Tag Archives: Rogue

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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Spotlight: Strong Women – A Return to the Question

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We had met as equals, rarely a good thing in such matters, for the woman who wishes to be the equal of a man usually turns out to be less than a man and less than a woman.  A woman is herself, which is something altogether different than a man. – (Emphasis added.)

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This quote is from The Walking Drum, written by Louis L’Amour.  While Mr. L’Amour is best known for his Western fiction, the truth is that he wrote a great many other stories as well.  He served in World War II and “yondered” much of his early life.  He was many things and he saw many things.  The Walking Drum is a novel he wrote – and it is set in the twelfth century.

Why start a post off with this quote?  Because it is a timely admonition.  A woman ends up being less than herself when she is trying to be something she is not.  And yet we have no end of “experts” proclaiming that women are equal to men.  It makes the observant wonder just what they are selling.

The research I did for the post “Offended, Insulted, and Not Shutting Up” is what got this article rolling.  And before anyone asks, no, I have not shifted my position on Marvel’s decision to make Jane Foster the latest version of “Thor.”  It is a stupid decision which they will soon learn is not helping them.

My research into the opinions of others regarding “Thorette” allowed me to find comments and articles that expressed what I have thought for some years.  They were not all as delicate in their statements as I would have been but, to borrow a line from Mr. Spock and the Vulcans, that is part of the wonder of living in a world of “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.”  With this research tumbling around in my head, I began to think not only about “Thorette” but about what the intelligentsia says we are to praise in the female characters being created these days.

This brings us back to the question I asked in the previous “Strong Women” post.  Just what makes a strong woman?  Looking at “Thorette,” it seems safe to say that many writers and artists think a woman is only strong when she has an above-normal muscle structure.  This sort of physique also happens to look good in some form of armor-plated swimsuit or underwear, which conveniently guarantees a male audience of some size.  (These are probably not the guys a girl should accept the offer of a date from, by the way.)

Being a curious observer, I have a question to ask the writers and artists at Marvel and elsewhere.  Do they know how many female fans Carol Danvers has?  Do they know how many women are in Thundra and “Thorette’s” fan clubs?  Has anyone taken a poll of female Marvel fans to ask them what they think of these characters – not to mention what they think of all the other heroines on Marvel’s roster?

If Marvel were to poll its female fans, I believe that they may get answers like mine.  For instance:  I have never liked or admired Carol Danvers.  And I cannot seriously contemplate Thundra, a character from an alternate dimension where women are the dominant sex, without stifling the reflexive urge to throw up.  She has to be one of the few characters Marvel has created which I find utterly repulsive.  I know and prefer her only as a convenient villainess.

My opinion of Jane Foster/“Thorette” is well documented.  Jane Foster has been warped and nearly destroyed as Marvel’s writers, editors, managers, et al attempt to gain fashion and political points from her “new look.”  But what they fail to comprehend – or perhaps to admit – is that she looks horrible!

Now, does everyone feel this way about these characters?  Hardly.  But in my humble view, these female characters do not appeal enough to be worth any kind of money.  Judging by “Thorette’s” anemic reception and the letters Marvel received about Carol Danvers years ago, I do not think I am that alone in disliking them.

What kind of female characters, then, impress me?  Allow me to pull out another quote from Mr. L’Amour to illustrate my answer:

 

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A man you can figure on; a woman you can’t.  They’re likely either to faint, or grab for a gun, regardless of consequences. – from Chancy

 The Cherokee Trail

These are the kind of women who fascinate me, and whom I wish to emulate.  Remember, fainting can easily be faked.  How is a man to know a real faint from a false one without putting himself in danger?  Louis L’Amour’s female characters are like this.  They are iron-willed women who have bones of steel.  They can handle a pistol, a rifle, or they can use some other object as a weapon.

You will not find any of L’Amour’s female characters holding up stages, taming broncos, or riding the range as cowgirls, it is true.  But you will find women in his stories that are leading cattle drives, managing ranches, and defending their homes from Indians or bandits.  And plenty of his women are quite happy to back up their men in a fight by holding a shotgun on the group of ruffians looking to make trouble.  The women in L’Amour’s novels of seafaring and in his football stories are no different.  Admittedly they do not carry guns in the vicinity of a football game, but they are just as determined and forceful as the frontier women who were their ancestors, in spirit if not in fact.

What does all of this have to do with Marvel?  The comic book company already has a Rolodex of formidable heroines.  To name a few, there is the Wasp, the Black Widow, Mockingbird, Wanda Maximoff, Silverclaw, Jean Grey, Rogue, Storm, the Invisible Woman….  The post “Offended, Insulted, and Not Shutting Up” has a more comprehensive list, if you would like to learn of more heroines in Marvel’s Universe(s).

The fact is these women can all hold their own in a fight.  Yes, these characters have an extra asset of some kind during combat.  Mockingbird and Black Widow have extensive hand-to-hand combat training, while Storm, Rogue, and Jean Grey have mutant powers.  Many other female characters within the Marvel brand also have superpowers.  But a pistol or a rifle is an asset, too, and no frontier woman who wanted to survive would shun either weapon because it was not natural to her.  It was often the only thing standing between her and harm – or death.  You respect that kind of tool; you do not toss it aside.

So do any of these Marvelous assets cheapen who these women are as characters?  No, they do not.  Nor do they enhance their characters; they are simply stand-ins for the rifles, pistols, or the various weapons women have used throughout the centuries.  Sometimes they are even extensions of the abilities women have always had:  intelligence, mental agility, and outright strength of will.

As a result one never knows just what any of these heroines are going to do in a given crisis.  One can never know just how they are going to play the game, how they are going to react to the villain’s bait.  They may play on his arrogance or they may pretend to be simpering, frightened damsels.  Whatever they do it is bound to be interesting and exciting, for the simple reason that it has the potential to be totally unexpected.

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Carol Danvers or Thundra, in comparison, can always be counted on to hammer at a problem until it goes away.  Why is this so?  It is so because they are women who are less than women.  The writers have decided to make them something they are not.  As a result, they have personalities that are as stilted as a puppet’s limbs, making them very uninteresting.

The other heroines do not have this built-in handicap.  They are women who are not afraid of being women.  This means that they do not think like the men around them.  This gives them their edge in a battle.  It is not their superpowers, skills, or weapons.  It is who they are as people, as women.

When these heroines are safely captured, they are often deemed by the villains as no longer a threat because they cannot use their powers, kung fu, or technology.  With Danvers or Thundra this is usually a true assessment.  They are not used to thinking outside the box – or thinking much at all, from what I have seen.  In a pitched battle they simply react.  This makes them relatively easy for their opponents to overcome or dispatch.

Many of Marvel’s other heroines, however, never stop thinking.  They are always watching, listening, assessing, and working out a plan of some sort.  If the only possible plan they can make is to wait for back up, then that is what they have to do.  Their male counterparts have experienced similar crises, though you will not hear these mentioned by very many critics.  If they could survive the wait and not be diminished by it, then why can’t their female counterparts?

From Marvel to DC, from Star Trek to Andre Norton’s Witch World series, from Star Wars to Howl’s Moving Castle and its sequels, there is no end of proof that women can be as bold and brave as the men in their lives – and they can be as bold without compromising their womanhood.

This is what modern writers, filmmakers, and artists no longer consider.  In fact they are actively running away from this truth because it has become passé to portray a woman as she actually is.  Instead a fictional heroine must be displayed as something other than a woman.  You go to the theaters to see the latest films and most of the women in these movies have no problem cutting off men’s heads or disemboweling them.  Not only do they have no physical problem doing it, which many of them should, but they also have no moral qualms about doing it.

