Polaris and Leadership

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post. I’ve had myriad things I’ve talked about in various places, but this is really the first thing that feels blog post worthy. It includes my views on the current X-Factor in relation to this topic.

Lorna and leadership positions is a complicated subject. Over the course of her existence, she’s been involved in teams and gained some measure of leadership experience within them. She’s also had moments where she was considered a leader figure – someone that isn’t leading a team, but had people who considered her an icon to follow.

I think it would be helpful to simplify this with a chronological breakdown of where she’s been in the comics… and where she is now.

  • Viewed as Queen of Mutants taking over for her perceived father Magneto (X-Men #49-50, 1968)
    • rejected at time both because “Magneto evil” and “Magneto not father”
  • Secondary/stand-in team leader (X-Factor, 90s)
  • Stand-in for Magneto taking his form via image inducer (Genosha, late 90s/early 00s)
  • Viewed as Queen of Mutants again after Genoshan genocide (Uncanny X-Men #442-443, 2004)
    • rejected at time while dealing with mental issues, but definite leader philosophies and will shown
  • “Second in command” (in theory) on Starjammers (late 2000s, early 2010s)
  • Fill-in leader for X-Factor (2012/2013)
  • FINALLY TEAM LEADER (All-New X-Factor, 2014)
  • Fill-in team leader again (X-Men Blue, 2017)

That’s the overall picture. Now let’s talk about it.

For many hardcore Marvel/X-Men fans, and some casual fans, the default perspective of Lorna in terms of leadership is connected to 90s X-Factor. She’s sometimes referred to as “co-leader” of that team, but it’s been pretty blatant that she hasn’t truly been considered by Marvel to be a leader or equal partner coming out of 90s X-Factor like that term should convey. When she went on to Starjammers, it was from Havok recruiting her to the team with a heavy emphasis on him leading it. He’s also repeatedly received leadership positions (Uncanny Avengers, Astonishing X-Men, etc) in the comics since the 90s while Lorna has not.

Equal partners would be getting equal opportunities. The lack of them for Lorna means that at least people at Marvel never truly considered her a co-leader of X-Factor. Only his subordinate. Second in command.

That gets me into the progression of Lorna in terms of leadership. Before the 2010s, she has a history of being used to fill in where most convenient for other characters’ needs. The implication is that Lorna does not exist to lead. She exists to support the leader, and keep the team together for the leader’s sake in their absence. She exists to be used for the benefit of whichever character is deemed by Marvel to be the one who shall lead. Her actions and remarks all feed into this idea. She may get to have moments where she gets to lead, but the underlying suggestion is that she’s only keeping the chair warm for the “true” leader’s return.

This FINALLY changed with All-New X-Factor. She FINALLY got to lead a team of her own for once. It took 46 years to happen, but happen it did.

… And her leadership was undermined. Both in the text at first, and by Marvel as a whole the entire time.

In the text, ANXF #4-6 presented Lorna as a woman who is somehow incapable of keeping herself together and making good calls. This flew in the face of her past experience as a stand-in which should have been understood as providing a foundation to build on. Those issues in essence treated Gambit like the “real” team leader, and Lorna as leader in name only. We saw it with things like Gambit recruiting Danger to the team while Lorna sulked to the side like she had no say in if she joins, and Gambit actually physically pulling Lorna’s arm to stop her plan of action as leader in #6, and Lorna just letting him do both without having words about how it undermined her as a leader. Later issues thankfully treated Lorna MUCH better in this regard, which is why you see me recommend ANXF #7-20 regularly. But the problems of those issues remains.

Outside of the text, Marvel gave ANXF no promotion. Pietro wasn’t on ANXF covers while Days of Future Past was in theaters. ANXF didn’t actually tie into Axis at all (which is pretty damning considering Axis used the dead of the Genoshan genocide, something Marvel’s been pretending never happened to Lorna for the past 15 years). All-New X-Factor #14, the issue of Lorna and Wanda spending time together as sisters, was buried as the second issue of a double shipping month (meaning people are less likely to know it released and buy it) with no cover for it out until the Friday before release (so nobody could see a visual and preorder the comic to show interest to comic shops, thereby limiting buzz and sales).

In short, Lorna’s only turn as the actual, intended leader of a team was undermined at its start in the script, and sabotaged on the promotion level.

And now we get to post-ANXF.

Lorna was in limbo from 2015-2017. When she finally held another leadership style position, on X-Men Blue, it was back to the “fill-in leader” dynamic. Lorna not leading a team cause she’s supposed to lead it. Only leading cause who’s supposed to be there isn’t right now.

This would be fine as a temporary, holding pattern sort of thing before Lorna moving forward to other things. Or if bigger things were happening for her. But then we get to the current X-Factor…. where Lorna is a team member.

ONLY a team member. She’s not leading this team. She’s not doing other, more important things outside of X-Factor that would make this a side gig. X-Factor is literally the only thing she’s doing.

So again, let’s consider this trajectory.

It took Lorna 46 years to finally lead a team of her own, on X-Factor. She ROSE to that position after decades of being kept behind, under the table, not properly explored, where even her origin story took over 40 years to be told.

Now it’s 6 years after Lorna led All-New X-Factor. And her progression in those 6 years has been from leading a team… to only filling in when the leader is out… to only being a team member on someone else’s team.

To put it simply: she’s been regressed.

The current X-Factor tried to smooth this over in the first issue, and with interview comments beforehand.

Interviews tried to call Lorna the “true north star” of the team, like she’s a guiding light. The problem is, a guiding light is not a leadership position. It’s a supporting character position. It’s the same position she had when she was on 90s X-Factor: providing support for Havok to be the “best leader he can be.” It’s the same position she had when she got sent out into space with Havok.

Guiding light supporting characters do not exist to have their own dreams or their own potential realized. They exist to help the leader realize theirs. They may have excellent moments within that narrative. Merlin of Arthurian legend does. But in the end, the guiding light character is not meant to have great things for themselves. They’re meant to refine a diamond in the rough so that diamond can shine brighter, with the implication that at full potential they’re much better than the guiding light could ever possibly be.

In so doing, the guiding light character is only to be remembered for how they were of benefit to the leader they supported. Not for what they personally accomplished or what thoughts, feelings, goals, aspirations they had of their own. If the guiding light character performs a miraculous feat, they may get credit for that feat, but the credit isn’t for their own development or own desires in life. It’s for boosting the leader’s goals.

This sends a message: this character isn’t “good enough” or “interesting enough” to ever be a leader for themselves. They’re “more appropriate” helping everyone else’s profiles rise.

Gambit did not have this problem on All-New X-Factor. When he was on ANXF, Marvel had recently given him a 17 issue solo book (2012-2013), and he was actively the leader of the Thieves’ Guild.

He had done something big just a year before, and status-wise he was actively doing something bigger than ANXF simultaneously.

Marvel is not doing that for Lorna.

The only, ONLY things she’s done so far in the past year are have Magneto talk at her about resurrection in House of X for a few pages, have Cyclops talk at her about his son on X-Men #1, some actual good pages in Deadpool #6 (outside of X-Men), and be a team member on X-Factor.

By comparison, Rachel has more usage and exposure. She was on the X-Men book too. Recently, she was present for Kate Pryde’s funeral on Marauders. She’s had a LOT of presence in relation to X of Swords as one of the swordbearers. And she’s undoubtedly showed up in other places I haven’t seen.

This is not to say “Rachel shouldn’t get those things.” That would be absurd and wrong. This is to put into context how Marvel is treating Lorna.

Marvel may try to claim she’s in a respected position on X-Factor. But if it’s truly respected, why is she not getting at least as much usage beyond X-Factor as Rachel? Why is X-Factor really the only thing she’s doing?

To go from leading X-Factor back down to merely being a team member on it and doing or getting nothing else is, to me, insulting. It’s like giving someone a demotion and thinking that a lot of nice sounding talk about them in a PR release somehow makes up for the fact they’ve been demoted.

My ultimate opinion is this: Lorna should not be on X-Factor.

She’s not leading the team. She’s not doing more important things outside of it. For all intents and purposes, it’s a hole in the ground they stuck her in to avoid her having any presence elsewhere, avoid complaints that they’re not using her, benefit the book by way of her association with it, and benefit the other characters by how interest in her can be exploited to draw eyes to the other characters.

