Podcasts
Published November 17, 2022

Read Jean Grey’s Full 'Women of Marvel' Podcast Episode

Revisit the history and fan influence of the original X-Woman in the debut episode from the latest season of the 'Women of Marvel' podcast!

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

[MELLOW MUSIC]

JULIA LEWALD: It just became apparent Jean Grey had such a specific important relationship to each of the characters on the team.

INDRA ROJAS: She's been through some real, real, like, stuff, you know?

FAITH D'ISA: Yeah, she's gone through it.

INDRA ROJAS: Yeah, and somehow she's managed to not let that burn her, no pun intended, you know?

[LAUGHTER]

[BRIGHT MUSIC]

ELLIE PYLE: Welcome to the all new Women of Marvel. How is it new? You might ask. This season we're going to dedicate an entire episode to each of your favorite Marvel characters. Well, maybe they're not your favorite now, but by the end of each episode, I'll bet you one Infinity stone that they will be, starting today with Jean Grey.

I'm your host Ellie Pyle, and we have even more newness to bring you our brand new host, Preeti Chhibber. Preeti welcome to the hot seat.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah.

ELLIE PYLE: Why don't you introduce yourself to our listeners and tell them your Marvel origin story.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Hello welcome for-- Welcome for having me-- This is going so well today.

ELLIE PYLE: We're doing great. We're doing great--

PREETI CHHIBBER: Let's try again. Hi I am super excited to be here. My name is Preeti Chhibber, I'm an author, I write for Marvel which is one of the most bananas things, like things I couldn't imagine saying out loud when I was a kid.

My latest book came out yesterday actually, called Spider-Man's Bad Connection. It's the sequel to Spider-Man's Social Dilemma. Could not be more thrilled. I had a Gambit and Rogue miniseries come out of Marvel "Infinity," with just heists and romance, also very exciting. And I think Marvel has just had something for like every point in my life, whether it's like video games or comics or movies or Saturday morning cartoons.

And it started with me reading my older brother's comics. Before I understood them or knew what they were I just wanted to be in that world, and now I am.

ELLIE PYLE: Hooray, and we're so glad you're here.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah, thank you. I want to know your origin story.

ELLIE PYLE: So I am Ellie Pyle, I am the executive director for digital content in Marvel publishing. And I actually started my Marvel career in publishing in the Spider office, where I worked for four years as an editor. I worked in Marvel Television, and then kind of made my way from there to Marvel's podcasts including this podcast but also our fiction podcasts like Marvel's Wastelanders and Marvel's Squirrel Girl-- The Unbeatable Radio Show!

And since then I have been working on our Infinity comics which are our digital comics on Marvel Unlimited, and very recently have made my way back to where I started with the "Spider-Man" office, just in time to edit Superior Spider-Man Returns, a tenth anniversary issue that will be coming out next month. And then continuing on into a new "Superior Spider-Man" series.

But it all started because I had a younger brother, so I wasn't reading his comics, but he was collecting the trading cards. So we're walking through this store and I see this Gambit and Rogue comic book and they're about to kiss. And because I had watched X-Men the animated series which we are going to talk about a lot this season I knew this was important.

PREETI CHHIBBER: I love the idea of little Ellie seeing that Gambit and Rogue and being like, kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss.

ELLIE PYLE: Or don't, don't. I was very worried.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Or don't kiss.

ELLIE PYLE: I was very worried.

[LAUGHTER]

I wanted both things. Which is what makes a good story, isn't it?

PREETI CHHIBBER: Absolutely. So this season we're going to be trying something a little different. You know when we started putting it together we decided what we wanted to do was really deep dive into a single character every episode. We want to know what makes that character so amazing. And what's the best way to do that? We'll talk to creators, we'll talk to fans, we're going to talk to anyone with a cool perspective on what makes these women special.

ELLIE PYLE: And we're starting with one of my very favorite characters from my earliest days as a Marvel fan, the original X-woman, Jean Grey.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Today we are going to learn about how Jean tries, succeeds, or fails to maintain her sanity with the universe on her shoulders and inside of her head. We'll talk about different iterations of Jean, like the version of her in X-Men-- The Animated Series, and Jean in the eyes of fans, cosplayers, and writers.

ELLIE PYLE: Jean's always had a lot on her mind. She is telekinetic, meaning that she can move things with her mind, and telepathic, meaning that she can communicate with her own thoughts and hear the thoughts of others.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Her story has been defined by trauma. She didn't even have active powers until she saw a friend get hit by a car. She died as Marvel Girl was reborn as The Phoenix and then died again.

ELLIE PYLE: It can be a lot to keep track of all the different incarnations of Jean Grey, so we asked some friends to help.

TECH: Check, check, check. OK

ELLIE PYLE: I-- state your name.

[LAUGHTER]

JILL DU BOFF: Hi, I'm Jill Du Boff, I'm the director of audio here at Marvel.

JASMINE ESTRADA: I'm Jasmine Estrada.

KARA MCGUIRK-ALLISON: Kara McGuirk-Allison.

JASMINE ESTRADA: I'm an audio producer--

KARA MCGUIRK-ALLISON: Audio producer--

JASMINE ESTRADA: Here at--

KARA MCGUIRK-ALLISON: Here at--

BOTH: Marvel.

JILL DU BOFF: So, Jean Grey.

JASMINE ESTRADA: Jean Grey.

KARA MCGUIRK-ALLISON: Brief is hard because we know she's a complicated person.

JASMINE ESTRADA: But the explanations are like the fun part.

KARA MCGUIRK-ALLISON: Her origin begins really early. I think when she was 10 or seven years old one of her best friends was tragically killed in an accident and as Jean was holding her friend, her powers, because of her sadness and passion, were ignited.

