Alternate Sexuality Watch #1

Arnab pointed me towards the following exhibition, which explores the idea of a gay Batman and Robin. DC comics were not amused and have proceeded to put legal pressure on the dealers to stop the exhibition. You can read the article here.

The question that now arises is - how far off are these guys from the truth? Doesn't Batman's preference for little boys in hotpants seem more than just a little odd? Also consider how he's blown of every woman who's tried to enter his life. Its also a fact that when the Comics Code was established with its strong stand against deviant sexuality, Robin was gently moved out of Batman comics. What exactly were DC worried about?

Well, people started getting hints when Batman started giving the innocent little tyke instructions that seemed more than just a little strange.

Very obedient little kid that. Maybe thats why Batman picks them young - easier to mould.

But come on, that could have meant many things. How do we know that Batman's intentions were anything but honourable?

Well, how about this?

Sputter! Good question, Batman. WHAT EXACTLY DID YOU DO TO THAT LITTLE BOY? Was it similar to what these other fine gentlemen did to the ones they're thinking of?

Not at all - Batman loved Robin like a father. And there's no evidence at all that he was gay. So this is complete speculation.

Well as for the gayness bit, Batman did give hints sometimes. Like this for example.

The RAINBOW Batman! If that isn't a gay pride thing, I don't know what is. And that outfit looks distinctly more pink than red.

Hmm, so he has lousy fashion sense. Doesn't make him gay.

Perhaps not, but we weren't the only ones who thought so.

Just way too much innuendo here. The women of Gotham have surrounded Batman and are trying to force him into holy matrimony. Notice Batman's expression of horror at the thought. Robin seems quite pleased, though. Perhaps he decided to 'expose' Batman once and for all. Even Batgirl gets in on the action - he loves Robin more than he loves me? This is wrong at many levels.

Oh please - Batman was a renowned misogynist. He didn't believe in the institution of marriage. Why does that imply he's gay?

You want implications - do you wonder what was going through Superman's mind here?

Bruce - is there something I need to know?

Umm, just a little harmless fun. Batman would never do anything to any of those boys.

No, but sometimes the boys can get overzealous.

He can't hold himself back any longer.

What nonsense! He's saving Batman from... I don't know... some projectile. That's all!

But lets hear the testimony of Robin himself.

Doing his best now, is he? Maybe he doesn't have to try too hard.

He meant something else!

Oh really, then what about all the other boys?

You've opened your mouth once too often, Robin. All right, lets get the other little swimmers in. And put some clothes on, you lot.

The prosecution rests, your honour.


Thesaurus #1

Mun·dy (mŭn-dē)
1. A person belonging to the Mundane world, i.e. one who is not a Fable.

1. Relating to the Mundane (non-Fable) world.

In the world of Fables, Vertigo's exceptional ongoing series, written by Bill Willingham, all the fable characters you read of as a child do exist among us. Driven out of their homelands by a character known only as the Adversary, the surviving Fables moved to the new world, and set up two settlements - one in the fledgeling city of New Amsterdam, where the human-looking Fables stayed, and one a few miles away in a rural area, where the non-human Fables reside.

Centuries pass and New Amsterdam becomes New York City, but the immortal Fables are still with us. In a city teeming with Mundies (see above), their self-governing community manages to keep their existence secret from the Mundane world.

This series tells their stories. All the characters are from established fables, but they may not be exactly the way you remember them in the story. Favourites like Snow White and Prince Charming are here, as are Mowgli, Ichabod Crane, Robin Hood and a host of others. Read it NOW!


Cool Link #1

The people at UXN have created an updated Mutant Relationship Map as part of their birthday celebrations. Clearly a lot of work has gone into this, and I, for one, think they deserve a round of applause for this.

Before you look at the map, here's a pop quiz. Answer without looking, and then see how many you got right.

a) Who is the only woman Wolverine married?
b) Cyclops and Magneto have both dated this person. Who is she?
c) Who's the hottest mutant? 10 different people have been interested in this one.
d) How many women has the mild mannered Professor X had serious relationships with?
e) Who was Mystique's only true love?
f) Why does Iceman hate Havok so much?
g) She dated two brothers and one of their sons! Who is this harlot?

