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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – Northstar is an ELF?!?

All throughout December, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today we look at Bill Mantlo’s odd revelation regarding Northstar and Aurora’s parentage…

Leading up to Alpha Flight #50, Northstar was feeling quite ill. I’ve heard stories over the years that Mantlo’s original intent was for Northstar to have AIDS. Anyone ever see a confirmation on that? It’d make for a good Comic Book Legend.

In any event, whether Mantlo was forced to change his original plot or not, the end result was that in Alpha Flight #50, Loki reveals that Northstar and Aurora’s mom was an elf…

At the end of the issue, Northstar leaves Earth to be with his elf brethren…

Thirty-one issues later, Northstar returns, and then-writer James Hudnall deals with the elf stuff very quickly…

“Yeah, he lied.”

And it has never come up since!

On an unrelated point, check out the last panel of Alpha Flight #50. This is one of the shittiest internal monologues I recall seeing in a superhero comic book…

Wow, that is awful.

52 Comments

This is all awful all around. It’s amazing how books like this kept going with terrible art and maudlin stories back in the day, but today, something really well-crafted like Thor the Mighty Avenger or S.W.O.R.D. can’t make it.

Also, if Mantlo WAS really going to do “Northstar has AIDS,” that would have been a terrible decision, and I could easily see Marvel editorial vetoing it. Have one of your first gay superheroes also have AIDS? Not stereotypical AT ALL.

There was an interview with John Byrne in Amazing Heroes when Alpha Flight began in whic h he described Northstar as a fairy (not a faerie or elf) and Puck as a 6’6″ man with 3 feet cut out. I guess Mantlo read the article (groan). Also, I saw Fabian Nicieza at a signing when he took over AF. “You know that crazy story came up for Guardian’s fake ressurection? Well, it’s true.”

I disagree with you PJ. Even if Northstar having AIDS would have been stereotypical, don’t forget that this was at a time when education about AIDS was virtually non-existent. Addressing it in a comic book (as long as proper facts were used) could have had a profound effect on making the readers aware of the disease.

Third Man – Yes … or it could have reinforced the notion that AIDS was a “gay killer.” Either way, the stories above weren’t much better from a creative standpoint anyway …

Could’ve been much worse. Northstar could’ve end up in Alfheim surrounded by one Gordon Shumway and his furry kin.

Has a Marvel SuperHero ever had AIDS/HIV?
I know Jim Wilson died from it in Hulk.
Shadowhawk from Image famously dealt with the issue.
Speedy at DC has HIV. (or used to. I don’t know if that character even exists anymore)

But is that it?

The Hulk was injected with HIV, IIRC, but it didn’t affect him.

Don’t forget that Northstar wasn’t “out of the closet” in those days, either. His sexality had been hinted at in an early Byrne issue (#8?), but wasn’t properly revealed until almost a decade later, around #110. So, if he had been intended to have AIDS in these issues, they hadn’t come out with his sexuality yet.

“I’m left leader of a trio comprising three of the most powerful Alphans ever.”
That might be the most convoluted sentence I’ve ever read.

Northstar was only a “fairy” because Byrne kept getting resistance about making him gay, so it was his way of doing a little in-joke.

I researched that for a column I wrote: http://www.forcesofgeek.com/2010/10/dreaming-little-dream.html

@Rollo: “Has a Marvel SuperHero ever had AIDS/HIV?”

Pretty much the entirety of 1990’s X-Men was about people getting a thinly-veiled allegory for it. As for the “real thing”, I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

What’s funny for me at least is that I ‘came on board’ Alpha Flight with issue 48, so Madison, Heather, Kara Walter/Wanda and Whitman (and later Lil) are ‘my’ Flight. Bad writing aside, I think the writer was trying to say that Alpha was the book with the body count.

I think PAD had some cutting commentary on the ‘he doesn’t have aids, he’s only half faerie’ is SOOOO much better *rolls eyes*

For all Mantlo’s good work, his run on Alpha Flight was absolutely terrible.

What about Puck? Is he still a dwarf with acrobatic skills or a mystically cursed man?? Has this plot been also been abandoned??

Mantlo’s run on the book was horrible. And it’s not like I loved Byrne’s run, but Mantlo’s …oy.
I know Byrne has said in interviews that he was told by Marvel higher-ups never, ever, ever to identify Northstar as gay in the comic.

@Anderson

Last I knew of Puck, issue 50 removed his curse and left him a tall skinny old man in Tibet.

