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CSBG Archive

She Has No Head! – Kitty Pryde: Saviour Of Everything?

There was a pretty good discussion in the comments of my last post, as well as another CSBG post last week Kitty Pryde: Shadow & Flame Coverabout superhero comics and the issues related to appealing to both men and women, boys and girls.  Rather than get into a superheated battle over it, I thought rather I’d offer up a mini-series that I read in trade recently that I felt pretty well covered all those bases – likely to appeal fairly broadly to both men and women.  The book, Kitty Pryde: Shadow & Flame, has the added of bonus of being particularly topical since Kitty Pryde was just this past week returned to the X-Universe (from exile in a giant metal bullet hurtling through space) thanks to Magneto (and Matt Fraction) in Uncanny X-Men #522.

I wasn’t always a Kitty Pryde fan, in fact when I was younger I think I alternated between finding her far too bratty and far too perfect.  It was frustrating as a reader to see that it wasn’t enough for Pryde to be an adorably cute genius with some of the best mutant powers around and to also possess a pure heart, honorable soul, evocative innocence, AND a be a wiz with computers; but that she ALSO had to become a master martial artist whose fighting skills rivaled the best of the best.  It was a bit much for me and it’s true I often felt the ‘Mary Sue’ effect that I have heard some other readers complain of.  Over time however, and in the hands of some good writers and artists (Alan Davis of course instantly springs to mind) I grew fond of Pryde, especially as she outgrew her bratty streak.  She never became my favorite hero, but I found I genuinely liked her.

excalibur 42When Joss Whedon brought her into his Astonishing X-Men – the book that single handedly brought me back to superhero comics after a long self-imposed hiatus – I finally did fall hard for Pryde.  When I analyze what about Whedon’s run turned me so completely into a fan though, I’m not sure it was anything specific that he did (though I very much like what he did) rather it was that I found myself just generally burned out on the ‘super hot / super badass’ female archetype that had become so common in comics.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for badasses, especially of the female variety, and I’ve got plenty of favorites that I am both proud and ashamed to admit to (Emma Frost is at the top of the pile – you decide whether I should be proud or ashamed).  But for a while there they just seemed to overrun superhero comics in huge numbers.  Everywhere I looked was another “badass” that looked just like all the others.  I think it was likely a natural side effect of comics getting all “dark” and “gritty” and “real”, and it served its purpose I suppose, but I was personally pretty weary of it.  And in comparison to the glut of sexy badasses, Kitty Pryde suddenly seemed to me like an interesting breath of fresh air.  Throughout Whedon’s run I enjoyed the hell out of Pryde, both in seeing a more grown up version of her than I had encountered before – one that was mature without losing her whimsy – and also in watching her go toe to toe with resident badass Emma Frost without even blinking (and with often humorous results).

Astonishing XMen Panel

So it was in the spirit of that new love I found during Whedon’s run that I decided to pick up Akira Yoshida and Paul Smith’s Kitty Pryde: Shadow & Flame mini-series.  Shadow & Flame feels like a bit of a throwback to the “good ol’ days” due in part I suspect to the look of it – Smith’s incredibly clean lines and gorgeous storytelling work having gone out of fashion a bit for more aggressive and darker styles.  I for one, could not love the art more – the figure work is unbelievably strong and every panel is clear and concise, elegant and understated – serving only the story while somehow never sacrificing the beauty.  Smith also, like current phenom J.H. Williams III,  is not afraid to give his characters, male and female alike, a variety of expressions that don’t always wash out to “beautiful”, which is something I enjoy in my comics.  And it’s incredibly rare.  Despite being a beautiful girl, there are many times throughout the mini-series – like when engaged in a battle for her life – that Kitty Pryde looks less beautiful and more…concerned, strong, focused, angry etc.  It’s a great change of pace for me from the kind of permanent porno face that we so often get these days.

Story continues below

Yoshida’s story also feels a bit old fashioned in that even though it is serious and intense, it doesn’t feel purposely gritty or like it is pushing on boundaries just to push on boundaries.  I know I’m sounding like an old woman lamenting for olden times here, but I have to say that I found the style and content almost as refreshing as Pryde herself.

The book could definitely have tried to do more, say more, be more, and I’d be lying if I said that I wouldn’t have preferred a couple more “wow” moments, but on the whole I liked that the story didn’t over-reach.  It didn’t try to do too much in the five issues it had.  There was no jamming in of a thousand super-powered “sales motivating” guest stars, or any “it’s the end of the world OMG!” plots.  The story was simple and well contained, thus delivering a smaller tale nicely rather than promising the world and failing miserably, like a lot of books I’ve read lately.

The story, in a nutshell, is that Pryde receives a picture from Japan of a caged green dragon (an old flame of Lockheed’s) and a note that she should “come alone, bring your dragon”.  Kitty and Lockheed head to Japan and of course, chaos ensues.  Kitty is dragged into conflict with The Hand, the local Japanese government (or more accurately, the Department of Supernatural Sciences), and a group called The Path Of Destiny which may have more to do with her than she realizes.  Kitty’s old demons from Japan (namely Ogun and his followers) raise their heads to complicate matters further and it’s up to Kitty to sort it all out while managing to stay alive.

