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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #168

"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!"
April 1983

In a Nutshell
Kitty lobbies for her place on the X-Men. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Paul Smith
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot 
As Kitty and Illyana walk to dance class, Kitty rails against Professor Xavier's decision to demote her to the New Mutants. At the mansion, Wolverine and Nightcrawler discuss Xavier's decision as Wolverine packs for a vacation to Canada, while in the Danger Room, Professor X continues his physical therapy with Lilandra's help. At dance class, Stevie Hunter convinces a still-angry Kitty to fight for her place on the team. That night, Storm attempts to reconnect with nature, but finds her recent experiences have damaged her rapport with nature. As Christmas draws near, Kitty does her best to convince Professor X she belongs on the X-Men. In Florida, Cyclops reconnects with Lee Forrester while Nightcrawler does the same with Amanda Sefton in New York. The next day, Kitty is running a scan of the mansion when she notices an anomaly in a maintenance tunnel.


Investigating, she is attacked by a nest of Sidrian Hunters, but manages to hold her own with the help of the purple dragon she befriended on the Brood homeworld. As Kitty introduces Professor X to the dragon, whom she's named Lockheed, Professor X tells Kitty he's impressed by how she handled herself, and agrees to let her rejoin the X-Men so long as it doesn't interfere with her education and training. Meanwhile, Cyclops arrives in Alaska with his dad and brother to meet his grandparents. He is stunned to meet their pilot, Madelyne Pryor, a woman who looks just like Jean Grey.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the first appearance of Madelyne "Maddie" Pryor. Meant to be a dead ringer for Jean Grey (hence the Summers family's shock at her appearance) this isn't made clear for a few issues, as lookalikes are difficult to pull off in comics, especially with characters who are generally drawn indistinctly by multiple artists across numerous issues (Jean's defining visual characteristic is her red hair, but it isn't like we're supposed to assume every redhead looks like Jean, just this one). Though little of it was intended at the time of her creation, Maddie will eventually be the recipient of one of comics' more convoluted back-stories, and become a significant character in the book off and on for the next seventy-five issues or so.


Lockheed the dragon returns in this issue, as we learn he tagged along when the X-Men left the Brood home world. Kitty more or less adopts him, and he becomes her companion from this point forward.


Kitty tussles with a nest of Sidrian Hunters, left over from their attack on the mansion in issue #154 (erronesouly cited as issue #155 in this issue), suggesting that at least some of the subbasement levels of the new X-Mansion are left from the original and weren't completely destroyed.


Kitty's demotion to the New Mutants ends this issue, as she's returned to the X-Men on a probationary basis after impressing Professor X with her handling of the Sidrian Hunters. 

A Work in Progress
Kitty refers to the New Mutants as the X-Babies, a derogatory nickname that will stick with the team.  She also wears the standard X-Men uniform, now considered the New Mutants' uniform, and chafes at having to wear it, even though the personalized costume she wore throughout the Brood Saga wasn't all that different.


As the issue begins, Illyana mentions that Kitty has been ranting about her demotion for days, something we haven't quite seen in the various one shots that take place during this period.
 
Wolverine is seen departing the X-Men for a vacation in the Canadian Rockies, a setup for the events of his limited series.


Xavier is undergoing physical therapy, and has reached a point where he can walk briefly, but with such pain that he must use all his power to keep going, setting up a conflict (walking vs. helping the X-Men) that never quite materializes. 


Lilandra tells Xavier that once he is well, she will return to Shi'ar space and attempt to reclaim her throne, as she is not willing to subject her people to Deathbird's mad rule. Both Xavier and Lilandra entreat the other to join them, but neither is willing to give up their responsibilities. Xavier mentions that the last time he left Earth to be with Lilandra, it resulted in Jean's death, something he blames himself and not Lilandra for.


Storm attempts to commune with nature, but is rebuffed.


It hasn't been mentioned much, but we're reminded that Kitty is a genius. 

Kitty learns she can phase objects along with her in this issue.

 
After disappearing without a word following issue #150, Lee Forrester makes her triumphant return, reuniting with Scott for one last weekend together before the two go their separate ways, with Lee not being entirely comfortable with Scott's life as an X-Man (also, Lee has apparently bought a new boat and named it the Arcadia again, in place of the one whose destruction led to Lee and Scott being stranded on Magneto's island base). 


