We don’t normally post outtakes here–normally, they’re a Patreon subscriber perk, available exclusively on our backstage blog–but if there’s anyone who justifies exceptions to the rules, it’s Adam X the X-Treme.
To see more outtakes–as well as episode outlines and other behind-the-scenes content–you can subscribe to our Patreon at any level that includes access to the backstage blog!
Meanwhile, in this week’s videos, we’re getting into the spirit of the Stealth/Plainclothes Cosplay Contest (and Halloween). We’ll be doing that next week, too–as long as the contest is running–but here’s what we’re dressed as this week:
Miles is stealth cosplaying Adam X the X-Treme.
Braids, backward baseball cap, t-shirt with spiked epaulets, THIS FACE.
Rachel is plainclothes cosplaying X-Men Evolution Cyclops.
Teal v-neck sweater, yellow t-shirt, khaki pants, brown belt, red sunglasses, doofy ’90s hair.
When we decided that we were going to start (carefully and gradually) publishing pieces by other writers, Sigrid Ellis’s “Kitty Queer” was the first on my list to acquire. It originally appeared in the anthology Chicks Dig Comics, which Sigrid edited. It’s an amazing and deeply personal examination of the double-edged sword of subtextual queerness in Claremont’s X-Men; and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and do. -Rachel
I was sitting on the top bunk when I told Rogue I was gay. This was in the spring of my sophomore year of college, so that meant the bunk bed was in Bigelow Hall on the Macalester College campus. I was in the dorm room by myself, it was nighttime, and the fluorescent gleam of the overhead light reflected off of the Jim Lee X-Men triptych poster stuck to the opposite wall with duct tape. I was crying in horrified humiliation, but the look in Rogue’s eye told me I was going to be okay.
To say I probably ought to have figured out my complete lack of heterosexuality a little bit sooner in life is… a vast understatement. I blame Chris Claremont. Chris Claremont – writer of the various X-Men comic book titles during my impressionable adolescence – and the editorial policies of Marvel Comics at the time. You see, I was raised by liberal parents in a middle-class household, and in my household we did not subscribe to stereotypes. One could not judge a character by their looks or mannerisms or skin color or speech. This meant that I got into a fight with a classmate in sixth grade over the sexuality of pop star Boy George. Just because he looked gay and sounded gay and dressed gay didn’t mean he was gay, I said. When presented with the cases that justified and reinforced cultural stereotypes, I insisted that the presumption could not be true.
I had the Boy George conversation in 1985. By 1992, I went to a college where people wore Act-Up T-shirts, sported Queer Nation pins and buttons, and the GLBU quarterly dances were the best party around. In Marvel Comics, Northstar had just come out as gay. Being queer, in real life and comics, was an act imbued with anger and frustration. Even Northstar was angry. But whatever concern I had for social justice issues was abstract and impersonal. I still didn’t connect gayness, or queerness, with my life. I didn’t want to protest the President or march for reproductive rights; I wanted to spend all of my time in moon-eyed devotion to my best friends and/or dorm-mates. In the same way that Kitty Pryde was devoted to Rachel Summers and Illyana Rasputin.
Some of you reading this essay might not be as all-consumingly familiar with Kitty Pryde’s life in the 80s as I am. She was a teenager, a member of the X-Men, living in the mansion-school-headquarters of the team. She had two best friends during this time frame: Illyana from the New Mutants team, and Rachel. Both were teenage girls, for a value of “teenage” that includes time travel, dimension-hopping, demonic aging and alternate universes. This is, after all, superhero comics. Kitty was passionately devoted to each of them.
This devotion took a variety of forms. In New Mutants #35, the New Mutants are all killed by The Beyonder. Kitty is not merely the only person who remembers the team ever existed, we find out in Uncanny X-Men #202 she is also the inheritor of Illyana’s soul-sword and armor. This is due to the special bond the two girls share. The nature of said bond is never explained. One might think that Peter, Illyana’s fanatically protective older brother, might be the person who gets the sword and the memory. Nope. Those go to Kitty, the roommate.
In New Mutants #36, Kitty gets injured, kidnapped and strung up by a demon. To save her friend, Illyana reclaims her demon heritage and the soul-sword. Much teary cradling of each other while declaiming affection ensues.
