The leftist Comics Beat wrote a whole puff piece about the history of 2 villainesses both created by Chris Claremont whose roles were mainly notable in X-Men, Destiny and Mystique, who just last year, in History of the Marvel Universe #2 – a publication that’s bound to be anything but respectful of prior history since it’s written by Mark Waid, and the couple had their lesbian affair depicted clearly for the first time, and the funny thing is how this article actually does bring up the original Ms. Marvel, considering Marvel’s mostly thrown her original background out the window these days. And, at the start, it gives some ambiguous information about another character:
Meanwhile, most of Destiny’s time at Marvel has had her appearing only in memory. Otherwise known as Irene Adler, she was murdered by Legion in 1989 (Uncanny X-Men #255) only about eight years after her first appearance. Last year was the 30th anniversary of her death, making her one of the rare characters that has been deceased far longer than she was alive on the page.
If memory serves, Roger Bochs from Alpha Flight, the original leg-lacking pilot of the Box robot, has been deceased even longer. But for now, I honestly wonder why, even if Legion was under mind control of the Shadow King, the incident needs to be declared murder, considering Destiny was a villainess and plotted to murder senator Robert Kelly in 1981 during the original Days of Future Past storyline? Must it really be described as such if we take that into consideration? Or maybe the real issue is why the exact circumstances aren’t brought up here, that Shadow King was truly responsible? Now, the main issue:
2019 also happens to be the first year in which Marvel has allowed conversation around Mystique and Destiny’s long coded relationship to become textual by showing an on-panel kiss between the two in The History of the Marvel Universe #2. Because it’s starting to feel like Destiny might be making a comeback in the comics pretty soon after her admirably brutal flashback appearance in HoX/PoX, now is a great time to brush up on the epic love between Mystique and Destiny.
It’s admittedly strange it took them so long to do that. Maybe because they’d done a poor job of it all with Northstar in Alpha Flight, and it wasn’t the normalized position on homosexuality per se that scuttled it, but, as mentioned before, the over-the-top approach Scott Lobdell used when he wrote the allegedly groundbreaking story in 1992, when he showed the Major Maple Leaf character going on a rampage out of jealousy. When the sugary article gets around to Carol Danvers, it says:
When Mystique first appeared in Ms. Marvel, she sought to destroy Carol Danvers. This hatred was undefined at first, but we soon discovered that Destiny had warned Raven that if Carol lived then their adopted daughter Rogue would die. However, the issues in which this explanation occurred actually did not see print until several years after the fact, because the Ms. Marvel series ended a few issues prematurely. Thus, the ultimate context of her hatred of Carol was a blank spot for years. In the final issues of the series, we see Mystique bludgeon Carol’s sometimes-boyfriend to death on-panel. While Mystique is still absolutely the villain of the story either way, at least in this version, Mystique’s motivations were defined clearly.
So not only do they acknowledge Carol once had the far better role of Ms. Marvel, they even acknowledge she had a boyfriend (Michael Rossi, a USAF officer), a far cry from the hack job writers like Kelly Sue deConnick turned out, along with last year’s movie. As for how much time it took for the last two Ms. Marvel stories to be published, it was more than just several years; at least a dozen, in a 2nd volume of the Marvel Super-Heroes anthology around 1992, and I wonder why they didn’t specify the location?
Next, it says:
A major part of the coding around Mystique and Destiny is the fact that they shared a small house with an adopted child named Rogue who, in her pre-X incarnation, eschewed gender stereotypes. These Ms. Marvel issues not appearing for several years was one thing that might have made it easy for readers of the time to completely miss the subtext between Mystique and Destiny.
The Brotherhood and Freedom Force
During the era in which Destiny made her first official appearance, there was an editorial mandate at Marvel against queer characters. Publishing laws that mostly regulated queer-focus literature to be adult-only content in the USA provided a backbone for this choice. Comics had very nearly ended as a medium overall in the ‘50s due to a book (and several articles by various authors) that claimed comics essentially made kids gay, or at least encouraged homosexuality. We see the after-effects of this even today, as publishers and creators regularly tease, then back away from queer inclusion. Though the industry is doing better, in large part due to an influx of queer fandom and creators over many years, there is still a lot of hesitation around characters that have been portrayed as queer through subtext.