If she had other things going on elsewhere that are more important, this would be fine. She doesn’t. So it’s not. All it does is drag down impressions of her away from the progress she was making and back toward a backwards, regressive idea of her based in the 90s where she’s only good for supporting and building up other characters (mostly men).

By sparing her from X-Factor, even if she’s in nothing else for many years, she at least retains that last position of her as leading ANXF whenever a much better Marvel comes along that has more respect for her.

And I don’t want her taking over leadership from Northstar. Leah obviously loves the character and wants him to lead it. She should get to do what she wants. Fans of Northstar should get to continue to see him leading it. But he doesn’t need Lorna dragged down to get him there. He can do all of that just fine without her anywhere near the book.

Lastly, this has nothing to do with Leah’s writing. I’ve made no judgments about her writing itself here – if she’s a good writer, if she’s a bad writer, any of that. She might write good scenes for Lorna within the context of the scenario she has here. That’s irrelevant.

What I’m judging is Lorna’s lack of respect out of Marvel, her being artificially restricted to this book with the title of what she was on 30 years ago, demoted from a leader to a team member. The bias and disrespect is palpable.

A few pages of something good (which, so far, none of it covers even one millisecond of her experience with the Genoshan genocide) for a fleeting moment do not in any way offset the net bad of completely destroying perception of her as a leader or leader figure for decades to come.

Instant gratification is trash if it’s going to kill you.

Maybe I sound overly harsh to some people. Maybe I seem too judgmental. But I’ve been a fan of the character for 11 years now. I’ve witnessed the way Marvel thinks and acts, and how decades worth of poor treatment and negative attitudes about her have undermined everything she is and could be. I’ve read pages of her treated poorly so other characters can look good at her expense. I’ve seen comments from editors where they insist she has no fan interest cause they have some bullshit idea in their heads and don’t want to put any real thought into it. I’ve seen those same comments serve as indicators when they excluded Lorna from comics where she belonged, and forced awful things from the past on her out of their nostalgia.

I don’t want a couple pages of puff to make the bad look better. I want REAL change in a positive direction for Lorna. I’m not going to be satisfied with less than that.

If you’re just tuning in, just stepping into the show, maybe X-Factor looks fine to you. Maybe it seems respectable and meaningful by the way Leah writes her on it. But nice writing means nothing when it’s bundled in a deadly package. A “present” of your favorite book is hardly a present if the gift wrapping is laced with poison and will kill you slowly as you read it.

That is my post. And my rant. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Appearances vs Sincerity

I think people as a whole are becoming increasingly aware of how doing something purely to project the appearance of good values and intent is not as good as actually, sincerely having those values.

When the goal is to do something purely for the sake of appearances, then any work toward that end stops as soon as it’s deemed “enough.” It’s only done as a form of protection against anyone saying it’s not being done. “See, I said I support this cause, I said a lot of nice things about it that one time a few years ago so I’m good.”

When something happens sincerely, though, it’s self-generating toward better for the future. Actions and statements grow organically not from a desire to look good, but a desire to BE good. The difference is important.

Most of Marvel’s behavior regarding Polaris for the past decade has been, I think, about the appearance of doing “enough” for her rather than sincerely wanting to do enough for her. And I think the deterioration of Marvel’s treatment of her since 2015 is a vivid sign of this. Because if they were sincere, they would have spent the past 5 years improving their treatment of her instead of what we’ve seen.

In the early 2010s, there were a lot of things that fans wanted. Lorna brought back from space exile. Lorna confirmed to be a mutant again. Lorna confirmed as Magneto’s daughter (something that had gone untouched for 10 years at that time). Lorna’s origin story told. Lorna leading a team.

From 2012 to 2015, Marvel provided these things, and they were for the most part good.

They did have problems – which I ranted about at the time, and I think I was perfectly fair to rant about.

Her origin story getting told had no promotion, and the arc ended with basically an excuse for Lorna to not interact with her father anymore afterward. All-New X-Factor also never really got any promotion, issue 4-6 treated her poorly (heavily leaning toward acting like Gambit was the real team leader and Lorna’s a member of his team), and various issues besides. And outside of those things, we had projects tied to the Avengers trying to exclude Lorna from the Magnus family, and trying to replace her with other women for a sister role or visual counterpart in Wanda’s life.

But, in spite of those problems, X-Factor #243 did tell her origin story. All-New X-Factor had her leading a team, and let her interact with her siblings. Secret Wars provided Lorna in a great role for her (albeit at times not doing right for Pietro and Magneto) in its House of M, and various other appearances. We also had appearances and acknowledgments otherwise, such as with Savage Hulk going back to Hulk’s first run-in with the X-Men and showing Lorna present.

Then we had a decline after 2015.

She was in limbo for two years (or one and a half, if you count Deadpool and the Mercs for Money). When she returned, it had the APPEARANCE of a big return for her, but in reality she was used to promote Havok and Magneto. On Blue, she led another team, but purely as a backup for the main team and in service to the very Havok-oriented story.

She had good scenes in the Uncanny X-Men event, which was good as she hadn’t been included in a major event in over a decade. But then Prisoner X saw her serving as a supporting character for essentially Bishop’s book. Now, I’ve heard she was written well on it, but “supporting character on Bishop’s book” when the book comes off aesthetically very inspired by Gifted’s usage of Lorna in prison is a backstep to me. Especially when it’s more of a side story.

Then House of X, Powers of X, and X-Men #1 happened.

HoX really only used her as something Magneto could spout exposition to. X-Men #1 only really used her so readers could connect with Cyclops. The only thing “Lorna” about that exchange was a reminder that she’s dated Havok, which in this scenario is the absolute last thing that has any bearing for Lorna.

She’s a survivor of Genosha who was respected by millions and seen as his heir, and she was the one who launched Krakoa into space in Giant-Size X-Men after getting powered up by Storm, Cyclops and Havok. Is that history really worth nothing, especially when other characters like Storm get to be mad about what happened on Genosha despite not personally going through the trauma of it like Lorna has?

Consider that with Marvel’s behavior since. She’s been absent from anything for a year. She wasn’t included on an X-women variant cover, despite there being plenty of room to add her, and other women like Dani Moonstar and Magik included. She’s not on the Quiet Council. She’s not considered Omega even though Magneto is, and various past books have said or implied she either has the potential to surpass him (earlier stories), is already his equal (The Twelve), or has already surpassed him (Genosha, albeit as his powers were weakening).

When she was finally announced on a book, that book turned out to be… X-Factor. The same title name she was on in the 90s. Except this time, she’s not even leading it. She’s a member of this team someone else is leading. And the only thing really mentioned about Lorna in all talk for the book so far is essentially “she dated Havok.”

No mention of Genosha. Or Krakoa. Or being the second woman to join the X-Men. Or even having gone into space on a team with Rachel prior to this. The only thing mentioned is that she was in a relationship with the only man Marvel’s ever allowed her to date in her entire existence (whereas Marvel’s allowed Havok to have an ongoing thing with a different woman every decade, most recently with Wasp).

This is the break down of appearances when there is no sincerity. People at Marvel believe they “did enough” for Lorna when they told her origin story and let her lead a team. It doesn’t matter to them that they sabotaged her chances of those things really getting attention and meaning anything big for her. To them, those few acts even in a void are sufficient for them to go back to treating her as poorly as they did before. To them, those few things that should have happened DECADES ago are something they can point to and say “See, we respect the character, we did these things for her so you should be happy and stop expecting so much.”

That’s a false argument. It implies that Lorna deserves to be treated poorly. That she deserves to be undermined, have her potential squandered, have the important things about her history and their gravity completely ignored by this company. It’s an argument that tries to proclaim that negative bias against the character is supposed to be the norm, that negative views of the character are the “right” way to look at her, and expecting the common decency of due respect and catching up on things that should’ve happened for her a long ass time ago is somehow pushing the boundaries of fair request.

To people at Marvel, Lorna is a D-list or lower character who barely qualifies as a character and wastes panel space.

To me, Lorna is an amazing character that’s supposed to be A-list but keeps getting treated like she isn’t because people at Marvel put their personal biases above what’s right. Starting in the 70s and continuing to today, with rare exceptions.

If Marvel had been sincere in trying to treat Lorna well, and do well with their work as a whole, then Lorna’s history would mean something. She would have a huge voice when it comes to Genosha. The fact she launched Krakoa into space would at least get mentioned. She would be acknowledged as a meaningful woman within the X-Men franchise when they do things like the X-women variant cover.