Now lets see how you did. Select the text below to see the answers.

a) Nope - not Mariko or Rose. Both died before the deed could be done. It was the villainous Viper. But he was blackmailed into it, so it doesn't really count.
b) The winsome Lee Forrester comforted both men during really bad times in their lives.
c) The silver-haired Kenyan goddess, naturally. Storm it is.
d) No less than four - a nurse, a diplomat, a scientist and an empress! . Not bad for a man stuck in a wheelchair.
e) In spite of fathering children with Sabretooth and Azazel, Mystique's heart beat only for another woman - Destiny.
f) Well, you would too if he stole not one, but two of your girlfriends (Lorna and Annie).
g) That would be Madelyne Pryor, the clone of Jean Grey. She married Cyclops (and gave birth to Cable), but also had a fling with his brother Havok, and later had a thing with Nate, his son from an alternate reality.

There's a larger version of this map on their site, which allows you to zoom, search for specific mutants and do all kinds of other cool things. Take a look at the rest of the site too. They have impressive databases on all characters and issues as well as articles, a custom figure gallery and previews.

STOP THE PRESSES: Shadowcat and SPIDERMAN! I definitely did not see THAT coming. And yet, it makes perfect sense to anyone who's been following the goings-on in the Ultimate Universe. Bendis, you're a genius.


What was that again? #2

From Supergirl #1, by Joseph Loeb

Stargirl to Supergirl: "I like how you went with the bare midriff. Keeps the other guy’s eyes off your fists."

Ummm... yeah, thats EXACTLY the reason. Eyes on the fists people. No, I said FISTS, FISTS!


The many faces of... #1

Sushir Rahaman has the following request - "In the Justice League serial in Cartoon Network they showed the Green Lantern to be a negro and here he has blond hair - I am confused...could you explain?"

Since Sushir forms 20% of my blogs readership, it becomes my bounden duty to respond. Also gives me a chance to kick off yet another section - one that covers characters whose identity has been donned by different people over the ages. I planned to start with Supergirl, but since Arnab has pointed out the excess T&A here, I shall leave that for a later date and instead begin with Green Lantern.

The various Green Lanterns have occupied a very important place in the DC Universe. They are the ultimate team players - each has been a member of the Justice League/Society in their time. More importantly, each Green Lantern is a member of an intergalactic space corps known as the Green Lantern corps, headquartered on Oa, and managed by a race of immortal guardians. The guardians pick out the most suitable (usually the most fearless) candidate from each sector of space and give them a green ring of power which draws from the central power battery on Oa. This candidate patrols his/her/its sector, keeping the peace by any means possible (with a few riders of course). I shall only focus on the Green Lanterns of Earth (in sector 2814) who served for a considerable span of time.

I: Waverly Sayre
First Appearance: Green Lantern Corps Quarterly #2
Profession: Hermit
Initiation: Waverly Sayre was an Earth-based Green Lanter in the late 1700's. He was given the ring by his predecessor, Laham of Scylla, who fell in the line of duty. Very little else is known about Sayre.

II: Alan Scott
First Appearance: All-American Comics #16
Profession: Engineer
Initiation: Alan Scott is unique among the Green Lanterns of Earth in that he was not recruited by the guardians, and so is not technically a member of the corps. Quite by accident, he stumbled across a mytical element of green flame called the Starheart that was connected to a former Green Lantern of the sector. Alan fashioned a ring out of it and took on the mantle of Green Lantern.
Membership: Alan was a founding member of the Justice Society of America.
Personal Life: Alan's first wife was Rose Canton, a schizophrenic with the evil alter ego of Thorn. They had two children - Todd and Jennie-Lynn. Rose put up the children for adoption without Alan's knowledge after their marriage collapsed, and they grew up without knowing their father. Later Alan married former villain, Harlequin.
Notable Friendships: Like all the Green Lanterns, Alan formed a close friendship with the Flash of his age, Jay Garrick. Jay even helped Alan recover from severe depression.
Other Identities: For a brief while, the Starheart merged with Alan's body. During this time he went by the name Sentinel.
Breaks: Alan retired from his career as a superhero after the JSA was investigated by the HUAC for Communist sympathies. During this time he ran a broadcasting corporation and re-united with his children, now sporting the identities of Obsidian and Jade, respectively. When the Society was re-formed, Alan came back to active duty.
Current Status: Active
Trivia: Alan's ring is powerless against wood.

