Comic book writer Warren Ellis has, on many occasions, expressed a dislike for the American superhero concept. That hasn’t stopped him from writing more than his fair share of such characters, and even doing a good job on some. He does have a preferred character type that he tends to introduce. The standard Ellis hero goes by his real name, which is usually fairly short and simple. He dresses in normal clothes and may even be a bit stylish in his manner of dress. He’s often sarcastic, given to one-liners in the form of put downs, and has no problem using lethal force against those he perceives as a bastard. He probably smokes. Whatever powers he has are often used in a rather creative manner. He can be a she.
Examples of such characters include the Authority’s Jenny Sparks or Jack Hawksmoor, Planetary’s Elijah Snow or Jakita Wagner, and today’s Misplaced Hero entry, Pete Wisdom.
Pete Wisdom first appeared during Ellis’ run on Marvel’s Excalibur, a superhero team set in Britain made up of a few former X-Men and some British national heroes. Since Captain Britain was not technically a mutant, that more or less made the group like a cross between the X-Men and Avengers. Sometimes that book participated in the big annual mutant crossover with the other X-books and sometimes it didn’t. It could go either way, truth be told.
How a guy like Pete Wisdom got onto this team is a bit beyond me. Wisdom had the mutant power to absorb and shoot off concentrated sunlight in something he called “hot knives”. They worked more or less how they sounded like they should work. A member of a British intelligence group called Black Air, one of those organizations that you just know is unpleasant, Wisdom got tired of constant assassination work and requested a transfer. He was made liaison for the Excalibur team, and while there exposed some corruption in Black Air–again, not surprising with a name like that–and ended up not only a member of Excalibur, but also in romantic relationship with former X-Man Kitty Pryde.
Let’s let that sink in for a minute.
Now, why would anyone think the thing to do would be to hook up a fellow like Wisdom with someone like Kitty? Kitty was, for a long time, one of those sweet girl-next-door types. Now, granted, Kitty had been dealing with an on-again, off-again relationship with Colossus for years, and at the time she met Pete it was certainly off-again. I suspect the creative impulse behind that relationship was the idea that Kitty was an adult now, and she wasn’t going to stay that sweet and innocent thing. Given some of the many things she’d seen, that made a lot of sense. Kitty was an adult who could make her own choice, so why not see something in the sarcastic jerk who joined her new team? Even if Wisdom was a total Ellis character, Kitty’s creator Chris Claremont would likewise acknowledge Kitty was a far less “sweet” girl when he came back to the character, that she was tough and independent and all that. So, I guess, why not?
Then again, such a relationship did not go over well with some of Kitty’s longtime associates, like a former boyfriend…
And the occasional other dimensional dragon pet thing…
And while Colossus and Wisdom would more or less make up and work well together, Lockheed never liked the guy.
The Kitty thing didn’t last, but Wisdom would hang around, acting as an advisor to one X-Force team, and then later rejoining an Excalibur team that lacked various X-Men. This is a guy who apparently once out-stradegized Dracula. During an attack at one time during the Ellis years, Wisdom’s motivation for staying was revealed to be that, “It was a job that needed doing.”
Fatalism and the realization that the hero has to do it because no one else will…that may be another sign of the Ellis hero. Or Ellis just swiped that character type from the John Constantine character. Either works.