Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Northstar (Jean-Paul Baubier) is a Marvel Comics superhero, a member of Alpha Flight and the X-Men. He is best known for being one of the first openly gay superheroes in American comic books. Created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, Northstar first appeared in X-Men #120 (1979).
Jean-Paul Beaubier was born to a French Canadian family, but his parents died in an automobile accident when he was a young child. He and his twin sister Jeanne-Marie were separated. Jean-Paul was adopted and became an angry and rebellious youth.
As a young adult, Beaubier joined the Front de Libération du Québec, a terrorist group that fought for Quebec’s separation from Canada. He soon became disgusted with the group’s techniques and renounced terrorism.
Beaubier then joined Alpha Flight, a superhero group financed by the Canadian government, where he reunited with his sister Jeanne-Marie, who had taken the name Aurora. He took the name Northstar and had a lengthy career with Alpha Flight. Beaubier is often stubborn and hot-tempered and he often clashed with his teammates, especially Aurora’s love interest, Sasquatch. This drama was complicated by Aurora’s struggles with dissociative identity disorder.
After returning to the team, Northstar adopted an orphaned baby named Joanne, who was infected with AIDS. After the child died, Northstar revealed to his teammates and the public that he was gay.
After Alpha Flight disbanded, Northstar wrote a memoir called Born Normal about his experiences as a mutant and a homosexual. Afterwards, the X-Men’s Jean Grey recruited him for an emergency team of X-Men, formed in to rescue Professor X from their arch-enemy Magneto.
At the request of Professor X, Northstar later joined the X-Men on a full-time basis. He is still stubborn and often clashes with his teammates, but continues to be a member of the team. He has formed an extensive friendship with Annie Ghazikhanian , a nurse at the Xavier Institute.
In Wolverine #25, a mind-controlled Wolverine killed Northstar after he tried killing Kitty Pryde, who phased through his claws. However, Northstar did not remain dead for long; HYDRA, the group who had brainwashed Wolverine, had recently formed an alliance with the the cult Dawn of the White Light and the group known as the Hand . The groups had been recruiting new agents from the superhero community by killing and then resurrecting them, brainwashing them in the process. They did this to Wolverine, and Elektra was also recently killed by one of their people (a man known as the Gorgon).
This month was notable for Marvel killing Northstar in three seperate timelines within the space of one calendar month, between the 16th of February and the 9th of March 2005 (as well as W25, the new version of the Age of Apocalypse and X-Men: The End). This is believed to be unheard of in Marvel Comics. Considering the circumstances, it was most likely just a coincidence.
In Wolverine #26, Northstar was resurrected as a mind-controlled HYDRA assassin in the same way Wolverine had been when he was killed by HYDRA.
On his website's message board, comic book writer and artist John Byrne said that, while planning the Alpha Flight series that was launched in 1983, the characters had little to no depth at the time, and so he decided to flesh them out.
"One of the things that popped immediately into my head was to make one of them gay," Byrne stated. "I had recently read an article in Scientific American on what was then (the early 80s) fairly radical new thinking on just what processes caused a person to be homosexual, and the evidence was pointing increasingly to it being genetic and not environmental factors. So, I thought, it seemed like it was time for a gay superhero, and since I was being 'forced' to make ALPHA FLIGHT a real series, I might as well make one of them gay." Byrne went through the cast members deciding which character would be an appropiate choice. "I settled on Jean-Paul, and the moment I did I realized it was already there. Somewhere in the back of my mind I must have been considering making him gay before I 'decided' to so so. Of course, the temper of the times, the Powers That Were and, naturally, the Comics Code would not let me come right out and state that Jean-Paul was homosexual, but I managed to 'get the word out' even with those barriers."
Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter had decreed that there were to be no gay characters in the Marvel universe, and prevented writers from having their characters be gay. Byrne implied that Northstar was gay, but could never actually come out and say it. Another writer, Chris Claremont, was prevented from revealing that Mystique and Destiny were lovers.
Byrne’s successor Bill Mantlo wrote a storyline in which Northstar became inflicted with a strange illness. Mantlo intended to reveal that the illness was AIDS and then kill-off the character in Alpha Flight #50. But Marvel’s editors stepped in and Mantlo changed his plot to reveal that the illness was a magical curse, due to the revelation that Northstar was really a fairy. This was most likely an intentional double entendre, since fairy can also be a derogatory term for men who are gay. This incident was later retconned.
In Alpha Flight #106 (1992), writer Scott Lobdell was finally given permission to allow Northstar to utter the words “I am gay.”. The event generated some publicity in the mainstream press and Alpha Flight #106 sold out in a week, despite the fact that the series was not a very popular title.
While Northstar was not the first openly gay superhero (three background characters in the classic 1986 mini-series Watchmen were gay), he was the first to play a permanent role in an ongoing series. Also, while Watchmen was the first series to feature openly gay characters, the characters Northstar, Mystique, and Destiny were all created years beforehand. And while the editors at Marvel would not let it be openly stated, these characters were intended from almost the beginning to be gay or bisexual.
Northstar’s coming out was controversial and, as a result, little mention was made of his sexual orientation for the remainder of the first Alpha Flight series, which ended in 1994. A subsequent mini-series starring Northstar, which dealt with his search for the missing Aurora, also dodged the issue.
By 2001, society’s views on homosexuality had changed considerably. In that year, Northstar’s sexual orientation played a large role in the storyline in which he joined a temporary team of X-Men and faced another recruit, Paulie Provenzano , who was extremely homophobic. Though the two began their mission as enemies, they eventually made peace with one another.
Since Northstar joined the X-Men permanently in 2002, writers have not been afraid to boldly address his sexual orientation. Northstar even experienced a crush on the long-time X-Man Iceman, though he soon dropped it when it became obvious Iceman was heterosexual.
Powers and abilities
Northstar's mutant powers include the ability to utilize the atomic motion within his molecules to propel his body at superhuman speeds. While doing so, he can avoid most bodily harm and survive temperature extremes. He also emits a soft, blue light.
Originally, when Northstar made physical contact with his twin sister Aurora, they generated a cascade of blinding light. However, after she had her powers altered so that she could produce light on her own, physical contact between the two actually cancelled this ability.
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