Demonic Possession in the Dark Phoenix Saga

Coworkers’ wandering eyes in the faculty room were intrigued by the “demonic possession” title of Ramzi Fawaz’s article “Consumption by Hellfire: Demonic Possession and the Limits  of the Superhuman in the 1980s,” as I prepared for class last week. I explained the detailed transition of the Phoenix to the Dark Phoenix through a history of American economy and X-Men history, before I realized that no one was listening shortly after I began.

Superhuman Jean Grey acquired the Phoenix Force, exemplifying moral good.  In short, she fights for egalitarian alliances and the X-Men kinship. That is until she becomes the Dark Phoenix.  Her transition begins in Episode 108 by healing the M’Kraan Crystal. Mastermind continues to manipulate her psyche throughout the Dark Phoenix Saga.  The Dark Phoenix’s demonic possession leads to the questioning of identity and sexual gender. She no longer fights for moral good but manipulates others for her own advantage.  The Dark Phoenix “[questions] both the viability of human agency and the underlying notion of a universal “moral good” that informed human action” (Fawaz, 205). When Jean began using her powers for moral corruption, her team realized the pleasure she gained in that power.  Scott and Ororo worried that there was an evilness that could take over. When this power took over, she acquired “an aggressive sexuality and a violent temper” (Fawaz, 212). She was constantly craving power, fulfilling her lust for it

Fawaz theorizes that the rise of demonic possession reflects the rise of capitalism in America.  Jean threw out all notions of justice and morale when Mastermind infiltrated her. For example, when she saw herself as an 18th century aristocrat and Ororo was seen as a slave, a piece of property that she owned; just as the “rich ruling over the poor…she [owned] the X-Men” (Fawaz, 221).  The breakdown of America’s national morale and the potential evil in humans was ever present in Jean’s transformation. Although she fought for neoliberalism and feminism, she was easily manipulated when consumed by Hellfire.


  1. Can you compare the Hellfire Club’s meaningless concerns in regards to the “potential immortality of manipulating Jean Grey…[the] disloyalty of exploiting fellow mutants for financial gain” to current society (Fawaz, 221)?

  2. Can you discuss Jean Grey exemplifying being a superhuman?

  3. How did Claremont relate Jean Grey’s transformation to the reader? **Class discussion

  4. How is narcissism present in the Dark Phoenix? **Class discussion


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9 thoughts on “Demonic Possession in the Dark Phoenix Saga

  1. Can you compare the Hellfire Club’s meaningless concerns in regards to the “potential immortality of manipulating Jean Grey…[the] disloyalty of exploiting fellow mutants for financial gain” to current society (Fawaz, 221)?

    By this you mean most of the GOP’s platform for 2020?

    I’m kidding, of course. The Hellfire Club is a much more efficient organization than either of our political parties. Their ruthless pursuit of power is aptly summed up by their name, something that reminds me of a description of Littlefinger in the Game of Thrones series: “He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.” The astonishing lack of conceptualization and imagination in the Inner Circle of the club seems impossibly crass, base, and foolish. Why would a global cabal attempt to manipulate a godlike entity for their own materialistic purpose? Isn’t that religion’s job?
    Sadly, the Hellfire Club reflects our own reality all too well. They are ambitious, egotistical, power-hungry degenerates who cannot find satiety despite having an embarrassment of riches. How many real-world power brokers attempt to manipulate forces they do not understand to tyrannize their fellows? The arguments here can apply to gun control, abortion rights, nuclear energy, fossil fuels, climate change, just to name a few. Phoenix is life incarnate and thus the center of all science, religion, and philosophy. The Hellfire Club’s attempt to control her is just one more version of the most ancient tale of man’s overreaching arrogance, going back to Genesis. Pun intended.

  2. The first quote in your 1st question was regarding the “immortality” of manipulating Jean….I got to thinking on that for a while and decided to look it up on pg 220 of Fawwaz’s essay. It is the “IMMORALITY” of manipulating Jean…BUT…going along YOUR exact words(immortality), I can still see a relevance in that, as in, a moral decay in society as a cost of securing huge financial windfall for the next ten generations to come who belong to that powerful dynasty, THUS cementing their FINANCIAL IMMORTALITY. I actually liked your quote, as what Fawwaz says is quite already obvious and goes without saying. Currently there is just speculation and nothing on paper. not just the current administration being accused of placing family in key positions for financial gain, but conspiracy theories of the W administration and its lackeys on having profiteered from the Iraq invasion on false pretenses.

