Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jason Powell on Uncanny X-Men #193

[Guest Blogger Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Chris Claremont’s X-Men run. For more in this series, see the toolbar on the right.]

Uncanny X-Men, The #193

“Warhunt 2”

A fantastic action story, “Warhunt 2” makes shrewd use of its allusion to issues 94 and 95 (published nearly a decade earlier). As with all such “commemorative” issues, its look to the past invites readers to reflect on how much has changed in the time between then and now – and, for that matter, between now and the very beginning.

The X-Men’s politics continue to evolve into something much more sympathetic and workable. Consider that the very first issue of X-Men saw the mutant Magneto (the revolutionary) attacking a government installation (the establishment), and it was the X-Men who came in to protect the status quo. As Julian Darius – quoted by Neil Shyminski in his essay “Mutant Readers, Reading Mutants” – wrote, the X-Men as originally conceived “were not revolutionary.” “In fact, they were explicitly counter-revolutionary. They were not created to fight for civil rights; rather, they were created to fight against those who did so.”

In “Warhunt 2,” the format of Lee and Kirby’s X-Men #1 is flipped: The heroes are the ones invading a government establishment. They know going in that it’s illegal, but – as Wolverine says – “X-Men look after their own.”

It’s also significant that the Hellions (who first appeared in New Mutants 15-17, for anyone that was wondering) are the ones initiating mutant-on-mutant violence here. With the exception of Thunderbird, who turns out to be a man of honor, the two true villains, Empath and Roulette, are – quite literally -- spoiled, privileged, prep-school kids. The point of view for X-Men has very much shifted: the more privileged the mutant, the more villainous he or she is. Note that in this very same issue, Callisto – the biggest underdog of any character in the story and formerly portrayed as the worst kind of villain – has metamorphosed into a selfless altruist. She’s more sympathetic even than Xavier, one of the comic’s putative heroes. In the early Xavier/Callisto interaction of the scene, Claremont deliberately skews the conversation so that Charles comes off a little worse – a slightly spoiled man who needs to be taken down a few pegs.

Indeed, by the end of the issue, that is possibly exactly what’s happened. Crippled both physically and psychically, Professor X realizes in his final confrontation with James Proudstar, “I’ve only my instincts and intelligence to rely on.” Robbed of his typical ability to gain the intellectual upper hand thanks to his powers, Xavier is forced to speak from the heart. Claremont’s writing is quite skillful in this scene – Charles’ speech comes off as genuine and heartfelt; it’s entirely credible that James, whom we know from earlier in the story is essentially moral, would be convinced by Xavier’s words to throw down his knife.

The final payoff occurs in the story’s denouement, depicting the X-Men treating the defeated Hellions with an unprecedented amount of compassion. More than ever before, the X-Men of these final pages seem genuinely pro-mutant. In the past, villains who’d gone as far as the Hellions would have been turned over to whatever authority was appropriate. The X-Men of “Warhunt 2” however are explicitly anti-establishment in their solutions. In response to Proudstar’s surprise that he and his fellow prep-school mutants are “not to be punished,” Nightcrawler has the key line: “If society forces us to become a law unto ourselves,” Kurt says, “then it will be tempered with mercy.”

On the following page, Xavier adds, “Nothing in Cheyenne Mountain was damaged that was not easily – and immediately repaired. The nation was never in danger, James – and you have enough to cope with without adding a possible lifetime in prison to your burdens. ... This perhaps does not serve the law but to my mind it well serves justice.” In other words: The Establishment has got plenty of money and resources to fix their toys. Why should we mutants throw one of our own to the wolves just to satisfy a legal system that’s never worked in our favor?

This is the most revolutionary incarnation of the X-Men we’ve yet seen – explicitly a “law unto themselves.” This new approach to the team will intensify over the next two years. Indeed, by the end of 1986, the “play nice” Silver Age X-Men will be well and truly dead, replaced with something much more extreme and very, very interesting.

16 comments:

Curt said...

Well said, sir. This was always one of my favorite issues of UXM and I think you sum up its significance perfectly.

Anonymous said...

