Friday, August 12, 2005

Teenage mutant ninja superheroines

As many of you probably know, August 12 is International Ponce de León Day, a celebration of the Spanish explorer who spent his career searching in vain for the legendary Fountain of Youth. In honor of Señor de León, Comic Art Friday today salutes superheroes that typify the joy and verve of youth.

Because, silly rabbit, comics are for kids.

To kick off the fun, we present a dynamic duo of playful young heroines, Jubilee and Jesse Quick.

Jubilee is most familiar as a member of Marvel Comics' super-teams, the X-Men and Generation X. She is also known as the character with perhaps the most ridiculous secret identity in the history of comics: Jubilee's real name is Jubilation Lee. (She is apparently no relation to Jubilation T. Cornpone of Lil' Abner fame.) Jubilee is one of the very few ethnically Asian heroes in mainstream comics — she's an American of Chinese descent — which makes her important in another way as well.

A mutant in true X-Men style, Jubilee possesses the metahuman ability to generate energy plasma from her fingers. These plasma eruptions manifest with brilliant light, hence Jubilee terms them her "fireworks." Typically portrayed as a girl between 13 and 15 years old, Jubilee shares a special bond with the X-Man called Wolverine, and often is partnered with him in adventuring.

Jesse Chambers, whose superhero code name is Jesse Quick, is the teenaged daughter of two other superheroes, Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle. She shares with her father and other DC Comics heroes, including the various incarnations of the Flash, the ability to tap into the transdimensional Speed Force and utilize it to travel at incredible velocity. For Jesse, like her dad, the Speed Force can be expressed as an equation: 3X2(9YZ)4A. (No, I don't understand what it means, either. Which is why I can't move much faster than a Galapagos tortoise on Valium.)

This cute and clever teaming of two teenaged heroines sprang from the talented pen of artist Brian Douglas Ahern, who signs his work "Briz." Briz has a delightfully cartoony style that I thought would be perfect for these two jubilant (ahem) characters, and I was correct. It was Briz's masterstroke to show Jesse's mystical speed formula materializing within Jubilee's fireworks. A brilliant (all right, now cut that out) addition to the scenario, in my opinion.

In case you wondering what inspired me to team these characters together: I was surfing the 'Net looking for character reference images, and I just happened to notice the similarities in Jubilee's and Jesse's costumes, in eyewear (both sport goggles) and in overwear (both sport jackets over their superheroing outfits). Yes, I know... I have way too much free time.

And now, so do you, because that's the end of our Comic Art Friday.

5 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Janet offered these pearls of wisdom...

I'm a teacher and I didn't know this. Should I be embarrassed?

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Tom Galloway offered these pearls of wisdom...

Um, hate to tell you, but I don't think we've ever seen a teenaged Jesse Quick. She debuted in the Mike Parobeck drawn JSA series in the late 80s/early90s as someone whose in-progess doctoral dissertation was on super-heroes...and I'm pretty sure that was before her speed powers kicked in, so she was almost certainly in her 20s at the time of her introduction.

5:22 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Thanks for the background, Tom. Not that I question your reportage -- I freely admit that my knowledge of post-mid-'80s comics is spotty at best -- but wasn't Jesse in the Teen Titans for a while?

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Tom Galloway offered these pearls of wisdom...

Nope. She was in the Titans. : -)

Seriously, Jesse was, unfortunately (more in a moment) in the incarnation of the Titans before the current Teen Titans one. And the original take on that incarnation was to put the original Titans group of Nightwing, Troia, Flash, Tempest, and Arsenal (hmm, I wonder if this is the only super-group where all of the original team members have changed their codenames?) together as the early-mid 20s heroes of the DCU, with Young Justice having the current teen sidekick generation. They recruited other characters, including Jesse, but only two of the recruits, Damage and Argent, were teenage, and the book and that group incarnation always went by Titans rather than Teen Titans (the previous incarnation having dropped the Teen about 8 years into the incarnation's run through various books).

The unfortunately is due to one particular plotline where Liberty Belle, Jesse's mom for those not as into comic trivia, got a significantly new boyfriend/fiance of around Jesse's age...who Jesse then also started sleeping with, without Mom's knowledge. Guy turned out to be a complete cad, of course, and was killed off. But Jesse's personality during that period was way out of whack with what'd been previously established in my opinion.

Jesse has since managed to lose her speed powers, and occasionally appears in JSA as the business manager for the team.

5:34 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Excellent follow-up, Tom. Thanks very much!

7:02 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home