Image result for wonder woman filmThe Wonder Woman movie out next year promises to be a case in point.  I was once a big fan of Wonder Woman.  This was not because of her strength or because of her Lasso of Truth.  No, I liked her because of these things and the fact that she was still a woman.  Throughout her adventures with the JLA, Diana learned to respect and like her male teammates, to appreciate their abilities and welcome them as friends.  Later series even had her dating Batman!

But recent rewrites by DC Comics have turned Wonder Woman into a bloodthirsty man-hater.  It is true that in the coming film she is going to fall in love with Steve Trevor (portrayed by Chris Pine).  While she is doing that, though, she will also be happily carving men to pieces and telling women that being secretaries is the equivalent of slavery.  You would think she came from an alternate universe and not an island inhabited by Greek warrior women.

All of this detracts from the real power of women.  By portraying a woman as what she is not, these writers and artists are not elevating women.  They are demeaning and demoting them.

The fictional heroine who easily encapsulates what a real warrior woman can and should be is Éowyn of Rohan from The Lord of the Rings.  Secretly joining the Rohirrim’s army as it marches to battle in Gondor, she is the one who defeats the Witch-king, the leader of the Nine Ringwraiths or Názgul.  Merry, taken into Gondor by her when she wore the guise of a male Rider, helps her with a well-placed sword-thrust.  But it is Éowyn who ultimately strikes the fatal blow and wins a great victory in the glorious Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

Still, many Feminists go into apoplectic fits over Éowyn’s role in The Lord of the Rings novels despite her amazing display of courage and fighting skill.  Why?  They do this because Éowyn leaves war behind forever when she decides to accept Faramir’s proposal of marriage after recovering from her battle with the Witch-king.  That particular passage reads thus:

Image result for eowyn battle of pelennor fields

Then the heart of Éowyn changed, or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her.

‘I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun,’ she said; ‘and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.’

Image result for eowyn and faramirThe thing Feminists do not understand – or the thing which they absolutely refuse to accept – is that Éowyn’s triumph in battle does not define her.  She did an amazing, wonderful thing, which most other people could never accomplish.  Her decision to marry Faramir does not render her defeat of the Witch-king any less; rather, her decision to marry is the reward she earned in that fight.

Éowyn’s part in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields does not define her identity, and most Feminists want that stereotype to define and limit her.  This is most of Éowyn’s own problem in the trilogy until she falls in love with Faramir.  Up to that point, she believes that battle will give her satisfaction.  Poisoned along with Théoden by Wormtongue’s whisperings, in her confusion and slow descent into despair Éowyn decides that only death in battle will give her a chance at glory and renown.

Now, readers, the fact is that death is not a fulfillment of life.  It is the end of life, and if you ally yourself with death, you are allying yourself with the Enemy.

In Minas Tirith – originally named Minas Anor or ‘Tower of the Sun’ – Éowyn finally comes to see that battle is not where she can be most useful when she is at last confronted by Faramir’s genuine love for her.  Being a warrior is not her calling, although she can certainly wield a sword as well as any man.  Her vocation in life is being a woman, a wife, and eventually a mother.

Through Éowyn the author of the trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien, demonstrates that a woman is not made by her fighting ability.  She is distinguished by her will, her womanhood and – if she is lucky – by her motherhood.  “For the hand that rocks the cradle is that hand that rules the world.”  Mothers shape their children, daughters and sons both.  These daughters and sons will grow up to change the world through the things they do, the things they create, and the children they bring into the universe.

Modern media has largely forsaken this understanding of womanhood at the behest of the Hegelian/Nietzschean complex, the modern incarnation of Sauron.  There has been a war going on for the past century or three which most have not paid heed to.  This has led to nothing but a lot of pain for women, who have been persuaded as a group to throw away the knowledge that they once possessed. Their honor is their womanhood and it is our societal honor to know them as such.

Mockingbird

This is why I have taken issue with Jane Foster’s identity change, not to mention the identity change of several other formerly male characters.  This is why I have written two posts on strong women.  It is an attempt to remind women of what we truly are and what we can actually achieve.  For when women stop valuing themselves as women, society stops valuing them as well, and then that society sooner rather than later treats them like chattel.

ISIS does this on a daily basis.  Slave traders and sex traffickers rely on such attitudes to do “business.”  The shout of “I am Woman, hear me roar!” has led to nothing but pain and sorrow for millions of women.  They have chosen to debase themselves.  This means they are no longer worthy of special respect and value to men.  For if women do not value themselves as women, as potential wives and mothers, then why should men?

Does all this mean that a woman cannot fight?  Pshaw.  Éowyn fought, did she not?  It is not possible that she forgot how to swing a sword after marrying Faramir.  She simply did not make a living fighting – and for the record, neither did he!  The heroines of Marvel Comics fight; the women in Star Trek and Star Wars fight.  The will to fight is the influential factor.  Just ask the mothers and wives who grabbed a gun to help defend against Indian raids or bandits back in the Old West!  Or those that defend themselves and their families similarly today.

But if a woman wants to make a career as a warrior, she cannot try and be the equal of the men.  This can never be, for the simple fact that no amount of human interference – psychological or scientific – can overwrite what she is.  And if a woman decides she wishes to be a “shieldmaiden,” then she had better be prepared for what could happen to her on the field of battle.  Torture, the loss of life and limb, rape – these are just some of the risks which I can see ahead of a female soldier.  An enemy who does not value life – and there are many of those today – can be abominably creative in the management of prisoners.  Just ask Dean Koontz.

Han and Leia

Does all this mean that I believe a woman should not be prepared to fight?  Civilization is a very, very fragile construction.  One small thing goes out of whack and entire nations fall to their knees.  Women definitely need to know how to defend themselves.  They have always needed to know this.

But what women need to relearn is that it is not battle which will define them.  Battle does not define a man, so how can it define a woman?  A man or a woman is defined by who and what they are.  A man is defined by his manhood, a woman by her womanhood.  That is all there is to it.

This is not weakness.  It is not slavery.  Knowing who and what you are is not a defect; it is a strength.  Being proud of being a man or a woman is what gives one the will to fight, to protect oneself from those who do not appreciate you for who and what you are.  Muscles, weapons, skills – these are the tools.  They are not the determining factors.  We, men and women, are the weapons.

Until writers at Marvel, DC, Star Trek, and elsewhere figure that out, though, we will have to endure continuous watered-down portrayals of heroines in many stories.  Until these “artists” ask themselves, “What really makes a strong woman?”, they will continue coming up with the wrong answers.

Readers, I will give Mr. L’Amour the last word on this subject:

Image result for the warrior's path by louis l'amour

She’ll stand to it.  There’s a likely craft, lad, and one to sail any sea.  You can see it in the clear eyes of her and the way she carries her head.  Give me always a woman with pride, and pride of being a woman.  She’s such a one. – from The Warrior’s Path

Amen, readers.  Amen!

The Mithril Guardian

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Hawkeye/Clint Barton

Here we go again, readers. I am back in the world of Marvel movies, thanks in no small part to seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron in theaters after a four month waiting period. And, yes, as you can see by the title, this post is about the only normal human in the Avengers: Hawkeye a.k.a. Clint Barton. So what? He is one of my favorite Marvel characters. I could no more forget him than I could let go of Captain America, Rogue, Storm, Wolverine, or any other character I like.

Now strap in, sit tight, and hold the eye-rolls for after you have read the fan-rant written by this truly wicked blogger! 🙂

Hawkeye

Hawkeye has a whole lot more to do in Age of Ultron, and as a fan of this character, I thought it was great to see more of him this time around! I was really impressed by how much he got to do in Ultron, as opposed to The Avengers. Whedon handled Hawkeye well in both films, but had to write the World’s Greatest Marksman a fairly small part in The Avengers. Otherwise, he would not have been able to properly introduce the audience to the Avengers as a team coalescing under pressure.

