Category Archives: Introspective

Introspective on books, movies, characters, etc. Unlike reviews, this category is for looking back on a topic, good or bad, breaking down, and whether or not it deserved the notoriety it got.

Nightcrawler: Where it Started, Why I Like Him, and Comics I Own and Have Read

It might go without saying, but Nightcrawler is my favorite Marvel character.  In my experience, I will find that one character that I really get invested in and want to read up on.  When it comes to DC, that comes in the form of Tim Drake (Red Robin/Robin III), Roy Harper (Speedy/Arsenal), Joey Wilson (Jericho), and Ra’s al Ghul.  Of course, I enjoy other characters from both Marvel and DC (ex. Wolverine, Evan Peters’ Quicksilver, Red Hood (Jason Todd), and Starfire), but there will usually be one or two characters that I will always return to.

I thought I would go over where my interest for Nightcrawler began, why I like him, and X-Men comics that I own, alongside Nightcrawler centered stories.

A Little Bit of Background on My Relationship with Marvel and DC

Before I jump right in, I feel like I should preface this stating how I was mostly a DC viewer growing up.  A number of my favorite shows as a kid included Static Shock, Teen Titans, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and Batman Beyond.  I did watch Marvel shows like Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and snippets of X-Men Evolution, enjoyed the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, as well as liking the first 2000’s Fantastic Four.  I would certainly say I was more of a DC fan as a kids. 

That kind of continued when I finally got into comics during the rise of DC’s Rebirth comic line after spending years as a slightly more avid manga reader.  I started reading up on characters I liked and branched out and found new characters and series to enjoy.  Recently, I feel like I’ve hit a wall with what to read next with DC.  With Rebirth ending and not really knowing what to jump into next, I was at a bit of a stalemate.  During this time is when I got interested in checking out Marvel content.  More specifically Nightcrawler/X-Men.  I cannot pinpoint exactly when or why it started, but it was in the last few months.

Currently, I’ve read through a good chunk of the original X-Men run, read through the 2003 run of Wolverine, a few smaller X-Men runs like X-Men Gold, X-Men Red, and All New X-Men, and am planning to jump into Sandman (DC/Gaiman) and getting into the X-Men run starting with House of X.  

The Beginning: Where it Began

With that little bit of history out of the way, allow me to get into Nightcrawler.  I guess it would have started with X-Men Evolution.  I didn’t watch it much when I was younger, but when I did catch it, I found myself liking Kurt.  It probably had to do with how laid back he was and him being the more comedic of the gang (that probably contributed to why I liked TMNT 2003’s Michelangelo too).  One episode of X-Men Evolution I remember watching was Middleverse, the season one episode where Kurt accidently ends up in another dimension of sorts and meets Forge.  It wasn’t the only X-Men media I had watched over the years, as I also remember seeing Wolverine 2013, First Class, and was overall aware of the X-Men movies.  Though, I will admit that I never got around to all of it back then.  

Jump to the latter half of 2021.  I was trying to find more graphic novels to read, but I was at a bit of a stalemate.   I fell into a bit of a DC slump.  Rebirth was ending and The Joker War event, mainly what they did with the Nightwing portion, I think burnt me out a little.  Nothing seemed to be grasping my interest except for Batman Urban Legends, which is where Tim Drake came out as bisexual.  Side note: I actually purchased a hard copy of Batman Urban Legends not too long ago. 

It would be around this time that I would start getting into Nightcrawler.  And it involved a crossover in a DC community I am apart of.  It’s there that this interest in Kurt returned.  It would respawned an interest in Nightcrawler and be what lead to my getting into X-Men as a whole.

Then came the movies, which I am getting around to binging.  I think the only reason I hadn’t was because of how the timeline diverged after First Class and/or Days of Future Past, and for whatever reason that confused me at first.  That and the poor reception of The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Dark Phoenix.  In hindsight, the timeline of the movies isn’t all that complicated, and I’m still going to watch all of movies, weaker ones included.  The movies also had some stellar casting choices.  Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy as Charles Xavier/Professor X, Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto, and Hugh Jackman were all iconic.  A good chunk of the cast was also good.  For instance, people really seem to enjoy Evan Peters’ Peter (Pietro) Maximoff, myself included. 

And of course, there’s Kurt Wagner.  Portrayed by Alan Cummings in X2 and Kodi Smit-McPhee in Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix, I would say both did well with the character.  I kind of like Kodi Smit-McPhee’s a little better, but Alan Cummings did good too.  I only wish either appearance confirmed Nightcrawler’s relation with Mystique, his mother.  Heck, they could have confirmed both of Nightcrawler’s parents in Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix since Azazel, his father, appeared in First Class (and later confirmed dead) and Mystique was present since First Class.

That’s were it all began.  An interest in Nightcrawler’s X-Men Evolution would go dormant until a crossover event reignited by interest in the character.  And his portrayals in the movies have caught my interest.  

The Character: Why I Like Him

Why do I like Nightcrawler?  There’s a lot to like about him, I think.  In terms of design, he looks pretty cool.  His abilities are neat and his weaknesses make sense.  For me, it comes down to personality, backstory, and what he represents.

In terms of personality, he’s light-hearted and optimistic.  He can display moments of anger, sorrow, and fear, but he is usually seen as pretty positive, all things considered.  And with Logan being his best friend, it’s the perfect balance to his more stern and pessimistic world view.  He’s flirty, but not in a problematic or annoying kind of way.  In some ways, he could be seen as a hopeful outlook for the future, while also not being blind to the problems in the world.  

His backstory.  There is a lot that went wrong in his life, despite what his more positive outlook might suggest.  His mother abandoned him as a baby.  The circus that he was raised in drugged and used him.  Said circus was also going to sell him to be a road side attraction if not for Margali Szardos, his adopted mother, freeing him.  And because of a promise he made, Kurt had to kill his adopted brother when he lost his mind and killed a bunch of people, not that the mob knew.

I think his past is something that helps show how despite how terrible things can be, people can still come out of it on top.  It might not be easy, but it is possible.  Life didn’t give Nightcrawler much peace prior to joining the X-Men.  Margali and her biological children certainly love him like family, but the circus they were apart of wanted to exploit him.  And the reason Charles found him being pursued was because the mob chasing him thought he killed Stefan Szardos and the missing people, when in actuality, Stefan killed the missing people and Kurt only killed Stefan out of self-defense and a promise he made to Stefan, where if Stefan went off the deep end, Kurt would stop him.  Yet, he never became cruel later in life, rather, he was a better person than those who wronged him.

I also kind of like how he got the last name Wagner.  At least originally.  I’m not sure if Marvel ever retconned the whole thing where Mystique was married to Baron Christian Wagner and had an affair with Azazel, which later lead to Kurt’s conception, and that being where Kurt got his last name despite not being the baron’s biological son.  Originally, Kurt took on the last name Wagner because of a priest to housed him after Margali released him and he was being pursued.  Father Wagner gave Kurt a place to stay, despite Kurt’s “demonic” appearance.  This is also where Kurt’s teleporting would come into effect as he would use it when Herr Getmann’s men came for him.  He did end up leaving the church, but Kurt didn’t forget the priest’s kindness, taking on the last name Wagner in his honor.  

As for what Kurt represents, I feel he fits into a few different categories.  I’ve mentioned how he represents good people rising up from bad situations, which is one thing he can represent.  Something else he represents is how people shouldn’t judge things based on how they appear.  The old Never Judge a Book by It’s Cover saying if you will.  He might look evil/demonic, but is one of the most kind hearted and saintly people out there.  That’s something that also makes his friendship with Logan great and so symbolic.  Both of them are considered monsters in some way, externally (Kurt) or internally (Logan).  Yet, both are also human.  Logan has gone onto say how Kurt is one of the most saintly guys he’s met, and Kurt, despite knowing how gruesome his job can be, sees the good in Logan and knows that he’s not an animal or evil.

One other thing I feel Kurt represents, and this could just be me, is irony.  He’s a “demon” yet he’s Catholic.  He’s morally good, while his parents would be considered morally bad (though Mystique could be morally grey given she isn’t purely evil and has helped her children).  Both of which I feel perfectly define what irony is.  

