“My Friends Call Me Billy the Kid!”
Writer: Chris Claremont
Pencils: Alan Davis
Inks: Paul Neary
Colours: Glynis Oliver
Letters: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Terry Kavanagh
Original publication date: September 1989
In this episode, Alan Davis is back and Excalibur’s gone—on the Cross-Time Caper, that is! Anna, Mav, and Andrew are joined by educator, supermom, and Excalibur superfan Kathy Stevens to talk Excalibur #12: “My Friends Call Me Billy the Kid!” We’re off the rails and back on track with an issue featuring zero Nazis and lots of sexy dryads, tentacle monsters, butch ogres, sex and gender-bending transformations, and a marriage proposal…? We hash out all of that, plus the subjective-ness of shipping and why Anna definitely needs to stay away from Joyboy.
This episode has an enhanced video version! Watch here:
On the launch of Excalibur’s definitive story:
“Cross-Time Caper is Excalibur’s definitive storyline because it amps up the genre bending and sex farce. And Davis is back. ‘The air never smelled so sweet… nor any forest grew so rich and green…’” -Anna
On this storyline’s defining themes:
“Cross-Time Caper is an adventure in getting home again. It’s an experience in exploring relationships, and what family means to them after the X-Men’s ‘death.’” -Kathy
On reversing the Sleeping Beauty story:
“A lot of princesses are helpless, beautiful maidens waiting to be rescued. (Sleeping Beauty’s barely in her movie.) Kitty’s her own person. When something needs taking care of, she takes care of it. She’s not afraid to try and she’s not afraid to fail.” -Kathy
“If you want to see who Kitty is compared to a Disney princess, you put her in a specimen jar next to a Disney Princess. And that’s literally what happens here.” -Andrew
On the build of Kurt/Brian/Meggan:
“There’s a tonally different quality to Kurt’s eyes when he looks at Meggan. Everyone’s yellow from the glow of Meggan’s powers. But Kurt’s already-yellow eyes are darker because he’s especially staring.” -Mav
On complex expressions:
“It’s the contrast between Kurt and Brian and the complexity of Kurt’s expression that makes it work. There are multiple emotions drawn into Kurt’s face, where he’s wistful, tragic, and helpless… Davis’s very fine skill with subtext and facial modelling makes me want Kurt/Meggan to work.” -Anna
On all those tentacles:
“Arguably, for those of us who find superhero comics sexy, part of why they’re so sexy is because they’re all foreplay and no sex. Sex is always off-panel or couched in metaphor, which creates a safe space for multiplicities of desire.” -Anna
On the first and only time Nigel has ever been interesting:
“You’re getting a really cool, old-school Freudian type of psychological question of: is your desire to posses, or is your desire to become, and how do those desires intersect? Joyboy can’t make that distinction and just lumps them together.” -Andrew
On our favourite Ogre:
“This is lampshading. It’s something that Claremont does a lot with depictions of fetishism. The surreal environment helps them get away with it. It’s easy to say, ‘that’s just another weird thing.’ But it’s not just another weird thing. It’s a very specific thing.” -Andrew
On highly subjective ships:
“I’ve been known to ship Kitty & Kurt from time to time (not in Excalibur-don’t @me). But on a friendship level: I love their improbable deep bond founded in strife and forged in trauma. Even when Kitty’s a kid: Kurt respects her, and never questions her abilities.” -Anna
Image from Marvel Comics Presents #5, 2019, by Chris Claremont and Luke Ross.
Here’s Anna’s Claremont Run thread about Kitty and Kurt’s friendship... which Andrew claims is his favourite Claremont Run thread… which nearly made Anna cry on-mic.
For more on Anna’s conflicted desire to both be and be with Kurt, see her recent essay for The Middle Spaces, “Blue Becomings: Revisiting Excalibur #4.” (It’s also about #MeToo and comic book gazes and critical nostalgia!)
And as usual:
You can find Anna on Twitter (@peppard_anna) and on her podcast with Andrew and Michael Hancock, Three Panel Contrast (@3PanelContrast).
You can find Andrew on Twitter (@ClaremontRun).
You can find Mav on Twitter (@chrismaverick) and on his podcast, VoxPopcast (@VoxPopcast).