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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Who is Jean Grey?


A long time ago there was a Teen Titans comic that asked the question Who is Donna Troy? But if Shawn ever got to write comics he’d want to answer one question: Who is Jean Grey?

Out of all the X-men Jean Grey has received the least character development. Sure she got incredible powers as the Phoenix, but she never really stood out as a person in any of the X-men comics. In most stories she’s been used as a plot device to move a story forward or a Deus Ex Machina to wrap up loose ends of a story.

We all know Wolverine is the best at what he does. We all Know Cyclops is the no-nonsense leader. We all Know Storm is the noble wind goddess, Nightcrawler is the playful fuzzy elf, Beast is a brain, and Colossus is the metal man with the human heart, Kitty Pryde and Jubilee are the girls next door, Rogue is the Southern Belle, and Gambit is the Ragin Cajun.

But Jean Grey? Who is she? And why should readers care?

More people know about Jean Grey’s powers than they do her. And they know more about her significance in the Phoenix Saga than they do about her as a character.

Compared to Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Rogue, Colossus, or even original X-men like Iceman, Angel or Beast, Jean Grey never became a true character like all the other X-men in any run of the book. She never had a distinct “voice” when you read her dialogue in a comic panel. In adaptations like the 90’s X-men cartoon or X-Men Evolution she’s just…there. To be Cyclops’ girl friend. To be Wolverine’s sexual fantasy. To be Storm’s best friend. To be jobbed out to make a noble sacrifice when things get hard for the X-men and a writer needs to wrap up a story.

Man, Thunderbird did more in the two issues of X-men he appeared in than Jean did in her entire superhero career. At least he had the balls to call out Cyclops and question his leadership Giant Sized X-Men and X-men #94. If Jean had done that in at least one issue of X-men, X-factor or any comic she appeared in it would have made her an interesting character.

I always felt Marvel missed the opportunity to re-define Jean Grey after Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men. When Jean caught Cyclops cheating with Emma Frost, it could have been a new direction for the character. But instead she got killed off. Again.

It seems every time a writer Jean Grey is about to have a breakthrough and grow as a character writers just cop out and kill her off.

It’s like no one at Marvel wants Jean Grey to go through the painful character development that has defined almost every X-man from Cyclops to Kitty Pryde and made them into iconic characters.

Marvel’s editors probably didn’t want to make Cyclops look like a bad guy during the New X-men era. But the way I see it he cheated on his wife. And in that case he is a bad guy to her, the same way Henry Pym was to his ex-wife Janet.

Just like the Pym saga in Avengers, there was a great story to be told about Jean Grey. Only Marvel’s editors copped out instead of telling it.

On dealing with the aftermath of the domestic incident, Henry Pym and Janet Van Dyne grew as characters. They became better heroes and better people. After their divorce, Jan gained the self-confidence to lead the Avengers. And Hank finally dealt with his inferiority issues and guilt over Ultron in the pages of West Coast Avengers and discovered what made him a great hero: Being himself. Readers should have gotten that kind of defining resolution at the end of Cyclops’ affair with Emma Frost.

Unfortunately, instead of divorcing Cyclops, Jean just takes it. Then she makes the noble sacrifice and dies again in Endsong. Meanwhile Cyclops and Emma Frost become a celebrated supercouple in the pages of the earliest issues of Astonishing X-men. Hell, they even kissed on her grave.

WTF?

Jean Grey took a dick in the ass with no lube. And readers got screwed out of a great story.

The way I see it, readers needed to see Jean truly dealing with Scott’s adultery. Even going through a divorce Finally going through the character transformation process that she’s been denied for over 40 years.
Every one of the Original X-men left Xavier’s school around X-men #95 and began living their own lives with the exception of Cyclops and Jean Grey. And Jean stayed to support Cyclops who felt he couldn’t go out into the world because of his eyes.

The way I see it Jean Grey never got her shot to be her own person. When she came back from the dead in that issue of Fantastic Four in 1986, she went right back to helping Cyclops with his dreams when he formed X-Factor .

Even though back in 1986 he was married with a wife and son. Marvel’s editors swept Scott Summers douchiness under the rug to make him look like a noble hero. Then two years later they killed off his wife and sent his son off into space.

