Storm Arcana

Relationship Coach & Founder of Arcana Academy

Tag: Dead Characters

My Favorite Dead Marvel Characters: Darkstar

One of my favorite series is The Champions. Yeah, it didn’t last very long (17 issues), but it had the most eclectic lineup! I mean, Ghost Rider, Black Widow, Angel, Iceman and Hercules! How many other comics had a demi-god, a Russian spy, a supernatural biker and two mutants? None. This lineup is replaced as my favorite much later by The New Defenders which had Angel and Iceman plus Beast, Valkyrie, Moondragon, Gargoyle and Cloud (as well as appearances by Hellcat and Son of Satan). You can Google all of those peeps on your own, dear reader, but here’s two amazing covers by Kevin Nowlan to whet your appetite.The above image is by John Byrne and George Tuska. If you scroll on down, you can see the full page that it’s taken from. You gotta love how Darkstar is just tossing the clothes to the ground while she changes in mid-air. Um, girl, your powers are summoning palpable darkness, remember? You don’t have to do that. You could summon a disk of darkforce and toss your clothes in the Darkforce Dimension or teleport there yourself and come back in costume. I bet Laynia’s just flustered by Ghost Rider’s rudeness. She’s certainly internalizing in this panel.

Darkstar first appeared in The Champions #7 (written by Tony Isabella & drawn by George Tuska) along with a task force from the USSR (consisting of her brother Vanguard and Ursa Major) to bring Black Widow back to their homeland. Instead, she turned her back on the Soviet Super Soldiers and joined the Champions. From the moment I first saw her wield her darkforce powers I fell in love with her just like Iceman did. Things didn’t work out for Laynia and Bobby, but astute readers already know about Iceman’s difficulties in sustaining a meaningful relationship (see Judy Harmon from his first appearance, Zelda, Lorna Dane, Opal, and recently Mystique).

Anyway, this post is supposed to be about Darkstar. Why do I love her? Well, first of all, there’s her power set. Her mutant connection to the Darkforce allows her to create energy, to make that energy solid, to teleport and to fly. She’s like a Green Lantern without the ring and Nightcrawler without the stench. Second, I love the tiara. Darkstar joins the list of tiara wearing characters that are near and dear to me such as Snowbird, Storm, Scarlet Witch and the Enchantress. Third, her relationship with her brother Vanguard is intriguing. I liked to think about what it would be like if I was able to be a superhero with my sister. Their relationship seemed really solid to me. Fourth, the color of hair is unique. I used to draw with Prismacolor pencils and the closest color I could find when I drew Darkstar was called ecru. Not white, not blond, but something else altogether. It’s even more fascinating when you realize her brother has red hair. Fifth, the costume. It’s clean, simple and elegant. The star design is classic. They really messed it up when they made it all bubbly later on (with the white color instead of the ecru that matches her hair).     

I wish I could find some scans of Darkstar as drawn by Marc Silvestri from The X-Men Vs. The Avengers mini-series. That was a great mini until Silvestri was taken off of issue 4 to work on Uncanny X-Men. No offense to the artist that pencilled that last issue, but I had fallen in love with those pencils and it hurt my adolescent heart a little to see him go. He just made Darkstar look so, what’s the word, witchy. I like it when energy directing characters have really interesting Dr. Strange-ish spell-casting hands and Silvestri does that really well (He would go on to refine what I’m talking about with Storm, Dazzler and Madelyne Pryor, especially in Inferno).
Well, the title of this post says the most important thing about Laynia that really sucks. She’s dead. For years I’ve made sure I picked up any comic book that Darkstar and her Soviet friends made an appearance in and I was so excited to hear that she was going to be a member in the X-Corporation and written by Grant Morrison, no less. And then in some really murky artwork, she’s possessed by an entity and killed by a pompous French assassin named Fantomex. Seriously. I mean, I couldn’t even tell what was happening in those pages. And they buried her in Paris! I know that’s the division of X-Corporation that she was working for, but why wasn’t her body sent to Russia? Where was her brother?
Someday I will have to search out this Contest of Champions limited series and and see how Darkstar fares against her opponent. Anyone got any reading copies they don’t want anymore, let me know. Oh look, there’s the back of Israel’s champion, Sabra (she’s the one that looks like she’s a mass of blue quills). This cover’s composition is not the best. Of all the perspectives that could have been drawn, we have to look over the shoulder of the robed figure (Death?)