III: Daniel Young
First Appearance: Green Lantern Vol. 2 #149
Initiation: While he was wounded, the current Green Lantern of sector 2814, Abin Sur handed his ring to Daniel temporarily.
Trivia: Daniel was a Green Lantern for less than 24 hours.

IV: Hal Jordan
First Appearance: Showcase #22
Profession: Test Pilot
Initiation: The most famous Green Lantern of all, Hal Jordan was testing an aircraft when he was summoned by Abin Sur. Sur's craft had crashed and realising he was near death, he passed on the mantle of Green Lantern of the sector to Hal.
Membership: Hal was a founding member of the Justice League of America as well as being the most successful member of the corps.
Personal Life: The archetypal playboy, Hal Jordan was always a ladies' man. When he received his ring, he was already dating Carol Ferris, his boss' daughter. This relationship continued for a while until Ferris was turned into Star Sapphire by the Zamarons, who had an ancient grudge against the guardians. Though she later recovered, their relationship was never the same. Fellow Green Lantern, a teenager from Graxos had a long-standing crush on Hal, but he thought a relationship would be inappropriate given the age difference between them.
Notable Friendships: Hal was a close friend of the Flash, Barry Allen, a co-founder of the JLA. The interactions between him and the stable and introverted Barry were the basis for many stories. Hal's best friend was Green Arrow, Oliver Queen, with whom he undertook a trip across America to see how the ordinary people lived. On the other hand, Hal has never seen eye to eye with the Batman, and they share a mutual dislike.
Breaks: When his home town, Coast City, was destroyed and all its residents murdered, Hal went mad with grief. He used his ring to recreate the city as he remembered it but was stopped from doing so by the guardians who were strongly using the ring for personal gain. Hal went on a vendetta against the guardians defeating the rest of the corps single-handedly and killing two of them, before finally leeching the entire power battery into his ring.
Other Identities: With all the power of the guardians at his disposal, Hal became the villain Parallax who tried to recreate the universe and timeline in a misguided attempt at setting everything right. He was defeated by the combined strength of the JLA, reformed somewhat and finally gave up his life to reignite the sun when it was extinguished by the Sun-eater, thus saving humanity. His soul merged with that of the Spectre, the embodiment of God's vengeance and remained an aloof judge of humanity's actions. Recently his spirit was separated from the Spectre and he fought off his inner demons with the help of fellow Green Lanterns to return to life as the hero he once was.
Current Status: Active
Trivia: Hal's ring was powerless against the colour yellow.

V: Guy Gardner
First Appearance: Green Lantern Vol. 2 #59
Profession: Social Worker
Initiation: When Abin Sur crashed on Earth, Guy Gardner was one of two candidates his ring selected as his successor. Guy was further away than Hal at that time, so lost out. He was, however, made the substitute Green Lantern and took over Hal's duties on Earth whenever he was away.
Membership: Guy was a member of the Justice League International, and for a brief while formed the Super-Buddies with his former JLI teammates. He is currently helping Kyle Rayner restart the Green Lantern corps.
Personal Life: Brash, macho and boorish, Guy was never very popular with his teammates who merely tolerated him. However, he fell in love with teammate, the shy Norweigian Tora Olafsdotter (Ice), and this changed him. Her death came as a huge blow to him.
Notable Friendships: Guy had very few friends, apart from Ice. His teammates at the JLI used to tire of his overt machismo. His relationship with Beatriz DaCosta (Fire), also the best friend of Ice, was particularly strained.
Other Identities: At one point, Guy lost his ring to the main power battery. However, he found a yellow ring formerly owned by Sinestro and used it for a while. Later he took on the identity of Warrior and became a freelance adventurer. Recently, he joined the remaining Green Lanterns of Earth and took on the title again.
Current Status: Inactive
Trivia: Guy is part Vuldarian. This allows him to reshape his body into weapons.

VI: John Stewart
First Appearance: Green Lanter Vol. 2 #87
Profession: Architect
Initiation: When Guy Gardner was injured, the Guardians chose John to fill in as substitute Green Lantern.
Membership: John has been an on-and-off member of the JLA.
Personal Life: During his tenure as Green Lantern, John fell in love with and married Katma Tui, Green Lantern of Korugar.
Breaks: During a particularly bad period in his life, John was struck by three tragedies. He was unable to prevent the destruction of an entire planet placed under his stewardship, Katma Tui was murdered by a Star Sapphire and he himself was injured in the line of duty, becoming paraplegic.
Notable Friendships: John was a reserved loner. He only formed close bonds with other Green Lanterns.
Other Identities: John never had any alternate identity.
Current Status: After being healed, John was asked by Kyle Rayner to step in again as Green Lantern, as Kyle needed a break. He is currently a member of the JLA.
Trivia: John is the Green Lantern who appears in the cartoon series.

