Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
What a time to be a New Mutants fan, huh? We were just treated to an awesome Doug Ramsey story in Ed Brisson and Rod Reis’ New Mutants #13, Doug and Magik are key players in X of Swords, acclaimed writer Vita Ayala is set to take over writing the series after the crossover and Dani Moonstar’s getting a short story in next month’s Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices! (A New Mutants movie may have also come out in the past few months… but it’s more likely that was just a dream I had.)
In anticipation of Dani’s story and the one-shot, Lipan Apache geoscientist and writer Darcie Little Badger is making her X-Men Monday debut to field X-Fan questions all about this longtime fan-favorite character!
AIPT: Welcome to X-Men Monday, Darcie! Let’s go all the way back to the beginning: When did you first encounter Dani Moonstar as a reader?
Darcie: My first encounter with Dani was in Jr. High. At that time, Mom and Dad were teachers (high school math and college English), and because teachers are often overworked and underpaid, Dad had to take a second job at a tiny convenience store. There, between birthday cards and cans of vegetables, was a comic book rack carrying a random assortment of titles, including the X-Men (I wish I remember more specifics about the issues; it all blurs together). In the night, as my parents took inventory, I’d sit and read the adventures of mutants like Ororo, Logan, and Jean.
That inspired me to seek out other X-Men comics. Somehow, I came upon New Mutants (1983)*, which tells the story of a group of teenagers trying to cope with their troubled pasts and new powers at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Dani was one of the teens, and her personality won me over. Plus, as a fan of horror, I thought it was really cool that she could discern the internal landscape of somebody’s mind and project an illusion of their worst fear.
*I actually read the 1982 graphic novel after my introduction to Dani via the New Mutants series. I definitely recommend starting with the graphic novel, though.
AIPT: Do you have a favorite Dani story of all time?
Darcie: I really enjoy the latest stories of Dani and her friends on Krakoa (and beyond). But if I had to choose just one Dani moment, um, dang. This is difficult. OK, here’s my answer: New Mutants #41.
The issue highlights a lot of elements I appreciate about Dani’s character. She’s the kind of person who will adamantly defend her beliefs and fight to protect others, even if it means squaring up against powerful figures (including—as this issue shows—death personified). Also, Brightwind makes an appearance, and I adore that flying horse.
AIPT: Well, that’s an eXcellent segue to our next question from X-Fan David: How do you feel about Dani being a Valkyrie?
Darcie: Combining Dani Moonstar with the Valkyries is like combining peanut butter with jelly, in my opinion (and I enjoy a good PB&J).
Recently, I was on a podcast about Dani (Cerebro, episode 7). The runtime was an hour and 40 minutes, and I spent a decent portion of that talking about how cool it is that she’s a Valkyrie with an actual winged horse. Her death-related Valkyrie gifts complement her mutant powers nicely.
As an aside, people (both within the X-Men universe and within our universe) often contrast her role as a Valkyrie—a figure from Norse stories—with her Indigenous culture. Even Dani has wondered how the two aspects of herself can coexist. I think that a very compelling element of her character is the way she comes to terms with her complexity. People can be many things, you know? Dani is a Cheyenne woman. She’s also an X-Man. A Krakoan. A Valkyrie. A friend and teacher. One part of her identity does not necessarily diminish the other parts. And that’s what it means to be an individual.
Incidentally, that’s a core theme in my story for Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices.
P.S. I was so excited to see the announcement for King in Black: Return of the Valkyries. That’s on my pull list for sure.
AIPT: You’re very good at setting up questions! Since you brought it up, let’s dig into your story in Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices, which features Dani examining what her indigenous heritage means in the new era of mutantkind. How did the idea for this story come about?
Darcie: In terms of the new era of mutantkind, as an enrolled member of the Lipan Apache Tribe, I immediately wondered how Krakoa would politically interact with the hundreds of Indigenous nations within the United States. That’s such a cool question, one that leaves a lot of room for development. Related, Dani’s 10-page story is, at its heart, a character exploration inspired by one of Dani’s earliest lines of dialogue (New Mutants Graphic Novel 1982). She tells Charles Xavier, “I am Cheyenne. Nothing—no one—will ever make me forget or abandon my heritage. I am also an individual.”
AIPT: Interesting. What else can you tease about the story? X-Fan Craig Murphy asked if Dani interacts with any of her fellow New Mutants in it.
Darcie: I wanted this story to be a callback to the classic New Mutants. However, this time, Dani is the master instead of the student, and she’s fighting—literally and figuratively—to guide and protect a youngster. Ahem. Considering that teaser, it’s quite possible that a new (as in never-before-seen) mutant debuts in this story, which takes place in Yavapai County, a region surrounded by many reservations.
But speaking of New Mutants, yes, I wanted to pair Dani with one of her friends. After an excruciating elimination process (seriously, the decision took three days), I chose somebody who has an extremely close connection to Dani, and their friendship plays an important role in the story.
AIPT: How does it feel to be part of this project and collaborating with artist Kyle Charles?
