Starting out as one of the founding X-Men at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, this host of unfathomable power was also the only female at that. For decades, fans have followed Jean from New York to outer space and into a post-radiation storm slumber at the bottom of Jamaica Bay. Some may not remember the days before Chris Claremont and the Phoenix Force forever changed Jean’s character, but there was a time when this Omega level mutant was the weakest team member, codenamed Marvel Girl. Having recently returned to the comic book fold, the original Jean Grey has finally bid the Phoenix Force farewell and is heading up her own team in X-Men Red, but don’t think she is any less powerful.
Beyond making the transition to cosmic superpower, Jean has also found herself appearing in X-Men stories across a variety of mediums. She’s had leading roles in the '90s animated X-Men series and the early 2000s’ X-Men: Evolution. On the big screen, she has been brought to life in four X-Men films (and one Wolverine film) by the talented Famke Janssen. More recently, Sophie Turner has taken on the role in the prequel films. Next year will see the cinematic debut of Hollywood’s second attempt at the famous "Dark Phoenix Saga," which just goes to show how important Jean is to the X-Universe. But despite over five decades of stories, there is still a lot people that don’t know about Jean. Here are 20 facts that only the most marvelous Jean Grey fans could tell you about.
20 THE PHOENIX SAGA BEGAN IN THE FIRST X-MEN FILM
We see Jean’s journey towards becoming Phoenix ramp up in X2, but it actually began in the first film. During the climactic battle at the Statue of Liberty, Jean pushed her telekinetic abilities like never before. When Cyclops blasts Magneto’s machine, Jean is seen clearly shaken unbeknownst to the rest. Two things happened that night that could have caused the breakdown of the psychic blocks Xavier put in Jean’s mind.
First, Jean used Cerebro earlier that evening, which almost overpowered her. Then, a few hours later, she was exposed to Magneto’s mutation triggering machine. While her peers were unaffected, it seems that the exposure enhanced Jean’s abilities as we progressively seen in X2. Either way, the Liberty Island Incident started her transformation.
19 SHE DISAPPEARED WHEN THANOS SNAPPED HIS FINGERS
If the X-Men had been part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Avengers: Infinity War was true to the source material, then Jean Grey would have been one of the many who disappeared when Thanos snapped his fingers. The 1991 Infinity Gauntlet six-issue miniseries event saw carefully selected characters, including X-Men, from across the Marvel Universe fall victim to Thanos.
While Jean was included, don’t expect to see her experience this temporary fate; she only appears once on a poster of all the disappeared heroes. The X-Men editors at the time only lent out Cyclops and Wolverine for the event, so Jean vanished “off-screen.” Note that she didn’t die. Even Captain America referrers to the missing heroes as "disappeared", not perished.
18 THE 90S ANIMATED SERIES MINIMIZED HER
Despite being an original X-Men member, Fox didn’t want Jean featured in the '90s animated series. “When we started work in February 1992, we were told that Beast and Jean Grey were secondary characters, less interesting to the core audience,” writes creative team members Eric and Julia Lewald in their book, Previously on X-Men: The Making of an Animated Series.
Jean did become a series regular, making the cut because the writers wanted her more and more while writing the first season. She was, they felt, the one X-Man all the other members trusted. They described her as sort of the emotional center for the team. In the end, no one from the studio noticed how much of a presence Jean ended up having.
17 TIME-DISPLACED JEAN BECOMES XORN
The X-Men timeline is not for the faint of heart and the “Battle of the Atom” event is no exception. Here, adult Jean Grey is still gone, young Jean Grey from the past is in the present, and the grown-up young Jean Grey comes from the future. Interesting, the futuristic Jean sports Xorn’s helmet, going by Lady Xorn. Also, she joined the Brotherhood.
