Greetings from the Odinson,
The Hero’s Journey as established in 1949 by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero of a Thousand Faces has been the template and inspiration for countless tales. George Lucas himself says he owes a great deal to Campbell’s philosophies, philosophies he used when creating Star Wars. Anyone who has ever read a book, seen a movie, or heard a story is familiar with the motif. In its barest interpretation, The Hero’s Journey involves an adventure, a great victory or self-discovery, and then a change or transformation that leaves the protagonist different than when the narrative started. There is a chart that breaks it down into even more detail and it is with the help of this chart that the Odinson will now explore one of the most compelling Hero Journeys in the History of Comics.
The Odinson Takes a Look at Rogue’s Hero Journey
Now, before we begin, we must first take a fundamental look at the character herself so as to have a better idea why she started out in the place where her journey begins.
Anna Marie was born a mutant. Unfortunately, her “gift” was more of a curse than a blessing. If she ever makes skin-to-skin contact with another human being her body begins to syphon the abilities, memories, and very soul of the person she is touching. In the beginning, and for many, many years, she had no control over this power. It manifested itself in her teens the very first time she kissed a boy. Her mutant power drained the boy and left him in a coma, and Anna in a state of panic.
As anyone could imagine, a situation that cuts someone off from all human contact, even the loving touch of family and friends, would leave that person in a very agitated, scared, and confused state of mind. Shunned and alone in the world, Anna took to calling herself Rogue and fell under the wing of Mystique, a notorious mutant shape-shifter and terrorist.
And now, our Hero’s Journey begins.
I have used the Hero’s Journey chart to help me break down and better understand Rogue’s story, and to help us all see Campbell’s philosophy at work.
#1: Call to Adventure/Supernatural Aid – Marvel Super Heroes #11 – This part is quite interesting for though chronologically it is the beginning of our tale, this particular chapter did not see print until 1992, over a decade after Rogue’s debut in the pages of Avengers Annual #10. This story and Rogue’s original planned first appearance was supposed to happen in Ms. Marvel #25. However, the series was canceled before the issue saw print. Years, later, with some additional artwork added, the first chapter of Rogue’s tale was finally seen.
After a harrowing battle against the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Ms. Marvel is ambushed by Rogue. Rogue at this stage of her life has known only rejection and fear and so her personality is much harsher and crueler. She uses her mutant power to completely syphon Ms. Marvel’s super powers into herself, leaving the former Avenger with no memories, powerless, and on the verge of death.
#2: Threshold Guardian(s) (Beginning of Transformation) – Avengers Annual #10 – Now, empowered with the abilities of Ms. Marvel, Rogue uses her new super strength, speed, and ability to fly to compliment her own mutant power to take down Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! Though our heroes would eventually prevail, what a rush this must be for a girl who was once shunned by the world to now possess the strength and power to conquer it.
#3: Helper/Mentor – Uncanny X-Men #158 – Under the tutelage of Mystique and her Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Rogue has become quite a model super villain – cruel, vicious, and merciless. Mystique has forged Rogue into the perfect weapon and she wastes no time aiming that weapon at her enemies – the X-Men.
#4: Challenges and Temptations – Dazzler #22 – At this point, Rogue’s ego is at an All-Time high. She not only crushed the Marvel U’s premiere super-woman, but she stole her powers, and she has stood toe-to-toe with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Children of the Atom. So power mad and selfish has she become that Rogue is of a mind that what she sees, she wants, and what she wants, she takes. In her attempt to capture the high-flying Angel, Rogue comes into conflict with Dazzler. How could the mutant songbird have possibly defeated her? Rogue suffers her first major defeat, a powerful blow to her ego.
#5: Revelation (Death and Rebirth) – ROM #31-32 – This is it! This is the true turning point in Rogue’s life. A new mutant is discovered, but this is no ordinary mutant. This is a mutant/Dire Wraith hybrid. The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants seek to exploit this powerful new mutant for their cause. This brings them into conflict with ROM, who has sworn to eliminate all Dire Wraith threats to planet Earth. During the battle, Rogue turns her mutant powers on the Spaceknight, but as she begins to syphon his strength and mind, something very peculiar happens. ROM is one of the most gallant and noble heroes in the entire cosmos and in that moment when Rogue touched his soul, ROM’s innate goodness affected her. It reawakened within her the innocence and conscience she had lost so long ago. The encounter with the greatest Spaceknight led Rogue to path of change and redemption, but to do that, she would need some help.