Seriously, Kyle is a fantastic artist, and his style is perfect for a Dani story. I’ve had sneak peeks at the layouts/art in progress, and they’re SO GOOD.
Getting personal, I am immensely grateful to be part of this project. The New Mutants (and other Marvel heroes) have made such a positive impact on my life, and I have a great deal of respect and affection for X-Men characters. The fact that Indigenous Voices gave me the opportunity to contribute to the X-Men universe means everything. I take the responsibility very seriously and am honored to work with my Indigenous Voices co-creators.
AIPT: While we’re getting personal, X-Fan Zey asked if you relate to Dani at all and, if so, in what ways?
Darcie: From the moment I met her character in New Mutants, I identified with many of Dani’s internal/external conflicts and personality traits. As teens, both Dani and I struggled to coexist with groups of strangers (I moved a lot as a child—Minnesota, Malaysia, Iowa, Vermont, Texas—always the “new kid” and rarely able to make a friend). Both Dani and I cherish our Indigenous culture and family. I also relate to many of her values, particularly her loyalty to friends and the great lengths she’ll go to defend them. Of course, she differs from me in big ways, too. But that’s also fun to read 😀
AIPT: This next question comes from friend of X-Men Monday and co-creator or Hulu’s upcoming M.O.D.O.K. series Jordan Blum: What do you see as Dani’s role among the X-Men? Cyclops was once grooming her as sort of a protege. In your opinion, should she step up to bigger leadership positions or do you prefer her going off on adventures with the New Mutants?
Darcie: Dani is an extremely effective leader. And in my opinion, she’s currently being underutilized, especially since it’s such a pivotal and important moment in the X-Men universe. Overall, while I enjoy her adventures with the New Mutants (sometimes in space!!), Cyclops had the right idea, and Dani has the potential to do a lot of good with a bigger leadership role.
AIPT: Now, a two-part costume question from two X-Fans. First, Sylvie asked if you have a favorite Dani costume. And second, Danny asked if, in your opinion, do Dani’s costumes often feel respectfully representative or stereotypical?
Darcie: I lose it (in a good way) when Dani wears a Valkyrie helmet; those metal wings are so cool. Sorry, yellow uniform. Personally, I’ll always prefer badass Valkyrie styles.
Here’s my disclaimer: I’m Lipan Apache, and our regalia/traditional clothing differ from Cheyenne regalia/traditional clothing. Now, when Dani first entered Xavier’s school, she wore a turquoise belt and leather boots over the standard student uniform. Professor X said, “Danielle, you’re out of uniform. Please explain yourself.” And she did explain. She told him she’s both Cheyenne and an individual, and she’ll wear the uniform in her manner.* To me, that was a defining moment in her character, and it makes a lot of sense for Dani to push back against assimilation, considering the horrific use of boarding schools as a tool to “Kill the Indian, save the man” in the United States. That said, I very much appreciate that Dani’s costumes have a hint of individuality derived from her culture. The big question is: are these elements appropriate? Or are they pan-Indian stereotypes? Well, sometimes, her costumes—particularly when she wears fringed boots or a headband—remind me of Lipan Apache traditional clothing. But, as I mentioned earlier, we’re quite different from the Cheyenne. So I’m not the best person to speak on the representation aspect of Dani’s outfits. Personally, I’d be interested to see how Cheyenne artists would design her costume. How cool would that be?
As an aside, several background characters in my 10-page story are Apache, and it was an honor to provide Kyle with clothing references from my own closet. 🙂
*The line that inspired my story.
AIPT: That’s neat to hear. As we wrap up, it’s very clear you know your Dani history and, as a result, likely have a lot more to say about the character and her world. So I have to ask, do you have an interest in writing more Marvel stories–maybe in the X-Men universe?
Darcie: ABSOLUTELY I DO.
It was wonderful to have this opportunity, and I am very happy with the story Kyle Charles and I tell in Indigenous Voices. But. Look. I’ve been a major fan of the X-Men for 20+ years (they, along with Spider-Man, were my top Marvel heroes when I was young; I’ve since branched out quite a bit and now have too many favorites to list). That’s a long time for a writer’s imagination to think “Wouldn’t it be cool if …?” Given the chance, I’d certainly be interested! Hopefully, that’s a possibility in the future. Whatever the case, I’ll keep reading. 😀
AIPT: And I’ll definitely be reading your Dani story once it hit shelves. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat, Darcie! And just a reminder, X-Fans, Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices #1 goes on sale November 18, so be sure to add it to your pull list.
In the next edition of X-Men Monday, we return to our ongoing X of Swords coverage. Since we took this week off, the next one’s sure to be packed with interesting discussion as X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White reflects not just on this week’s Excalibur #13 and X-Men #13 but Hellions #5, New Mutants #13 and Cable #5 as well! The official call for questions will go up this Wednesday, October 21 at 9 AM EST, so make sure you’re caught up!
Until neXt time, X-Fans–stay safe–VOTE–and continue to be eXceptional!
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