Aurora and Jeanne-Marie Beaubier: primer + history + where to find the good stuff, Part 1/3

I’ve been deep-diving into this character’s publication history for team-up fic-writing purposes, and figured I should write up some notes, because I’m never going to remember all this otherwise.

Aurora and Jeanne-Marie are Marvel’s other “extremely uneven attempt to write a relatively-realistic DID system.” (Both with close associations with canon-gay French-speaking characters named Jean-Paul!…that’s not plot-relevant, that’s just fun trivia.)

There’s an obvious direct inspiration from The Three Faces of Eve, the book+movie that launched “multiple personalities” into the public consciousness. (Check that out for the historical relevance! Then fact-check it with the memoirs written by the real system involved, unfiltered through the preconceptions of her/their therapists.)

I’m using the Marvel wiki’s list of the system’s appearances in the 616 universe. Running through this in publication history. And, uh, this whole Part 1 only covers the first Alpha Flight team book, because this run is long.


Alpha Flight, Volume 1 (1983) – issues 1-10: Classic Origin Story

Alpha Flight, a Canadian government-sponsored super-team, start out as cameo appearances in other books, but the real development kicks off when they get their own team title.

Aurora and Jeanne-Marie are introduced with a dramatic, iconic, extremely tense relationship. These early issues lay down the basics. Carefree and fun-loving Aurora revels in being a superhero! Fearful and repressed Jeanne-Marie doesn’t want to deal with any of this.

Aurora, unsurprisingly, fronts for most of the superheroics. Look at our girl go!

Aurora and Northstar flying, from Alpha Flight issue 1

No matter what other character developments, dramatic reveals, and/or costume changes they go through in later appearances, they usually get reset back to this baseline. Frustrating in some ways, a relief in others…because it means that any time a writer does “they have now been fused into a single cohesive personality!”, it never sticks.

The rest of the team is…not terribly sensitive about it, sigh.

Especially their twin brother Northstar. The twins were separated as infants and raised without knowing each other, so Jean-Paul seems to feel that he has 20+ years of brotherly overprotectiveness to catch up on.

Aurora and Northstar bickering, from Alpha Flight issue 1

(Sidenote: Northstar will come out as gay in an issue published almost 10 years later. But John Byrne said that was the intention from the jump, and if you read the early issues, you’ll see the hints and allusions the writers managed to slip past editorial.)

Shoutout to this one therapist Jean-Paul makes Jeanne-Marie see in issue 7, though. Some of his opinions are noticeably dated, but he nails it with “I cannot turn her into the person you wish her to be.”

Mostly sensible therapist from issue 7

(That aside about “she would likely become a third personality” is a straight-up Three Faces of Eve reference.)

The bonus story in issue 9 is a flashback to the Beaubier system’s origin: raised in an abusive Catholic all-girl orphanage, Jeanne-Marie tried to jump off the roof at age 13, which triggered (a) her mutant powers of super-speed and flight, and (b) protective headmate Aurora to do the flying.

The nuns disapprove of mutant powers, almost as much as they approve of sneaking out to wear makeup and go dancing. Jeanne-Marie ends up taking most of the punishments, and responds by doubling down even harder on trying to meet their standards. Aurora responds by rejecting the whole place.

By young adulthood, the headmates are generally aware of each other, and not happy about it.

Teenage Jeanne-Marie seeing Aurora in the mirror, from issue 9

Jeanne-Marie grows up, ages out of living at the orphanage, and…applies for a teaching job there. Aurora gets recruited for Alpha Flight after Wolverine spots her using her mutant powers, and immediately hops on the chance.

Part of their childhood punishments involved being locked alone in dark closets, and it’s pretty consistent that “being trapped in small and/or dark spaces” will overwhelm Aurora, triggering Jeanne-Marie to swap back in:

Jeanne-Marie responding to Aurora getting trapped in a bad-guy lair, from issue 3

On the flip side, if there’s some abuse or injustice that Jeanne-Marie can’t handle, that’s the fastest way to call Aurora back out:

Aurora responding to a guy snatching Jeanne-Marie's purse, from issue 7

One more important early detail: Aurora has a long-running romance with teammate Walter Langkowski, aka Sasquatch. In spite of her image as a flirty, sexy party girl, she spends most of her time being monogamous with this guy — and he’s basically an earnest, good-hearted nerd! The only really ~scandalous~ thing here is that Aurora likes having sex with him, and doesn’t feel bad about admitting it.

Walter fumbles with their multiplicity a lot too, but at least you can tell he’s trying. Jeanne-Marie doesn’t like him, but that’s not anything Walter personally did wrong, she just has general issues with sexuality.

Walter finding Jeanne-Marie stranded in a bad-guy lair, from issue 4

(Later on, a sexually-abusive adult man will be retconned into their traumatic backstory. For now, Jeanne-Marie’s horror is about the religious trauma from being raised by a bunch of nuns who called her “sinful”, and claimed she deserved physical and emotional abuse because of it.)