This is not the case in Ultron. Hawkeye gets a lot more screen time and many more opportunities to show off, such as the time he hits a dart board dead center, when Tony has been plying the thing for a few minutes and only hitting the inner ring. The glare Tony throws him and the “what do you expect?” shrug Hawkeye returns is wonderfully true to form – for both characters.

Another scene where he gets to show off is in the Avengers’ first battle with Ultron. When Cap needs his shield, it is Hawkeye who sends the vibranium “Frisbee” flying toward America’s ultimate superhero, who catches it and uses it to cut an Iron Legionnaire in half.

For those of you who have not read Hawkeye’s profile or followed the Avenger for a long time in the comics, in Marvel’s “mainstream” comics, Clint Barton did time as Captain America after Steve Rogers’ “death” in the Civil War story arc. He was in the role for a few days, tops, before deciding that he did not like “replacing” Steve Rogers. But the reason Iron Man handed him the First Avenger’s uniform and shield is because Clint Barton is one of the very few people on the planet who can handle the shield the same way that Steve Rogers does.

This is not simply because Cap trained him after he joined the team. Doubtless, that training helped, but Hawkeye is skilled in throwing things accurately as well as in shooting precisely. When he throws an item, he often throws it in such a way that it ricochets/rebounds to hit his real target. Thus, he could throw a baseball at someone, who manages to dodge the ball, thinking they have outsmarted Hawkeye. Except that the ball hits a wall or some other object behind them, and rebounds to strike them in the head, knocking them out. Cap’s shield works on a similar principle in battle, which is why Clint can handle it at all.

Hawkeye practices all the time to keep his accuracy this exact, and seeing him toss Steve the shield was an unexpected treat and a half for me! I would like to see him actually use the shield for a couple of throws in Captain America: Civil War, but we will have to wait and see what happens there.

And did I mention that he gets to do some fancy flying in this movie? Clint is a great pilot, and watching him swing the Aveng-jet around in complicated, dizzying maneuvers was fun! As opposed to the scene where his quinjet is shot down in The Avengers, in Age of Ultron we get to see him display his true piloting skills.

Also, remember how Clint flew the quinjet while Natasha shot at Loki using the plane’s mini-gun in The Avengers? Well, in the battle against HYDRA at the beginning of Age of Ultron, this scenario is properly up-ended. Natasha is driving a jeep toward the HYDRA base the team has set out to destroy, while Clint gets to do what he does best: shoot down everything that gets in the jeep’s way.

Perfect! 😀

Now, no fan-rant about Hawkeye’s part in Ultron would be complete if it did not mention his family. If you check out Prognostications for Age of Ultron, Part 4 on this blog and make it all the way to prognostication number six, then you will see that I openly suspected the house in the teaser scene where Cap and Tony were chopping wood was Hawkeye’s house.

Beneath that are a number of theories about what is in the house, and I would never, ever, have believed that the second hypothesis would pan out. I had no idea whatsoever that Whedon would add Hawkeye’s family from the Ultimate comics to the film. And if you had told me at the time that that supposition would come true, I would have said something like, “Yeah, I wish.”

So when a friend told me that Hawkeye had a family in the film, I was flabbergasted, but not in a bad way. I have always thought he would be a good father and husband. When I learned that he is both in the film, I was even more eager to see the movie.

The hints given in the movie about the Barton family’s existence are good, too. When getting treated for an injury sustained while fighting HYDRA, Hawkeye jokes about being made of plastic. Dr. Cho corrects him and says his own girlfriend will not be able to tell where he was hit when she is done with him. Hawkeye quickly mutters, “I don’t have a girlfriend.” But he does not look anyone in the face when he says it, instead gazing at the wall.

Later on, Cap catches Clint on the phone with someone. He says the team has a lead, then asks who Clint was talking to on the phone. It takes Clint a total of five seconds to come up with a suitably evasive but partly true answer. “My girlfriend,” he says quickly. Cap does a double-take, knowing that Clint has professed to not have a girlfriend in the past. For his part, Clint does not seem to enjoy the fib he has just fed Cap. He will not look him directly in the eye and it took him too long to formulate an answer.

Speaking of which, has anyone else ever noticed that Clint seems to have a problem with lying to his teammates? Telling them an outright lie seems to be pretty hard for him. I guess he could flatly lie to HYDRA or some other bad guy if he wanted to, but he seems to be very bad at even fibbing to the Avengers.

Now, because of some early, scathing comments about Age of Ultron, I was worried that I would not like Hawkeye’s wife, Laura. Turns out, I actually think she was really impressive. The comments on the Internet made her sound like an airhead, but that is not the way that she struck me at all. Her husband goes up against modern day Nazis, aliens, robots, and the occasional arms dealer, not to mention brings the rest of the Avengers home without so much as calling ahead, and she takes it all in stride. She supports him all the way around and has his back. That was more than those comments on the Internet led me to believe, I can tell you!

On top of that, it was nice to see Hawkeye showing his softer side when dealing with his children. As I said above, I have often thought he would make a great dad, and seeing him in the role was fan-tastic. If anything, it was the icing on the cake! I can see why Whedon had fun writing for Hawkeye in this movie. I would have had fun writing for him – here or in other stories/mediums!

Interestingly, the family Clint has in the film is not the same as the family he has in the Ultimate comics. Laura is his wife in both mediums, but in the Ultimate comics he has two sons and a younger daughter. The Barton children’s names also do not match their names from the comics. Callum was the oldest Barton boy in the Ultimate comics, and Nicole was his daughter’s name. In the movie, Clint’s oldest son is named Cooper, his second child is a daughter named Lila, and his youngest is Nathaniel Pietro Barton.

I do not know what possessed Whedon to change Clint’s family line up for Age of Ultron, but I am hardly complaining. It is possible that he rearranged the Barton children’s line-up so that they would have a better shot at surviving in the films, as Clint’s wife and children were all killed in the Ultimate comics. I thought the Barton family was just fine in Age of Ultron, and I have my fingers crossed that we get to see them all again – hopefully not as casualties of War or any other subsequent Marvel movie conflict!

Speaking of Whedon, it bears mentioning that the scenes at Hawkeye’s farm were very nearly cut from Age of Ultron. Whedon told Marvel Studios’ executives that he wanted to expand Thor’s vision in the dream well.  They said he could if he cut the “farm scene.”

Whedon told the Marvel Studios executives that he did not want to cut the “farm scene.” The Marvel Execs insisted that if Whedon wanted to expand Thor’s vision, he would have to cut the “farm scene.”  Whedon would not budge, though, and things apparently got nasty.  So Whedon cut a good part of Thor’s visit to the dream well out of the film.

I would guess that this may be one of the reasons he has removed himself from Marvel Studios (however temporary it may prove to be), aside from the fact that he was directing a great deal more people in this movie than he ever has previously.

I admit, I am going to miss having Joss Whedon behind the Avengers’ films – although it may mean that fewer Avengers are killed off in later movies! 🙂 In all honesty, though, without Whedon helming or having input on the Avengers’ films, I fear we may not have Hawkeye’s family in the movies for very much longer.

And if that happens, I am going to be VERY angry at Marvel Studios’ executives. They may lose a viewer for their films if they decide to make good on the argument they had with Whedon over adding Hawkeye’s family to the movie.

 

Something else I thought was great, and I have touched on this before, is the relationship between Clint and the Maximoff twins. You can find more about that in the post Avengers: Age of Ultron – Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, at least as it relates to the twins themselves. As it relates to Hawkeye, I thought it showed a lot about him.

Clint does not like the twins, really and truly, until the final battle against Ultron in Nova Grad, Sokovia. There, he gets the chance to give Wanda a great pep talk. And, even though it occurs when Pietro dies, he settles for a genuine respect for the male Maximoff twin.

