Jun 13, 2016

Jubilee: Living the Tiffany Dream

Jubilee: A Detailed Introduction to an X-Men Legend
Part 1 – Living the Tiffany Dream
Back Issue Ben
Ben Smith

The ‘90s X-Men cartoon is one of the watershed moments for comic books in the larger pop culture landscape. As much as those of us that read comics might not like it, cartoons and movies reach a far larger audience than the books ever can, or will. Because of this, there were an untold amount of fans that were introduced to the world of the X-Men through that horrible, horrible cartoon. (It’s not that bad, but even at the time, I knew the voice acting was atrocious, especially compared to Batman the Animated Series which was happening at the exact same time.)

One of the hallmarks of Chris Claremont’s legendary run on the X-Men, was how often he would alter and change the characters that starred in the comics. That’s what makes the lineup of the team in the animated series such an unusual snapshot in time. Gambit and Jubilee haven’t really stood the test of time in terms of irreplaceable X-Men team members in the comics, but because of the cartoon, they remain two of the most well-known and beloved in larger media. For a generation of fans, Jubilee is a core member of the X-Men.

As near as I can tell, Storm and Wolverine were the pillars of his X-Men, maintaining a presence for the majority of his run. The rest of the team was much more fluid throughout his tenure. He created an archetypical character role in the form of Kitty Pryde, the young teenager first learning her powers, that also serves as the entry point of view for young new readers (and first girlfriend for many, apparently). Once Kitty matured and evolved, that role was left vacant, until the introduction of Jubilation Lee.

In 1989, the X-Men were presumed dead and hiding out in Australia. Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler had moved on to join Excalibur. Colossus was, well, nobody cares where he was. Cyclops was, I believe, off with the other original X-Men in the new book X-Factor.

So, let’s take a look at one of the key introductions and moments in the history of the X-Men. Nay, in all of comics. Nay, in the history of mankind as we know it.

Writer: Chris Claremont; Penciler: Marc Silvestri; Inker: Dan Green; Editor: Bob Harras

The scene begins, with typical Claremontian prose, in the Hollywood mall, where a young teenage resident of the mall is showing off her mutant powers. She can create “articulate, quasi-animate, transitory plasmoids,” or “fireworks” as one of her admirers describes them.

However, one particularly dedicated mall security guard has made it his mission to catch this young troublemaker. “She’s breakin’ the rules, Billy.” (Now that’s a level of dedication to one’s job that I will possibly never have.) He and two of his compatriots move in on the small girl, but she gives them a face full of fireworks and then acrobatically tumbles away.

A few fellow teenagers try to help give her some time to get away, but eventually she finds herself surrounded by at least ten guards (how staffed is this mall?). Instead of surrendering, she goes sliding off the balcony, grabbing onto a ceiling decoration, and flipping safely to the ground. (She comments that she was an “aces gymnast” at Beverly Hills Prep.)

The chief guard is livid over this latest escape, prompting one of the other guards to bring to his attention an ad for a mutant-hunting organization called the M-Squad.

Meanwhile, in the Australian outback hideout of the X-Men, the ladies of the team are… mad about something. I don’t know, I’m not reading it. Whatever the problem, they decide to solve it by doing some shopping together as a group. (Oh, apparently Colossus is here with them. For some reason my mind had mentally blocked him as being a part of the book during this time period. And that reason is that he’s terrible.)

The X-Ladies arrive at the mall at the same time as the M-Squad. Jubilee notices the fantastical arrival of the mutant women, and makes note of how beautiful they all are (a life of persecution, indeed).

The women move from store to store, trying on and buying new outfits, all with Jubilee secretly following close behind. The X-Ladies next stop is apparently a male strip joint, right in the middle of the mall (is this a real thing that existed?). As the women enjoy their entertainment, the M-Squad have finally tracked down Jubilee, who wasn’t allowed inside the club because of her age. They activate their mutant containment grid gizmo, which immediately malfunctions.

The containment grid has Jubilee restrained in energy streamers, and the M-Squad retreat, unable to shut off their device. The X-Women step in to help, finally freeing Jubilee from the energy bonds, and destroying the machine. (Jubilee at one point comments “I’m gonna be dead, same as mom’n’dad!”)

