Main contributor: Anthony Punt
Intro and Notes: Vickie Garton-Gundling (aka The Baby Name Buff)
May 4th is perhaps best known for being Star Wars Day. But this year, May 4th is also Free Comic Book Day, an annual event that takes place on the first Saturday of May. To celebrate, I commissioned my dear friend, extremely talented blogger, and comic guru Anthony Punt to provide his expert insights on some of my favorite names associated with the X-Men comics. So, prepare to get hit by some serious comic-book knowledge, along with my own brief observations about each name’s potential use as a baby name.
Also, do yourself a favor and check out some of Anthony’s other great publications here.
Much in the same way that Marvel Comics legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby “borrowed” from Norse mythology to create their versions of Thor, Loki, and the other residents of Asgard, these famous comic writers also presented their own Avalon that was loosely based on Celtic mythology. Also known as Battleword, Avalon is pretty much your standard-issue, Middle Ages-inspired sci-fi universe full of wizards, elves, dragons, and the like. This locale also played a central role in the origin stories of Captain Britain and Meggan, who are two (X-Men affiliated) characters I’ll be addressing later.
TBNB’s takeaway: Avalon (Av-uh-lon) is a fresh, gender-neutral option for fantasy-loving parents, with great nickname choices like Ava, Valla, Valor, and Lonnie.
Many may be familiar with Callisto from Greek mythology, but in the realm of the X-Men universe, she is the leader of a splinter group of mutant outcasts known as the Morlocks (which is a name that itself has an interesting etymology, given that they’re named after, and thematically resemble, the Morlocks from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine). Created by Chris Claremont and Paul Smith, Callisto and the Morlocks first encountered the X-Men when they kidnapped Angel so that he would become Callisto’s mate. The encounter ends with a climactic fight between Callisto and Storm in which the latter wins and becomes the new leader of the Morlocks (in addition to her duties as then-leader of the X-Men).
TBNB’s takeaway: If you hope your daughter or son will be a strong leader or someone willing to fight for what she or he believes is right, you may want to add Callisto (Cuh-list-oh) to your baby name shortlist. Possible nicknames include: Cal, Calla, Callie, Alli, Lisa, Liza, or Stowe.
So you were probably reading this blog and came across the word “Cypher” and thought me a dullard for misspelling the word “cipher” (which, as we all know—if we read Wiki—is “an algorithm for performing encryption or decryption”). Well, let me assure you, dear readers, that I’m not an idiot. Cypher is actually the superhero code name for a character created by Chris Claremont and Sal Buscema. Cypher (a.k.a. Doug Ramsey) is a member of the New Mutants—basically the JV team to the X-Men as the varsity—with the quite interesting mutant power to understand any language, whether spoken or written. Unfortunately, Cypher’s mutant ability didn’t make him a particularly useful asset in combat situations, a fact that ultimately led to his demise. (But, like a majority of comic characters, he was later resurrected.)
TBNB’s takeaway: If you hope your son will be multilingual or interested in many cultures, the name Cypher (Sy-fur) would be an appropriate choice. Also, given the comic character Cypher’s reliance on brains instead of brawn to navigate tough situations, this name would also work for parents who hope to raise a son whose strength is his smarts.
Although it originated from Arthurian legend, Excalibur has entered the general cultural lexicon as the magical sword Arthur pulls from the stone in order to claim his rightful role as King of England. The origin of Marvel’s Excalibur—a group of heroes—is more prosaic than that, but interesting in its own right. The original lineup of the team co-created by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis consisted of UK-based heroes Captain Britain and Meggan (toldya those names would come up again), along with three former members of the X-Men, namely Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, and Phoenix (a.k.a. Rachel Summers, not to be confused with her mother, Jean Grey, who also bore the code name Phoenix and was Rachel’s mother in an alternate timeline. Ah, comics!).