JILL DU BOFF: Telekinesis, and she was a telepath.

KARA MCGUIRK-ALLISON: She experienced all her friend's emotions dying and that led her down a really dark path of depression and trying to figure out how to use her newly discovered powers. Her parents eventually sent her to the Xavier school, where Professor Xavier was supposed to help her.

JASMINE ESTRADA: One of the original five X-Men, she's the only woman on the team.

JILL DU BOFF: And everybody hit on her. And I just thought, this is definitely of the time.

KARA MCGUIRK-ALLISON: And this is where we hear of her as Marvel Girl.

DIGITAL VOICE: M-M-Marvel Girl.

KARA MCGUIRK-ALLISON: But I think most people think of Jean Grey as Phoenix or Dark Phoenix.

[FIRE BLOWING]

JILL DU BOFF: I think it was because of repression that she turned into The Phoenix.

KARA MCGUIRK-ALLISON: Xavier is-- I'm trying to get the best way to say this where I don't sound like a complete jerk.

[LAUGHTER]

JILL DU BOFF: Charles Xavier was like, We're going to protect you from everybody, including yourself.

KARA MCGUIRK-ALLISON: And honestly my perspective is that this is a metaphor for the patriarchy. It is a man who is threatened by a woman who is more powerful than him and does everything he can to suppress her.

JILL DU BOFF: And it was trying to bottle up all of those powers that turned her into The Phoenix.

JASMINE ESTRADA: So the Phoenix Force is this like giant--

DIGITAL VOICE: Giant--

JASMINE ESTRADA: Cosmic--

DIGITAL VOICE: Cosmic--

JASMINE ESTRADA: Force--

DIGITAL VOICE: Force--

JASMINE ESTRADA: What we see it in comic books it's a giant Firebird. Now she's like stronger than any of the other mutants, which is great, for a little bit because it saves the X-Men.

JILL DU BOFF: And then she started dating Cyclops, but Wolverine was always in love with her, there was always that amazing love triangle.

JASMINE ESTRADA: But then like the Hellfire Club, which is this like organization of rich mutants, essentially kidnap the X-Men to do their bidding. But then they also realize that Jean Grey is probably one of the strongest mutants ever. So they're like, let's kind of adopt her into our ranks. So they kind of brainwash her but what ends up really happening is it backfires on everybody because like the Phoenix Force gets introduced to evil stuff.

JILL DU BOFF: And she rebels and she becomes the Dark Phoenix.

DIGITAL VOICE: Dark Phoenix. [LAUGHS]

JASMINE ESTRADA: And tries to blow up a sun, I think.

[FIRE BLAZING]

JILL DU BOFF: At some point she doesn't want to be the Dark Phoenix and then she is killed.

JASMINE ESTRADA: Ends up dying.

JILL DU BOFF: And that happens in front of the love of her life, Cyclops. And then she passes her Phoenix power onto other people. There are a lot of people who are Phoenix. Echo was Phoenix, Cyclops was Phoenix, my five-year-old daughter decided she's Phoenix. I feel like Phoenix just goes to a lot of different characters.

DIGITAL VOICE: Wrap it up.

KARA MCGUIRK-ALLISON: Jean has other iterations of herself other than Phoenix and Dark Phoenix.

JILL DU BOFF: She became the headmaster of the School for Gifted Mutants.

JASMINE ESTRADA: Then there's this like other woman Madelyne Pryor, who looks exactly like Jean Grey, but then Scott falls in love with her. They end up having a child together, that's how we get Cable. But that's a whole 'nother story.

JILL DU BOFF: She also is a character called Marvel le Fay. That's when she's like transported to sixth century and she's convinced that she's a mystic--

JASMINE ESTRADA: Oh no, there's two Jeans--

JILL DU BOFF: And this is when Jean Grey pairs up with--

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

 

ELLIE PYLE: It's a lot.

[LAUGHTER]

So Preeti, top five favorite things about Jean Grey a.k.a. Marvel Girl a.k.a. Phoenix, and go.

PREETI CHHIBBER: That's super easy. She's passionate, she's super smart, she has a commitment to doing what's right, she's a romantic, which I love. And she's willing to stand up to people regardless of how strong they are.

ELLIE PYLE: I love that last one in particular. One of the first comics I can remember reading was an issue where Jean Grey fought Sabretooth, and she didn't even touch him. But like there was this line about her being able to make him feel what it felt to be raked with his own claws and that sort of thing.

And I just, I loved it. This idea that power comes in so many different forms. But I'm not sure I'd ever actually want to be telepathic. Can you imagine having that much going on in your head all of the time?

PREETI CHHIBBER: OK, but, but, telekinesis would be pretty cool. I wonder what it's like to move things with your mind.

[TINKLING MUSIC]

ISABEL ROBERTSON: I'M going to tell you.

WOMEN: Hi Isabel.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Hi guys.

[LAUGHTER]

I am Isabel Robertson, I am a producer here on Women of Marvel. I've been here for a couple of years now making this wonderful show. And now, I get to be on the other side of the mic for once. I am going to help host a segment here on this season of Women of Marvel, our "Ask an Expert" segment.

PREETI CHHIBBER: This is something we're all really excited about, which is segments that will show us the intersections between the Marvel Universe and the real world. So thank you for bringing that to us.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Oh, it is my pleasure. I'm so excited to be the Ask an Expert correspondent this season. And today to help us learn about telekinesis, I got to talk to Dr. France Jackson who got her PhD at the University of Florida in human centered computing in 2018.

She was a brain computer interface researcher in the human experience research lab there. And when she was there at the lab, she was a big part of starting the world's first brain drone race, where contestants basically got to have telekinesis for a day.