Having outed themselves by the use of their powers, and unable to find Jubilee after she slipped away in the resulting confusion, the women prepare to return home through another portal. Jubilee watches as they step through. She takes a look around, sees mall security talking to the M-Squad, and decides that anywhere is safer than there right now, and follows them into the portal.

As I’ve said before, Spider-Man and the X-Men were the two dominant franchises of my childhood comics fandom. The ‘90s cartoon came out when I was 12-13 years old, right in that zone where I was “too old” to watch cartoons anymore, or too young to be nostalgic about childhood. Before that, I had been wishing for my entire young life for a new cartoon based on comics, so if it had come out only a few years earlier, I would have loved it dearly. As it was, I was old enough to notice how bad the animation and acting was compared to its contemporary, Batman the Animated Series. We will not mention anything of the Spider-Man cartoon. It is an abomination.

Writer: Chris Claremont; Penciler: Marc Silvestri; Inker: Dan Green; Editor: Bob Harras

Jubilee has apparently been hiding out in secret, since following the women of the X-Men through their portal back to their Australian outback hiding place.

Bored, and with the X-Men off somewhere else, she decides to explore a little bit.

Eventually she is spooked when she looks out the window and gets a glimpse of Gateway, off sitting alone on a spooky hill. Not sure if she can trust any of them, she runs off back to her hiding spot.

Writer: Chris Claremont; Penciler: Jim Lee; Inker: Dan Green; Editor: Bob Harras

(This comic is famous for being the first issue penciled by Jim Lee, who rocketed to superstardom as an artist on the X-Men.)

One of the weirder X-Men antagonists, the egg-shaped Nanny, has come to Australia to capture the team. Nanny comes across Jubilee as she’s in the middle of raiding the pantry, and gets a face-full of fireworks as a result.

(Before this, Jubilee has seemed much more like the average scared young teenager, but this is the first hint I’ve gotten of the non-stop, annoying, energetic personality that would be the hallmark of the character.)

Writer: Chris Claremont; Artists: Marc Silvestri and Dan Green; Editor: Bob Harras

(This is one of my favorite X-Men covers off all-time. For a non-religious person, I do have a strange fascination with characters being crucified.)

Wolverine is alone, having fallen prey to the Reavers, and chained to a giant X in the middle of the Australian heat. (The Reavers are all villains that we learn were previously mutilated by Wolverine and his adamantium claws, which is a pretty clever conceit.) We learn through flashbacks that the X-Men finally decided to take Roma up on her offer, passing through the Siege Perilous with the promise of new lives. (Not explaining that one.)

(It was right around this time when I started getting new X-Men comics as they came out. The X-Men are scattered all across the world, in new identities and sometimes even in new bodies. It seemed like it took ages for them to all be reunited again. It was the most simultaneously frustrating and compelling storytelling I had ever experienced to that point in my life.)

Meanwhile, Jubilee is evading detection by the Reavers, and wondering where all the X-Men have gone. In the punishing heat, Wolverine hallucinates being visited by a chorus line of his most deadly enemies. When the sun sets, Donald Pierce decides to replace the chains restraining Wolverine with nails, as a horrified Jubilee looks on. Unable to get the reaction out of Wolverine that he wants, Pierce and the Reavers retire indoors, to avoid an upcoming storm. Spurred on by visions of important women throughout his long life, Wolverine digs deep inside, fights through the pain, and pulls himself off the giant X.

He falls to the ground, looks over at the stunned Jubilee, and says, “you gonna give a fella a hand, or what?”

That’s a compelling place to end it this week. Jubilee so far has been introduced as a brash young orphan living in a mall, and then after following the X-Men to their secret location in the Australian outback, an unknown stowaway. Next, she gets what every teenage girl needs, a grumpy 100-year old former assassin as a mentor.

Jubilee is set to appear in the upcoming movie, X-Men: Apocalypse. Which means she is destined to be one of the most well-known X-Men for yet another generation of fans. I can’t describe to you how weird that is.

Next week, the dynamic duo!

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