepting the parameters of the story they are telling. Writers who abuse or talk down to their audience must rightly be called out for their arrogance. But an audience that will accept a good story with thousands of impossible McGuffins scattered throughout it should not throw stones in glass houses. That is my opinion, anyway.

Now we will discuss why Rogue is not an “SFC” or “Strong Female Character” in the vein that Carol Danvers, Thorette, and Thundra are.

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Long story short, Rogue does not qualify as the modern strong woman. First, her character design has fluctuated since the ‘90s and she no longer has the muscle structure of Ms. Marvel. Rogue is nothing like Carol Danvers, Thundra, or Thorette. These female characters are cardboard cutouts designed to appease and appeal to the Femi-Nazis, who are forever unhappy and whose hunger for the destruction of Western culture is utterly insatiable. It may appear from her 1990s debut – and, for all I know, some of Marvel’s newest stories – that Rogue qualifies as a “SFC,” but the fact is that Rogue is not a cardboard cutout, nor is she a strong woman in the sense that she is faster, smarter, and stronger than the guys.

One of the first people to admit that she is not smarter than almost anyone you could name would be Rogue herself. She is capable of outwitting an opponent and she is not stupid, but she is not a scholar, or a mechanic, or a super genius, or any of the other “SFC” tropes. What is more, she does not – or did not – pretend to be any of the above when I watched her on television and knew her in my limited way in the comics.

Most of the knowledge that Rogue possesses of higher mathematics, scholarly enterprises, etc., is knowledge that she stole from others. In the comics, Rogue ran away from home when she was thirteen. She spent years on the road after this, and a few more years under Mystique’s “guidance” before joining the X-Men. I do not think there was a lot of time in there for regular schooling, do you, readers? No, there was not. So this means her formal education ended, practically speaking, after she left home.

Now Danvers went through all the schooling necessary to become an Air Force pilot and Jane Foster – who used to be a perfectly respectable character – had to go through extensive schooling and training to become a nurse. We are just supposed to accept that Thundra, being from an alternate universe where women are the dominant sex (ignore the barfing sounds on the other side of the screen, please, readers) is naturally smarter than any man on this Earth or her own – though it is funny how she never shows it.

None of the above applies to Rogue. Everything she has learned since she discovered her powers has been taught to her by circumstance and by the consequences of her choices; her smarts were earned in the school of hard knocks, not in a brick and mortar building. Danvers, for all her supposed superiority to men, learns nothing from the battles she takes a part in. The evidence of this is that she is one of the few Marvel characters with no ability to resist telepathic control for even a fraction of a second. Rogue has had to learn to be tough to survive; Danvers survives through the writers’ stubborn intent to keep her alive.

In moments of downtime in the 1990s series, Rogue also had a generally cheerful demeanor. She smiled, laughed, and joked regularly; this showed that she was someone who genuinely loved life, despite the numerous punches she had been dealt by it.

In contrast, Danvers’ sense of humor is thinner than cellophane plastic. When she teases or jokes, it sounds tinny and unreal; when she smiles, it does not soften her features. It makes her look like she is stretching her face to the breaking point.

Something else that differentiates Rogue from the “SFC” trope is that she is vulnerable. I read a book some time ago by Fr. Dwight Longenecker called The Romance of Religion. One of the interesting things he mentions in the book is that hero(es) of stories tend to have a fault or a wound that they must bear as they do their duty or carry on their quest.

Looking out over most of fiction – and especially Marvel – I have to think he is on to something here. From Spider-Man to T’Challa, from Captain America to Punisher, from Hawkeye to Ben Grimm, most of Marvel’s characters have some sort of emotional injury that they carry with them wherever they go. And ninety-nine point nine percent of them have character flaws they have to either overcome or continually wrestle to control – although by now, that fact is out the window. In Marvel’s – and our – brave new world, flaws are to be embraced, not resisted. They are natural to us while self-control is just an artificial restraint society uses to keep us down. (Yes, I am being sarcastic, readers.)

In the original stories, Rogue’s great emotional weakness was her inability to make skin contact with another human being – or any other being, for that matter. She had to wear longsleeved shirts and long pants, as well as gloves, all the time. She could not pat Wolverine on the hand with her own bare hand. She could not let someone brush up against her arms if her shirt, jacket, or suit somehow lost its sleeves – and she could never, ever kiss a man for more than a few seconds. And even the briefest of kisses would be dangerous for him.

This last was particularly painful for her because, during the ‘90s, Gambit was actively courting her. Oh, he would flirt with plenty of other girls during the series, but the one he consistently went after with every ounce of charm he could muster was Rogue.

Usually, Rogue would flirt back, but that was as far as she could and would let it go. Aside from two different times that I know of where Gambit kissed her, Rogue had to put her glove over his mouth and kiss that to show her feelings for him. On more than one occasion, her frustration with her inability to safely touch someone, anyone, would drive her to anger and/or cause her to make an avoidable mistake.

This was Rogue’s greatest vulnerability, but she had others. When captured along with the other X-Men by Mr. Sinister and his Nasty Boyz in the ‘90s TV series, Rogue admitted to Gambit that she was scared. Sinister had found a way to block mutant powers in this episode, which meant that both Rogue’s innate absorption abillities and the powers she had taken from Danvers were suppressed. “I don’t know how to fight these guys without my powers,” she admitted to Gambit.