[BRIGHT MUSIC]

DR. FRANCE JACKSON: So we had a BCI group at the University of Florida. It was myself. Dr. Marvin Andujar, and Dr. Chris Crawford. I mean none of us had PhDs then so we were Marvin, Chris, and France.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: And BCI, just to clarify, BCI is brain computer interface?

FRANCE JACKSON: Yes, it's brain computer interface. Well, the ones that we work with are non-invasive wearable devices that rest on your head and they read or detect your EEG waves or electroencephalography, so your brain waves, essentially. So the two of them were walking in the mall one day and saw some drones like back in 2014, 2015, when drones were really like all the rage and starting to come out.

They saw a kiosk in the middle of the mall and they were selling like drones and they had this bright idea like, Oh, what if we could race drones with our brains? What if we could use BCI devices to race the drones? And then they brought it back to school and we started talking about it and we were like, Wow we can really turn this into a thing, we can have a whole race, and we can make it a competition.

And so that's how we started the brain drone race. And my role was to understand the nuances of planning the event and the experience for the people participating as well as the spectators. So making sure we had the right safety nets for the race, telling Chris he needs to make sure the drones don't fly higher than or lower than so that everyone is safe in the environment, how long should the race be, what was the interface going to look like because you're actually looking at a computer GUI while you're flying the drone.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: And for listeners at home, a computer GUI is a type of visual interface, just something for the user to look at.

FRANCE JACKSON: Yes, so what does that look like? What is that process? What is that experience? That was mostly my role in it.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Can you walk us through that? For those people who were hooked up to these drones what was their experience like?

FRANCE JACKSON: Before the race we allow them to kind of train. So we would have them come in prior to the race, we would capture a baseline of what their brainwaves look kind of at a neutral state. We'd tell them to just relax, don't think about anything, so we can see what their baseline brain activity is like.

And then we would have them think about a motor task, like pushing a chair forward, or pushing the drone or opening their hand, like something that is a motor task. We would have them think about it over and over and over and concentrate on it and we would begin to capture and record those waves and turn that pattern into a neural model basically.

And so then we would capture that. So we would see, OK, this is France's model for what her brain looks like when she's thinking go forward. So then when you come into the race we would have think that same thought that we captured in training. And you would be thinking, Push the chair, push the chair, or, Move the cube. And so Chris took that model and then mapped it to the drone controls. So once it detected that the drone would then slowly fly forward.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: The race, the brain drone race, what is the goal of it? Like what's the race part of it?

FRANCE JACKSON: The race is super exciting. So the race is like a drag strip style race. So if anyone out there Google's brain drone race you'll be able to pull up one of our old websites and it'll show you some footage. And you'll see we all have these little shirts on, we got referees in the nets.

And you have two people sitting at the table and they have the devices on and the drones are racing in like a drag strip style like, as straight of a line as possible. And so it's a competition. That's the point. You want to win, you want to show that you have a superior ability to focus better than the next person.

And then most people think it's just cool to be able to participate in and what a story, right? To be able to tell, I was able to move a drone with my brain.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Yeah.

FRANCE JACKSON: And then we gave them very sweet prizes like tablets and some other stuff to like incentivize people for winning. But it's like tournament style, so you compete and then you get moved up in the bracket that sort of thing. I know if you were to ask Marvin, What's the point? He was really passionate about the brain drone race because it really allowed people who may not be able to compete in other athletic sports to compete in brain drone race as a sport.

Like whether you can't compete because you lack the physical ability, maybe you lack movement ability, maybe you are an amputee or something like that, and you can't compete in traditional sports or you're not athletic, this is a place where anyone who has functioning brain waves can compete. And he know.

And if you leave it up to him he wants to take it to the Olympics like--

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Yeah--

FRANCE JACKSON: He wants to take it all the way to the top. They still have brain drone races at the University of Alabama and the University of South Florida. Their research lab still holds brain drone races and they're like working on a league and all sorts of things.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Oh, that's so cool. Because it does seem, I mean it does not sound easy. Even just the idea of thinking about nothing to get a baseline reading is so wild to me because if I try to think about nothing I immediately think about everything.

FRANCE JACKSON: Yeah.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Like the idea of trying to get my brain to just do one thing, seems hard in and of itself. Is that something that you saw people struggle with?

FRANCE JACKSON: For sure. And you have to be locked in focused on this thing. And if you stop-- if you start thinking about something else your brain wave pattern is going to change and it's no longer going to align to that model that Chris programmed to the forward motion. So now the drone is going to stop moving forward and it's just going to hover until you get back locked in focused and then it'll keep going forward.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Wow.

FRANCE JACKSON: So it's training you to be focused on a topic

ISABEL ROBERTSON: I mean I'm even thinking about scenes from the comics and movies where the X-Men are training and a lot of it, especially for people like Jean Grey or other people who are telekinetic, a lot of it is the focus.

FRANCE JACKSON: Same type of practice, how they're all in the gym practicing on their different skills, totally.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Thank you so much France.

FRANCE JACKSON: Thank you for reaching out to me and having me.

[BRIGHT MUSIC]

PREETI CHHIBBER: Of course Jean's powers aren't her only strength as we know from all the versions of the character, whether it's the comics, films X-Men the animated series, games and more.

ELLIE PYLE: Including podcasts. But like a lot of Marvel fans the first version of Jean I ever encountered was in X-Men-- The Animated Series. And we got to talk to one of the minds behind the series about developing and writing Jean's character.

JULIA LEWALD: Hi, I'm Julia Lewald, I am a writer. I got my start at Disney TV Animation with Chip 'n Dale-- Rescue Rangers, Goof Troop, Darkwing Duck, those shows, and then X-Men-- The Animated Series.

ELLIE PYLE: Julia was a co-creator on the series and writer on the show.

