Every other week, Jason Shayer will highlight an issue or a run of issues pulled from the horde of comic book long boxes that occupy more room in his house than his wife can tolerate. Each of these reviews will delve into what made that issue or run significant as well as discuss the creative personalities behind the work. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.
The Uncanny X-Men #168
“Professor Xavier is a Jerk!”
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Paul Smith/Bob Wiacek
It was 1983 and I was twelve years old and in love. In love with Kitty Pryde. Kitty was molded to be a love interest for their target audience of teenage boys. She was a geek’s dream: she was smart, loved sci-fi movies, excelled at video games, belonged to a superhero team, and kept a pet dragon. Kitty was never drawn as the typical comic book “babe”, instead, she was drawn as a perky teen-aged girl with fun and mischief in her eyes. For more on Kitty and Uncanny X-Men #168, read on after the jump!
In the aftermath of the Brood Saga, Professor Xavier announced Kitty’s demotion to the ranks of the New Mutants. The look on Kitty’s face and the look on her teammates’ faces on the last panel of Uncanny X-Men #167 (Mar. 1983) said it all. Despite having proven herself capable, she was still considered a child and unable to make her own decisions.
How could any teenager not empathize with Kitty over Professor Xavier’s stinging words? You didn’t have to go far into a teenager’s life to find a similar situation in which a parent has made a decision that they vehemently disagreed with. It was a wonderful plot device to pull in readers who had followed Kitty’s exploits and develop a loyalty to her. This issue’s ending set up a wonderful spotlight issue on Kitty in Uncanny X-Men #168 (Apr. 1983).
Who could forget that memorable splash page drawn by Paul Smith with Kitty spinning about, finger pointed, yelling out “Professor X is a Jerk!”? This issue focused on Kitty Pryde’s attempts to convince Professor Xavier that she belonged with the X-Men rather than the New Mutants, who she labeled as the “X-Babies”. With her pride wounded, Kitty struggled to impress Professor Xavier on multiple fronts and was forced to change. Rather than continue to complain about her situation, she does the adult thing and takes action. She eventually won over the Professor and forced him to reverse his decision.
What stands out years later is how Kitty’s character changed as she grew up, unlike a lot of other comic book characters whose development stalled, especially in terms of their age. That change also made a lot of us realize that we were also growing up. However, all I have to do is pick up my well-worn copy of Uncanny X-Men #168 and I’m a teenager again along with Kitty, flooded with emotions and memories as I flip through each page of that wonderfully, unforgettable issue.
Jason Shayer has been trying his best not to grow up for that last 30 years and comics books are one of the best ways to keep him young at heart. He’s also known as the Marvel 1980s guy and has probably forgotten more than you’d ever want to know about that wonderfully creative era. Check out his blog at: marvel1980s.blogspot.com.