by Nevs Coleman

Storm Makes A Fist Of It

A collection came in this week, containing, amongst other things, the “seminal”* run of Uncanny X-Men written by Chris Claremont and drawn by people like John Byrne and Paul Smith. These comic are held as the benchmark of modern story-telling and are cited as a huge influence by many, including no less than Joss Whedon.

Speaking as someone who really doesn’t like Buffy that much, mainly on the grounds that I watch it and shout “Stop crying and DO something, you moody cow. And stop lamping Spike for no good reason!” I wondered why Buffy was such a repellent protagonist. Then I took a look at the covers and realised something a bit odd. Claremont’s run of X-Men is lauded for its strong female characters and yet…

Storm was shit. The most famous black female character in all of comics. And she was rubbish.

Now, let’s not mince words here. The following is taken from Marvel’s own history of Ororo:

“Ororo Monroe is the descendant of an ancient line of African priestesses, all of whom have white hair, blue eyes, and the potential to wield magic. Her mother, N’dare, was an African princess who married American photojournalist David Monroe and moved with him to Manhattan, where Ororo was born. When Ororo was six months old, she and her parents moved to Cairo, Egypt. Five years later, during the Arab-Israeli conflict, a plane crashed into their home. Ororo’s parents were killed, but she survived, buried under rubble near her mother’s body. The resultant trauma left Ororo with severe claustrophobia that still affects her today.

Ororo managed to escape the rubble of her shattered home with nothing but the tattered clothes on her back and her mother’s ancestral ruby. Homeless and orphaned, Ororo was found by a gang of street urchins who took her to their master, Achmed el-Gibar. Achmed trained Ororo in the arts of thievery and she soon became his prize pupil, excelling in picking both pockets and locks. During her time in Cairo, Ororo picked the pocket of an American tourist. The man proved no easy mark, however, as he was Charles Xavier, a powerful mutant telepath who used his abilities to stop the theft. At that moment, Xavier was psionically attacked by another mutant and Ororo used the opportunity to escape.

Years later, feeling a strong urge to wander south, Ororo left Cairo. During her travels, Ororo naïvely accepted a ride from a complete stranger and was almost raped by him. Forced to defend herself, Ororo killed the man. From that moment, she swore never to take another human life. Ororo wandered for thousands of miles, almost dying during her trek across the Sahara Desert. Her mutant ability to psionically control the weather emerged soon after, and she was able to use them to rescue T’Challa, a prince of the African nation of Wakanda, from his would-be kidnappers. The pair spent much time together, however T’Challa’s duties as a prince prevented them from further exploring their burgeoning mutual attraction.

Finally, Ororo reached her ancestors’ homeland on the Serengeti Plain in Kenya. She was taken in by an elderly tribal woman named Ainet who taught her to be responsible with her powers. Ororo soon came to be the object of worship of the local tribes who believed her to be a goddess due to her gift.”

(taken from Marvels’ website)

So, she’s been through a fair amount of grief, come out the stronger for it, meets the bloke she’ll marry one day (which in itself is a future column, I think) and learnt how to use her powers and was worshipped as a goddess.

We’ll say that again: LEARNT HOW TO USE HER POWERS AND WAS WORSHIPPED AS A GODDESS!

By the time we hit the turn of the century, she’d really come into her own, being team leader, getting a mohawk, stropping at Scott “Whiny” Summers, and being genuinely quite good at what she did to the point that she ended up as part of the team in the X-Men films.

Storm is best known to people in the real world as being played by Halle Berry in the film “X-Men” (2000) where she assaults the Toad with really bad dialogue.

Oh, okay, lightning bolts. She looked like this.

Honestly, why do you need anyone else in the X-Men when STORM, who controls the weather, is there?

She throws lightning bolts about. You see what things hit by lightning bolts look like? They look like THIS:

First Reed Richards, now THIS?

And that’s without all the other things like manipulating weather patterns and the like. If she wants to hit you all day long with lightning bolts, she can. You’d think that’d make a difference in a fight, right?

So how come Storm’s career is such a shambles?

AARGH I'm DROWNING... Wait, I can FLY? REALLY? Oh.

"Hit him with the LIGHTNING bolt, Storm, the---AARRGGHH, MY FACE!"

"Ducking and looking moody! Yeah, that'll scare him. More than DOING ANYTHING!"

"Ororo? That whole 'controlling the weather thing?' No? Okay? Sigh..."

"Where the hell did you learn to aim? The Death Star?"

"Surely lightning and metal...no! NOW DOOM HAS BOOZE AND BOOBS!"

This only got worse as time went on.

Now, you can argue that those covers are only representational of the actual story, but jeez, if I were looking in a comic shop month to month, searching for someone to use as a role model for strong women for my kids, well, I wouldn’t use this useless lady:

"FINALLY, Someone I can FIGHT. From a distance, mind..."

See you in the funnybooks.

*”Seminal” meaning “things that white writers like that nobody else knows about”

Much kudos to the good people at coverbrowser.com for their help.

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One response

  1. MAF

    I am an African lover of comics. Liberia is not as well known for it’s comic book fanboy population as it is for child soldiers and blood diamonds. I fell in love with Dr.Strange, Swamp Thing, The X-men, The Doom Patrol, and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman growing up. Storm was the first black character I ever laid eyes on. Although I had to read the comics to figure out she was black, the bone straight white hair and blue eyes threw me off. I was more inclined to think of the dark skin as a mutation. But it was Claremont’s refusal to turn her into a cliche that won me over. She was a noble black African female who was written with her heritage kept intact.

    Storm is all I really had to relate to. She is probably one of the most horribly mismanaged characters in recent Marvel history. It’s easy to want to take things personally with a character I love so deeply, but you are right on the money with how she has been handled. Her mutation presents a huge amount of narrative options, but the best they could do is make her marry another mismanaged black character. Writer’s since Claremont have made her preachy, girly, and unbalanced. She is atmokinetic/meteokinetic and capable of controlling weather patterns in space and on other worlds as well. And the greatest coup of all is that she is BLACK. In an age when a majority of people have graduated from racism to minor racial bias Storm is needed more than ever. The more people see strong black characters who fight for the greater good of everyone without a chip on their shoulder about the past the better. I know what a difference she made in my life.

    All kitsch aside, she worked with her team that consisted of people of all colors (blue!!) and cultures and they deemed it fit that she lead! I usually have a preference for titles that make me feel somewhat uncomfortable, but Storm opened me up to the mainstream. Her existence defied everything I was led to believe about black people’s roles in the diaspora. As you can tell by my near girlish gushing, Storm was my warm fuzzy blanket. I don’t pray, so all I can do is pine for the return of the woman who’s sense of self I imagined I had when I first had a conversation with a white person (1988) whom to my surprise was nearly as awkward and just as human as I was. Bring me my Queen Marvel!!

    May 26, 2010 at 12:16

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