Reading Between the Lines: Comics I’ve Read and Comics I Own

I own a handful of X-Men comics.  Some solo series, some with the team.  Nightcrawler has a few solo series: Age of X-Men: The Amazing Nightcrawler, X-Men Icons: Nightcrawler, a four issue mini series, and two twelve solo series in 2003 and 2014.  Of his solo pieces, I own the 2003 and 2014.  I haven’t started them yet, but I have skimmed through both. 

As far as X-Men comics with Nightcrawler as a central character, I’ve read and own several.  Of course there is the X-Men run in the 70’s, starting with Giant Sized X-Men #1 by Chris Claremont.  That run, which does go on for several years, is recommended by quite a few people who want to start X-Men comics.  It’s a classic and a good place for a start.  I don’t own any of the Claremont run, but I do have a list of issues that I’d like to purchase one day.  A few other series I’ve read through in their entirety include X-Men Gold, Extraordinary X-Men.  I’ve read some of Wolverine’s 2003 run, some of Wolverine’s first solo, Second Coming, the story where Nightcrawler dies, and one volume of Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men.  Specifically the Trial of Juggernaut volume since it had the notoriously bad story, The Draco, which I only read after I learned about Kurt’s father through the First Class movie and his appearance in Amazing X-Men volume one (the one where Nightcrawler is brought back to life).

I like Azazel, and don’t mind him as Kurt’s father.  It’s a bit of an unpopular opinion, but that’s okay.  I was going to read The Draco either way because I wanted to see how bad it was.  But since I liked Azazel in his other appearances, The Draco didn’t tarnish it much, outside of thinking that the story could have been a whole lot better.

A few other comics I own, but have yet to start, include House of M, Inferno, Giant-Sized X-Men volume #1 (2020), Way of X, X-Men (2020) volume one, Amazing X-Men volume 1 The Quest for Nightcrawler, The Hellfire Gala, Wolverine (2020) volumes 1-3, The Death of Wolverine, The Return of Wolverine, Wolverine: Weapon X the Gallery Edition, and Wolverine the Deluxe Edition.  I might be missing one or two, but those are the ones I know I own.  Nightcrawler also appears in a number of them.

I would certainly say that my collection is very Nightcrawler and Wolverine involved.  Yes, the broader X-Men comics do have the rest of the X-Men, but if there was a pattern, that would be it.  Which is by no means a problem.  Everyone reads comics a bit differently.  I will certainly read a series if it interests me, but I also like reading comics with my favorite characters.  It’s a reader by reader basis.

While I would recommend all of these, if you are looking for Nightcrawler reads, I would recommend: Claremont’s run starting with Giant-Sized X-Men #1, Nightcrawler (2003), Wolverine by Greg Rucka #6, for both a great story with Logan and Kurt and a gem of a censor passing cover, Second Coming, Amazing X-Men, Nightcrawler (2014), House of M, X-Men Gold, X-Men (2020), Giant-Sized X-Men (2020), Return of Wolverine, Way of X, and Inferno.  There are more out there, I am still working my way through X-Men comics. 

And as for movies, I’d recommend X2, X-Men Apocalypse, and X-Men Dark Phoenix.  I know the last one is considered more of a miss, just like the Dark Phoenix adaptation before it (The Last Stand), but thought I would include it.

BAMF: The Conclusion

Though not X-Men’s most popular member, Nightcrawler is one that is generally liked.  For me, a combination of his personality, backstory, adaptations, and what he symbolically represents is what I enjoy.  I also really enjoy his friendship with Logan.  I hope you enjoyed this little deep dive into why I like Kurt Wagner.  

Now I leave you with the following.  What are your thoughts on Nightcrawler?  What are your favorite adaptations of Nightcrawler?  Favorite stories?  Who’s your favorite X-Men member?


The Evolving History of Joey “Jericho” Wilson’s Sexuality

From straight to gay to bisexual, the history of DC’s Joey “Jericho” Wilson’s sexuality has gone through quite a few changes since his introduction in 1984.  IT’s not an uncommon thing to happen in comics.  Characters will keep important factors to their backstory and origin and change in other ways.  After all, Dick Grayson was not Robin forever, and not too long ago Tim Drake came out as bisexual.

Today, I thought I would go over the history of Jericho’s sexuality.  From straight with a secret rough draft to a brief conformation that he was gay to Rebirth deciding to change it to bisexuality.  This is an evolution of Joey “Jericho” Wilson. 

In the Beginning: Why Jericho was Straight

Though he was ultimately straight in his debut, the thought of Jericho being gay wasn’t a foreign concept to his creators. According to an interview with head artist and New Teen Titans co-creator George Pérez (rest in peace), the idea of having Jericho be gay was an idea that he and Marv Wolfman considered.  However, what ultimately made Wolfman and Pérez decide against this, was his attributes.  In New Teen Titans, Jericho’s character can be summed up as “artistic, sensitive, and wide eyed” with “feminine features”.  Or so Pérez had stated in the same interview.  Because of that, they ended up deciding against having him gay.  Their main concern was that he would have been a stereotype if they had. 

Though I think it would have been an interesting and pretty revolutionary concept for Jericho to be gay in his debut, I can understand why they didn’t.  I can see how it could have came off as a stereotype, even if they weren’t being malice.  Though I cannot speak for either, I doubt that thy would have been intentionally malicious about it had they gone with it.  I assume, had Wolfman and Pérez gone with the idea, they may have just wanted to make an artistic, sensitive, and empathetic character who just so happens to be gay.  However, I can understand why they didn’t and I agree that stereotypes can be a tricky business.  Because while some may argue that not all stereotypes are bad, the ones that are ‘bad’ have enough of a negative impact to want to avoid them as much as possible.

Jericho had one real relationship, which was with Kole.  While he and Raven certainly had a connection, it never crossed the line between platonic and romantic.  While readers don’t get to see too much in terms of romantic moments, it is clear that these two had a deep fondness for each other.  Some key moments include, Kole being one of the few people invited into his home and he was a source of comfort for her.  All and all, this 

One Off: Confirmed Gay, if Only for an Issue

The best way I can summarize 2015’s Convergence storyline is several tie in stories throughout the multiverse.  It wasn’t a long run, only lasting a few months.  The Teen Titans tie in had two issues set in the New Teen Titans era with the main team, Kole, and Jericho making up a majority of the heroic roster.

In the New Teen Titans based tie in, Kole can’t seem to figure out why Jericho won’t return his advances.  When Donna Troy suggests she talks to Jericho, Kole goes to see him.  I think there was a fight during this interaction as well that Kole and Jericho had to deal with, and once they finish it, Kole continues on her path to find answers.  With this interaction, she is a little more forward, kissing him.  But when he seems not to reciprocate, she asks why. 

It’s here that Kole learns why he never really returned her advances.  With just a few signs, Jericho tells her that he’s gay.  She isn’t upset by this revelation, accepting it along with him.

This is the only time it’s really discussed in the New 52.  With the Convergence mini-series coming out so close to New 52’s end and Rebirth’s beginning, it never really gets addressed.  Quite frankly, I don’t recall them ever really discussing it with Jericho in the main universe.

This scene from tie in feels like an homage/nod to what George Pérez and Marv Wolfman considered.  In fact, Marv Wolfman was even a writer on both issues.  I do wish they had the chance to explore it more, but they didn’t ultimately.  

I’m not sure what the overall consensus is on how they approached this, so if there was an issue on how they went about it, I couldn’t tell you.  I don’t think readers would have complained about Jericho being gay, so much as how the story handled it.  If there were any critiques in that regard, I could understand why.

It wouldn’t last long, but for a brief moment, we got a glimpse into a DC world where Jericho was gay.

Bye, Bye, Bye: Rebirth and Bisexuality

Is that an N’SYNC reference?  Yes, yes it is. 

When Rebirth came around in mid 2016, there were a lot of series that got revived and revamped.  Deathstroke’s Rebirth run was one of them, and is where Jericho consistently appears in.  In it, he starts of engaged to a woman named Étienne.  But after a series of events, she ends up dead.  Initially believing this to be by his father’s hand, especially considering the two had a relationship before she was set to marry Jericho, Jericho holds it against him until he learns that it was Rose, who was not in control of her actions at the time, who killed Étienne.