#6: Transformation – Uncanny X-Men #171 and Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #6 – Wanting to make a change in her life, and with nowhere else in the world to turn, Rogue sought help from the only people in the world willing to and capable of helping mutants – the X-Men. But, the mutant heroes were not so happy to see the former villain on their doorstep and neither was Carolyn Danvers. Danvers was once Ms. Marvel, the very super hero that Rogue tried to murder and stole her super human abilities from. Now as Binary, empowered with cosmic might, Danvers confronted Rogue and aimed to make her pay. But, the X-Men saw that Rogue was truly sorry and honest about wanting to make a change, so they did what heroes do, they took her in and gave her a chance at redemption.
Though there were many capers that tested Rogue’s resolve for change, perhaps the biggest came during the Beyonder’s Secret Wars. On Battleworld, Marvel’s greatest heroes were set against their most powerful foes in a battle to the death. Rogue even contemplated to herself that if push came to shove and it looked like the villains may win, would she stand her ground with the heroes, or would she revert to form and side with evil. In the end, she came through more than once and stood side-by-side with Marvel’s heroes and earned her place among them.
#7: Atonement – Uncanny X-Men #217-218 – Rogue may now be walking the side of angels, but during her time as a villain she committed many wrongful acts, many terrible deeds she must atone for, not the least of which was her attempt to murder Alison Blaire. At this time, after the events of Uncanny X-Men #214, Dazzler was now a member of the X-Men and her relationship with Rogue, a woman that once tried to kill her, was contentious, to say the least. Everything came to a head during a training exercise that left the two former enemies at each other’s throats and Dazzler walking away from the team. After a dangerous encounter with the nigh unstoppable Juggernaut, Dazzler and Rogue made peace and Rogue’s journey toward redemption was that much closer to an end. More on that in a moment, but first, a slight detour.
#8: Gift of the Goddess – Uncanny X-Men #246-247 – Right in the middle of a pitch battle between the X-Men and the robotic titan, Master Mold, Rogue finds herself knocked unconscious and prone for a death blow. In that moment of vulnerability, the subconscious mind Rogue had once stolen from Ms. Marvel takes over and a new Rogue is born. Though a foe like Master Mold is too powerful to overcome, Rogue makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the day by plunging with the robotic monster through the Siege Perilous.
The Siege Perilous is a powerful artifact given to the X-Men by the demi goddess Roma. When activated, the Siege Perilous opens up a mystical gateway. When one passes through the shimmering gateway, they come out the other side as a brand new person with a brand new life. After her hard childhood of rejection and fear, her early days being manipulated by evil, and her constant battles and struggles side-by-side with the X-Men, Rogue is given a chance to start over.
#9: Return – Uncanny X-Men #269 – And, Rogue would have lived happily ever after too if it had not been for one final sin for which she had to answer for, one more wrong she must make right. She had to make peace with the ghost of Ms. Marvel, the hero whom she not only stole her powers, but her very soul as well. This took place in the form of a battle between Rogue and the essence of Ms. Marvel for the right to live. In the end, Rogue would have sacrificed her own existence to make things right with the ghosts of her past, but Magneto decided differently.
#10: The Hero’s Journey is Complete – X-Men #1 – By time we reach this new dawn on a new era for the Children of the Atom, Rogue has finally emerged as a whole person, a complete hero. She left the cruel manipulations of her adoptive mother Mystique completely behind her and she has made peace with the sins of her past. At this moment, Rogue is a stalwart and valuable member of the X-Men, Marvel’s premiere mutant team of heroes. And, since this day, Rogue’s legend has only grown larger and brighter.
Using the chart inspired by Joseph Campbell’s writings, we can easily see it put into practice as we explore Rogue’s captivating tale and character development over the years. Like other great character arcs (see The Rise and Fall of Prince Namor and The Amazing Character Arc of Magneto), Rogue’s story is a fantastic one. Do thyself a favor, one lazy Sunday afternoon, and gather together these issues and fall down the fascinating rabbit hole that is Rogue’s Journey.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell