New Mutants #45 (1986, November)
I finally won another book from Goodreads. I’ll talk about it in my next pull list post. Today, by Claremont and Guice, “We Were Only Foolin’.”
The New Mutants (and Kitty) have been invited to a mixer at a local school. They change into civvies, with Dani complaining that she hates having to hide who she is. Dani’s right, she shouldn’t have to hide it. If she wants to be open about being a mutant, she should be allowed. It doesn’t have to blow the school’s secret – the others can keep denying that they’re mutants, if they want to. They can say she’s the only mutant at the school. Or they can all make the decision to reject Xavier’s obsession with secrecy, and choose to live openly, so at least local humans can get used to the idea of mutants.
Anyway, the party. They all try to have fun. Sam ignores the insults of some other kids. Kitty gets jealous of Illyana getting attention from cute guys. Bobby picks a girl up and slips away with her. Doug and Warlock help Dani get rid of an obnoxious jerk, then Dani slips outside, to get away from the noise. She calls down Brightwind, and flies off. She doesn’t realize someone watched her. The guy wonders if he’s like her, as he creates a hologram of her. The guy’s name is Larry Bodine. The principal almost drags Larry back inside, and asks a grumpy Kitty if she’d dance with him. She agrees readily enough.
When Larry goes to get Kitty some punch, he hears someone telling a “mutie” joke. “How many muties does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Muties don’t need lightbulbs, they glow in the dark.” The kids are also spiking the punch. One of them suggests that Larry’s a mutant, and he panics and denies it. The guy who said it tells his friends they should threaten Larry with X-Factor. They won’t actually call X-Factor, just pretend to, for some laughs.
Later on, Kitty invites Larry to join her and the Mutants. Before they leave, Larry finds an X-Factor flier, and gets scared. At another house, the others comment on Kitty and Larry. Illyana thinks Kitty can do better. Larry thinks about showing one of his light sculptures, but isn’t sure how they’d react to learning he’s a mutant. Instead, he tells the anti-mutant joke he heard earlier. Everyone gets offended and leaves.
Larry walks home, worried about X-Factor. He heads up to his room, which has a light sculpture of a rocket. He creates another, of Kitty, but he can’t concentrate enough to stabilize it. Rahne is spying on him from outside his window. You little perv, Rahne. She runs home to tell the others that Larry’s a mutant, so she misses him getting a call from someone saying they called X-Factor.
The next morning, Amara’s cooking, using her power to heat herself up and cook the food. She’s wearing little booties to keep from burning the floor. They’re like oven mitts, but booties. It’s weirdly adorable. Magneto comes in to tell them that Larry committed suicide. He hanged himself. Doug says he hung himself. Come on, Doug, your power is language, you should know better. A picture is hung, a person is hanged. I mean, a person can be hung, but that means something very different from what we’re talking about.
In the Danger Room everyone talks about their views on Larry’s suicide. Bobby thinks he was a coward, Warlock doesn’t understand why he did it. Amara guesses Larry had no one to turn to for help, and says that suicide isn’t seen as terribly wrong in her culture. Kitty’s in Larry’s house, snooping around, and she finds his rocket ship. She touches it, and it disintegrates. She finds the flier, and realizes he was a mutant. Rahne is there, too, and smells the paper to get the scent of the people who signed the flier, and decides she wants vengeance on them. She finds them at the mall. Some of them feel terrible about what happened, but one of them refuses to take any responsibility. Dani convinces Rahne not to attack them.
The next day, at the Salem school, Kitty delivers a speech. She’s unsure what to say. Sam and Dani say they’ll support her, even if she reveals their secret identities. I wish she would! I really wish she would! But she doesn’t. Instead, she delivers a speech about words and labels and hate and stuff. She uses a few particularly nasty slurs. This panel is sometimes used, sometimes jokingly, sometimes not, to suggest Kitty’s a racist. The people who use it to seriously suggest she’s racist are idiots. Just flat-out, straight-up idiots. They’re choosing to dismiss context, and that’s crap. Kitty’s speech is pretty good.
This is a Very Special Episode issue, about the dangers of bullying. It’s still done very well, though. There’s some nice character work with quite a few characters. Kitty gets the bulk of it, even though this isn’t, strictly speaking, her book. But the important part is Larry, and Claremont captured his sense of hopelessness really well. He does come across as someone who’s terrified of having his secret discovered, and who doesn’t feel like he has anyone to turn to. The obvious metaphor here would be homosexuality. A young kid who doesn’t want his homophobic classmates to know that he’s gay. I mean, the metaphor does kinda break down a bit with Larry trying to date Kitty, but hey, metaphors aren’t supposed to be perfect. The metaphor still works.
This issue also does more with the weight of secrets than any other issue in Claremont’s run, or really, of any other X-Men story. It’s a shame Claremont didn’t take that one last step, to have Kitty “out” herself. I think that would’ve made for a very powerful moment, and would’ve led to a seismic shake-up for the franchise. As I said above, it didn’t even need to be all the Mutants and X-Men coming out. But having even just one who was declaring, “I’m here, I’m a mutant, get used to it” – I think that would’ve been really positive. It would’ve been a way of telling readers that they should be proud of who they are, and that they don’t have to keep it a secret. It would have opened up all sorts of new stories. But, unfortunately, Claremont never had the balls to do that.
On a side note, this issue also features the debut of Kitty’s reading glasses.
The art was good. There are some weird panels. But for the most part, it’s fine. At the very least, there’s no uncomfortable oversexualization of the females. Guice is actually pretty subdued here, which is nice. Having read some of his ’90s works, I’ve gotten used to his style turning women into sex objects. Here, they all look like people. I do find it amusing seeing Kitty and Larry together – she’s clearly a few inches taller than he is. And it’s not like Kitty was especially tall. She’s only supposed to be 5’4″. So Larry’s probably only 5’2″, maybe 5’3″. He’s short. So short. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s always nice to have some different body types like that, even if it is just height differences.
Anyway! It’s a Very Special Episode, but it’s done well, and is one of the more emotional issues of the run. It’s very sad. A real tearjerker. Really good.