A smooth-talking Russian holds a fourteen-year-old girl in his arms. He kisses her
passionately -- then clasps her against his body. "When you're doomed, what's the point
of playing by society's stupid rules?!" she asks.
That's from issue #165 of The Uncanny X-Men comic book. The male speaker is "Peter
Rasputin," a Russian he-man whose superpower is a body that turns instantly into rigid
steel. And the female is "Kitty Pryde". Who, remember, is fourteen.
So "Kitty" has had a bad dream, and she cries out in the night. In the very next panel
"Peter" is there -- in her bedroom -- wrapping his arms around her tender body and
comforting her. "Do not fear," he coos, "it is all right. I am here. I will protect you.
Shhhhh, there's a girl...." After expressing his wish that she weren't underaged, Kitty
asks him if he's toying with her. "I have never been more serious," he answers -- and
then commences some lusty lip-lock.
All right, look, I'm no comic book fan-boy. An art school drop-out is just staying
with me for a few weeks, and I found the issue in his box of old comic books. It's from
January of 1983, and the art school drop-out assures me there's nothing unusual about its
editorial staff. (Marvel writer Chris Claremont, editor Louise Jones, and editor-in-chief
Jim Shooter, if those names actually mean anything to you.) So what exactly is going on
here? What's with the "forbidden love" theme? I mean, the comic book friggin'
specifies that she's fourteen just a few pages before. Did they really mean for
this randy Russian to be macking on her?
I asked another long-time comic book fan, who at first stammered out rationalizing
protests like "Maybe the age of consent is different in Russia!" But after some
thought, he pointed out an intriguing bit of comic book history. "Marvel at the time
wouldn't allow ANY reference to homosexuality, but apparently accepted Piotr and Kitty
railing against (presumably American) society's clear laws against statutory rape."
Peter Rasputin: "This is not the proper time or place." Kitty
Pryde: "We may never get another chance."
This whole stroll through comic book nostalgia is making me a bit uncomfortable -- like
cover photo on a "Rifleman" comic book about a "mysterious bag" holding the secret to
an outlaw's past.
I mean, granted, in this issue of the X-Men the Russian character was only 19
years old himself, my comic book-loving friend points out, but then again -- "this little
fantasy of 14-year-old love wasn't written by a 19-year-old..." I tried searching
the net for more information, but all I found was this home-drawn image where Kitty Pryde
An internet FAQ for the X-Men comic books does have a long section about the
age of Kitty Pryde, including talk about "retroactive continuity" -- Marvel's writers
allegedly keeping Kitty's character underaged to squelch rumors that she was sexually
active. And elsewhere there's even some depressing fan fiction
about Kitty Pryde giving birth.
But in the absence of a clear statement about the writer's intentions, there's no point
in speculating. If you think too much about this, every panel in X-Men #165
suddenly seems to take on an additional leering double meaning.
"Is this MORE ACTION than even SPIDER-MAN can
Er, sorry -- that's from an ad for Atari's Spiderman video game in the same issue. But
you get the idea.