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X-Men

Film Review by John Demetry

Halle Berry, James Marsden and Famke Janssen star in X-Men Queer teens get a kick out of X-Men comic books. I know I used to, with its mutant social outcasts hiding their super powers and wearing colorful, tight outfits. The archnemesis, Magneto, was particularly attractive. His righteous fury in response to mutant oppression seemed a direct extension of my own adolescent sexual angst.

Because of this adolescent obsession with the X-Men comics, the prospect of director Bryan Singer bringing the X-Men to the screen intrigued me. Singer has always made sublimated homosexuality the theme of his interesting, yet confused, films (Public Access, The Usual Suspects, and Apt Pupil).

Now, the queer press has prepared readers to poke through Singer's X-Men for gay-gay references. The film doesn't disappoint. Just as Singer encourages viewers to locate the X motifs in the set designs, he turns the queer subtext into a game of hide-and-seek.

In my favorite example, an X-Man, Cyclops (James Marsden), shares a series of stares with a little boy who smiles just as his mother angrily shoos him away. Singer poses the question: Is gaydar a superpower? A machine used by Patrick Stewart's psychic Professor X locates other mutants; it visualizes gaydar in a flashy sequence utilizing effects found in Run Lola Run and TV commercials.

Related Stories from the GayToday Archive:
Star Wars: The Legend Continues

Review: The X Files: Fight the Future

Review: South Park

Related Sites:
X-Men Official Site
GayToday does not endorse related sites.

But for all his references to the personal and political aspects of queer experience, Singer muddles everything. He returns to the oppressed as oppressor theme of Apt Pupil in his characterization of Magneto (played by Ian McKellan in a gloss on his equally thin but campier, creepier turn as the Nazi in Apt Pupil).

It opens with the young Magneto in a concentration camp in 1944. A violent separation from his mother triggers his magnetic powers--a startling pop reimagining of both the historical atrocity of the Holocaust and the rupture that occurs between parents and adolescent children.

A letdown from this promising opening, the older Magneto's genocidal response to mutant persecution is a simplification. Singer uses this to inform his specious concerns, especially with its equation to Malcolm X. Magneto (and Singer) abuses Malcom's famous quote: "By any means necesssary" (a conceit lampooned in John Waters' great new film, Cecil B. DeMented).

The only developed characterization is Rogue, a high school student played by Anna Paquin. A startling sequence introduces her mutant powrs when her first kiss sends the boy into a three-week coma. Paquin alone seems to understand how to extract the human poetry from the pulp material.

While Singer holds onto an adolescent's view of political struggles, the young Paquin displays a mature understanding of adolescent confusions. In the scenes where she leeches life out of those she loves by her touch, she emotionalizes Singer's digital effects overload. Halle Berry is Storm in X-Men

Despite his film-school, artsy-fartsy background, Singer lacks the visionary spirit of a great pop director. He fails to deepen the shallow comic book material made meaningful by individual adolescent imagination; the very process that would have been examined by a Brian De Palma (as in his lyrical Carrie and, especially, The Fury).

Singer's skills are limited to gaydar. He lacks the gift to give aesthetic form to the profound truth that the queer experience is the universal experience, the real superpower some people call art.



© 1997-2000 BEI



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Northstar

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This article is about the Marvel Comics superhero. For other uses, see Northstar (disambiguation).
Northstar


Cover to Uncanny X-Men #392. Art by Salvador Larroca.

Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance Uncanny X-Men #120 (April 1979)
Created by Chris Claremont
John Byrne
Characteristics
Real name Jean-Paul Beaubier
Affiliations The Children, The 198, Front de Libération du Québec
Alpha Flight
Secret Defenders
X-Men
HYDRA (brainwashed)
Xavier Institute faculty
Alpha Squadron
Cell Combattre
Abilities Superhuman speed; flight; tough skin; light generation

Northstar (Jean-Paul Beaubier) is a Marvel Comics superhero, a member of Alpha Flight and the X-Men. He is best known as one of the first openly gay superheroes in American comic books. Created by writer Chris Claremont and artist/co-writer John Byrne, Northstar first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #120 (April 1979).

