My family was living in Katy, Texas (a small city on the outskirts of Houston). The oil crisis was on and we were staying in a large house in what had once been a nice neighborhood. A lot of folks who had houses there were originally from Iran and Iraq and had returned to their homeland after losing a lot of their money. Many of the vacated houses had been broken into and vandalized by bored teenagers. We lived on a cul de sac. Behind our house was a large empty lot that led to the back of a Kroger grocery store.
One day, my mother had sent me to the store to get some milk and other groceries. She knew exactly how much everything cost and had only given me enough money for what was on her list down to the penny. Seriously, she knew.
I trudged to the store, feeling angsty and depressed as I entered the bright fluorescent store. As I adjusted my eyes, I almost walked into a shopper. I had become accustomed to looking at my feet or at the clouds, anywhere but in front of me. Making eye contact with people made me nervous. There was usually disapproval or contempt waiting for me there. I was a tall skinny sissy with glasses and my body was always betraying me somehow. If I wasn’t tripping over the coffee table, my wrists were too limp when I ran, or my knees were too knobby when I wore my Phys. Ed. shorts. I wasn’t particularly strong and I had more allergies than I knew what to do with. My life was severely limited physically, socially and emotionally.
So, when I looked in the Kroger that day and saw a comics spinner rack, my eyes immediately glazed over with lust. The bright colors were a welcome respite from the bleak thoughts I’d had on my trek through weeds and broken bottles. But here’s the thing: Although the rack was full of all kinds of comics I only saw one. Just one.
A beautiful woman with voluminous white hair and clear blue eyes stared back at me. Crowned with a tiara, the shape of which puzzled and attracted me, her expression seemed serene, but strong and confident. She was framed in tiny superheroes proclaiming Marvel Comics’ 25th Anniversary. I had no choice. I had to know who this woman was.
I picked up the comic and scanned the pages in wonderment. I knew then that a spell had been cast on me. I was not going to leave Kroger without it. This woman had things to teach me. I needed a hero and she was a SUPER-Hero.
The comic cost exactly as much as the milk my mother had told me to buy. So I bought the comic instead and shoved it in under my shirt, next to my back and tucked it in my underwear waistband. When I got home, I told my mother that I had dropped the carton of milk and spilled it all. She cursed my clumsiness and made me return to the store with another dollar and change. Before I returned to the store, I pretended to use the bathroom and hid the comic in my room. I devoured that comic from cover to cover when I returned. My mother was so mad at me she was more than happy to send me to my room which is exactly what I wanted. I was on fire to absorb those pages.
When I got to the end of the comic I was astonished to learn the story was a reprint. I felt so out of touch! My parents had been forcefeeding me Spire Comics (a Christian publishing company) whose Archie and Barney the Bear squeezed a moral out of every story, no matter how mundane. The X-Men, and specifically this mutant goddess, reignited my imagination and gave me hope. Storm was regal even if people didn’t like or understand her. She was fearless yet compassionate. Even Wolverine respected her.
I went to school the next day and asked my best and only friend, Mark (a senior; I was a freshman) if he had ever heard of the X-Men. He looked at me as if I had been living in another world and then smiled, remembering how things were at my house. As fate would have it, he actually had a copy of The Uncanny X-Men #201 with him. I asked him who that woman with the mohawk was. Could there be two black women with white hair dressed in black? He laughed at me and said that I had a lot to catch up on because Storm led the team now and had lost her powers. I was stunned. I borrowed his comic and devoured it over lunch but I had a hard time reconciling the punk Storm with the naive goddess Storm and I told Mark.
On the bus the next day, Mark let me borrow his X-Men comics starting with Giant Size X-Men and running all the way to #200! I don’t think I did my homework at all that night, but instead read the run all the way through, even staying up way past my curfew! The wonder and joy that I felt reading those stories was unparalleled to anything I had ever read. Maybe the Oz books had come close, but I was a teenager and needed a different narrative. Storm stayed my favorite throughout the stories, but I gained an appreciation and love for Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Shadowcat (I hate it when people don’t use her code name after all she had to go through to figure it out), Rogue and Professor X.
When I returned the comics I was so appreciative of Mark’s kindness. I felt so honored that he had shared them with me, but I suppose he recognized in me a kind of kindred spirit who needed to experience those stories. It was empowering to read about freaks and outcasts rising above their challenges as a team and a family (the Phoenix Saga taught me about gestalt theory, the kabbalah, and the tree of life). I’ll always be in debt to how Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, Len Wein, John Byrne and all the rest who gave their talent to that grand narrative tapestry. Thanks to Art Adams for catching my eye and thanks to Mark Saunders for sharing his comics and his love of them with me.I found this sketch of Storm by Arthur Adams on the net and thought it was interesting compared to his portrayal of her on the comic that enchanted me. She looks quite a bit younger here as opposed to the mature woman on the cover of Classic X-Men #3.
Another image I found on th e net of punk rock Storm. I always liked the way Adams gave her mohawk more body (I like it better than the thin line of hair Barry Windsor-Smith drew on her. You have read Lifedeath, right?) Here’s the whole gang (before they really became a much bigger gang) by Adams. This image has been my computer wallpaper more times than I can remember. I love it so much. Storm is perfect and I also like Polaris and Banshee’s poses.