Minorities in cartoons: Northstar

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This week’s entry is Northstar, Marvel’s most famous openly gay male superhero. Northstar (real name: Jean-Paul Beaubier) first appeared in “Uncanny X-Men” #120 in 1979. Chris Claremont and John Byrne created Northstar.

Background

Northstar on "Uncanny X-Men" #414 (December 2002)
“Uncanny X-Men” #414 (December 2002). Art by Steve Uy.

Below is Northstar’s backstory, trimmed down and simplified as much as possible. A mutant, Jean-Paul and his twin sister Jeanne-Marie were born in Montreal, but were orphaned at an early age.

Raised separately, Jean-Paul grew up. After some dubious life decisions (including joining a violent Quebec separatist group), Jean-Paul took up skiing. Thanks to his powers, Jean-Paul excelled at such, and became an Olympic athlete.

Eventually, Jean-Paul was invited to join the Canadian government-funded superhero team Alpha Flight. There, Jean-Paul reunited with his long-lost sister. She also had mutant powers, and now called herself “Aurora.” Jean-Paul dubbed his superhero identity “Northstar.” His first contact with the X-Men was as part of Alpha Flight’s attempt to “reclaim” Wolverine for the Canadian government (per the “Weapon X” program).

The early 90s saw various changes to Northstar. One such change was discovering he was “really” from a race of fairy-like elves. That’s fortunately since been retconned out. Another change was Northstar’s adoption of an infant who was HIV-positive; Jean-Paul’s daughter soon died from AIDS-related complications. Jean-Paul subsequently campaigned for HIV/AIDS prevention and wrote his memoir.

The biggest change, however, was Northstar deciding to come out publicly. This happened in 1992’s “Alpha Flight” #106. Jean-Paul’s coming out stirred some real-life controversy and media attention at the time. The Comics Code Authority had only relaxed its ban on depicting non-heterosexual characters a few years earlier.

Since coming out, Jean-Paul’s had various adventures. These have included extended stints with the X-Men and newer versions of Alpha Flight.

In recent years, Northstar gained a boyfriend named Kyle Jinadu. Kyle, like the adult Kevin Keller’s husband, is Black; he works as Jean-Paul’s public relations manager. Jean-Paul proposed to Kyle in May 2012, with the wedding taking place in June’s “Astonishing X-Men” #51.

Of course, superhero comics treat weddings as a big deal. However, Northstar’s wedding was made an even bigger deal than usual. Marvel promoted the wedding on ABC’s “The View.” Of course, Disney owns “The View,” Northstar, and Marvel.

Powers

Northstar’s powers consist primarily of super-speed and flight. He also possesses superhuman stamina and agility. When joined with his sister Aurora, Jean-Paul could also generate blinding light attacks.

Other media

Jean-Paul appeared in several episodes of the 90s “X-Men” TV series. Actor Rene Lemieux voiced Northstar.

Northstar also appeared (unvoiced) in “The Super Hero Squad.”

(Updated 11/10/16)


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2 comments

  1. I’ve ‘crushed’ on Jean Paul since I was a teen. I knew he was gay before I knew, and I think that it’s so funny that he really turned out to be, which gives great props to Byrne & Claremont for giving him that aura even when they couldn’t remotely be clear about his sexuality due to the CCA restrictions (Sigh…). Anyhow, thanks for writing about him, and his history. He’s definitely the most well known Alpha Flight member now, people wouldn’t have believed his historical arc back in the early 80s, but I would’ve! :)

    Thanks again, Anthony!

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