Northstar is most likely the most famous gay superhero known to the public, since his comic book “outing” became a much-publicized, controversial event. Jean-Paul Beaubier and his twin sister Jeanne-Marie were separated in infancy after their parents were killed in mysterious circumstances – not knowing of each other’s existence. When Jean-Paul hit puberty, his mutant powers began to emerge – and he used them to his advantage in order to become a world champion skier, winning a gold metal in the Olympics while still only in his late teens.
Jean-Paul was later recruited by James McDonald Hudson (Guardian) to become a superhuman agent for the Canadian government’s Department H program (Alpha Flight). He came across Jeanne-Marie here, who was also a recent recruit, and was overjoyed to learn that she was his long-lost sister. The two siblings toon on the names Northstar and Aurora, and learned that when in physical contact with each other, the two could produce a brilliant blinding white light.
Northstar was always quite distant to the other members of Alpha Flight, but was very close and overprotective of his sister, however – and tension often developed between him and fellow member Walter Langowski, partly because Walter was seeing Aurora and partly because Northstar was also attracted to him.
Hints to his true sexuality were implied throughout the run of ALPHA FLIGHT during John Byrne’s initial run, perhaps as early as UXM #121 in which Northstar gives Cyclops a telling look, and even after though a later storyline which revealed Northstar to be an actual other dimensional “fairy” proved embarrassing and is pretty much ignored. Finally, in Alpha Flight #106, he “came out” as a gay man to the public after finding an abandoned child with AIDS. It should be mentioned that the following is noted under Northstar’s listing in the OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE #9: “After the Beaubier siblings had a particularly intense quarrel over Jean-Paul’s sexual attitudes, however, Northstar ceased to work with the team on a regular basis.”
Not much was made of Northstar’s sexuality in comics in his own 4-issue mini-series – and he almost seemed to have disappeared into limbo. He did make a brief appearance in the last ALPHA FLIGHT series, where his sexuality was acknowledged again, and also in a four part crossover story in NEW X-MEN and UNCANNY. In UXM #414 Professor X offered membership to Northstar as well as asking him to instruct young mutants. Writer Chuck Austen has acknowledged Jean-Paul’s sexuality by giving him an unrequited love interest in fellow X-Men, Bobby Drake.
Northstar left active team duty and at the request of Professor X became mentor to his own squad of mutant trainees, the Alpha Squad. He and gay mutant Anole had a mentor-student relationship.
A relevant development with the character happened in the pages of Wolverine, in the Enemy of the State storyline written by Mark Millar. The terrorist group Hydra formed an alliance with The Hand and Dawn of the White Light. One of the goals of this combined effort was to create a shock force of murdered, resurrected, and brainwashed superheroes (only in comics, folks!).
One hero who succumbed to this fate was Wolverine. To test their control of Wolverine, he was sent out on several killing operations, and was then tasked to kill the X-Men (Wolverine #25). Kitty Pryde phased her body into an immaterial state to avoid being impaled by the onrushing Wolverine’s claws; he passed through her, and instead pierced Jean-Paul through the heart.
SHIELD took possession of Northstar’s corpse. A few X-Men, including Bobby Drake whom Jean-Paul crushed on during Austen’s time on Uncanny, have gathered inside a lab at NYU Medical Center. At SHIELD’s order, Northstar’s head is to be removed from his body; this being the only method to ensure a body doesn’t arise to do Hydra’s bidding. This idea did not sit well with the attendant X-Men. Surprisingly, a resurrected and brainwashed Elektra (the events concerning her demise are irrelevant here) appears with a small contingent of zombie ninjas. They escape with Northstar’s body, thus allowing its scientists to resurrect him. Issue #26 closes with a scene of Elektra and Northstar leading an army of controlled corpses in an attack against SHIELD heli-carrier Blackhawk. The attack put Nick Fury in critical condition. The chaos and destruction of the attack released a de-programmed Wolverine. The imminent crash of the heli-carrier in Arkansas prevented Wolverine from attacking Northstar.
Realizing he was partially, if not fully, responsible for Northstar’s fate, Wolverine decided to bring him in. He tracks down Jean-Paul to some dingy, nameless bar where the pair talk. Jean-Paul wants nothing to do with being de-programmed. The two square off, and in the next moment, Wolverine is shocked to find himself out-numbered by Hydra zombies. Northstar reveals Hydra has returned and upgraded his ability to generate light, something he could only do before in close contact with his sister. These amped up powers help Jean-Paul recapture Logan. Later, Logan regains consciousness and learns from a gloating Northstar that he’s being held in an outpost in Alaska. Elektra detects a mutant cloaking device inserted in Wolverine’s neck right before three Sentinels unleash their fury upon the mutants in the station, as had been secretly planned. The two Canadians knock it up. Logan, who calls SHIELD to extract Jean-Paul, punches out Northstar.
The only other relevant development with Northstar comes after he’s safely returned to SHIELD custody. Northstar is treated with the same battery of deprogramming simulations, but it proves unsuccessful in this situation (issue #30). Nick Fury deceives Kitty Pryde and the other X-Men into believing Jean-Paul’s body was never recovered (issue #31).
The character rested in off-panel limbo until writer Mike Carey decided to use him and his sister Aurora in X-Men #189 and #190. The Children of the Light, a previously unknown group, infiltrated the SHIELD facility where Northstar was held. The siblings become pawns of the mysterious Children and their nefarious plans. They’re sent in to fight the X-Men. Early in the fight, there is a scene between Northstar and Anole that touches on their former teacher-student relationship. At first, the clash seems to go in their favor, but in the end, Northstar is subdued.
In X-Men annual #1 (2007) writer Mike Carey returns to the brainwashed and comatose Beaubier twins, Jean-Paul and Jeanne-Marie. Emma Frost and Cable devised an idea to make the twins mentally relive their entire lives in a short span of time. Rogue (as leader), Mystique, and Cable arrive aboard a SHIELD helicarrier. They’ve requested the use of the agency’s advanced mind control equipment and facilities and have gotten clearance from Nick Fury. The twins are strapped down and hooked in to the virtual reality program. Unknown to the X-Men, Exodus and three other mutants attack the helicarrier while their test is being done. One of the villainous mutants hacks into SHIELD’s failsafe programs and unknowingly overloads the VR program. The twins wake up, but it’s as if they’re sharing one mind, finishing each other’s sentences and then racing off in tandem. Naturally, a fight between the X-Men and Exodus and his associates ensues. The twins have some kind of psychic healing/ epiphany that happens between them and suddenly restores their rightful minds. The two sides fight to a stand off, the villains retreat, and Northstar is welcomed back by Rogue.
Writer Matt Fraction showed Northstar’s first known, on panel relationship in the pages of Uncanny X-Men #508 with the introduction of Kyle Jinadu, who is also manager of Team Northstar Extreme Snowsports. Northstar was featured in an Alpha Flight series (2011) in which the team had to fight against Unity forces that overtook the Canadian government, and turned Kyle against Northstar. Kyle was deprogrammed off panel after the series finale and before the pair were included by Marjorie Liu at the beginning of her Astonishing X-Men run with #48. Northstar has been refreshingly if not uncharacteristically professing his love to Kyle and sharing his innermost fears.
Northstar has super speed including super-fast reflexes. He also has the power of flight. He can no longer generate intense white light while in contact with his sister, due to a genetic experiment that Langowski performed on her. In Wolverine #28, we learn that Hydra scientists have successfully re-engineered and upgraded Northstar’s ability to generate light. Several other upgrades are alluded to, but neither listed nor demonstrated in the course of the story.
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