Saturday, May 20, 2006

Pryde and Respect

The TV ads for X-Men III: Last Stand have been highlighting a character who appeared in the previous two films, but who received surprisingly little attention concerning her importance to the X-Men comics: Kitty Pryde.

Kitty's 1979 debut in the X-Men was auspicious for several reasons. First, it was during a time when there was only one X-Men comic (instead of dozens, like today), and only a handful of X-Men (instead of legions, again like today.) Second, she debuted during what was arguably the creative peak of the comic -- the four-year run of writer Chris Claremont, co-plotter and penciler John Byrne, and inker Terry Austin -- and during the most acclaimed storyline of the Claremont-Byrne-Austin run, The Dark Phoenix Saga (which appears to provide part of the storyline for the upcoming movie.) Third, after decades of Jewish comic-book creators turning out wasp-ish male superheroes, Kitty was a 13 and a half year old Jewish girl from a Chicago suburb, her Mogen David dangling from her neck. I know of at least one woman who started collecting and reading comic books in the early eighties because she was amazed by the sight of a teenage girl with a Star of David necklace walking through walls on a cover.

John Byrne created Kitty, and reportedly intended her to be an average girl except for her powers. (He drew her with the features he generally used for Jewish females at the time: curly hair, tiny nose, big eyes, and gigantic mouth.) Claremont, who apparently doesn't like to write average people, turned her into a girl genius, a gifted dancer, and later a brainwashed ninja. (It was the mid eighties. Everyone was going ninja.) Subsequent creators straightened her hair, shrunk her mouth, and often de-semiticized her. Eventually, she was aged (slowly -- instead of being in her late thirties, as she'd be if she aged in real time, she's depicted as around 19 or 20 now); and as the page on the right shows, in the Joss-Whedon-written ASTONISHING X-MEN, she even consummated her longtime relationship with the occasionally-dead Colossus.

The first X-Men movie had heavy Senator Kelly mention Kitty on the Senate floor (scaring constituents with stories of a girl from Illinois who could walk through walls); then had a nice cameo of her putting an apple on Professor Xavier's desk and then running through a closed door. In the second X-Men movie, she was played by a different actress for an even shorter cameo, in which she escapes commandoes trying to kidnap her by sinking through her bed and running through walls.

In this movie, she's played by yet another actress (Ellen Page, star of the recent revenge flick Hard Candy), finally wears an X-Men uniform, and apparently features in some nice set pieces. Maybe she's finally getting the cinematic respect she deserves.

The above images are copyright 1980 and 2006, respectively, by Marvel Comics (or whatever the company is officially called these days).

1 comment:

Laurs68 said...

I think its really interesting that there is really a normal, cool jewish female in a mainstream comic book series. I just found out about kitty pryde from a new book about Jewish values in comics, by the comic book rabbi simcha weinstein- it's called "up up and oy vey". this book is really different and definitely brings a new perspective to this intriguing issue of Jews in comics.