If anything, the reason he warmed up to the two might be due to the fact that he himself has children. And the Maximoffs are still children. They have been since their parents’ deaths; they know how to take care of themselves, but their understanding of the world around them is badly skewed due to a lack of genuine parental guidance.

When Wanda started to fall apart, I think Clint sensed how young she was, mentally, more than he had before. So he responded to her in almost – almost – the same way that he would if it was his own daughter losing herself to panic. Plus, he has been in her shoes in the past. Loki mind-controlled him into being part of his “take over the world” scheme. He knows how being used as a part in something that evil feels, and so when Wanda started down the “this is all my fault” path, he stopped her before she had a chance to become a whimpering wreck. Way to go, Hawkeye!

I think Clint may have seen a little of himself in Pietro as well. The brash, abrasive manner Quicksilver demonstrates throughout the movie is similar to Clint’s own scrappy attitude. Not to mention the two both have a tendency to come up with witty wisecracks and quips in moments of calm as well as battle. And they have been good friends in the comics for a very long time.

Of course, Clint’s friendship with Natasha is better shown in this movie than it has been previously. The two dig at each other good-naturedly and show more of their battle brother-sister habits throughout the movie. This is clearly proved when it is shown that Natasha alone, out of all the Avengers, is the person Clint trusted with the knowledge of his family. He has also apparently prepared everyone in his family to meet his team in case he ever had to bring the Avengers home one day. Why else would they all be so calm about meeting four superheroes – Bruce Banner, Thor, Captain America, and Tony Stark – who otherwise would have startled and frightened most other children and wives?

It is additionally demonstrated that Clint gets along well with the two “science brothers” on the team. I cannot recall anything extremely specific with regard to Banner, but the friendly taunts and jibes Clint and Tony exchange show they have gotten to know each other fairly well, and they have come to trust each other a lot since they started working together.

Thor tends to get “poked” by Clint more than the others, it seems. I am guessing this is because of Clint’s taunt about Mjolnir’s worthiness enchantment. Since Thor is the only alien they have on the team, he is open to a lot of teasing. He has become more familiar with Earth’s cultures since he came to Midgard, but in some ways Cap has had less trouble assimilating to the 21st century than Thor has.

Also, he is a prince, and he can fly. Clint is going to want to make sure Thor keeps his head out of the clouds even more than he watches Tony’s penchant for getting big headed. Still, since Thor was willing to abandon the battle at the HYDRA base halfway through to get Clint back to the Aveng-jet for preliminary medical treatment, and stayed with him while the others went on fighting, he does not seem to resent Clint’s ribbing much, if at all.

Captain America 

I was, I must say, most impressed by the friendship between Clint and Cap in the film. I was watching this in particular because I learned the World’s Greatest Marksman would be siding with Captain America in Civil War. And I was also studying it closely because, in the original “mainstream” comics, Clint and Steve had a tendency to butt heads on almost everything. Clint was Pietro’s age when he first joined the team in the comics and because of that he occasionally felt that he would be a better leader for the Avengers than Cap was.

Well, obviously, this is not the case in the movies. Clint is much more mature in the films, and his friendship with Steve shows that. Mostly it is in little scenes. His saying, “C’mon, Cap!” when Steve goes to pick up Mjolnir was hint number one. When he watched Tony try the hammer, his manner was more sarcastic and disbelieving. He had an idea that Tony would not be able to lift the hammer, and Tony’s declaration that physics would help him do so did not increase Clint’s confidence in him a whit.

But when he encourages Cap, he sounds more convinced. It is as if, were the team to be placing bets on which one of them could lift Mjolnir, he would put his money on Steve. Cap does not lift the hammer, however; probably to avoid embarrassing Thor at what is supposed to be his going-away party. So it is a good thing no one put money on anybody else, because otherwise they would all have lost.

Hint number two is the fact that it takes Clint five seconds to decide to lie to Cap about the call he was caught making to his wife. He has been keeping the secret for so long that telling even Cap about it is a daunting idea. Cap does not like it when things are kept from him, though Clint’s keeping his family under wraps is more sensible than all the secrets SHIELD was hiding from Steve. I think Cap was more than willing to let Clint slide on that one.

But Clint still did not like lying to him. It was written all over his face. And he knew that Cap had realized there was a disconnect between this explanation he had just given and his earlier declarations of not having a girlfriend. But telling Cap about his family in the Tower, when Ultron is all over the Internet and in the surveillance systems, not to mention in every other computer system on the planet, is not a good idea. So, sensibly, Clint told Cap as much of the truth as he safely could.

The third hint comes in Seoul. Cap is hanging off the back door of a truck trailer when he says that he is going after Ultron. Interestingly, it is not Natasha who warns him how dangerous this plan is. Instead it is Clint who says, “You’re no match for him, Cap.”

“Thanks, Barton,” Cap mutters, being quite well aware of that fact himself.

The fourth hint is also in Seoul. Clint lost Natasha when he picked up the Cradle, and for a few seconds, we are once again looking at the original comics. Clint repeatedly asks Cap if he knows where Natasha is, and Cap continually orders him back to Avengers Tower. Then time and space re-converge and Clint does as he is told – though he hits the consoles in front of him to show his frustration and anger.

Last but not least, for all his seeming “impartiality” in the arguments among the Avengers, I was certainly under the impression that Clint was always silently siding with Cap, even when the First Avenger brought the twins to the Tower. Though he says that Wanda’s seal of approval on the Vision will mean nothing to him, his statement is directed toward her, not Steve. Cap’s decision he will follow, but not hers – yet.

I was glad to see that Clint and Steve got along so well in the film. I had been hoping they would, since they have become better friends over time in the comics. They are a lot alike, though getting Clint to admit that takes some serious work.

They are cut from similar cloth and almost always fight on the same side. I do not know for sure, but I do not think they have ever come to blows in the same manner and spirit that Steve and Tony went after each other in Civil War. No matter how angry they have become with each other in the past, they have remained great friends. If anything, their arguments actually appear to strengthen their friendship instead of tearing it down!

Considering how well Clint got off in Age of Ultron, I am hoping he does as well in Captain America: Civil War. If he does better, then you will again be reading a glowing fan-rant about him on this blog, readers. You can put money on that! So, until I write again –

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

Spotlight: An Introduction to Marvel’s X-Men, Part 1

The X-Men at the end of Marvel's X-Men: Evolution

The X-Men at the end of Marvel’s X-Men: Evolution

Greetings, readers! By now, most of you are aware of the fact that I am a Marvel fan, and I really enjoy Marvel’s Avengers, inside and outside of the theaters.

But in all my talk about the Avengers, I have let my old favorites, the X-Men, go by the wayside. Mostly, this is my own fault, but I would say that part of the reason is how Marvel’s writers – for the comics and the films – have been treating the X-Men over the last few years.

As I said in previous Spotlight! posts, the X-Men and Spider-Man were my first introductions to the world of Marvel Comics. Up until a few years ago, I thought that they were the only characters Marvel owned, aside from the Fantastic Four (who I knew of peripherally for many years) and the Hulk.

Much has been said in favor of the X-Men films, but for my part, I detest them. Where Marvel’s Avengers films have a clear roster, clear origins, and tie back easily to the earliest Marvel Comics, the X-Men films are less understandable. The roster for the X-Men franchise is almost always in flux and new mutants are constantly coming and going – even within the same film! There are literally thousands of mutants in Marvel Comics. I only know a few of them. How can I possibly be expected to keep up with all of the characters popping in and out of an X-Men film?

Plus, there have been so many different versions of the X-Men that the relationships in the films are not the relationships which I grew up with. Even a dedicated X-Fan like myself ends up with crossed eyes after catching a glimpse – a glimpse, readers! – of an X-Men film.