Jericho would have two other romantic interactions.  Prior to Étienne, he had a relationship with David “Dave” Isherwood.  Isherwood would be the man who helped Jericho figure out that Jericho would be his alias.  They would have a close bond, which Étienne would learn about not too long before her death (telling him that her sleeping with Slade made them even essentially).  Isherwood would also be the one to help get Jericho back to normal in the Year of the Villain storyline, which took place towards the end of Deathstroke’s Rebirth run.

The biggest issue with this relationship was, not only the age gap, but David Isherwood’s relationship to Slade.  Isherwood would be the one who worked on the Ikon suits, one of which Jericho would use after he thinks he kills Isherwood.  Because of how close he was to the Wilson family, that makes their brief romance morally questionable.  More so Isherwood since he should have known better as the elder in the relationship.  Because while Slade doesn’t care who Jericho dates (man, woman, etc.), there was a line crossed when Isherwood had that romance with Jericho.

The only other relationship Jericho had in Rebirth was with a gentleman named Terrance.  He was deaf, and was only in an issue or two from what I recall.  He cared for Jericho, but was getting annoyed that their lives weren’t settling down.  He wanted Jericho to stop worrying about his family (namely Slade and Rose) with what they put him through and focus more on them.   But with everything going on, Jericho couldn’t.  He did plan to propose to his partner, but ended up getting pulled into the climax of his part of the Year of the Villain storyline.  

Not wanting to lose him, Jericho essentially trapped his boyfriend in their apartment as he went to take care of what he needed to.  Rose would eventually find him, but he doesn’t know if their relationship was worth preserving.  This is the last time we see Jericho’s boyfriend and readers don’t get to see if they patched things up or broke things off.  

 

Rebirth Deathstroke was a hit or miss series.  And while I would consider it one of my favorites from the Rebirth line, at least as a guilty pleasure, I can agree that it was a flawed series.  I enjoyed the art, but only a handful of stories were enjoyable.  I would recommend giving it a read if anyone is interested, but I don’t think it’s a series everyone will enjoy.

As far as Jericho’s bisexuality, I thought it was interesting and a good way to approach the character.  I do think that it would have been interesting if they had expanded on him being gay a bit more, even if Convergence’s Jericho was from another universe.  However, when all is said and done, DC was the one who ultimately made the call.  That said, I think that there could/would have been more issue with making him straight again after revealing he was gay than there might have been by making him bisexual.  So while maybe not ideal for everyone, Jericho being bisexual is a step in the right direction.

The only thing I might change about how they approached it in Rebirth is with Isherwood.  Had Isherwood been a few years younger and had he not been as close as he was to the Wilson family, it wouldn’t wouldn’t come off as uncomfortable when readers really think about it.  How much Isherwood cared was what convinced him to help Jericho in the Year of the Villain storyline, in which he ultimately sacrificed himself to save Jericho.  However, as touching as it would have been in any other circumstance, factors surrounding their relationship ruin it.

It would have been nice if they had developed Jericho’s relationship with Terrance.  I think that would have been the relationship to develop out of all three he had.  Étienne played her role as a fiancée as well as an agent for Amanda Waller.  And while Isherwood cared for Jericho, it gets really messy when all of the factors in their relationship is looked at.  With his boyfriend, there could have been a chance for Jericho to have happiness.  I also think that it would have been a great way to represent individual characters and romantic partners who have physical handicaps like mutism, blindness, and deafness.  Jericho using sign language had been on the decline for a while, and with him being able to use telepathy, it becomes even more ignored.  So I think that, had this relationship had time to grow and develop, readers could have gotten a great way to reintroduce sign language to Jericho while also giving readers who share similar disabilities to have characters to relate to.

Where to Go From Here?  Closing Thoughts

To my knowledge, Jericho hasn’t made a return to DC Comics.  Having stopped reading towards the end of Rebirth and not jumping into Future State or Infinity Frontier, I cannot say when they plan to bring back the Wilson family if they haven’t already, or if plan to at all.  Assuming DC does bring back Deathstroke and his family, which given how popular the character has become, I would like to see a few things when it comes to Jericho.  To keep his personality short and to the point (I could do a whole blog discussing how they could improve that) I would say try something closer to his New Teen Titans personality with a good level of caution and maybe even a bit of distrust towards his father.  

When it comes to his sexuality, I would say either continue with his bisexuality from Rebirth or build on Convergence’s decision to make (a version of) him gay.  Whichever DC were to choose, I would also want it to be properly developed and healthy.  Maybe give him a partner who won’t be intimidated by his family and/or is willing to help him recover from what his parents, mainly Slade, though Adeline isn’t completely innocent in it either, caused him.  Love for each other, having development, and being healthy is what I think would make a relationship with Jericho good. 

 

Jericho is a character that DC doesn’t seem to know what to do with in certain situations.  His sexuality being one such situation.  Given how much has changed since his conception when it comes to sexuality and comics, I think that going with that draft of Jericho Marv Wolfman and George Pérez would be interesting to see developed.  Or, at the very least continuing with Rebirth’s bisexuality decision for the sake of consistency and/or a sort of “middle ground” if DC decided not to go with Jericho being gay.

Sources

Could Maul Have PTSD: A Star Wars Speculation

Of all the things to come out of The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul and Duel of the Fates are two icons that came out of the first prequel movie. Qui Gon and Mace Windu were other interesting characters and Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan would go down in history as an example of the perfect casting choices. Yes, there is Jar Jar and yes, it may not have aged the best, but The Phantom Menace is actually one of my favorite Star Wars movies, and honestly, it wasn’t all bad.

Yet, despite having the aforementioned positives, and being one of my favorites, it is a flawed movie. Special effects were still a work in process, the political side of it would feel odd, and midichlorians added what some might consider an unnecessary explanation of the Force, just to name a few critiques.

However, I am not here to dissect The Phantom Menace. No, today, I would like to dissect the character that only had a few minutes of screen time and ending up becoming one of the most developed characters to come out of the Prequel Movies.

Darth Maul

Darth Maul. The red Dathomirian Zabrak with the black tattoos and double bladed red lightsaber. He was Darth Sidious’ first apprentice given to Sidious as a baby (Legends) or as a child (Canon) and raised to be a Sith. He would fight Qui Gon Jinn and Obi Wan, killing the former and being “slain” by the latter. However, through pure hatred it was revealed that he survived, returning in the fourth season of Clone Wars, which just so happened to come out several months before Lucas sold Star Wars to Disney. Maul would stay alive through the rest of Clone Wars and into Rebels where he died. Scattered throughout, several Canon comics were released, where as his previous novels were considered Legend when Disney bought Star Wars.

Maul is certainly a well liked character. While maybe not as popular as Darth Vader or even Sidious, he left enough of an impression to make a return. And with his revival in Clone Wars, Dave Filoni was able to expand on the character. Not only by giving him a new lease on life with his motivation to kill Obi Wan and Sidious, but a family as well. Along with Asajj Ventress, viewers would get to learn more about the Dathomirian Zabrak. Asajj was revealed to be a Nightsister, the female Dathomirians, while Mother Talzin and Savage Opress was Maul’s mother and brother respectively.

With the development he got, how he was raised, and how Clone Wars ended, I feel like there is a discussion to be had about Maul’s psychology. Namely, that he could have some form of PTSD. And while that is by no means an excuse for the actions that he’s taken, it could help explain certain reactions and how his upbringing damaged him mentally.

What is PTSD?

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be defined as “a mental condition where someone experienced something traumatic”. Reactions can be triggered when remembering what happened, which can result in things like nightmares, depression, and feeling numb to name a few symptoms. It was at one point called shell shock, combat fatigue, and battle fatigue. When it comes to people with PTSD, the most recognized group are military personnel. With everything that happens during war, it isn’t surprising that they could/would come home with trauma. With that in mind, PTSD isn’t exclusive to war. Surviving a car accident could be another reason someone has it, or violence of any kind on a person could trigger it. These are just a few examples.

Common Symptoms/Reactions

There are a few common reactions and traits when someone has PTSD. Whether it be another mental condition, a physical reaction, sleep patterns, or something else, there are a few traits that someone with PTSD might experience. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Heightened Anxiety/Panic
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Isolation
  • Easily Angered/Increased Angered Outbursts
  • Easily Startled

I will touch on what symptoms Maul exhibits that could line up with him having PTSD. But first, I’d like to take a moment to go over why he might. What kind of trauma he might have experienced that would trigger PTSD in the character. And again, while this isn’t meant to condone his actions, it could help explain it with an additional angle.

