My Marvel Life Presents: A-Z of Comics Part 16 – P

P is for Psylocke

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Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Braddock, the X-Man known as Psylocke is the twin sister of Brian Braddock the Captain Britain of Earth 616 and the younger sister of Jamie (reality warping mad b@$t@erd) Braddock and one could be forgiven to expect that she would be somewhat in the shadow of her brothers, but despite being one of the least powerful members of the Braddock family, she is by far the most interesting.

First appearing in Captain Britain issue 8 (the UK Title) she was originally used as a supporting character for the Captain, she was ordinary in character and appearance, appeared rarely and soon forgotten when she did show up. When Alans Davis and Moore got a hold of Captain Britain in their amazing 1980’s run, Betsy returned, retooled as a precognitive telepath with purple hair and working as a model with a side business of working for S.T.R.I.K.E. the UK’s answer to S.H.I.E.L.D. After the Jasper’s Warp story, the replacement to S.T.R.I.K.E. (the RCX) convinced Betsy to take her brother Brian’s mantle of Captain Britain. She was grievously injured by the villain Slaymaster, losing her eyes. After this, she was abducted by the nterdimensional villain Mojo and his employee Spital, who installed artificial eyes inside Betsy;s head, restoring her sight. Shortly after this, she began an association with the X-Men, joined the team, taking the name Psylocke and being on the team for quite some time after proving herself in a battle with Sabretooth. Sensing oncoming doom, she engineered several of the X-Men to go through the Siege Perilous, giving them a cosmic fresh start. She ended up being body swapped with the Japanese ninja Kwannon. So we end up with Kwannon in the body of Betsy (now calling herself Revanche) and we have Betsy in Kwannon’s body, still known as Psylocke. Romantically, she’s since been involved with Archangel, Thunderbird III, Fantomex and at one point tried to seduce Cyclops. (All I can say is that man must have a gorgeous mind, because so many mind readers are into him, seriously.) She’s been killed a couple of times, depowered, repowered and been an X-Man, member of X-Force and many places in between.

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A victim of the soap opera tropes that the X-Men excelled at, Psylocke is one of the most X-Mennish X-Men, with continuity that needs a flow-chart, decisions that seem to have been made rolling a dice and a look that screams cheesecake and fan service, this is a poorly served character.

But she endures. Somehow, she endures. The purple ninja look, the psychic knife (the focused totality of her psychic powers) and the f**ing huge amounts of cultural misappropriation is all seen as part of her character now. What began as a woman trying to make it in the action packed world of her brother has become a cautionary tale of removal of agency and body horror. Her eyes, fair hair colour, her innocence, her face and several men she loved have all been taken away from her as she has had to become harder edged and darker. One of her early costumes was armour, but now it’s all worn under the surface, beneath someone else’s skin an a purple bikini. She’s a fascinating look at the parts of a ship analogy. How many pieces of a ship can you replace, before it’s really not the same ship anymore, even though it has the same name? Is Psylocke still Psylocke? If so, how? If not, when did that change and who is she now?

I found P difficult to pick a character for and I have been kicking myself for days that I didn’t think of Psylocke immediately.

P is for Preacher

Preacher was a Vertigo series produced between 1995 and 2000. It was written by Garth Ennis with interior art by the late Steve Dillon and painted covers by Glenn Fabry. It was a supernatural road movie that doubled up as a love letter to the myth of the american west, through the eyes of a native of County Down in  Northern Ireland.

In brief it was the story of Jesse Custer, a small town pastor, who is one day possessed by half angelic/half demonic entity known as Genesis and through it’s power, learned of God’s abdication from the throne of heaven and the fact that he now walks the Earth, avoiding his responsibilities. Jesse goes off in search of him, to force him to take that responsibility and explain what he has done to the people he created. Along with Jesse for this ride is his ex-girlfriend Tulip, who is a recovering alcoholic and a sort of ex-hitman as well as Cassidy, the hard drinking Irish vampire.

It was bizarre and challenging story, populated by angels, conspiracies, secret organisations, mobsters, beastiality, sex detectives, cannibals and the inbred descendants of Jesus Christ. Not to mention that simply magnificent patron angel of murderers and assassins and we won’t get into Arseface.

Brutal, offensive and blasphemous (if that’s something one cares about) at times, it’s still an amazing body of work with a definite beginning, middle and epic ending. I honestly see it as essential reading for comics fans and anyone who enjoys something a little bit different, just based on it’s quality. It’s well written and full of fantastic quotes, characters and sayings. One of my favourites is the last words spoken to Jesse by his father.

“You don’t take shit from fools and you judge people by what’s in’em, not in how they look. You gotta be one of the good guys son, because there’s too many of the bad.”

There’s a TV adaptation, which isn’t bad, but the comic stands apart, the words, the pictures and the scope of it mark it as a classic.

