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CSBG Archive

The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – So There’s TWO Psylockes!?

Every week, 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 examine one of the quickest “everything you thought you knew was wrong” twists in comic book history, involving the extremely bizarre history of Psylocke and what is the deal with her having two bodies…

Enjoy!

Our story begins in Uncanny X-Men #251, when Psylocke (who sensed that the Reavers were about to attack their depleted team of X-Men, as the team was down to just four members at this point in time) used her powers to trick the other three heroes to join her in transporting through the Siege Perilous, a mystical “get out of jail free” card that Roma had given them some time ago.

When next we meet Psylocke, she is now an Asian assassin working for the Mandarin…

Eventually, Wolverine breaks her free from her brainwashing and she is now once again a member of the X-Men, only as a telepathic Asian ninja…

Roughly three years later, in X-Men #20, writer Fabian Nicieza introduced a character who is in Psylocke’s OLD body! This character claimed to be Kwannon, the previous owner of Betsy’s current body. They both smelled like Psylocke to Wolverine and Professor Xavier read her mind and said that her story was true. The “truth” is revealed in X-Men #22 and #23….

At the end of this story, that is the basic set-up for the two characters. They are each who they say they are, each one having half the soul of the other. After a few months, though, Kwannon (who went by the codename of Revanche) is revealed to have become infected with the Legacy virus. In her dying days, in X-Men #30 (less than ten issues later!! Also written by Nicieza!), Revanche then goes to make her final piece with her old lover. She also left behind her eyes (which were robotic transmitters made by Mojo) so that the X-Men can learn the REAL truth, as they do in #31….

And that old dude that we met in the last story, Nyorin? He’s DEAD!

So yeah, a traditional “everything we said the first time was a lie.” So they did not share each other’s soul half/half, they just did a body switch with a few memories stuck with each body. And now that’s gone, too.

Who said X-Men comics during the 1990s were convoluted?

EDITED TO ADD: As a quick refresher on the changes, I’ll break ‘em down for you.

ORIGINALLY:
Psylocke and Kwannon were in essence sharing each other’s souls. They were basically clones of each other.

AFTER THE RETCON:
They just switched bodies. So Kwannon was now in Betsy’s body and Betsy was in Kwannon’s body. There were enough memories attached to each body that they both were confused into thinking that they were sharing souls, but they weren’t.

70 Comments

I’m not sure how you were able to make enough sense out of this to even determine that something was ret-conned. My head hurts from trying to read these pages.

This is why I quit reading X-Men comics in the 90′s. FACT! Actually it’s why I quit most comics in the 90′s, but I’m back in the swing of things now.

Sweet Zombie Jesus. How did this crap ever sell millions of copies?

Ladies and gentlemen… 1990s Marvel. Yes, it sucked.

Tons of 90s vices in this art but it kind of pops too y’know? Marc Silvestri and Joe Kubert were responsible. These days I semi-love this kind of crap.

Daniel O' Dreams

March 18, 2012 at 10:39 am

Wow I had stopped reading X-men by the twenties so I’d only heard this story second hand, just wow. It seems like Nicieza was trying to outdo Claremont in exposition, dialogue and melodrama, no small feat!

Also were Kwannon and Betsy both purple haired before their merging? It seems like it was that way before the “A Spiral did it” ret-con. That’s quite a coincidence even for superhero comics!

Way to take a great Captain Britain character and ef her up totally.

I hate how Wolverine’s sense of smell is always a major authority

Francis – there’s also Jim Lee art in there, too.

And I was a big X-Men fan (still am actually) at that time and followed and even understood everything (OK, can’t say that now) but that weird story starting in X-Men 20 completely confused the hell out of me.

Convoluted it may but oh boy, what amazing artists: Silvestri, Lee and Kubert. Good times for the X-Men. I have fond memories of this particular arc because ninja Psylocke was one of my favorite characters and I was dying to know how did she become asian.

A little trivia for you: After the siege perilous, Colossus lost his memory and became a hip artist in New York and Havok became a Genoshan Magistrate (leading to X-Tinction Agenda).

Dazzler was the only one who came out of it unscathed. She turned up in Los Angeles, was rescued by Guido and went back to being a singer/actress.

Speaking of Dazzler, make her your next abandoned storyline. Next time we see her she was leading the X-Babies through a revolution war in Mojoworld with Longshot and then was pregnant. And that storyline was completely forgotten.

This is why I’m in no rush to try the DCnU. The editor in charge of all this now is DC’s editor in chief and the two writers behind this are working there.

Also, it really disturbs me for some reason that Jim Lee can’t draw Asian people outside of just drawing his white characters but with squinty eyes.

