The X-Men are one of the most diverse franchises in all of comics even though they didn’t really get into the swing of things until 1975. From that point on the X-Men became the embodiment of Marvel’s motto, “The House of Ideas.” They were among the first to feature characters outside of the normal super mold in the forms of Storm, Thunderbird, and Sunfire. And they didn’t stop there. With so many great and colorful characters that Chris Claremont and following writers churned out of the franchise, undoubtedly some will fall by the wayside. Here are five such characters that deserve some much-needed panel time.
If you’re at all familiar with Joanna Cargill, better known as Frenzy, you’ve probably nearly always seen her as a threat. A minor villain with super strength and steel-like skin, the X-Men have faced off against since 1986. Frenzy has been a member of lesser-known super-villain groups the Femizons and the Alliance of Evil, but is probably best remembered as being part of the Acolytes, Magneto’s elite group of followers. In true X-Men antagonist tradition, however, she eventually came to see the other side of the argument.
After the events of House of M that reduced the mutant population from millions to a less than a couple hundred, Frenzy came to reside in Utopia alongside the X-Men. There, with the rest of the island’s denizens, Frenzy’s mind was implanted with an alternate personality and trapped in a pocket universe of sorts by Legion, Professor-X’s uber-powerful son. In this fictitious world, Frenzy lived to protect those around her and was even married to that reality’s version of Cyclops. Once she and the rest of the island were set free, unlike most, she chose to hold onto the false memories. The life she led there became an inspiration for her to live a better, more heroic one for real. Frenzy became an X-Man in hopes to continue protecting the people around her and even went on to be part of the school’s staff when Wolverine reopened it.
Since the end of the Avengers Vs X-Men event, she’s barely been in use. She most recently made an appearance in the short-lived All New Inhuman’s book as a double-agent and had a cameo in Secret Empire.
It’s time for Frenzy to be put back into action.
Once an X-Men staple, Lucas Bishop debuted in the 90s as the time-traveling cop of sorts. He came to the present in hopes of stopping an X-Men traitor that would ultimately doom the team and eventually spawn the dystopian future he left behind. Bishop made the journey with his younger sister, Shard, who we later found out was nothing more than a holographic projection. His real sister had died at the hands of an Emplate (a type of mutant-vampire). For years, Bishop was one of the X-Men’s most loyal, honorable and dependable members. That is until the Mutant Messiah, Hope, was born. He recognized the child as a large reason for all the pain and suffering in his time and set out to put an end to the child.
By the time he could accomplish his incredibly out of character plans, baby Hope had already come under the protection of another time-traveling warrior, Cable. At great cost to himself (including the loss of an arm), Bishop chased the pair through time for years, pulling out all the stops, even going as far as destroying the entire populace of a future Earth just to limit Cable and Hope’s options of escape or finding help. Bishop would ultimately find himself stranded there and left alone to contemplate his actions. He would return to the present sometime later and have it revealed that Bishop was possessed by the New Mutant villain, the Demon Bear. It sort of explained his dastardly change in personality. After having the evil spirit removed, Bishop rejoined the X-Men but has had little opportunity to atone for or even address his actions while possessed.
Lately, he’s been spotted in Mr. and Mrs. X, Iceman, Astonishing X-Men and will be featured in the revived Uncanny X-Men book. Let’s hope Lucas gets the development that’s owed to him.
The former member of the Canadian action team named, Alpha Flight, Jean-Paul “Northstar” Beaubier, is one of the X-Men’s first openly homosexual members. Northstar, and his twin sister, Aurora debuted in 1979 and basically have the same abilities that allow them to move at super-speeds as well as other super-human attributes such as flight. He and his sister were separated for years after the deaths of their biological parents. They weren’t reunited until after their powers emerged and they both joined Alpha Flight. Prior to this, as a teen and young adult, Jean-Paul was a member of the terrorist group FLQ and a professional skier. He officially joined the X-Men and became a teacher at the school in 2002.
Fast-forward to today, he’s nowhere to be seen, even in the ever-expanding landscape of the X-Men. In 2012 in Astonishing X-Men #51, Northstar was at the center of a highly-publicized storyline in which he married his boyfriend, Kyle Jinadu, a milestone in mainstream comic books. Astonishing X-Men came to an end not long after, and Jean-Paul has gone missing, for the most part. In a world where we are seeking ways to promote inclusion, it’s a wonder as to why Northstar, a character with a long history and developed background has been stuck in limbo for years.
Clad in a niqab, since her debut in 2002 and created by Grant Morrison and Ethan Van Sciver, Sooraya Qadir, codenamed Dust, has rarely been seen without it on. She was born in Afghanistan and rescued by the X-Men before she could be made into a tool, slave, weapon or worse. She joins the X-Men as a student and is ultimately made a member of Emma Frost’s training group, the Hellions. She was one of the few handful of students to retain her powers after M-Day.
Marvel gives the credit of the first Muslim superhero to publisher darling, the current Ms. Marvel (she’s the third to hold the name), Kamala Khan. However, Dust predates Kamala by more than ten years. Dust is a Sunni Muslim to be accurate and in her own words doesn’t wear her niqab due to political or social pressures but because of her own faith and the comfort it provides her. It’s a sentiment not shared by her friend and one-time roommate, the electric speedster, Surge who sees it as an obstacle to women’s rights.
In my opinion, Dust is a great example of what Muslim faith is and what it means to those who practice it. While Kamala has been at the center of dozens of promotions and helmed her own book, Dust has barely been seen for years outside of brief cameos and background art appearances.
I don’t personally think there is anything better than a good redemption story. None of us are perfect and quite often make decisions that many others might see as wrong. In comics, sometimes this isn’t a conscious choice, but your body is still along for the ride. The concept of Prime Sentinels debuted during the late 90s X-Men crossover story, Operation: Zero Tolerance. In an effort directed by Bastion, an amalgamation of Master Mold and Nimrod, citizens were transformed (with and without their knowledge) into deadly, human-sized, sleeper agent Sentinels that activate when in the presence of someone with the X-Gene. Targets were either apprehended or just outright killed.
Karima Shapandar, once a police officer in India, was unwillingly infected with the nano-technology and turned into a killing machine. The combined efforts of Xavier and Magneto were able to shut down the commands that controlled her, but Karima’s body was already irreversibly altered. From that point forward, Karima struggled to maintain control of her Sentinel programming and killer’s body. She’s been possessed by Malice, had relapses in her programming, and been taken over by a sentient bacterium named Arkea. When Arkea was finally removed from Karima, the technology in her body was left inactive. Since then, she’s remained with the X-Men but otherwise completely removed from the board.
What other minority X-Men are out there that you think deserve a little limelight?