This issue is also significant because it, like the Firestar mini-series, incorporates the character into the comics. She'd previously appeared on "Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends" as a stand-in for the Human Torch. I think this issue took place between issues 2 and 3 of her mini-series. Ever the reluctant heroine, she left the Massachusetts Academy at the end of her mini-series (when she realized Emma Frost was evil) and didn't turn up again until the first issue of New Warriors. Currently she is off the radar again, which is a shame.

Back to X-Men #193. Yes, this issue is a great one. The use of the Hellions, the action scenes, James Proudstar's quest for revenge...all well done.

The Hellions were always a cool counter-team to the New Mutants but utterly wasted later on. What is curious about this issue is the Hellions who are in the story and the ones who are conspicuous by their absence...namely, Jetstream, Tarot, and Catseye. If memory serves me, those three were not quite as nasty as Routlette and Empath. Is there any in-story explanation as to why the whole Hellions squad isn't assembled? Were the absentees more "moral", less likely to go along with the scheme to invade a government installation? And is there ever any explanation as to why James Proudstar sticks with Emma Frost and the Hellions? He seems well aware of the Hellfire Club's bad side and so forth.

He's an interesting case, James Proudstar. Went from having the same super-athlete powers as his brother to a super-strong powerhouse capable of trading punches with the Juggernaut, and now he's back to his old knife-weilding ways. Is there ever an explanation, other than lazy writing, that his powers seem to change so much over the years?

Jason said...

Anon, to answer your first couple questions ...

YES, the in-story explanation for the inclusion only of Roulette and Empath (the "bad" Hellions) is that Proudstar didn't want ANY of the other Hellions along. This was to be a solo gig. The "good" Hellions respected Proudstar's wishes; the two who are not so nice followed him, because they're kind of assholes. (And Firestar came along because Empath had her in thrall, of course.)

As for why James Proudstar sticks with the Hellions, we get a sense of that in later issues of New Mutants, especially issues 40 and 43. It is essentially out of loyalty to the other members of the team -- as you noted, the majority of them are good kids. I'd have to go back to re-read the specific dialogue, but we get a strong sense of Thunderbird having an almost paternal sense of responsibility to the other kids, even the "bad" ones like Empath (Roulette softens up by the time Claremont is done with her). We get the sense that he sticks with the kids because if he's around, they have a chance of doing okay, whereas if he leaves, they're more likely to be corrupted.

Also there is a sense that the White Queen treats the Hellions much kinder than she approaches, say, the X-Men. We get a sense that the Hellions don't really perceive Emma as evil, so much as she is just that really bitchy teacher that we've all had. (And this was paralleled, of course, by the fact that the New Mutants -- starting with issue 35 -- had kind of a bitchy headmaster themselves in the form of Magneto.)

Thunderbird's power fluctuations are a post-Claremont development, so I got nothin' there ...

Curt, thanks for the compliment! Always appreciated!

Gary said...

Firestar just turned up in Nova 20. She and Justice appear to have had a falling out. Possibly over Civil War? I know Justice is a rah-rah registration guy, and that doesn't seem to mesh with Angelica.

Jonathan Brown said...

As always, your blog posts are pretty spot on. This issue is particularly well-written, and I especially like the "law unto ourselves" line. It seems to me that it is a typically "x-men" statement.

However, I am unsure as to why you keep referencing Shyminsky's essay. "Mutant readers, reading mutants" is filled with embarassing fallacies, shoddy reasoning, anecdotal evidence, and observational selection.

The premise you reference in this specific case is a good example. Were the X-men defending the status quo or were they fighting with Magneto over his methods, which they believed (with reason) would cause more harm than good. Shyminsky's spin of X-men comics propaganda for white christian male superiority is both dishonest and laughable.

An example of his observational selection would be his references to the 5 original members all being white, but his lack of mention to the past 30 years of characters who are ethnically, religiously, racially, nationally, and politically diverse.

I know I am going off on a tangent, but the guy actually claims that adamantium is a metaphor for how the white male is being oppressed by minorities! It is insane that anyone could draw such a conclusion, or that anyone would take it serious.

The whole essay reminds me of the Minor Threat song "Guilty of Being White".

Jonathan Brown said...

Re-reading "Mutant Readers, Reading Mutants" made me realize how much more is wrong with it!

He claims that Wolverine's character has essentially remained unchanged for 20 years.