Professor X says he's never had an opportunity to see Kitty in action until her fight against the Sidri in this issue, which seems odd at first, but seems to fit: her future self was involved in the events of issues #141-142, Professor X was away from the mansion in issue #143, she didn't participate in the fight with Dr. Doom and Arcade in issue #145-147, Xavier couldn't monitor the X-Men telepathically long range in #149, Kitty was off the grounds for the battle with the Hellfire Club in issue #151-152, and Xavier was imprisoned/comatose/stuck on Earth throughout most of the Brood Saga, leaving only Kitty's actions against Magneto in issue #150 as an opportunity for Xavier to observe her in action, though he was arguably out of it/preoccupied at that time.

I Love the 80s
Again, there's a bunch of 80s stuff in Kitty and Illyana's room, including what appears to be a finished Rubik's Cube, that most 80s of items, on Kitty's desk. Kitty is also rocking a pretty 80s style jacket on the opening page of the issue (while proclaiming that Professor X is a jerk). 


Claremontisms
Kitty tells Peter and Illyana she'll mull them some cider, something which has always struck me as being very quaint and old-fashioned (even though it's really not; I mean, people still do that, right?), similar to how the X-Men drank hot cocoa whilst recovering from Proteus' attack in issue #127. 


Artistic Achievements
Kitty's efforts to sway Professor X, depicted in a series of panels spread across one page, is a fantastic examples of how character and emotion can be depicted just through art; remove the captions, and you'd still know exactly how Kitty was feeling in each panel. 


"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!"
Well, this is the issue from which this category gets its name, as Kitty bemoans Xavier demoting her to the New Mutants, though most of his arguments are pretty sound. 


Young Love
In a nicely innuendoed panel, Nightcrawler reconnects with Amanda Sefton after his jaunt in space. 


For Sale
This issue contains a full page ad for Blip, Marvel's video game magazine, something of which I was completely unaware (which I assume folded in the wake of the video game crash of '83).


It's in the Mail
The Letter Column this issue is replaced by Kitty's Kostume Korner ("KKK?!?! That's not good...") featuring costume designs for Kitty done by fans (she'll debut yet another new costume next issue, though thankfully not one of these). 


Teebore's Take
Though she is well-entrentched on the team at this point and was already a fan-favorite, I maintain that this is the issue that launched a thousand crushes on Kitty Pryde. Already responsible for saving the X-Men (and the world) on several occasions, this is really her first turn in the spotlight since issue #143's "Demon". It serves as a primer on Kitty, showcasing the various facets of her character and giving her yet another chance to shine. Her appeal is heightened by Paul Smith's depiction of her throughout the issue as well. He makes her attractive without (wisely) sexualizing her, all the while doing a marvelous job of depicting her personality. I've always more or less avoided falling into the "crushing on Kitty" trap, as her Mary Sue-ish qualities can quickly make the character insufferable, but reading this issue, it's easy to see why she entranced so many readers, especially geeky adolescent males, and it's hard to not be somewhat charmed by her.

(This issue also serves as a great example of how Claremont will approach the series as he leaves the traditional superhero structure behind, as the entirety of the issue is made up of character moments or pages advancing subplots. The focus here is on the characters' personal lives and introspections, with Kitty's fight against the Sidri the only token nod to superhero action, and even then, its significant less for the fight and more for how it resolves the conflict between Kitty and Xavier). 

Next Issue
Tomorrow we look at the classic "God Loves Man Kills" in Marvel Graphic Novel #5, and meet the Morlocks in Uncanny X-Men #169. 

29 comments:

  1. So, as a reader, if there's an entire issue dedicated to Kitty Pryde whining about being on the New Mutants because of how inferior they are to the X-Men and then succeeding in getting "promoted" to the X-Men ( thus proving her point)...why should I care about the New Mutants?

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  2. The opening of #168 is one of the great splash pages in American superhero comic-book history — and it's of a girl in plain clothes standing in a doorway. Great as the art is, much as in fact the body language and lovely rendering (from pencils to inks to colors to letters) sells it, what ultimately makes it so memorable is what she's saying, which is entirely a testament to how well defined these characters are for us.

    I'm ready to confirm that Smith & Wiacek is my favorite X-Men artistic tandem. Given that I left during the Romita & Green run, whose art I really disliked, I realize that this isn't saying much beyond the possibly heretic opinion that I favor it even over Byrne & Austin; that basically just leaves Cockrum [& various inkers/finishers] as the only other regular in the running, but I'm familiar with other, later contributors too, even if I never stuck around for too long or with any investment after #205.

