Spoilers: Comics from the first runs of X-Men and Alpha Flight to the present
"And everything changes, and you can never go back... and you can never get happier, you just... you just... you become a block of ice that no one will ever want to kiss because kissing is about warmth and... kissing is about... about warmth and I want someone who will... I want someone..." (Bobby Drake, UXM 425).
Jean-Paul Beaubier and Bobby Drake are two icons of the Marvel universe. Jean-Paul, a once-Olympic skier, author and wealthy businessman spent many years with the Canadian super hero team Alpha Flight while Bobby, an Accounting major who's neither used his degree nor known anything but the super hero life has fought with the various incarnations of the X-Men for over fifteen years. Both men are famous (and perhaps infamous) for their personalities and personal foibles. Jean-Paul has a notably vicious tongue, an arrogant attitude and a hidden vulnerability while Bobby has a sarcastic wit, a pranksters humor and, like Jean-Paul, a significant hidden vulnerability coupled with an occasionally crippling insecurity. Jean-Paul is handsome, wealthy, self-assured and can have anyone he wants. Bobby is attractive, owns very little, is riddled with insecurity and has made a lifetime out of being rejected. One is a confirmed homosexual while the other visibly struggles with his sexuality. One is fairly at peace with himself while the other grows increasingly more bitter and depressed. The fact that Jean-Paul should choose Bobby Drake of all men is preposterous, ridiculous and strangely beautiful.
As Jean-Paul himself said: the heart knows no logic. As I will attempt to show: it doesn't need to.
Bobby/Jean-Paul is one of those rare cannon pairings that works beyond what Marvel intended for them. While it's fairly obvious that Austen chose to have Jean-Paul fall in love with Bobby in order to 1) show that Jean-Paul is homosexual and 2) render him "safe" by giving him a supposedly one-sided love interest, the writers of Uncanny X-Men unconsciously struck gold with this pairing. Bobby/Jean-Paul makes sense both canonically and sub-textually. It has a long history of character development for each individual, leading them each up to a point where they fit together like a slash writer's dream with plenty of angst, humor, sharp banter and a spirit to persevere over the obstacles set before them. Their comedy of errors becomes our fanfiction elysium. For anyone interested in human sexuality, the interplay of confidence and insecurity, the importance of what is said and what remains unsaid and the mutual building up and tearing down that exists in any relationship, Bobby/Jean-Paul is a fascinating pairing both on panel and off.
In order to better understand this complex relationship, I will be exploring this ship in several parts, beginning with an in-depth character analysis and continuing on to an examination of canon and subtextual evidence, an interpretation of the information and an extrapolation of what it means for their continued relationship. In doing so, I hope to reveal why Bobby/Jean-Paul not only makes sense as a pairing but also why it is a worthy ship to adopt and allow to flourish.
Bobby Drake (aka Iceman) was one of the original X-Men. Introduced back in 1963 in the first run of Uncanny X-Men comics, Bobby has since starred in The Champions, The Defenders, X-Factor, the first and second run of X-Men and various other X-Books and crossovers. He's one of the enduring personalities of the X-Books, appearing in several alternate universes (including Ultimate X-Men, Mutant X, Earth X, 1602 and Age of Apocalypse) as well as the popular X-Men movies and cartoon. With such a large and complex body of canon spanning over 40 years, defining the character of Bobby Drake is a unique challenge. Each writer whose had a hand in his development has added to or taken away from our understanding of his history and character (as the Marvel idiom goes: if you don't like it, rewrite it); however, through the occasional wreckage, a pattern of behavior as well as a thread of character evolution may be seen.
In order to get a clearer picture of Bobby Drake's evolution, his history has been divided into several related categories: Background, Powers, Personal Issues and Sexuality.
Born Robert Louis Drake on Long Island, New York to parents William and Madeline Drake, Bobby appears to have had a moderately happy if occasionally strained childhood. Like many other mutants, Bobby manifested his powers at puberty during an emotionally stressful event. While on a date with a girl named Judy Harmon, Bobby was attacked by the town bullies. When one of the bullies tried to force himself on Bobby's date, Bobby's powers triggered, allowing him to encase the attacker in a block of ice. Word spread quickly about the incident and a mob formed to track down Bobby. He was placed within a jail cell for his own protection where he was found by Scott Summers. Though Bobby initially declined the offer to join the new team of X-Men, he eventually agreed.
Bobby became the second official X-Man. Within two months, the remaining members of the X-Men (Warren, Hank and Jean) joined and the original team was formed. Bobby was the youngest of the five and quickly became the act-up and "class clown," playing practical jokes and constantly goofing off. However, even though Bobby didn't take being a super hero as seriously as the others, he did work on improving his powers until the X-Men were disbanded by the FBI. The X-Men reunited some time later. The newly reformed X-Men soon found themselves in trouble when captured by the living island of Krakoa: Scott Summers was released from Krakoa and, with the assistance of Professor Xavier, formed the second team of X-Men (which included Ororo, Logan and Kurt). This last adventure was the final straw for Bobby: he left the X-Men soon after.
Bobby went to college in the interim to study Accounting. He left college after a short time, however, and joined Warren to form the Champions in Los Angeles. While with the Champions, Bobby experienced his first significant possession, hypnotized into donning Rampage's armor and, in essence, becoming Rampage. Spiderman and Warren were able to save Bobby; however, this incident proved to him that he wasn't ready to be on a super hero team and he quit in order to return to college. He remained in school even when he joined Hank in the super hero team The Defenders. The Defenders (with the exception of Hank, Warren and Bobby) eventually sacrificed their lives to destroy the Dragon- a mystical entity that was threatening to overtake the world and the three remaining members returned to their lives.
Bobby was not given a break for long: a few weeks later, Jean Grey was found at the bottom of Jamaica Bay (for an understanding of the Jean Grey/Madelyne Pryor/Phoenix saga, bang your head repeatedly into the wall, spin in a circle with your eyes closed twenty times, hop on one foot and spork yourself in the left nostril) and the original X-Men formed the group X-Factor. X-Factor eventually merged with the X-Men again and Bobby joined the Gold Strike Team.
