Lorna Dane AKA Polaris… among other things.
With convention season starting back up, figured it might be time to start writing this column on a more regular basis again.
Today I wanted to try something a little different…. This is probably the first time I actually don’t have a strong book to argue for. When I started researching Polaris, I thought it was going to be pretty cut and dry… except it really wasn't.
First up is X-men #49… or Uncanny X-Men 349 if you prefer.
This book gets listed way too often as the first Polaris, which is not accurate. It is the first appearance of Lorna Dane, true. It qualifies as a full appearance for Lorna as she appears throughout the issue.
Lorna is what's referred to as a Latent Mutant in issue 49. Meaning, her powers existing but have not yet developed or manifested. While she doesn’t appear initial with her green hair, it’s relieved later in the issue that she does in fact have the trademark green hair. Like in the TV show Gifted, she dyes it to fit in. These are important distinction to make since she does not exhibit any powers and is never referred to as Polaris in this issue.
Now let’s move on to X-Men #50.
Mesmero straps Lorna into a machine which draws out her mutant powers. Literally turning her into the mutant with the powers over magnetism we know as Polaris… but there’s a catch. Never once in this entire 4 issue story arc spanning from issue #49-52 is Lorna Dana ever referred to as Polaris, not once.
So just out of curiosity I decided to jump down the rabbit hole and find the first time she has that code name.
Oddly enough. As it turns out, Polaris is not Lorna’s first code name. It’s actually Magnetrix. While that might not seem too important, it actually is… as is the fact that it’s roughly four years before a character named Polaris ever exists in the pages of Marvel's X-Men comics. So to make a very long story short, the first appearance of “Polaris” is Uncanny X-men #97. Which is like 47 issues later.
So what does that mean?
Well, in a time when people will insist with their last dying breath that a boot qualifies as a first appearance, that really dependents on the individual.
There’s a few ways to look at this. If you’re speculating on Lorna. Based on the tv show Gifted, both X-Men #49 and #50 have merit in there own right. The real problem with issue #49 is that Lorna doesn’t have her mutant powers yet. Issue #50 has her using her abilities. She physically obtains her abilities in this issue, She’s on the cover and it’s a Jim Steranko issue to boot. Meaning it will probably always be more highly sought after, whether it’s the first appearance of “Lorna Dane” or not.
I’ll level with you, there really is no single book that has more merit than the other. Each are important… and truth be told. Do to the way Lorna’s story unfolded over the years this is a mess. Her story is scattered over little bits and pieces, here and there over the course of 47 issues. That’s just to get us to this point. After this it’s an even bigger mess collecting key and minor key issues for Lorna/Polaris… which I'm not even going to try and tackle today.
So which book is it?
For me, it’s pretty simple. If you like the character, buy all 3.
If you only care about the issue where she takes on the superhero name, than Uncanny X-Men #97 might be sufficient. If you care only about the first appearance of Lorna Dane, than X-men #49 might be all you really need… Unless you're looking for Lorna's first cover appearance, in which case 50 is probably what you're looking for.
Everyone should by this point realize that collectors view things slightly different. Regardless of what many will tell you, it’s more about value or bragging rights than anything else.
I will say this, in terms of the labeling of slabs, neither issue #49 or #50 should have the word “Polaris” anywhere on the label. They should be labeled with #49 first Lorna Dane and issue #50 with second Lorna Dane and that really should be the end of it. To include Polaris on those labels unnecessarily adds to the confusion and is just blatantly incorrect. Mainly because, Polaris was not her first, last and only code name. Sure, it's the code name that she's now known as. However, with such a large gap and another code name in between Lorna Dane and Polaris, it's very misleading using it on the labels.
So there’s really no version of this argument where #49 is the first Polaris no matter how you slice it. Again it’s 47 issues or 4 years before Polaris is ever an actual thing.
Issue #97 should have “first Polaris” on the label, since Lorna Dane’s new costume and persona is Polaris. That all happens for the first time in this issue. So it would in fact be correct to label #97 as the first Polaris.
As a side note. This comes about when the real Erik the Red makes his appearance and uses mind control shenanigans to turn Lorna and Havok evil. If Erik the Red sounds familiar it’s because he appears in issue 51 as part of Lorna’s original arc…, but it’s really Cyclops in disguise in those issues. Why? Because Chris Claremont wrote it, so it’s has to be unnecessarily convoluted and confusing.
Again, this is why I write this column, because someone needs to. There needs to be some detailed breakdown of what’s really going on. There's a clear conflict of interest in our hobby when it comes to information, which is how misleading information becomes fact. In this day and age, if you repeat something incorrectly enough times it becomes truth. Simple one or two word descriptions are inadequate with some characters, Lorna Dane/Polaris is a good case in point.
That's all for this week, see you next time!