Jean-Paul’s big issues, meanwhile, are the fear of being abandoned…which he also channels into unfair resentment toward Walter, and then into unfair slut-shaming of Aurora. This snowballs into the twins’ first big falling-out.

Aurora getting mad at Northstar's judginess, from issue 8

(That little “You of all people dare pass judgment on my love life” is another “yeah, he was canon gay already, and Aurora knows it” moment. She’ll come around.)

Alpha Flight, Volume 1 (1983) – issues 11-50: This Won’t Stick

The clash between Aurora and Jean-Paul prompts Aurora to ditch him, move in with Walter, and spend the next 40-odd issues trying to differentiate herself from her twin.

This whole chunk of comics is full of Trying New Things with the character that…don’t work super well. A new short haircut! Slightly-altered powers, thanks to some Comics Technobabble! A new costume:

Sasquatch annoyed at yellow-outfit Aurora flirting with other guys, from issue 20

This era includes X-Men/Alpha Flight Volume 1, a 2-issue crossover miniseries, which AFAICT is the first instance of “Aurora and Jeanne-Marie get fused into a single gestalt person, and this is totally great and healthy and not creepy at all.”

(It gets reversed pretty quickly, don’t worry.)

Aurora and Jeanne-Marie being totally fused and everything's fine, from X-Men/Alpha Flight 1

Issue 50 gives the Beaubier twins a retconned origin: they’re not mutants at all, they were half-elves all along! Their mother is from Alfheim, one of the Nine Realms from the Thor franchise.

…This, in turn, will get retconned into a trick by Loki. They’re not half-elves, they were mutants all along!

But not before the Beaubiers get temporarily retired from Alpha Flight: Northstar going to Alfheim, Aurora giving up her powers and letting Jeanne-Marie reassert control of the body, Jeanne-Marie going to a convent and becoming a nun.

Alpha Flight, Volume 1 (1983) – issues 81-130: Let’s Try This Again

The Beaubiers are back! Aurora gets summoned away from Sister Jeanne-Marie’s convent, Northstar gets rescued from Alfheim, he gives Aurora’s powers back (or maybe they were never really gone?)…

Look, the writers try a couple more innovations that don’t stick.

And then we get to issue 104, where Aurora gets kidnapped by a psychic villain, and she and Jeanne-Marie finally get to team up for a good old-fashioned Headspace Fight!

…also, we see what might be new headmates!

Psychic villain breaks into headspace and confronts five headmates, from issue 104

Left to right, as our bad guy describes them:

  • “The supposedly ‘merged’ version of your two personalities, Aurora’s irresponsibility, and Jeanne-Marie’s cruel streak.” That’s right, we’re confirming a “fusion” did exist in the yellow-costume era, but she’s (a) a whole third person and (b) gets the worst traits of the first two. Oops.
  • “Aurora as Messiah,” in the new costume they’ve been trying for the past dozen issues, along with what they thought was an “evolved” power set.
  • The version of Aurora we’ve known this whole time!
  • The “justifiably frightened child”, a version of Jeanne-Marie frozen at 13.
  • A version of Jeanne-Marie in a nun habit, who…may or may not be the one we’ve known this whole time?

…and when our villain tries to torture them, the headmates pull a classic “being plural doesn’t mean we’re broken, it’s a goddamn superpower.”

Defeating the villain through system teamwork, from issue 104

Jeanne-Marie, one who definitely is the Jeanne-Marie we’ve known this whole time, gets to deal the finishing blow!

We don’t see any of the auxiliary headmates again…but for the whole rest of the run, Jeanne-Marie and Aurora get to work together! They can be co-conscious without fighting. They seamlessly swap places when it gives them a combat advantage!

Seamlessly switching powers mid-fight, from issue 111

They still pick on each other, but it’s not vicious like it used to be, and it doesn’t block their teamwork. Look at them go.

(And look at those wildly shifting art styles go, yikes.)

Aurora and Jeanne-Marie trusting each other, from issue 127

This…does not stick past the end of the run.

Not for any particular reason, either! I’m pretty sure the writers of the next several books didn’t review the full continuity at all, just read a summary of the original Aurora+Jeanne-Marie dynamic, and wrote more of that!

But hey — it was nice while it lasted.


2 thoughts on “Aurora and Jeanne-Marie Beaubier: primer + history + where to find the good stuff, Part 1/3

  1. Pingback: Aurora and Jeanne-Marie Beaubier: primer + history + where to find the good stuff, Part 2/3 | Humanist+Humorist

  2. Pingback: Aurora and Jeanne-Marie Beaubier: primer + history + where to find the good stuff, Part 3/3 | Humanist+Humorist

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