45 – A Woman Who Could Fly

Art by David Wynne. Prints, cards, and travel mugs available until 3/1/2015 in the shop, or contact David for the original.

Art by David Wynne. Prints, cards, and travel mugs available until 3/1/2015 in the shop, or contact David for the original.

In which we discard our regularly scheduled programming to focus on Storm and Lifedeath II; no one draws motion like Barry Windsor-Smith; Storm goes up to eleven; and we really wish we had the frame of reference to place this story in the larger context of diaspora literature.

X-Plained:

  • Forge
  • The Adversary
  • Uncanny X-Men #198 (Lifedeath II)
  • Storm
  • The narrative impact of sexualization
  • Barry Windsor-Smith
  • Extreme weather in comics
  • Hallucinatory X-Men
  • Storm in adaptation
  • The Storm elevator pitch
  • Our Storm dream casting
  • Mjnari
  • Artist editions
  • Colonialism
  • Storm as a liminal figure

NEXT WEEK: The New Mutants Go to the Arena!


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Buy prints of this week’s illustration at our shop, or contact David Wynne for the original!

31 comments

  1. Zachary Adams says:

    So at this rate, y’all are about 4-6 weeks away from the first arc of X-Factor, right? I’m really excited to hear you talk about that for some reason.

    • Rachel says:

      I am really excited to talk about it! It is one of my favorite series.

      • Zachary Adams says:

        From around Fall of the Mutants to the end of the Simonson run may be my favorite X-book ever, but it starts off as a total mess. Simonson’s acknowledgement that the initial premise was badly flawed was an important step, and I love that they eventually became the ‘celebrity mutants’ a decade before Milligan and Allred. But that first six issues is hard to get thru for me.

        • Greg says:

          The worst part of the initial premise was how they deblued Beast for it. And then the whole Beast is dumb thing. Basically it took X-Factor forever to get Beast right.

  2. David Katzin says:

    I’ve been struggling with my throat for the better part of the last week, too. In fact, I initially scheduled off tonight for an Oscar party but decided to use it for self-inforced vocal rest. Get well soon, Rachel!

  3. philosopop says:

    my favourite storm story is Fall of the Mutants. Powerless, with Forge, being…human.

  4. thomas dewitt says:

    One of my favorite Storm stories,is collected in the “From the ashes” trade paperback.

  5. Tom says:

    I really, really agree about Frenzy being a great and underused character. I only know her from Kieron Gillen’s run, basically. Hope to hear you talk more about her at some point.

  6. Greg says:

    My definitive Storm is Storm: Leader of the X-men. Somewhat from the Claremont/Smith and Outback eras, but mostly from Xtreme X-men, vol. 1, strangely enough. I think Storm is at her best the more distance she has from Cyclops. It’s no coincidence that my favorite eras are ones where she has kind of a rogue strike team that operates out of somewhere other than the X-Mansion. Even the current period of Storm has this dynamic too. I’d love to see Cyclops die and have Storm assume his role as the leader of not just the X-men, but all of mutantkind.

  7. gary says:

    A definitional story of Storm for me is the Ann Nocenti “What If Storm Remained a Thief” (What If Vol 2, 40) and I think it comes down to your breakdown of Storm’s character. What defines her is that liminal area she occupies between Goddess and Human, the native and the modern, the shaman and the every-person. What was interesting about the Nocenti story was that it showed what would happen if Storm never became the Goddess. In this story, she remains a thief and grows up to bigger heists, but still remains a “gentlewoman thief” in that she has a code and a mentor that she trusts. This story is Storm meets “Paper Moon.”

    I love this story because it is an adult Storm trying to come to grips with accepting her powers and her place in the world. It is a protracted story of Ororo the human becoming a Goddess rather than the other way around. It shuffles that dynamic of Thief/Goddess/Human to Human/Theif/Goddess.

    – l.k.

    • Jennifer Wolff says:

      This was the first issue that came to mind for me also. I hadn’t realized it was penned by Nocenti, which helps explain how an issue of What If? managed to feel so weighty. I read it at a time when her past as a thief, orphan status, and claustrophobia weren’t mentioned very often, so this story was also very informative for me, despite it being an alt-U.

  8. Scott Bennie says:

    Call me crazy, but…

    For me, the best adapted media Storm was in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.

    It’s a ridiculously dumb episode, but the scene where she ascends into the sky, and brings down the lightning on Juggernaut, without saying a word, was pretty unique for its day, being a sequence told only with visuals at a time when American animation was pretty much badly written radio with pictures.

    As for Storm-centric stories, I can’t really argue with Lifedeath. Sadly, Lifedeath II was probably the last X-story that blew me away before I stopped reading the book.