Bobby's second serious possession came at the hands of Emma Frost. He wasn't given much time to dwell on this, however, for soon Bobby found himself going back in time to stop Xavier's son, Legion, from killing Magneto. Xavier stepped in the way of Legion's blast, dying in Magneto's stead, which altered the time line significantly and led to the Age of Apocalypse.
Bobby participated in several more adventures over the years: he was selected by Onslaught as a test subject, he went undercover during the Creed campaign and he fought in Operation Zero Tolerance. During this time, Bobby suffered personal tragedy: his father (a conservative, racist man who neither approved of Bobby's super hero status nor his choice to date a woman outside of his race) was seriously injured while standing up for mutants. Bobby left the X-Men to be at his bedside even though the two had a strained relationship.
Chosen as one of the Twelve, trapped in war-ravaged Genosha with Hank, recruited by the living starship Prosh and facing old enemies, Bobby had an eventful few years. The most trying (and recent) of Bobby's adventures, however, was when he was stabbed by Black Tom and began to undergo a secondary mutation which appears to have altered his power level, attitude and personality.
Iceman is able to "generate sub-zero cold that freezes anything in its path, forming water vapor into various ice shapes[. He can] convert into [an] organic ice form with enhanced strength, durability and morphing powers... [has the ability to] survive not only as sentient ice but as sentient water and vapor, and has the capacity to manipulate all forms of moisture [in order to] rebuild his body from damage" (uncannyxmen.net). He is considered an omega mutant, which is the highest classification of mutation.
Bobby's early ice form resembled a walking snowman; however, over the years Iceman was able to refine his form into a hard ice exterior. Initially his powers did not improve, restricting Bobby to the formation of ice shields and sleds until he was captured and used as a pawn against Thor. During this time, Bobby's powers were increased to uncontrollable levels. In order guard against destroying everything around him, Bobby was given an inhibitor belt which kept his powers under control. He relied on this belt for some time but eventually learned to control his powers on his own again.
Bobby was often afraid of his own mutation, opting not to experiment as freely as his fellow X-Men. However, after Mikhail Rasputin used his matter/energy powers to show Bobby his full potential, Bobby began to experiment, discovering that he could turn his entire body into ice rather than relying on an ice exterior. This allowed him to add spikes and increase his mass. However, even this experimentation paled in comparison to what Emma Frost did when she took control over Bobby's body. While in possession of his powers, Emma discovered the ability to travel through any body of water in almost no time. It was also due to Emma that Bobby discovered the ability to heal himself through his ice form.
Less afraid of his own abilities, Bobby was more willing to experiment with water, vapor and ice. However, when Black Tom Cassidy rammed Bobby through the chest, Bobby began to develop a secondary mutation. A patch of ice on his chest would not disappear when he reverted to human form and, over time, grew to cover his entire body, turning him permanently into ice. In this form, Bobby is able to increase his size twenty-fold, reform his body when his ice form has been completely shattered and extend razor-sharp spike from his icy skin. He has also discovered the ability to animate ice figures by unfreezing and refreezing the molecules and the darker ability of draining or freezing water within the human body.
Bobby has not had it easy when it comes to relationships. The dominant theme of his sexual life is rejection from his first revealed girlfriend all the way to present times.
Bobby's first on-panel girlfriend was Judy Harmon. While on a date with Judy, they were attacked by bullies and Judy was threatened with sexual assault by the gang leader. Afraid for the young teen, Bobby used his powers for the first time, encasing her assaulter in a block of ice. Far from being grateful for saving her, however, Judy declared that she couldn't be with a mutant and ran away from Bobby. His second early love interest was a local waitress named Zelda, whom he double-dated with Hank and Vera Cantor. His interest in Zelda appears moderate at best for Bobby soon lost contact with her and began a new relationship with a fellow mutant named Lorna Dane- aka Polaris. Bobby fell hard and fast for Lorna, who seemed to return his affection until she met Alex Summers. Lorna broke up with Bobby for Alex- an event which has affected him to this day.
After joining the Champions, Bobby showed romantic interest in Darkstar; however, Darkstar only liked Bobby as a friend. While with the Defenders, Bobby found another love interest in the form of Cloud. He found himself quickly confused, however, by Cloud's ability to change between male and female form. Though Cloud claimed she was both male and female, Bobby could not handle dating her. This confusion was cleared when it was discovered that Cloud was, in fact, a nebula: she thanked Bobby for his love and went to live in space, leaving him behind.
Continuing a trend, Bobby next fell for a young mutant woman named Infectia. He refused to believe that she was only interested in him because she wanted him dead- it wasn't until Hank took the kiss intended for Bobby that Bobby realized his mistake. Hank thankfully survived, but Bobby was disillusioned by yet another romantic failure. He began to mature and, a few months later began dating a Japanese human named Opal. William Drake, however, objected to his son seeing Opal and verbally abused her for her Japanese heritage. Bobby was embarrassed by his father's outburst and that, along with increased demands on him due to threats to the X-Men, caused his relationship with Opal to deteriorate.
At this point, the writers seem to have been flirting with the possibility of a Bobby/Emma Frost relationship, but this was never realized to the relief of many (Bobby's immaturity and insecurities would have, in many fan's opinion, caused a great deal of problems for the couple, not to mention to kitsch factor of an Iceman-Frost pairing.)
After beginning to undergo his secondary mutation, Bobby showed interest in a human nurse named Annie Ghazikhanian. History repeated itself for Bobby, however, as mere days after kissing Bobby (with hints at more), Annie left him for Alex, who left Lorna at the altar in order to steal a second love interest from Bobby. At present, Bobby is obsessed with memories of both Lorna and Annie, no doubt forming attachments beyond the true depth of his feelings due to the permanence of his ice form and his resulting depression.