Dazzler still didn’t remember anything though.

Insanity! This is why I dropped all the X-Books in the 90s… it seemed like they were purposely trying to make each character as convoluted as possible. The Kwannon “wrinkle” did NOTHING to enhance Psylocke, and the whole “Seige Perilous” Claremont thing was eye-rollingly vague and confusing enough in a “deus ex machina” way.

Whew. FORSAKEN and DESERVEDLY so!

It’s still not as bad as Donna Troy.

Ah, strategically placed mists. Where would superhero comics be without them?

So many mullets

I stopped reading X-Men right as the whole Kwannon/Psylocke thing was starting out, and I’m glad I did…man too damn convoluted.

Speaking of dropped and forgotten X-storylines, was that whole “Cannonball is an Ex-ternal” storyline ever resolved or brought up again?

@ T

Yep, DCnU is channeling the Haus of Liefeld era big-style. Thing is I think a lot of these 90s comics, whilst not objectively *good* – hell no – have a Pop snap and a balls-out commitment to Kirbyist peak moment staging (yeah, Kirby’s pretty ‘extreme’) that semi-commend them to me. A lot of current DC art on the other hand just looks inert and dull to me.

Bernard the Poet

March 18, 2012 at 11:46 am

I seem to remember that the Siege Perilous also made the X-Men invisible to cameras/sensors/radar etc. And whomever saw the X-Men, quickly forgot about the experience.

Now was that abandoned or forgotten?

Here’s what drove me crazy about the whole Kwannon storyline — it screamed to me that no one who worked on the story had ever read Uncanny X-Men #255 and 256.

There’s one page in #255 which shows Psylocke having arrived, post-Siege, and NOT ASIAN. I’ve uploaded the page here: http://www.readaboutcomics.com/images/uncannyxmen255-9.jpg

Then, all of #256 (sorry, not uploading all of it!) is devoted to the Hand breaking her down and building her back up, both physically and mentally.

No need for the Kwannon story. It didn’t match what had come before, at all.

This article would wokr better if you explained who Betsy/Psylocke was in the first appearance you show.

Was she even Asian? Wasn’t that just the way Jim Lee was drawing her?

Man, I can’t believe I just read all of that. I’d stopped reading X-Men before Betsy joined up the first time, I think, so this is the first I’ve seen any of this. And the funny thing is, varying art aside, no part of it seems any less horrible than the rest. It’s the focused totality of ridiculousness from beginning to end.

I’m sorry if any of this is from the most beloved run of someone’s childhood–I certainly get that, and know that tastes vary. But for my money, I’m really glad I got out when I did. It’s hard enough for me to make sense of any of the X-titles now when I occasionally check one out from the library, but I can’t see ever trying to wade through the ’90s stuff.

in the end, Betsy ends up in the hot Asian body and the classic Psylocke costume. That’s really all I need to know!

I totally just wrote about Psylocke’s bodyswap on my blog! I mean, c’mon, there’s a reason why Marvel has barely touched on these issues since the 90′s – mostly, because it’s confusing as hell.

But the fun part is that the X-Men are all about prejudice. How can a British woman living in a Japanese body not have a great story there about prejudice and racism? I wonder if that’s where Claremont wanted to go and somebody wouldn’t let him.

@Bernard: the “invisible” thing came before the Siege Perilous, when the X-Men died in Dallas and were brought back by Roma. I remember Dazzler still had it when she reappeared in SF, but then at some point it was just dropped to never be mentioned again.

Drew, Claremont intended for the transformation to be temporary. But the fans liked the change, so it became permanent.
Greg, the problem with the story in issue 256 is that Spiral and Mojo show up in Betsy’s dreams and it’s not explained why. (Neither of them mention it in their subsequent encounters with various X-teams.)

Yes, those stories were somebody’s childhood favorites, like Buttler said. But they also drove people out of superhero comics like crazy. Horrible, horrible stories.

And also unnecessary. In the Claremont run it was clear that Psylocke had simply been modified by the Hand. But no, that wasn’t convoluted enough. They had to craft shadowy conspiracy story around it. The X-Men desk at that time was in love with shadowy conspiracies that led absolutely nowhere.

It’s as if all the useless complexity and the clumsy melodrama were the writers desperately trying to show they were doing “mature” stuff, but without a clue as to what maturity really means. They were like brain-dead primitives that saw Alan Moore and thought Alan Moore was God, and they tried to be like Alan by mimicking his exterior gestures and ticks, but doing it in such a comically bad way.

