Sunday, February 14, 2016

Black Superheroes: Bishop

Can you guess which decade Bishop was created in?
Name: Lucas Bishop

 First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #282 (1991)

History: About 80 years in the future anti-mutant hysteria has advanced to the point that mutants are captured and forced to live in concentration camps. As a child Lucas Bishop grew in such a camp, being looked after by his adoptive grandmother as well a mysterious figure named LeBeau, also known as “the Witness” due to the fact he was the last person to see the legendary X-Men alive. Once mutants were emancipated Bishop eventually joined the Xavier's Security Enforcers, or the XSE, a sort of mutant police force. On a mission to apprehend the time traveling mutant criminal Trevor Fitzroy Bishop winds up stuck in present time alongside the legendary X-Men. Professor X offers him a place on the team and Lucas readily accepts. However Bishop recognize one of the team, newcomer Gambit, as a younger version of the Witness leading him to believe that the Cajun mutant survives the eventual death of the X-Men by being the traitor that destroys the team.

Years later it turned out that Professor X was the traitor. Because of course it would be.

Beta Says: When I was a kid during the 1990s I was a really into Bishop. In retrospect I think the sole reason I was such a fan was because he was, aside from Storm, the only black member of the X-Men. Looking back there aren’t a lot of X-Men that I thought looked like me when I was a kid so I was likely drawn to this big, heavily muscled, gun toting dude despite he not really having any of the traits I usually went for in characters back then. Regardless Bishop is a character that Marvel, at least at some point, seemed pretty invested in the guy. He’s had a few ongoing titles and miniseries, none of which paid off. There’s probably several reasons comic fans as a whole never really bought the whole “Bishop is Awesome” train that Marvel was selling, but I’d argue it’s just as well because the guy is pretty goddamn dull. Then Marvel turned him into a super villain. Because…reasons.

Also, can we acknowledge Bishop probably sported a Jheri curl for the first few years of his existence?
I think  we just found the reason for Bishop's dark future
More on the time traveling, gun wielding, baby killing Bishop after the jump.

I feel like this sort of thing keeps happening
Bishop first shows up in the early 90s and is one of the first post-Chris Claremont characters. Prior to this Claremont had been writing the X-Men for close to twenty years but had recently been pushed off the franchise due to Marvel’s overreliance on “Superstar Artists”. When Bishop joins the X-Men his gimmick seemed to be mostly standing around looking intimidating and being a dick to Gambit. I don’t recall if he was particularly trigger happy in those early days but I do recall he was a borderline psycho who shot first and asked questions never during his guest appearances on the 1990s X-Men cartoon, which wasn’t terribly fun. Lucas stuck around but I think it was 1995’s Age of Apocalypse crossover where the character really took center stage. During that storyline Professor X’s loopy, bad haircut loving illegitimate son Legion goes back in time with the intent of killing Magneto before he and Xavier had their falling out. A team of X-Men went after him, including Bishop, but ultimately Legion accidentally kills his father, thus erasing all the X-Men from existence save for Bishop who is already a paradox. Twenty years later X-Men villain Apocalypse has conquered America. A homeless and still pretty amnesic Bishop bumps into Magneto (now leader of the X-Men who are dedicated to overthrowing the current regime) and basically says “Hey man, I don’t exactly remember the details but this world isn’t supposed to exist” to which Magneto responds “Woah dude, that’s crazy but I think you’re telling the truth because you kind of look like this black guy who was standing around when my buddy Charles got killed twenty years ago.” The team manages to change history and Old Man Hobo Bishop ends up ceasing to exist except his memories are vaguely sent to his original counterpart. I have no idea how this works.

Time travel, man.

Nothing beats the hobo life; time traveling with my hobo knife
During the late 90s Marvel would attempt a few times to give Bishop his own solo title, where he routinely was separately from the other X-Men either getting left in space or flung into the far future. These series did okay but seemingly not well enough to keep going. For me Bishop’s most memorable solo entry was District X, a comic with Bishop as an FBI agent that, for some reason, polices an all-mutant neighborhood in New York City. I read a bit of this comic (the first trade paperback) and I thought it was fine but the thing I remember the most was how dull Lucas was as a character. He was just sort of there, being all stoic and little else. It occurred to me then, years ago, that Bishop doesn’t have much of a personality. Hell, he apparently couldn’t muster up enough energy to come up with a codename; he is literally just “Lucas Bishop”.

But the truth is Lucas does have character: he’s the militaristic, conservative guy who occasionally sides against the X-Men in favor of the government. Because…um…I have no idea. He’s a cop, so I guess some writers translate that into “By the Book” or “The Law is the Law” sort of archetype, which I’ve yet to see someone do well with this guy. It’s a bit problematic, especially when he’s a member of prosecuted outlaws hated by the world for what they are.

I kind of hate Bishop these days, sadly. Despite after a few years of trying to raise Bishop’s profile I guess the writers at Marvel Comics’ finally just said “F**k it, let’s just make him a super villain.” During 2007’s X-Men crossover Messiah Complex the X-Men discovered the first mutant birth since the Scarlet Witch removed the powers of 99% of their race. This brings them into conflict with several competing groups and the civilian death toll is quite high. In a weird twist it turns out that Bishop is looking to murder the baby because she, Hope Summers, will eventually grow up to be the catalyst of his terrible future. In the end he fails but accidentally shoots Professor X in the head, seemingly killing him. It’s a bizarre story. Ultimately he chases able and baby Hope though time, during which he commits literal genocide. F**king genocide! Guys, seriously; Cyclops killed Professor X too but he was out of his mind with Phoenix power. Bishop is apparently just a dick.

What? Like you've never tried to murder a baby before
So…yeah, that’s messed up. I’m not sure what the X-Men writers were thinking about pushing Bishop in that direction. I mean, sure, let’s make him a villain; make him a government agent who is sick of the X-Men being reckless criminals. Let him show up on Fox News and talk about how he “doesn’t see race”. Whatever. But making him a damn near psycho who killed a SHIT TON of innocent people pretty much makes him unusable as a superhero. So, of course, when he comes back to the team Storm uses plot convenience to make him forget that Hope Summers exist and then everyone sort forgives him (until he eventually remembers, but then he decides he doesn’t care anymore). I’m not sure what the guy is up to now, as the current state of the X-Men is pretty questionable, but I also don’t care. I loved him as a kid, I started really disliking him as a young adult, and now I think he’s too broken to be salvaged. Bishop can’t be a superhero anymore. I’m revoking his card. There’s a very small percentage of heroes who can commit genocide and still be heroes afterward, and Bishop ain’t on that list.

Also, Bishop has a younger sister named Shard (Full Name: Shard Bishop, because the Dark Age of Comics was stupid) but she’s an even more confusing character and she kind of stopped being relevant almost twenty years ago so I kind of don’t feel a need to talk about her here.

So Shard is, like, a hologram or something-
Nope, I can't do it; maybe next year!
I’m taping out. For more on Bishop click here. Next time we’ll look at a DC superhero who is kind of/sort of/maybe an example of Minority Replacement and it’s likely that hammer’s going to be the death of him (Lord Lord).

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