So today I thought I would give a little history on the X-Men I know about, where they come from, and who their main enemies are. If you are already well versed in X-Men lore (and know who everyone in the films are the moment they appear) then this list is probably not for you. If you are a newcomer to the Marvel Universe, feel free to consider this a semi-crash course in X-Men lore. Others can tell you more, but I can tell you what I know. So, readers, this is where we start:

What are the X-Men? The X-Men are a superhero team made up entirely of mutants. What is a mutant? Well, unlike real mutants, the mutants of the Marvel Universe are people – men and women – born with an advanced X gene. This advanced X gene is what gives them their powers. These people, thought to be the next stage in human evolution, are called mutants.

A mutant’s power(s) usually manifests itself when they hit their teen or pre-teen years, but some can use their powers from the time they are born. Some mutations in the Marvel Universe are obvious, others are not. Jean Grey, one of the original X-Men, is an example of the latter. Her mutant powers are telekinesis and telepathy; she looks completely normal but is in fact beyond average. Other mutants have very obvious mutant traits that make them stand out in a crowd: fish features, skin that has turned to crystal, wings, twisted faces, fur, or strangely colored eyes and/or skin.

Mutants are known in the Marvel Universe as Homo superior and some people hate them simply for being different, almost the way they hate the Hulk. Some of these people hate mutants because they think that, in time, mutants will outnumber normal humans, who will become extinct as a result. I have never truly bought into that idea myself; but that is what these mutant haters say they believe.

In response to these haters, some mutants have formed radical terrorist groups that say mutants should rule over normal humans. Many mutants simply want to be left alone, and their fear of the haters on both sides of the argument leads many to either hide their mutations or disappear into the sewers – literally.

The X-Men stand in the middle. They believe that mutants and normal humans can live side by side the same way that normal humans have managed to live together since the beginning of time. Those who hate mutants and those who hate normal humans often find the X-Men standing in their way; the X-Men’s job is to promote peace between mutants and humans, and that means protecting both sides from those who hate them. This brings up the next question…

Who are the X-Men? There have been a great many X-Men over the years. Even with all the time in the world and all your patience, readers, I could not list them all, simply because I do not know them all. But the ones I do know I will list here:

 

Professor Charles Xavier/Professor X: Regarded as the most powerful telepath on the planet, Professor Charles Xavier – better known to us X-Fans simply as ‘Professor X’ or ‘The Prof.’ – is the founder of the X-Men as well as the “School for Gifted Youngsters.” This school is both the headquarters of the X-Men and an actual school where young mutants are taught regular academics, as well as being trained in the use of their powers.

A geneticist with knowledge of many other sciences, Professor Xavier suffered an injury in his early adolescence which crippled him. When he saw how humans and mutants were not getting along, often over simple things or a lack of understanding, he decided to do something about it.

Professor Xavier assembled several young mutants and taught them how to use their powers for good. Then he sent these youths and adolescents out to do battle with the forces arrayed against peaceful coexistence between mutants and humans. He has had to rebuild the team from time to time – his first students hit adulthood and decided to retire, or at least take a leave of absence, leaving their cause largely undefended. The Professor then had to find new mutants to take up the banner. Much like Merlin of Camelot, the Professor has been the grounding force for the X-Men and the voice of wisdom they all turn to – even the sour-tempered ones!

 

Scott Summers/Cyclops: The first youth to be recruited by Professor Xavier, Cyclops’ mutant powers are as much curse as gift. When he hit his early teens, Cyclops began having headaches and, one day, beams of force projected from his eyes. He could not shut the beams off; only closing his eyes stopped them. The Professor took him in and equipped him with a set of ruby quartz sunglasses, as well as a visor with a ruby quartz lens which could be lifted to allow Cyclops to project his “eye beams” in directed, physical attacks. Only ruby quartz is capable of containing Cyclops’ “Optic Blast.”

The sheer power of the force beams Cyclops projects can burn through most any substance on Earth and probably a few extra-terrestrial metals as well. Super-powered beings or mutants with healing factors/super strength can withstand his power, though it hurts those with healing factors. Otherwise, Cyclops’ “Optic Blast” can destroy almost anything and kill practically anyone.

Because of the danger of his power, Cyclops is somewhat stoic and withdrawn. With no way to shut off his power, he feels cursed, and this drives a wedge between him and most everyone else but the Professor and the love of Cyclops’ life: Jean Grey. Despite all this, “Cyke” is an excellent tactician and field commander, with natural leadership skills and tendencies. He may not be as personable and likeable as Cap, but the X-Men trust him about as much as the Avengers trust Steve Rogers. (I never really took to Cyclops myself, but I literally cannot think of anyone else leading the X-Men into battle.)

 

Jean Grey: Jean was recruited by Professor Xavier not long after Cyclops was. The two quickly started doing the “Romance Two-step” and Cyke has never really loved anyone but her. A powerful telepath and telekinetic, Jean was the daughter of one of Professor Xavier’s friends. Kind, and with a personality almost as interesting as Cyclops’ (yawn), Jean acts as the Professor’s voice in arguments between the X-Men on the field and in the school. She’s no spitfire, but you do not want to get her angry, either.

Jean’s history with the X-Men is beyond complicated. I do not know all the details myself, mostly because it is all so confusing! Jean is typically kind, friendly, and always willing to help out. But I never really liked her or thought she was the cat’s meow. Still, I cannot see anyone else by Cyclops’ side, seconding for him in the midst of a battle, or breaking up fights as easily as she does.

 

James “Logan” Howlett/Wolverine: Known as Wolverine or “Logan” since he first showed up in the comics, Wolverine has to be the most recognizable member of the X-Men, in no small part due to the fact that he is central to the X-Men film franchise. When exactly he was born I am not sure, though recent rewrites put his birthday somewhere around the 1820s or 1830s!

Traditionally, Wolverine has been a Canadian, but now I am not so sure the writers have left even that part of what little history he had outside of the X-Men alone. For all intents and purposes, though, as far as I know he is a Canadian citizen.

Logan’s mutant power is a healing factor that allows him to survive the worst wounds – up to and including nuclear explosions – and is constantly regenerating his flesh. A side benefit of this is his enhanced, almost animal, senses. He can hear, see, and smell as well as the animal he uses for a codename. His healing factor is also the reason for his longevity, not to mention his apparent “youth.” After all, he does not look like a man who has lived two hundred plus years, now does he?

One other thing Wolverine’s mutant power has given him is a set of three bone claws in each forearm. These claws extend from his forearms and slide out of the skin on the back of his hands, locking into place just above his knuckles. His skin has to heal closed every time he retracts these claws.

Subjected to an experiment at some point in his past, Wolverine’s skeleton was coated with adamantium, a fictional metal in the Marvel Universe which is heavy but as durable as vibranium, the metal which was used to make Cap’s shield. (Interestingly, Cap’s shield was originally made from an experimental mixture of vibranium and adamantium; recent re-writes have made it a purely vibranium weapon.) This is why Wolverine’s claws appear to be made of metal; they are bone coated in metal.

Wolverine’s metal skeleton adds to his near immortality. The guy is extremely hard to kill, but he has come to the brink of death more often than even Rocket Raccoon. Like Rocket, he does not enjoy pain and has to psych himself up to take extreme punishment in battle; the adamantium in his body should also kill him, as so much metal in the body is toxic to a normal human.

But once again, Wolverine’s healing factor keeps him alive despite the metal bonded to his bones (which makes him weigh a lot more than he should and makes it hard for him to swim, not to mention the trouble he would have going through metal detectors).

Sometime after the experiment which gave him his metal skeleton, Wolverine’s memories were wiped from his mind. He can – or could – only recall fragments of his former life, one of which was the moniker “Logan.” Always a tough guy, the fact that he could not remember anything about himself and the fact that he regularly survives things which should kill him, makes Wolverine an unhappy guy you do NOT want to irritate to the point of anger. He has a temper to at least match the Hulk’s lowest anger level – and no one knows just how low Hulk’s rage can go.

