Special X-Men Showdown, Round One: Wolverine vs. Kitty Pryde
Origin Story: For many years, the history of this volatile, violent mutant was a mystery, even unto himself. He knew his name was Logan. He knew he was Canadian. He knew he had retractable claws, heightened senses, and a healing ability that slowed his aging process. But beyond that… only scant, fuzzy, disturbing memories. Over time, X-Men readers have come to learn Wolverine’s epic, tragic backstory, which dates back to the late 19th century and includes several lost loves and includes stints as a soldier, mercenary-adventurer, and black ops agent. During the sixties, the CIA wiped Logan’s memory, and during the seventies, a Canadian military unit known as Weapon X laced Logan’s bones with an indestructible metal known as adamantium. Since joining The X-Men, Logan has learned to master his berserker rage (though not without some notable relapses into feral madness), become a team leader, and distinguished himself as one of the key heroes of the Marvel Universe.
Costume: The classic Wolverine outfit is a yellow jumpsuit with tiger stripes, blue gloves and a mask with two pointy flaps around the eyes designed to contain Logan’s unruly hair… or have somehow made his hair unruly. Now there’s a Wolverine mystery that really needs to get explained.
Cool powers/abilities: Heightened senses, bloodhound sharp. Naturally retractable bones for claws, later reinforced with that aforementioned hoo-ha metal. Extraordinary healing powers. Also handy with a sword.
Defining stories: “Days of Future Past” (collection) by Chris Claremont and John Byrne;Wolverine by Claremont and Frank Miller; Weapon X by Barry Windsor-Smith; Origin by Paul Jenkins, Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada;Wolverine: Logan by Brian K. Vaughan and Eduardo Risso.
Cultural Legacy: Wolverine was the wildcard pick for the next-gen X-Men back in the mid-seventies, and with his anti-social, doesn’t-play-well-with-others persona, seemed destined to follow Thunderbird as X-Man Most Likely To Get Killed Off (Via Redemptive Sacrificial Death) Just To Prove Anything Can Happen In This Comic. But the more Claremont (and Byrne) played to Wolverine, the more he popped as the most dynamic, compelling character in a comic full of such characters. Remember Zachary Quinto’s star-making turn in Heroes, how his Sylar went from supporting player to the focal point of the series (and the only reason to watch)? That was Wolverine during his first 50 issues in Uncanny X-Men (except, fortunately, there were many other reasons to read the comic than just him). Yet it was the Claremont/Miller mini-series that expressed and clarified Wolverine’s game-changing significance: the emergence of the Byronic protagonist — proudly damaged, morally ambiguous, darkly romantic — as the defining heroic archetype of modern comics. —Jeff Jensen
Name: Kitty Pryde
Origin Story: Just about the time Wolverine was coming into his own, Claremont and Byrne added a strikingly different kind of heroto the genre’s dominant superhero team: Kitty Pryde, a bright and plucky teenage girl, a mutant who could walk through walls and pass through floors like a ghost and not much more. She initially took the name Sprite — befitting her green and bubbly gee-whizishness — but as she matured and toughened she adopted the sobriquet Shadowcat.
Costume: Various and unremarkable.
Cool powers/abilities: What Kitty can do is called “phasing” in comic book lingo. Also see: “intangibility.” While phasing, Kitty can walk on air. If passing through mechanical objects, she can disrupt their electrical systems. She knows martial arts. Good with computers. Speaks many languages, plus dragon. Never mind.
Defining stories: “Days of Future Past” (collected edition) by Claremont and Byrne; Kitty Pryde and Wolverine by Claremont and Al Milgrom; Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday.
Cultural Legacy: A longshot to best Wolverine and make it out of the first round, for sure, but Kitty Pryde — quite popular in her early days — has surprising weight. For starters: She was once a girl. Which made her unusual to the point of trailblazing in the landscape of eighties comics. It was novel and moving, watching this girl slowly and fitfully develop into a strong woman over time in the problematic boyland of superhero comics. Joss Whedon cites Kitty Pryde as an influence and inspiration for Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Top that one, Wolverine. —Jeff Jensen
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