Thursday, April 3, 2014

Character Spotlight: Bishop

Way back in August, I started up a feature I hoped to do regularly where I'd spotlight a character created in the 1990's. You can read my first entry over here: I'm still taking a brief mental sabbatical before continuing to work through the Crossing, but I figured I'd do another of these.

Presenting BISHOP, the plot device that walks like a man!

Bishop Marvel X-Men 281

After an unprecedented run that lasted from X-Men #94 all the way to issue #280 (in addition to multiple spin-offs and one shots), Chris Claremont left the title, and all X-Men books, for the better part of the decade. While Jim Lee plotted and drew the "blue" team of X-Men in the new X-Men title, Whilce Portacio was left to plot and draw Uncanny X-Men, with John Byrne writing the dialogue and presumably assisting on the plot. What resulted was the worst X-Men comic since Werner Roth and Dock Heck were working on the book in the mid-60's, a nonsensical collection of minor characters being slaughtered and rushed-looking panels without backgrounds. In short, it was Image Comics before Image Comics existed. The first new hero created by this post-Claremont time period is Lucas Bishop, a time-traveling loose cannon with a big laser gun who absorbs energy in his spare time!

Bishop Marvel Masterpieces Fleer
Part of the "Marvel Masterpieces" trading card line.

First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #282, Cover Date November 1991

Bishop X-Men Marvel
Bishop is star-struck by hideously drawn X-Men.

Connection to the 90's: Bishop appears just a year after fellow time-traveler Cable (who debuted in March 1990), and like Cable, he's part of a new breed of anti-heroes that point guns at everyone. The character had only made a few appearances when he made his way to the small-screen, appearing in a March, 1993 episode of the X-Men Animated Series that combined elements of Bishop's story with the Claremont story "Days of Future Past." Meanwhile in the comics, Bishop acted as Professor X's bodyguard to prevent an assassination he thought would trigger his future, but after failing to stop Professor X from being shot by Cable's clone Stryfe, and being sucked into the Age of Apocalypse during Professor X's accidental death in the past (he was not warped by the change in reality, which drove him slightly insane), it was finally revealed the "traitor" he was supposed to stop was actually... Professor Xavier! Worst bodyguard ever? After all that, Bishop spent some time in space, where he had a brief affair with Deathcry, Lilandra's evil sister and noted bird-like alien. Bishop closed out the decade in an alternate future, in a comic called "Bishop: The Last X-Man."

Bishop Rogue Marvel
Bishop in his civilian clothes: camo pants. I'm sure the Professor is
about to be shot, so Rogue's attitude is pretty misplaced.

Costume: Bishop's costume is actually pretty restrained. He wears a blue and gold outfit that looks a lot like the X-Men's standard uniform of the time, and a belt with a few pouches, presumably full of guns and ammo, and a big "X" brand buckle. He also wears a loose bandanna around his neck.

Character: Bishop is a classic "loner" anti-hero, who of course joins multiple X-Men teams, because that's what X-Men characters do. He spends most of the early 90's being a tormented future guy, but notably doesn't really become close with any of the other X-Men. In fact, it's almost astounding how much worse he is as a character than even a not beloved character like Longshot. Who are his friends on the team? Maybe Storm? He also hates Gambit, but beyond that, I don't really know what he thinks about every other member of the team.

Bishop Marvel
Bishop explores the wreckage of an unfinished comics panel.

He's also notable in that rather than fading away, he actually became a more developed character in the 2000's, even if it meant that he closed the decade as a time-traveling villain, fighting Cable.

Nostalgia Factor: At least some, based mostly on his appearance in the cartoon. But unlike other nostalgia characters, he hasn't really disappeared completely for any length of time.

Overall 90's Rubric: 74. Despite being a gun-toting anti-hero, Bishop never really caught on to the same extent as Cable, his obvious parallel. He also loses points for becoming more interesting after the 90's, instead of disappearing forever.

1 comment:

  1. I loved Bishop. If you asked me, around 1995 or so, who my favorite X-Men were, Bishop would be in strong consideration for second or third place behind Cyclops. That said, he was indeed a cipher for much of the nineties. Nicieza barely used him at all, even after the lines between Blue and Gold teams blurred and both books started cross-pollinating characters. But I liked Lobdell's handle on the guy. He was the X-Men's outsider, even moreso than Wolverine, who had long since become "part of the family". In a way, along with Jubilee, Bishop was the readers' POV characters for the early part of the nineties.

    Tellingly, according to John Byrne, Bishop was not conceived by the creative team or even by editorial. His creation was mandated by marketing, who wanted a new black mutant character to join the X-Men. Lee and Portacio came up with the visual and the idea that he's from the future, and Byrne's contribution was that he comes explicitly from the "Days of Future Past" timeline.

    Also -- I like him a lot better with the shaved head look which I believe came from either Madureira or Kubert -- though I did not like the second costume, which came with that head, as much. There are one or two issues where he's seen bald with his original outfit, and that was his best look, in my opinion.