Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Growing up with Pryde - Part Three

The Brood Saga, which ran through Uncanny X-Men #161-167 (Sept. 1982 - Feb. 1983), provided Kitty with her first off-world adventure and her first real confrontation with death. Wolverine described Kitty in Uncanny X-Men #162 (Oct. 1982): “Kid she may be, but she’s proved - time an’ again - that she’s got more guts an’ smarts than most adults. Than most heroes.”

Kitty faced the possibility of dying as her body hosted a Brood embryo. Haunted by the prospects of a horrible death, Kitty tried to be tough, but like any other teenager faced with a similar situation, she was terrified. Fortunately, Colossus was there to comfort her as many fans wished they might have been.

As their fates came to a climax in Uncanny X-Men #166 (Feb. 1983), Wolverine entertained the possibility of killing his teammates to spare them a horrible death. Kitty stepped up and boldly showed her resolve: “I know what’s happening inside me. I’ve never been so scared, but I’m not gonna give up, maybe this is a hopeless fight, but I won’t quit. And part of not quitting means standing beside my fellow X-Men, all of us, together to the end - as a team, Logan! A family.”

Lockheed also made his first appearance in the pages of Uncanny X-Men #166. Although not really a dragon, but rather an alien species that looks like one, Lockheed would be forever associated with Kitty as her pet “dragon”.

In the aftermath of the Brood Saga, Professor Xavier announced Kitty’s demotion to the ranks of the New Mutants. The look on Kitty’s face and the look on her teammates’ faces on the last panel of Uncanny X-Men #167 (Mar. 1983) said it all. Despite having proven herself capable, she was still considered a child and unable to make her own decisions.

How could any teenager not empathize with Kitty over Professor Xavier’s stinging words? You didn’t have to go far into a teenager’s life to find a similar situation in which a parent has made a decision that they vehemently disagreed with. It was a wonderful plot device to pull in readers who had followed Kitty’s exploits and develop a loyalty to her. This issue’s ending set up a wonderful spotlight issue on Kitty in Uncanny X-Men #168 (Apr. 1983).

Who could forget that memorable splash page drawn by Paul Smith with Kitty spinning about, finger pointed, yelling out “Professor X is a Jerk!”? This issue focused on Kitty Pryde’s attempts to convince Professor Xavier that she belonged with the X-Men rather than the New Mutants, who she labeled as the “X-Babies”. With her pride wounded, Kitty struggled to impress Professor Xavier on multiple fronts and was forced to change. Rather than continue to complain about her situation, she does the adult thing and takes action. She eventually won over the Professor and forced him to reverse his decision.

The next milestone in Kitty Pryde’s life occurred in Uncanny X-Men #179 (Mar. 1984) when she presented her devotion to her teammates in a speech that brought an end to the conflict between the X-Men and the Morlocks, an underground colony of misshapen mutants. “This mess is my fault -- My responsibility and it’s up to me alone to resolve it. I’ve brought enough people pain, I won’t be party to causing any more. Colossus is what’s important -- With the Morlocks’ help, we might have a way to save him!” The key to Kitty’s speech was the use of the word “responsibility” and the personal acceptance of everything that it entailed, something very adult, something a certain web-swinging character might say.

Storm’s new rebellious and death-defying attitude proved troublesome and it came to a head in Uncanny X-Men #180 (Apr. 1984) when Kitty confronted her. “Life involves growth, and growth continual change,” Storm told Kitty. “You may not like those changes, but you cannot run from them, you must face them, child.” Kitty responded with “Some things shouldn’t change! They should be constant! It was bad enough my parents couldn’t keep the promises they made to each other -- but I thought I could count on you! (…) I’m scared, Ororo. Will it happen to me, too, like this? If I fall in love, will it only be for a while? Or worse, will the person I love stop loving me --?”

Kitty expressed insecurities and doubts that fell within the realm of real, believable teenagers. Her relationship with Storm evolved, moving from that of a mother and child, to friends: “Stand by me -- I need the strength of a true friend, even if, in days to come, that strength may be the ability and willingness to let me go.”

This heart-to-heart with Kitty foreshadowed the drastic changes to come in Kitty’s life. Their discussion also evokes John Byrne’s comments earlier in this article on how things had changed beyond his original vision of this character.

In Marvel Age #16 (Jul. 1984), Chris Claremont explained that “Kitty’s growing up faster than she’d like. The kind of life she leads as a super-powered mutant who confronts danger from day to day is pretty hard for a girl her age to handle. Add to this the fact that her best friend is a demon sorceress and her other best friend is a dragon!”

When her teammates returned from the Secret Wars event, Kitty learned that Peter (Colossus) Rasputin had fallen in love with an alien woman who had died saving their lives. Reading Uncanny X-Men #183 (Jul. 1984), who couldn’t feel Kitty’s heart break: “Tell me it’s a joke. Tell me anything but the truth. (…) Hey, God, why me huh?! What’d I do to deserve this?! It isn’t fair. It isn’t right?” This turn in events shocked a lot of X-Men readers who had expected their relationship to blossom.

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