A Moment of Silence

A strong Woman of Color has fallen.

In yesterday’s X:Men Legacy 209, Magneto blinded Joanna Cargill, a.k.a. Frenzy. Frenzy has been a long-time X-Men foe, with 60+ appearances in comics over the past quarter of a century, and affiliations to The Alliance of Evil, The Femizons, and The Acolytes. Her depiction has always been that of a single-minded devotee to her cause. Only once, during a random prison break issue, has Joanna been portrayed as less than cuttingly intelligent (the dialog, I believe, read “Let’s bust up this joint.”)

Yesterday, she attempted to lay hands on Magneto’s injured man-meat, Professor Charles Xavier, and got her eye burnt out for it.

Racist Caricature

A strong believer in mutant supremacy, Joanna took the militant position that aiding and abetting Charles amounted to a betrayal of Magneto’s cause.

More ‘femme’ than usual, Frenzy remains Hard-Core

My dear Frenzy was a victim of two decrepit men who have been unable to get their shit together since, literally, the founding of Israel. Typically, the soap operatic conflict between the fictional Charles Xavier (founder of the X-Men) and Magneto (founder of The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants), has been treated as an allegory of the conflicting ideologies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X. In an interview with New York Magazine, fan favorite pervert, Chris Claremont (who is described in the article as wearing ‘stretch waist khakis’ and having a ‘fiendish grin’ and a ‘chubby finger’) explains:

Actually, Claremont says he always saw Professor X and Magneto as echoes of David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin. “My view of Magneto” — originally created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as a magnetic-powered supervillain who wanted to take over the world — “is that he’s the terrorist who might someday evolve into a statesman.”

Leave it to Chris Claremont to start off a thought with “actually.” This does explain CC’s decision to place their first meeting in what would become Post-WWII Israel. Their conflict has always been less about Civil Rights, and more about how best (to what degree of harshness) to treat their dirty, inferior, neighbors. An entire comics and film culture has risen around the megalomaniacal debate between these two ludicrous old queens, whom I find both as boring to watch as paint drying. Obviously, there’s very little you can do with these two characters apart from having them play chess (which is the very first thing they do in the canceled buddy series, Excalibur, that CC wrote a few years back). Magneto has lost all gloss and has been wearing the same flop sweaty clothes since 2004. He looks like my drunk bum of a next door neighbor.

The only real way to produce any drama from these two is to sacrifice perfectly decent stand-by characters. To get to Charles, Frenzy first has to go through Karima Shapandar, a South Asian tech-oriented hero. Karima attempts to use microwaves to stop Frenzy, which fails ridiculously since Frenzy has “steel-hard” skin. Everyone knows you don’t microwave metal. After the cat-fight between Frenzy and Karima, wherein Frenzy disregards the Karma of Brown Folk, she very nearly tears apart Xavier — who has just woken from a coma. Because the X-Men have more in common with General Hospital than any sequential narrative, Frenzy is laid low when her eye is basically blow-torched. The characters themselves then discuss the narrative (il)logic of this:

I once gave a paper arguing that representations of the serial killer phenomenon in American texts is effectively a continuation of the tradition of the 19th Century phenomenon of Male Friendship. Traditionally, male friends in American lit triangulate through third-party objects of consumption. Guys like Jeffrey Dahmer literalize the consumer object, suturing their relations with other white guys by ‘partaking in the social’ when they eat gay Black or Vietnamese men.

I’ve seen people argue that Frenzy is clearly a transsexual, which would fit fine with the argument I barely sketched above. Frenzy’s militancy and pronounced musculature contribute to this impression. As Aphra Behn wrote in “To the Fair Clarinda, Who Made Love to Me, Imagined More Than a Woman” (1688) —

For sure no Crime with thee we can commit;
Of if we should – thy Form excuses it.
For who, that gathers fairest Flowers believes
A Snake lies hid beneath the Fragrant Leaves.

Nevertheless, she doesn’t have the over-the-top Big Texas hair, or the hyper-femininity, which would both can signify trannyness. That impression of maleness in Frenzy is more likely due to the the gender scrambling that is associated with the complex place African-American women hold in this society, which Hortense J. Spillers eloquently describes in Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book. Either way, she makes the ideal sacrificial plot victim to the pseudo-political non-drama, rote lover’s quarrel, between Charles and Magneto. Joanna is a mere economic sacrifice made in exchange for a brief achievement of “cultural meaning.”

Do I blame Mike Carey, writer of this latest issue? No. All he’s done is bore me some. Anyway, he reminds me a lot of Dick Hebdige, with that hot, slowly, aging punk, British guy vibe. Maybe I should start a letter writing campaign to him? Basically, I feel okay blaming CC for this. He’s the one who created this banal psycho-dynamic between the characters, authorized it with a fake pop-philosophic vibe, heaped it with loads of Holocaust Fetishism for twenty some years, and began to feed more interesting and colorful background characters into ‘the machine.’

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