BY DENNIS R. UPKINS
“I am a woman, a mutant, a thief, an X-Man, a lover, a wife, a queen. I am all these things. I am Storm and for me, there are no such things as limits.”
Nine years old. That was the age of this Catholic Altar Boy when he saw God….or one of her manifestations to be more precise. I was at a buddy’s house binge-watching our favorite Saturday morning cartoons. Shortly after watching the latest episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, I was treated to the world premiere of a backdoor pilot spinoff, X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men.
The epic saga of a team of superheroes who fight to protect a world that fears and hates them–a premise both inspired and heavily influenced by the Civil Rights movement–was revolutionary in itself. Being introduced to her was something else. It was something more. Tall, regal, the young Black heroine had flowing white hair that flowed as majestically as her cape. With an ethereal beauty, she possessed a grace and wisdom that was well beyond her years. Both co-leader and one of the team’s most powerful members, seeing a Black superhero like this in a Saturday morning cartoon was a life changing experience.
Her name was Storm. One of many titles she would garner.
“Queen. Goddess. Cloud-Walker. I think those are too many titles for one who simply wishes to help.”
Storm first debuted in the Marvel comic Giant Size X-Men #1 in 1975. The character was created by writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum. The original concept of Storm were two new characters to join the X-Men. One was a male character who controlled the weather as well as a Black female hero with cat-related abilities. However this was changed when Cockrum realized that there were a number of female characters with cat-related powers and more in development. Thus the two character concepts were merged and the first major Black female superhero in comics was created.
Born in Harlem, New York as Ororo Munroe, Storm’s father was David Munroe, an American photojournalist. Ororo’s mother, N’Dare, was the princess of a Kenyan tribe and a descendant from a long line of African witch-priestessses with white hair and blue eyes. As a result, Storm herself is a latent mystic whose potential powers rival that of the Scarlet Witch; one of Marvel’s most powerful mages.
When she was five, Ororo’s parents were killed by an airplane bombing attack in an Israeli-Arab conflict, leaving the young child orphaned and alone. She survived on the streets of Cairo by becoming a master thief. When her powers to control the weather manifested as an adolescent, she was worshipped as a goddess in Kenya before she was recruited by Charles Xavier to join the X-Men.
During the ’80s and ’90s, the X-Men comic book series experienced unprecedented popularity and success. Monthly publishing sales then are akin to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s numbers at the box office. If the comic had an “X” attached to the title, it was probably going to be a hit. Part of that magic stemmed from the multilayered storytelling, the Civil Rights allegories, and the very diverse cast of superheroes that covered every demographic. More than that, it was truly an ensemble cast where any of these complex complicated team members could take center stage with a front burner storyline. If someone’s favorite X-Man is Iceman, there are countless story arcs and moments in the proverbial funny pages which illustrate why he is extraordinary. The same is true for Psylocke, Bishop, Colossus, Monet or any other Child of the Atom. `
In the case of Storm, it’s easy to see why she’s arguably Marvel’s premiere female superhero. As an Omega level mutant, she is one of Marvel’s most dominant characters. She can utilize her mutant abilities at the atomic level and she’s powerful enough to literally destroy the entire planet. In addition to being a master thief, tactician, and a natural leader, Storm is one of comic’s best kept secrets in terms of being a skilled and accomplished warrior. She has bested some of Marvel’s top martial artists such as Wolverine, Black Panther, and the Dora Milaje in both hand-to-hand and weapons combat. Regal, precocious, poised, Storm emanates an innate strength that transcends her abilities and skill sets. Such exceptional qualities are rarely shown in depictions of Black characters. She is often the voice of wisdom on a team, a family rather, of often impulsive and headstrong superheroes. Her relationships with her female peers is also progressive and rare. Be it Kitty Pryde, Jean Grey, Rogue, Psylocke, Illyana, etc., Storm has a very close sisterly bond with each of them which is refreshing from the catty misogynistic Queen Bee dynamics that inundates too many narratives. Storm’s close bond with her female teammates have led some to postulate that she may also be an LGBTQ.
With such characteristics, it’s little wonder the Mistress of the Elements has had a number of awesome moments throughout her illustrious history:
She’s wielded her own version of Thor’s Mjolnir, the Stormcaster. Not only is Storm more than worthy to wield a weapon of the gods but she is a goddess in her own right.