The lack of these things tells us there is no sincerity from Marvel. Anything they say that sounds good is about appearances, not a genuine desire to do well with what they have and improve upon their past.

This is why I do not trust Marvel. To date, what I have seen from Marvel is that they’re only concerned with putting on the appearance of caring, and don’t actually care about her at all. And don’t want to. Because they undoubtedly think any attempt to understand and empathize on the character is wasted time they could be putting into “characters that matter” in their eyes.

It’s not like this is the only place where we see Marvel, or Disney, saying and doing things for the sake of appearances that it’s clear they’re not sincere about. A commonly observed issue with Disney as a whole is how they keep getting credit for introducing the “first openly gay character” in their films every year, and it’s always something like two extras kissing in the background of a scene for 2 seconds.

This post is mainly for me to vent. But if it’s being read, the main takeaway I’d like to give is to watch for the difference between a company saying or doing something because they want to put on a good appearance for PR reasons, and a company saying or doing something because they sincerely believe in it and want to do good.

The cases where it’s for appearances tend to go nowhere, get sabotaged constantly, and end as soon as the company thinks they’ve done enough to get away with not doing any more.

The cases that are sincere will happen regardless of perceived PR value. Characters will get much needed progress even if they personally don’t like the character or think it won’t sell or make the company look better. It won’t matter how “obscure” a character is, they’ll still be considered deserving of better.

That wraps up this rant.

Company and Fan Behavior

How y’all doin tonight?

*crickets*

Great!

I don’t know what I’m actually going to write about tonight. I’ve been commenting more often on my Twitter account lately. Let’s just see where this goes and add a title from there.

As a user of the internets, I’ve seen a lot of corporate and fandom behavior in my time. I’ve repeatedly seen companies make terrible decisions based off their biases. I’ve repeatedly seen fans defend those terrible decisions, often making excuses to suggest those decisions were good or there were no other options. I’ve also experienced on multiple occasions the sort of animosity received when questioning the actions of a company or creator that a fan has a deep devotion toward.

My comments and actions are built off my experiences. This is true for everyone, of course, but it’s worth explicitly stating because too often, people do not remember this implicitly. They remember their own experiences but forget that other people have experiences too, and those experiences shape their activity.

I can’t say I know with perfection what will or won’t happen, or the intentions of companies and people. It’s incredibly easy to misinterpret, misunderstand, miss important details. What I can say is that my experiences provide me with a base, a set of patterns, a commonality in the way certain types think and act. From this, I can get a sense of things that could happen and their likelihood.

Within this, I create a mental buffer zone. There’s what I expect. Then there’s the possibility of worse. I prepare for worse. Sometimes I’ll say worse scenarios I’ve prepared for, sometimes I won’t. Typically, the worse scenarios don’t happen.

It’s rare for me to be taken by surprise by worse scenarios anymore. 3rd Birthday is one of the cases that sticks out in my heart as a surprise. I thought it might do good things for Aya Brea, and by the end, Squeenix had sunk so low that I was mentally prepping for the prospect that they might make official guro.

But then that happened because of a mistake: any time I actually believe in good things coming from a company that has repeatedly done awful work for years, they always prove I was stupid to believe in them.

If you’re someone who wonders why I have a hard heart about what to expect from a particular company or creator, this is why. My experiences tell me not to trust them. So I don’t. The more bad experiences I have with them, the more good experiences I will need to restore any confidence I once had in them.

… Which is not the way bad companies operate.

Bad companies do not want to get better. They don’t want to learn from their mistakes. They want to people to THINK they want to get better, and avoid pretending they’ve ever made any mistakes as much as possible. Progress takes a level of work and conscientiousness that bad companies are allergic to. Better to say the words and do a couple token actions that give the appearance of progress, than to try at any actual, real progress.

And what’s most insidious about bad companies is how their status leads to exploitation of people fitting particular criteria toward the illusion of the company being better than it is.

A writer looking to break into an industry or establish their name can’t risk rocking the boat much if they fear doing so will lead to career death by a thousand cuts. Maybe they won’t get fired outright, because that would be too obvious. But they might get less work. Their pitches might be dismissed. If you’re denied opportunities you would otherwise get, that may not be called a firing on paper, but in function it most certainly is.

And then of course, there’s the fans. Who a creator would have to worry about as well. Hard to call out a company if the company has ardent fans eager to play defense for them no matter how heinous the company’s actions are.

I’ve had my own experiences. But in truth, the one sticking in my head most right this second is not one of mine. It’s what happened to a woman who dared to speak out in protection of her own work. Because her speaking out had the natural effect of making a company look bad, fans of the company wasted no time in smearing her. Making up all kinds of excuses for why their actions were justified. The sort of actions that they would decry as inappropriate if the target was the company or people working at it that they cherished so much. Then of course when their actions had the desired effect, I watched those same people continue to gaslight like hell. Pretending the logical evidence of the consequences of their actions right in front of them was something else entirely.

I’m being deliberately vague above. Because the person I’m thinking about is someone who by her actions and comments during the situation implied that she simply wanted it to end. And I aim to respect those wishes. Her wishes are more important than how I feel about the situation she was in. But I’m still pissed as hell about it, and it burns in me every time I remember.

I guess that’s where this post was leading. I’m going to wrap it up, and go back to playing a game I started.

A personal post


I’ve been wanting to write another post critical of Marvel. But in reality, right this moment, I’m feeling thoughtful and tender enough that I want to talk about other things with more emotion.

I think I take for granted and sometimes forget just how good things seemed to me when I was younger. I had a very fantastical, magical view of the world. Everything felt like it teemed with life and promise, and wonder. It’s what I learned from the Final Fantasy of old, and other media and influences I had back then.

This of course does not mean things actually were better then compared to now. There are so many advances we’ve made on many fronts. What I remember as a fond and better time, was also notably a time when gay marriage was banned, and the existence of trans people was often treated like a joke instead of given the respect they deserve. But on a personal front, it seemed better.

There are a lot of things I can’t really say here, either. Because they’re too personal.

What I can say is this: I have to believe things can get better. At least for other people if not for me. I have to believe good, caring, compassionate and considerate efforts to make the world better will lead to positive change somewhere down the road.

That doesn’t mean the efforts will always be benign and passive. Sometimes making the world better requires conflict and confrontation. Uncomfortable truths are hard to accept, and people tend to hate assessing themselves and fixing what they have wrong in them. People like the comfort of the familiar even if the familiar is toxic and hurts other people. Challenging that is difficult. Sometimes dangerous.

Honestly? I think that better world I’d like to see is also one I wouldn’t be a part of. I think I’d be gone, or I wouldn’t fit. It’s one thing to imagine, another thing to be, and who and what I am doesn’t really have a place in it if it’s actually realized.

It’s hard to properly describe what I’m feeling. I know the immediate thoughts people would have to the above, and those thoughts are wrong, but there’s no way to get even a fraction of it across without personal details. And even then, with those personal details, I doubt it could be understood. Understanding here isn’t about intellectual capacity or emotional care. It’s about perspective. These views are so uniquely tailored to my POV based on what I’ve experienced that there’s no real explaining. You get it or you don’t. It clicks or it doesn’t. And often you need to have those experiences too, because it’s hard to grasp the complexities without living them.

And I do greatly appreciate the life I have. The luxuries. The small bits of good I can still get out of it day to day. But there’s also the fear of it ending, and disappointment at the more there could be but isn’t.

Anyway that’s my personal post. I’m about to listen to these two in succession. It’ll be my first time with all of the second vid.

Hype

Hype can be insidious. Companies rely on it to sell their wares.

They develop massive marketing and advertising campaigns, sometimes even creating fake accounts, for the express purpose of making the average person think what they’re providing is so big and awesome and important that you absolutely must pick it up immediately.

They poke fandoms for buy-in in various ways. Appealing to them with particular language. “We’re bringing this franchise you love back to its former glory!” “Now with the return of this historically fan-beloved writer!” Or offering slick images. The underlying intent of it all is to build and maintain a consumer base which will simultaneously buy whatever gets put in front of them with the company brand, and defend that brand eagerly even in the face of any evidence that says it’s unearned.

I know this from experience. I used to be a hardcore Squaresoft fan, whose fandom carried me into Square-Enix content until the mistakes and insults became so many and egregious that I learned.

I’m not immune to the effects of hype. It can still influence how I think and feel. Even if I don’t fall into the trap of rushing to buy something due to hype, I may still get mentally absorbed into thought patterns encouraged by hype culture. In certain circumstances, it can still make me think what I’m seeing is far more important and not-to-be-denied than it really is until I reorient myself.