He claims that because X-men readers are mostly white kids, the comic's message is thus of white male privledge and encourages whites to think that their suffering is akin to that of actual minorities. Talk about piss poor reasoning and borderline reverse racism! We whites are incapable of understanding minorities! Shyminsky fails to realize that EVERYONE is a minority in some respects, and that all people have traits that make them part of an out-group. The offensive aspect of his analysis is that he implicitly assumes that white males are incapable of understanding that minority status occurs in matter of degrees -- that being picked on at school isn't the same as racism, homophobia, patriarchy, etc. He also ignores the obvious conclusion that X-men encourages white readers to be MORE tolerant of minorities and actually fosters empathy between groups.

I'm done now. Is this what passes for literary criticism or sociological analysis these days?

Jason said...

Jonathan, thanks for posting. I'm glad you like the blog postings.

As for Neil's essay ... well, Neil posts here fairly regularly so he can probably address your problems with his essay himself.

I don't agree with every word of the essay myself -- and the fact that Neil doesn't talk much about the X-Men material published during the mid to late 1980s is partly why I bring it up in posts like this. I think there is a more nuanced handling by Claremont of the x-metaphor during that period in particular, and I hate to see it not acknowledged.

That said, Neil is much, much smarter than I, and I love reading what he has to say about X-Men. (In fact, thinking about it, probably another reason I keep referencing his essay is to bait him into coming here and saying more smart stuff.) At the very *least*, the "Mutant Readers" essay is a fantastic conversation-starter.

neilshyminsky said...

Jason: Were I to revise it or ever find someone crazy enough to let me write a book about the X-Men and identity politics, your reviews would surely require me to reconsider of Claremont's later issues. The fact is, a) I was less familiar with them, and b) they are just generally considered less integral within the X-Men and Claremont's canon. And you're right, it should be acknowledged. So thanks for correcting my error. And I appreciate the compliment, even if I think you're selling yourself way, way short.

Jonathon: I'd like to be able to write a kind response to your 'criticisms'. I'd even like to be able to write the word 'criticism' without the scary-quotes, which indicate that I'm mocking you. But I can't.

First - you gotta get your language right. "Reverse-racism" is a nonsense concept. White people discriminating against black people because they're black? It's racism. Black people discriminating against white people because they're white? Still racism. White people discriminating against white people because they're white? Once again, it's racism.

Second - you actually tip your hand when you start throwing around terms like "reverse racism" in a sincere way, as if it's a meaningful concept. The white people who complain of "reverse racism" are much like the men who complain of misandry - their problem is that they're no longer as dominant as they used to be, that someone has shone a light on their privilege and disproportionate socio-economic and political power and questioned whether it's deserved. (Let me answer that one for you - it's not.) At its base, the complaint of the white person who cries "reverse racism" is that their white privilege is marginally less valuable than it used to be - that, on average, while white people still earn more and have a higher level of education than non-white people, some non-white ethnicities are catching up; that while predominately white countries still control most of the world's wealth, weapons, and food, they no longer have absolute control and have had to shift their animosity from one another to the non-white others.

Third - while all of us, at some point, have literally been in a demographic minority, that has little to do with how white and masculine privilege operate. The perceived superiority of whiteness and the values associated with whiteness is so deeply rooted within our society that you need not even have white people literally present in a place for a pro-white racism to take hold. (Note, for instance, how black children in a majority black community have internalized certain "facts" about race in this short film: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1091431409617440489)

But this is largely theoretical stuff, and I digress. Your original problem was with the argument in my paper.

"Were the X-men defending the status quo or were they fighting with Magneto over his methods, which they believed (with reason) would cause more harm than good."

In short: by virtue of focusing on the latter, they have spent most of their existent implicitly supporting the former. Until very recently, the X-Men did not hold rallies, provide education or information to spread their message, run outreach programs, work the popular media, or invite non-mutant allies to join them in fighting oppression. They waited for "evil" mutant terrorists to attack, they fought them, and they disappeared. Sure, the X-Men might have said they were peace activists, but everything they did more closely resembled the behavior of an anti-mutant-terrorist task force.

"An example of his observational selection would be his references to the 5 original members all being white, but his lack of mention to the past 30 years of characters who are ethnically, religiously, racially, nationally, and politically diverse."

