This is the debut of a feature that I don’t imagine I will be using very often. In “Things That Turned Out Bad,” I spotlight comic book stories that were bad ideas at the time and only look worse in retrospect. In “Remember to Forget,” I spotlight comic book stories that are probably best forgotten (but not as outright bad as the stories featured in “Things That Turned Out Bad”). Occasionally, though, there are stories that I sort of think are bad enough ideas to spotlight in Things That Turned Out Bad, but I honestly am not sure. Hence, this feature.
A much simpler way of describing it is “in this feature, we spotlight divisive comic book plots.”
We begin with Kitty Pryde’s use of the n-word in X-Men comics during the 1980s.
As his run on X-Men continued, particularly once John Byrne left the book, Chris Claremont began to go deeper into the similarities between the state of mutants in the Marvel Universe and that of the African-American Civil Rights movement in the United States. Claremont specifically began to posit Charles Xavier and Magneto as sort of stand-ins for Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, respectively.
Never was this more explicit than in the 1982 graphic novel, God Loves, Man Kills (written by Claremont and drawn by Brent Anderson), where a mutant-hating Reverend has driven the country into a furious state of anti-mutant hysteria. Meanwhile, Reverand Stryker is personally organizing a group of vigilantes known as the Purifiers who are doing more than just TALK about how much of a threat they see mutants…
Clearly, here Claremont is trying to evoke the horrors of the 1960s Civil Rights movment in what happens to these two poor children. It is no coincidence that it is two black mutants who are killed and strung up here. The scene is clearly meant to evoke in our minds the terrible atrocities committed upon black people of all ages during the Civil Rights movement.
That, though, to me, is fair game. I think it is fair enough to EVOKE those ideas. Maybe making the kids black is hitting the nail a little too much on the head, but in general, I think the sequence is a powerful one that I don’t have any real issue with.
However, later in the issue, we see Kitty Pryde getting into a fight with a fellow student at her local dance class (taught by the African-American non-mutant Stevie Hunter)…
When Stevie tries to intervene, Kitty lashes out…
Now, in the context of the Marvel Universe, Kitty’s point is valid. However, there isn’t actually a “Marvel Universe.” In our actual universe, I think that equating “mutie” with the n-word is going past EVOKING the Civil Rights mutant and flat out putting the mutant struggle on par as the Civil Rights movement in the comic, which is just not a comparison that I think sits well.
Whether you agree with that or not, though, I would hope you would agree that it was cheesy to then have Stevie say that Kitty was right on the next page…
Thus, not only is Claremont equating the two terms, but he’s then having a black character specifically say, “And that is an accurate comparison.”
Read on to see the next two times Kitty went to the same rhetorical place…
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