Kitty Queer
November 27, 2014 1:26 PM   Subscribe

What I did not know is that Claremont included this sort of girl-on-girl sensuality in all of his comics, hiding it from the CCA as heterosexual female friendship. It wasn’t until 1992 and Davis’s fairly blatant art that I got the hint; actual straight women maybe don’t feel this way about their friends. It was entirely possible, I realized slowly, that finger sucking and licking was not a strictly heterosexual activity among friends.
Chris Claremont, the X-Men, Kitty Pryde, hiding in hindsight pretty blatant lesbian flirting from the Comics Code Authority and telling Rogue you think you might be gay by Sigrid Ellis, editor of Apex Magazine, the Queers Dig Timelords and Chicks Dig Comics anthologies as well as Image Comics' Pretty Deadly.
posted by MartinWisse (23 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
This is a great article. It would be even better if it had some scans.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:52 PM on November 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

I just re-read all of the Uncanny X-Men -- all of it -- over the course of a couple of months, thanks to cough cough hack wheeze finding them suddenly on my iPad as though placed there by the hand of God.

And while I definitely had memories of Claremont as an ahead-of-his-time, woman-friendly, girl-power writer... and while those memories held up... when you read his entire run(s) in a huge chunk, there's a scarily prevalent theme of setting up strong, intelligent, independent women, but then having them get inevitably mind-controlled to be the puppet-slave of a domineering man.

You can almost set your X-Watch to it.

So I've kind of got a revisionist view of the revisionist view of Claremont. He sets up a lot of great women characters, yes, but can't seem to resist an inevitable mind-control plot that turns them into the pawn of a powerful male ego (or disembodied entity, in Malice's case). So I've gone from fuck yeah Claremont to oooookay Claremont in the course of the last while. In the grand scheme of things, I think he's done way more good for comics than harm for comics, but... yeah.
posted by Shepherd at 2:00 PM on November 27, 2014 [9 favorites]

Did a whole lot of good for Sigrid Ellis, though.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:14 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is the kicker:
Kitty Pryde wasn’t straight. She likely never had been. I… was not straight. I likely never had been. Moreover, it was probably perfectly obvious to dozens of people in my life that I was a complete idiot. A complete, closeted, idiot.

I looked across the room at Rogue, smiling at me from the Jim Lee poster. She looked so cocky, so confident. She also looked really hot, goofy hair notwithstanding. I wiped my eyes and said it. I looked Rogue in the eye and managed a whisper. “I think I’m gay.” She kept smiling.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 2:15 PM on November 27, 2014 [20 favorites]

Imagine how this story would be different if she had been confessing her secret to a Rob Liefeld poster. She'd still be attracted to women, but also to tint absurd feet. That can't be easy.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:21 PM on November 27, 2014 [24 favorites]

When they first introduced Kitty, Emma Frost and Storm were fighting over her.

But if I had read that when I was a fairly innocent preteen, rather than the jaded slash fanfiction writer, I might have seen it a lot like Sigrid did. And then my mind would've been blown when I did realise.
posted by Katemonkey at 2:26 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I knew a woman who was doing a PhD about the link between food and sex in Victorian Literature. She showed me a story about two girls going into a field to have a picnic and was unbelievably erotic.
posted by marienbad at 2:31 PM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Too-Ticky, the article links scans in its second footnote.
posted by cgc373 at 2:32 PM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I got a little teary-eyed while I was reading this. I haven't read a ton of the late '80s-early '90s Claremont stuff (I came to comics later), but looking at those scans...damn. That isn't subtext, that's just text. I'm amazed and happy that Claremont (and all of his collaborators - Davis, Neary, Oliver, and Orzechowski here) were able to sneak that in. Good for them, and good for Sigrid Ellis.
posted by protocoach at 3:08 PM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Imagine how this story would be different if she had been confessing her secret to Morrison's Doom Patrol.

...the therapy bills could bankrupt a nation.
posted by delfin at 4:38 PM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

... or bring about a glorious new world!
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:33 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I remember reading that issue with Courtney Ross and the Saturnine analog and Kitty when it came out, and I have to admit, I didn't see it either, but it sure is there. (I mean, I got she was seducing her into being less good, but the sexual side went right over my head.)
posted by immlass at 5:37 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

You see, I was raised by liberal parents in a middle-class household, and in my household we did not subscribe to stereotypes. One could not judge a character by their looks or mannerisms or skin color or speech. This meant that I got into a fight with a classmate in sixth grade over the sexuality of pop star Boy George. Just because he looked gay and sounded gay and dressed gay didn’t mean he was gay, I said. When presented with the cases that justified and reinforced cultural stereotypes, I insisted that the presumption could not be true.

