CCI: Comic Character Investigation #17

CCI: Comic Character Investigation #17

1 janvier 2012 Non Par Comic Box

[ENGLISH] This month: Mystique – Since the inception of The Golden Age of comics in 1938, many heroes, and many villains, have splashed their battles across artistic pages, have endured their struggles in those same pages and have intrigued a readership which has loved their adventures for 72 years. This column celebrates such characters by taking a look each month at one of them. Some you will know and some are more obscure, but all hold a significant place in comics, for the world of stories in any medium is about the characters who populate it. The spectacular citizens of the universe who inhabit the comic book nation might be brave or sinister, bold or fearful, but all are characters who we can never forget. So, The Golden Age becomes the Silver Age, The Silver becomes The Bronze and so on, until today and until tomorrow… in The Endless Age of comics, and the beings who live inside them.

The Mystique of … Well, You Know

Back in the early 1990’s a hot and updated X-Men animated series made its appearance on Saturday morning television. It pitted the Professor’s special students against an endless variety of opponents. Yet in the episode where she made her first appearance in that series, Mystique discourages a would-be mugger by transforming her appearance in a rainstorm. From under her umbrella she appears momentarily to him as a monstrous creature sure to terrify the criminal to his very soul. Even now, in the land of imagination that unfortunate gentleman is most likely having nightmares about it.

That’s the way it is with Mystique. Terrifying. . . a smart, resourceful, sexy redhead who also happens to be sporting blue skin in her natural state. Her real name is Raven Darkholme and she was created by classic X-Men writer Chris Claremont (he wrote some great Marvel Team-Up issues in the Bronze Age as well among others) and artist Dave Cockrum. Strangely enough Mystique did not make her first shape-changing splash in the pages of an X-Men comic but rather in Ms. Marvel #16. Two issues later in Ms. Marvel #18 Cockrum showed us Mystique’s true colors, that she was a blue-skinned mutant with red locks and haunting yellow eyes. It is of note that she was only known by the name of Raven Darkholme in her first appearance, truly developing into the name that ultimately defined her. Like her powers and her presence, Mystique’s appearance in comics was insidious and caught us off guard. Fitting for a girl who can change into anyone she wants, male or female, and monstrous creatures too as necessary (see above).

When the X-Men movie series began, starting with X-Men directed by Bryan Singer, Mystique was portrayed mainly as what is fairly constant in her character: an ally of Magneto, helping the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants create terror as necessary for their “just” causes. Played by model/actress Rebecca Romaine, the sexy blue style of the X-Men femme fatale was fully realized with a quite memorable performance. Audiences, whether comic readers or not were able to see firsthand how exciting, beautiful and dangerous this shape-shifting mutant was to all mankind.

In a quite memorable scene in the sequel X2: X-Men United, Mystique seems to have some attraction to Wolverine and attempts to seduce him by taking the forms of the X-Women in Logan’s life, most notably and first, Jean Grey who as fans know he is in love with. A failure to seduce him with this re-imagined form did not discourage Mystique from offering herself to Wolverine as both Rogue and Storm as well. Mystique did not get her way as the troubled loner did not give in but it did not stop her from trying.

Mystique had her own comic title as well but it is probably her movie presence which fans in general will remember best. Her cool stylings on the X-Men animated series probably will appeal to comic fans even more. One thing is certain: in both cases, she is sleek, beautiful and you can always count on a surprise or two since you never quite know what masquerade she will choose at any given moment.

It is hard to pinpoint what makes Mystique an interesting character but one thing is for sure. It is not merely her ability to transform. The power to change one’s form has been presented in myth and folklore throughout the centuries in one culture or another. The Native Americans have their skinwalkers, the Germans were the first to use the word “werewolf” in the 16th century… An examination of different countries and their histories might easily reveal some type of shape-shifting legend within their fold. So this alone does not make Mystique interesting. She would be only one of many. Yet a femme fatale, a sexy female agent of chaos with a unique white garb, blue skin and golden irises. . . one who can outwit, outflank and outmaneuver a number of X-Men plus shapeshift. Now we have something.

Of course what that something is changes all the time. It depends on Mystique’s mission and her mood. We like it that way. We want to discover what she’ll do next. We like it that she made her way into the lives of those unique students of Professor X and that’s the one thing about Mystique unlikely to change.

[James Parducci]

James Parducci is the creator of the comic series Nighthunter. He has been published in multiple periodicals and runs his own freelance writing business in San Diego.