Why Would Maul Have PTSD? What Could Have Caused it?

If Maul were to have PTSD, I’ve narrowed it down to three different catalysts. Because beneath all of the Sith training and high levels of anger and vengeance, which is common for a Sith, I wouldn’t say his life was easy. Who he was raised by and connections he lost couldn’t have been easy.

Darth Sidious: Raised, Trained, as Well as Tortured by

Where it be from infancy or as a child, Maul was raised by Sidious all the way up to his twenty second year. While Jedi have certain regulations, I don’t think he would have been as harmed by someone like Dooku or Qui Gon. And while all Sith aren’t harsh or abusive, Sidious isn’t known for being a warm master.

The man was cunning, intelligent, and strong in the Force. He desired power and control, following the Rule of Two as a guideline in which the apprentice wouldn’t surpass him. He wanted his apprentice strong, sure, but not enough to defeat him. Basically a puppet.

Now, depending on if it’s Canon or Legends, what Maul went through may vary. The only content to remain Canon for Maul after Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars was The Phantom Menace and Clone Wars. He got a few comics after the acquisition, like Son of Dathomir, Darth Maul (2017) and an issue of Age of the Republic as well as reappearing in Rebels. While storied lie Wrath of Darth Maul, Darth Maul (2000), Shadow Hunter, Saboteur, the Clone Wars tie in graphic novels, Maul Lockdown, and Darth Plagueis are all considered Legends.

Either way, it can be, at the very least implied that Darth Sidious was not a great guy to Maul. In Legends he was very stern with Maul due to his pride, which on it’s own wouldn’t seem problematic, but what really would make it problematic would be things like leaving him alone in Wrath of Darth Maul for extended periods as a means to hide him from Plagueis. In Canon, we don’t get to see too much of his childhood with Plagueis, but one could imagine he wasn’t much better.

Torture

Then you get into what viewers do know happened to him in Clone Wars and Son of Dathomir. Maul would be subjected to torture not around the dame time as two loses, which I will get into in a moment. He was electrocuted, imprisoned, and treated harshly.

And while Maul may hate Sidious, if seasons five and seven of Clone Wars were anything to go off of, he was terrified of Sidious. Begging for mercy even. But he never got it.

All an all, I would say that Sidious is Maul’s biggest source of trauma, outside of maybe the deaths of those close to him. Also how he survived The Phantom Menace.

Mental Instability After The Phantom Menace

Whether him surviving after being sliced in half was pure luck, a show of true will/hate, or plot armor, he did survive. He spent years on a trash planet where his sanity flew away. Going temporarily insane doesn’t really result in PTSD, and when I say ‘insane’ I mean he fell into madness while alone on Lotho Minor. I also believe it didn’t help. If being cut and half and surviving didn’t scar his psyche, the eventual break from being alone sure did.

This isn’t a super big cause, but I believe it could have been partially responsible. Being alone without a lower half on a trash planet for years doesn’t sound like an ideal situation. And the solitude less than ideal, even if he was more of a solitary character. Think solitary confinement, but a planet sized solitary confinement. Socially and mentally that doesn’t sound reasonable.

The Deaths of Savage Opress and Mother Talzin

This would be another big cause. Having witnessed both, it would have been traumatizing. Despite treating Savage like an apprentice like Sidious did with him, and not being able to show affection in a conventional way, Maul did care for him. In Rebels, when he tells Ezra how they could defeat the Empire as brothers, it is clear to see that he is still hurt by it.

The death of Mother Talzin wouldn’t be much better. She was the only family he had left and after escaping torture from Sidious, she would be killed by Grievous. He witnessed it, and while he has seen and caused his fair share of death, Talzin and Savage were the only people he had left.

It would also become a piece of his revenge puzzle. While coaxing Ezra into helping him, he relates to him by stating how the Sith (and by by extent the Empire) took everything from him.

In conclusion, Sidious, the loss of his family, and the time spent on Lotho Minor are all reasons that I believe Maul could have PTSD.

What Symptoms Would Maul Exhibit?

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/ has a page on PTSD. On this page, it has a section discussing symptoms. There they have them categorized into four categories, re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, arousal and reactive symptoms, and cognition and mood symptoms. For each category, someone would have to experience one ore more of the symptoms in each for at least a month. One or more for re-experience and avoidance, and two or more from arousal and reactive, and cognition and mood. Using the examples provided, I think I’ve narrowed it down a little.

Re-experience Symptoms

I would say that flashbacks, recurring memories or dreams of the event, and/or distressing thoughts. I feel flashbacks would be a given, but since it’s never really confirmed whether or not he has had flashbacks to his trauma, I do have a few alternatives. Recurring memories feels like the more accurate symptom in this category since at multiple times, he seems to dwell and recall Savage’s death and what Sidious is capable of. The former is more of a sad one since whenever he mentioned Savage (and Talzin) in Rebels it seems to be with a slightly more sorrowful tone, or an angered one when he remembers how the Sith did it to him.

Distressing thoughts could allude to how in season seven, when he is captured by Ahsoka, there is a moment of what could be perceived as disturbed or terrified. He would rather die than be captured and he’s vocal about it and how Ahsoka didn’t know what she had done. He sounded distressed. Not only because he was captured, but because he knew what was coming (Order 66) and that alarmed him.

Another disturbing thoughts, that might not have to do with his Sith upbringing, would be with how he felt abandoned by the Sith, namely Sidious. After surviving Phantom Menace and learning that his former master took on Dooku, he wanted revenge. However, there also seems to be an underlining feeling of abandonment. He was supposed to be there to help set up the Clone Wars, he was raised to be apart of that. So when he returned, he felt like he was abandoned. That everyone left him behind.

These are all potential ways that Maul could fit into the re-experience symptoms category. He could have had flashbacks that viewers never got to see. Feelings of abandonment or fear of the impending future could be signs of distressed thinking. Though the most likely is reoccurring memories, since it is shown that he does dwell on the losses of Savage and knowing what Sidious is capable off based on what the Sith Lord put him through.

Avoidance Symptoms

Of the two symptoms mentioned in this category, I would think that staying away from places/events/objects would be the more accurate symptom. He doesn’t try to hide his feelings and does dwell on certain thoughts pertaining to his life and potential trauma.

Of the two symptoms mentioned in this category, I would think that staying away from places/events/objects would be the more accurate symptom. He doesn’t try to hide his feelings and does dwell on certain thoughts pertaining to his life and potential trauma. Along with avoiding places, I would also add avoiding people.

While it was also a smart move on his part, going into hiding until the events of Rebels season 2 could have been his way of avoiding things. On Malachor, he didn’t have to worry about running into Sidious or any planet that could turn him over to him. He might have had to deal with an Inquisitor or two, but fore the most part, he was on his own to reflect and plan his eventual return. Which he would later get to some degree by the time Rebels came along.

Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms

The first of the two categories that need two or more symptoms, I think I know the perfect two. Irritability with angry or aggressive outbursts and engaging in reckless, risky, or destructive behaviors. Both fall may fall into what makes a Sith a Sith, but I think they would be amplified.

Angry or aggressive outbursts could be explained by how explosive his anger was when he found out about. He was angry that he was abandoned and even more so when his brother was killed. Another example of an aggressive outburst was when he killed the Seventh Sister. When Ezra refused to kill the Inquisitor, Maul took it the matter into his own hands. And while this could be seen as a logical choice from one aspect, to Ezra, who at that point was taught not to be as lethal, it would have been a pretty aggressive move.

Engaging in reckless, risky, or destructive behaviors could appear in the form of getting revenge against Sidous and Obi Wan and trying to manipulate Ezra into becoming his apprentice. Revenge can be a risky business, but in Maul’s mind, it’s justified. People did him wrong and he wanted to make them pay. It never really ended the way he wanted, but it wouldn’t stop him from trying. Manipulation can be destructive. Not only to the person doing it, but to the person being manipulated.