  3. Fawaz argues that “demonic possession [i]s a metaphor for the rapacious expansion of late capitalism” (205) and that “The Dark Phoenix Saga” simultaneously implicates individuals and the societal structures they inhabit for the corruption that comes from the quest for economic power (209). Jean’s transformation(s) in the Saga exemplify this. Just as the economic elite rely on the labor and spending of the lower classes, Wyngarde and his peers in the Hellfire Club rely on Jean – a non-elite (in regards to finances and political power) – as the “key to [their] victory” (Claremont 74). Later, Jean realizes that Wyngarde had accessed her “most private fantasies – the prepressed, dark side of [her] soul,” indicating a desire for upward mobility that is common – and just as commonly unrealized – among the lower and middle classes (Claremont 107). Her assertion that Wyngarde “gaver [her] what [she] secretly wanted and used that to destroy [her]” (107) is resonant of Fawaz’s claim that when it comes to moral deterioration as a consequence of consumerism, societal structures (in this case, symbolized by Wyngarde and his elite club) are as culpable as individual choice; although Jean admits to a personal, although secret desire to rise in status, Jean would likely not have succumbed to her “dark” side without a corrupting influence. Jean’s transformation is related as primarily a consequence of outside forces, and this is highlighted by the image of a strong, crushing hand that represents the power of the economic elites over all others (107). Ultimately, Jean is helpless against the transformation to Dark Phoenix, suggesting that individual agency is minimal when opposed with the strength of outside forces; the only way Jean can protect herself and others from her God-like powers is to self-destruct.

  4. I found Fawaz’s arguments in his essay really exquisite. Before this reading, I never really thought about the Marxist dichotomy between superpowers and capitalism or the gendering of possession. I think what intrigued me the most, however, was the concept of demonic (or in this case “alien”) possession, and how it ultimately challenges the role of a superhero. By our primary understanding of superheroes as confirmed in Coogan’s definition of superheroism, we often define superheroes by their powers; therefore, the idea that a superhero’s acquisition of powers can potentially negate their identity as a superhero is fascinating.
    As Mind Master articulates in Issue 129 of the “The Dark Pheonix Saga,”Within her angel’s soul–As in all our souls–lurks a devil, a yang counterpart to the surface yin” (7). According to most moral philosophy, each of us possesses a potential for both good and evil. As Jean’s psychic capabilities as The Pheonix begins to grow, her morality is compromised which addresses another aspect of Coogan’s definition, mission.
    When we consider Jean Grey’s exemplification of superheroism in “The Dark Pheonix Saga,” we are placed in an interesting position as her mission and powers are juxtaposed with one another. She progresses in terms of power, but when her acquisition of power comes to the detriment of the universe, she makes the decision to sacrifice herself and relinquish her power, thereby, preserving her mission. Although Jean is initially able to use the Pheonix’s power to save the world, the Pheonix’s desire to gain more power leads to the destruction of several worlds, and as a result, “Jean decides to sacrifice her own life…choosing to rob Pheonix of its human host rather than see the universe, and her mutant family, obliterated by its power” (Fawaz 208). In order to “assess” Jean’s role as a superhuman in the saga, the reader must choose between which aspect of a superhero’s definition constitutes their superheroism more: their powers or their mission. If we believe that powers are the variable that exemplify a character’s identity as a superhuman, than Jean’s superhumanism is actually compromised. However, if we consider their mission to be more important than their powers, than Jean demonstrates the ultimate act of superheroism as paralleled before her by other sacrificial characters such as Christ and Beowulf. Personally, I believe that Jean’s superhumanism is exemplified in her sacrifice. I know that Fawaz commented a lot about the correlation between Jean’s powers and the theme of female liberation and gender politics, but when it boils down to a superhero’s purpose, I think that Jean’s identity as the Pheonix is best exemplified when decides to relinquish her power for the sake of her mission.

  5. I believe Jean Grey idealism behind her powers exemplify her being superhuman according to Fawaz “ “All creation is her domain to do as she pleases” pg 211 She is an ideal God like figure with her powers as she seem unstoppable. Fawaz continues “The narrator begins by equating her original manifestation of Phoenix with the universal “goodness” of human race”pg 211 Jean superhuman ideology revolves around what she does with her powers. Her superhuman abilities make her seem both like a god and devil. She can either save humans or pass on corrupt judgement.

