Christmas the X-Men style: bruises, murder, and one destroyed mansion

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Cover
Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Cover

In Ryhmä-X 11/1985 the X-Men – or rather just Kitty – face an alien monster in a Christmas special (notice, this was published in December in Finland). The alien from a race called N’garai in a story called “Demon” (orig. Uncanny X-Men # 143) is a clear tribute to Ridley Scott‘s Alien, but it’s not the only scary thing to happen in the story. Just take a look here…

The Plot

The story is very simple. In some earlier story, not published in Finland to my knowledge, the X-Men had fought an alien race called N’garai from an alien dimension. Storm had blocked their entry to Earth, but one of them manages to escape and goes on rampage near the Xavier Mansion. Christmas is only a day away and the X-Men have left the Mansion to celebrate the occasion with their families. Only Kitty is left in the Mansion alone.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 N'garai crashes the mansion
N'garai crashes the mansion in hunt for Kitty.

Of course the alien attacks the Mansion when she’s there alone and a battle for survival begins. Kitty’s ability to slide through objects comes handy, but it’s not good against the creature, as it’s able to hurt her even though she is in her insubstantial form. Kitty has to use all her wit to survive the alien and in the progress the creature pretty much destroys half the Mansion. When Kitty notices the creature is hurt by fire, she uses her newly learned ability to operate the Blackbird and lures the monster to her just when she starts the Blackbird engines, destroying not only the monster but also the hangar. When Xavier and Ororo/Storm return with Kitty’s parents, they find her in festive spirits and the whole place in ruins.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 N'garai vs Kitty
Kitty waits for the N'garai demon to get closer before she hit's the Blackbird engines on.

Even though the story is very different from the Alien movie, there are similarities. First of all it’s a survival battle of a lone woman against a superior opponent. But the most direct reference to the movies comes when Kitty lures the beast to the Blackbird hangar. It has the same intensity and same images as the Alien end scene where Ripley has found out she has an alien in her space shuttle and she has managed to put the space suit on, just waiting for the right moment to open the airlock and shoot the creature into dead space and finally fry it with the burners.

Alien, the movie: Ripley
Scene from Alien, the movie.

If you’ve seen the movie you know the the way the camera follows Ripley in her space suit as she tries to calm herself down and tries to see from her limited space where the alien has gone. Kitty experiences the same as she waits for the monster to get close enough to her to start the Blackbird engines.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 N'garai vs. Alien
Click on thumbnail to see the full scene.

The N’garai also bring to my mind a later invention, the  brood (fin. “Niljahirviö”) of the 90s, a monster which infects it’s host turning them into brood monsters. The only thing I remember about them is that one of them got Wolverine, but his unique healing mutant powers prevented the brood from taking him over. But I’ll return to that when I get that far in my X-Men magazines.

He didn’t blush, he bruised

Even though the story was very much just about survival, there were these little details which really puzzled me. First of all, the cover has one detail I can’t ignore. The flashlight light looks really weird. It looks more of like a yellow toxic cloud than a beam of light. I understand the problem, though, it’s damn hard to draw light if you try to do it more realistically than as just a triangle of light.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Plastic tree
Plastic tree? She wants a plastic tree over a real one? Does not compute.

On page 6 we are shown the monster’s first victims. A young couple are on their way to woods to get their Christmas tree. The man is pulling a hesitant woman forward. She says: “Douglas, you are a hopeless romantic.” Douglas answers: “So what? / Ellie, this is our first Christmas together. We have years to get our own plastic tree. / I want this one to be REAL.” Wait. Are you saying the woman insists on getting a plastic tree rather than a real one? Wow, times have truly changed! I remember my aunt had a plastic tree for Christmas in the early 80s, but now we all get a real tree for Christmas.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Mistletoe insident
Nightcrawler steals a kiss from Mariko under the mistletoe. Wolverine reacts like an enraged caveman and tries to slash him into pieces. Mariko, I hope you never get into arguments with Wolverine with his temper.