VII: Kyle Rayner
First Appearance: Green Lantern Vol. 3 #48
Profession: Cartoonist
Initiation: Kyle Rayner was just a random guy, until one day he received a Green Lantern ring by a stroke of fate. After Hal Jordan went renegade, the Guardians decided to channel all their power into one ring. This ring was given by the last Guardian, Ganthet to the first person he met, who happened to be Kyle.
Membership: Kyle has been a longstanding member og the JLA. He was briefly a member of the Teen Titans.
Personal Life: Hal's life has been incredibly tragic. Shortly after gaining the ring, his girlfriend was brutally slaughtered by Major Force. He only continued at the insistence of Alan Scott. Later as a member of the Titans, Kyle briefly dated Donna Troy, until she died shortly thereafter. He had a long relationship with Jade, the daughter of Alan Scott and they were nearly married. However, Jade broke up with him after she cheated on him while he went on a self-imposed exile.
Notable Friendships: Kyle took a long time to be accepted by other superheroes, as they were aware of the circumstances under which he received his ring. However, he and the Flash, Wally West, have a good-natured rivalry going.
Breaks: After the brutal beating of a close friend, Kyle went on an exploration of space. During this time, he handed over the reins to John Stewart. After he returned and found Jade seeing someone else, he allowed John to continue as Green Lantern. Recently he became frustrated with his responsibilities on Earth and is working to restart the Green Lantern Corps.
Other Identities: With a ring of unlimited power and responsible for the entire universe, Kyle became the godlike Ion. However, he was unable to sleep with the huge burden of responsibility and leeched off his power to form a new battery. Then, he worked with Ganthet and is helping bring up a new generation of Guardians who will oversee a new corps.
Current Status: Inactive
Trivia: Kyle has the power to create new rings from his own.

VIII: Jennie-Lynn Hayden
First Appearance: All-Star Squadron #25
Profession: Model
Initiation: Jennie was given a ring by her fiancee, Kyle Rayner. She stood in for him on occasion when he was out in space.
Membership: Jennie was a member of Infinity Inc. with her brother.
Personal Life: Jennie is the daughter of Green Lantern Alan Scott, and used to date Kyle Rayner. She is now single.
Notable Friendships: Jennie is good friends with teammates Starfire, Thunder and Grace.
Currently she is a member of the Outsiders.
Trivia: Jennie no longer needs a ring as the powers of the Starheart have been passed down to her congenitally by her father.

So currently, John is the Green Lantern serving with the JLA, Hal is back and the main Green Lantern of Earth, Kyle is out in space restarting the corps, with the help of Guy, and Jennie is a member of the Outsiders. Other Green Lanterns such as Kilowog, G'Nort and Arisia are also currently present on Earth, but have not been mentioned because they are not of Earthly origin.


Slice of Cheesecake #1

(This is a rehash from an old post on another blog)

This is Power Girl. She used to be Supergirl, but then someone else took that mantle. Annoyed, she changed her costume and tore a hole in it just so her cleavage became visible. How this helped is as yet unclear.

When Wally Wood initially wrote her character, he drew her chest slightly larger in each story. At some point, they caught on, but by then she was already a 44D. Nobody bothered reducing it thereafter.

Currently she is a member of the JSA and nobody is entirely clear as to where she came from, especially now that there is ANOTHER Supegirl.She is aggressive and an avowed feminist. I guess having people stare at your chest all day is reason enough to turn feminist.

She's also useful for distracting teenage whizkid inventors, as seen in Superman/Batman #4.

Also got into a catfight with Supergirl in Supergirl #1. Probably annoyed at Supergirl's new costume which rivals hers for distraction quotient.


Soundbytes #1

John Byrne is a huge name in the comics fraternity. He has written Uncanny X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Wonder Woman and Superman, as well as doing fine work on smaller titles like Doom Patrol and She-Hulk. He created memorable storylines like the Dark Phoenix Saga; revamped Superman and the Invisible Girl, among others; created Alpha Flight; smoothed continuity with neat filler stories and even breached the fourth wall with She-Hulk.

