Tag Archives: Brian Wood

Bros Before Rogues: Is the X-Men Franchise Getting Worse at Representing X-Women?

X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-banner

by Nicholas DiSabatino (guest contributor)

When Bryan Singer announced back in December that Anna Paquin’s scenes as Rogue in the forthcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past were cut, I was devastated. It’s hard when your favorite character is taken out of a movie (even if it was probably only one scene).  When the new issue of Empire Magazine came out last month featuring Rogue on one of the limited edition covers, Singer had to clarify that “it does not mean that we won’t see her in the film.”  A part of me gets it. This story is more focused on the First Class actors and not necessarily the original franchise actors. But then, I wonder, why even announce to the public they’re appearing in the film and include them in the promotional materials (including the first trailer), if they’re to be cut out during the editing process?

Over the weekend, rumors about Halle Berry’s Storm being reduced to just one scene flooded the internet. It was reported by the NY Daily News, so take that with a grain of salt. I’m not necessarily convinced, but if it does turn out to be true that will mean that X-Men: Days of Future Past will have cut two of the only five women characters out of a film with sixteen male characters in it.

That’s insane…

We already know that Kitty Pryde (the focal point of the Days of Future Past storyline in the comics) is being replaced by Wolverine. And while the writers have already explained that it wouldn’t make sense for Kitty to time travel to the 1970’s because she wouldn’t have been born yet, it still reeks of yet another X-Men movie where Wolverine has to take the reins from the other characters. Blink, while a nice addition to the series, probably won’t have much screen time or lines for that matter, leaving only Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique as the only female lead in a movie truly filled with X-Men.

This entire situation has led me to reexamine the representation of the X-Women in the X-Men movies, and it turns out, it isn’t pretty. Let’s break it down film by film.

X-Men (2000)

The first baby in the franchise that started it all. Anna Paquin’s Rogue definitely has the most screen time and is a crucial part of the story. And while fans have complained that her Rogue is really just a hodgepodge of Jubilee and Kitty Pryde, I do believe that Paquin brought a great sense of vulnerability to the role. Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey probably has the next amount of screen time, followed by Halle Berry’s Storm. Rebecca Romijn has one line in the film, yet gets a variety of eye-candy fight scenes (why is she naked exactly?).

We also see a very small cameo by Kitty Pryde. This film shows a lot of promise and room for growth in the ladies and their characterizations.

X2: X-Men United (2003)

 We see shades of that growth in Mystique and Jean Grey in this next movie. Mystique tells Nightcrawler that mutants shouldn’t have to hide when he asks her why she just wouldn’t always stay in disguise. The writers still don’t know what to do with Storm and she spends the majority of the film piloting the Blackbird with her large white eyes commanding the weather as opposed to actually getting out in the sky and flying. Rogue’s still the damsel in distress and only gets to use her powers twice throughout the whole film (one time is only kissing Ice Man for god’s sake). Jean sacrifices herself to save the team at Alkali Lake giving us the promise of the Phoenix in the third film. This time we have more cameos from Kitty Pryde, Jubilee, and Siryn. Lady Deathstrike fills the role Mystique had in the first movie, with an epic fight scene with Wolverine, and again, only one line.

X-Men : The Last Stand (2006)

This movie had maybe the most female characters, yet didn’t seem to know what the hell to do with them.  Kitty Pryde was finally given the chance to become a part of the team with the excellent casting of Ellen Page, yet her storyline revolved around a love triangle between her, Ice Man, and Rogue. Paquin’s Rogue was relegated to the background and given the ridiculous storyline of taking the mutant cure because boo woo she can’t kiss her boyfriend? She displays her powers only once (Colossus saves her in the Danger Room from getting crushed by some falling debris)—making Rogue the perennial victim of the X-Men franchise, despite Paquin’s best efforts to give the character some depth, the writers clearly didn’t know what to do with her. Storm becomes the reluctant leader of the X-Men after the deaths of Xavier and Cyclops and finally gets to fly, yet somehow, it still feels like Wolverine’s in charge. (The wigs for Berry just keep getting worse.)