    A few issues from "now" is when I became a true regular X-Men reader, for the second or arguably even the first time. I sampled a few issues starting with #98, after the relaunch, but even when I sought the title out it was on newsstands, unreliably, and I was fairly young. Not long after #137, which I know I got off a spinner rack, I became less interested in it — likely due to the return of Cockrum, since good-looking and/or exciting covers still held sway. By then I was going to actual comics shops, yet despite my mom happily taking me to the store often I never had a pull list until midway through high school. I remember picking up #172 — maybe 'cause I'd devoured the Wolverine miniseries — and getting totally sucked back in, not only making a concerted effort to collect X-Men monthly after that, just like I was doing with other series now at 12 years old, but filling in as much of what I'd missed via back issues as possible. I have a very clear memory of lifting #168 out of a longbox at a convention in Philly not long after its release and just being floored by the cover. The whole creative team gelled in a really exciting way, and in particular I was, as I've mentioned before, smitten with Smith's artwork; he and others with fluid, open, unfussy styles, like Rick Leonardi on Amazing Spider-Man, began influencing my own drawing as much as George Pérez and John Byrne had, and somewhere I have the sketchpads to prove it.

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  3. Jean's defining visual characteristic is her red hair, but it isn't like we're supposed to assume every redhead looks like Jean, just this one

    I think the Maddie lookalike thing would've worked a lot better if her hairstyle had resembled the / a hairstyle worn by Jean instead of something that doesn't seem to recall her at all. Claremont maybe should've foregone her verbal introduction in the last panel, too, for a continuation of Scott's thought balloons with one reading "...Jean?!?"

    even though the personalized costume she wore throughout the Brood Saga wasn't all that different

    Kitty's Brood Saga costume extrapolating from the original / in-training X-Men uniforms was interesting because that's basically what Scott's did earlier. When Jean designed them all graduation outfits, his was essentially an even plainer version of what he'd worn before, the same thing minus the yellow area on the chest, and come the relaunch all he got was a new visor. When Kitty came along, we basically had the longest-serving X-Man in Cyclops and the newest in Ariel/Sprite in variations of the original, default X-Men costume, Byrne helping differentiate them by emphasizing that the black on Kitty's was pure black where Cyclops's was a deep blue.

    On the fashion page and in the story itself, by the way, Kitty's called Sprite with no explanation. I more than suspect something like the fashion submissions calling her Sprite and, since the name Ariel was all but ignored once it was officially introduced, Claremont and Weezie literally just forgetting about it, going with what the fans were using.

    Storm attempts to commune with nature, but is rebuffed.

    And debuffed too — she has to put her clothes back on. Maybe nature's mad 'cause she's wearing a fur?

    In a nicely innuendoed panel, Nightcrawler reconnects with Amanda Sefton after his jaunt in space.

    Except that he's in costume... I want to rationalize it by saying that it has something to do with the Bamf doll also wearing the costume, but that whole pose and the placement of the doll suggests that he should be nekkid — you know, like Stan Lee — or, if the Code and/or Shooter wouldn't allow it, at least wearing something frolicky.

    Blip, Marvel's video game magazine, something of which I was completely unaware

    I got one issue of Blip, still around here somewhere, with a photo of [a guy dressed as] Spider-Man playing the Spider-Man game. Since I remember pretty much nothing about the issue, I'll assume that the magazine didn't grab me; it was on newsprint and the size of a comic-book, unlike the glossy Electronic Games that I subscribed to around the same time.

    I maintain that this is the issue that launched a thousand crushes on Kitty Pryde. ... Her appeal is heightened by Paul Smith's depiction of her throughout the issue

    You're probably not wrong but for the life of me I can't recall actually crushing on her. I really, honestly, don't think I've ever crushed on a comic-book character, despite casting back my thoughts and knowing that when I was, like, 7 years old I found Supergirl and Mary Marvel as drawn by Bob Oksner what I would now term "sexy" but which at the time I couldn't really consciously grasp. The part of me that probably keeps me from being a flat-out Kinsey 0 will admit that reading this issue, in addition to finding Kitty cute, I totally love what her conditioner is doing for her hair.

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  4. Here's some random wrap-up remarks on the issue. And I'm sorry for being AWOL last week; I did the reading, Professor, but I was under the weather as well as having Internet problems crop up at home again.

    Illyana: "And don't tell me what is or isn't fair. You didn't spend half your life in a daemonic limbo."

    "You really have no idea. Seriously! The 'ae' makes it so much worse."

    Kitty: "I'll mull some cider, though, for when you're done."

    Peter: "Da you will."
    Kitty: "*giggle*"
    Illyana: "I'm right here, guys."

    When Kitty phases half through the mansion wall in that panel, by the way, I kind-of think it's an error for her to comment on how cold it is outside — but I'm not sure, and I definitely don't feel like No-Prize'ing up a superhero physics answer.