Horrible, just horrible.

randypan the goatboy

March 18, 2012 at 1:58 pm

I actually miss late 80′s early 90′s X-Men. Claremont loved to start a storyline and then just say fuck it..and go on. I laughed for a second at the thought of how confusing it would be to stop reading x men in the early 90′s and then jump on board with allllllllll of that backstory to sort through. good luck to ya.

Wait… Nicieza wrote both the Kwannon intro and the retcon? That’s messed up. Either he knew he was going to go that way initially, or editorial mandate made him change it.
It does explain something though: why both explanations are equally terrible.

always hated the whole kwannon and pylocke had their souls switched only later for some one at marvel okaying that bettys gets Kwwons body and she gets hers thanks to spiral and the mandarin doing it just for kicks plus throwing in nyroin and matso having it done because they both loved kwannon/ talk about too many cooks.

Wow. Can you imagine being a casual reader, maybe waiting for a train, and you decide to pick up this comic from the newsstand to pass some time? I mean, if it was confusing for geeks like us …

Around the Exexutioners song, I found it impossible to read an issue of X-Men. The two titles had no clear reading order. Everyones history became mysterious (if it didn’t start out that way) and telling us what happend between pages 15 and 16 in issue 231 was supposed to mean they respected the history. If they respected the history they would have left it the hell alone.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 18, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Wow. Can you imagine being a casual reader, maybe waiting for a train, and you decide to pick up this comic from the newsstand to pass some time? I mean, if it was confusing for geeks like us …

Can I?
Buddy, I lived it!
#20 was the first X-Men comic I read, and from #21 I was buying them every month!
I was 11 and had been loving the cartoon show. If you didn’t know about behind the scenes of comics, you assumed this was all going somewhere and was planned out, and made me think comics must be amazing if they had such big back story and everything tied together.
It took a bit, but I eventually learned comics were amazing for different reasons, and that it was a lot less big interconnected back stories and more just massive, head scratching, info dumps.
(I still found this more engaging than the convoluted shadow ninjas story created so that they could explain Joe Mad giving Pyslocke a silly eye tattoo).

Im with all the others who said stories like this drove me away from comics. All of this wasnt needed, betsy never became asian, jim lee just made her hair darker and drew her eyes asian-like, which is how he drew all his characters. This, the clone saga, 20 supermans and azbats drove me away from comics for years.

Stephane, Nicieza didn’t know that Psylocke was shown to be British in Uncanny 255 when he wrote the original story. Several people pointed it out to him- hence, the retcon.
Mb, several characters referred to Betsy as Asian in the dialogue before Nicieza started writing X-Men.

I just wanna say something to those that claim some comics have much convoluted stories and are non-new readers friendly: I hopped on Marvel back in the 90′s and yes, there was no recap page and barely any information on the internet. And it was already pretty convoluted.

And that didn’t drive me away at all. In fact I wanted to learn more and more about the characters and their stories. I bought a bunch of comics because of this.

And today…oh boy…you have the effin Wikipedia. You can learn everything in 1 minute. So why this obsession with trying to please new readers? I’m sick of this.

I remember reading this and going, “Wha … Huh?”. This is why is one if the reasons I no longer even bother trying to figure stuff. Retcons up the ying yang.

This was convoluted as all heck, but I still have to agree with Rockin69. When I started reading comics, I didn’t care that there were plotlines and characters I didn’t know anything about – the fact that the number on the front of the book was 192 clued me into the fact that there were probably explanations available for things that didn’t make sense to me. My best friend – who got me into comics – gave me a rought explanation of who the characters were (basically names and powers, Rogue’s major angst points, and the fact that Nightcrawler was a human/mutant who just looked like a demon) and anything else I couldn’t pick up from context just made me want to pick up back issues at the local comic shop. With the availability of Wikipedia these days (not to mention Marvel’s own website, recap pages, and most of the runs of popular books available in reprint compilations) I can’t imagine anyone looks at a comic and says “this issue of a long running books references things from the previous issue? That’s it! I’m never reading another comic!”

By the way, that’s the reason they NEED to include footnotes in comics. It’s not for us nostalgic fanboys who enjoy reading them, it’s for the person will go buy the issue in question if to get the rest of the story, if only they know where to look for it.

Matty Macomber

March 18, 2012 at 6:11 pm

I would love to hear Nicieza’s take on why he chose to jump Psylocke through such odd hoops. Nothing really substantial changed for her. she went back to just being Betsy Braddock in an Asian body and neither Nyorin or Revanche really contributed much to X-Men lore beyond Revanche being the (sort-of) X-Man that died of the Legacy Virus.

I’m surprised to see so many folks here state they did the same thing as I did, and dropped the X-Men back then. I think I bought one more after the Siege Perilous.

