Wednesday 12 July 2017

X-Looks III: My Favourite Jean Grey Costumes

I there wasn't gonna be another of these for a specific X-Character: I have the theory that these are more fun for me to work out and write than they are for other people to read and I didn’t think I ‘needed’ to do another one as I thought I had one definitive look I prefer for the remaining X-Characters (or at least only one or two) but that turned out to not be the case for Jean Grey, fucking gingers.
Me and Jean Grey have never been close, Rogue’s my favourite X-Man and Storm is (for me) the hottest X-Man but I’ve always been kind of ‘whatever’ on Jean: I don’t dislike her and she (or the Phoenix Force posing as her) has had some great moments but I wouldn’t say I like her either, she’s always just kind of ‘been there’ for me. I also don’t find her very attractive, in fact I think she’s kind of uninteresting physically speaking - This is odd as I’m a massive ’redophile’ and find gingers to be the most attractive breed of white people1 but for Jean the only time I found her attractive (and not just one of her outfits) is very recently when she was played by Sophie Turner (X-Men: Apocalypse) and as fine an actress as Turner is (and as pretty as she is) I think she’s a terrible bit of casting, mostly because she looks very little like Jean Grey, or at least 616 Jean Grey (and Evolution Jean Grey too now I think about it), so what I’m saying is the only time I found Jean Grey attractive is when she didn’t look like Jean Grey. Oh the reason that’s not on the list? I don’t like her black costume; I did like her ‘graduation’ costume (that’s based on the Jim Lee designed Mutant Genesis/X-Men ’92 cartoon look) a lot more but not enough to get it on the list. So I don’t really care either way for Jean Grey as a character and I don’t fancy her, and yet I have a whole bunch of looks I like for her, I wonder if that’s more likely (because I don’t have strong feelings on her) or less so (because I don’t have strong feelings on her)?

Anyway Jean Grey is a bit complicated: Jean Grey is one of the original X-Men and one of Professor X’s first students (the fifth to officially join). As a kid her powers kicked in just as her best friend was about to be run over by a car, physically ‘in her mind’ at the time of her death, Jean spent some time in a coma before joining the X-Men. Jean Grey sacrificed herself to save the All-New All Different X-Men and some allies and pilot them through cosmic rays2, during this an extra-terrestrial sentient force called The Phoenix Force came to her, took her form and left her in Jamaica Bay to heal (the cosmic rays having already began to kill her), this Phoenix was seduced and driven unstable by Mastermind and became Dark Phoenix, killed a planet then sacrificed herself on the moon. After this the force tried to return what it took from Jean but she rejected it, so it found the next best thing, a clone of Jean Mister Sinister was working who became Madelyn Prior. By the time Jean was eventually found in Jamaica Bay by the Avengers, Cyclops had married Madelyn and had a child (who became Cable) however due to a series of events3 the two split up, Prior lost it and became the Goblin Princess and died and then the memories of both Prior and the Phoenix Force as Jean Grey were returned to Jean. Jean and Cyclops got together proper, married and got stuck in the future helping to raise Cyclops’ son, then were the X-Men’s golden couple until Cyclops sacrificed himself to save X-Man, merged with Apocalypse and then came back with some serious emotional problems, Jean was then killed by ‘Magneto’ after tapping into the Phoenix Force herself. So are you…WAKE UP!....are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll being:

6. X-Men: The Movie Action Figure (Version 1)
Debut: X-Men: The Movie (Toy Biz)
So this was a big deal for about two minutes in 2000 but 2000 fell right in the deepest recess of THE DARK TIMES™ when I was a comic book fanboy extraordinaire. So it looms large in what’s left of my fragmented memories of this time so this particular look for Jean Grey has become somewhat big to me. The controversy was that when Jean Grey, Storm and the Jean Grey pack-in figure that came with Cyclops were released they had a huge plunging cleavage and Toy Biz thought it was a bit much so they revised them to have a painted-on bra and then eventually to have a new torso (and head, well except the pack-in Jean, that stayed with just the painted on bra). It was a big deal for a short while with collectors scrambling to get the ‘no bra’ versions and was reported on in magazines like Wizard and Toyfare and I actually found a no-bra Jean in-store during a holiday to Chicago that year (it was in a regular toy shop, I still have it carded3). Even though this controversy surrounded both Storm and Jean I associate it more with Jean, probably because she had two figures altered, probably because she was usually the one pictured probably because my third probably because; probably because the change was more noticeable on Jean Grey’s figure thanks to costume design and pose (her chest is kind of thrust out). Because this loomed so large at an impressionable point of my life when I was very focussed on collecting I genuinely think of this figure first 8/10 times when people mention Jean Grey and have grown to have great affection for it.
That’s basically why it’s here, why it’s so low is because I just don’t like Famke Janssen’s casting as Jean Grey and never have, facially she is just completely wrong for all artwork of Jean Grey up to that point (I think they were trying to match her to John Byrne’s drawing of the character if they were trying to match her at all?). I think Famke Janssen is gorgeous, please don’t think this is a knock on Famke Janssen’s looks nor for that matter her acting ability or her ability to pull off being a psychic Mutant acting-wise, it’s just that looks-wise she looks nothing like Jean Grey and it affects my opinion of the look overall. It probably shouldn’t - this is Jean Grey in another universe after all – but at this point it does so it helps it dictate the placing: that and I basically like it by association, because it was the outfit worn by a controversial and noteworthy toy.