Now, readers, can any of you name one single time that Carol Danvers has admitted that she is afraid of something/someone? I cannot. To the best of my knowledge, Danvers has never once shown fear. She might – MIGHT – show concern, but most of the time when she is captured or in a situation that looks grim, she just becomes angry. Thorette seems to be going the same route, while Thundra has always had a demonstrable temper and no real sense of, or respect for, fear.

Rogue certainly has a temper, but in this episode, anger was the furthest thing from her mind. Her primary emotion was fear because she did not know how to fight without using her powers. What “SFC” shows or admits to fear? I do not know of any, but if you can name me one, readers, I will look into her.

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In the series that followed the ‘90s X-Men, the writers changed Rogue’s appearance. They dropped Ms. Marvel from the series’ storyline and left Rogue to rely on her absorption ability alone. They also gave her and the rest of the teenage X-Men close combat and weapons’ training.

While this was a plus for Rogue, leaving her a way to protect herself if she could not somehow bring her mutant powers to bear, in my opinion the writers did make one mistake with her characterization in this series: Evolution showed Rogue as an anti-social teenage girl who was into Gothic makeup and clothing. Forget that her makeup would not have lasted five seconds in battle (yet it somehow lasted the entire series), the change in her demeanor was not something I think was really necessary. Rogue did well in the series but I did – and do – miss the cheerful zest for life she exhibited in the ‘90s.

Personally, I suspect the writers gave Rogue more angst because they thought it would sell. It must have, because the series lasted four seasons. Her tendency to brood and lose her temper did not detract from her willingness to help others, which was good, and this demeanor did give her a chance to connect with Wolverine as a father figure. While this last was especially nice, I still miss her earliler deportment a lot. If Marvel ever rights itself and starts telling good stories again, I hope they give Rogue back the joi de vive she had in the ‘90s.

One other good thing about Rogue’s appearance in Evolution was her shorter hair. It is a well known fact that sexual predators target women with long hair because then they can grab hold of it and use that hold to force the woman to go where they wish. Such a hold is painful – if you do not believe me, readers, try it on yourself. (Trust me, it hurts.)

One of the strange things that writers for modern films and stories – including comics – keep doing is they are sending their heroines into combat with long hair. This is silly, as it can be a weakness; the heroine’s hair could catch in a machine and suck her down a hole, or her opponent(s) could grab it and use that hold to keep her still. Your heroine may look great with long hair, but remember, readers and writers, that even Princess Leia’s hair was done up in such a way that a Stormtrooper couldn’t grab it and yank her back. There was also no chance of her long locks getting caught in the Millenium Falcon’s inductors because it was pinned up and out of the way.

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Allowing men into combat with beards is no more practical than sending women into a fight with long hair. (Yes, I AM looking at Cap’s beard in Infinity War.) One of the reasons the Romans shaved was so that, when they got into personal combat with an enemy, he would not be able grab the Roman’s beard and hold him immobilized long enough to behead him. Ask the Romans how they know about this.

Now most stories are fantasy, of course, and in some cases you can actually excuse the female characters’ long hair (who is going to be able to get close enough to Storm to grab her hair, I’d like to know?). However, Rogue’s shortened hair is not a problem for me, nor is her more feminine muscle tone.

This is why I do not and cannot see Rogue as the Feminist ideal of female superiority. Rogue is a normal woman with a power that she sees, with justification, as a curse rather than a gift. She has insecurities and fears; she makes mistakes and she is not well-educated outside of life’s hard lessons. Her strength does not come from her superpower or the powers she steals – it comes from her williness to fight evil. It comes from her desire to protect her friends and to make up for her errors in judgement. It comes of her willingness to consistently choose to be a heroine, even when doing so hurts her the most.

This is why she is one of my favorite X-Men and one of my favorite Marvel characters. This is why I cannot consider her a member of the “SFC” club, at least in her previous portrayals in the comics and cartoons. These days I can believe that Marvel would erase her from its canon if the banana brains in charge thought that would get them new subscribers and buyers. If they are going to try and make her the big, strong female character stereotype, they will ruin her as they have ruined all the other characters they are abusing.

But there is nothing I can do to stop them from torturing themselves like this. And at this point, telling them, “Hey, your company is bleeding money all over the place,” appears to be a waste of breath. If they want to bankrupt themselves, then nothing I say or do will stop them. I can only hope that when that happens, someone who loves the characters will buy the company and that they will hire good writers to clean up the mess. And yes, I would volunteer to be one of those writers in a heartbeat.

I hope it does not come to that, but it looks like it might. But if there is one thing Marvel’s myriad heroes have taught me, Rogue included, it’s that even when you get punched in the teeth, it does not mean the battle is over. It just means you got punched in the teeth. That is no reason to give up the fight.

So no, I do not intend to stop fighting. Only dead fish go with the flow, and I do not intend to be a dead fish. There is more than one way to fight, and the best way to fight Marvel’s current hierarchy is to introduce potential new Marvel fans to original Marvel fare.

In the interest of doing that, I recommend that you look up the 1990s X-Men televsion series, readers. Then study up on the characters in it, along with Marvel’s other heroes and heroines. Read between the lines; it is not the battles the characters take part in that are important, or the powers they wield, or the atrocities the current writers are making them commit –

It is who they are as characters that is important. This is what Marvel has decided to forget….

…..So this is what we have to remember and pass on to others.

EXCELSIOR!!!!

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