Wolverine snarls, growls, and is prone to animal, berserker rages when he is incensed or the pain – physical, mental, or emotional – becomes too much for him. He is hard to get close to but he is not above being gentle; Wolverine has mentored at least three girls in his tenure as an X-Man.

Honestly, I think Wolverine’s penchant for being gentle toward these girls, as well as his never-leave-a-friend-behind sense of honor and loyalty, are what endeared him to me. It is too bad he is so often shown slashing and hacking people to bits in the films; I know he is capable of doing it and has done it in the comics, but it was always a side of himself that he hated and tried to suppress, or at least control. That said, Wolverine is definitely an X-Man you can trust to watch your back. He will growl and snarl about it, but he will not just let someone die. This is the Wolverine I know – or knew, rather.

 

Ororo Munroe/Storm: I thought Storm was one of the coolest members of the X-Men. Born in Cairo to a Kenyan princess and an American photographer, Storm was orphaned at the age of four when her parents’ apartment building was accidentally bombed. Trapped in the rubble for days afterward, Storm’s greatest weakness is her claustrophobia. She is terrified of small spaces and will either collapse as her fear overwhelms her or try to bust her way out of her enclosure.

Storm’s powers manifested when she was roughly thirteen years old. She can manipulate weather patterns, a power known as “weather warping,” in order to generate storms of all kinds, high winds, tornadoes, rain, and she can even cast lightning bolts out of a clear sky. By this method she can also move weather patterns around enough to ensure clear skies for a day or two, though she does not do this very often, as far as I know.

Unlike Thor, who can make new weather patterns out of thin air, Storm is only a “weather witch.” She needs existing weather patterns to generate her storms, and if she pulls too much moisture from one area or too much dry air from another, she can upset the balance of the weather in a region for months, if not longer.

Storm’s powers are closely linked to her emotional state. If greatly angered or frightened, the weather quickly turns wild as she starts whipping up storms, often without clear intention. When trapped in a small space, Storm will unleash her powers in order to blast her way into the open again. If that does not work, she collapses and becomes weak, unable to take being confined as she was when she was a child.

In order to keep her powers under control, Storm is often the center of calm in battles of will among the X-Men. This adds to her regal bearing and motherly tendencies. I cannot recall one X-Man who has ever been afraid to go to Storm about a problem. She is always willing to talk, listen, or be a motherly figure to one of the younger X-Men.

That being said, Storm has the temper Jean Grey so conspicuously lacks. She is not averse to telling someone off for bad behavior – even Wolverine has received lectures from her! And if Storm witnesses an injustice or an act of evil, she will act to correct it – immediately. The more severe the act of evil, the more likely she is to react with extreme prejudice. She is not a lady you want to cross!

 

Remy LeBeau/Gambit: A former thief from Louisiana, Gambit is a great hand at cards. He’s an even better flirt, able and willing to charm the ladies in a heartbeat (think Fandral, but with a Cajun accent and dark brown hair). How Gambit came to be an X-Man I am not sure. But at some point, he met the X-Men and decided he liked them better than thieving. So he joined the team and became one of its most valuable members.

Gambit’s power is the ability to charge any object with kinetic energy.   Gambit’s power accelerates an object’s molecules so that they are going as fast as they can go. As long as he holds the object, everything’s fine. But once he releases it – BOOM! The object will explode, and the bigger the object, the bigger the explosion.

Gambit’s trademark weapons are a thin staff he can use to channel his ability and decks of playing cards. (Hey, he didn’t get the name “Gambit” for nothing!) The cards are what he uses most, charging and throwing them like grenades. They make remarkably high-yield explosives; Gambit has blasted down doors, vehicles, and numerous other objects with his cards.

When he uses them against people, Gambit generally lessens the explosive impact of his “grenades.” At least, I have never seen him blow someone up and turn them into a pile of ash. Knock them down, stun them, yes, but I have never seen him kill anyone, which is one of the reasons why I am so upset at Marvel’s writers (see my post “Poker: Gambit Style” for more on that).

Gambit is a thief and a scamp, but at the end of the day, he is an honorable man who will do the right thing – with his own style and flair, mind you!

 

Anna Marie/Rogue: Growing up, I had four favorite X-Men: Storm, Wolverine, Gambit, and Rogue. I did not know a lot about Rogue there for a while – I was really young when I started watching the X-Men, so a lot of stuff flew over my head – but there were a few apparently “obvious” things about her. She was a Southern Belle who could fly, was nearly indestructible, and could hit with the force of a freight train.

Only, those are not actually Rogue’s natural mutant abilities. She stole them from Carol Danvers, who in the 1990s still went by the moniker Miss Marvel. Miss Marvel ended up with Kree DNA in her system and, as a result, gained the above abilities (as well as a few others). Donning a costume, she became the heroine and part-time Avenger Miss Marvel (in the comics, she worked with the X-Men on occasion and was good friends with Wolverine).

Rogue’s actual mutant ability is far more deadly. When she makes skin contact with a person, Rogue absorbs their memories, abilities, and a portion of their psyches. Mostly, this is described as a “life-force” draining ability. I have always preferred to think that her power makes her something like a human computer. Other people are the CDs, discs, or “documents” to her; she touches them and sort of “downloads” their files.

The longer Rogue keeps skin contact with a person, the more she drains off. A light touch knocks someone out for a few hours, maybe a day; a longer one, several days. If she does not let go, odds are good the person she touched will end up in a coma – or dead.

Rogue first discovered her power when it manifested. She and her boyfriend were having their first kiss and suddenly he passed out. He was in a coma for a few days, but eventually recovered (according to the TV series, the comics have a different take, I think). But Rogue did not recover. She still had a “copy” of his mind in her head; what is more, anyone else she touched got “downloaded” into her head as well.

So she ran away from home and was found by the mutant villain Mystique who, learning about what Rogue could do, took her in and trained her to use her powers…but this was in order that Rogue might be used to aid Mystique in all her plots and schemes, one of which landed Rogue in a fight with Carol Danvers.

During the fight, the two made skin contact. Rogue tried to break free when Danvers’ overwhelming power and anger scared her but Danvers, her Kree DNA whipping her into a fury, did not let go until she passed out. Whereupon Rogue discovered she had absorbed a good portion of Danvers’ powers. Instead of fading away, like all the other powers and talents Rogue had absorbed previously (the powers she absorbs never stay for more than a few days), Danvers powers appeared to be hers for keeps.

Unfortunately, so was a good portion of Carol Danvers’ mind. Danvers’ body remained in a coma but her psyche was largely trapped in Rogue’s mind for years. The separation made Danvers a little loopy (in the cartoon series); she would furiously “attack” Rogue or take control of her. Rogue had learned to deal with the copies of other people’s minds in her head; they eventually faded to phantoms she could barely hear. They had no control over her. Danvers did not fade, and she could take control of Rogue, and Mystique both could not and would not help Rogue get her out of her mind.

At the same time, Rogue began to break down as she realized just what she had done to Danvers. Stealing the woman’s powers was one thing, but she had also locked Danvers in her own mind and body, leaving Danvers’ real body in a coma. She had practically committed murder.

The remorse was too much, and – coupled with the fact that Mystique wanted her to go on using her absorbing powers – drove Rogue to run away again. She ended up with the X-Men, using her actual powers only when the team needed information or it was necessary to help others. For the most part, she relied instead on Danvers’ powers. As a footnote, it is largely because of Rogue that Gambit joined the team. Used to stealing, Gambit was unprepared when a thief named Rogue stole his heart.