Well now Cyclops is a full time dick in the current X-men books. So, here’s the perfect opportunity to allow Jean Grey to finally go through that transformation and find her “voice” as a character.

I think it was a mistake to kill Jean a couple of years ago. There was a great story to tell with her leaving the X-men and going out to become her own hero, the way Nightwing did when he left Gotham for Bludhaven.

The way I see it, Jean’s been fighting for everybody elses’ dream but hers. And with Marvel NOW going on it’d be a great time to finally take her in a new direction.

The X-men were inspired by the political ideologies of the Civil Rights Movement. Magneto represented the early views of Malcolm X and Charles Xavier represented the early ideologies of Martin Luther King Jr.

I’d like to expand on that political discourse with Scott Summers and Jean Grey. Like Xavier and Magneto, I see them as representing the views of the later generations of the Civil Rights movement.

In more recent comics Cyclops has become more radical like Magneto. But I kind of see him more like a member of the Black Panther party which was an offshoot of SNCC. He started off as a loyal soldier in the Mutant Rights movement with noble intentions, but wound up becoming frustrated with the lack of progress, and what he saw as compromises by Xavier and other old school mutants (stuff like the Illuminati). Originally the biggest supporter of Xavier’s dream, he now works against it and wants mutants to be segregated from human society.

And on the other end of the spectrum, we have Logan working towards preserve Professor X’s original dream of mutants and humans working together in an integrated society at a school with Jean’s name on it.

I always found that to be illogical, because Jean Grey never really stood for anything. Because no one knew who Jean Grey ever really was, not even herself. If anything, she was just a follower of Charles Xavier and Cyclops. And whenever things got hard she wouldn’t fight back. She’d just take the easy way out and die.

If I wrote comics, the adult Jean Grey would return to represent a different view of mutants, sort of a moderate view of the struggle. Someone who got tired of the whining and back and forth between the “good” mutants and the “evil” mutants, and their political discourse. Someone tired of the feuding and the infighting, and the political rhetoric. Someone who wants to be a part of the overall superhero community and fight against injustices against both mutants and humans as one of Earth’s heroes. Someone who makes an effort to be an example to the students of that school that it’s actually possible to achieve their own dreams.

From the time I was reading comics only four mutants have ever actually achieved Xavier’s dream and become full-time established superheroes in the Marvel Universe. Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, and The Beast and Kitty Pryde. And at the time only two of them graduated from Xavier’s school. Since the mid 1980s Xavier’s school doesn’t produce superheroes. It produces victims.

And Jean Grey is the biggest victim in the Marvel Universe. Every time her character runs into conflict she doesn’t try to overcome it. Instead she plays the martyr and makes a “sacrifice”. Basically it’s another way for her to give up and wimp out. If readers look at her history she’s never really fought back. Not like Hank Pym, Carol Danvers, Tony Stark or Steve Rogers when they ran into obstacles. Not like they did when they hit rock bottom.

There is something worse than death for Jean Grey: That’s being forced to solve her own problems. And there’s where her story should begin in Marvel NOW.


The way I see it, the X-men were Jean’s crutch for 20 years. And it’s time she stood up on her own two feet working as her own hero and pursuing her own dream. Working with non-mutant heroes like Spider-man and Captain America and taking on some of Marvel’s villains like Dr. Doom and Thanos. Doing stuff like stopping a bank robberies and living life outside of Mutant side of the Marvel universe.


An A-list X-character who allows readers to take a break from the oh-woe-is me I’m a mutant narrative that’s played in X-books for the last 35 years. I think there’d be some great stories to tell with Jean as she explored the Marvel Universe on her own. Unfortunately, Marvel is too afraid to tell them. When it comes to female characters, comic companies seem to always get cold feet.

I always felt Jean could’ve joined their ranks of Xavier graduates like The Beast who went out and became full-time freelance superheroes. Over the past 40 years Jean has a huge following of readers. And I think she could carry her own title if Marvel would finally take her story in a new direction. One where readers finally found out who Jean Grey really is.

1 comment:

  1. I bet Peter David can make some Jean Grey fans out of the readers. His Hulk and Aquaman were awesome. Past writers never respected her power. She can take Exodus by herself if she's written properly. She doesn't need Phoenix power to take her teammates down. It would be nice to see some character development. If they can do Nate Grey and Silver Surfer, they can give Jean justice.

    Vic78

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