JULIA LEWALD: Back in the good old '90s. And if you told me, then I'd be talking about X-Men 30 years later, I wouldn't believe you. But it really seems to have touched some people in a really wonderful way, and I'm thrilled to talk about it.

ELLIE PYLE: Including--

PREETI CHHIBBER: Yes.

ELLIE PYLE: --the hosts of this podcast--

PREETI CHHIBBER: I was like touching my chest while you were talking just like so excited.

JULIA LEWALD: Aw.

PREETI CHHIBBER: If you had told me as a kid that I would be here talking about this show--

ELLIE PYLE: Yeah, absolutely--

PREETI CHHIBBER: --with the writer on this show, it would have blown my mind, I think.

JULIA LEWALD: Aw.

ELLIE PYLE: And it's funny that it's not just us.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah.

ELLIE PYLE: I found that when you talk to women of Marvel particularly in our age group, this is the thing that got us into all of this.

JULIA LEWALD: I put a flag on a lot of different hills here that I will choose to die on and one of them is-- look comic books are a huge cultural force. The X-Men began in the 1960s. X-Men-- The Animated Series began in '92 when it rolled out. So that's 30 years of rich history there that X-Men-- The Animated Series got to build on and build with.

But without X-Men-- The Animated Series, I do not think there would have been the audience later for the live action films. And I think X-Men The Animated Series introduced the idea of that kind of cultural comic book to a lot of people who otherwise wouldn't have thought to take a look, people of different genders, people of different ethnicities.

Good old X-Men-- The Animated Series really was the bridge between what had been a very powerful and important, but a very small niche community, which was the comic books and then created an audience for a project that no one really knew what it was when it started. Like what exactly is a mutant? What do you mean?

You know comic book people knew what that was but the general audience watching TV didn't. And here I am going on and on and on, but I'm proud of the impact X-Men-- The Animated Series has had, and I'm pleased I had a role in it.

PREETI CHHIBBER: So today we are going to be talking about one of my favorite characters, one of my favorite X-Men, Jean Grey. What about her personality and story did you really want to focus on in developing her for this series?

JULIA LEWALD: One of the things about even just picking the team, like who were going to be members of X-Men-- The Animated Series team. You want your team but you don't want everyone to have the same powers. You don't want a Colossus and a Wolverine and a Cable. Those are gruff guys just so uh uh. So in the decision to pick the players, it wasn't even so much the strategic, You can only have seven guys and one girl, because that was typically how a lot of kids animation was.

You have your team and you can have one girl. Argh. That's not what X-Men was, but the idea of a character like Jean Grey-- a little backstory here. Interestingly enough, if you really look hard at the X-Men team, the folks with the coolest powers were the women. The women could fly. The women were strong. But it was never at the expense of anyone else.

It was never called out to like, you are lesser than guys because you can't do this. That was never a part of it. But in terms of what would look good on an animated TV screen, it came down to what the variety of powers could be, how it would animate, and what those different powers would look like choreographed into a giant fight scene sort of thing.

And Jean Grey, pretty darn cool powers. She was incredibly important, incredibly strong, but I can tell you interestingly enough at the very beginning there was concern that the team was going to be too big. And so two characters, Beast and Jean Grey were initially marked down on a chart as being part of the B team.

That the rest of the team would all be there but not Beast and not-- you could use Beast you could use Jean Grey, and you could use Professor X, but focus on the six remaining. But in starting to write for the show, it just became apparent Jean Grey herself, not with the powers but just Jean Grey as a character, had such a specific important relationship to each of the characters on the team.

Every one of them would talk to her in a way they wouldn't talk to anybody else and the same back her with them. So she, it may sound funny but she exerted herself into the show in the same way that Beast and Xavier exerted themselves into the show, being important characters for the whole team's sake.

And I said, Dear Jean Grey gets a certain amount of snark these days because, well, she's always fainting, she's always falling over, she's always-- well you try doing what she's done telepathically.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah.

JULIA LEWALD: If your brain doesn't melt, if you don't-- you know, come on. Cut her some slack. But I love that Jean Grey became that in the show. We have the paperwork to prove it that she was on the B-team, she wasn't going to be a major player but she became that because of who she was.

PREETI CHHIBBER: I love that so much because it's-- I mean, we love Jean. Obviously we're big fans of the X-Men and big fans of Jean Grey. One of the reasons I think a lot of people connect with her is she represents, and this is a common theme for her in the comics, having to balance all these different parts of yourself. Like how she has to deal with the ramifications of that great power, right, of the fainting and these things--

JULIA LEWALD: Yes.

PREETI CHHIBBER: But then the impact of the fainting that has on someone who's supposed to be strong. And it doesn't cancel that out of course, but it's something internally you have to deal with. How in the TV show did you relate these ideas of Jean balancing everything going on in her head and trying to keep a handle on her sanity and stay in that hero mentality?

JULIA LEWALD: That is a very good question. And it's funny how if you want to look behind the curtain so much of it comes down to the nuts and bolts of the production of an animated TV show for kids on Saturday morning.

[LAUGHTER]

And you know and we're here talking, Oh the fate of the universe. And we are talking about those things in terms of the story, but in terms of the production of that story a challenge with Jean unlike say Wolverine and his claws, the challenge with Jean was figuring out how to display, for lack of a better word, what was going on inside her head.

You know she wasn't shooting giant cables out of her arm like Omega Red. It was a little bit of a challenge figuring out how to illustrate her powers in use on the show, that was a challenge. And hopefully we hit more than we missed.

[LAUGHTER]

And she herself was so empathetic to everyone there, and still dealing with her own stuff and just I think, a remarkable character.

ELLIE PYLE: Well, Julia, thank you so much for coming to talk to us today. I have 50 more questions.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah.