Bobby Drake has a great many personal issues at this point in his life. He's recently been accused of being a racist and a homophobe and has undergone dramatic personality changes due to loneliness and depression. Though the allegations were untrue, it is true that Bobby is increasingly bitter when it comes to humans and has always been uncomfortable with homosexuality. In the former case, the bitterness is not unfounded: the X-Men live in a "world that hates and fears them" and Bobby has been on the receiving end of a great deal of anti-mutant militant action. He also shows a fear of becoming a "full-time" mutant (aka a mutant who can't pass for human) but this, too, is understandable. In the social climate he lives in, being an identifiable mutant is not only dangerous but extremely limiting: he will no longer have even the hope of a chance at a normal life. As for his supposed homophobia, there are two schools of thought: one is that he shows discomfort for male/male sexuality because he finds it disgusting while the other claims that he shows discomfort because he finds it appealing. Bobby appears to have broken through his racist, conservative upbringing; however, it would be logical for him to have a difficult time accepting the possibility that he is either homosexual or bisexual, which would lead to him being uncomfortable in situations where he is faced with homosexuality. This inner bind may also affect his ability to maintain a heterosexual relationship. This confusion mixed with his own natural insecurity (covered by humor), bitterness over his secondary mutation and poor romantic record would certainly lead to Bobby reacting negatively to a man who is attracted to him and to whom Bobby finds himself attracted-- which will be covered later on.
Quebecois Jean-Paul Beaubier (aka Northstar) was one of the original members of Alpha Flight, the Canadian super hero team. He and his twin sister Jeanne-Marie have made guest appearances in numerous X-Books over the years in addition to the first and second run of Alpha Flight. Most recently, Jean-Paul has joined the ranks of the X-Men, making appearances in Uncanny X-Men, X-Men, New Mutants and New Mutant Academy. Jean-Paul is one of the more challenging and unique characters in the Marvel universe. In addition to being one of the first openly gay mainstream characters in Marvel, Jean-Paul is a once Olympic skier, a cunning businessman, an author and a former terrorist. Razor-tongued and brusque, the occasionally unpleasant Jean-Paul has ruffled a great many feathers with his uncompromising personality. Over the last 30 or so years, the character of Jean-Paul Beaubier has undergone a great many changes due to natural evolution and the Marvel tendency to begin and drop plot threads as writers enter and leave the book.
In order to get a clearer picture of Jean-Paul Beaubier's evolution, his history has been divided into several related categories: Background, Powers, Sexuality and Personal Issues.
Jean-Paul and his twin sister Jeanne-Marie were orphaned as infants when their parents died in an automobile accident. They were brought to their mother's cousins; however, the Martins were only able to adopt one of the twins. Jean-Paul was adopted and became Jean-Paul Martin and Jeanne-Marie was sent to a Catholic boarding school. When the Martins died a short while later, Jean-Paul was sent to an orphanage and the twins grew up unaware of each other.
Jean-Paul turned to petty thievery until he was caught by Raymonde Belmonde, who became his mentor. Belmonde helped him learn to control his powers by introducing him to skiing. Later Jean-Paul joined the circus and became a fairly well-known trapeze artist. He also joined a terrorist group called the Front de Liberation du Quebec until he discovered that his cell was responsible for human deaths.
After leaving the Front de Liberation du Quebec, Jean-Paul became a professional skier. He won several gold medals and a great deal of fame. It was through this fame that Jean-Paul became involved with Alpha Flight and, through Alpha Flight, met his twin sister. He dropped the last name Martin and reclaimed Beaubier.
Through the years, Jean-Paul reluctantly fought with Alpha Flight. He was only a part of the team because of the presence of his twin and occasionally went back to his own life when Alpha Flight was disbanded (as it was often). He was increasingly concerned over the mental health of Jeanne-Marie, however, who had an extreme case of dissociative identity disorder. Jean-Paul cared a great deal for his sister and was devastated when, angry at an assumption that she would romance her way to freedom, Jeanne-Marie severed ties between them. He was there for her, however, when she needed him and eventually the twins mended their troubles, grieving together over the loss of Walter, a man whom both of them had loved.
Jean-Paul went back to skiing for a short time, but his superpowers were discovered and the angry crowd turned against him. Forced to admit that he didn't know whether his speed and skill were due to his powers or not, Jean-Paul vowed to give up the sport he loved. Over the next few weeks, Jean-Paul began to grow ill. He developed a wracking cough and healed slowly from injuries. During a battle with Pestilence, Jean-Paul's sickness was intensified. In an attempt to heal their dying teammate (and cure Jeanne-Marie's dementia, which was growing as well), Alpha Flight went to find a mystical cure. In the end, the cure was a dead end but Jeanne-Marie was able to heal her twin using her powers. She was dragged away by demons, however, and Jean-Paul entered Asgard for one the trippiest, most ridiculous storylines of Alpha Flight (it involves Loki, Elves and, well, Asgard).
Both twins were returned and Jean-Paul managed to give Jeanne-Marie back some of her powers. Their lives never managed to settle down, culminating for Jean-Paul in the adoption of a child that was dying of AIDS and a press conference in which he came out as homosexual. Eventually Jean-Paul left Alpha Flight in order to write a book (entitled Born Normal) about being a gay super hero and pursue his business deals. He agreed to join the X-Men as a teacher at Xavier's request and is now one of the most disliked (for his strict attitude) teachers at the Academy.
Jean-Paul is able to "utilize the random atomic motion found within his molecules to propel his body at superhuman speeds. [He also] possesses increased durability in his physical make-up to resist damage and temperature extremes, [is able to] alter the phase-shift between his molecules and his sister's upon physical contact generating a radiant cascade of blinding light in all directions[. He] formerly canceled out both his sister's and his own powers on contact... [and is presently able to] generate light on his own as concussive bursts or blinding flashes of half the intensity the twins could generate together (uncannyxmen.net).