  9. Justin Kaye says:

    Listening to Rachel’s yearning for an artist’s edition, I’m a bit shocked there was no mention of Lifedeath 3, or as it eventually saw print, ‘Adastra in Africa’.
    http://barrywindsor-smith.com/studio/adastranews.html

    As for definitive Storm stories, I’d nominate Uncanny 170–where the crux of the issue isn’t the climax of the story, but rather one single panel that says it all:
    https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2931/14122398828_d31f56c2d3.jpg

    While the entire sequence and story is masterful, in panel 1 our focus is on the goddess’ bare feet as they–finally and naturally–touch the ground. She stalks her opponent like a jungle cat, and the crowd’s form blurs together to become tribal flames. Storm has been losing her illusions about her identity and now, here, underground, forced into tribal combat, denied use of her powers, she reclaims her heritage and humanity–her roots to her culture and potential without any trappings of superheroics or godhood.

  10. Mike Loughlin says:

    Yeah, Lifedeath I & II are THE Storm stories. My definitive Storm moment outside of those comics is the scene in Uncanny X-Men 142. Wolverine is about to stab Pyro and Storm stops him. “Sheathe those claws or use them on me.” Wolverine snarls back and Storm puts him in his place. Strength, respect for life (even the life of a bad guy), and trying to make her teammate better all in one scene.

    I started reading the Storm series on Marvel Unlimited and it’s great so far. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Re X-Women of color: I’ve always been disappointed by Marvel’s unwillingness to give new characters the space and time they need to develop. The creators throw a ton of New X-Men, New Warriors, New Avengers, etc. at the wall and very few of them stick. It’s unfortunate that so many of the characters that fade away are people of color. I’m a huge fan of Cecelia Reyes and wish she’d become a regular. Also, I thought Angel Salvadore (and Beak) had potential but may have baffled post-Morriso writers.

  11. Jemail Neeramani says:

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I was absolutely thrilled that you reviewed/discussed Life-Death I and II, as these two issues were/are indeed my definitive Storm stories. I was misty-eyed when you spoke of Storm’s role and reaction in safely delivering Shani’s baby…once again reconnecting with life in a whole other way despite having that fundamental connection severed. Again, thank you, so very much. (I never did catch that “champagne reference” until you mentioned it…decades later, I am still seeing this story with new eyes.)

  12. thumb says:

    I actually really love Barry Windsor-Smith’s colours. I think he really works amazingly with the limitations of the time. Everything he does uses approximately 8000 more colours than he can physically have access to. It’s always refreshing.

    As for Storm, I weirdly don’t have any specifically defining stories for her. Unless you count Life & Death 1 which I read through X-Men Classic. Never read the second, though.

    Miles mentions how she works as a link between tradition and technology. That got me thinking. I realised that for me, she’s more the connection between African people and “The West”. For us, historically, that’s been a relationship defined by either abuse, paternalism, or both. When Ororo shows up, she subverts that. Even though she is American, I always find that hard to remember. It seems to me that, to herself, she is an African who happens to have American citizenship. When she intervenes with affairs on the continent, she’s dealing with affairs that affect her personally, not stepping into other people’s business. Especially as I’ve also always had the impression that she always visits Egypt and Kenya on her days off, just like Wolverine is (of course) always driving a motorcycle in the Canadian wilderness while on vacation. And Cyclops is probably somewhere lecturing somebody on responsibility. This is where they feel at home.

    And that’s what’s great about Storm. Part of her character, as you’ve said, is that she’s unapologetically herself. And regal, and strong, and just incredibly awesome. She is these things even just by being herself. And whenever I see xenophobes talking about kicking out foreigners (and they’re gettting a lot of political traction in Europe), I like picturing her hearing it, and not giving a shit. Because they is not the boss of she. Storm has more important things to care about than your small-minded bullshit. And if you decide to take matters into your own hands and threaten people, so will she and you will not like it. Now go home and mind your manners.

    Storm is the greatest, yo.

  13. LeVar says:

    Loved this detailed exploration of LifeDeath I and II! Storm is my favorite character in comicdom and it’s refreshing to hear her examined with such appreciation!

    In regards to the transformation from street-thief to goddess of life, I think it is important to remember that while Claremont certainly wrote the vast majority of who we know Storm to be today, he did not create her. Wein’s and Cockrum’s Storm was not born in America and orphaned in Cairo. She was from Kenya, those people worshiping her were her people. There was no trickery or subterfuge like Pak’s Storm #3 intimated(I could not buy that issue with such blasphemy).

    If you lived in a place where mutants as a genetic anomaly was not known, and you have a young girl flying around with white hair making lightning bolts pop off her hands and bringing life sustaining rain in the midst of a killer drought, why not worship her as a goddess? And if you were that little girl and did not know a little gene in your genetic makeup was the cause of that power, why not go with that role?

  14. Gary says:

    Best Storm comic is Uncanny 216. Makes her out as the total badass she is. laying traps and kicking the crap out of stonewall and commando. Telling them she will kill them if they don’t give themselves up. SO GOOD. also during the period of her best costume.