ELLIE PYLE: So I guess we'll have to have you back possibly even later this season. We'll see what happens. But thank you so much.

JULIA LEWALD: Thank you so much.

[BRIGHT MUSIC]

ELLIE PYLE: You can learn more about Julia's work on X-Men-- The Animated Series by heading over to xmentas.com, following xmentas on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, or purchasing her book X-Men-- The Art and Making of an Animated Series.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Can I tell you how difficult it is not to hum the X-Men-- Animated theme song every time we say the name of the show? And we're not going to do it, but it's happening in my head.

Of course, actors and directors and comic creators have brought their own voices to Jean Grey over her many decades. But so have fans, like cosplayer Indra Rojas. Indra is a cosplayer, streamer, and make up artist, also known as the Fantasy Ninja and she has a special love for Jean Grey. So now we're going to turn it over to our audience development associate manager and our Fandom correspondent, Faith D'Isa.

 

FAITH D'ISA: Hi.

ELLIE PYLE: Welcome to the podcast.

FAITH D'ISA: Oh my gosh, thank you for having me.

ELLIE PYLE: So we know you, but why don't you introduce yourself to our listeners.

FAITH D'ISA: Absolutely. So my name is Faith D'Isa, I work in audience development here at Marvel and at Disney. And I've been here for just over 5 and 1/2 years, I guess at this point, which is kind of crazy. Long time listener, first time segment host. I was definitely a Women of Marvel listener long before I started working at Marvel, so this is so exciting.

My origins start as a fan. I grew up on comics. A big fan of like Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, X-Men. Was a kid reading the Civil War comic when it came out. Big fights with my dad, who was also a comics nerd and also a team Iron Man guy, while I was team Cap. I'm a cosplayer I'm honestly just as much of a fan as all of our listeners. So I'm so excited to be here. And so excited to have a little hand in the Women of Marvel Universe.

ELLIE PYLE: So Faith, you are going to be our Fandom correspondent this season. What corners of Fandom are you going to guide us through?

FAITH D'ISA: Talking to all sorts of amazing people, talking to some folks who were kind of at the forefront of the Carol Danvers Fandom, talking to some amazing drag performers, some cosplayers, all about the corners of the Marvel Universe that they know and love. And as someone who has her own niche as a cosplayer in that corner of the Marvel Universe, it was so exciting to get to talk to these people about the characters near and dear to their hearts. And to start us off I spoke to Indra Rojas who is a huge fan of Jean Grey and her passion for the character is undeniable and absolutely infectious.

[BRIGHT MUSIC]

INDRA ROJAS: My name is Indra and I am an artist, and cosplayer, and an absolute nerd and huge, huge Marvel fan.

[LAUGHTER]

FAITH D'ISA: I mean we're all nerds here you are in extremely good company. So if you want to go on and tell me a little bit about what you love about Jean Grey in particular. Like what kind of brought you to her in terms of cosplay or personally her story?

INDRA ROJAS: Oh my gosh. I feel like there is so much. I had a very interesting introduction to comic books because I'm an immigrant. And when I was about 12 years old we moved to the States. And at the time, my mom had a job where she was cleaning houses and one of the people that was there, they were getting rid of some stuff. And they were getting rid of a bunch of comic books.

So I was like, yes, I will take those please, and thank you. And a lot of them were X-Men comic books Spider-Man comic books. And that was like my big introduction. And I feel like at that time I think any superhero and everything there were very few women I think that stood out to me. And even as a kid, this was early '90s Jean was still like thee girl in the comics, you know.

She's been in the team for so long and I stuck with her specifically for so long because not only is she an amazing like mutant-being, god-like really, but also I felt like there was a real personality to her. And she was so multifaceted, and she's one of these--

FAITH D'ISA: Very fleshed out.

INDRA ROJAS: Yes, and she's one of these characters that-- I mean and I've been reading these comics for so long, and she's always been so constant in the fact that you always get to see her do a bunch of different things, you know. She's not just a mom, she's not just a scientist or whatever. She's done all these things. And something that I really, really love about her is that she's been through some real, real stuff, you know?

FAITH D'ISA: Yes, she's gone through it.

INDRA ROJAS: Yeah, and somehow she's managed to not let that burn her. No pun intended, you know. But I think that that's wonderful about her and I feel like she's just so genuinely so inspiring. And I think that's why I've always gravitated towards her.

FAITH D'ISA: No, I feel the same way. I love her as a character. It's kind of the same reasons I'm a big Wanda Maximoff girl. So same kind of thing, multifaceted, not always good, not always bad, has been through it but kind of comes out the other side.

INDRA ROJAS: Exactly.

FAITH D'ISA: And I feel that way about Jean too. That's such a good way of putting it. And so we have seen your Jean Grey cosplay. Obviously, our listeners at home can't see anything right now. Can you just, for their sake, describe to us which outfit for Jean you cosplay.

INDRA ROJAS: I cosplayed her '90s yellow and blue suit.

FAITH D'ISA: Classic.

INDRA ROJAS: Yeah. And then her X-Men red outfit, which I think it was so cool because it's like a mix of sort of armory kind of look, but with-- like still has that silhouette of her classic look. And then--

FAITH D'ISA: I love that look.

INDRA ROJAS: Yeah, and then her Phoenix.

FAITH D'ISA: Yes. And so do you want to talk a little bit about how you would approach transforming yourself into Jean? Like, how do you kind of get in the vibes? What do you do with wigs and makeup or your costumes, things like that?

INDRA ROJAS: Yeah, it's so funny because I feel like it's always the reverse when I cosplay Jean. Usually when I like a character you know you kind of prep a certain way. Like, oh I'm going to gather the materials. I'm going to do this and that. And somehow it's different with her, where it's like, I need to do this right now. Because I'm in the middle of reading a comic book or rewatching like the--

FAITH D'ISA: Right.