In all scenes of Rachel and Kitty – X-Men/Alpha Flight #1-2, Uncanny X-Men #188-207, most issues of Excalibur – the two young women touch each other. A lot. They stand closely, they link arms, they hold hands. When Kitty’s life is threatened in Uncanny X-Men #196, Rachel knows it through a hitherto-unmentioned psychic bond she has with Kitty. Rachel goes berserk and nearly murders a man for Kitty’s sake. The running gag in early issues of Excalibur is that any time Kitty gets injured in a fight, Rachel goes nuts, sacrificing everything to save her friend.
These scenes were written under the Comics Code Authority. Structured to be much like the Hays and Breen codes governing movies, the CCA prohibited depictions of sexuality in comics:
“2. Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at or portrayed. Violent love scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
5. Passion or romantic interest shall never be treated in such a way as to stimulate the lower and baser emotions.
6. Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.
7. Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.” 
At the same time that Kitty and her roommates were declaring their soulbonds with each other, Scott Summers of the X-Men was married to Madeline Pryor. They were married, and their relationship was shown through hugging and the occasional kiss. Their most risqué moment, before it was revealed that Madeline was an evil clone programmed to steal Scott’s sperm to make a superchild, was on their honeymoon, where they cuddled while she was wearing a nightie and he was wearing shorts. Let it be made clear: Marvel treated all sexuality as something to be hidden away.
As is so common in queer history, though, an ostensibly fair and even-handed treatment of sexuality in comics makes gay and lesbian relations invisible. The heterosexual pairings among the X-Men could kiss or hug, could call their time together a date. The queers could not. Moreover, there’s that “perversion” clause. Ego-dystonic homosexuality was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1986.  New Mutants #36 was published in February 1986. When it was written, lesbianism was legally and medically a perversion. Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, the writer and artist of New Mutants at the time, could not say that Illyana came to the rescue of her some-time girlfriend Kitty who had been defeated by a demon with a penchant for classic bondage porn. But they could write it, and draw it, without ever acknowledging that is what they were doing. The relationship, the subtext, the highly sexualized imagery, all these things were presented not as queer kink but as friendship and heroism. The kind of relationship any high school girl might have with her best friends.
I cannot in any way speak towards the intentions of Chris Claremont, the artists, editors or anyone involved in the making of X-Men comics during the late 1980s. I don’t know what they meant to tell me. But I know what I saw. I saw romantic love presented as simple friendship. I saw heroism, a kind of knighthood and self-sacrifice, to be what any friendship should expect.
In early 1992, I was re-reading my Excalibur comics, specifically Excalibur #24. Reading these pages again, in the new climate of the GLB-Union, my almost entirely not-heterosexual friends, and constant political awareness, something went “click” in my head. In this issue, Kitty has been separated from her Excalibur teammates. She is staying with a woman named Courtney Ross, an old friend of Captain Britain’s. (This is not actually Courtney, it is a villain, Sat-Yr-9, but Kitty doesn’t know that.) Courtney wakes Kitty with an offer to take Kitty out for her birthday, to cheer her up since all of her friends might be dead. Kitty initially declines, sulkily, until Courtney… well, until she seduces Kitty into saying yes.
Panel 1: Kitty is facing Courtney over the cake as they both sit on the bed. Kitty is wearing pajamas, Courtney is wearing a white dress with a high flared collar and puffy sleeves. Courtney has some pink frosting on her finger. Her finger is in her mouth and she is sucking the frosting off.
COURTNEY: So, there’s no need for lies between us, okay?
KITTY: But I’m afraid I haven’t a clue about what to do with today.
Panel 2: Two-shot of Kitty and Courtney. On the left of the panel Kitty is sitting cross-legged in her pajamas, looking at Courtney. On the right, Courtney is leaning forward, her hand extended towards Kitty. She has frosting on her finger, still, the same finger she was just sucking. The frosting-laden finger is nearly touching Kitty’s mouth.
COURTNEY: Actually, I have a few ideas.
COURTNEY: If you’re willing.
Panel 3: Kitty holds Courtney’s hand gently by the wrist. She is sucking on Courtney’s finger, her chin titled slightly down, eyes looking up and over their hands at Courtney’s face.
KITTY: Lead on, Courtney, I’m all yours.
Panel 4: Both women lean towards each other, their foreheads nearly touching, identical smiles on their faces. In this panel, we cannot see their eyes, just the smiles.
COURTNEY: I’m so glad.
The two proceed to then spend the day together, with Courtney buying Kitty a sports car, exotic dinners in foreign locales, and expensive sexy clothes. Every scene they share speaks of excess, seduction, hinted debauchery, and the possibility of corruption. 
