Oct 12, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 230: Alpha Flight v.1 #7, February 1984

So, I think the combination of yesterday's formal experimentation and today's....je ne sais quois (that joke will make sense in a second) has got me rethinking my prior assessments of the comic. I'm still thoroughly unimpressed by the Canadian stereotypes, but this is a facet of both Marvel and DC that one needs to make peace with. Variety happens in the United States. Everywhere else is relegated to culturally-appropriate superheroes. Let's see what we can do about representations of people of colour and women before we try to shift perceptions of foreign countries.

The note at the beginning of the story tells us that everything that is being spoken in the tale is translated from French. I have to wonder if Byrne has some facility with the language, because the way the English is presented, there are occasional moments where the grammatical arrangement reflects the cadence of the French language. It's a nice touch, even if an unconscious one.

I have to also admit to becoming invested in the characters. Northstar, as is widely known, was one of the first prominent, openly-gay superheroes from a major publisher. I remember the hoopla when it was announced that he was going to come out. It may actually have merited national press up here in the Great White North. But having read this comic, I have to wonder how long he had actually been gay (narratively, I mean), and whether or not the subtlety of the portrayal was just being missed. In this issue, an old friend of Northstar's is introduced as way into a story of organized crime in Montreal. But the way that this character is described, especially after his untimely death at the hands of "Deadly Earnest":

  "Until Northstar found Aurora, Raymonde Belmonde had been the most important person in his life.
    More than a father, much more than a friend, he had found Jean-Paul, scarcely more than a boy, alone and frightened.
    Frightened of what he thought he was, and what he feared he might become.
    And Raymonde had led him out of that dark fear, into the bright clear light of self-acceptance, teaching him not to fear his mutant powers, or any other thing."

There's something there, I think. The mutants have often been held up as a (not unproblematic) metaphor for various Civil Rights movements, or for the strange processes of adolescence. Here, I see an attempt at dealing with the fight for gay rights, at a time in the Eighties where such a thing would have been unconscionable. I have to ask the question of whether Byrne meant what I'm reading into his words, and whether or not Marvel knew and approved of his characterization of Northstar.

I think I'll be sticking with the series for a bit. It's sucked me in. I haven't even mentioned the flashback origin stories, which put me in mind of both the original run of Doom Patrol by Drake and Premiani, and of the "before-the-island" stories from Lost. Onward to issue #8. See you tomorrow!

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