UXM # 143 - 148
Avengers Annual # 10 (Rogue!)
CXM # 44
Dazzler 1 - 11
Spider-Woman 37 - 38
This is a special blog where I am going to shine some light on Chris Claremont's special and unique (to the era) talent to develop strong female characters. It can't be overstated how ahead of his time he was when it came to highlighting both diversity and strong female characters. In addition to my typical synopsis of each issue, I'm going to dive into all the female characters who serve in both a starring and supporting role of the comic.
Oh and Rogue! So much other stuff to talk about, I almost glossed over the introduction of one of the most iconic X-Men characters to this day (2021). She shows up as a villain and neither her look nor personality are too recognizable, but this is still a momentous occasion.
Legendary editor and future X-Men writer Louise Simonson had the following to say about Byrne's departure.
"Several issues after days of Future Past, John Byrne quits because he wants to go over and do Fantastic Four and I think ‘Oh my God, I’m doomed. I have driven this brilliant creative team apart.'”
Issue #143 marks the official end of John Byrne's run with the creative team. He definitely went out on a high note coming hot off Dark Phoenix and Days of Future Past. In a hilarious note, Byrne had the following to say about the monster from this issue:
"We wanted to do a homage to the movie Alien, and I don’t know whether I was demented or what in those days, but I honestly thought when I was drawing it that people wouldn’t instantly realize where we got it from."
Yea, not too subtle there, buddy, but I forgive you!
Issue # 144 featured Brent Anderson and # 145 - 148 brought in the return of the great Dave Cockrum, the original creator of characters like Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus.
I want to take a few moments to comment on Claremont's handling of Carol Danvers. Claremont was the regular writer on the Ms. Marvel series featuring Carol Danvers as the titular hero. After that title was cancelled, Carol spent time as a member of the Avengers. Avengers #200 contained one of the most controversial stories in Marvel comics history, which this Comic Book Legends reveals article addresses the rumor that the issue wasn't allowed to be re-printed. In the issue, Carol was essentially tricked/brainstormed by a being named Marcus into coming back to his dimension with him and being his sex slave. She eventually came back to Earth pregnant with his child, which turned out to be an incarnation of him. Messed up, I know, but stay with me here. As one of the strongest examples of Claremont championing proper female characterization, Avengers Annual # 10 (written by Claremont) showed Carol taking the Avengers to task. She doesn't mince words as she accuses the Avengers of turning their back on her as she was essentially brainwashed, kidnapped, and repeatedly raped. At one point, Wanda (The Scarlett Witch), tries to congratulate her on being a mother and she completely shuts her down. Carol calls them out for enabling this situation and not supporting her and to show her emotional stress, she announced she can't be around the Avengers anymore. This marks the beginning of Carol hanging around with the X-Men before ultimately joining the Starjammers under a new name, Binary.
My Rating - 8/10
(Female) Character Beats
Is Kitty my favorite X-(Wo)Man now? She's passed Nightcrawler, who has my favorite before I started this journey. All I know is that I'm much more engaged in a comic when Kitty is on camera. As a father of 3 daughters, I give major props to Claremont for nailing the characterization of a teenage girl.
I love this! Coming hot off the wheels of Days of Future Past where they show Kitty married to Peter, we see her flirting with him and the romance beginning. I am once again not going to address that she is 13 and he is 19. See, I didn't even bring it up!
You'll see later on in my recap that Kitty barely survives an attack by a demon and destroys the Danger room in the process. In the following sequence, you see her team members giving her a hard time about it.
While Claremont shows us Kitty acting like a sterotypical young girl and running off crying, he also takes great care to show us how smart, brave, and resourceful she can be. The first time we see her, she's sneaking onto the Hellfire Club's plane to free the X-Men, and in this arc she takes on a demon and dispatches him solo. I also really love these moments in between major plot points where we can see the team interacting with each other.
We can't talk about beautiful, strong, and interesting female characters without talking about the core X-Men's new fearless leader, Storm! I must admit that prior to reading the comics I was very uninterested in Storm, however that opinion is changing fast! The character of storm is quickly evolving and I find myself being more and more impressed with her character growth.
As I've discussed previously, Storm takes Kitty under her wing and becomes a mother figure to her. But her characterization doesn't stop there, as she finds herself jealous of Stevie Hunter, Kitty's dance instructor, simply due to them also having a close relationship.
