Ahead of X-Men: Dark Phoenix, a look at Jean Grey's portrayal in comics, animation series and movies

Pratishruti Ganguly

Jun 03, 2019 10:21:15 IST

A month ago, Marvel wrapped up the 22-film Infinity Saga, phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Avengers: EndgameSpeculations are rife that end is nigh for another fan-favourite franchise— Dark Phoenix will supposedly end with the wipe-out of the current X-Men franchise.

Ahead of X-Men: Dark Phoenix, a look at Jean Greys portrayal in comics, animation series and movies

Dark Phoenix will chart Jean Grey's cosmic corruption and see her attain her full potential.

Way back in 2016, director Simon Kinberg said that Dark Phoenix would be the first in a new array of films that will focus on the younger versions of the original X-Men characters. From the teasers and trailers dropped by the makers, it is evident that Jean Grey will unleash the Phoenix, in turn killing Mystique and probably bringing X-Men to an end, as we know it. Moreover, Kinberg also said that the reason why Mystique's death was teased in the trailer because there are even more "major casualties" in the movie.

Before Dark Phoenix storms into screens this Wednesday on 5 Junehere is a refresher course on the evolution of Jean Grey, from being the weakest X-Men member to becoming the agent that destroys them (probably).

Comic books

Jean Grey as portrayed ion the comics

Jean Grey as portrayed in the comics

Co-created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Jean first appeared as Marvel Girl in  The X-Men #1, published in September 1963.Though she was the sole female member of the original team, led by Professor Xavier, that included Cyclops, Beast, Angel and Iceman, she was not much more than a glorified sidekick, who was capable of minor telekinesis.

Then, in 1976, Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum rejigged Jean Grey in Uncanny X-Men #101, now renamed as 'Phoenix'. Jean, whose powers were tethered by Professox X since she was unable to control them, survives a lethal radiation of a solar flare, after the team's shuttle crash-lands in New York's Jamaica Bay. She emerges from the waters, briefly attaining her full potential as a telepath and telekinetic.

This leads to the birth of The Dark Phoenix Saga, that ran from Uncanny X-Men #129-138, and was created by Claremont and writer/artist John Byrne. Phoenix's incredible power makes her the target of the evil Hellfire Club, who send Mastermind to break down the barriers created to contain her and wreak havoc.

Jean Grey's transformation to the Dark Phoenix

Jean Grey's transformation to the Dark Phoenix

This starts Jean's iconic spiral into darkness. She transforms into Dark Phoenix and consumes a star, thereby destructing a solar system, including a planet full of sentient life. Eventually, Jean's personality obtains control over Phoenix and sacrifices herself in order to save her friends.

The killing-off of Jean at the end of the The Dark Phoenix Saga was a editorial call, and her fans were furious over the death of one of the most powerful characters in the X-Men universe. Hence, five years later, Claremont and started developing a new series titled X-Factor, that would reunite all the original five X-Men.

Hence, in Claremont and Byrne's Fantastic Four #286 (1986), Jean is discovered by the Avengers inside a cocoon in the Jamaican Bay. It is also revealed the Jean was actually duplicated by the cosmic entity Phoenix Force, under the Jamaican Bay, and it was Jean's duplicate entity that later turned into Dark Phoenix and consumed a star. Jean Grey returns to the X- Factor team, with the code-name Marvel Girl.

Reportedly, Claremont was not satisfied with resurrecting Jean, as well as separating the Phoenix Force entity from Jean, as he guessed that the move would absolve Jean from any atrocities that she committed as the Dark Phoenix. Moreover, he was not convinced with invalidating the finality of death.

In retrospect, this resurrection of Jean Grey after The Dark Phoenix Saga birthed the superhero trend of dead-but-not-really, one that is seen in a bevy of Marvel films, including Thor, Avengers, Captain America and Iron Man 3.

Animated Series 

Jean Grey in X-Men : The Animated Series

Jean Grey in a still from X-Men : The Animated Series

Three prominent shows that featured Jean Grey were X-Men: The Animated Series (1992-97), X-Men: Evolution (2000)and Wolverine and the X-Men (2008-2009). 

X-Men: The Animated Series is considered one of the most faithful adaptations of the comic books, and is also one of the longest-running animation shows based on a Marvel comic.  Voiced by Catherine Disher, the arc of Jean Grey's character, from her relationship with Cyclops, her acquisition of Phoenix Force and her transformation to Dark Phoenix (lent voice to by Tracey Moore), and her eventual death by sacrifice at the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga closely duplicated that of the comic books.

American-Japanese-Korean animated television series The X-Men: Evolution debuted at the heels of the first X-Men feature film,  but unlike the movie, presented a teenage incarnation of the X-Men. It situated Jean as a doctor and the central character. She is a soccer player who also trains the mutant students of the Xavier Institute. The series charts the growth of Jean's Herculean power — in the beginning, she is only able to move small objects, but as the series progresses, Jean is seen being able to move helicopters and induce blasts. After Apocalypse is vanquished, Professor X has a vision that predicts Jean will ultimately be consumed by the Phoenix Force and bring and end to the X-Men. The series ends there.