Then he saves the Flight from the Dreamqueen

Then the Master of The World gets ahold of him and tortures him and the only way the Flight can restore him is compress his mass into the dwarf we all know and love (with the side effect of being dense and bouncing)

I don’t know about after that.

Wow, Heather’s little speech there is worth of Scott Summers.

Northstar couldn’t have had AIDS, since, as we all know, mutants can’t get AIDS.

“ELVES! THEY STILL EXIST!”

Wow. That has gotta be one of the stupidest lines in a superhero comic EVER. I mean, maybe it could work in a fantasy comic, but “Alpha Flight”? Good lord.

I dearly love Bill Mantlo, always have. But his take on Alpha Flight was at times very painful to get through.

“Shittiest” being indeed a word that should be applied every time Bill Mantlo’s Alpha Flight is discussed…

I didn’t mind the “North star (and Aurora) are half-elf” idea, in itself. It was unique. They could’ve played with it in many ways. (I also had no knowledge at the time that faery = gay in America.)

Making him gay because he LOOKED gay, OTOH, was terrible. And giving him AIDS? Right, because only gay people get Aids! *facepalm*.

Coming into this story cold, I was very confused by the term “Alphans” to refer to members of AF. With all the references to the alfheim, I initially thought Puck was an elf as well!

@ PJ Perez
Bill Mantlo’s run on AF was in the 80s. Scott Lobdell outed Northstar in his run in the 90s. Before that, he wasn’t considered gay, and if he was revealed to have AIDS in the 80s, it wouldn’t have necessarily meant he was gay.

@ Thad, ah yes, the infamous Legacy Virus, which was basically the mutant version of AIDS. Back in those days the X-Men were pretty topical; the Genoshan Civil War came about because Apartheid had ended in South Africa (which Genosha is based on, but with mutants), so to keep it relevent they changed it to be an allegory on the situation in Bosnia.

Northstar was not “made gay because he looked gay.” Byrne created him as a gay man (well, sorry, he was gay as soon as Byrne gave the character any thought whatsoever – I don’t know if that was at his creation or if it was later on).

Wordy Wordy Mantlo! His Hulk run (and much of the time, ROM) was full of this too, especially when Hulk couldn’t talk. I figure it was a case of “Claremont gets away with 3X the amount of dialogue in a regular book, why can’t I?”

I remember in the ’90s Nomad comic, in addition to a mullet and a shotgun, Nomad toted a baby named Bucky around with him everywhere he went a la Lone Wolf and Cub (it wasn’t his kid – I think the baby’s real parents were dead or junkies or something). At one point – I believe after a case involving someone with AIDS – he decided that he and Bucky should get AIDS tests (him because he got stitched up in back-alley clinics a lot, Bucky because her mother was a prostitute, I think) and when he got the results back, he looked at them and then got visibly upset. I don’t know if it was ever stated whether he or Bucky. I remember they went out of their way not to say which of them had tested positive in the next few issues, and I honestly don’t know whether it was ever revealed which of them it was (I’m pretty sure it was specified that it was only one of them).

So at least one Marvel book had a main character with AIDS in the ’90s (or at least HIV – media didn’t tend to distinguish back then) but it may have been an infant.

I was always under the impression that it was Bucky who had AIDS.

Heck, one of the characters in the New Universe’s DP7 discovered her husband had AIDS,and I think it was earlier than that.

I still consider Mantlo’s work on the first 12 issues of Micronauts to have been among the finest runs in the history of comics, and that first Cloak & Dagger miniseries with Rick Leonardi delivered a fine set-up for an ongoing series, even if he did ultimately end up botching that ongoing. But Lord have mercy, did Mantlo ever misfire horribly on Alpha Flight. If that had been the only thing of his I’d ever read, I would rank him below Chuck Austen as a writer.

Though to look at it from the glass half full angle, Mantlo’s run on Alpha Flight at least makes his run on Howard the Duck look acceptable in comparison. He managed a couple of passably decent stories in the HTD black & white magazine (though his average there was still not good), but every single thing he did on Alpha Flight was just a colossal cock-up. He did not click with that book at all.

The new Alpha Flight run is really good. It’s a shame it’s getting cancelled. These characters are finally doing stuff.

This is from John Byrne’s FAQ on Northstar being gay:

When I created Alpha Flight they were basically half a dozen characters who could survive a prolonged battle with the X-Men. They had very little depth — tho I am a compulsive creator of backstory, so I knew something about their histories even then — and were not really created with any thought toward them eventually getting their own title.

