Superhero Role Models: Danielle Moonstar

There’s a fine tradition in superhero teams (particularly X-Men teams, since that’s my primary expertise) of having a squad that’s made up of people with really nifty powers led by someone with really crap powers.  I’d call it a running joke, but I enjoy the storytelling dynamic it introduces (Leaders are not the most powerful heroes, they are just the ones who are most skilled at leading).

In the X-Men alone, we’ve gotten such distinguished leaders as Cyclops, Storm, Cable (for all the hate I pour on his version of X-Force, I actually think Cable became a pretty good character after Rob Liefeld stopped writing him), Jamie Madrox, Angel (okay, he’s not really a good leader, but he does lead during Chuck Austen’s run and his powers suck), and Danielle Moonstar.

What all of these characters have in common is that they’ve been field leaders for different teams, and they are objectively some of the weakest members of their teams while holding that position (Storm and Dani have both been made field leaders during periods when they were in fact depowered).  You can make arguments about how Cyclops has a ton of force behind his eyebeams and Cable’s actually a powerful telekinetic, but they’re both powers that have limited application.  Cyclops can knock things down; that’s about it.  Cable’s powers have waxed and waned so often that he’s never heavily relied on them; usually they’re just there to keep his metal cancer from spreading while he focuses on using guns.  Madrox’s powers are pretty cool, especially in the hands of Peter David, but when you boil it down, what he essentially does is make a bunch of normal guys to help him beat stuff up (also, he’s extremely prone to dying; sometimes I think he should change his codename to the Mortal Man).

That’s a tangent; I’m supposed to be telling you about Dani Moonstar and what makes her a great role model.

Dani, who has almost always been associated with my favorite X-Men team the New Mutants, belongs to the wonderful stable of characters who were created in the ’70s and ’80s to help diversify superheroes.  She’s part of the distinguished ranks of X-Men who hale from Native American backgrounds including John and James Proudstar, and Forge.

It’s kind of a short list.

Yes, she is aiming a bow with her foot. What else should she do with a broken arm? (Image credit: comicvine.com)

I bring this up, because one of Dani’s defining features in her early appearances is the pride she takes in her heritage.  She was co-created by Chris Claremont (big surprise), who obviously had as part of his ongoing agenda the goal of creating as many distinctive female superheroes as possible.  To that effect, Claremont went to a lot of trouble to make sure that while Dani strongly identified as Cheyenne, this was not the only aspect of her personality.

Besides having a strong cultural heritage, Dani’s also kind of stubborn.  Like, the kind of stubborn that makes you wonder if she’s really strong willed or really stupid or really both sometimes.  Usually it’s the former, which I can’t help but find admirable.  It’s the same sort of admiration I have for runners who can make themselves keep going despite all the inherent aches and pains you get from going for more than a mile.  Dani’s the kind of character who if you told her she had to run a marathon without any prior training, she’d first curse you for not giving a good reason, and then do it anyway because she’s not a wimp.

And that’s what makes Dani a good role model.  No matter what’s going on, she’ll do what needs to be done.  When she has a task in front of her, she accomplishes it regardless of her own discomfort.

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2 thoughts on “Superhero Role Models: Danielle Moonstar

  1. Rob Liefeld is awful. Ha! Good stuff. I don’t know a whole lot about the x-men except for the ultimate universe, but it’s good to hear what else is out there that I’ve missed out on.

    • I really enjoyed the Ultimate universe for a long time, and I actually collected the trades for Ultimate X-Men up until the “Ultimatum” storyline. I’ve heard that it’s disappointing and needlessly violent, and since then I’ve gotten caught up on the mainstream Marvel universe, so I don’t know anything about what’s going on there recently.
      I honestly can’t recommend the first volume of New Mutants enough. Chris Claremont wrote it (when he was writing pretty much all the X-books) for a long time, and then after him Louise Simonson had a good run. She actually finished the book if I remember correctly, but in the last year or so of its life Rob Liefeld came on as the regular artist and co-writer, which really screwed it up. The first half is definitely better than the second half, but I enjoyed all of it. Probably the high point of the entire series is during Bill Sienkiewicz’s run as artist. He was phenomenal. The style’s very sketchy, but it has a quality that I’ve not seen in any other artist’s work.

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