This is "How Can I Explain?", which is a feature spotlighting inexplicable comic book plots.
Today, based on a suggestion from reader Steve R., we look at a foul-up in an issue of Alpha Flight that basically inadvertently gave Northstar clairvoyance powers...but not really, since it was just a screw-up.
In case you have not watched it, there was a recent TV series called The Terror about a doomed expedition to the Arctic that involved trying to find the Northwest Passage. The TV series (based on a novel of the same name) suggested that the crew members of the expedition were attacked by supernatural forces while they were out there trapped on the ice.
Well, in Alpha Flight #37 (by Bill Mantlo, David Ross and Gerry Taloac), that same basic idea was used, as well, for a story that involved one of the crew members coming up with an elixir to keep himself alive. He did stay alive, but buried in ice for 148 years until Alpha Flight stumbled upon where he was trapped and he found himself possessing Snowbird's magical child. This turned him into a evil being known as Pestilence. He then fought Alpha Flight...
In the fight, Northstar and Pestilence do not make contact with each other.
Okay, so a few issues later, Northstar begins to get sick.
Now, if you're reading this column, it is likely that you have read or watched some work of fiction at some point in your life and likely know that when a character starts coughing out of nowhere, it is a sign of some bad stuff in their future. Just once, I would like for a character to have a coughing fit and then that's it. "Oh, yeah, I dunno, I just had a tickle in my throat" or whatever.
As it turned out, Bill Mantlo wanted to have Northstar ultimately contract and then die from AIDS. I wrote about it in an old Comic Book Legends Revealed:
Bill Mantlo explained that he wanted to do the storyline with Northstar dying from AIDS because "It would give me the opportunity to deal with a frightening, sad, controversial topic in a comic book - which I had always understood Marvel was about.
In an excellent article by Andy Mangels in Amazing Heroes #76, Carl Potts, editor of Alpha Flight, explained his problem with the storyline:
Some people, including readers, believed we were making too broad a statement. We had never openly declared that Northstar was gay. Now we had the only fairly popular Marvel character generally acknowledged as being gay and he was dying of AIDS. You shouldn't equate one with the other.
Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter sided with Potts and the storyline was changed to Northstar being revealed to being a magical being and then he was written out of the book. Mantlo got some what of a kick out of the irony that Northstar "couldn't live as a gay character in comics because it was too controversial, and he couldn't die as one because it was too controversial."
So, yeah, that did not happen, but check out the weird thing that DID happen with Northstar and his illness...