There are two reasons for this. One, to paraphrase Kali Tal, is that we can't fail to address the connection between individuals and the narrative whole within which they are made meaningful. And that connection, which you seem to miss in your allusion to counting characters, is fundamentally qualitative. The original X-Men and the "new" X-Men are, within X-Men lore, far more important - in terms of the volume of appearances, the length of their stay, the amount of story given their characters, and their popularity with the fans - than marginal X-Men like Maggot or Cecilia Reyes. So the far better question to ask would be why certain characters (characters who are predominately white) have had so much more staying power and have gained far more popularity and prominence among the hardcore and casual fans alike.

I'm also skeptical of the actual number of non-white X-Men and X-related characters. I suspect that they are much lower than you think they are. I mean - quick, name off all of the black X-Men you can think of! And as a fun side-project, see how many people who don't read the comic book recognize anyone other than Storm. This is not representation - this is tokenism, my friend.

"the guy actually claims that adamantium is a metaphor for how the white male is being oppressed by minorities! It is insane that anyone could draw such a conclusion, or that anyone would take it serious."

This section is easily the one with which I take the most poetic license. But I included it because I think it holds together magnificently well. And the adamantium, I should reiterate, is discussed in an almost purely symbolic manner. If you have a problem with how I've interpreted that symbolism or with the modes of representational analysis I employ, feel free to talk to me about your issues.

"He claims that Wolverine's character has essentially remained unchanged for 20 years."

Still has claws and a healing factor? Yep. Has the metal bones, after a brief period without that we knew wouldn't last? Yep. Still can't remember stuff? Yep. Still smokes and drinks and gets into fights and calls people "bub"? Yep. Still really damn cool and into acting like a cowboy?

I mean, how many elements that we readily and essentially associate with Wolverine have been permanently changed since the early 80s? (And it's really bad form to list my ostensible mistakes without offering anything in the way of a refutation. Am I meant to be swayed by the seeming evidence of your opinion? I don't expect you to put together your own 15 page document, but really...)

"He claims that because X-men readers are mostly white kids, the comic's message is thus of white male privledge and encourages whites to think that their suffering is akin to that of actual minorities."

More or less, though you're misreading me a bit. Marvel's explicit textual message, the most superficial and readily accessible layer of meaning, is one of tolerance and equality. Which is fine and dandy, but is contradicted by a subtextual message that emerges when we set it alongside a mostly white, counter-terrorist, pro-status quo group and a white male readership whose socio-cultural experiences are likely to speark more to the latter than the former.

Also, your casuality is reversed - Stan Lee wrote the X-Men in this way well before the readership fell into place, rather than the reverse occurring.

"The offensive aspect of his analysis is that he implicitly assumes that white males are incapable of understanding that minority status occurs in matter of degree -- that being picked on at school isn't the same as racism, homophobia, patriarchy, etc."

I don't think white people are incapable of understanding racism - if I did, then I wouldn't be able to call myself a white anti-racist. But the pervasiveness of white privilege is all the evidence I need to suggest that most white people misunderstand, misrecognize, or simply ignore the oppressive ramifications of their privilege most of the time.

I read this on to the X-Men, first of all, because the comic is itself one big analogy. Theoretically, it suggests, being a super-powered mutant who has to fight in life-or-death battles on a regular basis is just like being non-white/gay/disabled. Except that it isn't, and we literally know that. But just because we literally know that doesn't mean that there isn't a slippage between what we literally know and what analogy allows us to see as an equivalence. And because fiction, especially that written with children in mind, actively solicits us to identify with the characters in the story, those of us with privilege end up reading ourselves on to that analogy, inverting the relationship and casting ourselves into the story and seeing our own oppressions, which again are not equivalent, as one and the same. And the comic does not encourage us to be aware of just how problematic this might be.

"He also ignores the obvious conclusion that X-men encourages white readers to be MORE tolerant of minorities and actually fosters empathy between groups."

Really? How much empathy do you see in the world of the X-Men? How many times have the X-Men successfully fostered new understandings or brought people together on a large scale? And how many people dress up as the assorted freaks and outsiders in the X-Men canon - or do they embrace the white and masculine characters that, visibly at least, have no resemblance to a racial other whatsoever? What does that say about the effectiveness of their supposed message?