I re-read this scene over and over again. I knew, now, in 1992, what this looked like. This looked like Spin-the-Bottle or Truth-or-Dare, it looked like the drunk and stoned random kissing games people played in the dorms on a weekend night. It looked like a challenge thrown down and accepted. I stared at the art. Courtney or Sat-Yr-9 or whoever was seducing Kitty Pryde. And Kitty was saying yes.
I went through my back issues, flushed and slightly sick, my heart racing. There in the pages of the comics I loved, the characters I loved were… were very possibly loving each other. Every year, Macalester held GLB visibility week, when students chalked the sidewalks with the names of famous queers. My first year I had blinked at some of the names in astonishment, confused. Eleanor Roosevelt? Seriously? And I’d gone to look up some of the evidence. I’d learned, as a consequence, about GLBT invisibility, how queer relationships are unacknowledged in history. I read up on Hollywood’s part in the conspiracy, about the Celluloid Closet. I’d done, in short, what the GLBUnion wanted people to do during queer visibility week – I learned about gay history.
My comics had invisible queers.
What did this mean for me?
I went on a walk around the campus, chain smoking cigarettes in the light spring rain. I could feel something happening inside my head, and I didn’t like it one little bit. I got back to my dorm room and sat on my bunk and stared at the posters lining my walls. The thing unfolding in my mind was taking shape. Kitty and Rachel, Kitty and ‘Yana, they were best friends. I tried to mold my best friendships on their model. The love they felt for each other, the passion, this was how I felt towards my closest female friends. If Kitty Pryde wasn’t straight, if her love for her friends was instead sexual, then… then what did that make me?
A dozen half-remembered conversations floated through my thoughts, mixed with images of comics, images of my life, whirling around. Tears started to form in my eyes, and I flushed bright red in the privacy of my dorm room. Kitty Pryde wasn’t straight. She likely never had been. I… was not straight. I likely never had been. Moreover, it was probably perfectly obvious to dozens of people in my life that I was a complete idiot. A complete, closeted, idiot.
I looked across the room at Rogue, smiling at me from the Jim Lee poster. She looked so cocky, so confident. She also looked really hot, goofy hair notwithstanding. I wiped my eyes and said it. I looked Rogue in the eye and managed a whisper. “I think I’m gay.” She kept smiling.
How was it I had missed this? I looked at the X-Men poster again and tried to examine the admiration I held for the figures on it. When I looked at Rogue, what did I imagine? What thoughts crossed my mind? What did I want to say or do? Do with, or for, or to… Oh. Okay, yes, Sigrid, you really, really ought to have realized your sexual orientation before this point. Why didn’t I? What had stopped me?
The artist for Excalibur #24, Alan Davis, said in his online forum that, “although I knew Chris had some plan for Sat-Yr-9 to corrupt Kitty and that the various Cross-time versions of Saturnyne were attracted to Kitty, I had no idea what, if any, the goal of this relationship was to be. I just played it as a lesbian affair.”  Davis knew something about Claremont’s intentions that I did not know, and drew what he thought a lesbian relationship, with willing participation from both parties, would look like. Kudos to him, it looked rather a lot like the same-sex flirting I saw monthly at the GLBUnion dances – licking of the fingers, et cetera. What I did not know is that Claremont included this sort of girl-on-girl sensuality in all of his comics, hiding it from the CCA as heterosexual female friendship. It wasn’t until 1992 and Davis’s fairly blatant art that I got the hint; actual straight women maybe don’t feel this way about their friends. It was entirely possible, I realized slowly, that finger sucking and licking was not a strictly heterosexual activity among friends.
Rogue didn’t judge me. Neither did my friend Scott, who I called in a not entirely coherent manner to come get me. Scott drove around for hours while we talked about comic books, and Northstar, and whether Nightcrawler (an X-Man who was also a devout Catholic) was also gay, and the gay Catholic monks that Scott had slept with. When I finally managed to squeak out that I might not be straight, Scott lit a cigarette and suggested we go get coffee at a local family restaurant. He politely ignored me, singing along with the radio, while I lit my own cigarette and finished crying.
From December 2002 to May 2003, Marvel published a miniseries called Mekanix. In this series, Kitty Pryde comes out. Claremont finally has her almost kissing Xi’an Coy Manh, a fellow former X-Man who is an out lesbian. Kitty’s bisexuality seems to only exist in Claremont’s mind – no other writer of her since has done anything with this. But I’m okay with that.