We also see Storm start to step into the role of team leader after Scott takes time away to grieve the loss of Jean. It is a very natural position for her to be in as the rest of the X-men already look up to her and recognize her strong moral compass. However, the responsibility of making tough decisions on team missions and keeping the team safe directly contradict some of those strong morals that we have come to associate with Storm.
In the early 1980's, Jessica Drew took on the mantle of Spider-Woman and gave us yet another example of a strong female character who worked well in a team but wasn't afraid to go it alone. While she was constantly appearing in various established series across Marvel, she got her own 50 issue solo series in the early 50's as well. Similar to Carol Danvers, her solo series was cancelled so she hangs out with the X-Men for a while, but the X-Men also appear in Issue # 37 - 38 of her own series. I actually liked the character so much, I've gone and read a lot of her solo series as a detour on my X-Men journey.
Wait, what!? Rogue!? Talk about burying the lede! Yes, Rogue has now been introduced into the Marvel Universe! As you all know, I LOVE when new characters get introduced, especially the first time we see incredibly popular mainstays like Rogue.
So...Rogue is a bad guy when we meet her. Bad girl, whatever. Rogue shows up in Avengers Annual # 10 kissing her way to victory. She is a confident, strong woman who has no problem putting men in their place. Rogue is a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and takes down Earth's Mightiest Heroes one at a time. She can absorb their powers and memories by making physical contact. She'll continue to be one of the "bad guys" for a while until she eventually grows her hair out and joins the X-Men (No, that wasn't a spoiler. You knew that!)
Classic X-Men # 44 shows Rogue living in a house with Mystique and Destiny. It appears as though the two of them are a couple and have raised Rogue. At this point Marvel tried to censor anything that they considered controversial, but it's pretty clear Claremont was setting up Mystique and Destiny as a same sex couple without coming out and saying it. This is something I'll be keeping my eye on as the years progress.
Oh, and how did she get those powers? Well, we get that too in Avengers Annual # 10 which starts with Spider-Woman finding Carol Danvers (Captain/Ms. Marvel) in a coma without any powers (previously absorbed by Rogue). Speaking of Avengers Annual # 10, this is without doubt required reading for X-Men fans as we get more Spider-Woman, the introduction of Rogue, a healthy dose of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, plenty of X-Men and a gut punching Carol Danvers story that reverberate across the Uncanny X-Men and Avengers series for decades. Oh, and if Rogue joined the Brotherhood, that means we have a roster change:
Similar to Spider-Woman, Carol Danvers (going by the name Ms. Marvel at this time), is another strong female super hero who spends A LOT of time with the X-Men. Like...the equivalence of a few years in publishing terms.
Carol was a member of the Avengers until she ran into Rogue immediately prior to the events of Avengers Annual # 10. The issue begins with Spider Woman finding her in a river with no memories and not in good shape. While her memories do come back eventually (with the help of Professor X), her powers never do because Rogue stole them permanently.
There is actually a very serious and important story that comes to a conclusion in this Annual. The Avengers are happy to see her back after they assumed she had disappeared with the love of her life. It turns out that the man she ran off with was actually a demon (or something similar) and coerced her to leave with him and birth his child. It's heavily implied that she was repeatedly raped and that the Avengers allowed it to happen. Carol even slaps Thor at one point. The Avengers are shook to their core and Carol leaves them forever, instead choosing to hang out with the X-Men. (From what I understand, Chris Claremont was the writer on the Ms. Marvel series and decided to loop her into the X-Men after that series was cancelled).
Theresa Rourke, aka Siryn, also makes her debut in the X-Men world. Siryn is Banshee's daughter who makes her first appearance as a villain working with her uncle, Black Tom Cassidy. While Siryn doesn't make a huge impact in the current moment (other than being another teenage hanging out with Kitty), I was pretty excited to see her here because I know she goes on to join X-Force in the 90's (One of the few comics I read consistently as a wee lad).
We can't talk about strong female supporting characters without bringing up the Nobel Peace Prize winning, machine gun toting, JV Captain of the Muir Island Misfits... Moira McTaggert!
A really great character point takes place as Siryn shows up and Moira can't help feeling a little jealous, simply because she knows her main man Sean Cassidy (Banshee) will now have two women in his life to love.