How do I reorient myself?

I think of what I’ve seen. Instances where excessive marketing and corporate talk or the appearance of fan support turned out in the end to not be anywhere near what hype made it look like. Where “You must support this, everyone’s into it, it’s the company’s direction for maybe even decades” fizzled out. Sometimes spectacularly.

These are just a few cases I’ve seen over the years.

3rd Birthday

One of the first, most memorable instances was 3rd Birthday. I could technically start with FFX-2 because I dove into it without thought from brand, but 3rd Birthday was where I saw and remember the entire landscape from start to years after release.

The game was announced for Japan. Initially as a mobile phone game, later as a PSP game. It was to be the return of Aya Brea after nearly a decade of nothing. Fans of the character and the original Parasite Eve games were excited. Most of the more vocal people continued to hype up the game all the way up to and slightly past launch.

But… it was bad. And a vivid example of people working at a company saying things they know people want to hear but not really meaning it.

Motomu Toriyama, who wrote the script for the game, said he was going to write Aya as a “cool mature woman in her 30s.” What the game actually did was have “Aya” act like a scared, submissive sex object who lets people sexually harass her repeatedly, before the final reveal that it was really the spirit of Eve (a younger girl) in Aya’s body… and you kill Aya’s spirit in the ending, leaving Eve in her body.

Yoshinori Kitase, the game’s producer, responded to criticism of the game’s clothes-ripping-away-from-damage game mechanic by claiming it was for “realism.” Which is not only flimsy for games, but in the specific mechanics of 3rd Birthday, is complete BS. “Aya” possesses a person’s body for missions in 3rd Birthday. What you’re seeing is her spirit, hence why what she wears differs from the character she possesses.

Originally, 3rd Birthday wasn’t going to have a shower scene. Then, at the last minute, they decided to add one… which was pretty much on the verge of softcore porn with its angles, sounds and visuals. Completely different from the far more tasteful shower scene from Parasite Eve 2.

In Famitsu (Japanese video game magazine), the biggest image for articles about the game was whatever fetish outfit they had for Aya that month. For Japan, they had special lines tailored to each costume, such as submissive server talk when she’s in the maid costume.

That’s the company… and then there were the fans. Who supported all of this. Most places you looked, people were hyping the game up, saying it would be amazing.

Years later, you ask the average person and if they even know the game happened, they say it was bad.

Squeenix to this day has done nothing to fix the damage they did to the character. They went from saying Parasite Eve would be one of their major returning franchises, to quietly shelving it and hoping people forget as they do other things.

That’s a common company response, by the way. To either kill a franchise they ruined, or double down and try to force people into accepting what they did as if it was somehow good. Companies rarely admit when they make mistakes, only doing so if what they did was so bad that not admitting fault and trying to make amends poses an existential threat. As seen when Squeenix went for a complete overhaul of Final Fantasy XIV and offered free access until the game was “good enough.”

Yet for Aya Brea, Squeenix can’t be bothered to admit and fix what they did. They’re responsible for one of the most atrociously sexist cases of character assassination in video games out there, but because the franchise and character are “obscure,” they think they can just pretend it never happened and hope people buy into a non-sexist perception of them from other games like Life is Strange.

People talk about how bad Metroid: Other M was. 3rd Birthday was worse. Much, much worse.

Soul Calibur V

The Soul Calibur franchise had been retired with SCIV. Bandai Namco felt they only needed Tekken. When Daishi brought a campaign to revive it, fans were ecstatic and eager to support him. The campaign itself was a success.

Then Daishi made the game.

He decided SCV’s story should have a time skip. The reason was so a majority of the roster could be purged and replaced with brand new characters.

It was primarily the existing female roster that got purged. Not even Sophitia and Taki got to be in the game, despite having been mainstays since the very first game, while characters like Siegfried and Mitsurugi and Raphael got to return. And Ivy, of course.

In the specific case of Taki, Daishi teased with the idea of her before explaining her exclusion as that she was “too old to be a ninja.”

…………….

Mitsurugi, a man, was the same age. He was included in SCV. Taki, a woman, wasn’t. It’s pretty blatant to me that behind the scenes, Daishi and/or the team thought that female characters have to be young and attractive in the ways they perceived attractiveness to get in the game. And that they’d been around too long, even conceptually (hence timeskip), to be appealing to them.

Again, like 3rd Birthday, a majority of fans were all in favor of SCV’s timeskip. I even talked to someone that insisted if the next game brought Sophitia back, they’d stop buying Soul Calibur games, just as I didn’t buy SCV.

Soul Calibur V sold half of what SCIV did. The most common complaint for the game was the new roster of characters, and purging of the old roster. It’s only recently that Bandai Namco released a new Soul Calibur game with Soul Calibur VI, meant to act as a reset for the franchise in a similar way to how Netherrealm Studios reset Mortal Kombat.

Tomb Raider

Some will disagree on this. I think I’m very justified.

The 2013 “reboot” presented “Lara” getting shipwrecked on an island. Everything about the game plays from what I’ve seen like “Lara” is the final girl in a horror movie. She gets traumatized, constantly attacked and pursued, and over the course of the string of “reboot” games suffers from PTSD. The underlying idea proposed being that it’s her journey toward becoming the icon.

Here’s the problem. The “reboot” destroys any notion that Lara had good qualities prior to 2013. Yes, it got rid of the bad elements like sexual objectification, but in the process it also threw away her status as a heroic icon and acted like “sex object” was all she had going for her for nearly 20 years.

That flies in the face of the character’s real worth. Lara Croft was created in 1996. At that time, games with female characters as the main protagonist were few. Lara’s arrival spawned Jill Valentine, Aya Brea, Regina in Dino Crisis, and many others as female stars for franchises.

Again, sexual objectification of Lara was bad – and it got worse as games went on, and games became worse in quality. But she had a personality, and had a positive impact on representation, that attitudes surrounding the 2013 “reboot” pretended never existed. They essentially wiped out that cultural memory in pretending the “reboot” was the first time anyone wrote a “real story” with Lara as an “actual character.”

What does this have to do with hype? Crystal Dynamics and Square-Enix were very, very successful at creating hype toward the ends.

They had advertising literally everywhere. That’s not exaggeration. Every site I visited except for hentai sites had ads. They also deftly covered up one of the game’s producers saying “Lara almost gets raped” and “players will feel for Lara cause they want to protect her” by very quickly announcing how they had Rhianna Pratchett writing the script. Nobody talks about that, may not even be aware of or remember it, and that’s how successful the move was. They were able to patch over comments that would’ve hurt sales by showing off how they have creative representation.

I also want to note that I don’t hold the “Tomb Raider” “reboot” or Crystal Dynamics’ actions against Rhianna Pratchett. Female writers need their gigs. She had few video game writing credits at the time, closest of note before that being Mirror’s Edge. People higher up on the project said what they wanted, her job was to do what she could with it.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much that can be done with a bad premise. And honestly, I don’t know where the line exists between what the higher-ups expected from her and what she decided to do on her own. So I err on the side of assuming the higher-ups are responsible given a) they have more power, and b) they could’ve stepped in if it was her plans and they didn’t.

Nowadays, people seem to be more discerning of the “reboot,” how it presented the character and franchise, and the effect it had. We’re out of the hype period. Culture is becoming more cognizant of issues they didn’t see before. But for its time, the “reboot” managed to convince a lot of people that it was making great advances for the character even as it gutted her and insisted she had nothing good to her pre-2013.

Man of Steel

I tend to talk a lot about how female characters are treated, because I’m more interested in them. Here’s one of two examples I have concerning male characters.

Snyder’s idea of “Superman” in films was through the lens of Batman. Blatantly. It was very Batman-colored lenses. Everything was grim, people died for Superman’s failures, etc.

Where things differ here compared to my prior examples is that a majority of consumers seemed to immediately acknowledge and condemn Snyder’s films for this. I didn’t see any hesitation. Yet the films still had their fans, and DC still carried this idea of Superman into Batman vs Superman in spite of people not wanting it.

My view of this (and for my next example) is that people in general are far quicker to care about when male characters are treated poorly than when female characters are. Which is incredibly sad. Hopefully it’s changing to where people care about how female characters are treated just as much, if not more than, male characters.