When she temporarily lost her powers, she earned the right to become leader of the X-Men by defeating a fully powered Cyclops in one-on-one combat.
Also without the use of her powers, Storm defeated Callisto, a female mutant with abilities similar to that of Wolverine (heightened senses, reflexes, healing factor), in a duel to become the leader of the underground mutant faction, the Morlocks.
She has been the beloved headmistress of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning.
In an alternate reality, Storm became the host of the Phoenix Force and that version of the Marvel Universe lived happily ever after.
If forced, Storm will literally steal and break your heart as the villainous Marrow learned during a vicious battle.
Storm led an all female X-Men team which was one of the most powerful lineups to date .
The Marvel Knight is one of the few individuals to have been a member of all of the premiere Marvel superhero teams: X-Men, the Fantastic Four, X-Force, the Crew, and the Avengers.
While power couples tying the knot are significant events, Storm’s brief marriage to Wakandan ruler and childhood sweetheart Black Panther was historic beyond the comic book pages. For starters, critically acclaimed director Reginald Hudlin was at the writing helm for the momentous storyline. Moreover, Storm’s wedding dress was produced by Emmy Award winning designer Shawn Dudley of CBS’s soap opera Guiding Light.
Black Panther hasn’t been Storm’s only love interest. Over the years she has also been romantically linked with fellow superheroes such as Forge, Slipstream and Wolverine.
One of her biggest achievements to date was also one of comics’ key milestones. In 1996 Marvel and DC Comics published a limited DC vs. Marvel miniseries where heroes from both companies did battle. Storm was pitted against one third of DC’s Trinity and the most famous superheroine of all time, Wonder Woman. Storm emerged victorious due to winning a popular vote amongst readers. In the same miniseries, Storm herself would don the mantle of Wonder Woman in an alternate reality and would simply be known as Amazon.
Why is this significant? Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, DC’s Trinity, are more than flagship superhero franchises. Each of them are also cornerstones of western culture. It is very rare that the Amazon suffers defeat in a fair fight, especially against a female opponent. So for another superheroine to beat Wonder Woman in a popular vote is unprecedented. It is also symbolic and provident. It’s similar to when Muhammad Ali defeated Superman in a boxing match. In terms of personalities, Diana and Ororo are practically mirror versions of one another. Even their backgrounds have more than a few parallels such as their royal and godhood lineage. With so many similarities between the two, Wonder Woman being an LGBTQ is another reason why some postulate that Storm may be as well.
Storm’s victory over Wonder Woman was also a symbolic passing of the torch. The Amazon has not only become synonymous with women’s empowerment but equality in general. If ever there was a superhero who was just as exemplary (if not more so) to champion that same campaign in their world and ours, it would be the Windrider.
As one of Marvel’s flagship characters, Storm has appeared in various forms of media and adaptations including X-Men: The Animated Series during the ‘90s; X-Men Evolution in the early 2000s and Reginald Hudlin’s brilliant and criminally underrated Black Panther limited series in 2010.
The popularity of these projects laid groundwork for the X-Men live action films which paved the way for other successful comic book film and television properties. The current cultural comic book renaissance can be traced back to the success of the 1998 action vampire thriller, Blade. The Wesley Snipes hit also saved Marvel from bankruptcy before Disney bought the company. Prior to Blade, most comic book films tanked at the box office. X-Men was the first comic book franchise to continue the momentum of Blade’s success and prove that successful comic book films weren’t an oxymoron. Halle Berry was cast to play Storm in the 2000 film, X-Men. Many fans were ecstatic about the casting choice. At the time of the first film, Berry was arguably Hollywood’s biggest actress and the Oscar winner’s attachment to the project gave the comic book movie legitimacy.
Berry returned to portray the role in the sequels X2, X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Days of Future Past. A younger version of Storm was portrayed by the talented Alexandra Shipp in the 2016 film X-Men: Apocalypse and 2019’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
The success of both Blade and the X-films paved the way for other superhero franchises such as Spider-Man, the DC Extended Universe, and of course the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s been reported that Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is setting up for Storm and the other mutants to make their long overdue debut. No matter what the future holds for the Weather Witch, it’s a safe bet that it will be nothing short of greatness.
As someone aptly stated, Storm was designated her codename not only because of her powers but because that’s exactly how she took the world.
Battle on Goddess!