Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Growing up with Pryde - Part Four
“One of the things you do as a teenager, one of the jobs you have, is that you have to work out your own relationship with the world,” said Louise Simonson, editor of the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine miniseries, from her interview in Marvel Age #11 (Feb. 1984). “This involves a moral relationship as well as a physical one. This series is going to help Kitty define what hers is going to be. It’s really Kitty’s series. Wolverine is just there because he likes Japan a lot, he likes Kitty a lot, and really doesn’t want to see her get killed.”
After Kitty had her heart broken by Peter, she took a leave of absence from the X-Men and went home for a change of location. Unfortunately, she didn’t get much of an opportunity to relax as her father’s ill-advised financial dealings with the Japanese mob end up stranding her on her own in Japan. The use of Kitty’s first person point of view in Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #1 (Nov. 1984) really grounded the reader and allowed them to develop an instant connection with her.
Events escalated as a Yakuza bodyguard named Ogun captured Kitty and put her through a drastic re-conditioning that reshaped her as a ninja assassin. You couldn’t help but feel for Kitty as she was helpless to prevent what was happening to her.
Fortunately, Wolverine made his way to Japan to check up on Kitty and after a near-deadly confrontation with her, they began the arduous task of de-programming her. Wolverine played it tough as her teacher, forcing her to choose to live and fight and struggle. In the end, Kitty’s strength and stubbornness served her well.
In this miniseries, Claremont had more time to focus on what he excelled at: developing character. Unlike a lot of comic book stories, the characters in this series actually changed.
“At the time, she [Kitty Pryde] seemed like an unusual choice; she was a younger, less significant character,” remembers Al Milgrom, miniseries penciler. “But, Chris Claremont really liked writing female characters and invested a lot of himself to make them interesting, diverse, and very strong characters. Teaming her up with Wolverine, a down and dirty character, was an interesting contrast. The tone of the miniseries was a lot darker than you might have anticipated with Kitty Pryde in it, but it turned out to be an interesting story.
“Claremont really liked what he did with the character and liked the way the storyline went. Originally, the miniseries was supposed to be four issues, and as Chris started writing, I guess he got carried away and liked the direction it was going in and begged for another couple of issues to make sure he didn’t short change the process. There was a lot of surprising depth to the story.”
For Kitty, this series was a coming of age story and she symbolized it by taking a new codename, Shadowcat. It also served to solidify the relationship between Kitty and Wolverine and their teacher/student roles revisited the original theme of the Xavier’s school. In the series climax, Wolverine defeated Ogun, and offered Kitty Ogun’s life. Although tempted, Kitty turned down the offer, ultimately proving to Ogun and to herself, that her spirit couldn't be broken.
GROWTH REQUIRES CONTINUAL CHANGE
The explosion of X-titles in the late 1980s and early 1990s saw the disassembling of what a lot fans consider to have been the X-Men dream team. Kitty and Nightcrawler moved overseas to join the ranks of Excalibur, Cyclops rejoined the original X-Men as X-Factor, and what was left of the X-Men relocated to the Australian outback.
After a lengthy run in Excalibur throughout the 1990s, Kitty faded into the background making a few appearances here and there. In 2004, Joss Whedon returned Kitty to the fold in Astonishing X-Men. Whedon also restored Colossus to life and rekindled their romance. The resumption of their relationship in a more adult fashion was interesting since that level of feeling and intimacy couldn’t really be addressed twenty years ago when Kitty was being portrayed as a 14 year-old girl. Interesting as well was the open hostility between Kitty and her nemesis, Emma Frost, who was now a member of the X-Men.
Around the same time, a modern take on a teenage Kitty Pryde in the Ultimate universe was being undertaken by Brian Michael Bendis in the pages of Ultimate Spider-Man. The formula for her character was strikingly familiar and I can’t help but smile wondering how many readers developed a crush for Peter Parker’s cute and spunky mutant girlfriend.
What stands out years later is how Kitty’s character changed as she grew up, unlike a lot of other comic book characters whose development stalled, especially in terms of their age. That change also made a lot of us realize that we were also growing up. However, all I have to do is pick up my well-worn copy of Uncanny X-Men #168 and I’m a teenager again along with Kitty, flooded with emotions and memories as I flip through each page of that wonderfully, unforgettable issue.