I could wish that Kitty talked about it more, or occasionally ogled a woman. But it’s fine with me that she dated Piotr Rasputin. It’s fine with me that she put all romance on the back burner to focus on saving planets, riding through space in bullets, snarking with Emma Frost and trying to not die. I have my Mekanix and my Excalibur. I know that Kitty was struggling with her identity and her sexual orientation all through her high school years as she and her roommates fell in and out of love with each other. I know she came out in college, and that the coming out was a surprise to her. I know in my heart that she told Rogue, and that Rogue shrugged and didn’t care.
I can blame Claremont – and I do – for my not coming out earlier than I did. But I also have to credit him for slipping queers into my comics when the CCA forbade it. When I did finally come out to myself, the X-Men didn’t judge me. They accepted this new form of oddball difference the same way they’d always accepted me; with open hands and an invitation to be a hero once more.
Sigrid Ellis is editor-in-chief of Apex Magazine. She is co-editor of the Hugo-nominated Queers Dig Time Lords and Chicks Dig Comics anthologies. She is editor of the best-selling Pretty Deadly from Image Comics. She lives with her partner, their two homeschooled children, her partner’s boyfriend, and a host of vertebrate and invertebrate pets in Saint Paul, MN.
X-MEN! WELCOME TO FASHION! (Photo courtesy of TV Store Online.)
Recently, the good folks at TV Store Online got in touch and asked if we’d be interested in teaming up with them for a contest, with some of their very cool X-Men swag as prizes. (Note: No official endorsements going on here. We haven’t encountered this gear in person, but it looks pretty damn cool.)
We’re big fans of stealth cosplay–costume-evocative or referential outfits that can pass as regular clothes–but, as lovers of incidental details and minutiae, we’re even bigger fans of plainclothes cosplay–cosplaying superheroes or other normally costumed characters out of their iconic costumes. And what better time to indulge in both than the weeks around Halloween?
SUBMIT YOUR ENTRY BY THE END OF THE DAY ON FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7, FOLLOWING THE INSTRUCTIONS BELOW. We’ll pick our two favorites (overall, not necessarily one from each category), and announce the winners on November 9, here and in the as-mentioned post of Episode 30!
HERE’S WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR:
Show us how you’re sneaking mutant superheroics into your office, school, or day-to-day life! If you’re unfamiliar with stealth cosplay–or just need some inspiration–we recommend checking out the Stealth Cosplay and Stealth Cosplay Week tags on Tumblr.
Your submission to xplainthexmen(at)gmail(dot)com should include:
The subject line “HALLOWEEN CONTEST – STEALTH”
A photo of you in costume.
A picture of the specific costume or character you’re referencing.
The name or handle you’d like us to post your submission under.
Any additional notes about the outfit you’d like us to consider when we make our decision.
Keep it subtle and versatile. Ideally, you’re sending in something that’ll be immediately recognizable to fellow fans, and fly straight over the head of your boss/teacher/mom.
Own a plaid suit? YOUR TIME HAS COME! You can either replicate a non-costume outfit from the comics or other X-media, or theorize what your favorite X-man wears on their day off. We’ll be posting some comics clips and costume photos for inspiration and reference over the next week!
Your submission to xplainthexmen(at)gmail(dot)com should include:
The subject line “HALLOWEEN CONTEST – PLAINCLOTHES”
A photo of you in costume
EITHER a picture of the specific outfit you’re referencing OR a brief description of why you decided that’s what your favorite X-Man wears off-duty.
The name or handle you’d like us to post your submission under.
Any additional notes about the outfit you’d like us to consider when we make our decision.
We frown on use of costume and logo t-shirts and the equivalent, although Xavier School gear is probably negotiable.
Don’t rely too heavily on a recognizable accessory–red sunglasses alone do not a Cyclops make, dig?
We will be judging based on your costume or outfit, not your personal physical resemblance to the character as drawn or portrayed in other media. We are also 100% down with rule-63/crossplay submissions.
Per previous specifications: Deadpool does not count as an X-Man. Namor does.
Be creative. Have fun.
Submissions are due by 11 PM Pacific (GMT-8) on Friday, November 7. Late submissions won’t be considered, period.
FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES ABOVE, or your submission will be fed to the Memory Eels.
You need to be 18 to play.
EDITED TO ADD: You need to be in the United States to qualify for the prizes.
