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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #323: Psylocke

The thong might already be there. Who knows.

Let's be clear, here: when I talk about Psylocke, I'm talking old school. Besty Braddock, Captain Britain's twin sister, the lavender-locked English lady who went toe-to-toe with Sabretooth in purple petticoats. With a proper and reserved veneer hiding her twisted secret history as a slave of the reality-TV-verse blob Mojo (and the cybernetic eyes he gave her), Psylocke stepped into the telepathic vacuum created when Professor X stepped off-planet for some Shi'Ar & R. With Jean Grey wrecking the Cyclopean home over with X-Factor, the X-Men were in need of a mindreader and Psylocke filled the role. She was tough despite her prim exterior, and eager to prove herself equal to the trust and welcome of her teammates. She came along when I was in my avid comic-reading phase in the mid- to late-80s, and I had great hopes for the character.

Unfortunately, such seismic changes were in store for the X-Men (almost none of them good, for them or the reader). Comics were increasingly leaving behind the story- and character-driven narratives that had made Marvel so beloved and successful, instead diving head-first into the gaudy costumes, unrealistic personas, and perpetual noise that characterized the eve of the 1990s. Everything had to be epic or ultimate all of the time, gritty/angry/flawed anti-heroes were all the rage, and there was no time for the development of stable, believable, admirable characters. I used to think I drifted away from comic books as I got into high school and began to spend more energy on sports and girls and a myriad of other things, but the truth is, in candid retrospect, that the things I loved about the medium as a kid were eroding. Comics left me far more than I left comics.

I held out hope for Psylocke even as she evolved into her cool purple-armor phase in the Australian outback during the sort of last-gasp attempt at narrative cohesion for the X-Men, though all the characters I had loved as a kid (Wolverine, Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler, Professor X, Kitty Pryde) were scattered to the winds. Rogue? Gambit? Not the same, man. And when Claremont cast judgment and class to the side and reinvented Betsy as an invincible half-Japanese thong-ninja, well, that was a clear sign to me that cheesecake and tired pop-culture pandering were more important than sustained artistic integrity.

Ah, Betsy. I miss the butterflies.

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