    I'm not gonna try to Grab and Picasa it right now, but there's a panel in Kitty's room on the same page, shortly after we see the Rubik's Cube on her desk, that not only shows us a poster of Felix the Cat, an ET calendar (I think), and a stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh, but an odd note that reads, in lowercase, "the legion eats quiche". The fad book Real Men Don't Eat Quiche came out in 1982 and the Levitz & Giffen Legion of Super-Heroes was a big fan-fave hit for DC at the time (to the extent that, in the Companion books or somewhere, it's mentioned that Marvel was surprised that DC wanted to have The New Teen Titans be the DC half of the intercompany crossover with X-Men rather than LSH), but who put it there and why is still puzzling.

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  5. PART ONE IN A 2-PART COMMENT

    As I've said before, I was never on the Kitty bandwagon, but I love this issue anyway. It's one of those "quiet" issues that Claremont excelled at, and it's great to see the X-Men each doing their own thing. They spend so much time on-page together, and none of them has a solo title yet (limited series notwithstanding), so the occasions where they split apart and catch up on their separate personal lives are fun to see since they're so rare.

    Also, it strikes me as odd that for the next several issues, there is minimal crossover between Uncanny and New Mutants. I know that later on, around the Romita and sienkiewicz period, the characters move between the two titles regularly. But at this point, Claremont is keeping them almost totally separete from each other, which seems a little odd since they all live in the same house.

    Thanks to the trade paperback "From the Ashes", I've had a very nice, sturdy edition of issues 168-176 on my bookcase for about two decades. And unlike a lot of Marvel collections of that vintage, it didn't cut subplot pages or panels to form a more coherent "graphic novel". Everything is there, which was something of a rarity back then.

    Nowadays, thanks to the Marvel Masterworks, which currently go exactly up to issue #167, I have the full run of my preferred Claremont on the shelf -- #94-176! I honestly never thought I'd see that happen until recently. Though I will upgrade my "From the Ashes" to Masterworks format whenever the next volume comes out.

    But anyway, moving on...

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  6. PART TWO IN A 2-PART COMMENT

    "This issue marks the first appearance of Madelyne "Maddie" Pryor. Meant to be a dead ringer for Jean Grey..."

    I commented on this already last issue, so I'll be brief -- John Byrne and Dave Cockrum apparently didn't see the resemblence. I'm honestly curious how many fans got it. I did, but that's because I first read this story already knowing who Madelyne was.

    "Lockheed the dragon returns in this issue, as we learn he tagged along when the X-Men left the Brood home world."

    I think I mentioned this before too, but Paul Smith says Lockheed was a random doodle he drew, which Claremont took a shine to and incorporated into the book. Same thing will happen soon with Storm's mohawk. I like Chris Claremont, but his latching onto little spur-of-the-moment things like that without really thinking them out drives me nuts.

    I mean, obviously he set up Lockheed and is currently setting up Storm's transformation, so they aren't out of the blue... but it's just the fact that he can look at a random doodle, meant as a joke, and decided it should become a serious element of his stories that bugs me. It'd be one thing if they were brought in as one-off gags or short storylines/subplots, but they seem ill-conceived as long-term developments. And I like Lockheed!

    "Lee Forrester makes her triumphant return, reuniting with Scott for one last weekend together..."

    No "Young Love" entry for these two? I'm pretty sure they got it on before parting.

    "...leaving only Kitty's actions against Magneto in issue #150 as an opportunity for Xavier to observe her in action..."

    And she didn't exactly put up an A+ showing against Magneto there to begin with...

    "...even though it's really not; I mean, people still do that, right?"

    If you live in the frozen north and don't know anyone who still mulls cider, I'm assuming it's just not done anymore.

    "Kitty's efforts to sway Professor X, depicted in a series of panels spread across one page..."

    "The days pass..." I wonder how much time passed in the span of this issue? It seems like it could be anywhere from a week to maybe a month? I don't know why, but I always find myself thinking about things like that. I don't really see Corsair waiting that long to take Cyclops and Havok to see their grandparents, but then, I believe Cyclops tells Lee that COrsair went on ahead to space out the shocks, or something? Maybe he spent a few weeks reconnecting with his parents before bringing his sons along.

    "In a nicely innuendoed panel, Nightcrawler reconnects with Amanda Sefton after his jaunt in space."

    I can't remember; is this the first appearance of the "Bamf" doll? Or did Illyana have one when she was a little girl?

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  7. Dr. Bitz -- "...why should I care about the New Mutants?"

    You know, that's a really good point that I never thought about. This issue sure makes them sound pretty lame!

    Blam -- "Claremont maybe should've foregone her verbal introduction in the last panel, too, for a continuation of Scott's thought balloons with one reading '...Jean?!?'"

    Yeah, that's what I don't get. One simple, one word thought balloon could've fixed the whole resemblence problem. Also, I never really caught until Teebore mentioned it that it's a few more issues until the resemblence is made explicit!