 

Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler: A mutant from Germany, Kurt’s mutation is one of those “Hi, I’m a mutant!” gifts. From the time he was born, Kurt has had two toes on each foot, two fingers and a thumb on each hand, a tail, blue fur/skin, yellow eyes, and pointy ears. His overall appearance makes him look like a demon, and so he was persecuted for many years for his appearance.

But his “terrifying” features did not dissuade a German couple from adopting him after they found him practically out in the middle of nowhere. Kurt’s mother abandoned him after he was born, as she was accused of having a “demonic” child. It was years before he knew who she was; as far as I know, he never has tried to find his father.

Kurt’s appearance has ever been at odds with his personality. Instead of being dark and broody, Kurt is often the sunshine on the team. He cracks jokes, smiles, laughs, teases, all with the aim of cheering up his teammates and friends. He has often been called “swashbuckling” and is a very chivalrous, kindhearted fellow. Although beat up, mocked, and screamed at by everyone but his adopted parents as he grew up, Kurt is one of those rare people who turned out just fine despite the persecution he underwent.

His mutation’s physical effects are obvious, but Kurt’s mutant power is not. He is a teleporter who can disappear and reappear up to two miles from his particular position – but only so long as he can clearly visualize where he is going. Otherwise, things get complicated. His ability takes him through another dimension at the speed of, well, thought I guess. Going through and coming back means he leaves behind a puff of smoke and there is usually a “bamf!” sound as air fills the place he left behind.

Nightcrawler’s body is also perfectly formed so that he can almost instinctively pull off gymnastic and contortionist tricks. In a battle, Nightcrawler will often teleport around an opponent (it is not hard for him to teleport short distances), striking and disappearing before his enemy has time to catch him.

As things turn out, Rogue is Kurt’s adopted sister. Mystique is Kurt’s birth mother, and because of his obvious resemblance to her and his also obvious inability to hide his mutation, as she can, she felt she had no choice but to abandon him.

Despite all this heartache, however, ‘Crawler has remained one of the X-Men most loyal to Professor X’s dream of peace between mutants and humans. He is well liked by most every other hero and heroine in the Marvel Universe (including Wolverine), and the fans are not far behind those heroes. I have to say, Nightcrawler never struck me as very demonic-looking. Maybe the first time I saw him, but not after I got to know him. I still wonder how people in the comics and cartoons see him and shout, “Demon!” Or, just as bad, “Monster!”

Tsk, tsk. Don’t judge a book by its cover, people!

 

Peter Rasputin/Colossus: A big farmboy from Soviet Russia, Peter Rasputin is a warrior only because he needs to be. An expert painter, Colossus is said to have a “poet’s soul,” and despite being six feet five (or more) inches tall, Peter is generally a gentle giant.

But get him angry at your own peril. Colossus’ mutant power is to turn his skin into an organic metal. Metal “plates” will suddenly start appearing on his body when he activates his power. Soon, from the top of his head to the soles of his feet, he is entirely made of metal. Depending on the TV series you find him in, Colossus can be laconic or open, friendly, and willing to talk. For the most part, in the comics he was an easy, charming, innocent fella who had a knack for walking smack into trouble.

He is loyal to a fault and kind to the point that he is often easily taken advantage of. But he is an X-Man through and through.

 

Katherine “Kitty” Pryde/Shadowcat: A Chicago girl, “Kitty” Pryde was inducted into the X-Men at twelve or thirteen years old, after her powers manifested.

What is her power? Kitty can destabilize her molecules so that she can pass through solid objects. Called “phasing” by everyone in the Marvel Universe, she essentially becomes insubstantial. In this state she can walk through walls, bullets, or even opponents, all without coming to harm.

Her power can also be used offensively. Although I cannot recall her using her power to internally hurt people, Kitty can phase into a person, turn a part of her body solid, and whack her opponent wherever she can reach. I am not sure just how she does it, but she uses a similar trick to fry computers and other machinery. This either leaves the tech sparking and useless or preps it to blow up. If she concentrates, when she is holding on to someone or something, she can “phase” the other person or object through solid walls – or bullets – as well as herself.

Kitty has learned a great deal since she entered the X-Men. She is one of their top fighters, has excellent leadership skills, and is quite capable of taking care of herself. But that has not stopped her from being a friendly, open lady who follows in the footsteps of her “battle mother,” Storm. The two kind of adopted each other in their years as X-Men; Storm still occasionally refers to Shadowcat as “Kitten,” a play on her childhood nickname “Kitty.”

She is one of several heroes who went through a number of codenames before settling on one. In her case, the codename she stuck with is “Shadowcat.”

 

Warren Worthington III/Angel: The Tony Stark of the X-Men, Warren is a typical rich gentleman. He has the looks, the money, the charm, the manners, and the heart-throbbing smile of a knight errant. As well as a pair of six foot or so long wings which he was literally born with.

These white-feathered appendages gave Warren’s parents no end of headaches. Being a well-to-do family (Warren has his own private jet!), they could not exactly let the whole world know their son had wings! Can you imagine the tabloid headlines on that, I ask you?

So they spent most of his youth making sure Warren’s wings were well hidden. I cannot say how Warren feels/felt toward his parents; they loved him just fine, it was his wings they had a problem with. Anyway, Warren was eventually recruited to be one of the first X-Men by Professor Xavier, and he made a dashing addition to the team.

But, even more so than Tony Stark, Marvel’s writers put Warren through the wringer. In one battle, Warren’s wings were seriously damaged. His father had them amputated, both to save his son’s life and to get rid of those troublesome appendages once and for all. Distraught, Angel tried everything he could to regain his wings. When that did not work, he considered jumping off a building instead.

Archangel

But one of the X-Men’s worst enemies got hold of him before he could do that and gave him what he wanted so badly, a new set of wings, made of metal and capable of shooting out knife-like “feathers.”

The new wings, though, came at a terrible price. Angel, now called Archangel, was enslaved to the man who had given him his wings and was subsequently further altered. He now has blue skin and deals with a “dark side” this enemy programmed into him; though he has control of it by and large, he is not the debonair knight errant with the kind heart that he used to be. I can’t think of him without feeling sincerely sorry for him.

 

Henry “Hank” McCoy/Beast: A scientist and lover of Shakespeare’s works, Hank McCoy’s mutation was not very noticeable for a good portion of his life. Early on, he just looked like a meaty, muscled, ape-framed fella who had a nice face and the keen mind of a scholar. He was a great football player, too.

Beast had all the strength and agility of the ape he physically resembled – that was his mutant ability. But after a while, Beast got tired of being a mutant. He wanted to be a normal man. So he whipped up a serum which was supposed to get rid of his mutant abilities.

Only, the serum backfired. Big time. Instead of losing his mutant powers, Beast accidentally increased them. He grew blue fur, fangs, his senses of hearing, smell, and sight increased – and he gained, for the first time, animal instincts. As well as a new, animalistic fury that can nearly match Wolverine’s berserker rage.

That is the Beast from the comics and some of the newer cartoons. The Beast I knew in the 1990s cartoons certainly looked the part, but he rarely went into an animal rage. Mostly, he was the calm, philosophical scientist who quoted Shakespeare as he knocked a couple of helmeted goons’ heads together.

When he is not in a temper, Beast is as kind and friendly as he was before he took the serum. Unable to lead a perfectly normal life anymore, he stays at the X-Men’s headquarters when not involved in a mission or a battle. He is an amazing teacher and most everybody on the team, even Wolverine, respects and likes him. Unofficially, he is also considered to be one of the smartest guys in the Marvel Universe, just below the “three smartest” heroes and villains in Marvel history. (Interestingly, he briefly served as an Avenger and was trained in hand-to-hand combat by Captain America.)