A French Canadian mutant, Northstar possesses the ability to alter his molecules, allowing for flight and superhuman speed. Along with his sister Aurora, he was a founding member of the Canadian superhero team Alpha Flight. He later joined the X-Men.

Creator John Byrne originally meant for Northstar to be gay and he, and subsequent Alpha Flight writers, often implied it. After his homosexuality was revealed in 1992, it was still several years before the issue was regularly addressed openly.

Contents
  • 1 Character history
    • 1.1 Origin
    • 1.2 Alpha Flight
    • 1.3 X-Men
    • 1.4 Death and resurrection
  • 2 Northstar's homosexuality
  • 3 Powers and abilities
  • 4 Ultimate Northstar
    • 4.1 Character history
  • 5 Age of Apocalypse
  • 6 Trivia
  • 7 Appearances in other media
  • 8 External links

[edit]

Character history
[edit]

Origin

Jean-Paul Beaubier was born to a French Canadian family, but his parents died in an automobile accident when he was a young child. He and his twin sister, Jeanne-Marie, were separated. Jean-Paul was adopted, and became an angry and rebellious youth.

As a young adult, Beaubier joined the Front de Libération du Québec, a terrorist group that fought for Quebec's independence from Canada. He soon became disgusted with the group's techniques and renounced terrorism.

Prior to his debut as a superhero, Beaubier competed as a professional skier. His skiing career was cut short, however, when the public discovered that he was a mutant super-speedster.

Beaubier then joined Alpha Flight, a superhero group financed by the Canadian government, where he reunited with his sister Jeanne-Marie, who had taken the name Aurora.

[edit]

Alpha Flight

Jean-Paul took the name Northstar and had a lengthy career with Alpha Flight. Beaubier was often stubborn and hot-tempered and he often clashed with his teammates, especially Aurora's love interest, Sasquatch. This drama was complicated by Aurora's struggles with dissociative identity disorder.

For a brief time, Northstar quit Alpha Flight and became an Olympic skier, but was forced to return his medals when it was revealed that he was a mutant and may have been subconsciously using his powers to give him an edge.

Northstar in the uniform he wore after joining the X-Men. Art by Salvador Larroca.

After returning to the team, Northstar adopted an orphaned baby named Joanne, who was infected with HIV. After the child died, Northstar revealed to his teammates and the public that he was gay.

Recently an alternate Northstar from relatively early in his Alpha Flight career was brought to the present-day with his teammates, apart from Sasquatch. At last report, this group was continuing to act as Alpha Flight in the present day.

[edit]

X-Men

After Alpha Flight disbanded, Northstar wrote a memoir called Born Normal about his experiences as a mutant and a homosexual. During the Eve of Destruction storyline, the X-Men's Jean Grey recruited him for an emergency team of X-Men, formed in order to rescue Professor X from their arch-enemy Magneto.

At the request of Professor X, Northstar later joined the X-Men on a full-time basis and became a mentor to his own squad of young mutants, Alpha Squadron. During his time at Xavier's, he formed a close friendship with Annie Ghazikhanian, a former nurse at the Xavier Institute.

[edit]

Death and resurrection

HYDRA formed an alliance with the cults the Dawn of the White Light and the Hand. The groups had been recruiting new agents from the superhero community by killing and resurrecting them, brainwashing them in the process. The X-Man Wolverine was one of their victims, and was brainwashed into becoming a HYDRA assassin. Wolverine went on several terrorist missions before attacking the X-Men. During the battle, Northstar was killed when Wolverine tried stabbing Kitty Pryde, who phased through his claws. Wolverine was then subdued and turned over to S.H.I.E.L.D. One of the New Mutants, Elixir, managed to heal Northstar's wounds but was unable to revive him.

Northstar as a brainwashed agent of HYDRA, alongside Elektra at the head of a legion of Hand and HYDRA-brainwashed characters.

S.H.I.E.L.D. wanted Northstar to be decapitated, the only way to prevent a resurrection, but the X-Men were against it; wanting to contact Northstar's family first. Before anything could happen, Northstar's body was stolen by Elektra, another brainwashed victim (though it would later be revealed she was faking it to infliltrate the cults and the Hand). Later, a resurrected Northstar led an attack with Elektra on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, crippling S.H.I.E.L.D. and putting Nick Fury in critical condition.