I’ve heard about the Siege Perilous and the Kwannon/Revanche stuff, but didn’t know how convoluted, dumb, and unnecessary it all was.

I think now that Psylocke’s “psychic knife, the ultimate focus of my psionic powers” is this origin/retcon/twin story blasted into an opponent’s mind extremely quickly. Reading it slowly hurt, just imagine it blasting into your head like *that*!

Onslaught is what finally drove me away from X-men comics, followed shortly by all comics for several years. But this stuff leading up to it made it much easier to quit at that point.

Although I didn’t mind the Siege Perilous stuff as handled by Claremont. I thought that whole era was filled with some pretty bold moves by Claremont, including SP which essentially disbanded the highest selling team in comics for a time. Not all of his choices were winners, but I did think they were interesting.

Psylocke is one of my favorite X-Men, and the entire Kwannon/Revanche arc is still a favorite, despite the unneccessary mess it became.

I’d only starting reading the X-books with Claremont & Lee’s #1, so didn’t really have a lot of knowledge about the mutants that I hadn’t picked up from the animated series and those first 20 issues. Yeah, the story was complicated, but like others said that just encouraged me to do my research and ultimately buy more comics.

Three cheers for large breasted Asian babes who like to take seductive and sexy baths! Hooray, Hooray, Horray!!! No wonder you could never get my teenage brother out of the can when he took his X-Men comic in there with him!!

One of the most exciting things that happened early on on Jim Lee’s X-Men run was the Cyclops/Jean Grey/Psylocke sort-of-but-not-really triangle. Psylocke was so sexy and I thought it was so awesome that she was puttin the moves on Cyclops.

You could not find this sordid stuff on a Avengers or JLA book.

ZZZ -

It’s not just a matter of expecting readers to do research. It’s the difference between “good” convoluted and “bad” convoluted. With the classic Claremont stories, there was a lot of complexity and secrets, but I was intrigued by the secrets, I wanted to learn more (and Claremont often never satisfied me, but that is a subject for another rant). With Nicieza and Lobdell and Harras, the complexity just bored me and felt unnecessary, and affected even the current stories. Claremont was complex but fun and easy to read. Nicieza wasn’t.

I’ll add my name to the list of people who stopped buying X-Men comics because of this storyline. Needlessly convoluted, adapting a needlessly convoluted story from 15 years before that I’d never heard of.

I thought the original intent of Claremont was that Spiral and Mojo had helped to physically morph Betsy into an Asian body (so no body swap, just a morph)? Nicieza later forgot all about that and brought in the body switch concept. It fits with the panels in Uncanny #255 and so on, because even though Betsy shows up British, they just take her subsequently and switch her mind with Kwannon’s. But I remember at the time reading the Nicieza story feeling extremely confused by it all. I would have preferred Claremont’s original story, but we have what we have!

Nicieza didn’t know that Psylocke was shown to be British in Uncanny 255 when he wrote the original story. Several people pointed it out to him- hence, the retcon.

I had long suspected that, but this is the first time I’ve actually heard it confirmed. It definitely explains why Nicieza did such a quick, convoluted backpeddling on what was already a fairly confusing retcon.

-FunkGreenJerusalem-

Hey, that was me, too.

I can get that Nicieza hadn’t realized that Betsy was caucasian when she first returned. One can’t be expected to read every single issue. It’s a stupid retcon of his earlier stupid story that resulted from a misunderstanding of an earlier stupid by Claremont. Whatever. Except that all three of said stupid stories were edited by the same guy. Did Bob Harras read his own comics?

Is that Jim Lee art in that last batch?

I loved the Kwannon reveal in X-Men #20. “This is and always has been an imposter!” So much so that I got Kubert to sign it for me at a con a few years back.

I like the ‘they just switched’ simplification. I was disappointed that when they brought Betsy back in the post-#500 Sisterhood that they just brought her back in her Asian body.

One of the most exciting things that happened early on on Jim Lee’s X-Men run was the Cyclops/Jean Grey/Psylocke sort-of-but-not-really triangle. Psylocke was so sexy and I thought it was so awesome that she was puttin the moves on Cyclops.

You could not find this sordid stuff on a Avengers or JLA book.

For some reason when I read this comment I hear it in the voice of Linkara’s 90s kid character:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3Q3I-X3sGc&feature=related

I never thought about Psylocke’s appearance. I assumed that’s the way she was to be drawn at that point. If I had I would have supposed the Siege Perilous altered her existence or something. Making her a different sort of being. Ethnicities are hard to pin-down in comics. You can change people’s complexion and skin color, but physical face features are harder to draw and could come out as some stupid-looking racial stereotype if you do them wrong. I assumed that’s the way Jim Lee or whomever wanted to draw Psylocke now. She died her hair darker and wore a different outfit to go with her new fighting skills and powers(?).