    Blam -- "...you know, like Stan Lee..."

    That's literally the third time in three days I've seen someone link to that picture. Did it just surface recently?

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  8. @Matt: No "Young Love" entry for these two? I'm pretty sure they got it on before parting.

    Yeah. And you have to hand it to Claremont, giving them that implied moment even after Lee's said there may not be a future for them and then introducing Maddie at the end of the same flippin' issue.

    @Matt: [I]s this the first appearance of the "Bamf" doll?

    I think so, not counting the Bamfs' appearance as Nightcrawler surrogates in "Kitty's Fairy Tale". Illyana didn't have a doll like that in that story to prompt Kitty's description of it, to my recall — so at the least Illyana had one made after the fact based on the story. I'm not sure if it's better that Amanda's doll came via Illyana or she made one herself, 'cause either way it takes on a whole new dimension in Kurt's girlfriend's apartment.

    Not having re-read Cockrum's Nightcrawler miniseries since it came out, I don't remember if he paid lip service to Kitty unconsciously channeling the actual existence of the Bamfs in another dimension of if he just ignored that entirely, but I think they really exist in that 4-parter as Kurt hops through various realities.

    @Matt: That's literally the third time in three days I've seen someone link to that picture. Did it just surface recently?

    Yeah. Sean Howe, author of the forthcoming Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, shared it on his Tumblr and it went viral through comics-news sites, Twtiter, etc. Heidi MacDonald of The Beat "responded" to it with topless Jack Kirby.

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  9. Like you really need it... Here's the proper link for topless Jack Kirby. I wonder if that search string gets more hits than "lesbian incest".

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  10. I've always more or less avoided falling into the "crushing on Kitty" trap, as her Mary Sue-ish qualities can quickly make the character insufferable, but reading this issue, it's easy to see why she entranced so many readers, especially geeky adolescent males, and it's hard to not be somewhat charmed by her.

    OK, since everybody seems to be too ashamed to admit it :-), I will expose myself and say that, indeed, I had a crush on Kitty Pryde. This has probably something to do with reading these stories when I was a geeky adolescent male. Things have changed, however, as I am not an adolescent any more!

    But, apart from jokes (?), I have some difficulty in seeing the character as a complete Mary Sue. I mean, I can understand that some of her qualities, especially the "computer genius" part, can make her come out as Mary Sue-ish. But, once you take the computer genius part away, what else is there? She really looks like a "normal" girl (ok, she has superpowers, but I think that she can get away with that, since everybody else does....). What really annoys me with Mary Sue-like characters is when they consistently save the day, in situations where the older, and supposedly more expert, characters do not have a clue and basically behave like idiots. In other words, and this is probably an unnecessary remark to do here, the kind of thing that happens a lot with Wesley Crusher in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I could be misremembering, since as I have noted elsewhere I have not read these stories in a long time, but this does not seem to happen a lot (if not at all) with Kitty and the X-Men. Also, to me there is some difference for a 15-year old between being a computer/electronic genius (although I will admit this has definitely become a cliche') and understanding the theory of warp drive, while also having some very clever ideas for improving the efficiency of the ship's engines by 18%.

    To sum things up (and if I understand correctly this is more or less Teebore's opinion as well) I think that maybe Kitty went quite to close to become a Mary Sue, but somehow Claremont always managed to avoid her crossing that line. This goes to his merit. Of course YMMV.

    Still, I am willing to concede that I could be setting the bar too high, by using Wesley Crusher as my benchmark for a Mary Sue :-)

    This issue marks the first appearance of Madelyne "Maddie" Pryor. Meant to be a dead ringer for Jean Grey

    I second Blam's and Matt's comments above. I also read this issue already knowing who Maddie Pryor was, so I can't be certain, but I think I would not have spotted the resemblance at all. And I also agree that one single thought balloon would have made everything definitely more clear.

    And, Blam - thanks, really thanks for that Stan Lee picture :-)

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  11. "This issue marks the first appearance of Madelyne "Maddie" Pryor. Meant to be a dead ringer for Jean Grey..."

    That was an odd introduction. The fact that she states her full name, while wearing a name badge, would almost suggest to me that we the reader were supposed to glean something from the name itself. I like the art, but no, that doesn't look anything like Jean, IMO. And the idea here originally was that she wasn't a clone or a reincarnation, but just a girl who looked exactly like Jean for no reason? Where was Claremont going with this? What a weird idea.