Unfortunately (?) they proved enormously popular, and so Marvel began pushing me to do an ALPHA FLIGHT book. Eventually I relented, and agreed to do the series — which meant I had one problem instantly: I had to find ways to make those characters more three dimensional.

One of the things that popped immediately into my head was to make one of them Gay. I had recently read an article in SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN on what was then (the early 80s) fairly radical new thinking on just what processes caused a person to be homosexual, and the evidence was pointing increasingly to it being genetic and not environmental factors. So, I thought, it seemed like it was time for a Gay superhero, and since I was being “forced” to make ALPHA FLIGHT a real series, I might as well make one of them Gay.

From there, it was a process of elimination. I didn’t want the homosexual character to be one of the girls, since that was something people tended to associate (rightly or wrongly) with Claremont books. Mac Hudson and Heather were happily married and I did not want to mess with that. Michael was widowed with a daughter, and that way lay what I considered too much of a cliche, if he turned out to be Gay. Besides, as a Native Canadian he was already the resident “minority”. The new guy, Puck, had his own set of problems. Sasquatach would be just too damn scary!! So I settled on Jean-Paul, and the moment I did I realized it was already there. Somewhere in the back of my mind I must have been considering making him Gay before I “decided” to so so.

Of course, the temper of the times, the Powers That Were and, naturally, the Comics Code would not let me come right out and state that Jean-Paul was homosexual, but I managed to “get the word out” even with those barriers. (8/24/2004)

http://www.byrnerobotics.com/FAQ/listing.asp?ID=2&T1=Questions+about+Comic+Book+Projects+#106

When Nomad/Bucky/whatever his other aliases were (Jack Monroe, right?) was in that Captain America issue of Bru’s (#7, I believe), he’s dying of some odd disease (brought about by the super soldier serum he used, I think). He also is…stalking…the young girl Bucky (who’d apparently been adopted after the Nomad series). I don’t believe there was any mention about either of them having HIV/AIDS, but it’s been awhile since I read those issues. And considering that Bru seemed to have done his homework with that issue, it’s maybe odd that it wasn’t brought up.

I got nothin’ to say about Northstar, though.

Good on Byrne for pushing boundries before pushing boundries was acceptable. Though I’m diappointed to learn he didn’t leap at the chance to represent Canada in a comic book.

Given that at this stage the writers knew Northstar was gay but the readers only had hints, the line “the meat of his body smells fresh and tasty” takes on a whole new dimension…

I always had an inkling while reading Byrne’s Alpha Flight and later Byrne’s Namor title that he was planning on making Northstar and Aurora the lost children of Namor. They all had the pointed ear look going on and Byrne constantly mentioned Namor’s little ankle wings and how they could never allow him to fly indicating that Namor’s flight power was beyond his physical mutation. Has anyone ever Byrne comment on this possibility?
Mantlo’s run on Alpha Flight was shockingly bad although as other’s have said Byrne’s wasn’t exactly stellar either. They’ve always been a lacklustre team which betrays their origins as a 3 issue X men protagonist team. I’m amazed they have as many fans as they still do, although not enough given how often their title get restarted then cancelled.

The Hulk’s former sidekick Jim Wilson died of AIDS.

You know guys,
I don’t believe Byrne, when he says he “created Northstar as a gay”. I never saw any clue about this since he’s been outed. I suppose it is so cool to have the first gay character at Marvel, that everybody tends to say
“I created him like that”, “I put stints” and so on…
Typical Byrne ego

If you read the above quote, you’ll note that Byrne did not claim that he created Northstar as gay. He noted that he had not developed personalities for any of Alpha Flight when he initially introduced them. He came up with the idea that Northstar was gay when he took the assignment of writing the Alpha Flight ongoing series and suddenly had to come up with personalities for all the members of the team. In that series, it is pretty evident that Northstar is gay.

Hey Eddie
Have you even read any of the original comics Northstar appeared in? In Byrne’s Alpha Flight Vol 1 which is Northstar’s second appearance and is written and drawn by his orginol creator there is a storyline that virtually says he’s gay the hints are so broad and obvious. His past as an Olympic champion skier where he never seemed interested in his female fans because he was too interested in the sport and competition, the older male companion who helped him during a very difficult time in his life and more besides. The clues were there virtually from the very beginning, while he was still being written by Byrne and had not yet been written by anyone else, I’m afraid you’re wrong mate. Byrne can say he created him like that because he frankly did!