I can’t say DC’s attempts at hype were successful. They weren’t. Both films that Snyder’s “Superman” were in bombed. But a hype culture still existed, promoting the idea that you must see this film because it’s a big blockbuster film and part of this new expanded film universe like Marvel has. Plus you can see how dogged Snyder’s fans are with how vocally they’ve demanded the “Snyder cut” of Justice League.

DmC

Like Snyder’s “Superman,” people almost were immediately against DmC – a “reimagining” of the Devil May Cry franchise and Dante. The game’s writer and director, Tameem, certainly didn’t help himself as he responded to complaints by saying Dante sucked and he’d be “laughed out of bars” if he were real (which… we play games about demons for the realism now?).

Yet in spite of pretty common consensus against the game, it did have its fans and defenders who rode along for the hype. And this is where I have more reason to talk about it than Man of Steel.

The most notable situation here is hair color. Many people who were opposed to DmC talked about how its idea of Dante had black hair, unlike the franchise’s traditional Dante who had silver/white hair. Fans on the hype train eagerly jumped on the hair complaints and ONLY the hair complaints, while also ignoring the larger point to ridicule it as a miniscule aesthetic whine. “Look, they’re complaining about hair color!”

Such talk deliberately ignored two things. For one, hair color wasn’t the only complaint. It was merely the most visibly obvious change that people could call out. Most of the other problems with it were harder to explain well for anyone not really into the franchise and character. For another, the hair color was more a matter of what the change represented rather than the color itself. Some people like to be dismissive of visual indicators, but they really are a window into the attitudes of people behind those visuals.

Once again, like Man of Steel, majority noticed the problem in advance, and hype failed to win them over. But the fandom created a certain culture that tried to deter criticism all the same.

All-New X-Factor

Let me preface: by the end, in general I liked All-New X-Factor. I laud All-New X-Factor #14, which had Lorna and Wanda spending time together as sisters, and I often encourage reading it on my Polaris reading list.

But not all of the issues. I always say people should skip ANXF #4-6, and sometimes include #3 in that.

Here’s where hype culture comes in. I was reading every issue as it came out back then. I liked #1-2. But as we got to #6, I didn’t mince words on problems with its treatment of Lorna.

Peter David has fans. His fans didn’t like my raising complaints. So at the time, they were dismissive of everything I said, and often tried to shut me down and get me to keep quiet to maintain the “sanctity” of their favorite writer’s image. I didn’t back down, of course. Now, I don’t know what really happened with that creative team, but I suspect the criticism given by Lorna fans (not just me) led to some major improvements in the book so that it got much better from ANXF #7 on after.

Years later, you do see people speaking positively of the book. I like to think that talk is thanks to said improvements above. But you also don’t see those fans going around attacking anyone who levels a complaint. Because that’s how hype culture works most of the time. Once the thing being hyped is no longer happening, there’s less sense of urgency to be protective of it.

House of X/Powers of X/Dawn of X

My urge to write this may change from day to day, but lately, the biggest reason is House of X/Powers of X/Dawn of X.

This event is current. We don’t have the retrospective glasses I was able to use for cases outlined above. But through the cases above, it’s possible to weigh what’s really happening against the hype.

Marvel hyped up HoX/PoX/DoX as a huge return of the X-Men franchise to its “proper place” of glory after a decade put down. Fans see it as some sort of second coming, like it’s the be-all end-all of our times. It must be worshiped. It must be coddled. To go against it is tantamount to treason, and it’s supposedly going to decide the direction of the franchise and various elements of it for generations to come in all forms of media.

… That’s just what Marvel wants people to think.

It’s not the reality.

Marvel has an incentive to convince people that anything they make is revolutionary and you must must must buy into it. They make money. They get support. Acquire power. And absolute hardcore fans have an incentive to encourage such thinking, because it leads to what they love getting more resources devoted to it.

Here’s the thing. HoX/PoX/DoX offers nothing to me.

They’re not doing anything with Lorna’s history with Genosha or Krakoa (unless Empyre changes that; we’ll see). They’re not acknowledging how she’s the second woman to join the X-Men, leaving her off a female X-Men variant cover that includes other characters like Dani Moonstar, Magik and Mystique. They don’t have Lorna spending time with Jean or Iceman to take advantage of how she was with them way back in the beginning.

All Marvel’s done is make her a supporting character (not even leading it) of a book that has the same title she was on 30 years ago, use her for Magneto to mansplain at her or for Cyclops to talk about his family at her (with no input of her own), and bring up Havok.

Marvel would like for me to think that I must purchase what they make that has her in it, no matter how it treats her, because their word is law and hype culture says everything is perfect. But really, I don’t need to buy anything they make that doesn’t treat Lorna with the long overdue appreciation and respect she deserves. And in fact, if my only choices are mistreatment or hiatus, I’d gladly take hiatus and wait for a future Marvel that’s infinitely better for Lorna than current Marvel.

That won’t stop me from calling Marvel out where appropriate. Like how Marvel’s decided Storm should get to be outraged about the Genoshan genocide even though she wasn’t there while Lorna, an actual survivor or suffered immense PTSD from it, is written as if it never happened and she doesn’t even know what it is. Lorna on hiatus doesn’t give them a pass on all the things they should be doing and aren’t. It just means they’re not also getting called out for doing bad things they shouldn’t, and Lorna’s better preserved for future writers that will care enough about stories and characters to do right by her.

In recent months, I’ve started to see some people questioning HoX/PoX/DoX. And hardcore fans upset that people are questioning it. It’s really only the beginning, as the newness and hype culture wear off and people are able to take a look without being influenced by marketing efforts and fans’ attitudes.

And again, I’m not immune. The marketing and hype culture of HoX and PoX did get to me until roughly halfway through. I had trouble seeing it objectively during that period. I started to fall into thinking about the franchise and characters in ways Marvel wanted me to, and started to think it just might really have the level of importance Marvel wanted everyone to think it had. But since halfway through the event and up to right now, I’ve been able to see it a lot more clearly.

Remembering the cases I’ve shared here helped me toward that clarity. They’ll continue to help me every time a company announces something new. Past experiences educate me for future experiences. Sometimes, it even helps me in simpler ways, such as to delay purchasing something that seems urgent because there’s a sale or everyone’s talking about it.

This is a long post, so I’m wrapping it up. Maybe I’ll have another post sooner than the last few times!

My Marvel History

I’ve said before that I never really cared about anything Marvel had to offer until I discovered Polaris. Tonight, I decided it would be useful to look back through my history concerning Marvel. I might’ve done one of these a while back, but I don’t think it covered pre-2009.

Also for those seeing my blog (again) for the first time since February, the tagline quote of my blog is taken from a comment made by a guy that seems to hate me.

Anyway, here we go, and I’m not giving years or dates until I get to 2009 cause that would be telling. Even if you might be able to pick up on things.

Kid Time

I had toys of Cyclops and Wolverine as a kid. I had no real concept of who they were. I knew Cyclops shot lasers from his eyes. I knew Wolverine had claws. That’s it. I didn’t watch any Marvel cartoons whatsoever. What I DID have was plenty of Batman toys, and exposure to DC films.

A local rental store carried comic books too when I was a kid. I remember seeing a cover that had Thor on it. If I bought and read any, I sincerely do not remember.

I remember renting an Avengers game, and playing someone else’s copy of an X-Men game and using Storm.

The 90s/00s

I watched the occasional episode of X-Men Evolution whenever it was on TV. I also became interested in anime music videos, so I watched several of those focused on X-Men Evolution’s version of Rogue.

Of course, I saw the first two X-Men movies. Pretty much everyone did. I also watched the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man films. I think I had the soundtrack for the first Spider-Man film cause I remember listening to “Hero” by Chad Kroeger plenty of times, though not because it was part of the film. I saw Iron Man in theaters too like most people did.

I might’ve rented some games. I honestly can’t remember. I was more into Final Fantasy and RPGs in general.

By contrast, I was really getting into DC content. I watched Smallville when it aired new for the first five seasons, and got those seasons on DVD. I watched Justice League Unlimited when it aired new on TV, loved it, got both seasons on DVD. Then went back and watched Justice League episodes.

2009 – 2011

I discovered Polaris by jumping around the Marvel wiki. Honestly don’t remember why I was on it in the first place. Maybe for drawn or written porn I saw online.

After I learned of Lorna, I immediately went out to a comic shop and bought multiple comics and collections that had Lorna on the cover. I don’t think I really had a guide to go by. One of those collections was Jeff Parker’s Exiles which was amazing.