The combination of both Yoshida’s s lucid plotting and Smith’s elegant storytelling made a nearly perfect match for me – the kind of match you see more frequently when a book is both written and drawn by the same artist. There’s a cohesiveness here that is really lacking in other comic books, especially in minis that I read.  Check it out, I’ve scanned a big excerpt for you guys*:

Shadow & Flame Page 1

Shadow & Flame Page 2

Shadow & Flame Page 3

Shadow & Flame Page 4

Shadow & Flame page 5

Shadow & Flame Page 6Shadow & Flame Page 7

Shadow & Flame Page 8

On the female positive tip, Shadow & Flame is well covered – as it is filled with strong female protagonists (and an antagonist of sorts) and yet there’s not an objectifying image to be seen…not even a sexy “swimsuit uniform” in the entire five issues.  The characters are all well rendered and respectfully treated, as is the reader.  And I’ll be honest, when I talk about “appealing to teen girls as a comic audience” this is exactly what I’m talking about.  You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here or fill every story with shoe shopping and relationship drama…sure most “normal girls” like that stuff…but it doesn’t mean it’s the only thing we like, or what we’d be looking for in our superhero comics.  Mostly you just have to write interesting strong characters that don’t make us feel totally excluded or disrespected, and it helps if the art feels in sync with that concept.  As for what’s in this book “for boys”…well, for boys (and girls!) that like fantastic fighting sequences, ninjas, ancient katana blades, fire-breathing battling dragons, and a significant Silver Samurai guest appearance, they’ll be well entertained.  Over all the book is entertaining and smart and as I said above, though it’s not necessarily mind blowing or game changing, it’s just a really solid entry for a mini-series. One that I feel like could easily appeal to boys and girls and men and women in equal measure.

Also, Lockheed does cool stuff, which is always a bonus:

Lockheed Does Cool Stuff

So is Kitty Pryde the answer to all our problems?  A non-objectifying lead girls can get on board with?  The character I’ve often seen referred to as “everybody’s girlfriend”?  Do we need more characters based on the Kitty Pryde archetype, or would that be just as boring as a glut of badasses?  Maybe we just need more solid elegantly illustrated well-written mini-series like this?  I don’t know.  If anyone knows the stats on how the Kitty Pryde mini sold, I’d love to hear them.  Not that I expect that they’d be good…if they’d been good I’m sure Marvel would have found a way to make it an ongoing series regardless of Kitty being trapped in a giant metal bullet hurtling through space.  But even if the numbers weren’t great…I guess I wouldn’t expect them to be, because though I think this book would really appeal to girls that read mainstream superheroes…we just don’t have girls that read superhero comics in high numbers yet.  But I’m no expert, maybe this doesn’t have vast universal appeal, maybe I just think it’s a pretty good mainstream mini in a sea of not very good and I’m confusing that with broad appeal – what do you guys think?

*Did you catch Mr. Smith’s mistake in the pages I posted?  I don’t know about you guys but I take it as a good sign that even a genius like Paul Smith can occasionally make a mistake.  Suddenly I feel slightly better about myself today.


I assume you’re talking about Kitty’s magically disappearing/reappearing jacket? =)

@Justice: That would be it :)

I remember that Kitty got that magic jacket in Alan Davis’ second run on Excalibur.

Kitty happens to be my all time favorite female superhero character (occasionally favorite…I go back and forth between her and Longshot). A good deal has to do with personal identification with the character. For one her mutant power is the one I would pick for myself. Second (and more realistically) she is THE character that comes to mind when I think of Jewish superheros in the Marvel universe (in DC, I think of Superman…OK, not specifically). What is a shame is that there are not more Jewish superhero’s, given the number of Jewish creators over the course of comics history. I come from this without a struggle with the character, and her new emergence comes at a time when I am immersing myself cautiously back in superhero comics (comics have always been there for me, but in a variety of forms). As an X-Men in the beginning I liked her persona, crystallizing ironically when having underground dust ups with the Hell Fire Club (which is why I still don’t like Frost…she is the enemy dang it). The Kitty Pryde and Wolverine made…well, yes more Wolverine like. She was the first to have that great father/daughter thing with him and be immersed in Japanese culture…I was obsessed with Japanese culture at the time. Then came Excalibur, which sealed it for me, because those first few issues are still some of my favorite in comics. Most mutant characters have that duality of having a superpower, but being cursed because of it (…analogous to being African-American or Jewish). Kitty is the friend that keeps her fellow mutants in line, when they push the line. I identify with that, having been the designated DD most of my life. Yes she is that girl next door type, accessible, but not engaging. But there are usually a panel or two in each story she has been a part of that subtly builds your admiration for her character, or surprise you. I look forward to reading more, as I catch up. Thanks Kelly.

I am not an authority on the subject at all, as I quit with the X-Men around #150 because Byrne was gone and the artwork went from “awesome” to “what the heck is this?” overnight. But I automatically *loathe* and new child character brought into a comic or television series, as the main characters are suddenly pushed to the back burner and the new creation is shoved down our collective throat.

That said, while I thought these panels were pretty good, I am slow to want to see what I’ve been missing all these years. Perhaps my newly-acquired v1 of Excalibur will change my mind ;-)

I will admit to having a deep, deep love for Kitty Pryde, though perhaps not as deep as the love I feel for Emma Frost. [You’re not alone there. I discovered here in the X-Men animated series, and thereafter discovered her in the pages of Generation X, and I haven’t really looked back since.] So, y’know, be proud, coz Emma does rock.

When written right.

I don’t honestly know if Kitty Pryde is the ANSWER to our problems, but a few more heroines like her wouldn’t exactly hurt, I don’t think. We could use a few more self-sufficient smart girls who aren’t total sexpots.

When I was (pre)teen reading Claremont’s X-Men, Kitty Pryde was definitely my favourite character. It’s true that she had some Mary Sue qualities, but I don’t think Claremont overdid that. Even in the mini where she got those ninja skills, she couldn’t defeat the evil demon guy who had brainwashed her, she had to rely on Wolverine’s help. Of course it’s obvious that she was introduced as someone a teen reader should identify with, as she was younger than the other X-Men, and had to learn the hard way what it takes to be one of them. But unlike some other characters with a similar function (Wesley in Star Trek the Next Generation, for example), she was never irrititatingly overcompetent, and I think she soon overgrew her initial role.