    Not sure if anyone is reading X-Men currently (I wouldn't recommend it) but I think it's interesting that the exact same problem appeared with Hope. It's obvious she was supposed to resemble Jean (it was half implied she was a reincarnation, at least to the readers) but it was difficult to know if she was supposed to be an exact replica of a young Jean, or just another redhead with Phoenixy powers. The character reactions were never clear on this, and now that they've decided to literally bring young Jean back after AvX, I have no idea what the hell Hope is supposed to be. I'm guessing Marvel didn't, either.

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  12. Max -- I think the Mary Sue analysis of Kitty, at least from my point of view, comes from the following:

    -She's a genius
    -She has a pet dragon
    -She becomes a fully-trained ninja

    It's true that Claremont kept the X-Men cast an ensemble and gave everyone chances to shine, but I don't think it can be denied that he often showed special treatment to Kitty (as well as Storm starting soon, and Wolverine).

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  13. Matt -- Funnily enough, I had put a line in my comment - which I deleted in the version I ended posting - where I was saying something along the lines of "of course, all of this is valid until she becomes a ninja". So, ok, point taken!

    However, concerning the genius part, I don't know, it still does not come out as very Mary Sue-ish to me. I mean, the focus of her "genius" is still quite narrow, being just electronics. I vaguely remember an issue of New Mutants where it is further stated that she is really good with hardware stuff, while software is more Doug Ramsey's thing. Also, it's not like she contributed to a major scientific/technological advance while being a teen - like, you know, developing an ultra-strong glue that can be shaped in very thin filaments, together with a portable device to shoot said filaments, all of this working in her old aunt's basement. If I make this a little bit further, I remember a scene, occurring during Byrne's Spider-Man era in the 90s, when Peter Parker gets his dream job, i.e., doing research in some hi-tech company. His colleagues are all very talented people as well and one of them, while being introduced to Peter, says something like - "So you are the same Peter Parker who wrote the ground-breaking paper on polymers? I figured you had to be much older!!! You must have written it when you were 15!!" Although it may seem that I am going for the tangent here, the point that I am trying to make is that "being a genius at a young age" is something that many other comic characters can get away with.

    Also, more or less every X-Man seem to have a "special talent" (other than their powers, I mean), which is probably related to Claremont's tendency, noted many times in this blog, to add layer over layer to the characters. In this optic, Kitty's electronic skills to not seem too different from Storm's thief skills, Nightcrawler's swashbuckling, etc.

    As for the pet dragon - doesn't really seems a big deal to me, but of course YMMV.

    And completely agree that she is definitely one of Claremont's favorites and that he often gave her special treatment (the "Alien" issue speaks by itself) - it is just that by "Mary Sue" I mean more than that.

    By the way, I really should read again these issues to see if everything that I have said so far really holds up to scrutiny. And I hope I am not appearing as an anally retentive fanboy who is trying to defend his favorite character... :-)

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  14. It's true that Kitty's genius alone doesn't make her a Mary Sue character. I think it's all the aspects taken together that do it.

    Regarding Spider-Man (who is my favorite character, so hopefully I don't come off badly trying to defend him) -- I do recall the issue(s) you referenced. I was actually very happy to see that, because most writers don't play up Peter as a prodigy. The thing about Peter Parker, though, is that I wouldn't view him the same way I view Kitty because he has far more foibles than she does. He has notoriously bad luck, and although he's a super-genius, he has pretty much squandered that gift from a professional standpoint because of his career as Spider-Man. If it wasn't for his Spider-powers and his sense of responsibility, he could've finished grad school, got a job as a bio-chemist, and probably become a renowned research scientist through proper application of his skills. Instead he's still scraping by, snapping photos for the local newspaper while attending college off-and-on.

    (I'm speaking of the classic, "iconic" Spider-Man here, rather than the more recent status quo where he works for some super think tank or something.)

    I suppose the same could be argued for Kitty, though, since she's grown up and (I assume) graduated from Xavier's, but she keeps adventuring with the X-Men rather than getting a job where she can apply herself regularly.

    But I really don't have anything against Kitty. I just kind of chuckle when I see Claremont pile layer after layer of "specialness" onto her.

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  15. I'm a little too on the outside to really dive into whether Kitty is a "Mary Sue". But I will say that what's important in evaluating if a character is "Mary Sue" is not just attributes that make them a "Mary Sue" but also looking for things that don't make them a "Mary Sue".

    I other words, what are Kitty's character flaws? (Note: "Loving too much", "caring too much", "always looking for a silver lining" and "being too trusting" all don't count!)

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  16. I don't really have anything to add except to say that the toy on Kitty's desk is not a Rubik's Cube. It's a Rubik's Revenge, which I discovered to my display is unlike the Cube in that you cannot solve it by prying the component cubes off with a screwdriver and re-assembling them unscrambled.