At some point, I watched all of the Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon cause it had Lorna in it. My original reaction to the show before I learned of Lorna was to spurn it for putting Wolverine before the franchise that made him.

Somewhere around this, I was on 4chan talking about how Lorna should return from space, and some guy said she should stay in space to “keep her away from characters that matter.” Doesn’t matter if the guy was trolling, it’s stick with me ever since.

I continued to see Marvel films as they came out until the Axis retcon. I bought and played a couple Ultimate Alliance games, the Captain America console game, and the Deadpool game, in this span. Oh and at some point around ANXF, I bought one of the Spider-Man games written by Peter David. I technically should be putting this in each year but I’m too lazy to remember those dates or look them up cause they don’t really matter.

2012-2013

Mike Carey wrote Five Miles South of the Universe, which I was very supportive of. It brought Lorna back from space. It confirmed her status as Magneto’s daughter, and subtly confirmed she was a mutant again. Up until then, the last word on her powers was that Celestial tech used by Apocalypse to restore her powers was doing something to her, which implied she was some sort of cyborg rather than a mutant.

This is about when I learned of a certain editor being a tool toward Lorna in the Avengers books and in general. Said editor did an excellent job of killing a huge chunk of my interest in books under their purview. I did buy and read SOME issues of Avengers vs X-Men cause Lorna appeared, but stopped when she stopped showing up and when it became clear it wouldn’t actually use Lorna.

I also learned of Lorna being sent to X-Factor again with Havok. On the one hand, I think I judged Peter David too hastily in assuming the worst. On the other hand, in retrospect I do think it was somewhat justified on account of a) it was Lorna forced back to the book she was on in the 90s, and b) the cover to announce implied it was a continuation of trying to isolate her into a role of “Havok’s girlfriend.”

Peter David did Lorna’s origin story issue which turned out much better than I expected and greatly improved my opinion, but then he had Lorna claim she never wanted to see her father again which instantly negated that progress.

Lego Marvel Super Heroes came out. Until then, I really wasn’t interested in any of the Lego games. Even after I tried the demo for this game, I didn’t like it. But I bought it on release at full price cause Lorna was in it, and I ended up liking the final game. It led to me buying and playing a bunch of other Lego games too.

2014

All-New X-Factor came out. I was excited in lead-up. Disappointed and complained during arc #4-6 for its treatment of Lorna. Annoyed by Marvel not promoting ANXF #14, and commissioned art to promote to offset Marvel refusing to do so. ANXF eventually evolved for the better but Marvel still canceled it.

Also was annoyed by Axis trying to “replace” Lorna with Enchantress, while excluding Lorna. Something the Avengers side would trying to do post-Axis by creating Luminous as a new “sister” for Wanda and Pietro, who’s also conveniently color-coded.

The Axis retcon ended my watching Marvel films, and by extension shows that would come out. I vowed to not watch any of them until the twins were restored as Magneto’s kids. That’s still in place, but now superseded by Marvel’s toolishness toward Lorna.

I remember pushing for Lorna to be on Bunn’s Magneto book during this time, as well. I started reading his book specifically because there was a chance that Lorna could appear in it, and even if she didn’t, Magneto being her father at least gave some background to Lorna’s relations and how things might go with her and him.

I would have read the Scarlet Witch solo book if Marvel hadn’t done its Axis retcon. Just as I read the Magneto solo for Lorna ties, I had no reason to read Wanda’s book due to lack of them.

The Days of Future Past mobile phone game (no longer available) came out and had Lorna as free DLC. I bought it, I played it. I didn’t really like playing it on phone though. I had hoped the company would eventually convert it to PC or console, but sadly they never did. I really didn’t like playing any games on mobile phone at the time.

I think I did watch Days of Future Past around this time, mainly on account that the little girl in Peter’s home was speculated to be Lorna.

2015

Secret Wars happened. I was very happy with Lorna appearing in so many places. I REALLY loved her treatment on Secret Wars: House of M. I bought everything she appeared in.

I had an instinctive red flag warning afterward that Marvel was only using Lorna so much because they planned to drop her into limbo and not use her….

2016

Nothing.

Okay, I think the Marvel Legends figure might’ve come out in this time. Aside from that, my instinct proved correct and I should’ve listened to it. Marvel did what it had during Secret Wars because they wanted to look good before throwing her into limbo.

2017

Lorna was used primarily to promote Havok and Magneto, and it pissed me off.

A reveal at C2E2 implied X-Men Blue was going to be a big return for Lorna after her absence. Instead, it ended up being all about promoting Havok, and how Lorna could be exploited to do so. Subsequent issues then ignored Lorna’s past character development and in-common aspects so Magneto could have stories and dialogue focused on making him look and sound good. I stopped reading after ~15 issues, Bunn started to improve his treatment of Lorna around Magneto and I was set to come back, but then he wrote a story arc dedicated to Havok and my desire to read anything more from Blue instantly died. Bunn tried to pretty it up a bit with Lorna as a temporary team leader but it didn’t come anywhere close to making up for how thoroughly Lorna kept getting used as fodder for Havok’s promotion ahead of him leading a team book.

On the bright side, Gifted released with Emma Dumont as Lorna. I had some issues with decisions made, but still loved it as it did much better by Lorna than anything Marvel had done with her since Jeff Parker… until the show did a horrible job in its handling of Dreamer’s death.

This is where I need to give an aside. I think character death is worthless and terrible. There are plenty of ways to use characters in intriguing ways that don’t require death. But, if it’s going to be done, there are ways that make it at least not so bad. I felt Walking Dead managed this most of the time – give a character a big glorious moment, provide plenty of introspection to grasp and appreciate what was being lost, and often an entire episode is devoted to that character. Gifted didn’t do that. It had everyone act needlessly stupid to get her into a position to die, then rushed on to the next part of the story as if her death was just a tiny bump in the road.

I stopped watching the show at this point. I struggled with the matter for several days, because as a Lorna fan, I wanted to keep watching for her. But I had to stick to principles. If it was Lorna treated that way, I would’ve been ranting and pissed. So I stopped watching the show, and only would’ve returned if a) Dreamer returned, and b) the show handled death better going forward (if used at all). Sadly, the show never did either and got itself killed off as a result.

It also proved another red flag warning of mine true: if the show was so cavalier about Dreamer’s death, who’s to say they wouldn’t turn around and treat Lorna poorly in the future to promote some other character they liked more? Which as I’ve heard, they did exactly that when they introduced Reeva.

2018

The Gifted stuff played out as I said above.

2018 was also the year Mlad and I made a 50th anniversary comic for Lorna. I tried plenty of other things to get anniversary celebrations going, but they weren’t successful. I tried to get a hashtag going on Twitter and nobody else participated. I encouraged anniversary fanart and fanfic outside of me commissioning it, and nobody made or commissioned any. People DID make fanart and fanfic in this time, especially of Gifted version Lorna. But they didn’t participate in the anniversary component.

The Uncanny X-Men event did actually do a couple good things for Lorna, so I did in fact buy (digitally) and read the relevant issues. Those issues had good scenes for her.

I made an exception to my “no Marvel films” rule and saw Black Panther to support diversity in superhero films. Just as I saw the Wonder Woman movie to support that diversity in superhero films.

That was pretty much it. Nothing happened in the middle.

2019

Prisoner X happened, and I skipped it on account of a couple things. For one, it positioned Lorna as a supporting character for a book led by Bishop, when Lorna seriously needed something more. Which she still needs. For another, the setting was very clearly inspired by Gifted, yet Marvel decided to hand it over to Bishop.

Now, if the scenario had been one where each character is living their own version of a prison, I would’ve been… not exactly fine with Lorna being there, but fine with Bishop leading it. Say, what Bishop sees is a concentration camp. What Lorna sees is either a prison or a mental institution. Another character sees it as a school. Another sees Hell. Etc.

The Havok bullshit reached a breaking point for me toward end of 2018, going into 2019. Throughout 2018 and the first half of 2019, Marvel was obsessive in trying to force Havok onto Lorna wherever they could, while refusing to do anything meaningful for Lorna that would make up for the combo of forced limbo and Havok/Magneto hijacking her possibilities with Blue.

The result: since Jan 1 2019, I refuse to touch anything having to do with Disney as a whole until Lorna gets a solo, mini, oneshot, or leads a team book again. Only exceptions will be if it’s something involving Lorna that treats her well, or I have absolutely no other choice.