What do they mean when they say Rogue, in her initial appearances, “eschewed gender stereotypes”? That she’d taken up violent crime? If that’s what they’re implying, they risk making it sound like that’s a great thing. Whereas her defection from criminal activity to reformation with the X-Men probably doesn’t defy anything, huh?
Irene’s death in Uncanny X-Men #255 has been covered by a lot of writers in conversation around the “dead lesbian syndrome” trope, but it’s interesting too because it put an end to a lot of Raven’s character development of the time as well. Irene dies when Legion finds her alone, and Mystique is beyond devastated. Irene had urged Forge to go save Mystique, and in the meantime, Legion had taken her life. Irene knew what was going to happen, and chose to save Raven. When Forge apologizes, Mystique holds Destiny’s body and utters the heartbreaking line, “Sorry… is such an… inadequate word.”
While I haven’t studied the “dead lesbian syndrome” much, I wonder why that concerns them, but not the “lesbian criminal” syndrome, where it may seem like there’s more lesbian than male homosexual villains around. If Mystique and Destiny were men instead of women, would that have been approved? Well if not, it just shows, regardless of whether lesbianism is a poor role model, somebody’s not really so concerned about depicting lesbians in an otherwise negative light, in contrast to male homosexuals who may enjoy a better status most of the time (and why does the development of a villainess matter so much, honestly?). But then, they actually do seem to address this issue near the end, though not without more leftist agendas seeping in:
A lot of us are also waiting for a greater attempt from writers to understand them. Mystique’s longterm mourning of her partner has been disregarded and brushed over to the point of chalking it up to being nothing more than the side effect of a vaguely defined mental illness caused by her shapeshifting powers. Yet this is a character we watched try to protect her family at all costs only to lose them. The people around her fail to understand the true devastating pain of a life without Destiny and dismiss their relationship as nothing more than a close friendship. For queer people who have experienced the loss of a partner in a world that fails to acknowledge their relationships, Mystique’s story will read as nothing short of a tragedy.
Specifically poignant for queer readers, the stress Mystique and Destiny feel from the daily attacks on their rights and their lives as mutants and lovers drove them to extreme measures. Though there is little explanation or depth granted this, queer fans have found a lot of allegory there. As we watch our rights be thrown on the chopping block again and again, the psychological effects of such attacks take their toll. Irene and Mystique attempt to self-isolate to protect themselves, using only one another for sources of comfort and refusing to explain their motivations to the world at large. When even that is gone, Mystique is completely at a loss to cope.
The longstanding subtext between these two and the general refusal to make it text or give them any kind of a fulfilling story arc is pretty depressing, and the overt villainization of them by many writers doesn’t do any favors for queer activists in the real world.
Ah, so now it concerns them, does it?
Well first, let’s remember that no flesh-and-blood human on this earthen existence of ours is a saint and we’re all prone to errors big and small. Mystique and Destiny were created as villainesses, and if the buffoon who penned the piece thinks that was a major mistake, she should say so, and complain she thinks Claremont screwed up by making lesbians the villainesses because it’s just so easy compared to putting gay men in the same role. And she even whines that LGBT rights are always tossed aside, without any consideration for whether they’re being fair to parents with children, let alone heterosexuals.
Now as for the possibility Destiny will be resurrected, there’s one problem: given how far the merit of writing’s fallen, that’s why there’s little chance this’ll work out artistically, nor will it lead to a sudden resurgence of character development for Mystique, if they really think whatever development she had was written into a corner after Destiny’s original demise in 1989. Given these are villainesses, that’s why I don’t see what the point is of worrying about character drama and development for them, when heroines and lady co-stars are the ones who need it most.
Originally published here.