Scott and Jean Grey in a still from X-Men: Evolution

Scott and Jean Grey in a still from X-Men: Evolution

Jean Grey (voiced by Jennifer Hale) is featured as a supporting-character in 2009's Wolverine and the X-Men. 

Movies

Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) first appears in X-Men (2000) and is introduced as a doctor at Professor Xavier's School for the Gifted. The film also delves into the Jean-Scott Summers-Logan love triangle. Not only does she analyse Logan's skeleton, she also repairs Cerebro after Mystique sabotages it to injure Xavier. She also helps Wolverine find Magneto's machine using her powers of telekinesis.

Famke Jenssen in X-Men: The Last Stand

In X2 (2003), William Stryker, a villainous former Army Commander, begins an attack on Xavier's school. During the X-Men versus Stryker combat, the X-Jet is damaged. Jean uses her powers to kick-start the jet and keep the flooding water at bay, but is apparently drowned by the flood and presumed dead.

X-Man: The Last Stand (2006) is the first film which introduces Grey's alter-ego Phoenix. Xavier reveals that he had created psychic barriers inside Jean's mind to harness Phoenix's limitless powers, that ultimately resulted in Jean developing a dual personality. While the flood had not killed Jean, it had unhinged the cosmic entity Phoenix. Jean, almost completely taken over by Phoenix, kills Scott, disintegrates Xavier and teams up with Magneto. Although Logan manages to resurrect Jean's personality for a brief moment, Jean convinces Logan to stab her, so as to stop Phoenix continuing her pillage.

In all the three films, Janssen  portrays Jean Grey.

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When Stan Lee created Jean, she possessed only telekinetic powers. But over the years, as the comics progressed, Jean was bestowed with telepathic powers as well. This development in her character was justified with a back-story, which revealed that her telepathic powers had to be suppressed by Professor X when she was a child. Hence, even without the Phoenix force, she is the only female Omega-level mutant in the world apart from Hope Summers, and thus, one of the most powerful beings in the world.

However, in the first two films, the extent of Jean's power is hardly ventured into, apart from a few stray incidents (like when she saves the X-Jet from being washed away by the flood). Despite her impassioned speech to the mutants, she is never seen taking any major decisions in the first film.

In X2, although her character was dwelt upon, the film failed to showcase her internal conflicts of identity, and the difficulties of wielding insurmountable power.

The Last Stand delved into Jean more than the first two films, in that it shows her as suffering from dual personality and a product of misunderstood childhood. However, fans were unconvinced with the half-baked treatment to Jean's cosmic corruption. They were disappointed when the one with supposed limitless power begs Wolvernine to kill her.

Kinberg, who will make his directorial debut with Dark Phoenix and also served as the writer on The Last Stand, said that he had regrets over how the storyline of Phoenix was handled in the previous film. He said while he wanted the film's primary focus to be on Grey, it later panned out as one of the subplots of the movie. Dark Phoenix is an attempt of a do-over of The Last Stand, and make a "real version of the Dark Phoenix story."

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X-Men-Apocalypse poster. Source: Twitter

X-Men-Apocalypse poster. Source: Twitter

In the penultimate film in the X-Men franchise, the events of X-Men Apocalypse take place after X-Men: Days of Future Past, when Wolverine's consciousness is sent back into his 1973 body, to prevent their future from taking the devastating course that it did. Thus, the film effectively erases the events of The Last Stand. 

A young Jean (Sophie Turner) is introduced in Apocalypse but this time, her telekinetic powers are seemingly left unchecked by Xavier as she uses telekinesis to pull the books, binders and folders that she dropped after she bumped with a blindfolded Scott.

Jean takes on Apocalypse, the centuries-old Egyptian god, who is also considered to be the most powerful psychics. United by the Phoenix force, Jean unleashes her psionic powers and incinerates him.

A still of Sophie Turner as Jean Grey in Dark Phoenix. Youtube

A still of Sophie Turner as Jean Grey in Dark Phoenix. YouTube

The final film, as the name suggests, will chart Jean's turn to the all-consuming super villain Dark Phoenix. However, with the absence of Logan, how Dark Phoenix will be destroyed remains to be seen.

Dark Phoenix will also introduce Jessica Chastain's character, who intends to weaponise Jean and destruct the world. While many suspected Chastain's character will be Lilandra Neramani, a member of Shi’ar Empire's royal family, Kinberg has confirmed that the two major elements from the saga, Shi'ar Empress and the Hellfire Club, have been excluded from Dark Phoenix.

As Hutch Parker, the producer on the upcoming X-Men film admits, Dark Phoenix will be a "much more thorough investigation" of the saga.

(All images from Twitter/Facebook and Marvel)

Updated Date: Jun 03, 2019 10:32:05 IST