On page 8 there are two weird things happening. The most obvious one being the reaction Wolverine has when Nightcrawler goes on to kiss Wolverine’s date Mariko Yashida under a mistle toe. This being a tradition we Finnish people, thank the gods, don’t have. I would have found this extremely distressing as a teenager if all sorts of weird relatives and people would have come to my face waving one of those leaves. Anyway, Wolverine has the same reaction to Kurt kissing Mariko than I would probably have had had someone tried to give me a kiss on the same pretense. But since Wolverine has those lethal claws his reaction is bit overboard as he tries to cut Kurt into a pile of sliced meat. Luckily he has good reflexes and moves away just in time. It takes Colossus and Xavier to calm him down.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Kitty's clothes
Kitty wearing something undescribable. I think the Golden girls used to wear something like this.
Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Wolverine's clothes
Wolverine and Mariko dressed up like my grandarents. I suppose this was hip and cool back in 1981.

And then the other thing, the clothes. Just take a look at Wolverine’s, Mariko’s, and especially Kitty’s clothes. This story was published originally in 1981 and the sad part is this was trendy back then. Ugh. That style gives me headache.

But wait, Kurt’s kiss isn’t the only one to cause weird reactions. You see, Kitty has an obvious crush on Colossus and vice versa, but of course, since he is older, he hasn’t made it as obvious as Kitty. She tries to lighten the mood after Wolverine’s murdering rage, and gives Peter a kiss under a mistle toe. One would think he would blush, but no. Instead his face turns to many shades of violet like after a good beating. Wow, that must have been a potent peck. As Kurt says it, he was lucky she kissed him only on the temple or she would have knocked him out. ;)

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Bruises from a kiss
Kitty should take it easy on Colossus. Just one peck and his face gets bruised.

The two other stories

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Thor's hair
Wait, doesn't Sue Richards hold her hair like that? Also reminds me of some Ancient Egyptian Middle Kingdom female statues. Just add cow ears and you have Hathor.

In the last few Ryhmä-X magazines there were no secondary stories, but in this one there are not one but two stories.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Wonder Man as Mister Muscle
Wonder Man as Mr Muscles performing at a children's show. Classy.

In the first story the Avengers are shown doing whatever they do after saving the world. It seems they go goofing around. Some go for picnic, some to TV shows as freaks to children’s TV.

I have almost no recollection on what happened in the story, and it’s not surprising as it’s missing a point. There really is no story there. But, in the end two things happen almost in secret. First some kind of a robot comes and kills Wasp and then Tony Stark/Iron Man finds out someone has been stealing chemicals from the Avenger’s laboratory or from Stark Enterprises.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Wasp dies
In Hank Pym's lab, Wasp is killed by a robot. Or at least we are let to believe she's dead. Maybe she was just beamed to another dimension or something.
Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Moral of the story
Moral of the story: all problems can be solved by beating them up in a group.

In the second short story the butler for Avengers, Edwin Jarvis, goes to visit his mom and finds out the neighbourhood is tormented by a bully. After finding out all the people running businesses or living on the street are afraid of the bully, Jarvis decides to face him in a valiant battle. To everyone’s surprise he is revealed to be a boxing champion for R.A.F (British Royal Air Force) and having taken some tips from the Avengers he beats the bully. But when the bully takes out a knife everyone following the match start throwing the bully with rotten tomates, beath him with brooms, and drive him away from town. Well, how nice. The only way to stop bullying is if everyone decides to stand against the bully together. I can stand behind that. But what I don’t sign is the method he is stopped with. Instead of beating him up to stop him, I would have rather seen a different approach. How about call the cops and let them arrest him.

Ryhmä-X 11/1985 Well done, Jarvis!
After they have beaten up their bully, it's time for final words: 1) Jarvis: "Wonderful! I can't thank you enough." Man #1: "No, we are the ones thanking you." Man #2: "Correct. You showed us you have to stand up for yourself." 2) Jarvis: "Exactly, you should never give up. / But now, I think it's already dinner time!" Narrator: "Well done, Jarvis!" Yes, Jarvis, well done teaching our kids to use violence!
Ryhmä-X 11/1985 N'garai
Christmas is almost here. So with this image from the Christmas special, remember to keep it cool in the crowded stores bying gifts for your loved ones and remember to relax.

