Even for people removed from geek culture in general, Storm from X-Men is a pretty difficult character to be completely oblivious about. Aside from her iconic powers of weather manipulation, her steadfast presence in one of the most popular comic books in history, and her stunning combination of ebony skin and ivory hair, Storm’s notoriety and relevance go a lot further than one would expect from a comic book character. The truth is that Ororo Munroe (a.k.a. Storm) might just be one of the most culturally, socially and historically significant characters to come out of geek culture.
Not only was Storm one of the first black comic book characters in history, she was also the first black woman to be given a major role in several comic books across the most important publishing companies. Even today, her face is one of the most recognizable amongst superheroes in general. Her cultural relevance as a character of color (and biracial) is perhaps only matched by her cultural relevance solely as a woman.
In a market full of big, strong men rescuing helpless women, Storm has been in basically every possible position of power all throughout her history: princess of a tribe, heir to a line of incredibly powerful priestesses, headmistress of a mutant academy, warrior, leader of the X-Men, queen of an entire nation, and even revered as a goddess. Storm even ranked as an Omega-level mutant, the most powerful class of mutant of which there are only a handful.
In a market full of big, strong men rescuing helpless women, Storm has been in basically every possible position of power all throughout her historyThe comics didn’t exactly shy away from portraying just how difficult it was for Ororo to be a woman of color, biracial roots and a mutant to boot. She faced racism, rejection and constant objectification, but Ororo always defeated it with her characteristic clear-headed serenity, intelligence, grace, and yeah, her kickass abilities (take your pick: manipulation of the weather and natural forces, hinted magical powers, expert hand-to-hand fighter, thief and strategist, dexterity, night vision, and an unparalleled resistance to psychic attacks).
That’s not to say she is invincible, which is perhaps what makes Storm one of the most relatable comic book heroes in existence. Far beyond her crippling claustrophobia and the color of her skin, Storm is probably one of the few X-Men to temper strength, power and resilience with loving care and gentleness and to be humanized with a self-awareness that often leads her to bury her feelings for fear of losing control, a streak of failed relationships, absolute selflessness and independent thought.
It’s hard not to stand in awe of this character, even when one cannot comprehend the important social and cultural implications of her existence, like when I was a kid and I would fight anyone in the playground for the role of Storm. At that point in my life, I was just probably enthralled with how gorgeous and powerful Storm was, but, as the only dark-skinned character in sight, I also understood what truly made her special. That’s the kind of thing that sticks with you and feels important, even at that young age, particularly when you are an olive-skinned Latina kid trying to find a role model amidst the plethora of whitewashed heroes and heroines from American cartoons in the 90’s.
Though it still cannot be said that there are plenty of strong and powerful leading black women in geek/pop culture, it would seem like writers are willing to change that, if the emergence of characters like Michonne from The Walking Dead are any indication. Still, Storm is one of our favorite things not only because she started it all, but also because almost 40 years later, she’s still going strong.
Lorraine Acevedo Franqui writes for Girl In Capes from Puerto Rico and holds degrees in English Literature and Psychology. Her main interests are young adult lit, anything related to The Legend of Zelda and Kingdom Hearts, assorted shounen mangas and cats.