Who Is He?
Jean-Paul Beaubier is quite different to the majority of other superheroes, and not just because he has the ability to fly and move at superhuman speeds. And not just because he wears these totally rad sunglasses when he’s on duty, either. Northstar, as he calls himself, is different because he is Canadian. Aside from Wolverine, there aren’t many superheroes that have been outed as Canadian yet, but this has turned to the advantage of the many, because it means the X-Writers can make him say little lines of French whenever they want, and it makes sense. Jean-Paul has a sister (who also has powers), Aurora, and as is often the case with comic-book siblings, his character is very much defined by that of his sister. He started off with a team called Alpha Flight, who eventually disbanded, and then moves to the X-Men a while later.
Northstar is a great character within the X-Universe because he’s famous already for being a world-champion skier. Using this position, he later wrote a book detailing his experiences as a mutant in order to help other people who might be in the same situation. Although he has a snobby attitude, and a wealth of literary quotes at his disposal whenever he needs them, Jean-Paul has the best interests of mutants and other minorities at heart (I’m really straining not to mention that other defining characteristic of his, you may be noticing, X-Men fans). He joins the X-Men quite late on, but wastes barely any time in having a miserable life when his sister got brainwashed and he himself got killed by an evil Wolverine. He came back, although he and his sister at this time were both in considerable states of mental… weirdness.
It’s all been cleared up now though, thank goodness, and Jean-Paul has taken on a proper role with the X-Men, on top of his role as an ambassador for mutants everywhere. Sadly, he’s seemingly got rid of those rad specs of his.
Why Is He Important?
Okay, okay, so let’s get this over with. Northstar is an out-and-proud homosexual character. As such, he’s one of two X-Men to have come out over the years, and one of the most well-known gay characters in comics…. ever. Not many other comics have gay characters in them, and it’s taken until recently for any of the gay characters who did exist to get recognition for something other than their gayness. It’s not his homosexuality that makes Northstar so important to the X-Men though; it’s the way he feels about it. It doesn’t define him. Other characters get saddled with turning gay as a way of generating cheap interest, but Northstar has been around for a long time, and his outing hasn’t been sensationalised much at all, if ever. It just became another of those parallels that the X-Men have so brilliantly drawn over the years, between minority groups and those who don’t like minority groups.
Oh, and did I mention that Jean-Paul is totally rad? I think I might’ve actually, yeah. Northstar is important to the X-Men because he is one of the few characters who actually tends to make sense. He’s one of the smartest mutants in terms of tactics, strategy, and common sense, and those are three skills that the mutants could really do with at the moment. If ever there is a character who could wrestle away the leadership from Cyclops, then it is Northstar, because he’s just so darned smart. He teaches business and economics, and speaks different languages! And he can FLY! Northstar is completely one of the most important X-Men that nobody talks about (and honestly, his role can only increase in future, given his limbo-status at the mo) and hopefully will get more star billing soon.