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Published September 6, 2023

The 'Women of Marvel' Guide to Jean Grey

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!

Get ready for an all-new season of Women of Marvel! Listen to the debut episode from the podcast series’ latest season, then tune into new character spotlight episodes each Wednesday!

Who is the mutant Jean Grey? In the inaugural episode from the latest season of the Women of Marvel podcast, our hosts Ellie Pyle and Preeti Chhibber are joined by guests from the world of cosplay, comics, and even X-Men: The Animated Series to answer that very question! 

One of Professor Charles Xavier’s first students and a founding member of the original five X-Men, Jean Grey has been a central figure among mutant super heroes since the beginning. Already one of the world’s most gifted telepaths and telekinetics, her abilities multiplied tenfold after she was possessed by the Phoenix Force, an all-powerful entity bent on consuming all it touches.

For some, Jean Grey represents our potential for darkness. For others, she is the beating heart of the X-Men. But no matter where you stand, there’s no denying there’s a lot going on in the mind of one of Marvel’s most formidable telepaths.

Listen to Jean Grey’s full Women of Marvel spotlight now, then catch our episode highlights from the creators—and fans—who know her best!

QUEEN OF COSPLAY

Actors and directors and comic creators have brought their own voices to Jean Grey over her many decades, but so have her fans! Cosplayer Indra Rojas, also known as The Fantasy Ninja, is a cosplayer, streamer, and makeup artist who has a special love for Jean Grey:

"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 [her clients] was getting rid of a bunch of comic books. So I was like, 'Yes, I will take those please and thank you!' And they were X-Men comic books," she shared.

"I stuck with [Jean] specifically because not only is she an amazing mutant, and, you know, [godlike being], but also I felt like there was a real personality to her and she was so multifaceted," she continued. "She's always been so constant in the fact that you get to see her do a bunch of different things.”

Naturally, we had to ask Indra about her favorite Jean cosplays. "I cosplay her 90s yellow and blue suit. And then her X-MEN: RED (2018) outfit, which I think is so cool because it's a mix of [armor], but still has that silhouette of her classic look. And her Phoenix!"

JEAN AND HER QUEER FANBASE

Jean has also found a particular following in the queer community, since the X-Men have always been representative of the adversity faced through bigotry. But just as important is the X-Men’s theme of found family, especially when they’ve faced rejection from society at large. That’s why Ellie and Preeti spoke to Nola Pfau, Editor-in-Chief of Women Write About Comics and Jean Grey super-fan: 

"[Jean] 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 writer Chris Claremont takes over UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) and transforms her into the Phoenix, she becomes this entity that's like nothing else. And she was allowed to do that at a time when a lot of other female characters weren't."

And, for members of the queer community, Jean’s subversion of power may offer a sense of wish fulfillment: "[Jean] is allowed to subvert those [super hero] tropes," continued Pfau. "So, she becomes the Phoenix, and then she becomes the Dark Phoenix. I think that we can all identify with the concept of an overwhelming anger at a system that doesn't always support you."

HERO OF X-MEN: THE ANIMATED SERIES

For so many of its viewers, the 1992 cartoon X-Men: The Animated Series launched a lifetime love of Marvel Comics and the X-Men. A primary cast member on the show, Jean’s depiction in X-Men: The Animated Series evolved throughout the course of the series’ five-year run. We spoke to Julia Lewald, one of the series writers and showrunners, about the impact Jean had on the writing room and on fans watching at home. 

"Interestingly enough, if you really look hard at the X-Men: The Animated Series team, the folks with the coolest powers were the women," she pointed out. "The women could fly, the women were strong, but it was never at the expense of anyone else. 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. And Jean Grey. Pretty darn cool powers! She was incredibly important, incredibly strong."

But even though Julia was convinced of Jean’s dynamism in the cast, there were larger concerns about overcrowding the team. 

"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,'" she revealed. "But in starting to write for the show, it just became apparent Jean Grey herself, not with the powers, but just Jean 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."

"So, it may sound funny, but she exerted herself into the show in the same way that Beast and Xavier exerted themselves into the show as important characters for the whole team’s sake. But I love [what] Jean Grey became in the [series.] She wasn't going to be a major player, but she became that because of who she was," she added.

The first episode has dropped from the latest season of Women of Marvel! Tune into upcoming episodes spotlighting a new hero each Wednesday, available wherever you listen to your podcasts!

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.
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