Sunday, October 11, 2009

Growing up with Pryde - Part Two


THE NEWEST X-MAN
We didn’t see Kitty again until the last page of Uncanny X-Men #138 (Oct. 1980) when she’s dropped off at the steps to Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. After the death of Jean (Phoenix) Grey and the departure of Scott (Cyclops) Summers, Kitty’s arrival signaled a change and provided hope for a new beginning. Her arrival mirrored the arrival of Jean Grey way back in X-Men #1 (Sep. 1963), as she too was dropped off by a taxi at the steps to the school. Kitty was the first mutant to join the school since the X-Men were re-envisioned in Giant-Sized X-Men #1 (May 1975) and was the youngest student ever accepted.

In issue #139 (Nov. 1980), Kitty put on her X-Men uniform for the first time and turned down Professor Xavier’s codename, Ariel, to chose Storm’s suggestion, Sprite. This issue showed the growing mother-daughter bond between Storm and Kitty as Storm remarked: “Incredible. Kitty reasons as calmly, as sensibly, as Professor X -- yet, for all of that, she is still a child, struggling to hold onto her childhood.”

With Uncanny X-Men #141 (Jan. 1981), the first part of the famous “Days of Future Past” storyline, an alternate future version of Kitty, Kate Pryde took center stage, suggesting that Kitty’s tenure as an X-Man would be something significant. This issue also demonstrated the quick attachment that the X-Men had formed with their newest member. After inadvertently putting their lives at risk as she walked into the Danger Room and disrupted their session, Kitty was given the opportunity to test her phasing powers. The young girl closed her eyes and walked through the Danger Room, phasing through all of its deadly perils. Her escapade resulted in a round of cheerful and welcome laughter from her teammates.

Another noteworthy moment in this issue highlighted the awkward relationship between Kitty and Nightcrawler. Ever since their first meeting, Kitty had been put off by Nightcrawler’s demon-like appearance. However, we got a glimpse into the future as Kitty, with Kate’s mind in control, embraced Nightcrawler, letting us know that Kitty will eventually mature beyond her fears and prejudices.

Uncanny X-Men #143 (Nov. 1981) spotlighted Kitty Pryde as she was left on her own in the mansion over Christmas since she was Jewish and didn’t celebrate the holiday. While the story paralleled the movie Alien (1979) with its similar monster and premise, it successfully employed some of its cinematic devices, like the heart-pounding climax and the shock ending. The story showcased Kitty's resolve and resourcefulness and showed us that she had the wherewithal to be an X-Man.

John Byrne left Uncanny X-Men after this issue and Chris Claremont took creative control of Kitty Pryde. Like a loving father, Byrne was clearly disappointed in how Kitty would evolve over the next decade: “Kitty Pryde was created by me and only ME. Chris Claremont got a lot of "credit" for developing her into something she was not supposed to be. Kitty went from a sweet regular girl named after a young lady I knew in school (who spurned my advances more than once I must say!) to a psycho ninja magician.

“What bothers me most is that now that is the version that counts. And Chris gets all the glory and all the royalties while I struggle to clean my pool and feed my cats. I’m not angry - I understand that when you play in someone else's House of Ideas you cannot control what happens to the character after you let her go. That’s just the way it works. But when it comes to Kitty I’m a little sensitive and I find it hard to forget the treatment she has received after she left the safety of my loving arms.”

CLINGING TO HER CHILDHOOD
Claremont continued to put Kitty through tough times to build the reader’s investment in her. In Uncanny X-Men Annual #6 (1982), Kitty learned of her parents’ plan to divorce after failing to reconcile their marriage. Storm stepped in, again in her role as substitute mother, and tried to soothe the inconsolable Kitty. This world-altering problem wasn’t something that could be dealt with using superpowers and readers really sympathized with Kitty as she felt betrayed by her parents.

Kitty Pryde’s life took a sudden and unexpected turn in Uncanny X-Men #151 (Nov. 1981), as her parents withdrew her from Professor Xavier’s school and enrolled her in the Massachusetts Academy (run by the X-Men nemesis Emma Frost, the White Queen) where she’d be with students her own age. Teenage readers recognized Kitty’s frustration with her parents who thought they knew what was best for her.

The storyline that ran through Uncanny X-Men #151-152 (Nov.-Dec. 1981), established Emma Frost as a significant arch-enemy for Kitty. Frost served as a great foil for Kitty as she represented the establishment and conformity with her mind control powers and authoritative position as headmistress.

Uncanny X-Men #160 (Aug. 1982) had a significant effect on Kitty’s development as Colossus’ young sister Illyana, after an encounter with the demon Belasco, lost seven years in Limbo and emerged as a teenager. Over the years to come, Kitty and Illyana would become best friends and be there for each other through the highs and lows of their respective X-Man and New Mutant careers.

2 comments:

  1. goodness, john byrne can't seem to open his mouth without sounding like a complete asshole. i'm going to go ahead and disagree with him and state that i love what claremont did with kitty (i couldn't agree more with you, #168 is a classic, page with the four panels of kitty's various strategies of talking to professor x always has me in stitches), and i think roger stern was incorrect as well, kitty was portrayed from the begining as being something of a genius.

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  2. That's a very belated comment but I just discovered this wonderful blog (great job sir!) Still I would like to disagree with the previous comment. Much as I believe that Byrne puts his foot in his mouth a little too often he is not being an asshole here. He has every right to express dissapointment over the evolution of a character HE thought up and whether we agree with it or not we have to respect. Heck, he himself says he is not angry about it. Likewise if Jerry Siegel had ever complained about later versions of Superman, much as I could disagree with him I wouldn't complain (I just empathise with the creator's feelings).

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