So here we learn that Ghost Rider might have Asperger’s Syndrome. I love how Angel is making excuses for him. It was interactions like these that made reading The Champions fun.

So, now that Laynia has been replaced by a redhead, the likelihood of seeing the original Darkstar return from her unceremonious death is close to nil. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this week’s Wolverine: First Class (#7) has a tale featuring Darkstar and her brother Vanguard in part one of a two part story! So, thank you Fred Van Lente!

It still sucks that any stories about Laynia will have to be set in the past though. I guess I’ll have to go reread her old adventures. Anyone got a complete run of The Champions?

My Favorite Dead Marvel Characters: Banshee

Lately I’ve been thinking about how many of my favorite Marvel characters are deceased. Now I’m not talking about A-list characters here, maybe not even B-list. Dunno how you determine that anyway. The point is, I really miss some of these guys and I wish they weren’t dead. At least when a character isn’t being used you have some hope that someone will dust them off and bring them back into the spotlight again. The worst is when that someone brings them back just to unceremoniously kill them in their storyline to give their story some punch (or prove their new villain is hardcore or just to be shocking or maybe it’s pointless).

Anyway, when I was introduced to the All-New Different X-Men, I really thought Banshee (aka Sean Cassidy) was cool. I didn’t understand why he used a codename that has always been mythologically associated with a female entity (The word “banshee” is from the Old Irish, baen “woman” + síde: “fairy, otherwordly.”), but I liked that he was Irish and he seemed older than the other characters. He was always going on about how he was too old to be superheroing and in spite of his reticence he hung in there and was an asset to the team.
When I learned that the character had been in older X-Men issues as a Factor Three villain (albeit brainwashed) and had been an Interpol agent, I really thought Banshee had some interesting dimensions as a character. And then there’s his history with his villainous cousin Black Tom (longtime partner of the Juggernaut) as they fought over women, the inheritance of Cassidy Keep (their ancestral land) and how their powers didn’t work on each other (you were always guaranteed some fisticuffs when they encountered each other; Marvel has a funny rule that if you are a mutant, then your powers don’t work on your relatives, see Havok and Cyclops for more ). Black Tom kept the existence of Banshee’s daughter, Siryn, from him until she was an adult.

Shortly after Banshee joined the X-men with Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, etc, he met Professor Xavier’s former love, geneticist Moira MacTaggert and fell in love. Their relationship lasted a long time (especially by comic book standards) and Banshee was there for Moira when she mourned her dead son Kevin, aka Proteus, (this was after Banshee lost his powers for a time after a battle with villain Moses Magnum). I loved Sean and Moira together. They made a lot of sense to me as a couple and I think it created some interesting tension between Professor X and Moira (he was in love with Lilandra at this time).

Banshee served as Headmaster of the Xavier Academy for a while with Emma Frost (see issues of Generation X). The tension between the two was really fun to read about and I liked Banshee’s strong father figure tendencies with the students, especially mouthy Jubilee and stuck up M.
After Moira was killed by Mystique, Banshee lost it, got all Tony Stark, er, I mean, alcoholic and then got all Iron Man, er, I mean, paramilitary and started X-Corp (even recruiting super-villains to his cause). Mystique slit his throat for his trouble, but didn’t kill him. That would be left to Ed Brubaker in the X-Men: Deadly Genesis mini-series in which Banshee fails to save a plane full of civilians when the plane crashes into him.
I distinctly remember scenes from an Uncanny X-Men story on Muir Isle (Moira’s research center) when Banshee (still sans powers) trains Dazzler, Rogue, Psylocke and Longshot. He smokes his pipe (a trademark of the character) and teaches them how to work together as a team. I liked him in the role of teacher. It suited him. I also remember how he and Forge had a tight friendship. Those two were always reliable supporting characters for the X-Men.
I forgot to mention the leprehauns. Yeah, Cassidy Keep is full of ’em. They helped out Nightcrawler once. And now that Banshee is dead, his daughter has inherited the Keep, leprechauns, pipe and all. In X-Factor, scribe Peter David wrote Siryn refusing to believe that her father was dead, citing all the X-Men who have died and returned. She has a point. In Marvel Comics, RIP might as well stand for “Return In Progress,” but will that hold true for Banshee? I dinna know, me boyos and lassies, but I hope so.

FYI:  The artists of the above images are Jim Lee (the top two), Lee Weeks, (I’m not sure who painted the Ultra Card) & Bryan Hitch.

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