  15. Rey J. says:

    This may just be my favorite episode of this podcast (and that’s saying a lot, because this is one of the best podcasts I’ve ever heard!). Storm is such an amazing character, and you never get to see that in any of the movies, or even the cartoon series. I have to agree that even though she was one of the “heavy-hitters” of the 90s cartoon series, I felt like only the aloof, goddess aspect of her personality was shown. LifeDeath parts 1 & 2 have always been her best stories, and they show that what makes Storm so amazing isn’t even her incredible elemental powers. Storm to me is what most people think of when they talk about Wonder Woman. She is the definitive strong, beautiful, layered, warm, no-nonsense character that I wish more female superheroes would get to be treated like. She is easily the best thing to come out of X-Men, in my opinion.

  16. Defenestrator says:

    I cannot help but find the whole Goddess thing uncomfortable at this point. It’s something that seems more than a little patronizing, and I would, frankly, like to see excised from the character, as Storm works just fine as a metaphorical goddess without having been the subject of actual worship.

    It ain’t gonna happen, not in the comics, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it gone from the cinematic version…if they bother going into her backstory at all.

    I’m not optimistic there, either.

    • Rachel says:

      It’s sort of happened in the comics–not gone altogether, but soft-retconned to address specifically that point in Pak’s Storm run.

  17. Or says:

    First time I encountered Storm, like many, was with the 90s cartoon (dubbed I should note) and that diffidently colored the way I hear her non day-to-day voice and the way she talk in the comics – and is a large part of the reasons I really disliked the way she’s in the movies. When Storm speaks or makes a statement, esp. at a state of cold anger – it should be a thing of awe, a single emanating presence within deafening silence.
    The first X-Men title I was actually reading from the start was X-Treme X-Men (the one by Chris Claremont from the early 00’s) and I to some extent that is my definitive Storm, at least as being defiant and an inspiring leader (and diffidently not straight). One aspect of her powers that is in that pretrial (and also in X-Men: The End that sort of wraps up X-Treme X-Men) and is the reason I use defiant is her portrayal is respect to damage to her own body – and her pushing past that to get back up and keep going. Not to allowing both the physical cost to herself to stop her nor to allow whatever damage she endured to become something that define her down the line.
    Thank you for taking the time to focus on this issue and on this character.

  18. David says:

    Because I was never a big X-Men reader as a kid I only got scattered impressions of Storm through the cartoon and the X-Men Classic reprints — which by complete coincidence I started reading with #185, when Gyrich shot her with Forge’s anti-mutant laser, and kept up with through…I’m not sure what issue it was, exactly, but it involved Ororo beating the crap out of some gang members in an alley using a steel girder, and then scaring the Brotherhood into submission by posing like she had powers again. So “my” Storm is the de-powered, Mohawk-and-leather badass we’re hearing about in the show right now.

  19. B says:

    to be honest it’s just great to see Storm recognized as a great character. I feel like Storm always gets oversimplified or forgotten in conversations about the x-men. You both are so passionate about Storm in a non-exotification way and it’s really refreshing.

  20. […] Stokes of the Rachel & Miles X-Plain the X-Men podcast, who not only took the time to have an entire episode about one of these issues, but made the suggestion in that episode that the issue and the character had rich possibilities […]

  21. […] As Rachel Edidin and Miles Stokes suggest in Episodes #45 of Rachel & Miles X-Plain the X-Men, ,The Woman Who Could Fly,” which covers Uncanny X-Men #198 (1985) the issue “Lifedeath II” appears in, Storm is such a […]

  22. Manolis Vamvounis says:

    I find it frustrating how bland and uninteresting Storm is being portrayed in most comics from the past 25 years. She has defaulted back to the Distant Goddess.

    That said, here are some of my favourite Storm moments from this era:
    -from the start of the Joe Kelly run, he handled the feud between Storm and Marrow in spectacular form, making Storm realize she was being petty and even… childish in her treatment of the child Marrow. (this was around X-Men #71-72 i guess)
    -from Brian Wood’s HUGELY under-appreciated adjectiveless X-Men run, this is the definitive modern Storm for me. The highlight is the adversity introduced inside the team, Storm actively going against Cyclops’ doctrine and a battle between Storm and Colossus inside the X-Jet, with Colossus throwing Storm against the side of the ship, but Storm still facing him defiantly.

    As for favourite all-time moments: powerless Storm in the sheets (LifeDeath I), Storm freeing herself during the Nanny kidnapping, Storm calmly walking away from the defeated Callisto in the original Morlocks story and finally, the Whilce Portacio Storm in the rain cover from UXM circa 385-395

  23. […] Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men Episode 45, “A Woman Who Could Fly,” the casting duo go over many things: Forge and the Adversary, the narrative impact of […]

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