Those are the arousal and reactivity symptoms that Maul fits into. These symptoms would have been amplified because he was a Sith, but all the same, they are symptoms that fit. Aggressive/Angered outbursts and partaking in risky/reckless/destructive behavior are the symptoms that I feel Maul fits best into.

Cognitive and Mood Symptoms

For the final category, the two symptoms that Maul would have include negative thoughts about oneself or the world, in this case the world and distorted thoughts about the event resulting in feelings of blame. I also feel like ongoing negative emotions would also be another symptom of his, if merely amplified thanks to his Sith teachings.

In regards to negative emotions to the world, Maul sees the world as doing him wrong. He lost the life he had after Phantom Menace, he lost family during the Clone Wars, and bitterly notes how he was abandoned in Rebels. These events lead to negative thoughts, but not on himself. Rather, towards the world. Life and people had been cruel to him and it wasn’t something he personally internalized.

Which leads into the distorted thoughts and blame. One could argue that some of what life dealt him was self inflicted. His pride being his biggest weakness in a lot of fights. However, he never put the blame on himself, whether he was partially or whole heartedly to blame, if at all. Instead, he blames others, most notably Sidious and Obi Wan. Both did him wrong on the most significant level. Obi Wan beat him and Maul wishes to get back at him for it. Sidious, he caused Maul to be where he was at throughout the series. The fact that Maul was so easily “replaced” and abandoned left two scars.

One being in the form of the only person he had a connection to in some way leaving Maul behind and cutting those ties. Part of that does have to do with Maul being presumed dead until Clone Wars, which was a good decade or so after Phantom Menace. Yet, when Sidious knew, he didn’t take Maul back, which could have dug that feeling of abandonment deeper. The second being how Sidious, in Maul’s mind, would be the source of all his problems. He trained him, tortured him, and killed his family. Had Maul not been taken in by Sidious, his life could have been better. Not by much considering Dathomir’s hierarchy looked down on the male Zabrak and treated them as lower class/slaves, but somewhat better.

In those ways, Maul has hit at least two cognative and mood symptoms. They do overlap, but are distinct in their own way. Two are layered yet separate symptoms.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Maul could very well have PTSD, implied or diagnosed. It isn’t outright confirmed or canon, what he went through, coupled with his Sith upbringing would play a role in his mental state. The loss of family and torture at the hands of Sidious, alongside how Sidious treated him on a personal level is grounds for unresolved trauma. When inspecting the character and his story, he can fit into each category of symptoms, re-experience, avoidance, arousal and reactivity, and cognitive and mood, in his own way.

Source

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd#part_6127

Peter Gordon, Trauma, and Psychology: The Power of the Dog Introspective

Trauma. It can have an array of effects on people including nightmares, fear, and depression, among other responses. In media, it can be used to explore a type of trauma and/or to help the character grow. It’s not uncommon, yet not an everyday occurrence.

In The Power of the Dog, both the book and movie, it’s something Peter Gordon, one of the main characters is familiar with. The death of his father. Having seen his father’s lifeless body after he killed himself, which the book goes into more detail on, to say that Peter was effected by it might be an understatement.

Then comes the Burbank brothers. While George is a wonderful gentleman, it’s his brother Phil who makes the home a bit more hostile.

They way his father’s death not only effected him personally, but how he perceives his duty. Because he never really had a father figure in between his father’s death and Rose’s marriage to George, he in some ways had to grow up and take care of his family. And though not as expressive or emotional, readers and viewers never really get to see how he grieved. If he did.

Through various quotes and moments, I wanted to take a deep dive into Peter Gordon as a character. Mainly how things like his father’s death, alcoholism in the family, and Phil may have contributed to some form of trauma.

“When my father passed, I wanted nothing more than my mother’s happiness. For what kind of man would I be if I did not help my mother? If I did not save her?”

-Peter Gordon (The Power of the Dog)

The movie starts off with this quote. Because of the death of his father, Peter essentially was the “man of the house” and was in charge of making sure his mother was safe. This also foreshadows how he approaches Phil later on in the story, specifically more towards the end, giving what he did more motive.

He has to worry about his mother, since he is all she had until she marries George Burbank. And when she does get married, he still worries about her.

While Peter did become independent, his relationship with Rose could be seen as a form of parentification. He genuinely loves his mother and wants to protect her, because of his father’s death. However, in some ways, Peter had essentially become a caretaker for Rose.

Parentification is defined as a child taking on the role of parent for other children and/or parents. There are two main subsections in parentification: instrumental and emotional parentification. Instrumental is where the child performs duties that might normally fall on parents, like making dinner for the household, taking care of sick family members, and taking other children to and from school. Emotional parentification is when the child takes on the role of emotional confidant/counselor/caretaker to their parents.

I would say that Peter could suffer from a combination of both. Because while he does care for his mother and had cause to confront Phil on her behalf, he shouldn’t have been required to. And while Peter was mature for his age, he was still a sixteen year old who was dealing with the lose of his father with his mother. He shouldn’t have had to with him being sixteen, but he did. Things were also much different in the 1920’s too.

While I am not a psychologist, I can’t say that he does exhibit that behavior. However, I could see how Peter could have developed a sense of parentification after his father’s death. The trauma of losing his father and how Phil treated her could have culminated into something along those lines.

“…Yeah, your father. I guess he hit the bottle pretty hard. The booze.

Until right at the very end, then he hung himself. I found him, cut him down. … He used to worry I wasn’t kind enough. Then I was too strong.

You, too strong? Huh! He got that wrong. Poor kid. Things will work out for you yet.”

-Phil Burbank and Peter Gordon (Power of the Dog)

At this point of the movie, Peter is back home for the summer and finds himself essentially under Phil Burbank’s guidance. The man, who for the most part, was belligerent to his mother and picked on Peter, wants to start over by helping Peter and get to know him. During a moment of peace, the two end up discussing Rose, Peter’s mother, and her alcoholism. This discussion takes a turn when Phil asks about his father, resulting in the excerpt above.

The alcoholism is discussed, but rather it being a tale of abusive alcoholics, it’s more a tale of how depression and distress can lead to it. While his parents’ alcoholism might not have effected Peter in the way of physical or emotional abuse, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t effect him in the long run. Whether that be in the form of inheriting their alcoholic tendencies or being completely turned off by drinking entirely.

Essentially, while not being abused due to a drunken rage, it could have caused Peter to be turned off from it. Seeing what happened to his father and how his mother fell into a drunken state because of Phil, he could have hated how it effected the people close to him. And seeing the spiral it caused, it could have made him hate it and maybe fear losing people because of it.

Antisocial Personality Disorder as a Result of Trauma

Antisocial Personality Disorder, also commonly referred to as sociopathy, can be defined as someone who has a hard time in social settings, may have a hard time caring for right and wrong, and can be seen as manipulative. Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) is a term that was used to describe sociopathy, however ASPD is a bit more complex than that.

While I am not a psychology major, I do like to look into psychology from time to time. Especially if I want to better understand a condition. When it comes to ASPD, I’ve found that there doesn’t seem to be one set definition or ruling on the condition. DSM or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental defines it as

Do I Think Peter is a Sociopath?

Yes and No

I feel this really comes down to how the character is interpreted. Some might say that he was a sociopath given the nature of his plan and/or sympathizing a bit with Phil given where his character ended up. Some might say no, because of Peter’s motivation and Phil’s antagonistic behavior towards Rose.

One thing that could add to a viewer’s interpretation of Peter is Peter’s father. While the movie addresses that he dies, viewers are never really shown what lead up to it. As such, it could be easier to infer that Peter had no qualms with killing Phil and how he could have been behind his father’s death.

I have also seen the case made that Peter could have autism, and how the director, Jane Campion, may have brought that to the foreground of his character. ASPD, Autism, and Psychopathy, while all different conditions, do have some overlap in symptoms. Similar to how ADHD and autism may have similar or overlapping traits. Yet, despite the similarities, an individual can have one or both.

In the case of Peter Gordon, I think he has ASPD, but isn’t a sociopath. Because while his actions may have been manipulative, may not be as empathetic, and crosses a line of morality, his motives weren’t out of indifference. Rather out of love.

Because while he nay have a hard time expressing emotion, it was out of love and a sense of duty to keep his mother safe. Based on my interpretation of the character, and with the general research I did, I would say that Peter has a comorbid (two or more conditions diagnosed in an individual) diagnosis of autism and anti-social personality disorder.