In this magazine and in the previous one there was an advertisement for an X-Men special album called “Taivas palaa” (lit. Heaven on fire). It’s one of the first X-Men albums I ever bought and I had no idea it was this old until now that I saw the advertisements. Well, ain’t that nice. :) Until next time, over and out.

Mystique uncovered

Mystique aims with her boobs
Mystique shows off her unique aiming technique. Then again, as a shapeshifter she has probably moved an eye into her cleavage. How cunning! (Picture found from Wikipedia article on Mystique.)

As a child I always loved Mystique. Not only was she the most beautiful character in my opinion, she was also a strong woman and a leader of bad guys – who in my youth were still always men, never women. Just the mere thought of having a female as a leader of the bad guys was unthinkable at the time. And if that was to happen, it was only because she was utterly bad, a total psycho, uncaring for even her own children and without any womanly attributes except for maybe sexiness (as if that’s distinctively a womanly attribute). But Mystique was something else.

Mystique was a strong female leader of her group – not because she scared the rest of them, but because she was a good leader. She truly cared for her team mates and was loyal to them. Mystique wasn’t also bad just for being an evil person. She and her team tried to do horrible things, but it was never because they were just bad or dreamed about world domination or a million dollars in cash, but because they were trying to fight back the persecution they had to face from humans every day just for being different. She was like a female version of Magneto, but there was always something extra to her.

Complex family issues

Mystique had a family. On page 40 of Ryhmä-X 10/1985 Nightcrawler meets Mystique for the first time and they have a short conversation before she escapes:

N: “Unglaublich! You are… Mystique!”
“Your eyes… your skin… Mein Gott, we look so alike!”

M: “Could it be, Nightcrawler, you are not as unique as you thought?”

N: “You know my name? Who are you?”

M: “Ask your mother, Margali Szardos. She knows the answer.”

Ryhmä-X 10/1985 Kurt and Raven meet for the first time
Kurt/Nightcrawler and Raven/Mystique meet for the first time. Mystique has just battled Nightcrawler taking his shape and returns to herself.

I didn’t know they had made the relationship of Mystique and Nightcrawler public straight from the start, but obviously they were hinted to be related to each other straight from the start, and later it was revealed she was his mother. If I remember it right, in hopes of giving him a better life than she had, she had given him away.

Mystique collage from the Internet

Mystique also had a daughter, Rogue, which was revealed much later. I think that story went something like Mystique abandoned her because she looked normal, or something. (We’ll get to that later when I get that far in my collection.) It was obvious Rogue and Mystique had some special bond between them, but I think it was always supposed it was because she was originally a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. (I think Rogue’s debut is only two issues away!) I think they only later invented she was related to her. But I could remember it wrong. It’s been almost twenty years since I read that story.

Relationship with Destiny

And the thing that set Mystique appart from all the other bad mutant leaders was the fact that she had Destiny. I found out only now, doing some background checking for this blog, that Mystique and Destiny were lovers. I had always thought of them as just having a friendship, but then again I was a very young girl when I read these stories. I knew there were homosexual men and I had heard there were lesbians, but I always thought of them in the porn movie way as in two girls doing it just to arouse a man.

I think I was in high school when suddenly I really got it, that real-life lesbians are just like real-life homosexual men – or like real-life heterosexuals – really being there just for the other half. (Remember, this was Finland in the early 90s.) That revelation also led to me understanding that I was, in fact, a bisexual, but that’s a whole another story.

Back to Mystique. I always remember how tenderly she cared for Destiny, but I always thought it was because she was older than she was, or because she was more fragile than her. Of course, now I know nobody really knows how old Mystique is, but obviously much older than she looks.

Role model

Another thing about Mystique that I really liked was how the other characters reacted to her. Even though she was involved in many evil deeds, she was always treated with certain respect by the X-Men. I think in a way they felt she wasn’t a bad person. Her bad deeds vere more of a reflection of her inner feelings and there was a feeling, if she was able to find inner peace she might one day join the good side.

Once again I must stress it’s been a long time since I read these stories so this could all be just my imagination or my memory playing tricks on me. I’m almost excited to find out how the story really went and how differently I might read the stories now that I have grown older and wiser.