Seriously, didn’t think about it until Kwannon showed up. I was reading X-Men off and on by that time.

The thing that burns me is less than 5 years ago, Matt Fraction had the chance to undo all of this during the “Sisterhood” arc of “Uncanny,” when Betsy’s original body was dug up for some plot conceit. At the time I thought “oh good, they’re undoing Ninja Psylocke,” because that whole plotline always seemed a tad racist or insensitive to me — “let’s change her into an Asian who HAPPENS to be a ninja!”

Instead, Fraction had Betsy’s original body destroyed. And that was pretty much the last straw for me with both Psylocke stories and Fraction on X-Men (his Thor and Iron Man are way better).

GGGrrr, this plot-line still makes me angry to this very day, and drove me away from being an X-fanatic to just a casual reader. Betsy was my favorite character when she was just Betsy, she had one of the best developments in term of character-Her want to become a warrior, her fights with Sabertooth, plus robot eyes and cool armor. Then they ruined her, making her a Asian Ninja in a skimpy outfit and changed her personality. Bleck, still leaves a terrible taste in my mouth.

Travis Pelkie:Man-Thing

March 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Waitasecond, Nicieza hadn’t read one of the KEY stories that’s INTEGRAL to his retcon? Wha?

Of course, as dan above points out, where’s the editor?

Maybe that’s why I’m-a no like the nu DC.

I Heart Catman

March 25, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Head. Hurts.

Yeah, how many Donna Troy origins have been abandoned an’ forsaked?

I never understood a) the Retcon or b) Why when Jamie brought her back/rebuilt her himself we didn’t get the ‘British Betsy’ *shrug* I still like Betsy though.

@Rob, depending on your POV, none. Either a) the various origins for Donna still apply as she’s the sum total Donna Troys of the pre-crisis multiverse (Titans run) or she doesn’t exist, so there are no origins to deal with (flashpoint).

@MB and Alex, in the comic book storyline, Betsy was changed to look Asian because as the Mandarin said “We can’t have a Westerner running the Hong Kong underworld”. So, she actually did look Asian, it wasn’t just an artistic quirk.

Donna Troy’s messed-up origin hinges mostly on the endless changes to Diana, so at least Donna’s writers have some excuse (but yeah, still insanely convoluted).

MMM boy,that was some sucky storyline and worse art. The thing that I most wish could be ret-conned from this era was me spending money to read it. Uhg.

Now that I think about it,the whole thing was as confusing as a Chad post.

And just think; I first got into comic books just as the whole Psylocke/Kwannon thing picked up in X-Men! Nothing like a headache the second you pick up a new issue. I even liked this story back then. Let’s just say it hasn’t aged very well.

Nhia Pheng Thao

July 1, 2012 at 11:27 am

This crazy stuff is exactly why i love reading comics. its like reading a story and solving a puzzle at the same time as well as examining great art. this is the reason im going to school for Comic Art.

Well, I think I finally understand the origin maybe. I’m also curious as to why it was originally decided she should just suddenly be asian. Was it just a mistake of assuming she already was? And why would that be? Honestly as a kid I thought she was still white as she never looked terribly asian at all.

This was a horrible retcon, just like Nicieza’s later retcon of Magma’s origin and Nova Roma.

Claremont’s original Siege Perilous story is actually very bold and creative and original and haunting in a way. Everybody goes where they deserve to go and has happen to them what they deserve to have happen to them, according to fate. Importantly, I think they all (or nearly all, not sure about Rogue) wake up amnesiac. Colossus becomes a painter in NYC. Dazzler washes up at Lila Cheney’s house, is rescued by Guido, and resumes her singing career (after he gives her a crash course on who she is). Havok is a Genoshan magistrate. And Psylocke, well… the upper-class British girl who secretly had the heart of a killer (and wanted to be one), became one.

Many people also mistakenly think Storm (who was reverted to childhood and became a thief, which is where she met Gambit) went thru the SP, but her change was due to Nanny. Wolverine meanwhile comes home and finds the Reavers (and Jubilee) waiting for him, leading to some very memorable issues.

Oh I left out Rogue. She wakes up split with the Ms Marvel personality (which had increasingly been asserting itself, even taking over the body for long stretches), and there’s only enough “life force” to go between them. One has to die, and a fight to the death ensues. Magneto comes along and kills Ms Marvel to save Rogue. This is actually rather sad for those of us who consider personality to be the person. This is the death of Carol Danvers, though someone with her body and a fact-only version of her memories still lives.

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