INDRA ROJAS: The old show or whatever. And I'm like, Oh no, I need to-- I have this. I can do this right now. I can sew this right now.

FAITH D'ISA: You need the instant gratification?

INDRA ROJAS: Yeah. Yes. But as far as actually making the costumes, a lot of it is just trying to get it right you know, just trying to get my seams as nice as possible, because a lot of her outfits are so form-fitting. So I feel like that's really the only thing. And then while I'm sewing and working on stuff, I definitely like binge a lot of the movies and shows. [LAUGHS]

I think a big part of cosplay for me is the photos.

FAITH D'ISA: Yeah.

INDRA ROJAS: And with Jean, she's always like touching her face. You know she's always just like the mental powers, you know. So I feel that's where the biggest part of the preparation comes from, is trying to figure out her posing. Because I'm like, oh, I'm going to look so goofy. But at the end of the day, it's just like I love her. And that's what it is just showing my love for her.

FAITH D'ISA: Yeah and I mean the poses are always goofy. It's all comics. It's a little bit animated. But seeing it all come to life is, I'm sure, so gratifying. And your cosplay is amazing.

INDRA ROJAS: Oh my God.

FAITH D'ISA: I've seen it.

INDRA ROJAS: I really appreciate it.

FAITH D'ISA: Do you want to just give one last little shout out where people could see pictures of your cosplay?

INDRA ROJAS: Sure. Usually if you just look up my name, everything is just under my name, Indra Rojas. And I have a website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, whatever, I guess, social floats your boat. And then you'll see all my goofy poses.

[LAUGHTER]

FAITH D'ISA: They are not goofy. You look awesome.

INDRA ROJAS: Thank you. Thank you.

FAITH D'ISA: Yes, and it was so great getting to talk to you. Thank you so much.

INDRA ROJAS: Thank you.

[BRIGHT MUSIC]

 

ELLIE PYLE: Jean has also found a particular fan base in the queer community. The X-Men as a whole are so popular with queer audiences because of their themes of anti bigotry and found family. And Jean is certainly no exception. To find out why, we talked to Nola Pfau, the editor-in-chief of Women Write About Comics, a three-time Eisner-winning independent comics journalism outlet.

[UPBEAT MUSIC]

 

So what is it that you love about Jean Grey in particular?

NOLA PFAU: Oh, I mean how quickly do you want me to narrow it down? Because--

ELLIE PYLE: We got time, we got time--

NOLA PFAU: There's so much. She is one of the first archetypes of female heroes who was allowed to come into her own power without being a derivative character, without being a character who is necessarily beholden to other people. She starts off as a fairly standard female character on an ensemble cast. And then when Claremont takes over with X-Men and transforms her into The Phoenix, she becomes this entity almost that's like nothing else. And she was allowed to do that at a time when a lot of other female characters weren't.

ELLIE PYLE: So Jean becomes The Phoenix. And what else about her kind of evolution over time has really stuck with you as a character that you love?

NOLA PFAU: Jean is allowed to be kind of catty in a way that a lot of characters aren't. Like she and Scott are very good for each other in that way in that neither of them are necessarily the best at being people but they're great at being superheroes. The job is kind of everything to them. And she's got friends. But she's got like attitude and she doesn't really shy away from telling people when she doesn't get along with them. She's got that kind of strength of character and strength of personality where she stands up for the things that matter to her and that she cares about.

ELLIE PYLE: Jean resonates with the queer community, which is something you've talked about before. Can you tell us more about that?

NOLA PFAU: Well, I mean it kind of goes back to what I was talking about with the way that she's allowed to come into her own power and the way that she's allowed to subvert those tropes. So she becomes The Phoenix and then she is she becomes the Dark Phoenix, and for all that there are problems in the tropes of like, woman can't handle power so she goes crazy and blah, blah, blah.

For all that there are problems in that, I think that we can all identify with the concept of an overwhelming anger at a system that is just not ever there for you, like a system that doesn't support you. We all get mad enough sometimes that we just want things to burn. And the great thing about being The Phoenix or maybe the not great thing is that when that happens you can make things burn.

And you know I think that that's part of the fun of comics is that wish fulfillment even if she's not necessarily a heroic character in those moments, She's allowed to feel those emotions and she's allowed to process that stuff. And I think that's kind of what we read comics for.

ELLIE PYLE: I had a previous job that was not at Marvel where I frequently had those moments and I had a GIF of Jean Grey with the Phoenix appearing in her eyes that I would just send around on certain days that it's like, Oh no, this is where we are today.

NOLA PFAU: Yeah, because that's the moment and you want to let that out and sometimes if you've got people that you trust at work sometimes it's enough to just kind of say like, Hey, this is where I'm at today. And them going, Hey, I see you. Which itself is kind of something that feels adjacent to queer experiences because a lot of it is about just being able to see each other. A lot of it is about just going through things and being able to tell people you trust and go, Hey, this is where I'm at right now. And having someone go, OK, cool, and meeting you where you are.

And I say that that's part of the queer experience. it's kind of a universal thing. But there's an omnipresence of it when you're queer. Like it's always there, it's always around, you're always feeling that to some extent because to be queer is to be aware of queer politics and to be aware of queer identities and the way that those identities are talked about and framed and highlighted and all of these things.

And that is just a constant background radiation in your life. And so you are constantly managing those feelings and those impulses. So I think to really have somebody see that and connect with that is very good.

ELLIE PYLE: And you touched a little bit on the idea of chosen family, which is also, of course, a huge part of the queer community. So what is it about the X-Men as a whole that you think resonates with the queer community?

