Jean Grey and the Phoenix

The Phoenix was my introduction to comics, and what an introduction! The very first comic I ever received was X-MEN #101, the first appearance of the Phoenix. Given to me by my father, I still treasure it. But, the Phoenix wouldn’t be what it is without its favorite host, Jean Grey. Many characters have proven that women belong in comics just much as men do, but we see few with the sheer amount of power that Jean Grey and the Phoenix have together. This place of power allowed Jean Grey and the Phoenix to teach me about respecting, recognizing, and supporting women. That attitude towards women is a large part of what made me the person I am today.

Jean Grey and the Phoenix Becoming Icons

Jean Grey
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

It was no coincidence that The Phoenix and Jean Grey, as similar yet different entities, gave me my first exposure to powerful women as superheroes. They are icons. Through their immense power, they show that women can and should be respected, recognized, and supported. The fact that such powerful women existed so long ago, when the industry was even more male-dominated, is astonishing. Their very existence told women that they could be powerful in a world attempting to wrench their power from them.

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We’ve seen Jean Grey and the Phoenix fight for the sake of good, save countless victims, and even destroy a planet. Even when the Phoenix becomes evil, the power of the woman remains. Just because the actions do not necessarily connote things that are good, does not mean that they are not empowering. Powerful actions performed by a woman, no matter how evil, still prove that women are powerful.

Jean Grey the Strong

Jean Grey has done many things to deserve her place as a prominent member of the X-Men. In her self-titled solo run, she sacrificed herself to save her friends from the Dark Phoenix. This showed me her true strength because she did the right thing, even when it meant putting herself in extreme danger.

Jean Grey
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Jean Grey had always appeared strong to me, and her solo run really drove the idea home. When it becomes apparent that the Phoenix Force is going to return to Earth to wreak havoc, Jean takes matters into her own hands. With help from friends, she gathers psychic weapons to use against it. She then approaches a fragment of the Phoenix trapped within the mind of a former host. She sacrifices herself to protect her friends, and the world, from the Phoenix. When I first learned of this, I was proud, as if Jean Grey was my personal character. Since she is my first ever favorite superhero, she will always be in my heart, there to remind of how powerful women are.

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Earlier on in her timeline, we learn about the true extent of her psychic abilities. As a child, Jean Grey’s powers were so great that Charles Xavier put mental blocks in place to prevent her from accessing her full abilities. This in and of itself proves her extreme power, but it also showed me that a woman could be more powerful than a man. I always knew Charles Xavier was extremely powerful, but the fact that he felt threatened, or endangered, by Jean Grey’s raw power showed me that it’s okay, great actually, for a woman to be that powerful.

The Phoenix and Power

The Phoenix, an undeniably strong being, has also proven exceptionally empowering for women. Since the Phoenix Force first appeared in the guise of Jean Grey, the Phoenix provides a powerful feminine energy to the comics. One of the first displays of the Phoenix’s power was the healing of the M’Kraan crystal in X-MEN #108. In JEAN GREY, the Phoenix, while being evil, was powerful enough to destroy the well-armed teenage Jean Grey. Both of these examples provide undeniable evidence of the raw strength of the Phoenix.

Very early in the history of the X-Men, the M’Kraan crystal was broken. Its dangerous energy threatened the existence of the universe. The X-Men were summoned to help with the dire situation. The Phoenix, then in the form of Jean Grey, healed the M’Kraan crystal. This task would have been impossible for anyone else. The display went to prove the Phoenix’s true strength, and it proved to me that the Phoenix was so close to Jean Grey that the Phoenix became a strong example of feminine power. The raw power from the Phoenix taught me not only the importance of recognizing women’s power, but it also taught me how essential it is to support women.

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Later on, during Jean Grey’s solo series, we see the power of the Phoenix further proven. Despite Jean’s well-prepared assault, the Phoenix still succeeded in destroying the teenage Jean. While this is an evil act, it proves that the Phoenix provides an undeniable power. Though we already know this, to see it proven over and over again makes me happy; a feminine force is not only being recognized but strengthened. With the world as it is now, that is something we really need.

Jean Grey
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Why We Need Them

Women are so disenfranchised everywhere, how can we expect to end this without a start in the fictional world? Comic books have, for years, been a source of inspiration and entertainment for men and boys, so why not extend that to girls and women? If women can see themselves represented in this medium, there’s no reason they shouldn’t see themselves anywhere else.

Jean Grey and the Phoenix are perfect examples of powerful women in comic books. They provide representation and empowerment to an exponential degree. Jean Grey was strong enough to sacrifice herself, so strong that she had to have mental blockades. She is a strong woman doing what she needs, wants, and has to do. The Phoenix, who healed the M’Kraan Crystal, destroyed the extremely powerful Jean Grey. The Phoenix shows a feminine figure who has the ability to do what she wants when she wants. While there is always more work to do towards gender equality in comic books, Jean Grey and the Phoenix have always given us a great place to move forward from.

These two figures played a large role in my childhood and in my life overall. Knowing that such undeniably strong feminine characters exist made a difference in my life. They made me support and respect women. Thanks to them, I know that women have power. These two figures taught me the importance of women having and recognizing this power. Without them, I wouldn’t have anywhere near to the same perspective that I have now. Essentially, Jean Grey and the Phoenix made me a feminist.

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