Jean-Paul learned early control of his powers with the help of Raymonde Belmonde. Belmonde encouraged Jean-Paul to take up skiing in order to fine-tune his super-speed and flight abilities. Later Jean-Paul put his speed to use becoming a courier for Cell Combattre, a part of the terrorist group Front de Liberation du Quebec. After severing ties with the Front de Liberation du Quebec, Jean-Paul once again took up skiing, using his powers either consciously or unconsciously (there are conflicting reports) to cheat and win medals. It wasn't until he met his twin sister, Jeanne-Marie, and shook her hand for the first time that Jean-Paul discovered another of his mutations: upon contact, the twins produced a dazzling light. However, after Jeanne-Marie's powers were modified by her lover, Walter Langkowski (aka Sasquatch), the twins were unable to produce light together. In fact, physical contact temporarily disabled one another's powers.
When Jean-Paul began to grow ill from a cancer (though the writers at the time created an involved, rather ridiculous story about Elvish heritage), Jeanne-Marie gave him all of her power in order to restore his health. Later Jean-Paul gave Jeanne-Marie part of his power, restoring them both to normalcy: they could now use their light powers together again. Though Jeanne-Marie's powers evolved in a way that allowed her to use the light to heal and hypnotize, Jean-Paul's powers remained the same. From this point on, however, he was able to create the blinding light without the help of his twin sister.
Jean-Paul has had very few relationships (at least relationships that are shown on panel) in his lifetime. He forged a friendship with Rogue after she absorbed his memories and later offered to let her test her apparent lack of powers on him. Overjoyed that her powers had been nullified, Rogue kissed Jean-Paul on the mouth, much to his shock. Later, a mutant girl who idolized Jean-Paul when he was an Olympic skier used her mind-control powers on him to make him believe he was in love with her. Once the affects of her spell wore off, however, Jean-Paul no longer felt interest for her.
In fact, Jean-Paul showed more interest in his teammate-and his twin sister's lover-Walter. Even though everyone was convinced that Jean-Paul hated Walter, when Walter was thought lost for good, he shed tears with his sister, causing her to exclaim:
Jeanne-Marie: And I loved him so.
Jean-Paul: Yes, my sister! Yes I know!
Jeanne-Marie: J-Jean-Paul. You... You are crying! You too! (AF 29)
Though her words (you too!) seemed to refer to the fact that Jean-Paul was crying with her, they could just as easily be applied to her assertion that she had loved Walter. In fact, when Walter returned in the body of a female, Jean-Paul informed him that he-like his sister-preferred Walter as a man.
Later Jean-Paul found a baby abandoned in an alleyway. When he discovered that the baby had AIDS, Jean-Paul adopted her, naming her Joanne. He and the rest of Alpha Flight began giving talks in order to raise AIDS awareness. During one of these press conferences, Jean-Paul admitted that he was a homosexual. Jean-Paul was attacked several times for his sexuality but remained a strong role model for homosexual mutants and super heroes. He wrote a book entitled Born Normal about being a queer super hero and refused to accept gay bashing or homophobia-sometimes reacting violently to verbal abuse.
When Professor Xavier came to Jean-Paul to ask him to teach at his school, Jean-Paul was initially not interested. However, his interest was piqued when Xavier mentioned that he was asking him because of his sexual orientation. Xavier wanted Jean-Paul to be a role model for the young gay students at his Academy. Jean-Paul eventually agreed and joined the ranks as a teacher. While at the school, Jean-Paul revealed that he was in love with Bobby Drake-his second documented romantic attachment. Though he has convinced himself that Bobby is straight, Jean-Paul seems unable to talk himself out of his feelings for the other man.
Jean-Paul's personal issues appear to be more inter-personal in nature. Where Bobby houses a great deal of insecurity and ingrained prejudice, Jean-Paul is confident to the point of arrogance and remarkably self-possessed. However, Jean-Paul has a difficult time working with people and allowing his more vulnerable emotions to shine through. Though he is able to make friends, he often remains somewhat distant from those around him. He can be cold, cocky and sarcastic which often make him fairly unpopular with the other X-Men.
Jean-Paul has a difficult time relating to the people he most cares about. His brutal honesty with his twin sister cost them several months when she refused to see or speak with him. Also, he was so brusque with the first man he loved (Walter) that everyone was convinced that he hated the other man. Recently, Jean-Paul and Bobby have been at odds, which is typical behavior for both of them to display when uncomfortable with their feelings.
Jean-Paul is a prickly, somewhat bitchy and imperious character whose fear of rejection and loss forces him to step back and not take chances on the men he loves, ultimately leaving Jean-Paul alone.
Marvel has often toyed with the idea of a mainstream homosexual pairing, strewing its issues with hints and suggestions but only very occasionally making a clear statement of intent. In a medium where later, more conservative artists and writers are able to explain away character arcs in a variety of ways (or, more commonly, ignore them altogether), it is difficult at best to establish a homosexual character or pairing, leading to "fake-outs" such as Hank McCoy's (aka Beast's) famous outing as well as the ever-changing father of Mystique's child. Some of the more famous canon homosexual couples are pseudo-cannon at best, relying on broad hints and heavy suggestion (ex: Mystique referring to Destiny as her lover in German and Shatterstar's love for Rictor being compared to Theresa's love for James). Rarely has Marvel allowed a mainstream character to unequivocally state sexual and romantic interest in another character of the same gender; in fact, Jean-Paul Beaubier's interest in Bobby Drake is one of the extremely few cases in which there can be no doubt of homosexual interest. Both cannon and subtext support this interest and though it is unlikely that conservative Marvel will allow one of its flagship heroes to enter into a homosexual relationship, a case can be made for Bobby's returned interest.
There is a great deal of evidence that Jean-Paul Beaubier is homosexual. He came out during a press conference after his adopted child died of AIDS (106), wrote a book on being a queer super hero (UXM 392) and agreed to become a teacher at Xavier's school in order to be a gay role model for the students (UXM 414). He is not shy about his sexuality and, instead, embraces who he is. He is also very clear when it comes to what he finds attractive:
Cain: Well... you like boys, don't you?
Jean-Paul: No, I like men. Present company excluded.
Cain: You know, Northstar, a lot of women find me very attractive.
