Saturday, October 8, 2011
My Favorite Marvel: Kitty Pryde
Like Jean Grey before her, Kitty Pryde has suffered her way through a bunch of code names. When she joined the X-Men she was originally called Sprite. Professor Charles Xavier, however, would have named her Ariel. Later, the name Shadowcat would stick for quite a few years, but whereas Storm was often called Storm in the field, Shadowcat was still usually called Kitty Pryde in the field. But none of those names needed to stick. It was the person of Kitty Pryde who has resonated with readers throughout the years. Of all of the young side-kicks of Wolverine that have been tried out - Rogue, Jubilee, etc. - Kitty is easily the best. As a matter of fact, I kind of wish that the X-Men films had developed their stories from her point of view rather than Wolverine's. And I'm not the only one who loves Kitty Pryde - Joss Whedon claims that his quintessential female power character Buffy the Vampire Slayer is largely based on Kitty Pryde. As you probably know, Whedon would go on to write Astonishing X-Men, a series which spent a great deal of time developing Kitty Pryde.
In many ways, I think that Kitty Pryde is Chris Clairmont's re-casting of Stan Lee's Jean Grey. Stan Lee wanted a gorgeous Ginger-type, status quo, all-American, WASPy, all-the-pretty-ones-are-redheads kind of girl, Clairmont gave us a girl-next-door, Mary Ann, a Jew who is not over-sexed (which is uncommon in the comic book industry) and who looks as young as she actually is. Whereas Jean Grey has always been fully-developed, both in terms of her adult body and her incredible powers, Kitty Pryde is a scrawny child when we meet her and she doesn't really know how to put her powers to use effectively. I do have to give Stan Lee some credit here. Giving Jean Grey the kind of power that could overwhelm anyone else on the team was really a fantastic way of literally empowering women, but she was often submissive to the leadership of the boys. Kitty Pryde has always had more on the ball than those around her. She's young and inquisitive, and without having any kind of mind-enhancement abilities, she's highly intelligent. What she lacks in great power, she makes up for in thinking outside of the box. This makes her accessible and it makes her the model of what every girl in the nation could become.
I think that Kitty Pryde did for the X-Men what Peter Parker / Spider-man has done for the rest of the Marvel universe. With Kitty, we began to realize that there was more to life than saving the world. You had to get good grades. You had to worry about boys. As a mutant who is also a child you deal with both mutant problems and the problems of coming of age. This is another way in which the character of Kitty Pryde became universal. When neither the X-Men nor the New Mutants felt they could relate to Kitty, she felt alone and hurt. We've all felt that at some point. I think that Brian Michael Bendis emphasizes this side of Kitty Pryde the best when he includes her in his Ultimate Spider-man books. After Kitty leaves the X-Men, she begins to go to school with Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy. She becomes involved in the love triangles with Peter Parker (because Colossus is gay in the Ultimate Marvel universe).