 

Robert “Bobby” Drake/Iceman: Bobby was in his mid-teens when the Professor recruited him to be one of his first X-Men. Iceman gets his name from his mutant power: he can freeze moisture in the air to form snow or ice. He most often makes ice, covering himself in a thick layer of it as extra armor. Thus Iceman is, obviously, as immune to the cold as Loki.

Iceman also learned to make Hot Wheels type “ice tracks” which he uses to get around. If I had to compare him to another Marvel character, I would say he is probably a lot like Spider-Man. He makes wisecracks, is usually genial, and started out as one of the greenest rookies on record. But he is a tough opponent to beat, even if his enemy has heat powers to challenge his cold, and is a fairly able commander.

 

Jubilation “Jubilee” Lee: Jubilee was the youngest member of the X-Men in the 1990s cartoon. A California girl who was taken in by foster parents, Jubilee’s powers manifested not long after she moved into her new home. She has the ability to shoot streamers of plasma from her hands (I always thought she shot fireworks out of her fingers). The plasma stings, apparently, and can wreck machines even better than Kitty can.

Lost and confused after her powers manifested, Jubilee fell in with the X-Men and, even after a misunderstanding that saw her shoot Wolverine in the back, managed to become part of the team. And odd as it may seem, Wolverine took her under his wing not long after; for most of the series, the two were virtually inseparable.

WHEW! I am wiped, readers! I think you are probably as tired as I am. I am going to sign off now, then come back with a second post detailing the X-Men’s main enemies. I will try to make that list shorter, but I cannot guarantee anything.

See ya around!

The Mithril Guardian

Poker – Gambit Style

Gambit

Hello, Marvel Writers!

Bonjour.  C’est la vie, as the French say.  And the Cajuns of Louisiana – which brings us to the next Marvel character under discussion here: Remy LeBeau, a.k.a. Gambit.

The first introduction I had to Gambit was in the 90’s television series.  His back story there is one I have often found to be a likeable twist of storytelling: a thief (or other sundry character) joining a team of good guys to be reformed into a real hero.  It was great to see Rogue and Gambit fight – as much with each other as with the bad guys!  Because of her powers, Rogue wouldn’t let Gambit get close to her, but it was clear that he really did love her, and vice versa.

Now that you see how the TV series shaped my opinion of the character, imagine my consternation when I began reading about his comic book history.

Much of it makes very little sense to me, I admit: the few X-Men comics I have are fragments of story arcs, and the ones that include Gambit have him pretty close to what I saw in the TV series.  So the winding maze of his life events in the comics are lost on me faster than a cat would get lost in a pile of yarn.  The two things that did jump out at me were: a) his assistance in the slaughter of the Morlocks (aside from one small girl he purposely rescued), and b) his expulsion from the X-Men.

To both, all I can say is, “What?  How did this happen?  Why did this happen?”

Gambit has always had a soft spot for children (as shown in how he treated Jubilee in the TV series) which has been more likeable than his tendency to flirt with every lady he meets.  If there is a list out there of the top ten flirts in Marvel Comics, I hereby nominate Gambit for first place!

To get back to the point, I can easily see Gambit working to protect a Morlock child from death; but aiding and abetting the killing of countless other Morlocks, several of whom were also undoubtedly children?  That’s not the Gambit I came to know.  He wouldn’t have helped; he’d have turned on his employer (Mister Sinister, I believe it was, in these comics) first, and died before he got too far into the tunnels rather than commit murder.

As for his expulsion from the X-Men, it’s uncharacteristic of the X-Men on its face.  The X-Men have accepted Wolverine as a teammate, Archangel, Emma Frost, and even Mystique at one point.  Wolvie’s record is far from clean; Archangel has been used by several bad guys to kill numerous innocents, and more perhaps when he’s ‘lost’ himself in misery or pain; Emma Frost is constantly shifting between good and bad, and DO NOT get me started on Mystique.  So after accepting these and other less-than-good citizens of the Marvel universe into the fold, suddenly the X-Men decide that Gambit’s not good enough for the team, after all he’s done for it?  That’s a bit out of character, isn’t it?

And sending him back to work for Sinister is just plain wrong.  Once bitten, twice shy.  Sinister is trouble, and being a thief for as long as he was, Gambit would know better than to risk his neck by running with a man who wouldn’t think twice about slitting his throat.

To top it off, the whole fiasco has thrown a giant monkey wrench in the romance that he and Rogue had going.  Talk about a sad thing.  After Jean and Scott, Rogue and Gambit were two of the X-Men who deserved to be together romantically.  Getting them married would also have been a big plus, and a way overdue event for the team.

Why do this to Gambit at all?  Was it to make him a more complex, or appealing, character?  He was already both with his easy manner, which hid a genuine distaste for his past actions and a desire to leave them behind.  Was it to make him a really dark, really noir protagonist?

Why?  All it’s done is to ruin him as a hero.  Gambit was an intriguing member of the team for his remarkable desire to be good cloaked in nonchalance.  Now he morally resembles the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

With all due respect, fellow writers, he really didn’t need a slime bath.  He was just fine the way he was, and readers are going to miss the old Gambit, as they are going to miss other wrecked characters, several of whom I have listed in other letters.

So au revoir, fellow writers!  The aces are in your hands. All we True Believers have got at the moment are a set of black eights.

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Troubled True Believer)

Avengers Assemble – Sidekicks?!?

Hello, Marvel Writers!

Here we go again.  This time, I am asking about the Young Avengers.  I have no problem with a team of teenagers styled (more or less) after the Avengers.  Kate Bishop and Patriot are very intriguing characters – though by now Patriot is a full-fledged Avenger and Kate is still too young for that.  Having Cassie Lang become a super heroine was a nice touch, and I hope that she comes back at some point.  (I am well aware that hardly anyone in Marvel comics is permanently killed.)

No, my problem this time is the temptation some may have to turn the Young Avengers into sidekicks for the Avengers.  This seems to be the direction things are headed, with Hawkeye pushing the rest of the team to mentor the youths. 

Don’t misunderstand; giving the Young Avengers lessons in the dos and don’ts of super hero life is fine.  But having them tag along behind a particular Avenger on a mission (as Kate Bishop recently did with Hawkeye) is walking into the territory of DC comics. 

 With all due respect, why not make it official that the Young Avengers, while still under the umbrella of the actual Avengers, are not sidekicks?  After all, that’s what others did with Professor Xavier’s New Mutants.  They were taught at the X-Mansion, by X-Men, but one New Mutant was never attached to one X-Man as a combat partner unless the two teams were in the same fight and battle required it.  The same set up could work out this way for the Avengers.

The reason I bring this up is sidekicks are to superheroes what adverbs are to verbs: crutches.  Adverbs are used to prop up a weak verb.  So sidekicks, from time to time, are used to prop up superheroes.

This, to me, seems to be another reason why Stan Lee ‘killed’ off Bucky Barnes in the early comics.  Captain America was already a strong character by the time Lee made Bucky’s demise official.  So if he was always checking on Bucky’s condition or was looking to him for advice every second panel, it would have diminished Cap’s ability to stand on his own.  And so, just as Batman frequently has to take care of Robin, Cap would have been in similar situations fairly often with Bucky.

 Understandably, this would not have worked for Cap.  Steve Rogers had to be, and still must remain, a leader in his own right.  He couldn’t and can’t keep second guessing himself every few panels, especially not to a fifteen year old boy.  It would have been ridiculous and demeaning to the character if Lee had left Bucky in the story.  So Stan Lee tossed Bucky out; and Bucky has subsequently returned to the comics as the Winter Soldier, a rather strong character in his own right.  Cap and Bucky remain on good enough terms with each other, but one no longer acts as a crutch to the other.

The Young Avengers, to my mind, should be given a similar durability test.  The Avengers are strong enough that saddling them with a sidekick would be both silly and humiliating.

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Troubled True Believer)