Introduced in 1980, Kitty Pryde was the first new member of the X-Men team to be welcomed into the team since Giant Size X-Men #1. A departure from the tortured, angst-ridden mutants that populated the series, Kitty was a young and vibrant personality from a stable home. The fact that she could walk through walls made life a little complicated for her, so Professor X arrived to train her at his School for Gifted Youngsters in Westchester, NY.
Fashioned after a girl that series artist John Byrne met in college, Pryde would go on to be come one of the most loved new characters of her time. This always struck me as a little odd as from my boy’s perspective I viewed her as useless in a fight. Colossus, Wolverine, Banshee, Storm, Nightcrawler and Cyclops each had an offensive super power while Kitty could simply not get hit at all.
What’s the deal with that?
The deal was that she was a reflection of the reader rather than a case of wish fulfillment. Many readers wanted to be as cool as Wolverine or as stately as Storm but in reality we were just young kids. Kitty appealed to that and also grew into a fully rendered character as the X-Men series progressed, making her a kind of measurement of where the X-Men were headed as the title progressed.
For instance, after ‘graduating’ to full X-Men status she took on the codename of Sprite and later Ariel, donning a costume in light green and yellow. As the series grew darker, she changed her hero name to Shadowcat and dressed in much darker colors. In later years she was simply called Kitty Pryde and went back to wearing her trainee outfit in the Joss Whedon Astonishing X-Men series. This probably jived well with the audience who were not up to date with the X-Men ongoing series but had read the comic as a kid (much like Whedon no doubt) and still held onto the image of Kitty perpetually being the newbie.
In her time as a member of the X-Men she has played the part of helpless young kid and risen to several challenges as a brave young woman. A gifted computer expert (at a time when few even knew what a computer was) made her stand out as one of the few X-Men with actual skills outside of hitting people and coming back from the dead. From Byrne’s notes above you can see the germ of an idea that later flourished into the first (of several) spin-offs, the New Mutants. As the New Mutants comic was developed, Kitty was pushed into the team but it was a poor fit and was perhaps a very conscious decision on Claremont’s part to show just how special Kitty is despite her age.
In addition to being a smart and tough young woman, Kitty was also becoming a sexually aware character. Byrne himself thought this was a little questionable as she was intended to be 14-15 years old. Nevertheless she pined after the strongman with a heart of gold Colossus. At first a teenage crush, this was later developed into full-blown love even after Colossus had an affair on an alien world during the Secret War. I still laugh myself silly at the issue in which Wolverine and Nightcrawler tale Colossus to a bar and urge him to pursue Kitty as a lover. I cannot figure out where Claremont was coming from here but it comes off as confused and more than a little creepy. The Kitty/Colossus love angle was dropped around the time of the Secret War back in 1984 as she branched off and seemed to drop what was clearly an infatuation on her end and grew into a young woman.
Sadly Kitty departed from the X-Men team in the late 1980′s after nearly being turned into a ghost during the Mutant Massacre. For many readers, this period of the title was like breaking up a family and the series lost many devoted fans as it changed direction. Fortuitously, a new series called Excalibur was released starring Nightcrawler and Kitty Pryde alongside other heroes set in the U.K. Kitty continued to have a strong following and in some ways was a much more interesting character in Excalibur than she ever was in the pages of the X-Men. She even found a new beau, the cigarette smoking cool as milk and snarky as Warren Ellis Pete Wisdom, co-starring in the series Pryde and Wisdom.
In the intervening years, Kitty has gone through several changes under several creative teams but more or less was cast aside as an oddity from a time that had passed by long ago. Each time she was used post 2000, however, she seemed to revert back to the character she was when she first appeared except perhaps a little older than 17.
It wasn’t until Joss Whedon wrote Astonishing X-Men that she resurfaced in a major way. While this may have been exciting at first I was quickly disappointed as any and all development that had occurred from the early 1980′s onward was ignored by Whedon. Despite her growth since Colossus’ death, she was pining after him like a lost love in Whedon’s issues and acted as if the Russian powerhouse had only just died. I recall reading that Grant Morrison had wished to utilize Colossus in his New X-Men series but was denied by Marvel Editorial because the character’s death was too meaningful. If that’s the case, why did Whedon do so very little with Colossus after bringing him back??
I know that it is regarded as one of the must read X-Men comics, but in my opinion the series read like fan fiction. It was Whedon’s idea of what the X-Men was all about rather than what it actually is. In any case, he killed her off inside of a giant bullet.
Since death is a temporary thing in comics, especially in the X-Men titles, Kitty Pryde will be returning to the world of comics this March in the pages of Mike Carey’s Uncanny X-Men
(unfortunate correction- this is actually happening in Uncanny X-Men written by Matt Fraction… buy X-Men: Legacy by Mike Carey, though).
Carey has shown that he can handle the task of writing the X-Men series quite well and while I like Mat Fraction, currently the Uncanny X-Men title is far superior to the X-Men series (they really need to give that comic another name). I look forward to seeing what Carey has planned for Kitty Pryde as she rejoins the X-Men family. After neatly tying up all of the loose threads of Rogue, I’m sure he will make many readers very happy. Given the miraculous work the writer has accomplished with Rogue, perhaps Kitty will be allowed to grow as a character again rather than revert backwards into the perpetually young member of the X-Men.