Remember, Magneto impersonated Xorn until he offed the original Jean in 2001. Why is Jean masquerading in Xorn’s helmet? Turns out she became so powerful that she needed it to contain her abilities. Xorn’s helmet was designed to keep the original Xorn’s star-brain controlled, so that works. In the end, futuristic Jean didn’t survive her trip to the present.
16 FOX DIDN’T WANT PHOENIX IN THE LAST STAND
After X2, the "Phoenix Saga" was the next logical tale to tell. However, according to X-Men 3 co-writers Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn, Fox didn’t want to go that route. At a Q&A, Penn said, “[...] the studio did not want to do "Phoenix," period. I mean[...] five months before the movie began their like ‘no, no we’re not going to do "Phoenix," we’re gonna do Magneto versus the X-Men, that’s what this movie is going to be about.’”
Obviously, Fox went the "Dark Phoenix" route but opted to minimize it. The studio felt the story was too dark and would only appeal to fans of the comics. They opted to make the Astonishing X-Men “Cure” story the focus and "Phoenix" became the B plot.
15 SHE ONLY LEGITIMATELY PERISHED IN 2001
Jean’s penchant for perishing is overdramatized. When looking at just the Earth-616 Jean, including canon retcons, she’s only perished twice. The first was time was in New X-Men #148 when Wolverine put her out of her misery, but she sprung right back. Two issues later, Magneto/Xorn ended her again, but what about all the previous times? Not real.
With the “Phoenix Saga” retconned, Jean wasn’t gone when she crashed to Earth. What emerged was a Phoenix clone of her that later perished in the “Dark Phoenix Saga” conclusion. The real Jean returned in Fantastic Four #286. Later, Thanos didn’t end her, he made her disappear. The Sentinel in Uncanny X-Men #281 that destroyed her actually didn’t -- she’d switched minds with Emma Frost and her body was intact.
14 SHE SUDDENLY HAD MORE SIBLINGS
The Grey family tree never seemed that complicated but leave it to retcons to make everything a mess. We first met Jean’s parents in X-Men #5 and, later in X-Men #136, we met her older sister Sara. If the Grey sisters had other siblings, we’d know right? Well, turns out the answer is no.
In 2006, we learned through the “End of Greys” story arc that Jean has another sister, Julie, and two brothers, Roger and Liam. The three appear in Uncanny X-Men #467, except for Julia who, though present, is only mentioned but not actually seen. Sadly, the three were only created to be decimated by the Shi’ar Death Squad in the same issue.
13 THE SHI’AR EMPIRE PURGED THE GREY FAMILY
It seems the only people who like the Greys less than the Marvel editors are the Shi’ar. Jean’s three “new” siblings were not the only victims of the 2006 “End of Greys” event -- about 17 family members were taken out by the Shi’ar Death Squad. After their terrible experiences with the Phoenix-possessed Jean Grey, the Shi’ar decide to finally end the Phoenix by destroying the Grey Genome.
Arriving at a Grey family get together, the Shi’ar indiscriminately eliminated everyone, including those of non-Grey blood, in about 24 seconds. Even Jean’s parents bit the dust after 42 years in the comics. The only survivors of with the genome were Rachel and Cable, until Jean returned from the other side and joined them in 2017.
12 SHE SURVIVED X2
There is confusion about this, partly because Jean allegedly perished in the “Phoenix Saga” comic. Yet, as the retconned comic and X-Men: The Last Stand explain, Jean sacrificed herself but didn’t end. According to Professor Xavier in X-Men 3, “The sheer mass of water that collapsed on top of Jean should have ended her completely. The only explanation of Jean's survival is that her powers wrapped her in a cocoon of telekinetic energy.”
As the water rushed towards and around Jean, she began emitting a flame-like energy, which indicated the Phoenix’s arrival. It also appears to be her telekinetic powers protecting her. It's doubtful Jean did this consciously, but if Phoenix was breaking through, it certainly would want to save itself and its host, which it did.