Jean-Paul: I have better taste than most women (UXM 431).
Jean-Paul is a man who knows what he wants and who isn't afraid of being upfront about those desires-until it comes to facing the object of his romantic interest. As seen in his interactions with Walter, Jean-Paul has a difficult time revealing his emotions, choosing instead to hide behind a rather cold and arrogant façade. This is also seen in his later interactions with Bobby, indicating that when Jean-Paul is not certain of returned interest, he is detached and somewhat distant.
However, Jean-Paul is willing to be upfront about his feelings for Bobby when confronted by others. Uncanny X-Men 415 is the central Bobby/Jean-Paul comic, confirming Jean-Paul's feelings for the other man. Within this comic, Bobby enters the medical bay for a check up while Jean-Paul is being treated by nurse Annie for wounds received in the previous issue. While Bobby and Annie bicker, Jean-Paul watches the proceedings with an amused smile. One panel shows Jean-Paul's eye line hovering at Bobby's chest; lips faintly quirked and a brow arched, it's fairly clear that Jean-Paul is appreciating the view. A few panels later, Bobby agrees to have his chest wound examined by the nurse; however, he rudely requests that they go into a private room to keep "everyone [from getting] all hot and bothered" (UXM 415). It is unclear whether Bobby is referring to Nurse Annie, Jean-Paul or both. After Bobby has left them alone, Nurse Annie rounds on Jean-Paul, demanding to know why he kept silent during the argument. Jean-Paul is famous for his sharp tongue and wit: his silence is extremely telling.
Nurse Annie: A lot of help you were, Silent Sam. What happened to that world-famous acid tongue of yours? I'd almost think you were nervous or-Oh-my God.
Jean-Paul: Don't say anything. Not one word (UXM 415).
Jean-Paul's expression in these two panels is particularly interesting. While she's scolding him, Jean-Paul looks rather sheepish and a bit embarrassed. In the next panel, as Annie realizes what his silence means, he looks quite vulnerable. For a man who has been through as much as Jean-Paul has and who has conquered as many enemies, the fact that he feels vulnerable in the face of his romantic interest for Bobby is significant. Obviously these emotions run far deeper than mere physical attraction.
In the next few panels, Annie tries to protest, but Jean-Paul continuously cuts her off, demanding that she not tell Bobby anything. Finally she agrees, though she claims she cannot understand what he sees in Bobby.
Nurse Annie: Fine! I'll keep your secret. But I gave you more credit for taste than that. A rich, powerful, handsome man-and you go falling for a jerk like Frost-boy (UXM 415).
Again, even though Jean-Paul doesn't say anything in this panel, his expression is extremely telling: he has a sheepish, almost pained and yet somehow sweet look on his face as if he doesn't quite understand his romantic attraction either. This harkens back to something he said in the previous comic: The heart knows no logic (UXM 414). Even though they are from two different worlds (Jean-Paul a wealthy businessman and Bobby a full-time X-Man without a job or personal property), Jean-Paul is unable to talk himself out of his feelings for the other man.
After examining Bobby (and discovering that his secondary mutation is taking over his body), Annie has a Yente moment, coaxing Bobby into asking Jean-Paul out for dinner. Even though Jean-Paul looks upset at Annie for stepping in, he eagerly accepts Bobby's offer to buy them both dinner. Their date is cute short before it begins, however, when Bobby is waylaid by an empath who uses her powers to key in on his loneliness and exploit it. Slighted for the empath, Jean-Paul slips into cold arrogance.
Bobby: Well, hello there. I don't remember meeting you before.
Empath: I am new.
Jean-Paul: Really? You look rather used to me (UXM 415).
Bobby goes off with the empath, however, and Jean-Paul is left behind. He follows them at some point and spies on them (though this is never shown on panel) or in some other way keeps an eye on Bobby because he comes to the rescue when Bobby is attacked by the girl's jealous husband. He rips Bobby out of the man's arms and clears the mud-like goop off of Bobby's face, frantic with worry.
Jean-Paul: (cradling Bobby's body) Bobby-it's me, Jean-Paul. Breathe my friend-be alive!
Bobby: (coughing and sputtering) Hey, handsome. Nice suit. Come here often? (UXM 415)
Jean-Paul's fear for Bobby's safety-and his command 'be alive!' echoes back to his early years of loss. Jean-Paul has lost most of those closest to him and his fear that he is about to lose Bobby as well is obvious.
The final conversation between Jean-Paul and Nurse Annie over Bobby's unconscious body completes the emotional arc of the comic book. Annie asks whether Jean-Paul managed to find some alone time with Bobby before they were attacked and Jean-Paul reveals that he did not; however, Jean-Paul also protests that Bobby is straight and "that's the end of that."
Nurse Annie: Maybe he just doesn't know yet?
Jean-Paul: Everyone knows, Annie. Sometimes they can't admit it to themselves, but that's not the case with Bobby. I saw him with that skank. Some loves just aren't meant to be.
Nurse Annie: I'm sorry Jean-Paul, and I admire your strength... when you love someone who's meant for someone else-I know how painful a secret that is to keep (UXM 415).
This is interesting for several reasons. For one, Jean-Paul is basing this conclusion on Bobby's choice to go with the woman rather than with him. This is faulty logic because the woman was an empath-earlier that day Warren (aka Angel) had a difficult time resisting her as well (UXM 415). As revealed in Bobby's background, Bobby is weak when it comes to mental and emotional attacks. This is particularly true now when he is lonely and bitter about his secondary mutation. The fact that Bobby went with the empath is not a good determining factor of whether or not he could be interested in Jean-Paul. Another key point about this conversation for fans is that Jean-Paul is an unreliable narrator at this point. He is approaching this matter with very typical Jean-Paul protective shielding. It's notable that though he is in the medical bay again and Nurse Annie comments as if she had examined him, Jean-Paul is still in his uniform which shields much of his face and eyes. There is an overwhelming sense that Jean-Paul is protecting himself from his romantic interest in Bobby, which makes a great deal of sense character-wise: most of his family has either died or become estranged and the one other man he showed interest in was in love with his female twin. Jean-Paul is not willing to allow himself to be vulnerable to Bobby and is thus not giving Bobby a fair chance.