"The whole essay reminds me of the Minor Threat song "Guilty of Being White"."

Which is ironic, since I think that it's the people who feel 'white guilt' most acutely who are most apt to post these knee-jerk reactions. Not because the X-Men actually do something to combat the root causes of racism that indirectly give birth to white guilt - but, rather, because it allows them to simply feel less guilty.

Some storylines aside, as both Jason and myself have noted, the X-Men are a rather shitty band-aid solution for the gaping wound that is racism.

Jonathan Brown said...

Thanks for replying. Reading your response, I think I can understand your views a little better and I think that you and I basically agree on most things. I can tell on the level of moral values, we are in agreement and probably hold many of the same opinions. However, I think your essay is full of shoddy reasoning, nitpicks, and unsubtantiated claims.

First: when I said "reverse racism" I only meant it in the sense that you seem to have a problem with racism that is aimed at the minority group and not racism that is aimed at the majority group. You state that it is contradictory for a benefactor of white priviledge to identify with minorities. This, in itself, is a borderline racist statement. It is like the attitude of marxian activists who think that just because someone is white and upper-class that they cannot support social/economic justice.

Second: while you are correct here, I think you are missing my point. I am not referring to white people's lose of undue priviledge as "reverse racism" but rather the attitude that because white males have power as a group, individual whites are incapable of understanding or empathizing with the plight of minorities.

Third: it is obvious that people often intenalize opression. What does this have to do with my argument? You have no evidence for your wild claim that the X-men encourages people to draw a moral equivalence between the hardships of white priviledge and the experiences of racial minorities. The only "evidence" your paper offers are claims such as "X-men doesn't have enough black characters" or "Xavier is white and upper-class" or "Wolverine is a cowboy".

"the X-Men might have said they were peace activists, but everything they did more closely resembled the behavior of an anti-mutant-terrorist task force."

This is a curious idea. The comic does not explicitly focus on X-men's propganda outreach programs as much as on action, but the obvious reason for this is that the comic uses the super-heroics as a metaphor. There are a million examples from the comics tha contradict your claims. The numerous instances in which Xavier is shown fighting as a mutant rights advocate, the trial of magneto, the TV interviews x-men appeared on to promote their message, etc.

"This is not representation - this is tokenism, my friend."

Curious that you would say that. Would you say most Chinese literature is filled with black, white, and hispanic characters? Or would you say that it is mostly Chinese people? I would argue that in non-white countries you will find the exact same thing -- literature is written mostly about the group that it is most familiar with, be it white, black or whatever.

X-men is better than most anything else in this regard. It is one of the first (and still only) comics to be feminist, filled with strong female characters who are consistently more powerful than the men and are put in positions of leadership. The X-men may have more white people than black by sheer number, but it is far more diverse than virtually any other comic one can think of.

The big question is -- what is your alternative? Creating a comic with a representative sample of racial make-up for its cast would be unrealistic and undesirable.


"much empathy do you see in the world of the X-Men?"

You're joking right? That's the central principal of the book. Just read the "if society forces us to become a law unto ourselves, then it will be tempered with mercy" line in this very issue. That is the perfect example of what the X-men have always been about.

"the pervasiveness of white privilege is all the evidence I need to suggest that most white people misunderstand, misrecognize, or simply ignore the oppressive ramifications of their privilege most of the time." This is what we call a non-sequiter. The question isn't whether white people misunderstand the nature of opression but whether or not X-men comics contribute to white people's false sense of distance. I think it is obvious that they do not, and your paper offered not a shred of legitimate evidence to the contrary.

"the X-Men are a rather shitty band-aid solution for the gaping wound that is racism"

How? The only two ways to cure racism are a) understanding and b) increasing contact with minorities. X-men handles the former rather well by creating a mythos based around the idea that all people can live together in peace, that there are no out-groups. Despite your attacks against white people for not suffering as much as blacks have, you still arrogantly fail to understand that the appeal of X-men is because the message is universal.

Jonathan Brown said...

The part of your essay that most annoys me is the observational selection. I am not going to deny that your arguments have textual support based on the way the X-men are handled by some writers, but it is unfair and intellectually dishonest to mention only the examples of cases that agree with your viewpoint, and ignore the ones that contradict it.