Wolverine, who had been deprogrammed of the brainwashing, went on a killing spree to take down the cults and kill all the active members. Realizing that Northstar's predicament was his fault, Wolverine tried helping his former teammate. Northstar refused and Wolverine was attacked by the other Dawn of the White Light mutants and taken to their base. There, Wolverine activated a trio of decommissioned Sentinels from S.H.I.E.L.D. and had them kill all the mutants except for Northstar. When Northstar refused to tell Wolverine where HYDRA’s command center was, Wolverine knocked him out and called S.H.I.E.L.D. to pick him up and psychologically "deprogram" him.

Although the "deprogramming" procedure that was used on Wolverine was deemed a success, this would not be the case for Northstar. In Wolverine #31, a recovering Nick Fury was seen making a report to the X-Men's Kitty Pryde that Northstar's body had never been found after Elektra had stolen it. Fury explained that he was presumed to be deceased, even though Northstar was very much alive (and apparently insane) and in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody.

It's been mentioned by Mike Carey, Northstar will be appearing in X-Men #189 and #190. He is described as being "in a very dark and strange place, psychologically - far from recovered from what the Hand did to him." Further, "Aurora will also figure in these events." Also, "Northstar is in #189 and #190, and after that he won't be seen for a while. But we kind of move him on to a new point, and he will be back."

Also figuring into Northstar's future are the mysterious group of superhumans known as The Children, who have recently abducted him from the S.H.I.E.L.D. holding facility where he was being kept to use him and his sister to kill their enemies, Sabretooth and the X-Men.

In X-Men #190, Northstar and Aurora attack the school under the command of The Children, making quick work of several X-Men, notably Iceman and his student Anole, whose encounter with Northstar briefly shakes him from mind-control. Leaving Aurora to battle the X-Men, Northstar begins a search of Sabretooth before encountering Rogue. As Rogue uses Northstar's powers against him, the two battle in high-speed until Cable appears and psychically subdues Northstar.

[edit]

Northstar's homosexuality
Art from Alpha Flight #106, by Mark Pacella.

On his website's message board, comic book writer and artist John Byrne said that, while planning the Alpha Flight series that was launched in 1983, the characters had little to no depth at the time, and so he decided to flesh them out.

"One of the things that popped immediately into my head was to make one of them gay," Byrne stated. "I had recently read an article in Scientific American on what was then (the early 80s) fairly radical new thinking on just what processes caused a person to be homosexual, and the evidence was pointing increasingly to it being genetic and not environmental factors. So, I thought, it seemed like it was time for a gay superhero, and since I was being 'forced' to make ALPHA FLIGHT a real series, I might as well make one of them gay." Byrne went through the cast members deciding which character would be an appropriate choice. "I settled on Jean-Paul, and the moment I did I realized it was already there. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I must have been considering making him gay before I 'decided' to do so. Of course, the temper of the times, the Powers That Were and, naturally, the Comics Code would not let me come right out and state that Jean-Paul was homosexual, but I managed to 'get the word out' even with those barriers."

Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter had decreed that there were to be no gay characters in the Marvel universe and prevented writers from having their characters be gay. Byrne was able to imply that Northstar was gay, but could not state it explicitly.

Northstar as depicted in the Marvel Universe Swimsuit Edition 1995. Art by P. Craig Russell.

When Bill Mantlo succeeded Byrne as Alpha Flight writer, he began a storyline in which Northstar became infected with a strange illness. Mantlo intended to reveal that the illness was AIDS and then kill off the character in Alpha Flight #50. However, Marvel's editors intervened and Mantlo was forced to change the ending: instead of dying of AIDS, Northstar was revealed to be a magical being whose illness was the result of prolonged separation from his homeland. Peter David later described this incident as "Northstar's not gay, he's just a fairy" - a double entendre of which Mantlo was most likely well aware since, in addition to its mystical connotations, "fairy" can also be a derogatory term for gay men. The fairy retcon was retconned back out by later Alpha Flight writers, though what Northstar's original illness had been was not addressed.

In Alpha Flight #106, published in 1992, some years after Shooter had left Marvel, writer Scott Lobdell was finally given permission to allow Northstar to utter the words "I am gay". The event generated some publicity in the mainstream press and Alpha Flight #106 sold out in a week, despite the fact that the series was not a very popular title.