As is typical of Marvel, once this character arc is completed, Jean-Paul's love for Bobby is ignored for a span of time. It makes an appearance later, however, at Lorna's bachelorette party. While discussing men, Lorna reveals that, though she dated Bobby, she never had sex with him.
Lorna: I mean, before last year, Alex was the only man I'd ever really known...
Jean-Paul: But-are you saying that when you were dating Bobby, you never-
Lorna: No, Jean-Paul. Never. Bobby's immature and inexperienced. You don't sleep with Bobby, you endure him (UXM 425) [bold his].
Jean-Paul's expression of shock is amusing in this panel. His mouth is dropped open and he has a hand pressed over his heart, as if he cannot comprehend anyone not wanting Bobby. Unfortunately his expression is not shown as Lorna continues her speech against Bobby, but the shocked and concerned faces of the others coupled with his expressiveness regarding the initial news allows the reader to imagine just what Jean-Paul may be thinking as Lorna bashes Bobby.
As stated before, Marvel rarely presents hard textual evidence for a homosexual pairing. As in many other fandoms, fans must rely upon subtext and extrapolation. Though Jean-Paul and Bobby have known each other for a significant number of years as the X-Men and Alpha Flight both worked together and were apposed to one another, my focus will be on Jean-Paul's introduction to the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men 414 and onward.
After being approached by Professor Xavier to join the X-Men as a teacher, Jean-Paul goes to help an away team on a local mission. He arrives in typical Jean-Paul style, immediately taking control of the situation. Bobby also reacts in typical fashion, falling into an easy banter with the other man.
Bobby: Jean-Paul! Northstar! Is it a pleasure to see you?
Jean-Paul: That's supposed to be a statement, not a question, otter-pop.
Bobby: Not with you, Northstar. What are you doing here? Alpha Flight kick you out for good?
Jean-Paul: The Professor felt you might not be able to handle this situation on your own... and it would appear he was right. You should really be home in front of the television with your injuries, Angel-man. The rest of you may come with me.
Bobby: Oh, may we, Northstar? May we follow you? Gosh you're so strong (UXM 414).
While the others appear to react to Jean-Paul in a very negative fashion, Bobby's vaguely sarcastic banter doesn't feel particularly unwelcoming. Bobby would be just as likely to greet Logan in this manner; in fact, his banter could be taken as an indication that Bobby is fond of the other man. Additionally, the term "otter pop" had many fans arching their brows. An Otter Pop is a popsicle in an elongated plastic pouch. To eat an Otter Pop, you open the top and suck out the frozen juices. This has several sexual layers to it especially when compared to other nicknames Bobby has been given (Frost-Boy, Frosty, Popsicle-the only other image that matches Otter Pop in sexual tone that I can recall is Cain's infamous "Freeze-n-Eat comment, but as this is not a Jean-Paul/Cain/Bobby manifesto, I'll leave that be for now.)
In a nice display of foreshadowing, one issue before Jean-Paul reveals he has feelings for Bobby he has a conversation with a young boy that he's flying to safety.
Boy: This girl I like from school. Nikki. She's so cute. But she's in love with someone else.
Jean-Paul: She broke your heart?
Boy: No she-just fell in love. She barely knows me. She doesn't even know I like her. But I found out she loves someone else. Stupid thing to cry about. Doesn't really matter.
Jean-Paul: Of course it matters. Affairs of the heart always matter. No matter how silly or stupid. The heart knows no logic.
Boy: Why couldn't my father just say things like that? Maybe I should have been gay.
Jean-Paul: You are what you are, my friend. There's no changing sides once God places you (UXM 414).
What's most interesting about this conversation is how it echoes Jean-Paul's own problem. He is in love with Bobby who in his loneliness is convinced he is in love with Lorna (which is ridiculous as they dated a very long time ago for a short period and he has not seen her in a romantic light since). Like Nikki, Bobby is unaware of Jean-Paul's feelings. This conversation also serves to give a look into Jean-Paul, casting light on how he feels about his love for Bobby-"Affairs of the heart always matter. No matter how silly or stupid. The heart knows no logic." Even though he thinks Bobby is straight and even though he knows that loving him will be difficult, he is unable to help falling in love with Bobby Drake-something that, given his insecurities and poor track record I doubt Bobby could either easily understand or, ultimately, dismiss.
Later, Bobby's easy willingness to take Jean-Paul out for dinner-and pay for it even though Jean-Paul is wealthy and Bobby has very little of his own-lends itself to the conclusion that Bobby has warmer feelings for Jean-Paul than perhaps he, himself is willing to admit. When offering to buy Jean-Paul dinner, Bobby has a small smile on his face and his brows are arched. He is also still buttoning up his shirt from his medical examination. Though this last bit is not particularly important, it does lend the panels a kind of sexual air-especially with Jean-Paul looking up at him from the bed.
Another scene with a vaguely sexual undertone is when Jean-Paul is saving Bobby from the empath's jealous husband. Though Jean-Paul is extremely worried about Bobby (something that not only shows in his expression but also in the way he viciously rips apart the attacker), Bobby reacts in more... typical Bobby fashion. He he's laying in Jean-Paul's arms, face still covered with globs of slimy mud, brutally beaten and yet still manages to give a pained leer, saying: "Hey handsome. Nice suit. Come here often?" (UXM 415). If Uncanny X-Men were a slash fic, this would be where Jean-Paul makes a choked, half-amused half-annoyed noise and kisses him hard. Bobby's eyes would widen, but he wouldn't pull away. Later, in the med bay recovering, he would obsess over it even as he tried to force himself not to think about it, wondering why he didn't pull away from that kiss... (and now, of course, I just gave myself a plot bunny).
