Thursday, September 5, 2013

John Byrne's inspiration for Kitty Pryde

A tip of the hat to the John Byrne Draws tumblr page: where I discovered this story.

The Real Kitty Pryde is in the Middle.

The above photo and content below are taken from John Byrne’s website:

"I mentioned before that Kitty Pryde is the godmother of one of the teachers at my school over here. Last Christmas, my friend was heading back to Canada and told me that she would be visiting her Godmother over the holidays. I told her to get an autograph and after some conversations, we decided to go further. I phoned a comic book shop in Victoria, BC ( where my friend was visiting first) and told them I wanted two copies of X-Men 139. He was curious as to why I wanted two copies. When I told him that I was going to get them signed by Kitty Pryde and that her niece would be coming in to pick them up, he misunderstood and got quite excited. "

"You mean Kitty Pryde will be coming to my store?"

"When I explained it further, his enthusiasm waned somewhat but he said that he had a few nice copies around. When my friend went to the store to pick them up, he got quite excited again, as he assumed she was Kitty Pryde. Anyway, she got the comics and made her way to Calgary, where news of this signing opportunity spread. Soon her entire family wanted copies so she picked up a few more issues to be signed.
Below is a picture of my friend on the left, her brother on the right, and Kitty Pryde in the centre. Also shown is my scanned copy of the book."

"As most of you doubtless already know, it was nothing more than a casual remark that started this particular snowball rolling. By the start of the school year in 1973 I had already dropped out of Art College, but had dropped by on registration day to hook up with some pals I had not seen all summer. At that time I was introduced to Kitty, who was dating a former classmate. Hearing her name, I said it sounded like a good name for a superhero, and when my friend explained to her why I would say something odd like that (I was at that point actively pursuing a career in comics) she said “Feel free to use it!” At that precise moment, I don’t think either of us really thought I would ever actually have the chance to do so.

"SIDEBAR: Kitty has rebuilt those days in her own mind quite considerably, and tells stories of how I used to fill up my sketch pads with drawings of superheroes, doing this even in class when we were all supposed to be working on something else. The snag, of course, is that since I dropped out in early ‘73 and Kitty started at the College in late ‘73, we were never in the same class together! (Even had I not dropped out, I would have been a few years ahead of Kitty, having started in 1970, so, again, no way for us to have been in the same class.)

"Anyway — years went by, I got work at Marvel, and eventually there came that fateful day when Chris Claremont and I were thinking about building a second team of younger X-Men, who could fulfill Shooter’s demand that we return to portraying the characters as STUDENTS (even tho this was something Stan and Jack had abandoned before the book was much more than a year old!). I’d doodled up a potential first member of this new team, and Chris, still smarting from being forced to kill Thunderbird (Chris was scripting over plots by Len Wein, so the “deed was done” when Chris arrived on the book) said “Whatever her powers, let’s call her ‘Thunderbird’!” I didn’t think this was a good idea, since I try to follow the Stan Lee approach of having names and powers and, as often as possible, the LOOK of the character intertwined, and there was nothing “thunderbirdy” in the slightly built little girl I had drawn. That DID get me thinking about bird names, tho, and one of the names I jotted down on the page, next to that first drawing, was “Kittyhawk”. This reminded me of Kitty Pryde, and I realized I had found a place to use the name.

"Later, thru a mutual friend, I sent Kitty a page of original art with the character on it, and I think also at least one of the comics. She expressed delight, and we all thought that was the end of it. Especially since the fan reaction to the arrival of Kitty in the book was almost universally negative.

"I left the title not too long after, (mostly because I did not like how Chris was handling the characters, especially Kitty), and whatever it was Chris was doing somehow turned around the fan response, and Kitty became an enormously popular character. And something of an annoyance for the real Kitty.

"Altho, must say, she fared a lot better than Gary Cody! I put him in ALPHA FLIGHT, and not only did later writers and artists change him to look like ME, they made him a villain and killed him off!!

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