Also, I think it’s kinda important that Kitty was (and still remains) as the only X-Woman who doesn’t have a model’s body, the only one with smaller than D-cup boobs. (She was usually drawn shorter and less trimmed than other X-Women too.) That made it easier to identify with her, because even as teen boy I realized some of the female characters in superhero comic worked mostly as wank fodder, whereas Kitty being not like that like that made her feel more real, easier to identify with. Like she was a real teen among these demi-gods and goddesses. This is why I hate when some thoughtless artists occasionally draw her with the generic superheroine/porn star body – that’s not what she’s about.

Like you I loved what Whedon did with Kitty, for example how she juxtaposed her “realness” with Emma Frost’s over-the-top bondage queen persona, like in the panel above. Even though she had grown up, she still had that spunk that made like her in the first place. Unfortunately I haven’t come across too many superheroines like her… Having more Kitty Prydes in superhero comics would certainly make them more appealing to female readers.

Another great Kitty moment was in Claremont’s X-Men/New Mutants Asgard story, where Kitty ends the massive fight in the end by going to Loki and essentially saying, “Fuck you, you can’t win this! Stop it now!”. I loved those moments where it seemed like her real superpower was her guts.

You know, I’m a little torn on Joss Whedon’s take on Kitty.

Claremont for all of his faults was doing some interesting stuff to stretch the character in the X-treme X-Men series (and some ancillary mini-series). Most noticably getting her out of the teenager mode, and dealing with some of the impact of her being a superhero since she was 13. So…a little more world weary, a little bit PTSD, and very much trying to establish a life outside of the mansion. IIRC, there was a very good short story somewhere that Claremont did dealing with Kitty’s reaction to the death of her father on Genosha.

Joss came along, ignored all of that and turned her into a bit of a Buffy standin for his Astonishing run.

That being said, that run was really good and Kitty’s pretty much the lynchpin for the entire run…so I’m not complaining to much. But it was a jarring transition at the time.

I find it interesting that Ben Cohen identifies so strongly with Kitty as “Jewish” superhero. I’m from an ethnic group that is generally not represented in comics at all, and stereotypically if they ever make any appearances. I’venever found this to be a problem, however. My sense has been that Kitty’s Jewishness has never really mattered to her or anyone else, so it’s interesting how a person’s identification can be based around relatively small things. I don’t say this as any kind of criticism, Ben, just an observation on the power of idenfication, and maybe an extension of the idea of how important it is for young women to have a character in which they can see some part of themselves. (BTW, how do you feel about Ben Grimm?)

I don’t have any strong feelings about Kitty one way or the other. Like Adam, I am not fond of child characters and when Kitty first appeared, she suddenly began soaking up an enormous amount of time and attention in the X-Men. Suddenly, it seemed like every other story was about her, almost as though she was being foisted on the reading public. I found myself resenting that and disliking the character as a result. I did grow to like her during “Excalibur”, but I share Kelly’s disdain for the decision to make Kitty into a martial arts exper along with everything else. Just too much! I still have not picked up Whedon’s run on the X-Men, but I will some day.

Right now, I think that Kitty does stand out as one of the few superheroines who is genuinely approachable, despite all of the extras that have been added to her over the years. But the version of Kitty Pryde that I really like is that portrayed by Bendis in “Ultimate Spiderman”. That young woman is a truly likeable character, and she hasn’t been made a ninja yet.

A lot of Kitty love so far – I love it.

@Adam: Maybe Kitty’s magic jacket is like the witching cloak in Fables? ;)

@ShaunN: You know, one thing I meant to mention in my post, but neglected to, is that one thing I DO like about Kitty having a mastery of the martial arts and all that nonsense is that they didn’t change her into this “badass” to fit those skills once she had them. She was still very Kitty. She didn’t overnight (or ever, really) turn into a character that physically or otherwise resembled most of the female characters that run around with sweet ninja skills thinking they are badasses…she still looked and acted the the same as ever…and it was more of an aside, like “oh yeah, I could probably kick your ass with my badass ninja skills…but whatever.”

I do like that aspect. I’m sure there are other examples of that happening with characters, but I can’t think of any just now. So it feels a bit unique to me in the handling…and I’m all for unique.

@Amit!: Agreed. Another thing I wish I’d mentioned in my post is that I think part of what worked so well for me personally in Whedon’s run was the great contrast between Emma and Kitty. Here were these two female characters that I was just LOVING and they couldn’t have been more different…from bra size to breakfast cereal…which is how women tend to be…just like men do. So it was nice to see the spectrum presented…I always love it when we can see a wide variety of not only character personality but also character body type and it continues to be one of my biggest complaints – for both male and female characters.

Well Kitty’s Ninja makeover (which wasn’t actually supposed to be permanent…and wasn’t under Claremont I) happened before the Ninja Bad Girl craze.

Shaun, growing up Kitty was very much like any other of my Jewish friends…very typical American Jew (reformed). Her religion is a part of her, but not the defining part. Very often if comics have a Jewish character, they need to be “Hi, I’m Super Kosher Man” when most American Jews are going to be like Kitty (or Vance Astro/Justice).

Kitty is one of the greatest characters ever created, probably second only to Spider-Man. I’m still upset over all those people who chose Darkseid over her.

I’ve never heard of this series before. When did it come out?