11 FAMKE JANSSEN VOICED JEAN GREY ON ROBOT CHICKEN
X-Men fans who watch Robot Chicken were sure to enjoy the 2016 episode "Joel Hurwitz,” which features a skit spoofing Battle of the Exes with none other than X-Men “exes” Jean Grey and Wolverine. To make it even better, Jean Grey actress Famke Janssen voiced the character she portrayed in the original films.
The segment sees Jean and Wolverine recap their difficult relationship, from Jean’s evil clone ending “a trillion innocent aliens” to finding someone erased her DVR before she woke up from her cocoon coma. The two mutants go on to show a whole new side of themselves as they seek to eliminate the competition -- which Wolverine literally does. Jean wins on the technicality that telekinesis is not legally considered physical assault.
10 CYCLOPS ORIGINALLY BLINDED JEAN IN X2
It’s no secret that Bryan Singer changed the X2 ending mid-production after he approached Famke Janssen about sacrificing Jean to start the “Phoenix Saga.” Originally, Jean not only made it to the end of the film, she was also blinded by a mind-controlled Cyclops during their fight at Stryker’s base.
The scenes with blind Jean were already filmed when the rewrites took effect and, despite reshoots, there are still moments when you can see Jean is supposed to be blind. The most obvious example is when Wolverine stops everyone from exiting through the damn’s spillway and Jean is off looking in the opposite direction of the others. Incidentally, Mad Magazine’s X2 spoof was based on the original script and featured a blind, but alive, Jean.
9 SHE MAY NOT BE HUMAN ANYMORE
Even if Jean has not perished and returned as many times as we thought, it still happens, which isn’t natural. Though most characters except for Uncle Ben rarely stay gone in the Marvel Universe, it appears that Jean may have ascended beyond being human.
While the Phoenix Force revived Jean on its own in New X-Men and Phoenix: Resurrection, Jean has also forced the cosmic being to do it. This occurred in the Jean Grey solo comic when the Phoenix Force vaporized the time-displaced Jean and she forced it to recreate her. She later recreated herself sans Phoenix after being devoured by Poison. The older Jean also independently resurrected herself in "Endsong." All of this has forced her to suspect she is no longer human.
8 X-MEN: APOCALYPSE GAVE JEAN A TRAGIC BACKSTORY
X-Men: Apocalypse gave us no real backstory regarding Jean Grey. Whereas we see Scott’s home life and the moment his mutant ability first manifests, Jean is already enrolled at Xavier’s school. However, in a monologue found in the Apocalypse special features video, “Answering the Call: Assembling the New X-Men Team,” Sophie Turner discusses the tragic origins of Jean’s abilities
In the video, Jean tells Scott that when she was 10 she started hearing voices. When her mother was driving her home from school, Jean accidentally entered her mother’s mind, causing her to drive into a tree. Jean felt her mother was passing away, not unlike in the comics when her powers emerge, and she experienced her friend Annie’s end. Perhaps this will become canon in Dark Phoenix.
7 YOUNG JEAN DID NOT MAKE ICEMAN GAY
When it was revealed that Iceman is gay, some blamed this on Jean. In All-New X-Men #40, Jean confronts Bobby about his behavior toward women. She then discovers he is gay by accidentally reading his mind and fan theories claim Jean did this to him. Some argue she did it to punish him for how he treats women, and others argue it was accidental. Both are wrong.
While Jean should not have outed Iceman, she didn’t make him gay. It would be incredibly offensive and inappropriate for Marvel to make a character gay as a form of punishment. If it was Jean’s unchecked power, it would have been addressed given that her control issues were a plot point. Iceman is gay because Marvel made him that way.
6 SHE APPEARS AS A CHILD IN X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
Eagle-eyed fans noticed that when Magneto lifted RFK Memorial Stadium to surround the White House in X-Men: Days of Future Past, one of the children playing in the park he flew over was a girl with red hair. Was it young Jean? The film and its sequel never addressed this, but fans were sure it was meant to be her. Turns out, it was.