  6. The way that I would compare the Hellfire Club’s lack of any regard and morals and overall agenda to the “potential immortality of manipulating Jean Grey…[the] disloyalty of exploiting fellow mutants for financial gain” (Fawaz 221) to current society would be taking a look at gun control and more specifically, Republicans’ relationship with the NRA. Over the past several years, we have witnessed one heartbreaking, senseless mass shooting after another — in places such as a movie theater, an elementary school, church, country music concert and most recently a video game tournament. Yet time after time, Republicans have offered their “thoughts and prayers” without denouncing the NRA, who they’re in bed with and rather unabashedly accept money from for their campaigns. I bring this up to say that just like the Hellfire Club ruled ruthlessly, with an iron fist and an utter lack of regard, we’re seeing the much of the same from society today with many politicians. Another example of comparable exploitation could be deemed as President Trump repeatedly blasting NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem as disrespect to the flag, anthem and country when NFL players, including free agent Colin Kaepernick, made it clear time and time again that they’re kneeling to raise awareness and bring attention to the police brutality and racism against African Americans — not to disrespect the flag. Just like the Hellfire Club manipulated and exploited Jean Grey, one could make the case for Trump doing the same by blasting NFL players to possibly buy people’s next votes. Just like these couple of examples, many examples can be brought up here. The Hellfire Club tried to control and manipulate an agenda and mindset like we have many powerful groups do in society today.

  7. Can you compare the Hellfire Club’s meaningless concerns in regards to the “potential immortality of manipulating Jean Grey…[the] disloyalty of exploiting fellow mutants for financial gain” to current society (Fawaz, 221)?
    Well prof. Orchard that is a tough cookie to crack. I will go with my gut and say that the Hellfire Club is doing what Bernie Madoff did to his investors. Hear me out please, the aforementioned club is trying to gain the golden goose of power, immortality. By doing so, they are stripping themselves of any kind moral and ethics to reach this goal. The same could be said in today’s times when powerhouses like Odedrecht (an international construction company) obtained power and influence in many countries by buying corrupt politicians. Furthermore, the Hellfire Club and Odebrecht seem to have in common this desperately need to retain power at any cost. Thus, Fawaz insightful argument is valid and, more importantly is a reflection that the social corruption continues to be a problematic in the comics genre.

  8. Can you compare the Hellfire Club’s meaningless concerns in regards to the “potential immortality of manipulating Jean Grey…[the] disloyalty of exploiting fellow mutants for financial gain” to current society (Fawaz, 221)?

    I really find it interesting how Fawaz is re-interpret’s Jean Grey’s ultimate corruption and destruction; he writes, “[R]ather than an expression of Jean’s inability to control her evil impulses, it is the Hellfire Club’s manipulation of her personal investments away from the X-Men toward the aristocratic trappings of the Club’s inner circle that facilitates the birth of Dark Phoenix” (221). In considering your first question, professor, it’s a bit of the dark-side of the American Dream — that there are personal sacrifices that need to be made and relationships that need to be used (or abused) to our advantage to gain forward momentum in our Capitalistic society. In the fantasy world Wyndgarde constructs, Jean falls prey to the “old-world” ideals of marrying up for your own personal benefit and gain, and in the real-world we see what that “marrying up” has morphed into as we have moved from a feudalistic society into a more economic/capitalist society. Jean’s dilemma with this, though, stems from a manipulated struggle between her own wants and desire (however manipulated they are) and what she wants to uphold as a member of the X-Men. I think this reflects out society too as the “norms” tend to tell us to uphold conflicting values about family and community, while also being encouraged to continually seek professional growth (promotions, higher salaries, devoting time to employer, etc.).

  9. In the “Dark Phoenix,” narcissism is presented in various ways that can relate to both genders. Jean Grey desires to wed an aristocratic man to avoid any financial issues. Like Todd mentioned in his post, she believes in the idea of “marrying up” (hypergamy). On the same token, the Mastermind desires Jean Grey for her powers so he could “level up” and dominate the world additionally with her powers. So, he desires power for his own financial need. They both are taking advantage of each other’s opportunities and statuses for their own advancement.
    In addition, the time period of the comics is also significant. Tom Wolfe considered the 1970s and 1980s as “the ‘Me’ Decade” (Fawaz, 201). It was a time of self-exploration; freeing your body, desires and even clothes. For instance, Storm is the only X-men that wears the least amount of clothes as the others and is too free with her body. Because she is part of nature, she is a great example who desires freeing herself of oppressed positions.
    Throughout the comics, especially in the “Dark Phoenix”, Jean’s last name “Grey” symbolizes her perplexed state as a mutant superhero or “god”. She is not black or white; she is grey, in between and stuck in the middle. By then end, she cannot choose to be completely good or evil. Ultimately, she chooses to be on the good side again which then leads to her destruction by the act of sacrifice.

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