Paul Smith is a great artist, and he’s very good with Kitty (‘Professor Xavier Is A Jerk!’). It looks like his style has changed a little bit since his X-Men days, but all the stuff you said about him is accurate here. I looked through everything shown for the mistake you mentioned, but somehow I overlooked the jacket. I did see what looks like a ninja inside the wall of the elevator shaft, but I know I could be misinterpreting what I see there. I don’t think Mt Fuji is that close to downtown Tokyo, and I notice the sign on the elevator is in English only. Do those count as mistakes?

I loved Kitty from the moment I first saw her. (‘Welcome To The X-Men, Kitty Pryde. Hope You Survive The Experience’ was only the third X-Men I ever read. I so wish I still had it.) She is perfect in so many ways, and yet, that doesn’t bother me in the way it does with some characters. Maybe because her personality is so real. Characterisation was Claremont’s strength, and he really did well with Kitty.
In addition to all her other perfect attributes that you mentioned at the beginning, you left out expert ballet dancer, fluency in at least three languages, and the possession of a magic sword and pet dragon. (Does she still have the sword, or did it revert to Illyana when she came back?) Kitty really seems over the top when you mention all these things at once, but she feels so real that you just accept it all.

And as you said, she looks like a real girl, which I think makes her sexier than the plastic supermodel characters, but I guess my view may not be typical.

(Does she ever wear her glasses anymore? I loved her glasses.)

I’ve almost bought this at least half a dozen times. I think I’ll do so next time I’m in the middle of a TPB binge.
@Scavenger: I’m not sure exactly where you’re coming from. Most Jewish characters seem to be of the type you describe, making an occasional reference to a Bar Mitzvah or something but otherwise not mentioning anything religious. The only one I can think of where it’s a huge thing is Sabra, but she’s Israeli.

@Mary: This mini-series originally came out between August 2005 and December 2005, likely in a response to Kitty’s popularity in Whedon’s run, which ran from July 2004 through March 2008 (1-24). Cover price is $14.99 and it includes the five issue mini-series run, including the covers, but no extras.

You are right that Kitty is also fluent in many languages (wikipedia lists it at 5 if you count Shi’ar languages) and they also list her as moderately proficient in three more. I forgot all about the ballet thing…perhaps because I’m trying to block it out and make her less perfect in my head. Lockheed guest stars in this issue and is very much in her life, I saw no trace of Illyana’s sword and haven’t for a while. I saw no sign of glasses either. You should definitely pick this up if you like Kitty Mary, it’s a good little book.

My issue with the character is she leans closer to the Perfect side and has few flaws. Even when she appears to be in the “wrong” she’s doing it from the right place.

Characters like that are fine for wish fulfillment, but I rather characters have something deeper at the core and appear to be realistic.

I didn’t pick this up when it came out because it had Akira Yoshida’s name attached to it. He did some OK work on the Marvel Adventures line (FF, I think), but then he did that godawful X-Men/FF mini with Pat Lee, and an extremely limp Age of Apocalypse mini, even though it had some crazy/busy/wonderful Chris Bachalo artwork (and, to connect it to last week, featured an AoA X-23). So when this came out, somewhere in the midst of all that, I was in no rush to pick it up. Maybe I’ll give it a shot if I see it somewhere now, though – if not for Kitty, then at least for Lockheed having a decent-sized roll. He’s always been fun.

As for Kitty, I don’t have a long history with her. She was in Excalibur when I started reading, and that’s how I think of her (this was in the post-Alan Davis era, for anyone keeping track). I’ve since tracked down all of Excalibur in one form or another and have similarly backtracked in Uncanny, but I’ve never been that impressed with her until recently. She just seemed to be able to pick up one skill after another with barely an afterthought and she overcame whatever “adversity” she was faced with about as easily as most people decide what way to drive to work in the morning. In short, I was not a fan.

I did grow to like her a little after Mechanix, a Claremont-written mini in which she finally “grew up” and tried to establish a life outside of the X-Men and away from all the superheroics (I think this is the same era Manglr was talking about). I think, though, that Astonishing was the first time I had a strong positive opinion of her – and I never thought it took away from my strong positive opinion of the White Queen (which had been established during New X-Men). The two characters played well together at keeping the other grounded and each was integral to the other’s progression in the story. Whedon’s Kitty had highs and lows that actually felt high and low; moving back into the X-Mansion with all her memories was as conflicting for the reader as it was for Kitty, getting Piotr back brought as tangible a relief to me as it did Kitty, at least until we became concerned together about what kind of state the poor guy was in – in short, I actually understood why people looked at Kitty as a PoV character for the first time.

However, we were also lucky that we got John Cassaday and Laura Martin to render it all for us. They brought just as much to the table as did the dialogue and plot progression, whether through their effort to make each character, not just Kitty, look like a distinct person, both in terms of facial and body construction, or through their diverse array of facial expressions.

I think Fraction has a good enough grasp on things to keep this up storywise, but if we’re looking for artists who are going to give her a different body type… well… The Dodsons (though I do love the dynamism and color of their work) and Greg Land do not place high on that list. We’ll see how that goes. I’m not trying to be negative about it, because I am looking forward to both Second Coming and what’s going to happen with Kitty after this week’s issue (where I think Whilce Portacio did a pretty good job with her, although I felt the art looked a little too rough in some places). I feel like the X-Books are in a place where prominent female characters like Rogue, Emma, and last week’s subject, X-23 are getting some real, considered attention and development, and I’d like to see that continue – not because they’re women, but because their stories are actually interesting to me. I hope Kitty can stay on that list, too.

Be a proud fan of Emma! At least time has been spent developing why her character behaves the way she does and demonstrates her sexuality the way she does. Plus, it’s clear that her sexuality is an element of her character and not her entire character.