Ilyana Rasputin, Stevie Hunter, and Amanda Sefton
Illyana Rasputin is Colossus's 7 year old sister. She is kidnapped by Arcade in this arc and ends up staying with the X-Men for quite some time. I watched the New Mutants movie that recently came out and instantly became ravenous to learn more about Magik (her eventual super hero name). While she is still just an innocent girl in this arc, we are VERY close to that changing in a big way...and be ready for her to get her own blog entry soon.
We have talked a lot about Stevie Hunter and her interactions with Storm and Kitty, but in the near future she takes on an even bigger role at the school helping Charles with the New Mutants (Yes, we're getting close to having an entire spin off with new characters!).
Amanda Sefton started out as Nightcrawler's human girlfriend, but we find out that she has actually been someone else all along! Remember how Nightcrawler was raised by a gypsy witch and Nightcrawler killed his adopted brother when it turned out he was evil? Well it turns out that Nightcrawler and his adopted sister cared deeply for each other. She seeked him out and had been posing as Amanda Sefton, however she is really his adopted sister! I'm not going to comment on how that's a little weird and instead be happy for my main man. Oh, and she has magic witch powers too!
Mariko Yashida is the cousin to Sunfire and girlfriend (plus eventual fiance) of Wolverine. She is the head of a powerful family in Japan and while she hasn't been given much characterization to date, that will change in a big way in the 4 part Wolverine solo series which will be getting it's own blog post in the near future! At this point, they check in on these two from time to time showing them either writing letters or going out when she's in town.
Ok, time to get into good old Dazzler. After being introduced during the Dark Phoenix saga, she got her own spin off comic which lasted for 42 issues. In addition, she starred in a limited series and Graphic Novel, as well as making guest appearances in many other Marvel tiles throughout the 1980's.
I've read the first 11 issues of her solo series and I have not yet decided if I will keep going. This blog is about to start getting more complicated as the number of direct spinoffs and X-Men adjacent series will grow in number. Some of the related series have been terrible and I decided not to bother continuing, such as the Champions (Angel and Iceman working with some B level Avengers) or early Captain Britain (I'll probably back fill some Captain Britain lore when I start covering Excalibur). This Dazzler comic is ok. It's not bad. It's not great.
I've done a little research and it turns out that Marvel created Dazzler specifically to be sold as a toy and for marketing purposes. From what I understand, she will eventually grow into being an important part of X-Men lore, however I haven't really seen that yet, regardless of how hard Marvel was pushing to make her "a thing." Her comic is inundated with heavy hitters from the Marvel Universe including, but not limited to, Dr. Doom, Galactus, Hulk, Spider-Man, The Avengers, Fantastic Four, and the Enchantress. She spends a good portion of her time dating Johnny Storm (The Human Torch) before moving to a generic doctor boyfriend.
They tried to show her as both a strong female but also a sex symbol. They were at least successful in creating a die hard community among gay men. In my opinion, their biggest failure comes from failing in the number one rule of writing: Show, don't tell. For instance, the caption for this cover:
Look at all these examples, which come from a single issue, where a drone of Galactus "tells" us how great she is in dialogue, instead of simply trusting us to make these connections on our own:
As Cyclops decides to take time away from the X-Men, he decides to work as a sailor on a fishing boat. This is where he meets Aleytys (Lee) Forrester, another strong female character who gets a large chunk of panels during this run.
It's clear that Cyclops is one of those guys who can't go 5 minutes without having a girlfiend. For all his repressed emotions, he sure seems to have no issues hauling in beautiful girlfriends at a steady clip (Colleen Wing before this and Madelyn Pryor will be introduced in the next story arc.) Somewhere along the way, their ship crashes and the two of them are marooned on a mysterious island in the Bermuda Triangle.
The Island gets even more odd as they discover a floating fortress. They venture inside the and find that it is some sort of ancient, alien temple.
The plot thickens when they run into Magneto and they are set up for the next story arc...
Issue # 43: Kitty vs. Demon vs. Interior Decorator
After the exhausting events of Days of Future Past, Kitty decides to hang out at the mansion while the rest of the team goes out to celebrate Christmas.
Remember when Thunderbird died and Scott decided to chip in to help with the local deforestation effort but accidentally woke up a demon?
