Arts & Culture

“Buffy” Auteur Joss Whedon Didn’t Kill Off Jewish X-Man Kitty Pryde

Whew. Today a bullet was dodged. Literally. Kitty Pryde — the Magen Dovid–toting, mutant-powered, Jewgirl X-Men – didn't die, as feared, in today's Astonishing X-Men conclusion. Around the world (or maybe only around me) you could hear sighs of relief. … Read More

By / May 29, 2008

Whew. Today a bullet was dodged. Literally. Kitty Pryde — the Magen Dovid–toting, mutant-powered, Jewgirl X-Men – didn't die, as feared, in today's Astonishing X-Men conclusion. Around the world (or maybe only around me) you could hear sighs of relief.

Joss Whedon, the auteur behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, started writing Astonishing X-Men in 2004 with artist John Cassaday. The series was hailed for being exciting, well-written, and beautiful when other X-comics were frankly sub-par. Among the most praised aspects of Whedon's run was his take on Kitty Pryde. When she was first created by John Byrne in 1980 (first appearance Uncanny X-Men #129), she was the comic's precocious child star — the Wesley to Wolverine's Commander Riker. She called Professor Xavier a jerk, she timejumped to apocalyptic, Holocaust-esque futures, and in a memorable Christmas issue (Uncanny #143), she was left home alone during the holiday while her gentile teammates visited family. She faces off against a demon and beats him just in time celebrate Channukah. Whedon, who claimed Kitty was always the inspiration for Buffy, took Byrne's Bat Mitzvah girl and made her an adult.

So why the concern? Since December 2006, Whedon has been teasing that during his last epic storyline on Astonishing X-Men, one of the X-Men wouldn't be coming home. When Kitty got busy with ex-Soviet teammate Colossus on the planet Breakworld, her fate seemed all but sealed. After all, you don't have to read Carol J. Clover's "Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film" to know that when the girl gives it up, she tends not to make it. Some of us hoped that Whedon wouldn't embrace such a cliché, but when the last issue ended in a definite "Kitty in danger" cliffhanger — the Jewess trapped in a hollow bullet being shot to Earth — it seemed like we knew who wasn't coming home. Then we got to wait four months (four months full of hints in other, related comics that Kitty was going to die) to see whether it was true.

I'm not sure what the statistics are on Jewish comic book fanboy and fangirls, But it remains that despite the plethora of Jewish comic book writers (Simcha Weinstein's Up, Up, and Oy Vey! described the Jewish influences on the superhero industry) there is a serious dearth of Jewish comic book characters. For those of us that grew up looking to identify with a coreligionist in the pages of our floppy X-purchases, Kitty Pryde was basically it. (I don't know anyone who choose to identity with that other Jewish X-character, Holocaust survivor/villain Magneto.)

My fear about Kitty biting the bullet wasn't just a concern that a favorite character would die, but the fear that her Mogen Dovid necklace wouldn't show up again in comics for some time.Comic book characters are known for coming back from the dead (after all, Whedon himself revived Colossus), but their deaths can last years until an enterprising author decides to revive them. And with comic books' emphasis on being more and more "adult" and "realistic," who knows when the next resurrection is going to be approved?

Kitty's fate may be left in limbo for now (she doesn't die, but she's still in a precarious situation), but at least she could show up any week now, in the hands of any author (the capable Warren Ellis is taking over Astonishing X-Men from Whedon). Saving her from a bullet is much easier than bringing her back from the afterlife.

I'm twenty-four today (Thanks for the birthday gift, Whedon!) and probably too old to be worrying about the survival of comic book characters. But when I have children, I'd like there to be a Member of the Tribe around when they start reading comic books. It's not just about being represented on the glossy pages, but about being able to identify with the characters you read. Jewish characters are rare enough, but a strong, funny, female Jewish X-Men? It's a perfect storm.

Now if only we could get DC Comics to revive their Israeli supercommando superhero team Hayoth, we'd be in business.