I was pretty take ‘er or leave ‘er on Kitty pre-Whedon, as well (and I get the argument that she’s just his Buffy stand-in, but it still works for me), but I dig what you’re saying here. I think she can be a blueprint for female superhero characters because, as I said about Emma above, her mutant power or ninja skills – in short, her badassery are character attributes, not her lone selling point. I wouldn’t want a comic/sci-fi world made up of nothing but Kitty Pryde’s, but I would like all of the characters I read about to be well-developed and multi-dimensional (regardless of gender, class, race, sexual orientation, religion, etc).

I liked Shadow and Flame, but then I’m a HUGE Lockheed mark. You’re right that it has a very “old school” feel to it. I don’t know for sure, but I would bet that it sold about as well as all X-character spin-off minis do.

Tom Fitzpatrick

March 29, 2010 at 1:20 pm

I’ve always enjoyed Mr. Smith’s art, way back on the Uncanny X-men, Nexus, Leave it to Chance.

One point of note regarding Kitty Pryde, she turned up just shortly before John Byrne left the Uncanny X-men (circa 1981-2), and was given the age 14 (I think). When Josh Whedon started writting her character in the Astonishing X-men, Kitty was 18 years old.

I felt soooo old in that fact that MARVEL does not age their characters occasionally.

I love to see writers try to explain away the fact that Kathleen Pryde was over 43 (or 53) years old in the DAYS of FUTURE PAST as told in the Uncanny X-men # 141-42. Those events are allegedly supposed to occur in 2013.

@Tom Fitzpatrick: Wow. For what it’s worth I never read Kitty as only 18 in the Astonishing X-Men run – I’m not doubting you – I don’t remember if being referenced at all – but if it is, it is, and I’m sure you’re right. To me, she “felt/feels” like early 20’s which seems reasonable. And I’m going to continue to pretend that’s how old she is because it makes me more comfortable! :)

As a side note I just had a discussion with a friend about comics characters aging (or rather not aging – and often hitting a glass ceiling – of they can’t be more than 30 or whatever) and I just WENT OFF. It’s a subject I feel strongly about…but it’s like pissing in the wind…companies just can’t afford to age these “properties”. It sucks, but it’s yet another reason that I often find series with definitive endings superior to ongoing books.

The 2013/Days of Future Past thing is hilarious. I didn’t remember it was taking place in 2013. Hilarious.

Wow, Paul Smith is evoking Steve Rude in his art a lot these days.

Probably not a coincidence that Paul replaced Steve a lot on Nexus in the late 80’s ether. :-)

On the topic of Nexus, I’d like to see SHE HAS NO HEAD tackle the character of Sundra Peale

I’m rather new to Kitty. When I got into X-men as a kid Jubilee was the ‘teen character.’ And to this day I hate her.

I’m a huge Whedon fan and I love his run on Astonishing. For all of the reasons already mentioned. Whedon converted me into a Kitty fan but I’d never really known what to read next.

Thanks for the heads up on this mini Kelly. The art reminds me of Kully Hammer and the writing seems decent. I’ll definitely check it out.

Regarding Kitty Pryde’s initial age, in X-MEN #138 Scott Summers says that she is 13 and a half (How charmingly specific!).

When she was first introduced Kitty’s age was explicitly mentioned (I think she was 13 or 14), but I didn’t see any mention of her age in Whedon’s X-Men. (It’s quite rare these days that superhero comics would mention the exact age of a character, I guess because of all the problems with the floating timeline stuff.) I too assumed she’s in her twenties nowadays. Where’d you get the info that she’s 18 in Whedon’s run, Tom Fitzpatrick?

Willie Everstop

March 29, 2010 at 2:36 pm

The magic jacket is part of the same image inducer program that made Lockheed look like a cat. You never wear your good clothes when looking for ninjas.

My dusty old memory tells me that Kitty was 13 and a half when she joined the X-Men and had her next birthday in outer space while fighting the Brood. In Excalibur after the Cross-Time Caper Kitty was hanging out with Courtney Ross/Sat-r-9 when she had her 15th birthday celebration. She also had a birthday in that one-shot with the weird clown but I don’t think that counts.

I know way too much about 20th century X-Men history. Its a good thing my wife and kids like super heroes.

Well Kitty’s Ninja makeover (which wasn’t actually supposed to be permanent…and wasn’t under Claremont I) happened before the Ninja Bad Girl craze.

It was definitely under Claremont, or written by him anyway, in the 1984-85 Kitty Pryde and Wolverine miniseries.

I don’t know about Joss Whedon’s run, but I know that Warren Ellis had her pegged at 18. He stated this in an interview with Wizard just before Excalibur #90 came out. In the interview he revealed he’d had a conversation with Bob Harras where he stated “Kitty’s gonna f—.” And Harras responded with “Keep it tasteful.” The article at the time (I don’t even know if anyone cares) then reported that Harras had nixed the iodea at the last minute though the last page of Excalibur #90 was still rather suggestive.

@Kelly Thompson: Ah, you see Kelly, an action/adventure story combined with a love story!!
Who can resist young dragons in love :) I rest my case.
Looking forward to your next post.

Paul Smith is one of those few artists I will go out of my way for. Clean lines, graceful moves, and, yes, a variety of facial expressions. I desperately loved his era on Uncanny X-Men.

Hadn’t seen this series, but I have a copy of the TPB ordered now. Thanks!

Kitty’s a fairly solid character, but like every X-person since the 90s, she’s been over-exposed, over-used, and bounced around so often that it’s quite hard to keep track of what she’s been doing and why. The Whedon run cuts through all of that fat and basically ignores it, keeping her characterization back to basics without really sacrificing anything (as far as I’m aware). I’d love to see another intelligible X-book for the non-fan.

Tom Fitzpatrick

March 29, 2010 at 8:26 pm


I’m fairly certain that her age was mentioned in Whedon’s run on the Astonishing X-men (just can’t remember which issue it was).