In fact, this is almost like a personal journey for me. In my youth I saw Mystique as a sort of a role model for a strong female. Doing bad things and being a criminal, but not being a bad person. Doing hard decisions, but not doing them without remorse. Being a strong leader and female, but not being one dimensional. Looking good, but not treated as a sex object. (I know, I’m going to be disappointed, aren’t I? *shudders in fear*)

Life is about coping with disappointment

And now that I’ve mentioned it… WHAT THE HELL, INTERNET?! Pardon my French, but two days ago I noticed Google had added a new cool feature where you can drag any picture to their search bar and they will find you where that picture is from and other similar pictures. Of course, the search engine is not intelligent, so the search results might be anything from horses to space shuttles if the colours match, but still, it’s very impressive.

After playing a while with it I got this idea I’d try it with Mystique’s image. I had in my mind Mystique standing tall, in her white costume, skulls on her belt, facing the viewer, strong. I was in the zone. I was excited if Google would find me even more images of Mystique or something completely different. But first, I needed an image of her and since scanner wasn’t near I googled for Mystique.

This is quite hard to put in words, but the Mystique of the internet does not appear to be the Mystique I know. The closest representation, which is still really tacky, is the Wikipedia’s (English version) image of Mystique, but she’s too young and holds a gun between her boobs. Well, it’s been few years since I last held a gun, but I recall we females didn’t aim the gun with our cleavage. Correct me if I’m wrong. But still, even though the image was just silly and stupid, it was still closest to my Mystique.

The other Mystiques were something between a wild teenageboy-fantasy-cow-udder-hybrids I had a hard time recognizing as being human. Ok, I get the idea they were supposed to be sexy representations of Mystique, but even with my bisexual brain I find it hard to see, how this is in any level or universe considered to be sexy. The other Mystique I found was the Mystique of the X-Men movies. A beautiful, blue, naked lady. I always wondered where she forgot her clothes in the movies, but since she was not sexualized, I let it go. Well, I suppose quite many people just got the “naked” part. On the first page of Google image search results there were even photos of young women painted blue and standing there nude. (Remember, if you post it on the internet you might never get it back!) Anyway, they did a very good job at standing nude in front of the camera looking “hey, I did it, I have the courage to stand here nude! Eeeek!” instead of looking like Mystique.

And this brings me to my next point. I have very often wondered why is it that when we fall in love with a character from a movie or from a comic, and want to make a hell of a sexy picture of them, we just totally forget WHAT it is that makes him/her sexy in the first place. I mean, the superhero comics are full of darn good looking people. In fact, in most cases you wouldn’t recognize them except for the colour of their hair and their outfit. Why Mystique and not Storm? Why Rogue and not Scarlet Witch? Why Gambit and not Cyclops? They all have the same bodies. Could it be, well, I don’t know, their character and story, which makes them pop out for you? So why, WHY, whenever you make a Sexy Picture of your hero, why do you always throw away everything that makes him/her interesting and sexy to you and just concentrate on his/her bodyparts?

Besides, people, nudity isn’t the ultimate sexy factor. If it was we’d all be supersexy without any clothes. Sorry, but sexiness is an attitude, it’s the spark in his/her eye when s/he’s up to no good, and what you say or do. I admit I like good looking people, but often when they open their mouth, some previously good looking people start to look quite unattractive after all, and some ok-looking people begin to look all the more sexier when you hear them.

And funny thing, I usually find people less attractive the less they wear. And it’s not because I shun nudity. Sorry, guys, I live in Finland. We have sauna. Nudity is natural. Still there are occasions when nudity/scant clothes are not natural anymore but a distasteful distraction. Nudity becomes distasteful the moment you put added/emphasized sexiness in it. And usually people with the tiniest clothes have quite bad taste in style. Not always but quite often.

Wolverine and Mystique
Wolverine is not, in fact, looking at Mystique but at you, dear reader, as you are obviously either a pervert or a dog trying to sniff her ass. Either way: ewwww.

So, to finalize my point, here is the best image of Mystique I found. I love it.

Mystique as a child
An image from unknown source. Here, in this image of child Mystique, we finally get to see a glimpse of the woman we love and she will grow into.