In honor of Black History Month, Modern Graphic History Library looks at one of the most well-known African American comic book heroines -- Storm, aka Ororo Munroe, of the X-Men.
Storm, the mutant heroine who can control the wind and rain, was introduced in 1975 in Giant-Size X-Men #1, when Marvel decided to reboot the X-Men series, which had been canceled in 1970 due to low sales. For this reboot, Marvel added international mutants, including Canadian Wolverine and German Nightcrawler in addition to African Storm, as Charles Xavier traveled the world, looking for new recruits. Xavier located Storm in the Kenyan Serengeti, where she was worshipped by a tribe as a weather goddess after her weather-controlling mutant powers revealed themselves.
Art by Dave Cockrum, Classic X-Men #1, September 1986, page 11
In 1976, it was revealed that Storm was actually African-American. Writer Chris Claremont added into the plotline that her Kenyan mother (a tribal princess and witch-priestess) married an American photojournalist and moved to Harlem, where Ororo was born. The family later moved to Egypt and after the tragic death of her parents, Ororo is orphaned and left to fend for herself as a child thief in Cairo until she ends up traveling to Kenya.
Storm, as we know her today, was never meant to be part of the X-Men team. Instead, two different mutant heroes, Black Cat and Typhoon were to join the team. Before the X-Men reboot debuted, Marvel had already introduced other female cat characters, so another was not needed. Since a new female character was still wanted for the reboot, the Typhoon character was eliminated, and his powers were given to Storm, who now wore the costume meant for Black Cat, with the addition of a cape.
Art by Dave Cockrum, Classic X-Men #3, November 1986, page 11
After the reboot, Storm was included as a supporting character and was included in many of the major plotlines which served as the basis for the 2000-2006 movie trilogy. In the movie version however, Storm has a very minor role.
Art by Dave Cockrum, Classic X-Men #8, April 1987, page 18
During the 1980s, Storm's role increased. When team-leader Cyclops steps down after the death of Jean Grey, Storm becomes the new leader of the team and faces her share of challenges, especially with Wolverine's impulsiveness. Wolverine becomes the one team member she really trusts, and later they even date each other on-and-off.
Art by John Byrne, Uncanny X-Men #142, February 1980, page 17
When Cyclops wants to return as team leader in 1986, the two characters battle it out in a duel, with Storm winning. Her significant victory is later downplayed when it is added to the plot that Storm's victory was because of Cyclop's wife, who wanted her husband to stay at home, and used her psychic powers to influence the duel's outcome.
Another change for Storm in the 1980s was an overhaul in her look, replacing her Black Cat costume with a black leather top and pants. Her long-flowing white hair was chopped off and turned into a mohawk. Artist Paul Smith knew that Marvel wanted to cut Storm's hair, so as a joke, he drew her with a mohawk ; the editors decided to keep her hair that way. In 2008, Smith admitted that the mohawk was a "bad joke gone too far".
Art by Alan Davis, Uncanny X-Men #215, March 1986, page 8
Storm's hair was always an issue from her creation, since many at Marvel did not want it to be white, afraid it would make her look too grandmotherly. Artist Dave Cockrum insisted on the white hair and assured the rest of the team that she would never be mistaken as elderly.
Like other superheroines, Storm is drawn as sexy and alluring. Early on, she was often drawn nude, with her long-windblown hair covering up strategic parts. The justification for the nudity was the African tribe who worshipped her practiced nudity, and Storm could never adjust to Western culture's taboo on nudity. Unlike many superheroines, Storm is usually drawn proportionally, and with a strength, toughness, and confidence about her, no matter which outfit she is wearing.
Art by Mark Silvestri, Wolverine #38, April 1991, page 20
Of the many African/African-American comic characters introduced in the 1970s, Storm is one of the few who still is found regularly in print titles, in addition to having instant name recognition among people who do not regularly read comics.
Images are from the Center for Humanities Comics Collection.
Information for this blog came from:
Storm. Marvel Universe Wiki, n.d.
Storm [Marvel Comics] Wikipedia, n.d.
Storm, Ororo Munroe. World of Black Heroes.com, August 2, 2011.