The example of Wolverine is a perfect. The single most important feature of Claremont's run on the series is that no character remained static over time. Every character he handled evolved, grew, developed, and changed over the course of the series. Wolverine was originally portrayed as a psycho berserker. Even by the time of the John Byrne run, Wolverine was already fleshed out as a complex character. His enhanced sensory percepion puts him in touch with nature -- he can communicate on an emotional level with animals. He is noble and graceful -- he speaks Japanese and abides by Samuri customs and ethos. He struggles within himself to resist his animalistic nature, he demands that he is "not an executioner" and will use non-lethal options.

Your essay is fatally flawed because of things like this. I am sure you have actually read the comics, so I am only left to assume that you intentionally ignored the complex, subtle, and multidimensional aspects of Wolverine's character to make a point. I call that poor writing.

Another aspect of the X-men you intentionally ignore is that the text itself teaches the readers that "otherness" is a matter of degree. There are numerous examples of characters commenting on the differences between Jean Grey, who can blend in with normal humans, and Nightcrawler, Angel, Beast, etc. whose looks make them incapable of doing so.

It seems that you are more motivated by anger that white people could possibly draw any moral equivalance between their problems and the problems experienced by minority groups. The fact that loneliness and feeling like an outsider are universal parts of the human condition, and that people are smart enough to understand that suffering occurs in a matter of degree, make your essay's basic premise fatally flawed.

neilshyminsky said...

Johnathan wrote: "I am sure you have actually read the comics, so I am only left to assume that you intentionally ignored the complex, subtle, and multidimensional aspects of Wolverine's character to make a point. I call that poor writing."

I think you're mistaking cyclical movement for linear progress. Wolverine constantly fights with the psycho berserker and overcomes it for a time, only for it to reassert itself so that some other writer (or film director or cartoon producer) can hit the reset button and see him through the same process.

I was maybe remiss in failing to point out this cyclical movement, sure. (As I recall, I actually had a section or footnote at one point on the cyclical nature of serial storytelling. If it isn't in the final copy, then I probably removed it due to space considerations.) Consider it corrected.

But as for being selective, I think that your emphasis on elements of Wolverine's "growth" that imply it to be linear and progressive make your argument appear much more guilty of this error. Given that every story of Wolverine's growth seems to be have a matching one about his reversion, it's problematic to list evidence his nobility without addressing his ignoble moments of berserker rage; of his resistance to his animal nature without mentioning that he frequently succumbs to it; of his preference for non-lethal options without contrasting these preferences against moments in which he clearly enjoys killing his enemies in fights where it could have arguably been avoided.

"Another aspect of the X-men you intentionally ignore is that the text itself teaches the readers that "otherness" is a matter of degree."

I most certainly do not - it's a discussion that I tackle head-on in the comparison of the X-Men and the Morlocks. And that section also notes my problem with such a simplistic reading. Relations of power are such that differentiated forms of otherness, when placed relative to one and another, typically reproduced relations of inequality. That is, the 'less otherized' group is privileged and empowered relative to the 'more otherized' group. And Jason's examples aside, the X-Men comic is quite poor at addressing this reality. Even worse, the comic has often implied that the 'less otherized' group is empowered not because of systemic privileges and oppressions, but because they're better people who have earned their privilege. Which is entirely false.

"It seems that you are more motivated by anger that white people could possibly draw any moral equivalance between their problems and the problems experienced by minority groups"

I'm motivated by a suspicion of any symbol that believes itself capable of being all things to all people, as if all things and all people have equivalent standing and experience. This logic is the sort employed in classic liberalism, and it is rarely a logic that is aimed at achieving tolerance and equality.

"The fact that loneliness and feeling like an outsider are universal parts of the human condition, and that people are smart enough to understand that suffering occurs in a matter of degree, make your essay's basic premise fatally flawed."

I'm sorry, but you're just so very, very wrong.

What you're referring to as 'the human condition' must itself be filtered through the lens of identity. Our ideas of self, and so of our pain and pleasure, are largely determined by the categories which we understand ourselves to fit. When white people are asked to describe themselves, they rarely think to explicitly mention that they are "white"; race or ethnicity is often the very first thing that a non-white person will mention. This is how those "degrees" that you mention are registered - as modifiers to "universal...human condition" that, in North American and European contexts, is white by default.

