I had to struggle to think for awhile about who was my favorite African-American Superheroine. Misty Knight? Photon/Captain Marvel? There aren't that many major players in this category. Then the answer hit me, so obvious: Storm (Ororo) from the X-Men!
I really like this cover to Classic X-Men #3 by Arthur Adams. This was a month in which all Marvel Comics featured a character portrait on the cover. Adams, who was always great at drawing Storm (more later), captures her nobility and innocence at the same time.
In the early adventures of the new X-Men, Storm was a supporting character. Sure, we knew she could fly, zap bad guys with lighting bolts and exclaim "Goddess!" when the shit hit the fan. What I liked was Storm's inhibitions. She would come home to the X-Mansion and immediately shed her clothes. Hey, I was going through puberty, and scenes like this one in X-Men #109 with Peter at the lake helped out a lot. You can tell what Peter is looking at and thinking about in this scene. No wonder he has no words to describe his homeland, he's thinking about doing the nasty with Storm!
After reading this issue, I kept expecting Storm to have a romance with Colossus. That never happened. The X-Men thrived on romance triangles, and I was surprised that Claremont never put Storm in this situation.
Storm had a few weaknesses to overcome: mainly her naiveté with city-life and claustrophobia. She could have been written off as simply eye-candy.
But Chris Claremont loves strong female characters, and had a bigger character arc in mind.
Storm started to come into her own character after the death of Phoenix. Scott Summers left the team and Ororo took over as leader. I remember all the guys in my local comic shop hated this idea with all the intensity of Rush Limbaugh's dislike for Bill Clinton! Yet this led to Storm's defining moment in X-Men #170 (1983) when the team was trapped in the lair of the underground Morlocks.
Callisto, the leader of the Morlocks, was holding Kitty Pryde hostage. There ain't nothing more you can do to piss off Storm than to threaten Kitty. Callisto challenges Storm to a knife fight, with Kitty as the prize. This fight was well choreographed by artist Paul Smith. Callisto, who looks like she learned knife fighting in Brazil, gets in a few slices on Ororo. Then Storm displays a cold-blooded streak of intelligence when she stabs Callisto and calmly walks away, proclaiming herself the leader of the Morlocks!
After this event, we would no longer view Storm as a naive young woman. We knew she would go to any lengths to protect the mutants on her team.
This was all happening during a great era for the X-Men. Claremont and Smith were firing on all cylinders. We were shocked when this led to Storm's transformation in X-Men #173 when she became a punk! Again, most of the guys in my LCS hated this punk look, with the mohawk haircut, leather outfit, and studded collar. I secretly thought it was totally kinky and hot. I just love the 1980s and this was one of the highpoints of that decade.
Paul Smith mentioned this remake in an interview done for Marvel Spotlight Uncanny X-Men 500 issues celebration: Oh my god, that was just a bad joke gone too far! I knew they were gonna cut the hair, so I did a number of head sketches with varying short hair sytles and as a joke--as a joke--I put a Mr. T Mohawk on her. Louise Simonson (the editor) looked at it and said, "You know we're gonna get hung no matter what we do, so let's commit the crime!" So we went with the Mohawk. I went ahead and switched to the Wendy O. Williams (of the Plasmatics) style instead, more free flowing. But once you get into that, you had to get into the whole leather and stud thing. So it was just a bad joke that got way out of hand.
Mohawk Storm was used to great affect in the Uncanny X-Men Annual #9 in 1985. This was the second half of the great Asgardian two-part epic (that began in New Mutants Special #1) drawn by Arthur Adams. The cover features Storm swinging an Asgardian hammer in a very Kirby-inspired Thor-like pose. Notice how Storm's mohawk works so nicely in the middle of that winged helmet.
Storm is the object of Loki's master plan in this storyline, seducing her with power and brainwashing her to fight her fellow mutants. Loki creates an Asgardian hammer for Storm, which she wields in this sequence, where Adams competes with another Asgardian artist--Walt Simonson.
There are many other adventures of Storm, but for me, these early ones really stand out in my memory. There was a backup in Marvel Team-Up #100 (1980) featuring Storm meeting the Black Panther in her youth. This was later used as the spark to get these two married. Ororo's profile in the X-Men universe has diminished somewhat as a result, but it's interesting to see her working with the team again in Astonishing X-Men. Nuff said.
Update: Comments from my old MT blog...