Jean Grey’s Dark Phoenix storyline had so much potential and then was wasted away with a pointless death of not only her, but of Xavier and Cyclops as well.  While in the comics, Jean Grey is the central player in the Dark Phoenix storyline, in the third film, she just stands in the background and scowls a lot. We have throwaway cameos from the likes of Psylocke, Arclight, and poorly-designed bit representation of Calisto.

Meanwhile, Brian Wood's X-Men has Storm and Rogue as its leading X-ladies
Meanwhile, Brian Wood’s X-Men has Storm and Rogue as its leading X-ladies

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Do I really have to comment on this? We have Silver Fox (the love interest) and a throwaway Emma Frost (her sister?). The continuity of the movies and its characters begins to unravel dramatically. This film represents the worst in female representation in the X-films in my mind.

X-Men: First Class (2011)

We have more eye candy in the forms of January Jones’s Emma Frost and Zoe Kravitz’s Angel. Rose Byrne’s Moira MacTaggert gives a wonderfully-constructed performance, but only has a chance to shine briefly in the beginning. Jennifer Lawrence adds the necessary depth so lacking in Rebecca Romijn’s previous incarnations.

The Wolverine (2013)

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-s31zmFDqe78/Udy5qe9RFtI/AAAAAAABCSs/-iXmK2DklGE/s400/Yukio1.JPG

Rila Fukushima’s Yukio kicks butt. Tao Okamoto’s Mariko isn’t a simple damsel in distress. Svetlana Khodchenkova’s Viper (while she gets a ridiculous ending), does have a decent amount of screen time. Famke Janssen serves as Wolverine’s eye candy in a dream fantasy. Of all the X-films, The Wolverine ironically has the best representation of female characters, while giving them strong characterizations and enough screen time to match Hugh Jackman.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

We have young Mystique. Blink. Kitty Pryde. Perhaps Storm. And maybe the tiniest chances of Rogue making an appearance.  That’s it kids!

X-Men: Apocalypse  (2016)

Singer says this film will be set in the 1980’s and we might see some familiar faces as their younger selves. Could we dare hope for Lupita Nyong’o as a young Storm with a mohawk?  Or how about a perky Emma Stone as a young Jean Grey? Or maybe add in some new characters like Polaris, Dazzler, Psylocke?  Or will they add ten more new male character instead?

X-Force (?)

Hopefully we’ll see either Domino or Psylocke in this one. Or preferably both.

There’s a part of me that thinks the easiest thing to do would be to start from scratch and reboot the franchise, yet I still hold out hope that future X-films will give the women a chance to shine. I understand that not every character is going to get the same amount of screen time, yet it’s ridiculous that the X-Men films (with source material featuring some of the most fully developed and powerful female characters in probably comics’ history) has relegated them to either damsels in distress, eye candy, or background noise. There have been some signs of progress (James Marigold’s The Wolverine), but these recent developments with Bryan Singer’s movies still prove to me that we live in a Hollywood where comic book movies are still for “the boys” and are written and directed by men. Lauren Shuler Donner, get it together, girl! I think you need to hire the talents of Marjorie M. Liu, Gail Simone, and Louise Simonson to take a shot at the next script. There’s excellent source material available. All it needs is a woman’s touch.

But the men can do it too. Screenwriters, take a gander at Brian Wood’s first storyline in X-Men, or maybe even some of the classic Chris Claremont stories for inspiration. I think you need it.

Meanwhile, Brian Wood's X-Men knows what's up, featuring Storm & Rogue as leads in his comic series

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With The Slightest Touch: Why Rogue Matters to Me as A Gay Man

by Nicholas DiSabatino

With the recent release of Brian Wood and Oliver Copiel’s  X-Men #1 with an all-female cast (featuring Storm, Kitty Pryde (aka Shadowcat), Rogue, Rachel Grey, Psylocke, and Jubilee), I’m reminded of how relatable some of these women are to me. Like many children of the 90s I was drawn to the X-Men through Fox’s animated TV show. But if I could pick one member of the X-Men who resonated with me the most it would have to be Rogue.