Northstar's coming out was controversial and as a result, little mention was made of his sexual orientation for the remainder of the first Alpha Flight series, which ended in 1994. Though it wasn't ignored entirely, one subplot dealt with his sister Aurora's reaction; the "Aurora" personality was accepting, while the "Jeanne-Marie" one was not. A subsequent mini-series starring Northstar, which dealt with his search for the missing Aurora, also dodged the issue.

While at least three background characters in the classic 1986 mini-series Watchmen were gay, making it the first series to feature openly gay characters, the characters Northstar, Mystique and Destiny were all created years beforehand. And even though the editors at Marvel would not let it be openly stated, these characters were intended from almost the beginning to be gay or bisexual.

By 2001, society's views on homosexuality had changed considerably. In that year, Northstar's sexual orientation played a large role in the storyline in which he joined a temporary team of X-Men and faced another recruit, Paulie Provenzano, who was extremely homophobic. Though the two began their mission as enemies, they eventually made peace with one another.

When Northstar joined the X-Men as a regular member in 2002, writers were less hesitant to address his sexual orientation. Northstar even experienced a crush on the long-time X-Man Iceman, though he soon dropped it when it became obvious Iceman was heterosexual.

One of his students in the Alpha Squadron, Victor Borkowski, the mutant Anole, looked up to him as a gay role model.

[edit]

Powers and abilities
Northstar and Aurora display their enhanced powers. From X-Men #189. Art by Chris Bachalo color by studio F's Antonio Fabela.

Northstar can move and fly at superhuman speed. He can channel a portion of the kinetic energy of the atomic motion in his body's molecules in a single direction, accelerating his body to a velocity in direct proportion to the amount of kinetic energy he has tapped. Northstar also has an advanced equilibrium, and exceptional agility, which allows for him to make sharp turns, and run at such speeds without becoming sick. Northstar is also able to punch at great speeds, which grants him the ability to hurt even the Hulk.

As a side effect of partially robbing his molecules of their atomic motion, the binding forces within and between the molecules increase which enhances the sheer toughness of Northstar's entire body. This effect gives his skin enough durability to withstand speeds up to at least Mach 10 without injury. Northstar can also vary the rate of acceleration of his molecules to release a cascade of photons as bright as a lighthouse beacon. His powers have recently been enhanced to the point where he and Aurora can generate explosive thermal energy in addition to light.

Northstar is a world-class professional skier, skilled trapeze artist, and an accomplished novelist. A native French speaker, he is also fluent in English. After his resurrection by The Hand, Northstar has been trained in the deadly martial arts. Along with that Northstar also has peak human strength.

[edit]

Ultimate Northstar
Ultimate Northstar. Art by Stuart Immonen.

An alternate version of Northstar has appeared in the Ultimate universe, appearing in the Ultimate X-Men series. No mention of Aurora has been made, and it is uncertain if she exists in the Ultimate Universe. His features are similar to his older counterpart, although his ears are no longer pointed. His powers are also similar, though he has yet to demonstrate the ability to fly, or any abilities related to light emission.

[edit]

Character history

A student at New York City's Stuyvesant High School, Northstar was kicked off the school's track team for suspected illegal steroid use, although his unnatural levels of speed were actually due to his mutation. When the X-Men revealed to him he was a mutant and asked him to join them, he turned them down, saying that separating themselves from humans was segregation and noting how a student there (Beast) was recently killed.

Soon after Sinister, a deranged man who was apparently under orders of Apocalypse (though whether these were simply hallucinations is unknown) to kill several mutants, shot Northstar. Thanks to his quick reflexes, Northstar managed to survive the attack but was left in a coma. After being hospitalized, he was awaken from his coma by the X-Men member Jean Grey. Upon being told that Colossus had watched over him all night to protect him from any further attacks, Northstar asked if he was single, startling Colossus so much that his body turned to steel.

