(Chantaal’s note – We continue with the Memorable Moments of Marvel Women series! Welcome Kenneth, today’s guest blogger. If you want to write up a moment, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love the help, there are still a few available! We’ll be showcasing one to two moments a day, and we’ll have the polls to pick the final five up the first week of March.)
Kitty Pryde versus the N’Garai Demon by herself on Christmas Eve
I started reading comic books in 1981 and the first comic I owned was the issue of X-Men with Dr. Doom. I was hooked from the beginning and began reading any other issues of the series I could get my hands on. One of the new characters in the series at that time was Kitty Pryde (then known as Sprite). Myself being a nine-year-old boy with no sisters, I didn’t really have much of a connection with the character, since I didn’t really have anything in common with a 13-year-old Jewish girl with superpowers. Then I got ahold of Uncanny X-Men #143.
If you haven’t read the issue, the basic plot is that Professor Charles Xavier and the X-Men leave Kitty Pryde home alone at the X-Mansion on Christmas Eve. Kitty is new to the mansion, new to being a super hero, new to being an X-Man, and she has yet to be seriously tested physically or intellectually. She’s suffering through the things that young people always suffer through — she hates studying, she doesn’t want to work too hard, she has a bit too high an opinion of herself, and, when left by herself, the loneliness gets to her. Not for long, though. She decides to exercise her blues away and begins working out in the Danger Room. That’s when the intruder alert goes off and she discovers that the mansion has been invaded by a N’Garai demon. The N’Garai are massive in size, they are impossibly strong and durable, they have razor-sharp claws reminiscent of Wolverine, they are clever and quick and they have an unquenchable thirst to devour human flesh and human souls.
Luckily for Kitty, though, her phasing power allows her to run from the demon and avoid its claws, for a while. Then she learns that even in her phased form, the demon can hurt her — hurt her more than she’s ever been hurt before. Even worse, she’s getting tired quickly and the N’Garai isn’t. The beast is too quick to allow her even a moment to call in help and she can’t move fast enough to escape. She’s left with only her 13-year-old intelligence, her powers that only give her a defensive advantage, and the technology and tools she can dig up around the mansion. Not to spoil the story for you, but Kitty manages to outsmart the demon and defeat it using the tools she has on hand.
This issue is a key point in the development of Kitty as a character. She may have the weakest power set of any of the X-Men at this point (except maybe Nightcrawler), but this story shows how she will make it as an X-Man — through the use of her intellect. That would be one of her enduring character traits as she developed, the fact that she was usually the smartest character around. The issue is also a milestone for women characters in Marvel Comics. There may have been issues before this one where female characters were given the spotlight, but few, if any, where a female character was so hopelessly outmatched by an opponent, on paper, and managed to win so convincing a victory using both physical prowess and, more importantly, intellectual heft. Pryde is a perfect role model here for anyone and this particular issue played a pretty key role in my own development as a young man, as it helped me realize for the first time that it didn’t matter who you were, it mattered what you did and how you did it. The X-Men comics of the 1970s and beyond were always notable for their multiculturalism and their devotion to the idea of equality and fairness to everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or whether or not you looked like a demon. This issue is a standout amongst the issues depicting that theme because it showed that a 13-year-old Jewish girl with little experience and little in terms of power could take on the biggest and baddest of opponents and succeed by using her brain and refusing to give up.