2014: The Year in “X”.

9 01 2015

It’s pretty easy to understand why many LGBT geeks are drawn to the X-Men and their long-standing crusade for acceptance, tolerance, and coexistence. The parallels between the plight of Marvel’s mutant characters and the LGBT community are undeniable. As an avid fan of the characters and stories, I found it fitting to ring in the new year with a reflection on 2014’s memorable exploits of the Children of the Atom. Here they are… the good, the bad, and the questionable:

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Strong Female Character: Lila @#$%ing Cheney!

2 10 2014
A preview of David Lopez's art for "Captain Marvel" #9 (feat. Lila Cheney).

Preview of David Lopez’s art for “Captain Marvel” #9 (feat. Lila Cheney).

In a recent interview with CBR, “80s fairy tale rock opera” were the exact words that Captain Marvel scribe, Kelly Sue DeConnick, used in reference to the title’s upcoming 9th issue.

If you are fortunate enough to remember the magical decade known as the 80s, images of punk rockers, studded belts, glitter, neon-colored jelly bracelets, leather motorcycle jackets, teased hair, ripped fishnet stockings, and smudged eyeliner should be swirling through your mind.

What Marvel character epitomizes everything that was glamorously trashy and decadent about the 80s? There is only one. She’s British… she’s an intergalactic teleporter… she’s a mutant rockstar… she’s Lila Cheney. Yes, as confirmed by Marvel’s November solicits, Sam Guthrie’s former flame is set to cross paths with the (now) spacefaring Carol Danvers.

Newer comic book readers (and others that have been living under a wet stone) may be asking “Who is Lila @#$%ing Cheney?” In preparation for November’s issue of Captain Marvel, five of Lila’s “better than everyone else in the Marvel Universe” moments have been gathered below:

Lila Cheney's first appearance ("New Mutants" Annual #1).

Lila Cheney’s first appearance (“New Mutants” Annual #1).

1) The Bill Sienkiewicz cover of New Mutants Annual #1: The world’s first glimpse of Lila was courtesy of Bill Sienkiewicz’s stunning cover artwork for New Mutants Annual #1. The cover, featuring a Siouxsie Sioux-looking Lila with Sam Guthrie (a.k.a. Cannonball) at her side, is an obvious homage to other cinematic artwork (Conan the BarbarianStar Wars). However, instead of the female appearing in the submissive role, Lila is the alpha dog and Sam has become the “damsel in distress”.

2) Meeting Mrs. Guthrie for the first time: It should be common knowledge to X-Men fans that Sam Guthrie hails from America’s heartland… the ultra-Conservative and redder- than-a-candy-apple state of Kentucky. You can imagine Sam’s mortification when Lila showed up to meet the matriarch of the Guthrie family looking like a Jem and the Holograms groupie doing the walk of shame.

Lila meets Mrs. Guthrie in "New Mutants" #42.

Meeting Mrs. Guthrie in “New Mutants” #42.

In the end, her appearance was revealed to be a ruse after she teleported away to change into a more demure ensemble. Her goal was to determine whether or not Sam would ever be ashamed of her, their relationship, or their obvious differences. The family introductions went off without a hitch and Lila would remain friendly with Mrs. Guthrie for many years to come.

(side note: Parallels to LGBT relationships can easily be made throughout this memorable scene.)

3) Dazzler tried to upstage Lila so Ms. Cheney threatened to fire her ass: Despite growing anti-mutant sentiment, the events of Dazzler: The Movie saw the disco queen “come out” as a mutant to the public. Needless to say, it ruined Alison’s career and she was forced into hiding… as a backup singer for Lila Cheney’s band. Following a concert in San Francisco, the disembodied psionic mutant, Malice, took possession of Dazzler and began to influence her behavior.

Dazzler takes over lead vocals in "Uncanny X-Men" #214.

Dazzler takes over lead vocals in “Uncanny X-Men” #214.

Some time later, as Lila’s tour was in full swing, Dazzler (Malzzler/Dazzlice) attempted to usurp the role of lead vocalist from Lila. Claiming to only be concerned for Dazzler’s safety, Lila threatened to sack the singer should she ever try shenanigans like that again. Truthfully, we all knew that Lila rightfully didn’t like sharing the spotlight.

Lila Cheney and Deathbird... badass babes with big guns ("Uncanny X-Men #276).

Lila Cheney and Deathbird… bad, beautiful babes with really big guns (“Uncanny X-Men #276).

4) That time she was recruited by Deathbird and had a really big gun: At one point, occasional Shi’ar Empress, Deathbird, elicited the help of Lila Cheney after the former witnessed Charles Xavier laying waste to planets within the Empire.

Being an intergalactic teleporter proved most useful as Lila used her powers to collect the X-Men at Deathbird’s behest. In the end, it was revealed that Xavier and his lover, Lilandra, had been replaced by Warskrulls who had seized the opportunity to attack Shi’ar alien races. The invaders were defeated and the real heroes rescued from their confinement.