BUT, she did lose her virginity to Peter in that series. I can’t see MARVEL supporting under-age sex no matter how advanced they are socially. Even if Whedon does it tastefully and tactfully like he did with Buffy and Angel on the tv series.

I agree with stealthwise that alot of what I love about Whedon’s run was how accessible it was. I love X-men but the only X books I kept up with when they came out were Ultimate X-men (becuase I read it from issue one) and Whendon’s run. I may, every now and again pick up a trade at the book store and read it…

But I just don’t like any story that is too… how do I put it… mucked up with continuty? Whedon basically ignored everything and wrote the X stories he always wanted to write. And they were fantastic. And, again, my girlfriend loved it too.

I wouldn’t be able to give her something like the ‘masiah complex’ trade and expect her to be enthusiastic about reading it.

Now… What kind of conclusions am I supposed to draw from this?

Louis Bright-Raven

March 29, 2010 at 9:25 pm

“In addition to all her other perfect attributes that you mentioned at the beginning, you left out expert ballet dancer…”

I realize I dropped the X-Books at UNCANNY #300, but when did Kitty become an expert ballerina? She studied dance in conjunction with her ice skating as a teen in Illinois, true, and that continued with the ballet / yoga / gymnastics studies with Stevie Hunter (who also taught classes for the rest of the New Mutants later on, though it was hardly ever a focal point to any of the characters). But I don’t see where that ever lead to her becoming an ‘expert’ dancer?!

Willie Everstop

March 29, 2010 at 9:41 pm

@Tom Fitzpatrick:

Kitty had plenty of underage sex before that with Pete Wisdom but they were in Scotland so I think it was legal. I’m pretty sure Colossus beat the hell out of Wisdom for it though.

@Louis Bright-Raven: Not that wikipedia should be the be all end of all information of any kind…even comics, but it does list in her “powers and abilities section” that she is considered a professional level dancer in both ballet and modern dance. Take that as you will :)

@Willie Everstop: I thought Kitty was determined to be 18 for that Pete Wisdom stuff…editorial mandate and all that…? Could be wrong, I kind of only dabbled in those books…and long ago at that.

@squidlad: “an action/adventure story combined with a love story” you know the key word there? COMBINED. Instead of “action adventure stories PERIOD.” :) Nice try though.

I had lots of sex with Kitty when she was only 15, mind you I was only 16 at the time and taking an unusually long time reading comics in the bathroom… ‘Nuff said!

I thought that Kitty was an expert ballerina in her very first appearance (mentioned, not shown), but I don’t have that issue and it’s been a long time since I read it. But I thought her parents were talking about scholarship possibilities, although of course the offers she got came from two seperate Mutant schools.

Kitty could’ve gotten laid much earlier than she did, without any underage sex. I don’t know where people get this idea that you have to be eighteen in this country. It’s sixteen in most states, and also in Britain, which as Willie mentions is where she was at that age. Some states do attach certain conditions. Here in Oklahoma, last I heard, the legal age is eighteen if a girl is a virgin, but sixteen if she’s not. Which means of course that she would have to break the law once in order to do it legally. But these laws never have much logical basis. (In every state, the law only applies to single people, and marriage is usually allowed at younger ages if certain conditions are met. In California, if the law hasn’t been changed in the last decade or so, there is no minimum age for marriage if the parents and a judge agree, so theoretically a kid could get married and have sex well before puberty.)

Louis Bright-Raven

March 29, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Kelly: Yeah I noticed that late on the tail end of the Wiki page; I just don’t see it, but whatever.

Mary: The story merely says she’s coming home from dance class, and in one panel where she goes to lie down in her bedroom there’s a Baryshnikov poster on the wall in the background. (I just looked at the issue.) I’m possibly thinking of the storyline with KITTY PRYDE & WOLVERINE #1, where her father had bought her new ice skates and she mentions missing not competing (IIRC, which I admit I may not).

@Mary: I think the primary issue is that most of the boys/men Kitty was attached to romantically (most notably Colossus and Pete Wisdom) were older than 18, so sex with a Kitty under 18 would have been statutory rape. I think Marvel just wanted to stay well away from the issue.

Yeah, I know that Marvel is squeamish about stuff like that. I was just trying to point out that sex at sixteen would not be statutory rape most places, it’s just that people mistakenly assume that it is. (And actually, even where the minimum age is eighteen, there is usually a period of a few years that do not qualify as statutory rape– instead they use a lesser charge.)
I’m not trying to encourage everyone to go out and start hitting on teenagers. I was just trying to clear up common misconceptions about the law.

Didn’t she join SHIELD in 1997? She would’ve had to be at least 18 for that. Plus in ’02 she was working at a bar, so she was probably 20 at that point (at least). I figure she was 21 by the time Astonishing X-Men rolled around.

Have a good day.
John Cage

@John Cage: She did come across as around 21 in Astonishing but for some reason I also felt that they had dialed back her age by a few years. There’s nothing in the piece I can point to that gave me that impression though.

Man, relationships in superhero comics must be tough. You think you know someone and then they could suddenly turn ten years older or younger, have their skin turn blue, become a ninja or who knows what.

Anyone else think of Emma Frost being pre-Angel Cordelia to Kitty’s Buffy?

Alan Davis did a good job making Kitty less perfect in Excalibur- she gets frustrated at Brian, she can’t win Alistair’s affection, her plans don’t always work out- while still making her the team’s conscience. I remember her trying to get Kurt to open up in issues 54 and 55, and being a good friend to Rachel and Meggan. She wasn’t the focal character, as Rachel, Brian & Meggan, and Kurt got more face time in most issues, but she was a steady backbone to the team.

