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I ♥ (British) Psylocke

Psylocke is a popular member of the X-Men (and soon to be one of the Uncanny X-Force) and she’s even survived death once or twice (it’s best not to count how many times one has died when it comes to Marvel’s Morbid Mutants), but I’m still stuck on the Psylocke from–wait for it–my child hood.

Psylocke vs Sabertooth UXM213

In Uncanny X-Men #213, Psylocke is left all alone at the X-Mansion and who should come calling but Sabretooth!

My Betsy Braddock is drawn by Alan Davis (who agrees with me) and still totally British. There’s a fun thread about the Asian versus British debate on Comicvine with some great scans of Betsy over the years.  Seriously, giving a natural blonde woman purple hair is one thing, but to transform her into another race using mystical science from dudes who employ ninjas as mob muscle is a whole ‘nother thing.  Seems like these kinds of convolutions only happen in comics.

The Best Psylocke Look This is the only Psylocke I like.

I prefer the Psylocke who is recognizable as the sister of Captain Britain, the supermodel, the woman wanting to prove her mettle.  I find it rather offensive that comics fans of Asian descent don’t have a unique character from their heritage, but have had their culture appropriated for a blonde Brit.  Psychic ninja Psylocke seems to have less characterization and more tokenism attached to her.  She’s a walking stereotype in an outfit stolen from Elektra (I know purple is different than red, but you know what I mean).  The whole time Betsy joined the X-Men her inner monologues had to do with being a warrior, finding a way to show everyone the tiger within.  What happens? She wears body armor for awhile, bodyswaps with some other purple haired lady and has to run around in a thong.  Sure, that’s the way to get folks to take you seriously.  The Crimson Dawn tattoo around her eye didn’t help either.

Betsy & Doug = Love Doug Ramsey (Cypher) and Betsy had a cute flirtation.  Then he died.

What’s done is done.  The nimbo look seems here to stay and British Psylocke has bit the dust (quite literally).  Unless some amazing artist creates a more marketable design, Psylocke is stuck in her current fashion faux pas.

X-Women by John AllisonEven John Allison celebrates the 80s X-Women.

Of course, the flouncy sleeves don’t have many fans.  I get that.  And how do her tights stay on when she has a flesh baring anti-belt?  And seriously, does she have ribbons hanging from her wrists?  *Nods sagaciously*  Yes.  I know.  And Chris Bachalo has found a way to make the thongkini actually look a bit menacing.  One fan is a serious detractor of all of her costumes.

Uncanny X-Men 218

This is the comic that made my mother think that “X-Men” stood for transgendered folks.

But this is the Psylocke I love.  The pink costume is sweet and endearing.  It’s a bit naive and for that I will defend it forever.  Now you focus the totality of your telepathic powers and let me know what Psylocke you love in the comments!

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4 Comments

  1. Finally, someone understand me

  2. I liked Armored Outback Betsy, personally. She was a bit tougher than Pink Betsy, but not all angst and hardness yet. I’d kinda like to see an updated version of Pink Betsy, but I guess that wouldn’t go over well with her X-Force teammates….I hear they have to sign a “no color allowed” contract when they join.

  3. Ingonyama

    Betsy Braddock s my favorite character in all the X-Universe, besides Ororo herself, so I may ramble.

    I feel Psylocke’s growth as a heroine was natural and organic, to a certain point…not unlike a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, if I can use a (somewhat fitting) cliche.

    The pink costume, I saw as her ‘pupae’ stage…after that wretched false start she got in “It’s Hard To Be A Hero” (the arc that ended with her blinding), she joined the X-Men with a greater awareness of her strengths and weaknesses, a willingness to serve in a supporting role, rather than playing the hero herself. She’d taken the lessons of her past to heart, but wasn’t about to hang up her dream of heroism…in fact, if you look at it, the pink costume is almost a direct translation of her Captain Britain uniform, with different colors and without the mask and wig. For what it’s worth, from the waist up I liked it as well…the poofy, off-the-shoulder sleeves with the ribbons gave great dramatic effects, potentially expressive on a level with Storm’s many famous capes.

    My favorite stage in her growth was the Australian Armor phase, what I view as her “chrysalis” era…and not just because of the literal parallels. By accepting the Madripoor armor from Wolverine, she essentially abandoned her ties to her old life (i.e. the pink, Captain Britain-esque costume) and embraced her new role more fully by choosing something functional to wear, that would protect her while she went into battle. Her personality changed most drastically during this period, her attitudes shifting towards a more aggressive, “Lady Lancelot” mindset…her confidence likely bolstered by that selfsame suit of armor. At the same time, she also grew more willing to manipulate people, to use her powers in a way that was less “Professor X” and more like what Emma Frost would become when she joined the X-Men a decade later. I would have loved to see this particular trend in her character continue to its logical conclusion, to make Betsy a morally “grey” heroine through her actions, rather than her appearance.

    Unfortunately, fate had other designs, and the “butterfly” stage of her development wasn’t at all what anyone thought it was going to be.

    Psylocke was always something of a ninja in her tactics, the way she fought…favoring deception and trickery over direct conflict. It’s a necessity for any telepath. Making that metaphor literal was, I feel, a rather tragic error on Claremont’s part.

    Giving her the skills and personality of an “action junkie” may have helped her better defend herself, but it also halted her personality growth…the butterfly forced through its changes too quickly, the final product not quite perfected. The physical makeover, I might have had less problems with had it been handled better. Yes, she became a beautiful Asian woman, and adopted the hallmarks of several different Asian cultures as a result…Claremont’s attempt to keep the X-Men as multi-national as he could by including it is something I will give a nod of respect to.

    But the Hand outfit, fantastic during the initial post-body swap months, became the salvation of lazy artists for years to come…I was ready for it to be done by the time Claremont left the books, much less the years and years of boring redundancy that came after.

    Regrettably, Psylocke entered a kind of character stasis when Claremont left…everything on the surface changed, relationships, powers, personality, but it never evoked the kind of sense of growth we got during her British years. When he came back, he tried to fix it, but instead I feel regressed Betsy to her Captain Britain days…she’s gone back to being reckless and impulsive, rushing in headfirst without truly considering the consequences of her actions.

    Her second death, at the hands of Vargas in X-TREME X-MEN #2, felt to me like a replay of her fight with Slaymaster as Captain Britain, taken to an even more horrific conclusion. The woman had come full-circle, but in the most tragic way possible.

    And her resurrection didn’t help matters any…rather than learn from the mistakes and attempt to be a more tactical, ninja-like character again, she went on to become essentially what Rogue was during the 80s…a scrapper. It’s only recently, after the final death of her British body, that we’ve started to see the more tactical side of Betsy’s abilities resurface.

    I hope the new X-Force book enables her growth as a character to get back on track…it seems a vain one, I know, but as long as Psylocke’s a character…with the unwavering courage, strength, and drive to better herself that stay the same regardless of whatever body she’s in…I’ll always be a fan.

  4. Thanks, guys, for chiming in with your Betsy love. And Ingonyama, you never cease to amaze me with the breadth of your emotion and analysis. I appreciate the thought you put into your responses. Thinking of all that you have said, I will read X-Force hoping the spirit of the character matters more than her outfit.

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