In which we welcome back Greg Rucka, Rachel makes a valiant effort to read Secret Wars, Earth-200500 is still the best Earth, Kitty Pryde and Wolverine is kind of dodgy, Ogūn is low-rent Mister Sinister, Miles talks about empathy, Greg has an Edna Mode moment, and we all love Kitty Pryde.
Kitty’s Fairy Tale
Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #1-6
Some really dodgy stuff
The best Kitties Pryde
Smart kids in fiction
Why we love Shadowcat
Point-of-entry characters and gender
Our favorite new podcast
Next Week: Cyclops is the worst at vacations.
You can find a visual companion to the episode – and links to recommended reading – on our blog.
Rachel here! As some of you astute viewers noticed, there was no Storm #4 review in last week’s video reviews. We did actually record one–it’s just that I then failed to edit it into the video, and then deleted the raw files, as I do.
In my defense, there were ten books this round, and I’d been back from New York for about 90 minutes. But the point remains: No Storm #4.
The silver lining is that, instead of a 90-second video review, you now get a significantly longer written review of Storm #4–and on Thursday, we’ll be posting a bonus mid-week minisode featuring a con-floor interview with Greg Pak about Storm, Yukio, and more.
So, without further ado: Storm #4!
Like most of the last few weeks’ worth of X-books, this is a Death of Wolverine tie-in, and it’s one of the better ones. At this point in the series, Storm and Wolverine had been lovers for a while, but even without that note, it’s a really terrifically Storm beat, hitting that balance between tranquil control and raw emotionality that’s always been a hallmark of the character done right.
The rough (low-spoiler) premise of this particular story is that Storm intercepts a message from Yukio, about something Logan was supposed to help her with, and goes in his stead. It’s a good idea, one that echoes their early dynamic–Storm again unmoored, Yukio left suddenly in the lurch by Logan. And, again, the parts of the story staged around Logan’s absence are awesome: a lot of very deliberate echoes of Storm and Yukio’s first meeting, and emotional beats that hit and stick.
Less so, the second half of the issue. Recall: this is a series that is all about returning to significant players and stages in Storm’s history, and this particular issue–this arc, from the look of it–hearkens back to one of the weakest, a four-issue 2004 X-Treme X-Men story called “Storm: The Arena.” So far, writer Greg Pak has done a great job addressing and reworking some of the rougher pieces of Storm’s past–that’s something we talk about at some length in the interview that’ll be going up tomorrow. This, unfortunately, isn’t one of them.
Now, I am clearly biased: my Yukio Feelings are emphatic and well documented, and my expectations for both the character in general and her appearance in this book in particular are perhaps unrealistically high. And for the first few pages we see her on–when it’s just her and Storm–she’s on point.
The problem is that I don’t entirely buy the way Pak is using her in the larger story. Maybe this is a more cynical Yukio; maybe there are upcoming windows into her journey from the version I recognize to the one we’re seeing here. But for now, she rings hollow: a means to propel a storyline that it itself a somewhat forced reminder of an arc I’d honestly just as soon forget.
I’m staying optimistic: Pak’s a smart, nuanced writer, and this isn’t a bad story–it’s just fallen short of my–again, probably inflated–expectations. And the first half of the issue is good enough to leave plenty of room for the second half to still be reasonably strong while falling significantly short of what comes before.
But that’s the story–let’s talk about art! Series artist Victor Ibañez–notably absent from #3–is back on the book, and Miles and I are both really excited about that. He’s a terrific artist, but, more, his Storm is one of the best versions of the character we’ve seen.
There’s a tendency in comics–superhero comics in particular–for artists to make female characters pretty instead of interesting. That’s not to say a character can’t be both–but there are serious limits to what you can do with facial expressions and body language if you’re not willing to let women look anything other than model-perfect; on top of which the adherence to specific and narrow cultural standards for beauty have contributed to the significant problem of whitewashing in superhero books.
Ibañez’s Storm is beautiful, but above that, she’s expressive. Distinctive. Her face–and this is a tremendous and frustrating rarity for Storm–isn’t anglicized. Her anger and anguish and joy are raw and believable. Her face and body are narrative. Ibañez is a strong if not particularly standout artist in other areas–layouts, action–but his character art? This is our Storm.
For more on Storm–and Storm–tune in Thursday, when we’ll be posting a bonus midweek minisode: a NYCC floor interview with Storm writer Greg Pak!