It wasn’t just because she had an awesome power set (flight, super strength, invulnerability) or that she said ridiculous things like “You look as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs” in that cool Blanche Dubois-like drawl provided by the great voice actress Lenore Zann, it was because Rogue suffered not just as an outsider, but because of her inability to touch someone without irrevocable damage. This fear of intimacy and its repercussions is something many gay men, myself included, have struggled with our entire lives.

Rogue’s (traumatizing) first kiss

Created in 1981 by Chris Claremont and Michael Golden, Rogue started off as a villain working with her stepmothers Mystique and Destiny to make Carol Danvers’s (aka Ms. Marvel) life a living hell and then single-handedly trashed the Avengers and the X-Men on more than one occasion, before begging Professor X and the other X-Men to take her in to help her control her powers. She wasn’t met with approval. All of the X-Men threatened to quit and it was only till she threw herself in the line of fire and saved Wolverine and his fiancée that they even began to give her a chance.rogue mystique

Rogue’s gone through various incarnations throughout the years in both comics and visual media from the headstrong tomboy type of the Chris Claremont years to the Goth girl in X-Men Evolution to Anna Paquin’s fragile, timid rendition in the X-Men movies, to the endless soap opera romance with Gambit in the 1990s, to the recent power-controlled, independent woman of Mike Carey’s X-Men: Legacy, and now as the angry, brash member Rick Remender’s Uncanny Avengers.

Yet every incarnation is based off of one character trait—her desperate need to be loved, to be touched, and to be approved of. It’s something I could relate to growing up as a young gay man in Ohio.

rogue xmen

Like Rogue, I felt like an outsider in my small hometown, going to a Catholic high school during the Bush years, without any other gay people to talk to. Resorting to the sordid world of internet dating, I made countless bad choices just in the name of finding some kind of physical and emotional intimacy. Like Rogue, I hungered to be touched, yet also had to wade in the potential risks of STI’s and HIV, both possible scary consequences from having multiple partners. Rogue’s power is unique because while she gains something from physical contact (either in the form of abilities, powers, memories), she could also possibly put someone into a coma, or even death from too prolonged contact.

This idea that death is a possible side effect from intimacy is all too common knowledge in the gay world (and was especially prevalent in the 1980s with the onslaught of AIDS), but one we risk from having unprotected sex.  In Rogue’s early days before she joined the X-Men, she felt an almost insatiable need to touch someone—to absorb their powers, to feel anything outside of a gloved hand, and I could relate with this when I first became aware of my sexuality and acted on it.

Like Rogue, I needed to learn control and to value myself enough to resist instant gratification and wait for something more substantial.  It wasn’t an overnight process and I still made mistakes along the road. However, a lesson I needed to learn (and one I think all gay men could benefit from) is that the power of touch shouldn’t be taken for granted—it carries with it both physical and emotional ramifications.

Rogue finally has control of her powers, and yet instead of jumping into a relationship with her either of her two off-again, on-again boyfriends Magneto or Gambit, she decided to make the refreshing choice of being alone. Rogue is a resilient character, who has grown over the years into a more self-assured woman, who calls on intimacy on her own terms. It’s something I think we can all aspire to, sugah.

Rogue in Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel’s X-men #1

 

Nicholas DiSabatino has an MA from Emerson College, and has been previously published in Blast Magazine. As the publicity assistant to Beacon Press, he always brings his own sassy Rogue-like charm to the workplace. 