I was annoyed that someone who wrote X-Men after Warren Ellis left Excalibur (maybe Claremont?) de-aged Kitty. Just let her grow older! In fact, she already grew up a little, why push her back?

LOL Bic….Romance in a comic universe…always full of surprises….

Yes John Cage…she was recommended by Nick Fury himself in a plotpoint that has been forgotten in the annals of time. He even made mention in a book that her selection was a way not to do a “Freedom Force” level screw-up….unfortunately the rest of the Marvel Universe never got to learn that lesson since we have (for like six weeks more) Norman Osborn in charge of our superhumans….

I view Kitty Pryde like I do Tim Drake…age is always in flux….I know people love her under Wheldon…but to me she really came into her own under Ellis in Excalibur…That’s where she “grew up” and became less annoying to me. The Kitty Pryde / Peter Wisdom couple was intriguing back then and WAY better than any iteration of “teen girl / adult vampire”….

One more note…anyone else up for a Rocket Raccoon / Lockheed Spy/Cosmic/Buddy Adventure crossover? I mean if we can have Pet Avengers, surely we can have RR and LH????

@ ShaunN, Scavenger and Dalarsco:

Scavenger basically answered ShaunN’s question for me. Dalarsco you underscored it correctly. The subtly that being Jewish plays in my life, seems for some odd reason not to diminish my pride in it. It also facilitates a connection to Kitty, however small the source. I like Ben Grimm, and there is the name thing to. However, the attitude, the age and perhaps that he is not a Mutant has not made him as enduring to me. I would take him over the Hulk any day, however. So perhaps Kitty’s age and/or being a mutant played a significant role…after all I was going through changes myself when she became familiar to me…puberty.

One huge factor, that no doubt has inflated my opinions and perhaps my memory of opinions, has to do with my pride in the contributions Jews have made to American culture through comics. The more you research from this perspective, the more you see how comics and Jewish cultural traditions have made a remarkably contribution to our culture. This is inflated even more by my own progress as a Jewish cartoonist and Comics Art teacher.

It is of course true that most world cultures in significant ways have contributed to comics and American culture. There is plenty of pride (and some blame too) to share.

I will buy sixteen copies of Daryl’s proposed Lockheed/Rocket Raccoon team-up book.

Regarding Kitty as a prominent Jewish character, I think perception may also depend on when you first were introduced to the character. My first issue of Uncanny X-Men was #195. In Uncanny X-Men #199, Kitty accompanies Magneto to a Holocaust survivor reunion, where she tries to get information about some of her relatives. So as a young reader, this aspect of her character was something that seemed prominent to me. It sounds as though in recent years it hasn’t been emphasized as much (I stopped following Kitty when they shunted her into Excalibur, which I still think was a huge mistake) but for readers who were introduced to her in the mid 80’s, anyway, her Jewish identity was a central component to the character.

On another note, I’d also like to take issue with the argument that Kitty is too perfect or moral and not flawed enough. I’m not sure why every character has to have some dark history or be quirky or angry or have some massive character defect. We have more than enough of those kinds of heroes around, don’t we? How many upstanding, straight arrow, well adjusted heroes do we really have anyway? Steve Rogers, Kitty Pryde and maybe Superman? Three out of a thousand doesn’t seem like such a bad ratio. I don’t find this kind of character boring at all and if nothing else they serve as an important foil for messed up freaks like Wolverine to play off of. There are people that are intelligent, compassionate and morally upstanding and I’d like to see the few of them left in comics stay that way.

I will say, though, that the ninja thing always seemed really, really stupid and tacked on to me. That’s one aspect I could have lived without.

Kitty was 13 1/2 when she debuted and as a prior poster mentioned, she was meant to be 18 when Ellis helmed ‘Excalibur.’

Things got a bit mental amongst fans when Chris Claremont, under the guise of ‘Terry Kavanagh’, regressed Kitty’s age back to 14 in Uncanny X-Men before properly returning to his then much-hyped return to all things X in [adjectiveless] X-Men #100 in 2000.

Since then, it appears as if they’ve tried to desregard that esp. since characters who were established as being younger and/or the same age as her from ‘The New Mutants’ vol. 1 were established in recent books from post 2000 as being in their 20s now.

Thank you S1rude….I figured it is a no brainer that SOMEONE would write the book by now….ESPECIALLY with how well both characters are received….


so you say that Kitty used to be MORE Mary-Sueish than in these few pages?


And that those incredibly unpractical low-cut pants are meant to appeal to the girls, not the boys?

Again, really?

I guess I am getting too old for comics after all.

Good stuff. Paul Smith does some amazing work in those panels.

Kitty Pryde has always been a bit of double-edged sword for me. Like a lot of people, I was around the same age she was when she first turned up in UNCANNY X-MEN. She seemed like someone I could I know. She was a great POV character and her arrival spun UXM in a new way after Jean Grey died.

Partly because the reader was supposed to be seeing the world of the X-Men through her eyes and partly because she was so young, Kitty was never objectified in any way. She developed as a character first. It seems that has remained consistent to this day. It also says something that despite that Kitty (of all characters) got tagged as being “everyone’s girlfriend” and not any of the much more sexualized female X-characters.

On the other hand, Chris Claremont tended to heap gifts at Kitty’s door like an over-eager suitor. She became a truly insufferable Mary Sue in a lot of stories. Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler and the rest seemed occasionally slow-witted as a result of their reliance on Kitty doing their thinking for them. My guess is that more than a few “Ick! A Girl!” style fans were born in reaction against those “Kitty Sue” stories.

On balance, I am fond of her. It is nice to see that they are still cranking out quality stories starring her after all these years. Thanks for heads up.

