“Kitty’s Fairy Tale”
Cribbing the premise from an issue of Wally Wood’s series T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents entitled “Weed’s Fairy Tale,” Cockrum was the chief instigator behind this issue. Chris Claremont, about to inaugurate the Brood saga -- his first long-term story arc since Dark Phoenix -- thought the “fairy tale” idea worked well as a good palette cleanser for readers.
While the initial idea is Cockrum’s – as is the sense of whimsy particularly evident in the middle section of the issue – the plot is clearly Claremont’s, another example of what John Byrne identified as the writer’s inability to “let it go” when it came to the death of Jean Grey. Thus, minus the children’s-fantasy trappings, issue 153 emerges as yet another retelling of Dark Phoenix. The twist is that it ends happily, with Scott and Jean getting married – but that’s hardly enough to redeem a premise that, after the recap of issue 138 and the hallucinatory revisits of issue 144, had already been stripped to the bone by this point.
By far the best thing about the issue is Cockrum’s brilliant sense of visual humor – the quintessence of which is found in his fairy-tale versions of Nightcrawler (a big-headed Smurf precursor called Bamf) and of Wolverine (a similarly cartoonish gargoyle referred to only as the Fiend With No Name).
Claremont has some fun with the reactions of the eavesdropping “real” versions of Nightcrawler and Wolverine to their bedtime-story counterparts, but generally speaking proves incapable of matching his partner’s sense of whimsy. The author even admits as much in his intro to a reprint of “Kitty’s Fairy Tale” in the X-Men Visionaries: Chris Claremont paperback. He can’t even resist throwing in misguided angst, as when the fairy-tale Colossus laments the fact that he is not as metropolitan as Pirate Kitty. (Why would the real Kitty put something like that in a bedtime story for Peter’s sister, with Peter himself sitting right across from her?)
Still, Claremont has his moments. His dialogue for the Bamfs is fun, particularly the unattributed word balloons surrounding an entire crowd of them at one point. (Claremont will prove so enamored of this device that it will become a staple – almost every crowd scene in Claremont’s X-Men from this point on will find itself adorned with unattributed word balloons. Credit letterer Tom Orzechowski with the gimmick never losing its novelty.)
Also, some sort of Sound Effect Award should go to whoever came up with the sound effect “Bamfitty bamf bamf bamf.” It’s the funniest bit in the whole story, almost surely Cockrum’s idea, but one can never be sure.
Issue 153 also has a place in X-Men history as being, sort of, the first appearance of Lockheed the dragon. Here, it is the X-Men’s “modified SR-71 Blackbird” transmuted into a dragon for Kitty’s story. It’s oddly appropriate that the Blackbird is given dialogue for this issue – certainly the jet has become something of a character in its own right, and an iconic part of the X-Men’s mythology. X-fans have Claremont’s pet love for airplanes to thank that while the Fantastic Four have a Fantasticar and the Avengers have a “Strato-Jet,” the X-Men fly an actual real-life aircraft (albeit always described with that “modified” qualifier, just in case the plane ever needs to do something ridiculous).
At any rate, over a year after the publication of issue 153, Kitty will befriend an actual dragon on an alien world, and without any preamble start referring to the creature as “Lockheed.” As we see, that’s because the preamble is here.