Monday, 4 February 2008

Who the hell is : Tangerine?

So... there's this new incarnation of Excalibur due out later this year, and as speculation has begun to grow over who might be on the new roster (Or, more often than not, who people WANT on the new roster ;-) ) one name has kept cropping up, on several of the larger messageboard communities online. And much to my rather pleased surprise it's not one of the bigger name founding Excalibur members (Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, Lockheed and Rachel Summers are all pretty busy elsewhere, these days), nor is it one of those almost or part-time members like Psylocke (One guest membership), The Black Knight (Two guest tours, now), or Chamber (One guest spot, but the promise of a follow-up which never came), it's a far more obscure character from Excalibur's past (Or futures, depending on your viewpoint), one young British woman named Tangerine.

You'll be forgiven for asking just who the hell Tangerine actually is, because in all truth she has only appeared in Excalibur in a grand total of three issues, directly. Her powers were kind of cool, but we didn't even get to know her real name. And yet somehow this character, initially created by Alan Davis during his run as writer AND artist on Excalibur, has left an impression on a number of readers, wanting to see more of her.

The first reference to Tangerine actually comes in Excalibur (vol.1) #54, while Alistaire Stuart (Remember him? The young Scottish scientist guy - and probably the longest serving unofficial member of Excalibur ) and Kitty Pryde are working on Widget, when he suddenly screams out a warning.

It's not until #66, though - in the two-part story Days of Future Yet to Come - that we actually find out what all that was about. And that's something which I really loved about the original Excalibur. Seemingly unexplained moments, and events, would suddenly become so incredibly important to a story months, even years, down the line. Heck, Colin McKay disappeared into a dimensional portal in #2, and it was some 40 odd issues before he returned as Kylun. Of course, you do have to wonder how much of it was planned, and how much was written purely on the hoof. But either way you have to respect the way it all worked out. Absolute magic.

In #66 we see Rachel Summers (And she’s still powered up with The Phoenix at this point) take the entire of Excalibur into her future, where they visit the Britain of her time period. Just like her America this Britain is run by Sentinels, and the team have to throw down with Ahab, Rachel’s former master – from her days enslaved as a psychic-hound, hunting mutants. Only they are not alone. This issue is real coup for all Marvel UK fans, because in this future we see pretty much all the UK heroes of the imprint years in the same place at the same time - From Dark Angel, Motormouth & Killpower, to a number of Knights of Pendragon, Death’s Head and Union Jack. But amongst their number is one young woman we’ve never seen before.

Her name is Tangerine.

As you can see, that’s quite some crazy get-up – Giant ginger afro and flared apparel – but her actual powers are what are vastly more interesting. Tangerine is an empath, and what that effectively means is that rather than reading thoughts and minds in the way in which we usually see psychic-powered characters operating in Marvel books, Tangerine kind of picks up vibes from all life around her – accessing their emotions, dreams and memories. She was able to read Widget in this way, as at the time the Kate Pryde of Rachel’s time was broadcasting her personality into Widget, in a bid to contact Rachel.

As a result, Tangerine was also able to use this empathy as a kind of early warning system. Think about it, you spend your whole life constantly mentally connected to everything living thing around you. The second that something bad arrives within the vicinity of that area, some life form or other is going to know about it. And if they know, then you know, too. That’s pretty handy in a world where you're being hunted. However, it does also have its down side, too. You see Tangerine doesn’t just have access to the collected emotions of others around her - she has access to their memories too. In #67 all the heroes travel to The Hive, where the other heroes had been holding up. Only the sentinels had found them. Simply by being in the area Tangerine relived the moments of their death, literally, from memories present in the area.

Okay, I'm sure some of you are saying, 'Interesting power set. But how come so many people remember her from such a short appearance?'

Well, that's because that wasn't the last we'd see of Tangerine. It would be a good 27 issues later, but it would be none other than Warren Ellis to bring her back from limbo. For those of you who never read any of Ellis' run on Excalibur I would very much recommend that you did. Sadly, it never has been traded - which is a crime in itself - but what Ellis managed to do with the book, above all else, was undo a lot of the damage which Scott Lobdell had done to it. Namely by giving it a bit more of its cultural identity back, expanding its roster to be a bit more British and European, and by trying to make characters who Lobdell had generally mucked up a bit... work again.

A great example of that would be how he dealt with Brian Braddock (Captain Britain). With #67, the end of the story described above, Alan Davis parted company with Excalibur and Lobdell replaced him. In his very first issue in charge Lobdell claimed that Cap had been 'lost in the time-stream' as Rachel brought them back home, somewhere off-panel and in-between issues. Pretty shonky writing, I'm sure you'll agree. But nowhere near as bad as Brian returning several months later, calling himself 'Britannic,' with flaming energy eyes and only speaking in monosyllables... (Although that’s probably best as a subject for another blog….)

Ellis tried to repair that, by actually playing with the concept that after having seen every moment in human history, whilst trapped in the time-stream, a) Brian found fighting to be ultimately pointless, and began a short-lived but effective retirement, and b) Started experiencing a series of 'Future-echoes' showing him glimpses of what was to come.

The rather gothic-structured Excalibur #94, is probably the best example of this. The story Days of Future Tense is set in the Britain of 2013. With another nod to the classic X-Men storyline Days of Future PAST we are told that in this future the Sentinels did take over America. When the fighting began, the former X-Men among Excalibur went to help their comrades.