The real Claremont Mary Sue was Storm, to the point I couldn’t stand the character anymore. Kitty was OK.

Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

Re: Kitty’s age, she’d have to be at least 19 years old in order to work at a bar as a server (her actual job title is ambiguous) in the state of Illinois, as we saw in ‘MekaniX’ and ‘X-Treme X-Men.’

I always figured Kitty was probably a just-turned 21 in Whedon’s run. Younger than the rest of the New Mutants (all in their twentysomethings except for Karma) but still in that age range.

Looking back I can totally see why some people find Kitty irritatingly perfect. I was never conscious of her Mary Sue status at the time but frankly I don’t care. She’s always been my favourite Marvel character and probaby always will be. She may be designed for the reader to associate with her but I don’t really have a problem with that. She’s a cool character to empathise with.

[…] one I missed when it was released a few years ago, but there’s a great review by Kelly Thompson at CBR of X-Men Kitty Pryde: Shadows And Flame. To be honest, the story doesn’t sound all that great […]

[…] few posts,  like this one about Strangers in Paradise and this one about Kitty Pryde made me think that maybe the problem is I just don’t relate to many characters in these […]

I’m glad you wrote this. I just read Whedon’s Astonishing, and the finale has made me a Kitty Pryde believer for life. I have never been so emotional about a character.

Nice article. I’ve only recently begun to really appreciate Kitty. I was too young for New Mutants and she was in Excalibur when I was reading (the predominantly Lobdell-written 90’s). I’ve been away from X-Men for a long time, but my love for Matt Fraction sucked me back in during Utopia, and I’m still reading… we’ll see how it goes.

Part of the reason I’ve come to appreciate Kitty is for many of the reasons you mention – that she’s more or less a pretty normal person… I agree about the Mary Sue dilemma, however… I didn’t know she was such a skilled martial artist, and it was a little bit weird to see her as such a pro… (but then again, I’ve been much more interested in crime comics these days where people have flaws all over the place, and where everyone’s much more of a Regular Jane/Joe). Anyhow, I’ve come to appreciate Kitty because my brother and I were discussing the female X-Men and how there aren’t many we like a whole lot. When I stopped reading, Jean Grey had become a melodramatic version of herself, Storm was, well always rather boring, Psylocke seemed cool, but lacked substance, and Rogue I liked for a while, but last I read her she didn’t have very much impact on me. It’s very likely that they were all too played out for me to have interest.

I preferred the girls of Generation X much more – probably because they were fresh, and their flaws could shine. That was the best I’ve ever read Jubilee – beginning to come into her own with some leadership skills, her sarcastic attitude, and genuine care for her peers. Husk was a southern belle who was new to the whole game despite having a family full of mutants. M was cold and mysterious, “perfect”, and a bit of a badass – some of the things you malign, but she was there to contrast in the beginning, but as time went on, we learned she had her flaws as well. And this is where I too got to know Emma Frost… at times frigid, but at her core she had genuine love and concern for her students. And Penance is one of the characters I most wish the original creative team could have finished the story of – or I would have liked to finish it myself. She came from an abusive situation, and could not communicate with anyone on the campus, and when she first arrived was basically a wild terror. But as time went on, we saw her open up – admiring a butterfly, peeling and eating apples Banshee (RIP) offered her… and in one amazing Chris Bachalo drawing we saw her diamond hard skin – normally ending in spiked fingers – as soft human fingers eating food of the grill… the story planted seeds for what could have been an intriguing character study, but Lobdell never got to fully realize the character. To my frustration, we later learned that M was actually a composite of M’s younger twin sisters and the real M was stuck in Penance’s body. At a later date, both M and the twins had their own bodies back, and Penance was still a living breathing person… which had me hopeful again that we’d find out more about this mysterious person, but again, it was never realized very well.

Sorry, bit of a rant. But anyhow, Gen X had some compelling females, but only Emma’s really been utilized well since. The best non-X-Men female superheroes in Marvel I’ve read are Black Widow and Crystal, although Widow is very sexualized. However, Crystal has been taking great leadership roles in Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s cosmic books like Realm of Kings Inhumans and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Non-superhero-wise i think Fables has some great females in its pages. Many of them are the strongest of the series: Snow White, Frau Totenkinder, Cinderella, and I believe as the series goes along, we’re going to see Rose Red as having one of the most compelling character arcs… and we’ve been seeing more emerge too…

My girlfriend is not a comic reader, but I’ve gotten her to read Fables. She’s enjoyed it for the most part (but still likes it best when the cubs show up), but doesn’t read consistently. When you talk about comics for girls and guys, Fables is the first one I always recommend to everyone. I was telling my girlfriend about some other stuff I was reading recently, and she showed interest in reading The Unwritten, but also The Shield – the new one about the origins of Shield. She explained that she liked the magical elements of the comics over the crime or superheroes… so maybe for her, it’s just not her fantasy to be a superhero..?

[…] She Has No Head! – Kitty Pryde: Saviour Of Everything? (goodcomics.comicbookresources.com) […]

@Greg: I had a similar experience. Pre-Whedon’s Astonishing I was not fully on team Kitty, but that story had real emotional impact on me.

@Drew: Glad you enjoyed the review. I agree that Fables is for the most part a pretty great example of good comics for men and women equally. I did a post called 10 Women Of Fables that you might find interesting.


I also recommended fables in one of my lists, and put Frau Totenkinder on my 10 Great Female Comic Characters of The Decade List in December.

I hope you’ll keep reading.

[…] one I missed when it was released a few years ago, but there’s a great review by Kelly Thompson at CBR of X-Men Kitty Pryde: Shadows And Flame. To be honest, the story doesn’t sound all that great […]

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