House of X/Powers of X/Dawn of X happened in this time, and predictably it completely ignored Lorna. It also has other issues I’m not going to dive into, but net result, everything I saw out of HoX/PoX/DoX and Hickman leads me to the conclusion that Lorna’s better off not used at all right now. Saved for a much better Marvel in the future that gives a damn and can do better by her.

2020

X-Factor is coming. I see nothing good for Lorna in it.

It’s Lorna thrown onto a fringe satellite book bearing the name of the book she was on in the 90s, yet she’s not even leading it this time, which would’ve at least been some small consolation (and satisfied my condition that would’ve led to engaging in Disney content again, if Lorna was treated well).

The immediate press release/promo work for it also raised the massive red flag of Leah Williams talking about how she talked to exactly two fans she’s friends with, one of whom supposedly helped her “see” the Havok and Polaris relationship “in a different light.”

Leah could’ve talked about so much else that wasn’t Havok. There’s Lorna’s history with Genosha and how that would feed into her views on Krakoa. There’s Lorna having launched Krakoa into space way back in Giant-Size X-Men. If absolutely nothing else, she could’ve mentioned how Lorna and Rachel were on the same team in space, or how Lorna should have plenty of tales to tell from having teamed with Jean in the old days. Spoilers wouldn’t have been a risk at all for those two. What did Leah decide to focus on? The worst thing she could’ve possibly picked.

The only thing to come that looks like it could be promising is Empyre. I’m keeping my eye on that. A cover for it has Lorna right in the middle, and synopses place emphasis on Genosha. It’s possible that Empyre just might be the first time in over 15 years that we see that aspect of Lorna’s history get acknowledged and used.

All in all, discovering Lorna made me buy and check out things I never would have without her. I watched Wolverine and the X-Men. I bought and played Lego Marvel Super Heroes, and went on to many other Lego games. I bought and read, both physically and digitally, many comic books: All-new X-Factor, Jeff Parker’s Exiles, the Magneto solo, etc. I have actual Polaris merch, something I’ve only done with video games besides her.

But then Marvel screwing Lorna or her family over led to me engaging in far, far less than I would have otherwise. I stopped watching everything MCU, and eventually ended up cutting out Disney content altogether. Some of that is stuff that I wouldn’t simply “catch up on” if Marvel were to turn around and do better by Lorna some day far in the future.

The Days of Future Past game being a prime example. Some things shut down. Whether they’re events, or video games, or sites, or what have you. When they shut down, that’s it. Done. And I’m fully comfortable with this. Nothing is lost in not giving money to a company that doesn’t deserve it. It’s not my job to ignore everything wrong and bad Marvel does so I can waste my money on things that I don’t really want. It’s Marvel’s job to give me a reason to want what they have.

Polaris Headcanons

I have a lot of different Polaris headcanons. Some of which I find more valid than things Marvel does, on account of how Marvel never thinks or cares about Lorna as her own character. I’ve decided to make this post to collect all the different headcanons I have!

Note: I have enough that it’s entirely possible I may forget some, and have to come back to this to add what I’ve forgotten.

I’ll enter each headcanon, and if I want to say a little more on it then I’ll add text after.

Lorna can change the color of her hair

Lorna’s powers of electromagnetism mean she has access to the whole electromagnetic spectrum – including colors. By this token, perhaps her hair defaults to green because it fits her mood, or because it’s the middle balance of rainbow colors (ROY G BIV).

Lorna is a knight/warrior type

Which does not detract from the princess aspect either (hi Xena). But when I convert characters to medieval settings, Wanda’s a witch. Lorna’s a knight. We’ve seen her don armor before as Pestilence.

In legend, I also think she would slot in well with Arthurian tales as the Green Knight.

Lorna has a Phoenix-equivalent concept of some sort out there

Another user on Twitter recently suggested from art that Lorna could be The Dragon. I like this concept. It pairs well with the Phoenix concept as a mythological creature, dragons are often seen as green and liking to collect treasure (e.g. Lorna’s original gold secondary color), and often perceived as evil (again, going back to the original conception of Magneto as evil).

Lorna creates her own costume with her powers

In my head, Lorna’s costume isn’t cloth. It’s very thin metal, constructed by her using materials that are around her. When she needs to enter combat, she doesn’t dress or undress, she gathers molecules and constructs it however she wants.

Lorna creates art with her powers

This is something I don’t see Magneto doing, but definitely see Lorna doing. Exploring her artistic side as a fun, constructive use of her powers.

Lorna can’t die

Lorna’s existed since 1968. In that whole time, aside from alternate universes, she’s never died.

Realistically, I think this is because Marvel cared so little about her that they didn’t think her dying would serve a purpose. But it pays off because with all the shit she’s been through, to NOT die to me implies there’s something about her that simply can’t be killed. Like her survivor’s spirit and electromagnetic powers work together.

In my mind, at most her body could be destroyed but she would still exist as an electromagnetic entity who rebuilds her body with her powers. Perhaps that’s even what happened on Genosha for real. It would really feed into survivor’s guilt for her, by the way.

Lorna is bi/lesbian

This is one part “I really like this for her,” and one part “she keeps getting treated poorly around men, so maybe women would be better.”

Within this idea, my top pick of a partner for Lorna is Jean. I think it would open excellent doors for the two characters to revisit their history way back to around when Lorna arrived on the scene (before Giant-Size X-Men and all that followed). Second pick for partner may be Emma Frost due to Genosha connections, but I’m really big for the Jean.

Lorna has low-level semi-psychic powers

The “low level” part of this is honestly more to be fair to full-fledged psychics than anything else. Since it wouldn’t be fair if Lorna could be as powerful as a main psychic AND have the rest of her powers.

Over time, research has found electromagnetic waves are able to do a lot of things involving the human brain. Some research can pick up thoughts and dreams. Some research can suggest an action for someone to take. From this, I have a headcanon that Lorna can use telepathy and add/erase/alter memories.

Lorna can access the internet at any time with her mind

The internet via WiFi is essentially electromagnetic. By this token, Lorna should be able to access the internet with her brain. No need for a computer, no need for a monitor. She’s already both. What’s more, because it goes straight to her brain, she should be able to read and process faster than someone simply reading from a screen.

This would make her one of the “smartest” people alive. By that I mean, say she encounters someone who’s been poisoned. She can look how to cure that poison immediately. Heck, she could have a live chat with a real doctor. Perhaps even sharing images/video from her brain to see what’s happening in real-time.

The weakness to this, of course, would be any time Lorna enters an area where those waves can’t reach her. If the signal’s cut off, then she can’t make use of it.

Lorna can create audio/video in her mind

If she has access to the electromagnetic spectrum, why not manipulate it to broadcast or record whatever she wants? She could make fake footage that looks like someone said something they never did. She could play her dreams and fantasies on TVs. All sorts of things.

X-Factor

I had a longer post on this in drafts. Then I deleted it. Because it doesn’t need to be a long post.

I don’t expect anything good for Lorna from this book. Period. I could write a big in-depth explainer behind that, which I originally was going to do, but the bottom line is Marvel and the team haven’t given me any reason to think it could be good for her on any level. I can’t even begrudgingly say “Lorna deserves better but this is better than nothing,” because I actually think Marvel leaving her alone is better for her and nothing I’ve seen so far makes me think otherwise.

Lorna’s stuck on a team she was put on in the 90s. The writer either can’t or won’t mention anything about her besides that she dated Havok, even something simple like how Lorna and Rachel were in space together. The past few years have been poor treatment of Lorna in general, but narrowing just to HoX/PoX/DoX, there’s been no acknowledgment of anything Lorna’s done besides Havok.

I don’t expect everything Marvel does to cater to my exact specifications, but if Marvel’s going to use her, I expect key moments in her development like how she survived the Genoshan genocide and was considered Queen of Mutants by those who remained to actually mean something. Instead, we’ve got Storm able to freely cite that genocide while what happened to Lorna is treated like it never happened.

Anything that ignores such a vital moment in a character’s history when it matters deeply, is absolutely worthless.

And even in the off chance that Marvel ever gets its act together and acknowledges what happened to Lorna for once after 15 years of ignoring it, a throwaway line in a single panel is not sufficient both for the importance of what happened and the insultingly long gap from when Marvel last acknowledged it to today. These other characters get to regularly talk about what a horrific event the Genoshan genocide was, but Lorna can only be used for her dad to spout exposition at her or for Marvel to hype up Havok for the billionth time cause they think he can’t hack it without exploiting her? Please.