In the commentary for Days of Future Past, director Bryan Singer and writer Simon Kinberg confirm that the young girl was intended to be Jean. Speaking over the stadium scene, Singer notes that, “Of course this was a moment that I liked with young Jean Grey watching what she will ultimately be able to do.”
5 PROFESSOR X WAS IN LOVE WITH HER
There are some things we wish we could forget and Charles Xavier’s infatuation with Jean Grey is one of them. In X-Men #4, an older Xavier admits to himself how much he loves Jean and acknowledges he can never tell her. This could have been chalked up to an early fumble, but it has come back into the narrative several times.
In the '90s, Onslaught, the manifestation of the darkest parts of Xavier and Magneto’s minds, tells Jean that Xavier was attracted to her when she was younger. Later, in Ultimate X-Men, Xavier tells Cyclops he is in love with her. Finally, this odd romance seems lightly hinted at in deleted scenes from the first X-Men film where Jean and Xavier get uncomfortably close.
4 THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA HAD AN ALTERNATE ENDING
It is odd to think that the “Dark Phoenix Saga” originally had a different ending, and a happy one at that. The deviation between what was and what could have been came just before Jean ended it herself to stop the Phoenix. Originally, the Shi’ar captured Jean and conducted a “psychic lobotomy,” relieving her of her telepathic powers.
Essentially a standard human now, Jean’s story would focus on her coming to terms with this outcome. Magento was intended to offer to restore her mutation, but she would decline. According to Chris Claremont, “She and Scott would have gone off and lived happily ever after and gotten married and that would be the end.” The original ending was later published in 1984’s Phoenix: The Untold Story.
3 SHE WAS NOT PART OF THE WESTCHESTER INCIDENT
The X-Men movies’ special features answer a lot of questions. In the case of Logan, one deleted scene discusses Jean Grey’s fate. Earlier in the film, we learn that Professor Xavier suffered a seizure, ending several X-Men. We never find out who exactly passed, but many speculated Jean was among those who did.
The deleted scene in question sees Kathryn Munson ask Logan over dinner if he was married. Xavier responds, “He was. She passed. She was a pupil at my school. I knew her many, many years. She was lovely. Her name was Jean Grey… He killed her.” So, Jean not only passed away before the Westchester Incident, but Logan is probably set in the original timeline when he ended her in X3.
2 CYCLOPS AND WOLVERINE WEREN’T HER ONLY ONES
It is hard to picture Jean with anyone other than Scott or Logan, but she has had other romances. In the All-New X-Men #15, the time-displaced Jean reads the older Beast’s mind, learning he regrets never telling Jean he loved her. Young Jean confronts the Beast from her timeline and kisses him. Their relationship never takes off, though, and they break up.
Later, in The Ultimate Adventure, Jean shared a kiss with Miles Morales/Spider-Man. Beyond the comics, Jean found romance in the arms of Duncan Matthews in the animated series, X-Men: Evolution. Jean actually stays with Duncan for a while despite the fact that he is a jerk and she started developing feelings for Scott. You can guess who won out in the end.
1 ULTIMATE X-MEN INSPIRED X-MEN: APOCALYPSE
The climactic battle in X-Men: Apocalypse when Jean releases the power of the Phoenix to destroy En Sabah Nur was awe-inspiring. As Moira MacTaggert might say, it was inspired -- and it was. In fact, fans who have read the Ultimate X-Men series can tell you it was seemingly lifted from the pages of issue #93.
This particular issue features Jean being transformed by the Phoenix while facing off with Apocalypse. When he refuses to back down, Jean unleashes her power. The X-Men look on as Jean, floating and surrounded by the fiery form of the Phoenix, rips away at Apocalypse’s exterior. In the film, she goes on to incinerate him, but in the comic, it turns out Mister Sinister was really in the suit.