Oh man, I'm glad I'm not the only one who lost time coming out to this.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:53 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Rogue and Storm had a scene in the Claremont era that in retrospect seems awfully relevant. On googling around it looks like someone else thinks so too. (Scroll to bottom.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:45 PM on November 27, 2014

Yeah, Kitty and Illiyana WERE pretty close, now that I think of it....
posted by triage_lazarus at 6:45 PM on November 27, 2014

Claremont's always been pretty open about the sexuality of his characters, even if the Comics Code or Marvel's editors or whomever wasn't going to let him be particularly explicit about it. He intended for Colleen Wing to be bisexual (which his artistic partner of the time, John Byrne, had a problem with), and also Mystique and Destiny were lovers at one point. I generally agree with Shepherd; Claremont tended to write the same story, over and over (another favorite theme of his was riffing off of the Alien movies), and taken in aggregate they were more than a bit problematic. But I certainly don't fault someone for getting something positive out of the stories.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:23 PM on November 27, 2014

The real creepy thing about Kitty's various relationships hasn't been mentioned yet though: she was thirteen when she joined the X-Men, got involved with the much older Colossus and when he broke off the relationship, their team mates got him beaten up by the Juggernaut because he hurt Kitty, rather than, you know, being skeeved by an 18 year old fiddling around with a 13 year old girl.

And in that happy lesbian flirting scene, Kitty is just turning fifteen while fake Courtney is somewhere in her twenties or thirties, not quite kosher either.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:28 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Random comments:

1) Yeah, Claremont had his very problematic fetishes (mind-controlled women: Jean and Kitty definitely, maybe Rachel, Madelyne, perhaps Storm if you count that weird Dracula episode, possibly Illyana, I'm sure I'm forgetting a few ...) But he also created a gender-balanced, frequently woman-led team where the competence and capability of the female characters were never in doubt, a good long while before the rest of the comics world caught up to that (hell, many still haven't caught up to that.) I agree he's done more good than harm as a result.

2) It's possible I'm being too charitable, but the other X-Men may have been giving Colossus a pass on dating the way-too-young Kitty because he was actually being noncreepy about it, e.g. (paraphrased): Kitty: "We're clearly all about to die in space. Do me so I don't die a virgin." Colossus: "No, you are thirteen."

3) I will never stop being happy that Claremont managed to sneak in an absolutely canonical same-sex relationship into the X-Men comics during his run because his editors didn't know what "leman" means.

4) Apparently, Kitty Pryde and Jessica Drew are flirting pretty strongly over in "Ultimates", but people are pretty sure the series is going to be cancelled before it goes anywhere canon, which is a pity, since it will continue the irritating "always a subtext, never a text" trend for Kitty's bisexuality.
posted by kyrademon at 3:16 AM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

2) It's possible I'm being too charitable, but the other X-Men may have been giving Colossus a pass on dating the way-too-young Kitty because he was actually being noncreepy about it, e.g. (paraphrased): Kitty: "We're clearly all about to die in space. Do me so I don't die a virgin." Colossus: "No, you are thirteen.".

When Kitty joined the team, she and Peter were the closest around by far to each other's ages. (The 'junior team' New Mutants didn't exist yet, most of the other X-Men were full-grown adults, Illyana hadn't undergone her rapid-aging Belasco experience yet, and while other students may have been around they weren't depicted until years later.) Teenage girls crushing on older boys is nothing new, and since Peter seemed to handle it well and there was really no one else around for him, some canoodling was somewhat inevitable.

Not that the team blinked twice earlier when two Savage Land women took young, inexperienced Peter aside for his first threesome.

Years later, once both Kitty and Peter were of age, Wolverine approved in his own way of their consummation.
posted by delfin at 7:18 AM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

The fact that she didn't read Kitty as queer for so long, that does point to the value of allowing characters to be explicitly queer rather than just implying it or encoding it. The sort of thing that's veiled enough to slip past editors and/or the Comics Code Authority is also likely to slip past the young audience that most needs characters to make sense of what they're feeling.