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  17. To my "dismay" that is...

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  18. Matt, Dr. Bitz - you both have a really good point here in saying that flaws/foibles (or lack thereof) concur in determining the "Mary Sue-ness" of a character. And, honestly, I cannot think, off the top of my head, of any big character flaw in Kitty (sure that "being too trusting" does not count? :-) ), apart from some tendency to whine in a typically teen-ish way (which could anyway exacerbate more than cure the problem). So, yes, I will admit that she is kind of a Mary Sue, especially when compared with the typical "superhero with superproblems" à la Spider-Man (who, by the way, is one of my favorite character as well).

    I will just mantain that, as long as Claremont characters go, she is not much more of a Mary Sue with respect to the average Claremont character. For example, what are Storm's (another favorite of him) flaws?

    By the way, I am probably taking this one too far - hope I did not come off badly! It's just too much fun to discuss about our beloved stories/characters.

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  19. No problem, Max. I agree that the debate is a fun one. And you're absolutely right, in my opinion, that Storm was often as much of a Mary Sue as Kitty. She's so awesome that every villain falls head-over-heels with her, and she can even hold her own and still lead the X-Men when she has no powers!

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  20. Wolverine is seen departing the X-Men for a vacation in the Canadian Rockies, a setup for the events of his limited series.

    I think I've said it before (around the time Beast left to drop off the Quinjet) but little things like this made the interconnectedness kinda cool....

    And anonymous beat me to the Rubiks observation!

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  21. @Dr. Bitz: ...why should I care about the New Mutants?

    That's a good point. The terms demoted/promoted come more from me than the text, but the point still stands - Kitty definitely paints a bad picture of the New Mutants. Though her frustration is really more about having proven herself as an X-Man than because she finds the New Mutants inferior, but that's admittedly a subtle distinction.

    @Blam: The opening of #168 is one of the great splash pages in American superhero comic-book history

    Agreed. I probably should have made a bigger deal out of it.

    I realize that this isn't saying much beyond the possibly heretic opinion that I favor it even over Byrne & Austin

    It may be heretical, but I definitely favor Smith and Wiacek over Byrne and Austin - not that the later is bad, but the former is just so good.

    Claremont maybe should've foregone her verbal introduction in the last panel, too, for a continuation of Scott's thought balloons with one reading "...Jean?!?"

    The other option I've seen floating around is the suggestion that Claremont could have come up with a way to show us Smith's rendition of Jean prior to Maddy's first appearance (see what I did there?), so that we have a visual point of reference when Maddy does show up.

    Maybe nature's mad 'cause she's wearing a fur?

    I was thinking the same thing.

    but that whole pose and the placement of the doll suggests that he should be nekkid

    Agreed. There's also the placement of the champagne bottle, suggesting his, err, lil' Bamf...

    it was on newsprint and the size of a comic-book, unlike the glossy Electronic Games that I subscribed to around the same time.

    Interesting. It definitely looked like a low end mag from the ad, but I wasn't sure if that spoke to the quality of the magazine or the ad.

    I totally love what her conditioner is doing for her hair.

    Ha! Agreed.

    And I'm sorry for being AWOL last week; I did the reading, Professor, but I was under the weather as well as having Internet problems crop up at home again.

    No worries. As the timeliness of this response attests, I was AWOL late last week, though thankfully for more pleasant reasons.

    Illyana: "I'm right here, guys."

    You know, I get the feeling that's what Illyana spent most of her time thinking throughout their relationship. :)

    I kind-of think it's an error for her to comment on how cold it is outside

    I never thought of that before, but it does seem like she wouldn't feel hot or cold while phasing.

    I wonder if that search string gets more hits than "lesbian incest".

    I'm pretty sure NOTHING gets more hits online than any term with the word "lesbian" in it.

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  22. @Matt: But at this point, Claremont is keeping them almost totally separete from each other, which seems a little odd since they all live in the same house.

    Yeah, there's very little initial crossover between the two titles at first. I'm not sure if that's just because Claremont was still finding his rhythm on the new book, or because it took him a while to get excited about the spinoff he started more or less out of necessity.

    I've had a very nice, sturdy edition of issues 168-176 on my bookcase for about two decades.

    Ditto. It's been a favorite of mine for many years.

    I did, but that's because I first read this story already knowing who Madelyne was.

    Ditto again. I too have often wondered how many people got it initially.

    No "Young Love" entry for these two? I'm pretty sure they got it on before parting.

    I'm pretty sure they did too, and yeah, they should have gotten a "Young Love" entry. I didn't want to have two different entries about Lee, and felt her return after her inexplicable disappearance warranted "A Work in Progress" more than their canoodling warranted a mention under "Young Love".