But I come here to bury Byrne, not to praise him.

While he is a creative genius, Byrne has been known to shoot his mouth off on many occasions saying things that are not quite PC, and offend many people in the process. He has had a number of spats with colleagues, reportedly storming out of Marvel after another writer showed the She-hulk breaking razors while shaving her legs!

Recently, on his official site www.byrnerobotics.com, he dropped this clanger after discussing the casting for the upcoming Fantastic Four movie, particularly the choice of Jessica Alba for the role of Sue Storm, a favourite character of his.

"Hispanic and Latino women with blond hair look like hookers to me, no matter how clean or "cute" they are."


While I agree that casting the girl with the fantastic navel as comicdom's favourite mom was an ill-concieved move, I wouldn't go that far.

But then Byrne will be Byrne.


India Alert #1

In Excalibur #5, Magneto is reading a bedtime story to Karima Shapandar, the reprogrammed Omega Sentinal (this is already ridiculous, since it has been established that Karima is a trained police officer, not some sulky child). Seeing as Karima is Indian, he decides to read from Kipling's Kim. The panel shows the following conversation.

Karima: That story is set in Lahore. It belongs to Pakistan now.

Magneto: A lot has changed since Kipling.

Oye Claremont, WHAT were you attempting with this little piece of writing? A belated attempt to show how much you know about other cultures? Yeah, right! This from a man who thinks SHAPANDAR is a common Indian surname. I mean please, the world and its brother are aware of the existence of Pakistan - where have you been all these years. You might as well have had the character say "Apartheid is dead in South Africa". "Really, you don't say!"

There are only two conclusions I can draw from this piece - one, that Magneto has been living under the same rock as Claremont and was genuinely surprised upon learning that Lahore was a part of Pakistan. This also begs the question as to how such a person can be a fan of Kipling.

The other is that Karima is just being plain petty - making it quite clear that Pakistan and India are different. This again is in direct contrast to her established character.

I think Marvel needs to give grandpa Claremont another shot of tranquilisers before he tries to get out of his hospital bed and dislocates his hip. Let it go grandpa, or you'll be known as the only man to have actively caused the downfall of the very title you helped popularise.


What was that again? #1

From Green Lantern: Rebirth #6, by Geoff Johns

Hal Jordan's inner monologue -

"Gardner’s ring is like a leaky water faucet. Sparks always fly. Even when he’s just standing still. His will power can’t wait to get free."

Umm... yeah, whatever. But seriously, Geoff - if you're looking for an analogy to describe something thats just bursting with power, then a leaky faucet is hardly the best bet. Leaky faucets suggest inefficiency and waste, not simmering will power.

Oh, and aren't we just mixing metaphors a tad too much? Sparks flying from a faucet! Whatever will you think of next?


Goofy Silver Age Cover #1

The female of the species, etc?

But, please - someone tell me what this is all about.


Moving Comic Moments #1

In DC: The New Frontier, Darwyn Cooke makes a valiant attempt at creating a single world where the Golden Age and Silver Age characters coexist and, in fact, transition from one to the other. This six-part miniseries is set in USA of the 1950's, in the background of McCarthyism and the Ku Klux Klan.

The book shows the world through the eyes of well-known DC characters - from the Challengers of the Unknown to all the members of the Justice League. Cooke also puts his own spins on many of the characters - usually for the better.

But the most moving tale is the retelling of the story of John Henry Irons, known in the mainstream universe as Steel.

The black John Henry Irons is a blacksmith who lives in Mississippi and, as was common during that period, watched his house burned down by the KKK, killing his wife and children.

John Henry Irons put his steel driving skills to use and became an avenging hero, using his metal hammer to rain down wrath on the racists who had wiped out his family and countless others.

As his story is told, the famous American folk song John Henry: The Steel Drivin' Man is recited in the background.

John Henry was a steel drivin' man,
He died with a hammah in his han',

Buy me a nine pound hammah
An' I'll drive this steel drill down,
An' I'll drive this steel drill down.
Cap'n said to John Henry,
You've got a willin' mind.
But you just well lay yoh hammah down,
You'll nevah beat this drill of mine,
You'll nevah beat this drill of mine.