Northstar was later recruited by Emma Frost to join the Academy of Tomorrow, a magnet school for gifted children both mutant and human with a more pacifistic and integration-orientated philosophy than the X-Men. Along with fellow students Lorna Dane and Alex Summers, he has completed Frost's Advanced Leadership Workshop, allowing him to make use of his powers performing off-campus community service missions in conjunction with local authorities. When Lorna was framed for murder and imprisoned in the Triskelion (the headquarters of the Ultimates), in an elaborate scheme by Magneto to help him escape the prison, Northstar was part of the group of Frost's students who tried to break her out. During a battle with the Ultimates and the X-Men, he shows that he has improved his abilities enough to move faster than the human eye (allowing him to attack without being seen), run across water (though a direct hit from a super-powered person could cause him to sink), and resist gravity (he was able to run up the side of a tall building).

During the battle he shows romantic interest in Colossus; a week later it is revealed that the two had kept in contact, having exchanged email addresses. Colossus is shown on the phone talking to Northstar, who asks Colossus to be his date to his school's homecoming dance (which he accepts). But the dance is interrupted by the Brotherhood.

[edit]

Age of Apocalypse
Northstar and Aurora in the Age of Apocalypse. Art by Steve Epting.

In the Age of Apocalypse, Northstar and Aurora were part of Mr. Sinister’s Elite Mutant Force (E.M.F.) and, as such, were assigned to patrolling the breeding pens. The siblings were rather snotty about their superior status as mutants and seemed to take great pleasure in punishing those prisoners who acted up or tried to escape. When the E.M.F.’s leader, Cyclops, switched sides, secretly helping some inmates to escape, he was caught in the act by the speeding twins. However, both of them were defeated by Cyclops and the prisoner he was helping to escape, which happened to be Polaris. When the series was revisited for the 10 year anniversary, both Northstar and Aurora were killed by Wolverine and Kirika (X-23 in the Marvels main universe) in X-Men: Age of Apocalypse #2.

[edit]

Trivia
  • In 2005, Marvel killed Northstar in three separate continuities within the space of one calendar month. Between February 16th and March 9th, 2005, versions of Northstar were killed in the Earth-616-based Wolverine #25, and in X-Men: Age of Apocalypse and X-Men: The End (a possible story of the X-Men's final days; Northstar was one of many to die in the series), both of which were set in alternate timelines. Northstar did not stay dead long in Marvel's primary continuity, however; he was resurrected in Wolverine #26.
  • Northstar led the training squad Alpha Squadron in New X-Men: Academy X until his 'death'.
  • A temporal copy of Northstar—from a period of time shortly before the apparent death of Guardian at the hands of Jerry Jaxon—was introduced near the end of the third Alpha Flight series, along with an entire team of early Alpha Flight members. This Northstar was last seen with a similarly time-displaced Aurora, still operating in the Earth-616 present.
  • Shortly before Northstar admitted he was homosexual, he was voted Canada's most eligible bachelor, in the Alpha Flight series.
[edit]

Appearances in other media
Scene from the X-Men episode "Repo Man"

Northstar appeared in the X-Men animated series episodes "Slave Island" and "Repo Man". He was voiced by Rene Lemieux. No mention or hint is made of his sexual orientation. In the cartoon Northstar possessed the ability to fly and generate a blinding light when he slapped hands with his sister Aurora. Though he didn't have any speaking role in Slave Island, the episode Repo Man proved to hold true to the character's origins as his trademark French Canadian accent was present.

In "Slave Island" Jean-Paul was a hostage/prisoner of the island nation of Genosha. He, along with many other mutants, provided slave labor for the government using their mutant skills for such tasks as building dams and the like. They wore special collars that restricted them from using their powers to escape and slept in prison-like cells. They eventually escaped Genosha with the help of the X-Men.

In "Repo Man", Northstar is shown as part of the Canadian special forces team Alpha Flight, which tries to convince former member Wolverine to re-join.

[edit]

External links
  • Northstar Fans Character fan site
  • AlphaFlight.Net Alphanex Entry On - Northstar
  • UncannyXmen.net, spotlight on Northstar
  • Gay League, Profile Page
  • MutantHigh, Northstar Profile
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northstar"

Categories: Alpha Flight members | Defenders members | Fictional Canadians | Canadian superheroes | Fictional speedsters | Fictional schoolteachers | Fictional twins | LGBT characters in comics | Marvel Comics characters who can fly | Marvel Comics mutants | The 198 Files | X-Men members | Ultimate Marvel | Fictional light manipulators

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