I started reading comics young. I was about seven years old when I first announced that I wanted to read comic books now.
As near as I can recall, that’s the entire story. Lots of people my age trace their comic book history to the X-Men animated series, and I’d always assumed that was also the case for me. Then I went digging through my collection and realized that I started buying Uncanny X-Men on a monthly basis a year before the show premiered. I don’t remember what got me started. My dad doesn’t remember what got me started. My mom does not remotely care.
Good woman, my mother. Loves me a lot, puts up with a lot, does not have space in her brain for why her first-grader went nerd.
So I’m left to make my best guess on the whole thing. So let’s assume I saw the awesome visage of Ororo Monroe gazing regally from a Waldenbooks spinner rack and decided that this would be My New Thing. But this was the ’90s. Comics in the ’90s weren’t all bad—even mainstream books. It’s become sort of this easy (and not unfair) joke that comics in the ’90s were just Extreme! Muscles! Guns! GUN MUSCLES AND MUSCLE GUNS! Also, BOOBS! POUCH GUNS WITH BOOB BULLETS NO GIRLS ALLOWED!
And that was definitely there. It was probably 1998 before I realized Cable’s mutant power wasn’t “guns.” And nothing made me feel more out of place and unwanted in a comic shop than seeing a giant Vampirella cardboard standee. But I loved the X-Men. And I loved them even more once I found Jubilee.
I have emotions about Jubilation Lee. She’s been my absolute favorite since I was seven years old, and I will defend that girl to anybody. I know, because I’ve had to. I’ve defended her to people who know her from the cartoon (is it her fault they couldn’t write a teenager?), people who think her powers were dumb (oh yeah, who wants explosions they move WITH THEIR BRAIN?), people who can’t be bothered to do more than mock her costume (yellow trench for life!).
These impassioned defenses are because Jubilee is the ultimate power fantasy to me. My brain goes from zero to “we’re all going to die” in seconds. If I get more than a few steps from my car without hitting the lock button, I assume it’s now full of murderers. Full. Like a clown car, except murderers. Or clown murders.
Christ, why would I do that to myself?
The point is that my brain looks for fear and futility as default. Jubilee, at her best, is the opposite. She’s not the brooding loner, she’s not the no-nonsense leader, she’s not the unstable wild card. She’s…happy. She’s indomitable. It’s not that she’s never sad, or never has a hard time—she does. Part of being an X-Man is that a lot of messed up stuff happens to you, and she’s been an X-Man since she was thirteen. But Jubilee’s approach is to be happy while you can. The next horrible thing is coming. It’s always coming. There are always Sentinels, and super villains, and evil plots, and clown murderers on the horizon. On those in-between days, though, there’s no good reason not to just have fun. Because maybe tomorrow it won’t be an option.
I’m not going to pretend that I internalized the Wisdom of Jubilee and was never sad again, that’s not my reality. Anxiety and depression, well managed though they may be, can hit me any old time. But in between waves, Jubilee is a heck of a reminder I don’t have to waste time feeling bad about feeling bad, or being angry that it happened. I can just be glad I got through, and let myself enjoy life for a second. Take a deep breath, be happy, have fun, and don’t worry about when the next wave of anxiety will hit.
Though when it does, “clown murderers” are probably going to factor in pretty heavily.
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