P is for Pals & Bromances

Mainstream superhero comics are like any other serialised fiction, they are about people, they are about relationships. Most often they are fathers and sons, or romantic relationships. The silver age is full of this kinda thing, it’s ridiculous. These two types of relationships are full of the required amount of melodrama. But just as often, the type of relationships that exist are friendships. It’s often the easiest of associations and often is the less narratively contrived. It can also lead to new and interesting stories. Characters will often be in situations for a friend that they wouldn’t for a family member or a lover. These friendships can bring out the best in characters, or even make less interesting ones more interesting because of it. I’ve listed below 5 of my favourites and why they are worth mentioning.

Ben Grimm and Reed Richards

There’s is one of the earliest ones to start with, the two of them already being friends before the reader gets to meet them in their first appearance in Fantastic Four 1 back in 1961. College room mates that grew to be the very best of friends. Now I’m ignoring the Fan4stic film and Ultimate Fantastic Four here and will just look at the best version of them. Reed Richards is a genius, a physicist version of Indiana Jones, whilst Ben Grimm is a hard as nails test pilot with a chip on his shoulder, but a heart of gold. They were and remain best friends, certainly the closest friendship in comics. Why you ask?

If your friend, conned you into piloting an illegal mission in an unsafe rocket, causing an accident that made you deformed and forever unable to live a regular life and constantly (and I mean CONSTANTLY) put you in serious danger, how long would you remain that person’s friend? Ben Grimm is no doormat, but he time and again goes to bat for Reed, who trusts Ben like no one else.

Juggernaut and Black Tom Cassidy

The only villains on this list, Tom and Cain are partners in crime. It’s not like the Flash’s Rogues, with their complimentary powers, or a shared story. This is just two dudes who get on so well they became really good mates. More than once, one has moved heaven and earth to get the other back, or get him medical help. The only thing stronger than Cain ‘Juggernaut’ Marko’s anger towards his step-brother Charles Xavier, is his fondness for his best friend Tom. The Juggernaut is a bit of a one note villain, but here, he has a glimmer of depth.

Green Lantern and Green Arrow

It was either these two, or Power Man and Iron Fist. The reason these two pairs exist is sales related plot contrivance. The Green pair (Arrow and Lantern) were not great sellers and languished near the point where DC comics were going to cancel their comics, but another ida was found and Oliver Queen teamed up with Hal Jordan and under the writing of Denny O’Neil and with some beautiful work by Neal Adams, these two hard travelling heroes set off to find the real America in a series of comics that were full of serious concepts and the great attempt to make relevant comics in the 1970’s. The best thing about this team was that it worked. Hal and Olly became best of friends, often backing each other up, or taking one another to task. They knew each other at their lowest and always see each other as their best. Yes, Olly’s liberal firebrand shtick made Hal roll his eyes and Hal’s less than serious nature got to Olly, but they were best friends. This has been layered on, writer after writer adding bits an pieces to this fantastic pairing, that was put together in a very contrived manner.

Wonder Man and the Beast

One is an out of work actor, struggling with insecurity and self doubt, the other is happy go lucky ladies man with a PHD and a complete lack of self doubt. That sounds like the premise to a sitcom, but these guys have one other thing, they’re both Avengers. Wonder Man is a very Superman like character, but filled with flaws and angst and a feeling that he isn’t as good as the rest of his team. Beast is a former X-Man and research scientist that has just worked out that women find his blue furred form gorgeous and is taking advantage of that fun little fact and these two became the sort of comic relief of that era of Avengers. Much in the same way that Booster Gold and Blue Beetle did in the Bwah hah hah era of Justice League. They didn’t add much to the more action heavy plots, but it was great seeing them in the background having fun. Great work buddies, whose work just happened to be saving lives on a planetary scale. When X-Factor happened and then Jim Lee’s X-Men became a thing, it seemed that this partnership had gone the way of the dodo, but every now and again, we get to see these two pal around, having more fun than they would on their own.

Spider-Man and the Human Torch

Rivals at first, these two were the first teenage heroes of the Marvel silver age and as a result have had a lot in common for a long time. Very much a variation on the Ben/Reed dynamic, this is another hot shot flyer and a genius finding other things in common. For the longest time, they talked only in one liners and verbal jabs, but you can see as time went on, that they had a wealth of respect for one another. Johnny (Human Torch) Storm is that annoying friend, who despite it all, you just love and while Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker is a bit uptight, you know he’ll be there for you and the two of you work as friends. In the Johnathan Hickman Fantastic Four run, Johnny was thought dead and his living will dictated that the only person that could replace him was Peter. They were less friends and more brothers. They even shared a flat for a while, which was amusing enough, especially how it ended.
P is for Power Pack

Posted in A-Z

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