Your ambiguous notion of "degree" also fails to account for the invisibility of privilege to those who enjoy it. To tie this back to the previous point, most white people fail to explicitly account for their race precisely because we tend to place emphasis on suffering/oppression and not on the reverse side of the same coin with pleasure/privilege - what one notes as their identity is often that which, consciously or not, serves to differentiate them from that same 'universal human condition'. And focusing on those degrees of difference, as opposed to the privilege accorded to those who display various invisible degrees of similarity, is yet another problem that the X-Men (and, in fact, most people) do not do a terribly good job of tackling.

wwk5d said...

"As Julian Darius – quoted by Neil Shyminski in his essay “Mutant Readers, Reading Mutants” – wrote, the X-Men as originally conceived “were not revolutionary.” “In fact, they were explicitly counter-revolutionary. They were not created to fight for civil rights; rather, they were created to fight against those who did so.”"

Again, I don't buy this...Magento, early on, is pretty much Osama Bin Laden, with shades of (ironically enough) Hitler. They weren't even created to be revolutionary or counter revolutionary, they were created because Stan Lee didn't feel like coming up with origin stories for their powers. So hey, lets make them all mutants, they're born WITH their powers, problem solved!

It's not like Magneto or any of their other opponents at the time were staging sit-ins or pro-mutant marches/rallies, and Prof X was telling them to go break those up. The selling point was that they were mutants protecting the humans (and pretty much everyone else) from EVIL mutants. If anything, Freedom Force fits the description of being "explicitly counter-revolutionary".

wwk5d said...

As for the issue itself...great stuff. C&JR turn in one of their best issues to date. James Proudstar was one of Claremont's better supporting/recurring characters, and he suffered a lot under Liefeld. Nicieze did his best to add some depth to the character later on, but he never quite recovered.

I do wonder if the X-men didn't turn in the Hellions due to their age, and the belief that they could be reformed. Would they have been so forgiving had it been Shaw and Emma? I do see your point...the X-men are changing, though it would take the Mutant Massacre to really push them over the edge.

I know the New Mutants issue you are referring to Jeff, and it's a good one for James. It shows how he's a good leader, especially in the few scenes he is in. Interestingly, none of the other Hellions are interested in rescuing Empath, yet James convinces to, and uses the same argument when defending Empath to the New Mutants. Yes, Empath is a douche, but he's our douche, and we take care of our own. And the last scene is the best, when after the New Mutants leave, Empath is already talking about getting revenge...James slugs him, and tells him he's going to honor his word to the New Mutants, ie, shape up, or answer to me. For all that people like to knock Claremont, he used to do so much for supporting characters with so few scenes. Ah, James Proudstar, the complex, interesting character...were did you go?

wwk5d said...

As for the issue itself...great stuff. C&JR turn in one of their best issues to date. James Proudstar was one of Claremont's better supporting/recurring characters, and he suffered a lot under Liefeld. Nicieze did his best to add some depth to the character later on, but he never quite recovered.

I do wonder if the X-men didn't turn in the Hellions due to their age, and the belief that they could be reformed. Would they have been so forgiving had it been Shaw and Emma? I do see your point...the X-men are changing, though it would take the Mutant Massacre to really push them over the edge.

I know the New Mutants issue you are referring to Jeff, and it's a good one for James. It shows how he's a good leader, especially in the few scenes he is in. Interestingly, none of the other Hellions are interested in rescuing Empath, yet James convinces to, and uses the same argument when defending Empath to the New Mutants. Yes, Empath is a douche, but he's our douche, and we take care of our own. And the last scene is the best, when after the New Mutants leave, Empath is already talking about getting revenge...James slugs him, and tells him he's going to honor his word to the New Mutants, ie, shape up, or answer to me. For all that people like to knock Claremont, he used to do so much for supporting characters with so few scenes. Ah, James Proudstar, the complex, interesting character...were did you go?

DB said...

Neil and Darius are both misguided, relying on cherry-picking canon and logical fallacies to support their naive theses.

DB said...

Re-reading this now is great fun considering SJWs are currently strapped to their water skis and jumping all the sharks. Wave at the camera, Neil. ;)