It was never revealed whether or not Lila and Deathbird had raided Cable’s weapon stockpile to obtain the insane hardware that they so proudly wielded.

5) She played a flying monkey in Mojo’s production of The Wizard of Oz: Hoping for some r&r at her Malibu beach house, Lila was surprised to see that her bodyguard, Guido, had invited an amnesiac Dazzler to stay with them.

Lila Cheney... the true star of Mojo's "The Wizard of X" ("X-Men" #7).

Lila Cheney… the true star of Mojo’s “The Wizard of X” (“X-Men” #10).

The rag tag group of mutants  soon had a few more uninvited guests… first in the form of Longshot, who came seeking Dazzler’s help back in his home world, the Mojoverse. Next, came the sorceress, Spiral, in an attempt to convince Lila to teleport them all to safety. Unbeknownst to Lila, her powers had been altered, resulting in her, Longshot, and Dazzler all being sent to the Mojoverse.

The X-Men were summoned to help their teammates but soon ended up as prisoners of Mojo, themselves. With his love of televised entertainment unquenchable, Mojo produced The Wizard of X… starring the X-Men. Lila’s big, onscreen moment came when she was coerced into attacking the show’s Dorothy (Longshot).

Mojo was eventually defeated and his grip over the Mojoverse transferred to Mojo II: The Sequel.

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Carol Stardust and the Flerkins from Mars (David Lopez’s cover artwork for “Captain Marvel” #9).

Most recently, Lila had been seen in the company of David Haller, the mutant known as Legion. She assisted him in his mission to wipe mutantphobia from Great Britain (Si Spurrier’s X-Men Legacy #13-14) and has since been off-the-grid.

Details have been quite scarce as to the story behind Lila’s upcoming appearance in Captain Marvel. Judging by what Kelly Sue has done with the title, thus far, readers can be sure to expect quite a stellar ride! Afterall, it’s not every day that Carol Danvers gets done up in full Ziggy Stardust makeup!





Brian Michael Bendis in Cleveland (a.k.a. “Can we talk about Dazzler?”).

7 04 2014
w/ Brian Michael Bendis at Comic Heaven

w/ Brian Michael Bendis at Comic Heaven

He brought us Jessica Jones and Alias. He was responsible for such “universe-changing” storylines as Avengers: Disassembled, House of M, and Secret Invasion. He employed Squirrel Girl as the nanny to Luke Cage’s daughter. Oh, and he also teamed up with Chris Bachalo to accessorize Mystique with a fabulous Louis Vuitton medical bag. He is Brian Michael Bendis.

Between various comic book conventions and in-store appearances, the last few years have afforded me several opportunities to meet some of Marvel’s most talented names: Chris Claremont, Peter David, Marjorie Liu, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Marc Silvestri, Walt and Louise Simonson, Matt Fraction, Stuart and Kathryn Immonen, Cullen Bunn, and Skottie Young. However, when a creator like Brian Michael Bendis announces an upcoming appearance, you tend to make whatever accomodations are necessary to be there… even if it involves a lengthy commute.

When word broke that Mr. Bendis would be doing an afternoon signing in Ohio, following a TEDx engagement in Cleveland, it didn’t take much convincing before the trunk of the car was packed tightly with essential Bendis books, all eagerly awaiting his signature. Being an unapologetic fanboy of Marvel’s d-listers, I was proudly dragging all New Avengers issues that featured the notable and instantly recognizable heroes Squirrel Girl and Night Nurse.

NightNurse2The event was held at Bendis’ old stomping ground, Comic Heaven, in the Cleveland suburb of Willoughby. With the incredibly friendly and gracious owner, Jim Williams, and a fantastic selection of back-issues, I cannot sing the praises of this store enough. With plenty of time to kill before Bendis was due to arrive, we spent time browsing the shelves and swapping stories with a writer from BleedingCool, who was covering the event.

True to the stories told by  folks that have met him in the past, Bendis is not only extremely personable, but he is also incredibly humble. You never know for sure what you’re going to get when you meet the folks attached to your favorite comic books. Experience has shown that there is a fair share, with less impressive rap sheets than Mr. Bendis, who come off as particularly arrogant with little desire to interact with fans.

“Can we talk about Dazzler?” Of course, this was the first question asked of the man who currently has the mutant songstress in a catatonic state in his Uncanny X-Men run. If his hearty chuckle alluded to anything, it was that he has been thrown this question on numerous occasions. “People think that if something bad happens to a character that they love, the writer obviously hates that character,” he responded. “I don’t hate Dazzler. I love her! I promise you, it will all pay-off!”

As Bendis continued signing the pile of books that were brought over state lines, we briefly discussed the upcoming Jessica Jones-centric Netflix series. All he could really tell us was that he was very pleased with what has been in development so far. As Jessica could be considered his “baby”, this would lead one to presume that the series will stay relatively true to how the former Avenger appears in print. So, has the show actually begun filming? Has the title role been cast yet?  With a grin on his face, he refused to divulge anything further.

Being an intelligent man, Bendis knows that silence often speaks volumes.