Autism would help explain things like areas of his interest in becoming a doctor and the repeated behavior with running his thumb through the teeth of the comb in a repetitive and relaxing way (stimming). The manipulative tactic he used and disregard for whether it was right or wrong could be explained by anti-social personality disorder. While both could explain why he seems emotionless, not particularly social, and seen as awkward in social interact.

It might not be a perfect diagnosis, but it is a reasonable explanation. With Campion putting it to the foreground according to some sources and some of his behaviors being associated with it, it’s not hard to see why he would have autism. And with the movie taking place in the 1920’s, it wouldn’t have been diagnosed and could have been a factor in people making fun of him. Not because he should have been made fun of for it, but because understanding of autism wasn’t as understood back then as it is today.

As for anti-social personality disorder, I believe the death of his father is what triggered it. While the movie doesn’t show what happened to his father, it’s understandable if people would see Peter as more of a sociopath and possibly killed his father. However, if someone has read the book, it does state that his father took his own life. Whether he had autism or not, seeing that at a young age would have effected him negatively. I suspect that seeing this was what pushed him into the quiet, introverted state readers and viewers got to see. I also think it could have been what caused him to feel it was his duty to go as far as he did to protect his mother. conclusion

Conclusion

With everything Peter has been through, I believe he has had his fair share if trauma and struggles. From the death of his father to the way Phil treated Rose, he probably had some baggage. He felt like it was his duty to keep his mother safe, he probably had animosity towards alcohol, and due to seeing how his father died probably contributed to an ASPD diagnosis on top of a possible autism diagnosis.

Sources

Alpha and Omega: A Guilty Pleasure Read and Why I Prefer This Series to Mercy Thompson

A while back I had created a post discussing one of my favorite guilty pleasure reads, the urban fantasy series Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs. While I may no longer have that blog around, I thought I would revisit this series, why I enjoy it, and why I like it over the author’s longer running and more popular Mercy Thompson series set in the same universe.

Urban Fantasy: a Subsection of Fantasy

I’ll admit, I am not much of a reader of the Urban Fantasy subgenre. Not many really caught my eye with the exception of Patricia Briggs’ two series on-going series. For those of you who may not be familiar with this subgenre, Urban Fantasy can be defined as a type of fantasy taking place in a more modern day and, well, urban setting.

What kind of Clichés Might Urban Fantasy be Guilty of?

Like any kind of genre or subgenre, Urban Fantasy does fall victim to tropes/clichés.

  • Heavy reliance on romance
  • How the romance is developed
  • Love triangles
  • Usually focusing more on vampires and werewolves
  • Age gaps
  • Leads who readers can’t help but wonder how they stay together

Why I consider it my guilty pleasure genre

I consider this a guilty pleasure because, while I enjoy fantasy, this is a subgenre that I mostly avoid. And while I’m sure there are plenty of good Urban Fantasy series, I feel like it is a niche subgenre. Meaning, it’s a subgenre that, feels like it has a set target audience. At least that’s how I see it, as I don’t see Urban Fantasy being a genre everyone will whip out.

Alpha and Omega: Why I Like it. Flaws?

The Alpha and Omega series is a series that branched off of the Mecy Thompson series. Both take place in the same universe (the Mercyverse as it has been dubbed), but rather than focusing on Mercy, her romance, and the creatures around her, Alpha and Omega focuses on Anna and Charles (the son of the North American Alpha and adopted father of Mercy). Anna was saved from her abusive pack by Charles and it is soon discovered that she is a rare breed of werewolf: An Omega, who are known for their calming presence and being able to soothe the pack.

Along the way, she alongside Charles, who is her partner/husband, go on various adventures usually with Charles tasked to keep an eye on or handle issues his father needs enforcing. Like Mercy Thompson, this series explores various fantasy staples with Anna learning more about herself, love, and overcoming her traumas from her previous pack. As of right now, this series currently has five books and a prequel novella that can be found in collections like Shifting Shadows as well as the hardcover copy of the first book, Cry Wolf.

What are the Flaws?

I would say that it’s biggest flaw may come in the form of it fitting into a savior complex trope and some scenes either feeling odd or unneeded. While maybe not an overemphasized trope, one could see Charles as being this savior to Anna. Saving her from her previous pack was important for the story and her character, however, readers could find some aspects of their relationship fitting into this trope. I don’t interpret it that way, but I do feel like it could be interpreted that way.

When it comes to odd scenes, I can think of one from the fifth book, Burn Bright. This scene is actually one that seems to be generally critiqued when it comes to what reviewers didn’t like about the book. Basically, the scene in question has to do with a comment made between Anna and Charles about Bran and his relationship with Mercy. Specifically how Bran might have developed something more than just a parental feeling towards her. I agree with this critique as it does feel weird and out of place.

Those are my main critiques. While some people might find the clichés annoying, they don’t bug me enough to turn me away. It doesn’t feel like it goes too overboard, for me anyways, and I would know when it does. That scene in Burn Bright, however, I can see why it would turn readers away. It hasn’t turned me away, though it does hinder my enjoyment of the fifth book.

Why Do I Like Alpha and Omega More Than Mercy Thompson?

While Mercy Thompson has the longer run and appears to be the more popular of the two, you may be wondering why I enjoy the Alpha and Omega series more. It took me a minute, but I’ve narrowed it down to three main reasons.

Reading Alpha and Omega First

The Alpha and Omega series was the first of the two I picked up. I believe I decided to give it a try after I saw Burn Bright when it was first released back in 2018. And since it was the fifth book, I ended up reading the entire series. Then again when I was reading the Mercy Thompson series, since the two intertwine without really interacting with the other series. Cry Wolf, the first book in the series excluding the prequel novella, is my favorite. It’s also the book I’ve read the most. Because while it might not be perfect, I think it was a great first book to the series. It set everything up in a neat way.

Had I read the Mercy Thompson series first, I may have liked that one more. However, when I was introduced to both series isn’t the only reason I like the Alpha and Omega series.

Length of the Series

So long as the series is good, how long it runs might not matter. Shows like PBS’ Arthur and Doctor Who are examples of longer shows having typically positive responses. One Piece and Boxcar Children would be examples for longer running book series that are enjoyed.

That said, longevity can either make or break a series. If there is enough material to last without feeling repetitive or stale as well as having a foreseeable end goal, that’s great. But not all series have that grace. For example, Once Upon a Time, the ABC original series. While seven series might not sound like too terrible of a run, there were times where it could have ended. While some people might say it started going downhill earlier, I personally think that it could have ended on season six. Yes, the stories were formulaic and maybe a but predictable, but the sixth season felt like a great place for the series to end in my opinion.

Looping back around to Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega, the former has a bigger, and still ongoing run as of this post. Alpha and Omega has six books, a prequel novella, and a handful of vignettes. It’s not a long series, and outside of maybe the prequel novella, Alphas and Omega, readers can stick to the main story. Mercy Thompson, on the other hand, twelve books, five vignettes, and a thirteenth book expected to be released in August of this year.

And while there are books in the Mercy Thompson series that I enjoy, I do feel like it has kind of dragged on. After a while, for me once the series got to book ten, it didn’t feel as engaging as it used to. It started to feel repetitive, running in a cycle of, Mercy getting into trouble, Mercy feeling like she has to take on whatever it is her own way, feeling distant from Adam and noting her relationship with Bran’s pack, everything coming out fine. Rinse and repeat. Could Alpha and Omega have a similar issue? Maybe, but it isn’t one I’ve noticed as glaringly so as I have with the Mercy Thompson. Of course, I’ll still read the thirteenth book when it comes out since I’ve been keeping up, but I feel like I would be lying if I said I was wholeheartedly excited.

With Alpha and Omega being the shorter series with books being released every one to three years, it at least feels like it isn’t cycling through similar stories. The creatures and people may feel the same, but not the atmosphere.

The Characters

Both series have enjoyable characters, be it the main and/or secondary characters. Mercy Thompson had some neat side characters and for a time I enjoyed Mercy. However, I like the overall cast in the Alpha and Omega series more.