Apparently they didn't kill all of the demons...
Kitty spends the entire issue running from the demon. She uses the danger room to help her escape, but while it was successful in buying her some time, the end result was just a destroyed danger room (hence Wolverine giving her a hard time about destroying the mansion in the next issue, which I covered in the Kitty section above).
She eventually decides to use the Blackbird to fry it to death.
It works, but she destroys the Blackbird too.
Issue # 44: Don't despair reading about D'Spayre.
Pretttttttty useless issue. We start by seeing the X-Men cleaning up the wreckage from Kitty's run in with the demon.
Most of the issue takes place with Scott and Lee. They go to see Lee's dad, but it turns out he was killed by a demon named D'Spayre. Yawn.
They fight, Scott is tortured, and then a thing named Man-Thing (Marvel's version of Swamp Thing, I guess) shows up and ends the battle. That's it.
Issue 145 - 147: Doom and Arcade
It turns out that Arcade got on the bad side of Dr. Doom and ended up captured.
In order to save Arcade, his right hand lady kidnaps the X-Men's loved ones and asks/forces them to save him if they want him back.
The X-Men show up and get in a fight with Doom's robots. Hey, look, Wolverine lost his shirt again.
As the X-Men's new leader, Storm tries a more indirect route of freeing Arcade, diplomacy. With Marvel showing us that Dr. Doom is a refined villain, he wines and dines Storm treating her with respect.
The dinner turns ugly, Doom gets offended and decides to encase Storm in frozen Carbonite (or something).
Throughout the next few issues, a storm grows more violent outside of Doom's castle. I wonder what's causing it?
After the X-Men were unsuccessful in freeing Arcade, Professor X decides that he needs to call the JV team up to the big leagues to free the captured loved ones from Murderworld. This hilarious panel shows Bobby Drake (Iceman) chugging beers and studying while in college being recruited back for this special mission.
Iceman is joined by the Muir Island misfits (Havok, Polaris, Banshee) to form the JV team that will save the day!
In typical Murderworld, fashion, these 4 are split up and put through crazy circus-like obstacles. They eventually outsmart each obstacle, group back together, and save the captured innocents.
Shortly after, the core X-Men team is freed and Wolverine busts through the door to free Storm.
By this point, Storm freed herself and she's hangry from not being able to finish her dinner. Also, her claustrophobia may have impacted her mood as well.
Storm becomes something akin to the Dark Phoenix and I'm thinking...oh great we're doing this again. The cover of this issue even says "We did it before...dare we do it again." Luckily she snaps out of it, they escape from Doom's lair, and head home.
Issue # 148: Girls Night Out Meets Caliban
#148 begins with Angel arguing with Professor X about Wolverine being too dangerous.
At the end of the argument, he flies off and leaves the X-Men for the time being. Let me translate this for you. The X-Men can only have 6 active members at a time. Angel was good enough to fill in for a few issues, but now that Cyclops is getting closer to re-joining the team, we need to kick someone off the island. Don't worry though Warren, I'm sure we'll be back in the near future when we need some money.
We then get a nice heartwarming scene where Banshee realizes that he has a daughter! This leads to the introduction of Siryn and Moira getting jealous, as mentioned earlier.
There's a cute scene where Kitty is begging everyone to take her to see the Dazzler concert and at first everyone is turning her down, but eventually she gets to head out for a girl's night out!
There can never be a normal night out, so of course there is some sort of disturbance.
Kitty realizes she can help so she changes outfits and sets out to find the perpetrator. This is where she first realizes that she can walk on air!
Dazzler realizes that the good guy's need a distraction, so she amps up her singing and light show to distract and somewhat hypnotize everyone in the crowd.
It turns out that the guy causing all this trouble is the Morlock, Caliban. Caliban sensed other mutants in his presence so he decided to seek them out so they could join him. He ends up meeting Kitty and becomes quickly enamored with her.
I'm pretty excited about this for a few reasons. First, I was always intrigued by the Morlocks but I don't really know much about them so I'm eager to learn more. Second, Caliban has made an appearance in two X-Men movies (X-Men Apocalypse and Logan), so I am familiar with him. Third, I just love new characters!
The Cyclops arc ends with him running into Magneto in the floating fortress, setting up our next arc.
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