Of course, things aren't easy for Bobby and Jean-Paul-their possible romance wouldn't be as interesting if it were. The key difficulties lay in Jean-Paul's reluctance to admit to his feelings for fear of being rejected and Bobby's own fear of being gay. Bobby has in no way come out of the closet as being either gay or bisexual; however, Bobby is one of the most popular male characters slashed in fandom because everything about him seems to point to him being very gay and very in denial. His relationships with women are fleeting, him either unable to attract their attention (Lorna and Annie both going off with more masculine Alex), unable to satisfy them (Lorna claiming he was sexually immature) or unable to muster enough interest to keep them (Zelda and Opal angry at being ignored). In fact, one of the only women who left him for non-personal reasons was Cloud, who was a man half of the time-a fact which troubled Bobby (Defenders 136). When Cloud was naked in female form, Bobby felt perfectly comfortable sitting on the bed with her and having a serious, non-sexual conversation; however, the moment Cloud turned into a naked man, Bobby fled the room muttering about his own hypocrisy (Defenders 138). This is a theme with Bobby-when faced with the fact that Jean-Paul is gay, Bobby reacts in a less than complimentary manner.
Bobby: Northstar is gay?
Nurse Annie: Oh you're kidding me. You didn't know? How could you not know?
Bobby: Well, I-how should I know? It's not like we're-I mean-oh my God, that's so funny-
Nurse Annie: You're a homophobe.
Bobby: I am not!
Nurse Annie: You're a homophobe and a racist (UXM 425).
A question a lot of fans were asking themselves after reading this issue was: it's not like we're what? Close? Friends? Neither would be necessary in order for Bobby to know that Jean-Paul was gay: Jean-Paul is famous for being gay. Jean-Paul wrote a book on being gay. The fact that Bobby wasn't aware that Jean-Paul was gay (a very surprising fact considering how high-profile Jean-Paul is about his sexuality and how long they've known each other at least professionally) is somewhat confounding. It does, however, leave the reader with a very significant question-if Bobby didn't know Jean-Paul was gay, why did he tease about getting Jean-Paul and Annie "all hot and bothered?" (UXM 415).
Bobby has withdrawn into himself in recent issues, giving into his depression and the double bind of his desperate need for human contact coupled with his aversion to those around him who represent change-especially females.
Bobby: I was never happier than when the school was new and Warren and Scott and Hank and I were there all alone with Xavier in our little boys club. Then Jean and Lorna came and I fell in love with her but she fell in love with Alex and now she's marrying him, and you love him, and everything changes and you can never go back-you can never get happier, you just-you just-you becomes a block of ice that no one will ever want to kiss because kissing is about warmth and-kissing is about-about warmth and I want someone who will-I want someone... (UXM 425).
Bobby misses the old camaraderie he used to have with his friends. It's fairly significant that it's the friendship with the male X-Men that he misses the most-- Jean Grey was the Professor's first student and was brought in very early to be an X-Man. Bobby did not have a very long span of time in which to enjoy his "boys club". His attitude that the presence of women destroyed the peace is fairly understandable: women merely complicate Bobby's life, either passing him over or using him. While it seems somewhat trite to say that Bobby's had horrible luck with women and should therefore try men, it's difficult not to reach this conclusion, especially in light of Bobby's own reluctance toward women.
It's difficult to be certain how friendly Jean-Paul and Bobby are. Obviously they know each other well enough for Jean-Paul to have fallen in love with the other man. On the other hand, they don't know each other so well that Bobby realized Jean-Paul was homosexual. There is a great deal of tension between them in the later comics, due almost entirely to Bobby's growing anger and bitterness about his secondary mutation which he takes out on those around him. However, even though Bobby is occasionally surly to Jean-Paul-- and Jean-Paul presents himself as arrogant and distant to Bobby-- when it comes down to the line, Jean-Paul and Bobby are willing to work together and, in fact, appear to work very well together as a unit (UXM 420).
Collectively, Jean-Paul and Bobby have almost everything that appeals to a slash writer or reader. Individually they have wealth, class, social tension, intelligence, humor, physical attractiveness, insecurity, fears of loneliness and/or loss, desire to be in a relationship coupled with reluctance to admit that desire, personal angst and complications. Together they cross genres, allowing pairing writers to focus on action, detection, romance, angst, hurt/comfort, misunderstandings, sexual fears and doubts and animosity born out of frustration and miscommunication. There are a great many reasons to ship Jean-Paul/Bobby as well as a plethora of reasons why, despite angst, insecurities and sexual confusion they work better than most as a pairing.
Bobby and Jean-Paul are well-suited in temperament, especially late Bobby and Jean-Paul. Many slash writers tend to focus exclusively on early Bobby (blissfully ignoring his many faults) while choosing the avoid the more recent shifts in his personality. Bobby is no longer simply the class clown of the group: he has a harder edge and can be an asshole to his friends. This merely makes him a more interesting, complex and flawed character and strangely enough makes him perfect for Jean-Paul. Jean-Paul is an unapologetic bitch. Both Bobby and Jean-Paul have sharp wits and sharper tongues. Their banter is clever and amusing, Jean-Paul's dry put-downs working well with Bobby's more outlandish sarcasm. They also both know how to respond to sarcasm directed at them and know when to back down or show a more vulnerable side. This allows for a complex, realistic relationship to be crafted by the slash writer that is built upon both merits and flaws.
Perhaps even more important to their continued relationship is that Bobby and Jean-Paul are extremely well suited in powers. While there is an appeal to pair Bobby with "heat-centric" characters, there are many problems in doing so (the most prominent being the discomfort of both parties as the two diametrically opposed powers are forced together during intercourse.) Bobby's ice powers make his skin far colder than average (UXM 415 and others). In addition, Bobby is turning permanently to ice. He is afraid that, in turning to ice, he will be unable to have human contact. Luckily for Bobby, one of Jean-Paul's powers is to be able to withstand extremes in temperature. While any other mutant may be uncomfortable with full-ice Bobby (and heat-centric characters may be in physical pain), Jean-Paul would be able to be near Bobby either in human form, in a half-transition form or in full ice form. Bobby's insecurities would not be allowed to bubble up to the surface in this case- it is safe and not uncomfortable for Jean-Paul to be with him and to have skin-to-skin contact. It is unlikely that Bobby would be able to keep himself from angsting and ultimately destroying his relationship if this were not the case.
