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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Tessa
Sage
of the Hellfire Club and later the X-Men

"Sage" is the recently-adopted codename of a woman known previously only as "Tessa" (not her real name). Tessa may have been born into a Muslim family in Afghanistan or in the Balkans. Or Sage may have never been a Muslim at all. We don't know. If you know, please tell us.

Regardless of the religious faith she was born into and reared in as a child, she has apparently been a completely lapsed in it for many years, probably since her teen years.

After many years as an operative of the Hellfire Club, a group whose goal is world domination. The Hellfire Club has clashed with the mutant super-hero team the X-Men numerous times in the past. Tessa was always in the background, a loyal servant of the leaders of the Hellfire Club.

Tessa first appeared in The Uncanny X-Men #132 (April 1980). She was created by writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne. Tessa did not begin to call herself "Sage" until X-Men (vol. 2) #109, which was published in 2001, about the time that various events led to her leaving the Hellfire Club and becoming a member of the X-Men.

Over two decades after the introduction of Tessa, Chris Claremont wrote an X-Men story that revealed that Tessa encountered Charles Xavier before he formed the X-Men. Tessa was a young woman living from the war-ravaged Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan. After Xavier's fateful encounter with the alien known as "Lucifer", a battle which resulted in the paralysis of Xavier's legs, it was Tessa who helped get Xavier to safety and nursed him back to health.

This part of Xavier's backstory had first been told decades earlier and was a firmly established part of the character's history and the history of the X-Men. The introduction of Tessa into this story was seen by some readers as something of a surprising "retcon." Nothing had ever been revealed about Tessa's ethnic or national origin, and her whitish skin (a minor aspect of her mutant genetic makeup), made it impossible to ascertain her origins by looking at her. Some readers have criticized the "grafted-on" nature of Tessa's Afghan heritage. Nothing in past portrayals of the character hinted that she was Afghani. But this is now a firmly canonical aspect of the character, although as yet there has been little exploration of her newly-revealed national, ethnic and religious background.

Discussion

From: "Religion/Spirituality" forum discussion, started 16 August 2005 on Comixfan website (http://www.comixfan.com/xfan/forums/printthread.php?t=35225&page=17&pp=20; viewed 17 July 2007):

Zero Mk2
Jun 6, 2006 01:53 pm

I found the following quote at Comixfan Forums > Marvel Comics Discussions > Marvel Heroes > Marvelous Suggestions:

Quote (Originally Posted by Chrisday): on the subject of an Islamic super-hero group... Using such a concept would be a difficult one because the conventional notion of a super-hero is one who fights for freedom, democracy, freedom of speech, etc. and against totalitarianism, exploitation, censorship, and oppressive ideologies. How can any Islamic/Middle-Eastern super hero or super hero group function within that framework? To fight for those sorts of ideals, they would almost certainly stand out as a minority (perhaps even seen as Anarchistic) amongst their cultural and social surroundings... That's why a Middle-Eastern Super-Hero group can't work, especially is it is published by an American company with Western writers and our notions of what makes Western Civilization better than all others...

[Zero Mk2 then goes to considerable lengths to explain how he disagrees with Chrisday's opinion on this.]

If the majority of Muslim Arab characters should be seen as bad because of Bin Laden, then (if everyone should be considered equally) shouldn't most characters who are Catholic, or German or Caucasian, or Italian or Japanese (Axis nations) be potrayed as Nazis, Neo-Nazis, human trafickers (trading of illegal immigrants as slaves is still done in some parts of Europe) and white-supremacists?

I'm not an Arab myself. But let's hold out Marvel comics for example. So far the Muslim characters are:
- Sage (not a devout one, and she's from Afghanistan, which isn't an Arab nation)
- Dust (a devout one, she's also from Afghanistan, a non-Arab nation)
- Josiah X (so devout that he's a convert and an minister. But he's pure American and not Arab)

Am I missing something or is every other Middle-Eastern/Arab Muslim character I've seen other that DC's al-Sheikh [i.e., "Naif al-Sheikh," a devout Muslim who is a member of Justice League Elite] a terrorist? Hollywood films have been made for many years before 9/11. but according to Wikipedia, , out of more than 900 film appearances of Arab characters, only a dozen were positive and 50 were balanced. I even remember there being Arab terrorists in one of the movies of "Back to the Future". What's with all the American Anti-Semitism? (look up the list in the definition of Semitic)

It wasn't until 2 - 3 weeks ago that it started making sense to me why Marvel Arabs are always terrorists. I saw Avi Arad say on a CBC interview (which was being repeated at 1 o'clock in the morning), that the comics industry was mainly established by Jewish writers. The question is, is it the Arab-Jew thing that's affecting portrayal of Arabs in comics?


Chris Day
Jun 7, 2006 02:32 am

I regret saying that now. What changed my mind was an article about a comic of Islamic super-hero group to be written by Fabian Nicieza called The 99:

http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/The99.html

about "Comics to Battle for Truth, Justice and the Islamic Way"

If it works then I can't wait to see how it comes out. These are quite challenging issues to deal with...

FYI, Sage is Greek/Welsh, not Afghani. And I don't think she's ever discussed any personal religious beliefs...


Zero Mk2
Jun 8, 2006 09:04 pm

re: "Sage is Greek/Welsh, not Afghani"

LOL: :LOL: :LOL:. Don't take this seriously, (I'm kidding) but were you on Mars for the last few years? Take a took at her bio at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sage_(comics) . And BTW, don't be fooled by the name of Hindu Kush, It's a Muslim area. And those rebels she worked for, in real life, they were the "mujahideen". The "mujahideen" worked for the U.S. against the Soviets during the Cold War. But then half of them, except a good few, became the Taliban and started killing, raping, and mutilating people....and betrayed U.S. plans for peace.....(bastards)...


shrapnil77
Jun 8, 2006 11:27 pm

I feel obliged to note: Sage was in her early teens when we first see her in flashback. Second, the rebels - given the war zone that Afghanistan was at the time, anyone there would have been smart to choose up sides. I'm guessing that she threw in with the Mujhadeen because she wasn't stupid enough to think she could survive by herself. Third, she mentioned having been sold to a harem - since it presumably happened before she met Professor X, I'd guess she a victim of the sex slave trade, probably kidnapped from somwhere in Eastern Europe or the Balkans.

Finally, I doubt she practices any religion. She may have professed to any number at one point or another, given how it would affect her odds of survival, but her character appears deeply ambivalent towards spiritual matters.


Chris Day
Jun 9, 2006 02:45 am

Thank you... and Sage doesn't even look Afghani anyway... different ethnicity apart from anything else...

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