5. Movie ‘Dark’ Phoenix
Debut: X3: The Last Stand (20th Century Fox)
Oh god this is the second look from X3 I’ve put on these lists, I feel dirty. I do genuinely think this film is utter crap but that doesn’t really relate to whether or not I like how a character looks in it, and I really like how they did Dark Phoenix, visually. They manged to make Dark Phoenix so well using only ‘real’ clothes which fits the aesthetic of the X-Men films, in fact I’d argue that Phoenix!Someone looks more powerful and regal in this pile of shit than anywhere else: the film uses this gorgeous flowing jacket-with-corset that flies around when Jean uses her powers mixed with boots and flowing red hair and Famke Janssen’s face is perfect for intense resolute powerful beings. So why’s it so low? Same reason as before - because I hate Famke Janssens’ casting as Jean Grey and it colours my opinion of the look even though I think Famke Janssen looks beautiful in this outfit.  

4. Graduation Costume
Debut: (Uncanny) X-Men issue 395
I genuinely find this look very attractive, it’s a green mini-dress and go-go boots but I find mini-dresses and go-go boots attractive. That’s it, I like it because I find it visually pleasing and when worn by a woman (especially a redhead) I find it attractive, I don’t find Jean Grey attractive as a whole as I said but I do find some of her looks attractive and really after the Toy Biz figure (which given that it’s got a huge cleavage and lots of black vinyl isn't unattractive) that’s going to be a factor in every costume because the outfits stand out more to me if they make a character I don’t usually find attractive seem attractive to me. Here though it’s the only bloody reason I have and it’s counteracted by the fact that it’s really impractical – a mini-skirt and heeled boots is very attractive yes but they’re not very good for superheroing. I have much less of a problem with heels on a character if they can fly (or in this case, levitate) because they do a lot less running and a lot more flying but that ability makes the dress even less practical, I‘d figure that a good third of Manhattan Island has seen Marvel Girl’s knickers – I assume they’re yellow, Jean strikes me as the sort who co-ordinates her undies with her outfit, she’s pretty organised.
Oh yeah, this was her ’graduation’ outfit from the 60’s (can you tell?) when the characters switched out of their original black/blue and yellow ‘school uniforms’ to individual costumes, in fact Jean designed these costumes (which just kinda makes the outfit a little worse when you think about it, she designed her own costume and still put heels and a short skirt in it) and it established Jean’s signature colours as green and yellow, a colours scheme she used up until X-Factor 26 in 1988, about 21 years (though she was dead for some of that), I think Don Heck designed it.

3.  Ultimate (short hair)
Debut: Ultimate X-Men issue 1
Before X-Men; Apocalypse I would have said this was the closest I’d gotten to being attracted to Jean Grey, and it’s another look from soothing I think’s not very good - letting Mark Millar’s horrible outlook on everything infect the X-Men was not a way to win me over. here it’s all the head Adam Kubert gave her this short spikey hair and lots of earrings and it was really different, really striking but somehow still seemed to fit Jean Grey, especially young Jean Grey (which she is) who was pretty much a would-be fashion designer (The Wasp was a fashion designer too, Stan Lee for ya) so to have a young Jean Grey have a very contemporary look out of costume (and thus in-costume from the neck up) made/makes a lot of sense to me. Below the chin we return to my apparent fetish for cute girls squeezed into shiny vinyl because the costume’s kind of wonky (though it is reminiscent of the Onslaught Storm costume innit? That must be important somehow), it’s the original X-Uniform updated for 2000’s aesthetics and it does a fine job, it’s a bit pointlessly sexy but in this universe Jean Grey was pointlessly sexy at all times (at least at this stage) so it’s not out of character. I wasn’t big on the idea of giving the Ultimate X-Men matching outfits, I know it has a precedent because originally they did wear just that but they could have kept a unifying design and given them signature colours I felt BUT because Jean (and Cyke) spent a lot of time in the standard X-Uniform colours (blue & yellow or black & yellow6) I didn’t have an issue there, and this is one of those two characters. So yeah this is here because I like her hair and like seeing boobs in vinyl apparently, I feel a bit shallow and pathetic really.