Also, he's mentioned only very briefly, but it did inspire me to watch Northstar dancing again.
posted by RobotHero at 3:46 PM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

From December 2002 to May 2003, Marvel published a miniseries called Mekanix. In this series, Kitty Pryde comes out. Claremont finally has her almost kissing Xi’an Coy Manh, a fellow former X-Man who is an out lesbian. Kitty’s bisexuality seems to only exist in Claremont’s mind – no other writer of her since has done anything with this. But I’m okay with that.

I have no idea how much of the article is projecting, and how much was Claremont's plan and subtext in there, because I never got the same sense from reading the comics at the time, and Excalibur was one of my favourites.
(Alan Davies artwork sold it, and I walked away when he left), and one can read some of that stuff with Sat-yr-9 as *highly predatory* (but I've quite forgotten almost all of it), but I am surprised that the entire article skipped New Mutants #45 "We Were Only Fooling", which remains one of my favourite comics ever because of the life and death of Larry.

Kitty's obit is worth repeating:
"Some of you know me. Most don't. I'm here because I guess I knew Larry Bodine best. But that isn't saying much. I hardly knew him at all. If I had, maybe we wouldn't be at this memorial assembly. Who was he, then, that we gather to mourn him? Who am I? A four-eyed, flat-chested, brat, chick, brain, hebe, stuck-up Xavier's snob freak! Don't like the words? I could use nicer. I've heard worse. Who here hasn't? So often, so casually, that maybe we've forgotten the power they have to hurt. Nigger, spic, wop, slope, faggot, mutie--the list is so long. And so cruel. They're labels. Put downs. And they hurt. But usually we laugh it off or hit back--with words of our own, or fists--or we suffer in silence. No big deal--this is the rough edge of reality, right? Why make a fuss? Trouble was, when someone labeled Larry Bodine a 'mutie', they hit home--because he was. His power created beauty. That's it. He did with light and color what Mozart did with music. And he wanted nothing more than to be accepted by his peers. And possibly even liked--and isn't that what any of us really want? To have friends. People to care for us? Not to be alone? If we're lucky, we have someone to turn to. Larry didn't. He thought, if people knew the truth, they'd stop seeing him and see only the label, the brand, his personal 'Scarlet Letter'. So he hid the truth and lived in terror of being discovered. He even joined in when others put mutants down. What matter the cost to his soul if it made his life a little better. That's the tragedy, that's our shame. Think of what you say. Imagine it being said about you. It's easy to make fun, real easy to be cruel. Try sometime being on the receiving end. If we're to learn anything from Larry's death, it should be this...You want to know who I am? I'm Katherine Pryde. That's the only thing that matters. The rest are just labels."

I think it's one of Claremont's finest moments.

I always read it as an outsider's creed, but others take it as a big gay moment in Marvel history.

But, anyway, all of that:
Kitty came out?
In a comic I've never even heard of?
Karma is a lesbian now?
Karma lost all that weight? Did she find her siblings? (That one dates me and shows how out of touch I am?).
Was Karma mind-controlling her at the time?
posted by Mezentian at 11:57 PM on November 29, 2014

Karma lost the weight during the New Mutants' adventure in Asgard; she went through the same desert trek that Balder did for his weight-loss program, also with the result that she looked exactly as she did before gaining the weight. As for the rest of it, I don't know; I didn't read Mekanix because I found the covers physically unpleasant to look at.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:52 AM on December 1, 2014

Karma lost the weight during the New Mutants' adventure in Asgard; she went through the same desert trek that Balder did for his weight-loss program,

Damn. I need to catch up.There's a gap in my collection for some reason (and Art Adams gap, no less!), and I don't have all the Claremont issues. (Which is insane considering what came after, and that I have almost all of them). Claremont really seemed to speak to kids, in ways that (I'm older now) that I don't think happened again until (say) Runaways or Young Avengers did.

I didn't read Mekanix because I found the covers physically unpleasant to look at.

I've seen worse. Marville(?), but the 1990s, you know?
posted by Mezentian at 6:01 AM on December 2, 2014

« Older Bonobo, inspired by beautiful hip-hop, London...   |   I can tell by the pixels & by seeing a lot of... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments