Friday, September 5, 2014

"Forget it, Kitty! You're not good enough for us 'X-Babies!"

Ah, I remember New Mutants #13 (March 1984) when Kitty Pryde was like, "Oh, guys, can I hang out with you?" and Dani Moonstar was all, "Nuh uh!  You called us 'X-Babies,' so you can take your sorry butt right on out of these woods we're hanging out in and suck an egg!"  I was thinking about that the other day.  I've always loved the cover by Tom Mandrake.  Crying Kitty's in the foreground in her garish green circus costume, phasing sadly through a fallen tree, and the New Mutants are behind her looking fierce.  Especially Dani, who Mandrake places in this pose of haughty dismissal.
The story inside is heavy on Amara, Kitty and Doug Ramsey, none of whom I had the least interest in back in the day.  I briefly gave up reading the series right around this issue because the book seemed moribund.  No more Bob McLeod art, the team's central conflict-- Dani versus a Brood-controlled Professor X-- had long been resolved and the X-Men were back from space, where everyone had believed them dead.  There was really no need for a junior X-Team, unless it was to give Chris Claremont's complex narratives in Uncanny X-Men extra space to play out as a kind of main story footnote.  Hardly a compelling reason for another title, although it's standard operating practice at both Marvel and DC these days.
Rather than establish a distinct identity, New Mutants in its second year tended towards dull, generic super-kid stories. It hooked me again when Bill Sienkiewicz became the regular artist and Chris Claremont re-established his unique authorial voice by taking the kids and their narrative in a darker direction.  Demon bears, slumber parties, shape-shifting cyber-aliens from outer space.  All classic stuff.

But I loved this conflict between Kitty and Dani.  I took Dani's side, of course.  Who wouldn't?  Dani is only Marvel's greatest post-Jack Kirby creation.  Kitty's fine, but there's no competition there.  Mandrake's cover stuck with me for years after I'd forgotten Amara gets her codename in the story, long after I'd given up comic book reading for serious literature only to start in with them again, kind of the same way I did with New Mutants.

Every so often, I want to revisit that cover image, only my brain invariably turns it into something that only slightly resembles the Mandrake original.  Like with this drawing, which I knocked out the other day before work.  I felt like working on a foreshortened pointing pose, because I'd convinced myself Mandrake had drawn Dani that way.  Actually, if you take a look at New Mutants #13, she's just sort of waving her hand at Kitty.  And I really thought since Dani was establishing herself as team leader and spokesperson she was the one who let Kitty have it with the cover dialogue.  How wrong I was!  Well, my little sketch is poor Kitty Pryde to Mandrake's powerful Dani Moonstar.

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