5 *Current* Comics With Leading Brownfolk

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So often we praise and celebrate the work of groups like Milestone comics and people like Dwayne McDuffie, while lamenting the lack of current movements to create a stronger representation of race and gender diversity in comics. So… Because it’s Wednesday. Because it’s Ship Day. Because I just read a backlog of some 35 comics or so. I thought today was a good day to celebrate the awesome current  (as in coming out by the issue, from major publishers, right now!) comics  who are putting brownfolk and queerfolk front and center. Because, why not celebrate? It’s Wednesday!

The Victories 

Michael Oemig, Nick Falardi, Aaron Walker (Dark Horse)

Michael Avon Oeming, of Powers fame, put out the first issue of The Victories back in August of last year. It was a limited series, running only 5 issues, but he’s been continuing the story in Dark Horse Presents every month. The story follows six hardcore heroes, calling themselves The Victories, who mercilessly protect their city with superpowers and hardpacked punches. Oeming deftly

Faustus sans mask
Faustus sans mask

draws out distinct and dynamic personalities in each of his heroes, among whom are…

Faustus – our main character, who we first meet in a particularly ruthless justice-dealing. Faustus fights with a mouthful of wise-cracks and ruthless martial arts, and he’s got zero-tolerance for baddies. Faustus’ mask covers his whole face, revealing only a mean set of eyes that should make his foes piss themselves. When he finally does take of the mask, we discover that he’s a Black guy with a troubled past, his confrontation with which is the focus of the 5-issue mini-series, and which accounts for his serious drinking problem.  The mini-series is mostly about Faustus, but we get a closer look at the other heroes in the stories Dark Horse Presents run…

D.D. Mau in action
D.D. Mau in action

D.D. Mau is my personal favorite. Endowed with superspeed and strength, she’s an arrogant show-off and she’s loud about it, but it’s totally fine cause she’s also that good.  No matter her mouthy cockiness is seated in deep insecurity… she’ll still dominate you, with a running commentary on her badassery, and look good doin’ it. As a busty Vietnamese woman, she sports a Power Girl boob window and uses her (kiinda racist) superhero name ironically and she’d laugh in your face at your discomfort with either.

Lady Dragon
Lady Dragon

Lady Dragon (aka Lady D) is the more mature of her teammates. Her mild manner contrasts to her eager use of her fire powers that earned her name Lady Dragon. As far as I understand it there’s not official leader of the group, but she’s the one who steps up when a little leadership is needed

Metatron is kinda boring so far. He flies around and comes to the assist when needed, and I think he spends a lot of time in space… Sai doesn’t say much, but he named himself after the two weapons he fights expertly with and perhaps that’s all we need to know. Well, that and why he wears a conical hat in combat… Sleeper might as well be called Mr. Mystery. His face is mysteriously covered in mysterious wrappings. He’s mysteriously calm and mysteriously wise. But not to be fooled, he also packs a not so mysterious powerful punch.

Saga

Briank K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples (Image)

First of all, this comic is amazing! Seriously, I go all giddy inside every time it shows up on the weekly ship list. If you aren’t already one of its many fans, pick it up. The world-building work of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples is simply masterful and wildly imaginative. Now, all of their characters might be aliens from various non-Earth planets out in the imaginary galaxy, but a ton of them are brown, including the lead characters.  It’s only in issue #12, so pick up the first trade and catch up!

Alana and Marko
Alana and Marko

Alana is our brown-skinned leading lady. She curses like a sailor, but made a terrible soldier, and though her pacifist husband sacrificed his sword, she packs something called a heartbreaker gun to defend her family from hordes of imperial forces and their hired assassins hunting the galaxy for them.

Gwendolyn makes her first appearance
Gwendolyn makes her first appearance

Marko is the leading guy. He’s olive-skinned and bushy-browed and his horns have really grown on me.  He sweet, and he may be a pacifist but he’s no pushover and will defend his family to the death even if he’s only got his bare hands and horns to do so.

Gwendolyn used to be the dark-skinned leading lady in Marko‘s life, but things probably won’t work out now that he’s dumped his beloved horned Gwendolyn for the winged enemy-race Alana. But she’s not done with him. She’s got an assassin and a psychic on her side to hunt them down and deliver the ultimate ex-girlfriend revenge.