And they perished.

But it didn’t stop there. The Sentinels expanded their reach across the world. Very few Countries hold their own against the Sentinels. Britain is one of them. But they’ve only done so because of Black Air.

Yes, Black Air. As in the bad guys who were running British military intelligence in the latter part of Excalibur. Their keeping Britain safe has resulted in being given the power to turn Britain, effectively, into a totalitarian state. I guess when you've saved the Country from gigantic robots trying to invade, people are more likely to give you a bit more trust, eh?

Luckily, there’s still an Excalibur to fight against that. Only, no Excalibur that you might have thought about.

Of that Ellis's Excalibur only four members remain. Wolfsbane is still on board, and Captain Britain and Meggan are still there - but Cap's not in charge. Instead the X-Men are led by the now wheelchair bound Pete Wisdom and the former New Mutant Karma (Xi'an Coy Manh). Based out of the ruins of Braddock Manor, they are joined by its other former resident, Psylocke, and (You've guessed it) another version of Tangerine! ;-)

However, this version is notably different from the Davis character. Obviously, in styling. Gone is the Afro - in comes the long hair, the glasses are there, but they're not round anymore; all round this is black ops and black leather re-envisioning. But where as Davis' Tangerine seemed to very respectful of the use of her powers, Ellis' Tangerine is not. She wanders around the heads of her team-mates as she pleases - their thoughts, their memories... their dreams.

That panel in particular always raises a slightly twisted smile on my face. Remember that this is coming at the peak of the Psylocke/Angel romance in X-Men. We know what 'burning wings' really meant...

So yes, Ellis' Tangerine is a bit of a bitch. She is a talented Psi (she'd need to be to breach Betsy's own defences) but certainly not entirely at ease with her powers. Compared, in battle, to Psylocke in this issue she's certainly not on the same level. But then she does have a very different psi-power to Betsy. She does have Psi-blasts at her disposal - we saw her use them against Ahab in #66 - but it's not her primary skill. I feel that there is a lot of potential in the character, but of course the bizarre thing is that to date we've never seen a version of Tangerine in mainstream, present day, Marvel continuity. And I have to wonder why, because I personally think the character has a lot to offer.

In fact, right now, I think that she probably has more to offer than many. Why? Well, because both appearances of the character place her in what appears to be her 20s in the years 2015 and 2013, respectively. So that would make her a teenager in present continuity.

What is perhaps more interesting is, reading between the lines, that would also make her a teenage Mutant - and since a certain little story named House of M young teenage mutants are pretty few and far between. Especially in Britain - They're like gold dust! If a young Tangerine were to exist, still learning to come to terms with her powers, she could be the perfect kind of character to include on any new incarnation of the team. A character from classic Excalibur, but with the scope for a whole world of development.

And it's always handy to have a psychic on any team, right? But with Tangerine you get so much much more. I've always pictured that somewhere in Marvel's Britain she has to be out there - probably as a quite disturbed teenager (maybe even institutionalised) but possessed of this brilliant gift. She has the potential to be a mind-reader, a tracker and an alarm system all in one. Who else can offer that, eh?

Well, that's my tuppence worth, anyway. Make of it what you will.

Do you remember Tangerine? Do you think I right? Do you think I'm wrong? Do you think I'm just glad to have finally got this piece finished, after such a ridiculous number of delays? Do you think I'm going to disappear now, and read Clandestine #1?

Well, the latter I can confirm - I am going to go and do that, now. I'll feedback as soon as get a chance, as I'm going to be out seeing Coheed & Cambria in Birmingham tomorrow night, but it will come. I've been looking forward to this one, for a while.

As always, comments more than welcome.


  1. This is a bit bizarre. Much as though Blogger will tell you that I posted this on Monday, that's not actually true. I posted this on Wednesday night. Well, technically Thursday morning - by an hour - but I opened my first draft on Monday. It was only a title at the time, mind you...

  2. What a great blog!

    More power to you, Sir.

    I look forward to reading what you thought of Clandestine #1.

  3. Fantastic write up Mark, as usual. Cornell's a madman if he passes up Tangerine... though who know, maybe Ellis already got dibs for Astonishing?

    Either way, such agreat character concept with so ripe with possibility is bound to turn up eventually. Fingers crossed...

  4. Tangerine on Astonishing X-Men? Now that WOULD be a step up ;-)

    Thanks for your comments, guys.

    I received a couple of emails about this one, too. Always welcome. And yes David, to a degree there are some similarities between Tangerine and Maureen Raven in Wisdom. But I doubt they were intended to be the same character. Maureen Raven was a character who already had appeared in Marvel comics (All be it briefly). She was Killraven's mother, who appeared in that first Roy Thomas Killraven story, from the 70s Amazing Adventures book. Although a young (Kind of) replacement for Maureen could be useful on Excalibur.

    Just keep her away from Mr Wisdom, right? ;-)

    I really do like the Empath idea, though. I'm not saying that standard telepath's are boring, but it just has an extra expansive set of possibilities to play with.

    Tangerine always seemed to me to be like a strange kind of rarely seen cousin to Excalibur, a little like the Black Knight, or Psylocke. All three characters have guested in the past, and have such logical reason for being there - but sadly, up to this point, it is yet to be.

    Oh, and yes David, Coheed & Cambria were most excellent, thank you. Although the 40 minute walk back through Birmingham, to where I'd parked my car, in the early hours of this, morning was not so...