But things do not end happily ever after for this Man of Steel. Finally, the KKK track him down and beat him to within an inch of his life. The battered hero runs until he finds a shed where a little girl with baby blue eyes is sitting. Desperate, he takes off his mask and begs her to help him.

They took John Henry to the White House,
And buried him in the san',
And every locomotive come roarin' by,
Says there lays that steel drivin' man,
Says there lays that steel drivin' man.

Desperation, innocence lost, despair and the sense of impending death - all on one page. Beautiful - and heart-rending.


Gratuitous T&A Watch #1

DC launched All Star Batman and Robin: The Boy Wonder with much fanfare. Not only did they sign Frank Miller to write it, they also promised a dramatic retelling of the story of how Batman gained his famous sidekick.

The story opens with a character not seen in comics for a long time - Vicki Vale, the sassy journalist who was Bruce Wayne's flame around the time he met young Dick Grayson. However, Frank Miller decided to add a new... dimension to Vicki's character. The comic opens with the following splash.

Umm... so apparently, high-profile journalists like to walk around their apartments in lacy lingerie and high heels while sipping a martini and dictating their articles. (Mental note - ask Motheater, eM, Mangs, et al). This is an interpretation of Vicki we haven't seen before - at least Frank's keeping his word on the dramatic retelling part.

Having treated us to a long shot, we now get a close-up of Vicki's cleavage.

followed by a shot of her sucking on her finger for no apparent reason,

finishing off, quite naturally, with a butt shot (yeah, I know you want to see this one).


I hope nobody missed the innuendo in the text panels. I knew you were too busy gawking - go back and read them.

Now lets get something straight - Frank Miller is famous for this kind of blatant sex-and-violence approach to comic writing. All his men are remorseless killing machines, and all his women are hyper-sexualised pin-ups. However, while this formula was extremely successful in the dark, noir Sin City, it falls completely flat here. Sin City's Basin City was a decadent hellhole where every kind of perversion flourished and the characters beautifully exemplified the depths of its depravity. Batman's Gotham is crime-infested but not nearly as far beyond redemption. While his darker take on Batman himself is a good step, he spoils it all by throwing in the cheesecake - sex has NEVER been a driving force in Batman's life, and Miller should know that, having written the classic Dark Knight Returns and Batman:Year One. Also unlike the women of Sin City, Vicki is not a pole dancer or a two-bit whore - she is a rich, successful professional in a relationship with the city's richest and most eligible man. WHY was it necessary to write her as a sexpot?

The trail doesn't end there. After five pages of Vale in Victoria's Secret, we are treated to an extra-long sequence of her picking out a dress to wear to a date with Bruce Wayne, that is straight out of Betty and Veronica. In the end she chooses the dress that makes her look the most like a Vegas hooker, and heads for the circus. Then artist Jim Lee restores the gender balance by drawing a Robin who seems far too well-developed to be 12 years old (Nope - no pictures).

Towards the end of the book there is another de rigueur scene that harks back to Sin City - corrupt cop bitch-slaps the prostitute with the heart of gold. Take a look at this,

and now this.

Please note how he still hasn't given up on the innuendo.

I'm sorry Frank, but this book needs to be published with a large red 'R' posted across the cover. What happens in Sin City should stay in Sin City.


International Character Watch #1

Country of the day - Afghanistan.

Afghanistan occupies an interesting place in the American mind. It was only after Rambo III that Americans learnt of this nation's existence. Even then, for a number of years, it was assumed to be your generic Middle Eastern country with camels and sand and still more sand. However after the events of September 11th, 2001, the country burst into the public consciousness. Suddenly everyone was offering expert commentary on this unfortunate state. Pop-culture gurus were not to be left behind. You had Afghan villains appearing in obscure Hollywood flicks, and reams of pulp fiction being churned out on the plight of the burqa-clad brigade.

It was only natural that comic books would follow suit. And so they did. Since 2002 Marvel Comics has introduced two Afghan characters into their pantheon. One is an established character, who was retroactively revealed to have been brought up in war-torn Kabul, while the other is an entirely new character. Interestingly, both are women - an oppressed minority in an inhuman patriarchal society. This made them ideal candidates for the X-books, which have always been written against a background of a prejudiced world that hates those it does not understand.