That’s what I have to say about this book at the moment. Lorna deserves a hell of a lot more and better. Tacking her to a team book she’s not even leading, with the same title as what she was on in the 90s, doing nothing else and apparently with no grasp of what she offers (just “oh she dated Havok”) is not the way. I’m not going to deny the evidence of my eyes and ears.

X-Men #1: Run, Polaris, Run!

Shelfdust

I wasn’t going to read any of these comics, after covering House of X and Powers of X for Shelfdust last year. It all felt like a very nice jumping-off point, which let me skip away from the world of mutants for a while… at least until I could see what the reaction was to the new series, at least. It all seems to have gone basically as you’d expect, with each new series being a chaotic new element into the previously-structured world Hickman and Muller had carefully put together. Having given the X-Men a happy ending of sorts, it makes sense that the characters would then find themselves all filled with random purpose, inspired to then race off and do whatever came to mind first.

Excalibur, X-Force and Marauders all seem to be completely manic and unstructured, and I’m not going to read Fallen Angels. With the world…

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“Best Kept Secrets” + X-Factor

I’m combining two topics into this post.

I recently had reason to think of “best kept secrets.” Generally, we think of that as a good, endearing trait. Like being a best kept secret makes that thing more valuable, has the extra street cred of being an in-group privilege.

You see that cozy little cafe down the street, the one you’d miss if you weren’t looking for it? They make the best sandwiches you would ever eat. But not many people know about it. It’s a special privilege for those who know about it.

But I heard someone that pointed out: best kept secrets die quietly.

That same little cafe? When times get tough, maybe their business struggles to survive. Maybe it doesn’t survive. And then 50 years after its closure, because it was so small and secret, nobody remembers it even existed. Despite all the good work put in, it’s disappeared from public knowledge.

Polaris is a best kept secret.

She’s an amazing character, with amazing potential, whose background offers a lot of relatable content and depth. We’ve seen what’s possible with this. She was the breakout character on Gifted, even without being able to call upon history (e.g. Genosha) or relationships (e.g. Scarlet Witch) that exist in the comics. We’ve seen tons of excitement and fan content over the years from people who find out she exists.

But that’s the key. They need to know she exists. Which is something Marvel doesn’t want people to know.

I could cite a lot of things, but HoX/PoX/DoX is easiest because it’s recent. Marvel didn’t acknowledge Lorna’s history with Genosha or Krakoa. They didn’t include her on the X-women variant cover. They only used her as something to build up Magneto and Havok, and exposition provided by them. And now, she’s going to be put on X-Factor – not as a leader, but as a supporting character they’re trying to frame as sort of an overseer or advisor or something. And in talking about the book, the only aspect of her Leah mentioned was her relationship to Havok. Despite how, along with so many other things, she could’ve said something about wanting to delve more into Lorna and Rachel’s dynamic due to history in space.

Every single action taken by Marvel lately has been one geared toward forcing Lorna to stay bogged down as a “best kept secret” who serves the whims of whatever characters they like and respect more, or whatever story they want to sacrifice her on the altar of. In spite of how Gifted demonstrated she can be and deserves so much more.

This is not the way. And I reject it.

I’ve had some people, mostly eager fans of HoX/PoX/DoX or Marvel, suggest that Marvel’s treatment of Lorna is more than enough and I should be happy instead of critical. That I’m somehow in the wrong for demanding better for her, and sometimes citing how other characters aren’t getting their due either and should.

I’m not going to be quiet about Lorna. I’m not going to let Marvel kill her as a “best kept secret.” If they can’t do better by her, then they should just not use her and leave her to her fandom making everything of her that Marvel won’t. If Marvel wants to get in the way of that, they’ll see me call out when they do.

If this is supposed to be such a “great new era” for the X-Men franchise like Marvel and its corporate fans claim, then I expect them to show it. I expect them to treat Lorna and other characters a hell of a lot better. I expect them to interrogate long-standing “traditions” and if they hold any merit. I expect them to radically adapt and improve upon their creative philosophy, to better utilize what they have and touch fans who they’ve missed for so long due to bad policy.

Simply making mutants the dominant species is not a new era. Giving them fluff like their own language, a resurrection process, that sort of thing is just the appearance of change. Real change is deeper and harder.

That’s topic one. I also said I would be talking about X-Factor, topic two.

I’m against the upcoming X-Factor book. I’ve said why. It’s placing Lorna into a supporting character role for a team book led by Northstar, while Lorna isn’t doing something more important elsewhere. More importantly, said team book is named X-Factor, a book she’s been stuck on for 30 years and which she previously led. Lastly, there’s been zero sign of Leah considering who Lorna is for herself. Just her talking to a couple friends she knows who are fans, and taking away from one of them that apparently Havok is more important than anything else about everything Lorna’s been through in her life.

Some people (again, mainly HoX/PoX/DoX fans) think I’m being too hasty and judgmental about X-Factor and what Leah Williams might do with Lorna. They think we haven’t seen enough yet for me to be able to make that determination.

I understand their reasons for thinking this. And I need to pull in some of my own history for full, proper consideration. Back in 2011/2012, when Marvel announced that Polaris was going back to X-Factor written by Peter David, I was pissed. I saw it as a backstep. As Marvel trying to undo Lorna’s character development and revert her to a 90s view of her. I fully expected that Peter David, having written Lorna in the 90s and being older at this point, would feel strongly compelled to revert Lorna to how she was when he last wrote her and ignore anything writers did after him.

About this, I’ve said before: in retrospect, I was wrong and too quick to judge. Peter David ended up doing a lot of good things for Lorna, contrary to what I expected back then. I didn’t imagine him giving Lorna her origin story, having Lorna lead ANXF, or having Lorna build up her relationships with Wanda and Pietro. And when Peter David DID write her origin story, I expected the worst – and was pleasantly surprised.

But that was back then. Things have changed greatly.

I was new to X-Men comics in 2011/2012. I had been told things, and read things, but I hadn’t experienced things yet. I didn’t have much grasp on how Marvel thinks and functions.

More importantly, Marvel’s had more problems with how they treat Lorna in the past few years than they did in 2011/2012. Yes, in 2011/2012, she had been tossed into space and then space limbo. And yes, her getting sent into space was purely to be Havok’s girlfriend. But there were at least bright spots like her time with Crystal and Luna. And just 2-3 years prior, Lorna had a big role on Wolverine and the X-Men, and AU versions of her did great things in Jeff Parker’s Exiles and Fantastic Force. Mike Carey’s Five Miles South of the Universe re-established that Magneto is her father, that she’s a mutant, and her return to Earth could have technically re-opened doors; arguments could’ve been made that Lorna returning to X-Factor was just a baby step to regaining a platform.

Plus, many of the biggest problems with Marvel’s treatment of her seemed isolated to how a certain editor outside the X-books saw her. Not problems within the X-books themselves.

Jump to today. We spent late 2015 to early/mid 2017 with Lorna in limbo. When she DID return, it was primarily to promote Havok and Magneto, and everything she did on Blue was in service to that. What little good that came pre-HoX/PoX/DoX, was a tiny drop amid usage for the benefit of other characters. Like a panel or two of her doing something cool before she talks up Havok to launch him into a new team book he leads.

The trend of Marvel and the X-Men books at present is one where there’s no reason to trust they’ll change course with X-Factor. Especially with the position they put Lorna in, and how Leah’s talked about her so far.

If I turn out to be wrong, I’ll be amazed and own it. Like I own that I was wrong about Peter David, above. But it would not be an unjustified wrongness. It would be absolutely justified by my experiences and observations over the past few years.

Which means that I’m not going to give X-Factor or Leah “benefit of the doubt” when history tells me that would be a mistake.

They can say Lorna is “the north star of the team” as much as they want. I’ve seen others say such things only to do the exact opposite. I saw Motomu Toriyama claim he was going to write Aya Brea as a cool mature woman in her 30s in 3rd Birthday, only to write “Aya” as a woman scared of combat who endures and accepts repeated sexual harassment and has her clothes ripped off for a game mechanic argued as “for realism” (despite Aya being sort of like a ghost). Before revealing at the end that it was Eve in Aya’s body, and killing Aya. I could say I’m going to buy every single X-Men comic out there, doesn’t mean I’m actually going to do it.

You can’t expect me to put faith in this book when both Marvel and the writer are unable to acknowledge any of her own actual character history.