The Massive

Brian Wood, Gary Erskine, Jordie Bellaire (Dark Horse)

The Massive follows a multinational team of (more or less) pacifist environmentalists called The Ninth Wave, on a mission to find their sister ship “The Massive”, which has gone missing in this new post-crash world… where the seas have risen and violence and environmental disaster have broken down the fabric of society as we know it.

callum israelCallum (Cal) Israel leads the team, and he’s got quite an interesting background. Born in Bangladesh, he’s been continent hopping for ages, first as part of a secret mercenary group, and now sea-bound in his own employ on The Kapital. We don’t know much else about him, but he inspires loyalty in his friends and he leads with compassion.

mag nagendra

Mag Nagendra on the other hand, hardly meets Ninth Wave’s pacifism requirements. Originally from Sri Lanka, and a former member of the Tamil Tigers as well as serving under Callum Isreal for the mercenary group Blackbell, Mag holds firm that in this post-crash world, the best negotiations take place with your finger at the trigger. However, he is fiercely loyal to Cal, and will protect him even if he doesn’t always agree with him.

Mary massiveMary…is interesting. I sat down to write something about her and realized I don’t think we know her last name yet, or where she’s actually from, aside from East Africa somewhere. Second-in-command on The Kapital, and Cal’s lover, Mary is a stealthy, badass mystery. She can sneak out of a room with no windows when you’re looking right at her, she can take on armed men with nothing but her fists, and she’s always got a plan. She’s been in a lot of hairy situations and they barely faze her, unless it’s Cal that’s in trouble.

The Highways

John Byrne (IDW)

The Highways  is one of the lesser-known comics on this list, and that’s a shame, cause it’s basically awesome. John Byrne does an incredible job creating a space scenario where you can actually imagine folk going about their everyday business, rather than the super exclusive, high-tech space scene we usually get, and he gets down to the details.  The story follows the accidental adventures of the spacesuit-clad crew of a shipping freighter.

Eddie Wallace, lovingly called “Sprout” by the co-captain of the freighter, is a new recruit to Jack Cagney’s ship, but he quickly learns the ropes with the mentorship of the smart and ever-capable Marilyn Jones. Soon after Eddie joins the crew, they fall into a bit of an adventure, and it looks like there might be more to Eddie than it seems…

Marilyn Jones and Eddie Wallace
Marilyn Jones and Eddie Wallace

Marilyn Jones seems to be the one in command on the ship. Though Jack Cagney is technically the “captain” (he doesn’t like to be called that though), the two are business partners.  Jones basically runs things and makes the tough calls. Her vibrantly colored spacesuit speaks to her colorful personality, but the fact that she’s able to pulloff a colorful suit without anyone questioning her authority is testament to her badassery.

And in on the more mainstream side of things…

Uncanny X-force

Samuel Humphries, Danny K. Miki, Chris Eliopo

Uncanny X-Force #3
Uncanny X-Force #3

Starting with a new issue #1 in January 2013, Uncanny X-force has been following the team-up of Storm and Psylocke for only 3 issues so far.  The two took to the road to stop a drug-dealing mutant and to let Psylocke get some time away from the confines of the school, where she doesn’t quite fit in.

Psylocke joined the school after the Uncanny X-force team was disbanded. But with her shady past and short temper, she’s not exactly made to be a schoolteacher. Seeing her struggles, Wolverine sent her out with Storm to let off some steam and figure things out.

Storm is sporting a mohawk these days and is battling her own demons after the unexpected divorce from hubby T’challa (Black Panther).

And recently, in their somewhat noir-like investigation, Storm and Psylocke ran into the long-missing Bishop, who isn’t quite himself…

This new Uncanny X-force is still young, so grab the first three issues to see two badass brown ladies laying down the law.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but I’m thrilled to know that I could fairly easily come up with more comics with brown or queer leads! And I will… next week!