Character 1:

Name: Sooraya Qadir
Age: mid-teens
Code Name: Dust
Powers: Can convert her body into a cloud of abrasive dust.
Introduced: In December 2002, in New X-Men by Grant Morrison
Currently in: New X-Men: Academy X by Nunzio DeFillipis and Christina Weir
USP: Raised in a conservative Sunni Muslim family, she never appears in the open without her burqa and shows strict obedience towards figures of authority.

Background: She was found by Wolverine in a camp on the outskirts of Kabul, while he was on a mission to extend a helping hand to oppressed mutants in countries where the X-Corporation had no presence. She had manifested her mutant powers during an attempted rape and killed her would-be rapists by chafing the flesh off their bones. Wolverine brought her to the nearest branch of X-Corporation, in Mumbai, and she later joined the class of special students at the Xavier Academy, taking the code name of Turaab (later changed to Dust). She remained loyal to Xavier during Magneto's attack on New York, even though her classmates switched loyalties.

Current Status: After the school restarted, she joined regular classes and became one of the regular cast members of New Mutants (later New X-Men: Academy X), the book that focused on the students of the school. She is a member of the Hellions house, under the charge of Emma Frost. She has never questioned the orders of her team leader, often in spite of her own feelings. Her relationship with her roommate, Noriko, a brash low-rise jeans-wearing feminist from a rival house is one of the plot points of the current book. The differing ideologies of the two girls leads to frequent clashes and the authors have cleverly avoided taking sides in the argument.

Character 2:

Name: Tessa (last name unknown)
Age: early thirties
Code Name: Sage
Powers: Her mind is a living computer.
Introduced: In March 1987, in Classic X-Men by Chris Claremont
Revealed as Afghan: In 2004, in X-Treme X-Men by Chris Claremont
Currently in: Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont
USP: She was Xavier's first student, but he made her his spy in the Hellfire Club. Constant betrayals have hardened her to a point where she trusts no one.

Background: Tessa was introduced as the Black Rook of the Hellfire Club, right hand of the Black King and power behind the throne. Using her mental powers, she became the most trusted member of the club. However, she was not herself evil, and she did help the X-Men out on a number of occasions, though there was no mutual trust between them. Much later, after the dissolution of the Club, Tessa reappeared and was revealed to have been Xavier's mole inside the Hellfire Club. Apparently as a teenager, she saved his life in Kabul, killing a gang of bandits. He trained her, but did not consider her worthy to be an X-Man, relegating her instead to a demeaning and secretive life in the highly misogynist Hellfire Club. It seems she turned away from him due to this treatment, but her exact feelings are never known. She joined the team of the one X-Man she trusted, Storm, before they fell out with Xavier and went their own way.

Current Status: Sage's recent actions have been inexplicable to say the least. She left the team and rejoined her former mentor in an attempt to restart teh club, but caused a fight and ended up installing a new Black King, at the same time installing notable villains as members. She seems to have a grand plan, but nobody knows what it is, thus leading to frictions with her old teammates who are not sure if they can trust her.

So here we have two characters - one who was just shoehorned into a role and expected to fit it, and another who was built up from scratch. Its quite obvious who is more believable. Apart from Tessa's flashback scene 17 years after she was introduced, revealing her first meeting with Xavier, there has never been any indication of her Afghani heritage. Claremont just picked the only character whose past had not been revealed and retroactively cast her as Afghan. The fact that her mutation causes her skin to be deathly pale helped, as her ethnicity was hitherto unverifiable. But her retro-nationality was clearly just a gimmick because her only overriding characteristic is super-secretiveness. She could just as well have been Finnish, and it wouldn't have affected anything. Nor is this the first time Claremont has pulled such a rabbit out of a hat. Around the same time, he revealed Bishop to be aborigine, effectively taking the total number of African-American X-Men to zero.

On the other hand, Sooraya has been beautifully handled. She is not written as a mute victim, but as a girl whose actions are dictated by her strong religious beliefs. She chooses to wear the burqa out of choice, not compulsion (there is a beautiful scene with her mother where she explains her ideas of modesty). In another beautiful Morrison-esque touch, it is revealed that she is technically naked when she changes to dust form, so her power offers her all the freedom she needs. She is not a fundamentalist but quietly firm. This together with her inability to question authority are perfectly in synch with her purported background. This is how comic characters should be written.