I always saw these scenes with girls and all, were because Northstar was described as a total jerk, with a relationship problem with people. The man who helps him was a quebecer separatist as long as I remember, so there was a political issue that not necessarly meant anything else.
Of course I was eight or so…
Of course it was a french translation (Pardon me, if my English is a bit scrappy)

Il ‘s just that Northstar’s coming out after one hundred issues, did just pop out of the hat for me. And Byrne’s explanations didn’t convince me. After all he’s the guy who believes he made everything in comics right?

It does fit the facts, though–of course it couldn’t be conclusive, since he’d been told No Gay. And that does fit with most of what I’ve heard about Shooter being less than gay-friendly during his time as EIC (IIRC, the first acknowledged gays to appear in a Marvel comic are trying to assault Bruce Banner in a restroom)

There were always clues as to Northstar’s sexuality. My friends and I had no problems picking up on them.

@Thad: Jim Wilson, the Hulk’s former sidekick, died of AIDS.

Mantlo’s terrible injuries, I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but the man was still an atrocious writer. The attempt by some to elevate his reputation is like hailing George P Cosmatos as a forgotten giant of 80s cinema.

Mantlo on Micronauts was always excellent. His other work … spotty, at best.

Oh lord, save me from the mixed metaphors:
“would come cary the torch if I let it fall, but they’d have to start from scratch, whereas I’ve already run the gauntlet”

Has anyone mentioned yet that former Hulk sidekick Jim Wilson died of AIDS?

j/k, but anyone remember how Erik Larsen (boy I hope I spelled that right) parodied it in Savage Dragon? Jim wanted a blood transfusion from the Hulk, hoping it would cure him and Hulk thought it over and said no for some reason or another. Well, in SD, some supporting character did the same thing and asked Dragon for some blood. Dragon was all “man, I’d be a real dick to say no” and gives the blood. The guy is cured! HOORAY! Then a few panels later the guy explodes in a bloody mess. Whoops.

He was concerned that he’d wind up mutating Jim into another gamma-creature, which seemed to Bruce understandably as the worse option.

To return to a months old debate that seems to have been settled already (but hey, I just got an email notification about this thread today), a couple of other instances – neither written by Byrne but that were both either concurrent with his run on Alpha Flight or very early following his departure – that hinted at Northstar’s sexuality long before it was made public would be:

in the X-Men/Alpha Flight miniseries by Chris Claremont and Paul Smith (from 1983? I think), Rogue briefly absorbs Northstar’s powers & psyche and is shocked to learn his “hidden secret.” I haven’t read the miniseries in years and don’t think I even still have a copy of it, but iirc the interactions between Rogue and Northstar for the rest of the story were basically very thinly veiled references to her saying “I know you’re gay and that’s okay” and him saying “please don’t tell anyone.” Northstar’s hidden secret was not specifically named, but it was pretty obvious what it was.

And in Mantlo’s first Alpha Flight story following Byrne’s departure, an attempt to find a suitable body to stick Walter Langkowski’s disembodied spirit into (which had been stuck in Box ever since Snowbird destroyed Langkowski’s Sasquatch body, and now Langkowski was worried because his girlfriend Aurora was getting way too horny to put up with him being stuck in a robot body for too much longer – honestly, that was the justification for the whole story) ended up netting the Hulk, who started to smash Alpha Flight’s HQ. In the ensuing melee, I believe Langkowski’s spirit slipped away to the astral plane or something – again, I have not read this story in decades, nor have I wanted to. Anyway, Aurora breaks into tears and says something like “Walter’s gone! And I loved him” and then she looks over and sees Northstar also in tears and she cries “Oh, Jean-Paul! You too???” Which was actually pretty silly considering the open contempt Northstar had always shown for Sasquatch, but no sillier than the rest of the story.

So while only Byrne knows for sure if he actually created Northstar to be gay, based on hints Byrne himself dropped in Alpha Flight and hints dropped by other writers at the same time it’s clear that Northstar’s sexuality was part of his conception for the character very early in his development, if not at the moment he was created.

[…] Couple that with the previously mentioned Gay Kiss of Death and it doesn’t leave many gay role models in comics. Those that do, struggle with phony and superficial issues. Despite the dark topic, Sophie and Toast got laughs out of us and left us with Northstar. Northstar is notable for many things. He is an original member of Alpha Flight. He is gay. He is a Quebec native and separatist. He had an uninterrupted marriage in a comic book. And most uniquely he has a partner in a gay relationship who hasn’t been killed. Once again, my illusions were shattered like the rainbows before, because finally, Northstar was first introduced as being from outer space. His race? Fairy. […]

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