NOLA PFAU: I mean the chosen family part is definitely a big chunk. There's been a lot made of the idea that the X-Men are a civil rights allegory. And to a certain extent that's true. Like any metaphor, there are certain levels that it doesn't quite work at because nobody in real life in need of civil rights has had the ability to cause explosions with their mind.

So there is that. But also the mutant metaphor is very much-- it's designed to be kind of flexible like that. It applies to so many marginalized communities. And it applies to the queer community just as much because of things like found families and chosen families. Because so many queer people will come out and have a traumatic experience around that with their birth families, with the people who are nominally tasked with raising them and caring for them.

And when folks come out, they'll get turned away. They'll get kicked out. They'll get excommunicated from families. So the queer community is very much about coming together and being that family when nobody else will. And I think that the X-Men have always been about that. And it is so much more apparent in the Krakoan Era because of that, because of the way that they built an entire society and said, hey, you are welcome here. This is your home. This is where you are safe.

Like I think that's even in one of the first issues of House of X, like Xavier's-- there's literally a panel where he's like, you're home now. You're safe here.

ELLIE PYLE: Are there other X-Men characters besides Jean Grey you think have a particular resonance with the queer community?

NOLA PFAU: Well, keeping it in the family, Rachel Summers/Grey, depending on the era that you're referring to her, getting to be textually queer in Knights of X, and Captain Britain these days has been fantastic because she's kind of always been there. It's really exciting to see all of that subtextual resonance over the years become canonized in fact. And that's just a personal favorite of mine.

Destiny and Mystique getting to be a couple, getting to be together again after what? Three, almost four decades, super great. Destiny has always been a favorite of mine. I always appreciate someone who is properly arch in tone and delivery, and she always had that. She's always so good at it. I suppose it says something about me, that my ideal queers are the two women who can light things on fire with their mind and the two women who will light things on fire manually at the drop of a hat.

ELLIE PYLE: Yeah. No, I hear you sometimes you got to burn stuff down.

NOLA PFAU: Yeah.

ELLIE PYLE: There you go. If you'd like to support Women Write About Comics, you can head to womenwriteaboutcomics.com and check out their Patreon.

PREETI CHHIBBER: So Jean obviously has a lot on her mind. Fans love her for a lot of reasons. But is she a hero or a villain? This is a common theme for a lot of Marvel characters, like Black Widow or the Winter Soldier. And it certainly is for Jean. Ellie, what do you think?

ELLIE PYLE: My take on this is that Jean is at her best when she is both. It is because she is both that we love her. We love Phoenix. We love Dark Phoenix. But it's the fact that she goes from one to the other and back again that has made her so compelling for so long. What do you think?

PREETI CHHIBBER: It's funny because I did prep for these episodes and I reread some classic X-Men. And rereading the first Phoenix Saga, I say hero because I think Jean sees herself as separate from Dark Phoenix. I think she sees herself as a counter to it. So to me, she's a hero who is taken control of and used by the Dark Phoenix to do terrible things. But I think it's outside of Jean and the choices she would make if she were in control.

ELLIE PYLE: That completely makes sense. So Preeti, we're at the end of our first episode here. But before we go, there is a special person we are planning to have on every week, dear friend of the podcast Robyn Belt

PREETI CHHIBBER: Hi, Robyn.

ROBYN BELT: Hi, guys.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Hold on, hold on. Where is the poof sound effect? How did you get here without the poof sound effect?

ROBYN BELT: Oh, I'm sorry, one sec.

[TINKLING MUSIC]

Hi again.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Now that that's settled, and it makes sense how you got here, why don't you introduce yourself to our listeners and tell them what you have in store this season.

ROBYN BELT: I'm Robyn Belt, and I'm the manager of editorial content for Marvel Unlimited here at Marvel. And I'm going to be popping in at the end of every episode to give our listeners comic entry points with reading guides starring our featured characters. These comics are presented in chronological reading order, but you can start at any point in your reading journey.

ELLIE PYLE: Every comic should be someone's first, right?

ROBYN BELT: That's the Marvel way. So we're going to start off our reading list with Uncanny X-Men, issue 101, from the X-Men's first volume in 1963. And this is the kick off to the monumental famous Phoenix Saga. So you're going to read through issue 108 for that complete story. This is the most pivotal and famous Jean Grey story, where Jean is possessed by a cosmic entity known as the Phoenix Force. And unfortunately, this ushers in unspeakable tragedy for the X-Men.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Ah, all the tears, just remembering the crying.

ROBYN BELT: It is an emotional gut punch.

ELLIE PYLE: It's so good though.

ROBYN BELT: It's high drama, and the art is fantastic. So Dave Cockrum kicks off The Phoenix Saga, paired with Chris Claremont, the writer. And we conclude The Phoenix Saga with The Dark Phoenix Saga, which takes place in Uncanny X-Men, issue 137. And in issue 137, Jean sacrifices herself to the Shi'ar Imperial Guard in this epic space battle that takes place on the Blue Area of the Moon.

And her death ends the contest against the X-Men. And there's this beautiful, romantic gut wrenching conversation with Cyclops that I just absolutely love. And I think their love story transcends death itself.

Our third issue is Uncanny X-Men, issue 308. And I chose this one for John Romita, Jr.'s art alone. This is one of those gorgeous slice-of-life issues that is called X-Giving. It is the X-Men's Thanksgiving special. And I love it because it really accelerates Jean's relationship with Scott. We get a dynamic glimpse into their past. And as I was rereading it, I was like, wait, did Jean Grey propose to Scott Summers?

[LAUGHTER]

It is true. She did.

PREETI CHHIBBER: And it's cute.

ROBYN BELT: And if you liked that issue, then you definitely want to follow it up with X-Men issue 30 from the 1991 run. That is the Jean Grey/Cyclops wedding. Wolverine didn't show.

