Jean Grey, aka Marvel Girl
, also the Phoenix
, the Black Queen
, and Dark Phoenix
, was one of the founding members of the X-Men
appearing in issue #1
, she was the only female member of the initial group. As such she was the source of much of the typical Marvel angst
for the all the male members, Cyclops
, the Beast
, all expressed interest in her, and even her mentor Charles Xavier
did so in an unexpressed thought. Cyclops’ for years repressed his interest due to his introverted shyness; but the most interesting plot development along these lines were those of Professor Xavier’s unspoken thoughts, desires which were made part of the Onslaught
story line over 20 years later.
Jean was the younger of two sisters; her parents John and Elaine Grey were “normal humans.” She was born in Annandale-on-Hudson, Dutchess County, New York. Her father was a professor of history at Bard College. Sarah her elder sister, now deceased was human, although there was some indication she had latent abilities. Sarah had a husband and two children. Jean is an aunt.
Her powers were telekinesis and telepathy, and from the beginning she was a valuable member of the X-Men. Jean’s telepathic power manifested at age 11, in 1957, when a childhood accident befell her friend Annie Richardson. Annie chasing a Frisbee that Jean had tossed was struck and killed by a car. Jean who telepathically experienced Annie’s death became autistic. Her parents, devastated, took her to many psychologists, and finally in desperation to Charles Xavier, then working on his doctoral thesis. Xavier, using his own telepathic abilities restored her sanity, but also blocked her telepathic abilities until she would be mature enough to handle them.
Xavier continued to visit Jean over the next six years and on his final visit invited Jean to enroll in his newly formed School for Gifted Youngsters, X-Men #1. Jean remained at the school until 1966 when she left to attend Metro College, (X-Men #24). Jean met Ted Roberts at the college, and dated him despite being in love with Cyclops (Scott Summers), because she did not believe Scott loved her. Of course Scott did love her, he merely lacked the courage to tell her so.
Jean found college so easy that she was able to be both an X-Man and remain in college. She returned to the X-Men in issue #27. The X-Men battled the Cobalt man in issue #31, who turns out to be, Ralph Roberts, the elder brother of Ted Roberts. As shown in X-Men #138, Scott and Jean express their love after the Iceman’s 18th birthday party in issue #32. After this Ted Roberts fades out of the picture.
Jean is the only member of the X-Men who knows that the Changeling, at the end of issue #39, has replaced Xavier. The Changeling masquerades as Xavier until his death in issue #42 at the hands of Grotesk, with Jean maintaining a rapport with Xavier until his return in issue #65.
In X-Men 43, Xavier removes Marvel Girl’s psychic block, thus restoring her telepathic abilities, it is this event, which leads to Jean’s rebirth as the Phoenix. During this time Jean had a very short career as a model. (She did look very nice in a bikini.)
The X-Men went underground between the end of the first X-Men series in issue #65, and their return in Giant size X-Men #1. It was during this time that Jean was honing her telepathic abilities under the tutelage of professor Xavier.
Issue #94, marks the beginning of the second generation of X-Men, with Marvel Girl leaving the group, only to return soon after in issue #99. She is reborn as the Phoenix in issue #101, her powers altered by a solar storm. Jean saves the X-Men by mentally holding the Starcore spaceship together during a blazing reentry through earth's atmosphere. Jean dies during that reentry but is immediately reborn as the Phoenix.
It took Jean over a month to fully recover from the injuries received during that reentry, not appearing again in an active role until issue #105.
Jean was doing well as the Phoenix, and if not for the machinations of Jason Wyngarde, the Mastermind, would likely have continued to do so. However in issues 122 to 134 Wyngarde, acting as a member of the Hellfire club, and using his power to create illusions along with a “mindtap mechanism” of the White Queen’s design, he was able to manipulate her emotions, in Jean's own words “this device enabled you to tailor you illusions to fit my most private fantasies – the repressed, dark side of my soul. You gave me what I secretly wanted ---- and used that to destroy me!”
Wyngarde brought out the evil, sadistic side of Jean’s nature. She became a member of the Hellfire club assuming the role of the Black Queen, but her unbridled passions soon surpassed the abilities of the Hellfire club to control; becoming the Dark Phoenix she gave Mastermind all the power he had craved, power so far beyond human comprehension he went instantly insane.
Unfortunately for Jean wielding the power of a god did not make her one, the dichotomy also drove her mad and her transformation into the Dark Phoenix, was to lead her into conflict with the galactic powers of the Shi'ar and Galactus. In a rampage she destroyed a star system by sucking a sun dry of power to replenish herself, an act which caused the star to nova and destroy it’s orbiting inhabited worlds and killing five billion intelligent beings.
This act was to lead to her death, for it drew the attention of the Shi’ar. Returning to earth Jean easily defeats the X-Men until in a final climatic battle, Xavier once again binds her telepathic powers. No longer possessing the powers of the Dark Phoenix she becomes once again Marvel Girl. By this time Lilandra, Majestrix of the Shi’ar had reached earth, and teleporting the X-Men aboard her flagship, she declares her intention to destroy Jean, as she is "too dangerous to exist." In the battle that follows Jean's Phoenix powers return, but in a last burst of sanity she kills herself rather than revert completely into the Dark Phoenix.
Of course this being comics she did not stay dead, but Jean’s return to life was one of the more convoluted of such events. First we are introduced to Madelyne Pryor, as part of the From the Ashes saga, Madelyne looks and sounds just like Jean Grey. Not so strange as we later find out that Madelyne is a clone of Jean created by Mr. Sinister. Much weirdness ensues from Sinister’s machinations. Which confusion is succinctly expressed by Cyclops’s thoughts, “She’s the sole survivor of a plane crash that occurred at the precise instant Jean died on the moon, from the moment we met, she seemed to know me better than I do myself, and as near as I can discover she has no traceable existence prior to that crash.”
And yet the first time they do encounter the Dark Phoenix, after Jean’s death, she is not real but an illusion created by Jason Wyngarde, the Mastermind. After Mastermind’s defeat the X-men come to understand that all the foreshadowing to the encounter with the Dark Phoenix were illusions created by Mastermind.
Jean’s characterization is something that changed and evolved over years, as different writers and artists developed her. In an interview with Peter Sanderson, Chris Claremont stated “John’s (Byrne) antipathy toward Phoenix as a character was one of the primary motivations behind the entire decision to begin a Dark Phoenix storyline and get rid of her, or at least change her in such a way that she could not remain on the team as Phoenix,”
Jean Grey is portrayed on film by Dutch actor Famke Jannsen in X-Men (2000), X2 (2003), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), The Wolverine (2013) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), and by British actor Sophie Turner in X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), Deadpool 2 (2019) and X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019).
The Uncanny X-Men
The X-Men Companion II
, Edited by Peter Sanderson