    If you live in the frozen north and don't know anyone who still mulls cider, I'm assuming it's just not done anymore.

    I feel like we still do it, we just don't specifically say, "I'll mull you some cider".

    I believe Cyclops tells Lee that COrsair went on ahead to space out the shocks, or something?

    I don't believe he does, at least not in this issue.

    I can't remember; is this the first appearance of the "Bamf" doll?

    As Blam asserts and a quick Wikipedia check confirms, yes, this is. I completely missed that.

    @Max: For example, what are Storm's (another favorite of him) flaws?

    Claustrophobia. :)

    Seriously though, the discussion about Kitty specifically and Mary Sues in general was fantastic, so much so that I really don't have much to add to it at this point.

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  23. @Dan: And the idea here originally was that she wasn't a clone or a reincarnation, but just a girl who looked exactly like Jean for no reason? Where was Claremont going with this?

    Yes, Claremont's original plan was for it just to be a huge coincidence that Scott met and fell in love with this woman who looked just like his childhood sweetheart. Their wedding was intended to more or less be the end of their story (with Scott occassionally returning to the X-Men for big stories), a way to give Scott a happy ending while still honoring Shooter's edict that Jean stay dead and buried.

    Then Jean returned and X-Factor happened, and Claremont was ultimately forced to retcon in all the clone business in order to salvage Scott's character in the wake of his post-Jean's return actions.

    I have no idea what the hell Hope is supposed to be. I'm guessing Marvel didn't, either.

    I don't think anyone at Marvel ever had a specific idea in mind, either, other than a vague sort of "tease that she's Jean/Phoenix". I never really took the Jean hints as anything more than misdirection, but I always assumed she'd end up connected to Phoenix somehow (which, I guess she sort of is, though I'm way behind in my current reading so I just know that though heresay and grapevines).

    @Anonymous: It's a Rubik's Revenge, which I discovered to my display is unlike the Cube in that you cannot solve it by prying the component cubes off with a screwdriver and re-assembling them unscrambled.

    Ha! Thanks for the heads up - I was unaware of the existence of the Rubik's Revenge.

    @Mock!: I think I've said it before (around the time Beast left to drop off the Quinjet) but little things like this made the interconnectedness kinda cool....

    It totally does. I LOVE that kind of stuff from this era of Marvel (there's another moment like that coming up soon-ish). I wouldn't mind Wolverine being in roughly 1,152 places at once these days if all his appearances were this coordinated. :)

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  24. @Anonymous: I don't really have anything to add except to say that the toy on Kitty's desk is not a Rubik's Cube. It's a Rubik's Revenge

    I knew that it wasn't the original three-rowed Rubik's Cube, but I didn't remember what the four-rowed sequel was called. Aside from the Magic Snake, which we saw advertised in one of these recent weeks' issues (and was a whole other kind of thing, more an outright toy than a puzzle), I remember a sort-of grenade-shaped version of Rubik's Cube that was pretty danged tricky, too.

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  25. There's a bamf doll in the last panel on page 9 of Uncanny X-Men 145.

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  26. @NoJugular: There's a bamf doll in the last panel on page 9 of Uncanny X-Men 145.

    Nice catch! I'd forgotten about that one.

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  27. This changes everything. So the Bamf doll came first, and Kitty drew on that for the appearance of the Bamfs in "Kitty's Fairy Tale" rather than the other way around. It still doesn't explain why in Cockrum's Nightcrawler mini we discover there's a whole dimension of such creatures, but — failing an actual explanation in the mini, which I haven't read in a long time — I guess we can chalk it up in part to the Marvel Multiverse equivalent of writers on Earth-Prime getting subconsciously inspired by the actual exploits of superheroes on Earth-One, Earth-Two, etc. Although that only [pseudo-]explains the correlation between actual Bamfs and the fairy tale, not why they'd look like Nightcrawler or vice-versa.

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  28. @Matt: No problem, Max. I agree that the debate is a fun one.

    @Teebore: Seriously though, the discussion about Kitty specifically and Mary Sues in general was fantastic, so much so that I really don't have much to add to it at this point.

    Really glad to hear that you enjoyed the discussion - I am relatively new to commenting on the blogs et similia and I was afraid of being annoying. Agreed that the discussion was a lot of fun!!!

    @Blam: Aside from the Magic Snake...

    Thanks, really thanks for making me remember of the Magic Snake :-)

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  29. @Max: Really glad to hear that you enjoyed the discussion - I am relatively new to commenting on the blogs et similia and I was afraid of being annoying.

    No worries. We're always up for lively, multi-part and tangential discussions around here. :)

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