ELLIE PYLE: I know, he's just skulking around in the woods and writing messages in the snow.

PREETI CHHIBBER: I mean fair though, like fair.

ROBYN BELT: He's gone through it.

ELLIE PYLE: X-Men, number 28, two issues before that, is a personal favorite of mine because it was one of the first comics I ever read. But the Jean Grey and Sabretooth fight is just so good.

ROBYN BELT: Funny you should say that because it's next on my list.

ELLIE PYLE: Ah, there we go. I'm just jumping ahead

ROBYN BELT: Ellie, I'm so there with you. I think it is the absolute power move for Jean. So Professor X invites Sabretooth to the mansion, trying to rehabilitate him because he's basically been through this mind-altering saga. But the rest of the X-Men, very rightfully so, have a lot of trust issues with Sabretooth.

And Jean, I think, steps up on behalf of the team. And the second that Sabretooth is out of line, she absolutely telekinetically, telepathically smacks him down, puts him in his place. And she says, quote, "You're a firecracker Creed, and I'm an atom bomb."

ELLIE PYLE: It was so cool. It was this moment of her being like, no, I don't need to lift a finger to let you know what it's like to be raked with those claws of yours. I'll just make you feel it in your brain. Love it so much.

ROBYN BELT: Yeah, it's really a powerful moment for her and she also makes Creed feel his own guilt. So there's this emotional exchange, too, where she's using her telepathy in a way that kind of implants the strength of feeling into another. So it's another dimension to her power too. So our next issue on the list is New X-Men, issue 114. This is the first issue from the 2001 run. I think you should read this entire run, if you like the first issue just go in.

So this deals with the X-Men and their fallout from the destruction of the mutant paradise, Genosha. So in the second issue of this run, Genosha is wiped out, and with it, 16 million mutant lives. So this is a massive catalyzing event. And Jean is facing some major revelations and shifts in her relationships with Scott and Wolverine.

But despite all of this conflict, she steps up to the plate and she's a public advocate for the Xavier's Institute. And she steps in right when anti-mutant sentiment is at an all time high. So this is Jean Grey the leader, Jean Grey the teacher, Jean Grey the public face of mutantkind.

And we conclude with an issue from House of X. The very last issue of this run from 2019, is when Jean Grey becomes a member of Krakoa's Quiet Council. And for listeners who aren't aware, the Quiet Council is the governing body of Krakoa.

So it's an assembly of mutants who come together for the best interests, we hope, for a brand new mutant nation that was founded in the aftermath to House of X and Powers of X. Those are two interconnected series, and we've curated as a reading list for our Marvel Unlimited readers.

And finally if we want to get into some Summers-Grey family tree business, this is some bonus reading guys. There is one run that I like because it's especially odd but also really cool. It's The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix from 1994, a four issue run. I'll just give you the TLDR. But Jean Grey is the matriarch of no less than three, well, really like 2 and 1/2 transdimensional mutant children.

You've got Nathan Summers, Cable, actually the son of Jean Grey's clone Madelyne Pryor with Scott Summers. From the "Day of Future Past" timeline, you've got Rachel Grey-Summers, who then supplanted herself into the "Age of Apocalypse" timeline as the Mother Askani to be a guardian to Cable, Nathan Summers, so that he could be the undoing of apocalypse. And then you've got Nate Grey X-Man, also from "The Age of Apocalypse" timeline.

You want to get into it, we got a graph on marvel.com.

ELLIE PYLE: I'm so glad they are visual aids. This is awesome, Robyn. Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us. I'm so excited to go back and reread some of these issues.

ROBYN BELT: Thank you guys for having me on, and get reading. Hope you guys enjoy the list.

ELLIE PYLE: And don't worry, folks. If you didn't take notes, we will be putting the reading list in our show notes.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Next week on Women of Marvel, we are headed to Wakanda to meet Shuri.

ELLIE PYLE: Until then, Women of Marvel is produced by Isabel Robertson, Zachary Goldberg, Ellie Pyle, and Preeti Chhibber.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Our senior manager of audio development is Brad Barton. Production manager is Emily Godfrey. And our executive producer is Jill Du Boff.

ELLIE PYLE: Listen weekly on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts See you next week.

PREETI CHHIBBER: This is Marvel

ELLIE PYLE: Your universe.

[MELLOW MUSIC]

Women of Marvel: Jean Grey
Women of Marvel: Jean Grey
There’s a lot going on in the mutant telepath Jean Grey’s head—communicating with others, moving objects, and more. Examine how this veteran X-Man carries the weight of the universe on her shoulders with some of her most important comic stories.
Explore

Related

PHOENIX #1 variant cover by Aka

Comics

Jean Grey Fulfills Her Cosmic Destiny in 'Phoenix' #1 Variant Covers

Check out new covers for Stephanie Phillips and Alessandro Miracolo's 'Phoenix' #1.

PHOENIX #1 cover by Yasmine Putri

Comics

Jean Grey Takes to the Stars as Phoenix in New Series

Set in the X-Men’s upcoming From the Ashes era, Jean Grey headlines a new 'Phoenix' ongoing series by Stephanie Phillips and Alessandro Miracolo this July.

SPIDER-WOMAN #7 Black Costume Variant Cover by Peach Momoko

Comics

Marvel Heroes Suit Up for the 40th Anniversary of Spider-Man's Iconic Black Costume

Check out new Black Costume Variant Covers, on sale in May.

Our Complete Comics Guide to ‘X-Men: The Animated Series’ S5 on Disney+

Comics

Our Complete Comics Guide to ‘X-Men: The Animated Series’ S5 on Disney+

Binge-watch the final season of the hit cartoon, then head over to Marvel Unlimited to read the comics behind each episode!