Monday, February 27, 2017

Black Superheroes: Shard

Is that hair part of her mutation or because of a good salon?
Name: Shard Bishop

First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men Annual #17 (1993)

History: Shard Bishop was born roughly eighty years in the future. In her time mutants were rounded up into concentration camps and branded. It is in one such camp where she was raised. Once mutants were emancipated she found herself on the streets but was always looked after by her older brother Lucas. When Lucas joined the Xavier Security Enforcers, a mutant police force, Shard followed suit becoming the youngest graduated in the organization’s history. While on a mission Shard was killed in action by a group of vampire-like creatures known as Emplates. However her brainwaves were saved into a holographic projector that Lucas kept on him at all times, including when he was later trapped in the present. Eventually, during an accident, the projector was destroyed but Shard ended up being reborn as a being of living photonic energy. Now with a new lease on life Shard went on to join the government sponsored team X-Factor in a bid to make her own way outside of her brother’s shadow.

Beta Says: Here we have yet another character who has come back from the future to present times. Its weird how often that sort of thing happens in comic books, especially with X-Men related characters. Anyway the ridiculously named "Shard Bishop" obviously also hails from her gun toting brother’s bummer timeline but it seems that history has been less kind to her. While Bishop’s character was assassinated starting in Messiah Complex where he became depicted as a lunatic hell bent on murdering a child he has since been more or less redeemed and still has a few ongoing and limited solo comic series to his name. Hell, he was even in an X-Men live action movie once. Most comic book fans know who Bishop is, even if they aren’t familiar with his history. But Shard, on the other hand, is a woman who never gets talked about when discussing X-Men and, honestly, doesn’t come up all that often when discussed by other characters. Perhaps it was because she was never a member of the X-Men proper, or perhaps it was that she was only active for about seven years. Or maybe, just maybe, it was because she’s been dead the last seventeen years with no signs of her ever coming back. Yeah, that will definitely hurt your visibility.

More on this time displaced hologram woman after the jump.

Oh hey, it's a mutant from a terrible future for a change
From the mid-70s through the 80s the X-Men books were both critical and financial successes for Marvel, basically being the most popular line of books during the Bronze Age of Comics. So it’s no surprise that at the dawn of the comic boom of the 90s, the Dark Age of Comics, Marvel decided to up the ante of their X-book’s production. Spin-off after spin-off was created but in order to do this they needed bodies; new or re-imagined character to fill the various rosters. Shard was likely such a character. I have to admit that I don’t know a ton about her, as she was created right before I started collecting comics and by the time I did she was a member of X-Factor, a book I’ve never read. Unfortunately my research hasn’t been very fruitful as Shard isn’t a 90s character that has been held in high regard in the near twenty years since her death.

While I’ve found basic information on Shard there are a lot details missing. For example I recall Shard’s true nature and the details of her death being a mystery to her and that the reveal was a pretty big deal however I haven’t been able to find exact confirmation that this actually happened. While details of her life may not be properly remembered I do feel that I have a pretty good idea of her the purpose of her existence; a side character meant to enhance the character of Bishop with little agency of her own. Her creation expanded his backstory and her eventual death upped the stakes of the final conflict with his nemesis Trevor Fitzroy. She’s kind of a prime example of “Women in Refrigerators” as her final comic appearance consisted of her torture and brainwashing by Fitzroy as a weapon against Bishop. Ultimately she died a fairly pointless death so that her brother could have something to mourn. It kind of makes me wonder if that was the entire point of her creation.

Do holograms dream of photonic sheep?
I don’t know much about the type of character Shard was. I know she was essentially a cop, I know she wanted to regain her human form and I know she wanted to get out of her brother’s shadow (all of which could make for an interesting character journey). That’s pretty much it. I’m not sure if many fans or creators still give a rat’s ass about her in 2017, or even when she died in 2000. There are only two types of dead X-Men that Marvel doesn’t bother bringing back to life: characters that no one really cares about and Jean Grey.

Anywho, Shard joined X-Factor and remained on the team until the book’s eventual ending a few years later. During that time she apparently had the goal of trying to plant the seeds of the formation of the XSE in the present timeline. This actually does happen later with the X-Treme Sanctions Executive, though it was formed by Storm and had basically nothing to do with whatever Shard tried to do with X-Factor. After the team breaks up Shard is eventually captured by Trevor Fitzroy, who she used to date by the way, and subjected to the aforementioned torturing and brainwashing. She was able to regain her human form during the ordeal though. In the end she sacrificed herself by turning into energy that Bishop then absorbed and used against Fitzroy, which is probably a metaphor for role as a character. 

Does Shard have a place in modern comics? Perhaps. The number of female superheroes who are black is so low that I would like to think that there should be some consideration for her return. If she does return she can’t be as connected to Bishop as she once was, partially because she needs to be her own character and not one tied to a dude and partially because Bishop has become a sinking ship and really no one needs to be tied down to that guy. She needs her own arc and her own character development and writers who really give a shit about her. If she doesn’t have those things then she doesn’t need to exist. And right now it doesn’t feel like anyone really cares. 

With A+ word play like this who wouldn't want Shard to come back?
For more information on Shard click here. That’s it for another Black Superhero Month. Thanks for sticking with me for another round of profiles. Hopefully we’ll be doing this again in a year’s time.

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