I feel more drawn to Anna and Charles than I do with Mercy and Adam. In my opinion, Charles and Anna feel like they have a more natural. I don’t know if I would say they feel more developed since technically Mercy and Adam had more time to develop, but there does feel like there is some form of development there that Mercy and Adam may be lacking for me. There’s also the fact that there isn’t any conflict with a third party like there is with Adam and Mercy. While the ex-wife plotline can be enjoyable when done right, I wasn’t sold on it in the Mercy Thompson series. I didn’t particularly care for Christy, Adam’s ex-wife, and she ended up being at the center of one of the book’s main conflict. Overall, Charles and Anna’s relationship feels a bit more natural, simpler maybe, and it’s the one that feels more likeable.

Looking at the leading ladies, both Mercy and Anna have some similarities like having their own trauma and being with their packs’ alpha, but their personalities. Mercy has a more independent and headstrong personality while Anna is more calm and introverted. And while I wouldn’t say the “strong, independent woman” angle is bad, something about Mercy specifically doesn’t feel well done. Maybe it’s the fact that the Mercy Thompson series has been going on for as long as it has, but Mercy whole demeanor feels stale after a while. Some of her inner monologues feel very repetitive too. First person is a perspective that can be enjoyed, but I think after a while, Mercy stating how she always finds herself in trouble, her relationships with Bran and Samuel, and how she feels different because she is a coyote skin walker feels repetitive after a while. I won’t say that Anna is without flaws, as her submissive demeanor and maybe letting others doing more of the fighting (which partially has to do with how omegas are more so support/comfort than fighters), but it doesn’t feel as blatantly repetitive as it does with Mercy. Which may fall on perspective as much as portrayal.

When it comes to Charles and Adam, both are enjoyable. Adam is a good father and husband as well as a solid pack leader. Readers can tell that he cares about family and is reliable. And he knows when to let Mercy do what he needs to. Charles is also very supportive and caring of Anna. While Anna might not be a brawler, Charles understands why Anna needs to be involved with situations. They have good communication and with how the series treats Charles and his werewolf side (it’s set up as his human side and wolf side share a body but have their own thoughts) connects with Anna well. He also understands the abuse that Anna went through in her previous pack, and doesn’t go overboard with protecting her and knows what she’s been through. Of course, Charles does feel a need to keep her safe, but it’s not an overly possessive kind of desire. Between the two, however, I like Charles more. This could be a constraint of first person, but Charles feels a bit more developed. Adam does have development, but since the Mercy Thompson series is told from Mercy’s perspective, it’s a little harder to see from a perception perspective. With third person, like in Alpha and Omega’s case, it’s able to build both Charles and Anna up in a way that feels easier to pick up on. It also gives readers the chance to understand Charles’ history and character from a way that doesn’t feel one-sided.

As for background and secondary characters, both series have enjoyable characters. Stefan, Mercy’s vampire ally, Zee, a fae and Mercy’s former boss, and Warren, a werewolf and close friend to Mercy, are interesting characters. Jesse, Adam and Christy’s daughter is also a neat character, who works well with Mercy. There’s also Samuel and Bran, who appear in both series, who bring their own stories with them, with the former at one point having romantic feelings towards Mercy. As for the Alpha and Omega series, it has its fair share of enjoyable side characters too. Asil, who’s deceased wife was an omega, has knowledge about omegas and has given Charles advice. He is also shown going through grief of losing his wife, feeling a similar presence in Anna in the first book. Leah Cornick, Bran’s current wife, though usually cold, goes through some development and learns to warm up to Anna. There are plenty of side characters in both that readers might connect with.

Conclusion

Even if the Alpha and Omega series isn’t a masterpiece, there is a lot that I enjoy about it. When I started it and the length helped as well as an enjoyable story and characters. It may have its flaws, like scenes that feel odd, clichés, and/or some repetitive things, it has qualities that I found likeable. It’s a guilty pleasure series of mine and it is a fun read more than anything.

Kurt Wagner: Irony at its Finest

Nightcrawler. Kurt Wagner. Demon. Elf. Several ways to name this member of the second class of X-Men. Though not as popular as his teammates, Wolverine and Storm, Nightcrawler is a character that is typically appreciated and enjoyed by just about anyone.

If there’s one thing I like about Kurt, it’s that he shows how he opposes every assumption and expectation that’s given to him in order to be heroic and kind hearted. I also enjoy how he seems to be a walking irony. Irony is a term that generally has a difficult time explaining itself, which can sometimes result in misusing it in daily situations.

Irony: When someone says or does something that is the opposite of what is norm. A literary device where contradictory statements or situations coincide when it normally wouldn’t. A humorous tool depending on the situation/statement.

Defining irony is hard. As is having a proper example. I had to look at several explanations so I could properly define it as simply as possible. The problem with defining irony and expressing it is that people may use irony incorrectly in place of coincidence (two coworkers wearing the same shirt on the same day, running into someone several times at the supermarket, etc.). Not intentionally I would presume, but it happens. Both have very similar executions, but coincidences are merely unexpected turn of events, where as irony is usually a literary technic or situation where the exact opposite of an expectation happens in a singular instance.

Some easy examples include, a. A fire station burning down, b. telling a quiet group to not speak all at one, and c. delivering bad news with “good news…”

With the definition of irony now kind of set, you might be wondering…

What Does X-Men’s Nightcrawler have to do with Irony?

It has to do with the character himself. Anyone who is familiar with Nightcrawler will know that he typically exhibits the following traits:

  • His appearance: blue fur (as opposed to Mystique, who’s blue hue is her natural skin tone), three fingers and two toes, fangs, yellow irisless eyes, and a prehensile tail.
  • He grew up in the circus
  • He was born and raised in Bavaria, Germany
  • He’s had multiple romances, including Ororo Munroe (Storm) and Wanda Maximoff (Scarlett Witch)
  • His mother is Mystique, the iconic shapeshifter and known adversary to the X-Men
  • His father is Azazel, a demonic mutant
  • Rogue is his adopted sister
  • He is often referred to as a demon among non-mutants, but to people who know him, as saintly and kind hearted as they come
  • He’s Catholic

There are two ways that this fuzzy blue elf fits into an ironic architype. That being his demonic appearance vs his Catholic roots and the fact that he comes from two morally questionable parents, yet is seen as one of the purest characters.

The Irony of Being a “Demonic” Catholic

“What does it look like?” -Kurt “Incongruitous. I guess I never figured you for the religious type.” -Logan

Uncanny X-Men #164 Binary Star (December 1982)

While Kurt would be categorized as a mutant (though how they define Azazel’s whole biblical demon shtick can get a little murky at times), there has been multiple instances where people would call him a demon. For instance, when he first met Charles Xavier, he was being chased by a mob who thought he was a demon.

As the series would go on, readers would find out that Kurt Wagner is a devout Catholic, who took the last name of a priest who protected him when he escaped the circus. This would become one of his defining traits and he never uses it as a way to make himself feel like he’s better than anyone else. In fact, it’s one of several differences that he has with Logan, his best friend, and they have a mutual understanding and respect for why the other believe what they believe.

His religious beliefs, coupled with his appearance would be a perceived irony as well as a literal irony to some degree. Because he looks demonic, people might not expect that he is particularly religious, least of all a Catholic (or similar). A general observation/assumption would be that demons wouldn’t be known for practicing any form of faith, yet, Kurt shows that such perceptions can be false.

This is something Logan kind of notes when he finds Kurt praying. He didn’t really care, but he notes that he didn’t see Kurt being particularly religious, and seeing him pray felt out of place . Kurt, wondering if it had to do with how he looks goes on to mention how he doesn’t get to church often, more than likely because of how he appears, but finds comfort in pray and his beliefs.

“Why, don’t I look the part? I’ll admit I’m rarely seen at a church — but I draw comfort from my beliefs and from prayer. Such comfort is dearly needed — by us all…” -Kurt

Uncanny X-Men #164 Jan. 1983

Logan doesn’t question it, but does tell Kurt why he isn’t particularly religious when Kurt suggests he tries praying. Like his friend, Kurt accepts Logan’s position, but notes how it must be lonely. Logan says he isn’t lonely, he has Kurt.

This scene shows how ironic/odd Kurt appears as someone who looks like he does while being Catholic as well as giving a respectful approach to their differing religious beliefs.