2. Phoenix
Debut: (on the Phoenix Force as Jean Grey) (Uncanny) X-Men issue 101
(on Jean Grey) Uncanny X-Men issue 354
I initially thought this was cheating and left it off, then I remembered that Jean did wear it for a short while after Operation: Zero Tolerance thanks to a sub-plot that ended up going nowhere cos the writers got taken off the books, so here it is. this is above Ultimate (which I find more attractive) because this is just (for me) an outfit and look that really works, the Ultimate look is hot despite itself while this is a great costume: it’s colour schemes, it’s balance of colours, it’s long boots and gloves, a simple but striking logo that’s easy to replicate (always a good thing in comics when you have to do this a lot), the mix of shiny and mat fabric, the sash (I love a nice sash) and logn ginger hair to compliment it colours-wise and finish it off dwitefry-finds-it-attractive-wise it all comes together. It’s simple without looking lazy or under-designed and I’m just throwing buzz words out because I’m reaching for things to type, ooh I know, more of that signature colour bullshit: Unlike say Rogue (green), Psylocke (purple) or Storm (black) Jean has had a few signature colours & colour schemes that designers flip-flop between and all of which are pretty much on the same level as one another – green/green & yellow, red/red & yellow and the standard X-Uniform colours of blue & yellow (Shadowcat, Dani Moonstone, Karma and Cyclops also have that colours scheme as their signature schemes too) and going by this it seems that I don’t have an overall preference as we have six entries two each for each scheme, spoilers? I think you can probably see number 1 when reading this so fuck it.

1. Post-Fall of the Mutants
Debut: X-Factor issue 26
This is going to be a bit of a shit entry and I worry it’s going to make the list a bit of a shit list because this is my number 1 choice and I really don’t know for certain why this is so. Some of it are reasons I’ve been using throughout these posts; it’s simple but effective, it’s sexy without being pointlessly revealing (though it is tight it’s no tighter than the boy versions), it’s practical, it has long (ginger) hair worn down which I find attractive, it has a design element that I just have a random hard-on for (those pirate-like boots, fucking love them, it’s Captain America’s fault) and I associate it with things I really like (Walt Simonson and Inferno) but that’s true for lots of other costumes who didn’t make the number 1 slot, maybe it’s being a combination of them all? Maybe it’s how those things are true for this particular costume? Maybe it’s as simple as liking a design I already like (this was shared by all of X-Factor at this point in the comic) but liking it in yellow and red the most? Maybe I just find redheads particularly attractive when they’re in red and I’m that shallow? Maybe it’s all of that? I don’t really know but I know that this is really IS my favourite outfit, it does look nice too doesn’t it? Nice colours; that nice big X that somehow doesn’t look ridiculous; good as both a team uniform and a superhero costume; based on the original uniform used for an X-Team (that Jean was in) but tweaked to make it sexier, unique for each character and with a more X-based design: It’s very visually pleasing. I suck, I’m sorry. Hopefully just the placing will make you re-think your opinion on what generally seems to be a more forgotten Jean Grey costume? No? Oh well…

I’m finally done with these X-Looks things, well for X-Looks thing dedicated to one X-Man, maybe, probably, almost certainly. I’ve decided my goal with these is to make readers remember stories with these outfits and go and re-read them, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Thanks for reading these.

1 no I’m not using this terminology seriously, I am serious about preferring redheads though.
2 the cosmic rays that transformed the Fantastic Four are an annual cosmic event, really.
3 basically Cyclops went to see for himself if Jean Grey was back from the dead, pissing off Madelyn who told if he left he shouldn’t’ come back, he tried repeatedly to call his wife but couldn’t get through; during this time (when he was somewhat emotionally fucked and thought he’d been chucked) Angel talked him into joining X-Factor. When he finally went to find her he couldn’t locate her or his son but her body washed up while he was up where she was living so he considered her head. In truth Mr Sinister had sent the Marauders after Madelyn and she had escaped, joined up with the X-Men and faked her death in Dallas so living under the radar in Australia until she resurfaced as the Goblin Queen. His son Chris had been taken by Nanny (it was her thing) and the Orphan Maker and was rescued by X-Factor before being sent into the future to be raised by the Askan’I, the boss of whom was his half-sister from another timeline Rachel Summers aka Phoenix II, GOD THE SUMMERS ARE COMPLICATED! Oh the body that washed up was a clone.
4 I kept it carded then for ‘value’ but now I keep it carded to prevent the Senator Kelly pack-in figure from degrading, splitting and spilling it’s guts everywhere – fitting for the character but not very good if you want to keep the figure un-ruined.
5 the comic book known as Uncanny X-Men originally was simply ‘X-Men’ in the copyright notice for many years (it did eventually change to Uncanny X-Men) but for reasons I’ve never got mostly these issues are referred to ‘(Uncanny) X-Men’ rather than ‘X-Men Volume 1’, which would be technically correct, and ‘X-Men’ (the adjectiveless series that became New X-Men and X-Men Legacy that was launched in the early 90’s) isn’t generally known as ‘X-Men Volume 2’, even though that’s technically correct *shrug*.
6 the inconsistency in this really bugs me, I think it’s pretty clear that the original X-Men school uniforms were supposed to be yellow and black (blue then being the common colour to use on highlights on black) and this seemed to be true through Chris Claremont’s early years when Kitty Pryde and the New Mutants explicitly used black and yellow but then later on (with Claremont still on the typewriter) the standard X-Uniform was switched to blue and yellow and the names Blue and Gold were used for the two squads in reference to the original school uniforms and then when the New Mutants reformed they used blue and yellow instead of black and yellow. 

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