As stated before, Jean-Paul and Bobby's personalities complement each other even as their backgrounds move them to opposite sides of the spectrum. Jean-Paul was orphaned at a young age and eventually became a terrorist, a famous trapeze artist and an Olympic skier. Bobby was raised by a conservative middle class family in a somewhat racist and homophobic environment. Jean-Paul reluctantly joined Alpha Flight and made it clear on several occasions that he had no interest in being a hero. Despite taking time off to get an Accounting degree, Bobby has dedicated his life to being an X-Man. Jean-Paul built a life for himself outside of Alpha Flight, becoming a writer and a businessman in his own right. Bobby has rarely lived outside of the net of a super hero family and had never used his degree. Jean-Paul is wealthy; Bobby relies on Xavier and other wealthy X-Men. Jean-Paul is openly gay and proud; Bobby is uncomfortable with homosexuality both in others and (quite possibly- quite likely, even) in himself. And yet, even though their backgrounds run the gamut, Jean-Paul and Bobby are similar in all of the important areas. They're both sharp-tongued, intelligent, able to be vulnerable, share similar ideals, share a cause and can not only handle each others abrasiveness but potentially embrace it as well.
Finally, Jean-Paul and Bobby are both lonely. For many years, Jean-Paul's only true tie was with his twin sister. Bobby had a close family in the X-Men but has been distancing himself from them over time, becoming more and more unable to communicate. When it comes down to the wire, Jean-Paul and Bobby are good for each other. Jean-Paul would give Bobby the stability and confidence he requires while Bobby would give Jean-Paul a companion who is not bowled over by his personality. Very few people would have the patience to handle present-day Bobby and even fewer would have the innate sense of humor and wit to stand up to Jean-Paul. Because of these reasons, Jean-Paul and Bobby are a perfect fit for one another, made even more right by their numerous flaws.
X-Men is an interesting fandom that embraces comic books, movies and cartoons. There is so much canon that it can be easy for a newbie to get lost. There are also a great many pitfalls inherent in joining this fandom.
One of the most significant pitfalls new members face is the issue of canon verses fanon as well as movie canon verses comic book or cartoon canon. It can be somewhat difficult to piece out what really happened and what is urban legend. Did Bobby really date a boy? Yes-Cloud. Did Hank really come out as gay? Yes, but he took it back. Did John Pyro really betray the X-Men and join the Brotherhood? In the movie, yes. In the comics, Pyro began as a villain. He was a British romance novelist who used a flame-thrower and later contracted the Legacy Virus. Are Bobby and Remy close? Fanon would say yes and canon would say no: this recent run of comics is the first time Bobby and Remy ever really got a chance to work together. How many times did Jean Grey die? Oish. Depends on what you meant by "die".
As you can see, X-Men can be an extremely meaty and interesting fandom to get into and Bobby/Jean-Paul can be a fascinating niche of that fandom. Using characters with such significant flaws-as well as such witty, memorable personalities-allows for a great deal of freedom in writing. For anyone interested in exploring complements and contrasts as well as deep, interesting questions about pride, sexuality, vulnerability and arrogance, Bobby/Jean-Paul is the perfect pairing.
A few suggestions:
1) Realize going in that movie canon is not the penultimate canon. While movie Bobby is around 16, comic book Bobby is around 30 by now with the exception of Ultimate X-Men Bobby, who is 15.
2) Realize that there will be conflicting tales as canon and fanon mix. Also realize that Marvel can't keep their own canon straight so you really shouldn't worry too much about doing it for them.
3) Figure out where you stand on dialect and, above all, keep it consistent.
4) Participate in the flagship pairings if you choose, but don't forget the fascinating pairings that don't get as much attention. There are other great characters beyond Scott, Logan and Remy.
5) Enjoy yourself and gleefully corrupt others.
I remember reading an interview with Jane St. Claire once (I would provide the link if I still had it) where she gave wonderful advice to newcomers. One of her biggest pieces of advice was for those new to the fandom to forgo the temptation to write Remy fics. While I'm neither going to side with nor against her on this point, I do feel the need to say that these are very complex characters with very long, complex histories: research before you write. This applies to all Marvel characters: hopefully this manifesto has made it easier to for newbies to get a grasp on at least two of Marvel's finest.
What is it that draws us to a pairing? Is it looks? Charisma? An angsty history? An interesting way of looking at the world? Personal obstacles that the writer needs to help the characters overcome?
Jean-Paul Beaubier and Bobby Drake have all of these qualities and more. They are complex, well-developed and distinct individuals who are wonderful and interesting separately but whom, when fitted together, fill each others planes and angles and make one another come alive.
And honestly-what more can we really ask for?
The Beaubier Files
Northstar et Aurora
Index to Alpha Flight
Guide to Alpha Flight
Uncanny X-Men Northstar Spotlight
Uncanny X-Men Iceman Spotlight
Fool - by Khirsah
Fear - by Khirsah
Sequel to Fool
Cool Cat Bobby - by Cccarica
All You Need Is Love - by Cccarica
Dura Lex, Sed Lex - by Cccarica
Stuff - by Devo
Unravel - by Devo
Frozen - by Devo
Frustration, all Drama, don't care if I Die Frozen - by kietro
Caffeine and Saccharine - by Minerva Solo
Journey - by Minerva Solo
Memorabilia - by Minerva Solo
Ice Cream Cones - by Nichol Storm
Frozen - by Phoenix Angel Suyari
Dealing - by rivulet027
Melt - by rivulet027
Freeze - by rivulet027
Sequel to Melt
Endure Him - by rivulet027
Close Enough - by Serenity
Elven Magic - by Xaer0
By Pinky: Someone For Everyone
By Foggynite: Winter and Deliquesce
By The-M: Runner Up
By Rivulet027: Thaw