The Situational and Genetic Irony of Kurt’s Morality

If there is one aspect in Nightcrawler’s character that I would like to delve into has to do with his spirit and never falling to his past trauma. He is a character who, despite being given the worst deck in X-Men, manages to stay strong and not fall into darkness. If there is one thing that people seem to enjoy about Marvel and its characters, it’s the relatability and complexity characters have. While the same can be said for DC characters, it may be easier to enjoy or relate to a character. X-Men is a series that plays on that a lot, because the concept of unity and acceptance is something that people can relate to and each character has their own individual struggles alongside that. Even characters like Magneto may be considered antagonistic, can be easy to understand.

With that in mind, Kurt’s parents acts as both a struggle and an irony. Because both of his parents are more antagonistic, that would create some tension. And the face he wasn’t raised by either, shows how he may have had a better chance at making his own choices.

Mystique abandoned him as a newborn, throwing him over a cliff in some cases. She would later adopt Rogue. And despite coming around to him to some degree, she isn’t exactly winning any awards for being the best mother, even if her reason to abandon him had some validity to them. For her and Kurt, there isn’t much of a familial bond.

Azazel, on the other hand, only really wanted children to expand his legacy and return to Earth from the Brimstone Dimension (that little pocket dimension Kurt goes to when bamf-ing). For Azazel, Kurt’s existence was to justify his need. And while some sources say that Mystique was the only woman Azazel loved, where Kurt fits is anyone’s guess.

Of course, this is about irony and not Nightcrawler’s family quarrels. However a little context never hurt.

What makes Kurt and his family dynamic ironic is when you consider both parents would be considered morally suspect and Kurt being the exact opposite. One might think the old saying “evil breeds evil” would apply to this situation, or at the very least, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Mystique and Azazel’s child was corrupt.

So when their child ends up being one of the least corrupt characters in the franchise, it says a lot. While readers could look at this as two negatives creating a positive, which I could see as well, I think irony suits their morality dynamic very well. And while his upbringing with a mother who wasn’t Mystique, this kind of genetic/situational irony could work in an instance where he was raised by Mystique.

One example that came to mind was Kovu from the second Lion King movie. He was raised by Zira to follow in Scar’s footsteps. She spent years raising him to hate Simba and to take him down. Becoming like Scar and taking over Pride Rock was a big driving force for his character. Yet, as he infiltrated Simba’s pride and connected with Kiara and Simba, Kovu ends up not becoming like his adopted father and instead becoming his own lion and a better character.

Kurt becoming the opposite of what his parents were, much like Kovu, is a notable example of irony in a situation/genetic irony setting.

In Conclusion

Irony is a hard thing to define or give example of. It’s tricky and confusing, but with enough practice, something that can be made easier. Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler, is a perfect example of irony. His evil appearance matched with his Catholic upbringing and kind hearted nature coupled with him becoming the opposite of what his parents are on the morality scale are great examples of it.

An Introspective in Controversy: Uncanny X-Men The Draco

As I continue to look into Kurt Wagner reads, I thought I would take a moment to do a little discussion. An introspective if you will. I have recently read and reviewed The Draco, and thought I would do a tie in introspective.

Why, you might ask, because tangents I had (that didn’t ended up making it into my review), felt like they deserved their own discussion. So while I continue on with book reviews and recommendations, I am working out two other posts that were too off topic for my The Draco: Review along with this introspective. One will look at Nightcrawler’s family, and another, discussing Azazel and why I think he could be a good character outside of The Draco.

Today, however, I bring you an introspective. I’ve broken this down into two parts: Why it’s controversial and my unpopular opinion, and I will conclude with a summary of my thoughts on it and if it “aged well”. For my full review, you can find it here: https://the-little-library.org/2021/11/24/uncanny-x-men-the-draco-review/

With that out of the way, let’s get to it.

Why the Controversy?

The Draco would go down in X-Men history, but not for a good reason. If I was talking strictly based on the story itself, a lot of issues come from it. As one of the worst X-Men stories or one of the most contentious Nightcrawler stories.

Now this (along side other issues in the Trial of Juggernaut volume) is the only comic by Chuck Austen I think I’ve read. So I can’t personally say whether or not any of his other works in Marvel (or DC) were better or worse. Though I can say that it was pretty poorly executed (more on that later). What I do know is that this was the story that lead to the end of Chuck Austen’s career with Marvel and DC.

While researching The Draco for thoughts, opinions, and such, I have come across a few different points for not liking this story or elements in it. This was a story that, not only would be what Chuck Austen would go down for, but also lead to a career ending stint with Marvel and DC.

Artistically Unattractive and Poor Storytelling

Getting the technical side of it out of the way, yes the story isn’t great and the art is shaky. If that was the only problem, I don’t think it would have became as infamous, but it’s still worth noting. When I read it, the art kind of reminded me of Dextor Soy, one of my favorite DC artists, who worked on Red Hood and the Outlaws (2016),but not as good. That may sound like a weird comparison, but it was the closest I could think of with the art.

And while bad art can bring down a good story in the case of The Draco, the story is not much better. I may be giving it too much credit when I say that there was a good concept there, but how it was executed was terrible. That much I do agree on, and I also agree that certain characters felt out of character.

I have also seen the case made (and reasonably so) on how certain scenes in this cross the line of harmless fanservice to going too far.

Azazel Being Kurt’s Father

Part of it comes down to what Azazel, the walking, talking demon of a mutant, does for the character he took part in creating. Now, Kurt is already kind of a walking, talking irony being a Catholic “Demon”, but for almost 30 years, it was only a physical irony and not a literal one. Kurt’s whole schtick is that he looks like a monster but has a heart of gold (as opposed to say Wolverine who looks human, but internally would be considered a monster). As well as, or alternatively, an example of not judging a book by it’s cover.

With Azazel being his dad and essentially the mutant equivalent to a demon/devil, fans felt like this gave the mob the right to go after this demon (Kurt) in their town. And it could feel counter intuitive of X-Men’s original message against discrimination. (X-Men was created in ’63 and one of the big things X-Men is symbolic of is the Civil Rights Movement).

My Unpopular Opinion

I may be in the minority when I say that I like Azazel (I’m sure there are others who do as well). That doesn’t mean I will discredit the criticisms with the character, as I respectfully understand why they are there.

I can certainly see how what Azazel is can dent X-Men’s overall moral/symbolism, however, I feel he adds to what Nightcrawler symbolizes. I feel he still proves that looks can be deceiving. And with both parents being considered evil, I feel like it adds an angle of evil not always breeding evil to the mix.

It’s worth noting that I am new to the comics for Marvel and X-Men as a whole. And having only recently gotten into the X-Men comics (thanks to Nightcrawler), I may be viewing Azazel as a character at a slightly different angle. Heck, The Draco wasn’t even my first introduction to the character.

The Draco was on a blog listing Nightcrawler centered stories, when I started looking for recommendations. It did have a disclaimer for how it was bad/poorly received, but it was still focused on him.

As I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t the first Azazel present story I read, Amazing X-Men and First Class were. I could have still hated him, sure, but I don’t.

Maybe I’m optimistic when I say he has potential in the right hands. Or maybe my introduction to him through other (non Chuck Austen) comics gave me the chance to view the character differently. Maybe both. And maybe in an attempt to find one good thing in The Draco, I took his other appearances as a reason as that one positive thing.

Readers have a reason to dislike him and I respect that. I merely see a character with potential and would have been better off not introduced by Chuck Austen.

What do I Think of The Draco? Did it Age Well?

I am in the majority when it comes to this story. It’s terrible. It’s poorly written. Poorly executed. It has bad artwork (which if you’ve noticed, I only used once cover twice in this entire discussion). And while I may defend Azazel to a degree, I can see why people would dislike the character.

As far as aging, it has not. It isn’t like Twilight, were it was a hit back from 2005-2012, but aged horribly. Nor is it like Lord of the Rings or Howl’s Moving Castle, which time has gifted with aging well.

The Draco wasn’t going to age well, but it wasn’t going to age poorly either. Being detested from the get go, the only thing time could do, was make it worse. And even if, someone read this and thought the hate was overblown, I doubt they would say it’s good.

In short, this story took what could have been a good concept, but executed it poorly and didn’t age for the better.