TBNB’s takeaway: Excalibur (Ex-cal-uh-burr) is a great boys’ name option for parents who love both the X-Men and Arthurian legend. And, like the name Cypher just above, naming your son Excalibur could set him up for a life of leadership. But whereas Cypher’s strength lies in his wit, Arthur’s ability to pull the sword from the stone suggests an emphasis on physical prowess, so Excalibur works well if you hope for a physically strong lad.
The Fenris-wolf (or Fenrir) is a figure from Norse mythology, so you’d naturally think that Marvel would have a version of their own. And indeed they do. However, when you think “Fenris” in the context of the X-Men universe, you’re likely thinking of the Fenris twins, Andrea von Strucker and Andreas von Strucker. Created by Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr., the Fenris twins are the children of Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D. foe Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. Unlike the majority of the X-Men’s foes, however, they gained their ability to generate energy blasts while holding hands from in utero genetic modification, rather than manifesting their powers during puberty. The twins used this power to try to kill Magneto, who had previously killed their father. And while you might think their dad’s demise would make them pitiable characters, the Fenris twins are actually vile villains in their own right, given that they are blatant white supremacists; ironically, Magneto is the more sympathetic figure, given his status as a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps.
TBNB’s takeaway: If you like names with a mythological feel, Fenris (Fenn-riss) could fit the bill for your son or daughter. (You’ll just have to hope that most people don’t know the Fenris twins from the comics, since you don’t want your kid to be associated with white supremacists!) Possible nicknames include Fae, Fenn, Fenna, Enri, or Enra.
A “jubilee” is defined as a celebration of a special anniversary or event, which is also an accurate description of Jubilation “Jubilee” Lee. An iconic Asian-American mutant featured in the popular 1990s X-Men animated series, Jubilee was created by Chris Claremont and artist Marc Silvestri. When she first appeared in the comics, she was depicted as a carefree mall rat who saved Wolverine from a gang of criminal cyborgs known as the Reavers. After serving an apprenticeship as Wolverine’s quasi-sidekick, Jubilee went on to become a key member of both the X-Men and Generation X, among other groups, and is still at least a tertiary presence in the X-Men universe to this day.
TBNB’s takeaway: If you want your daughter to be a total badass, capable of taking care of herself and protecting others, Jubilee (Jew-buh-lee) is a terrific option. And, since the birth of a child is (almost) always a jubilant occasion, this name would be meaningful for just about any parent. Possible nicknames include Jubi, Bali, and Lee / Leigh.
Lilandra (full name: Lilandra Neramani) is the Empress of the Shi’ar Empire, an alien race that has played a prominent role in X-Men stories over the years (particularly “The Dark Phoenix Saga”). Created by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, Lilandra has played a vital secondary role within the X-Men universe over the years, most notably as love interest to Professor X.
TBNB’s takeaway: Because Lilandra (Luh-lon-druh OR Lil-on-druh) is an Empress, this is yet another name that could set your daughter up to have strong leadership skills. But I especially like this name option because Lilandra’s relationship with Professor X shows that she could rule without forsaking romance, so this namesake could be a reminder to your daughter that she need not choose between her career and love / family. Nicknames include: Lil, Lilli, Lela, Lilah, Andi, and Landra. (I also think Neramani would be a really cool name!)
I can imagine some people reading this and saying to themselves, “wait, French impressionist painter Claude Monet is a Marvel superhero?!” While that would be awesome, that is unfortunately not the case. With that said, Monet (a.k.a. Monet Yvette Clarisse Maria Therese St. Croix) has an interesting, if convoluted, backstory. Created by Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo, Monet (or M) is a character of Algerian, Bosnian, and Monegasque heritage with a seemingly endless list of powers that includes superhuman strength, speed, agility and endurance, flight, telekinesis, telepathy, and more. M has served as a key member of several mutant teams, including the X-Men, Generation X, X-Factor, and the Hellfire Club.
TBNB’s takeaway: For parents who love the arts but also hope their child will be well-rounded, the name Monet (Mo-nay) will paint the perfect picture for your daughter (or son, though this baby name seems to be most associated with girls). But be aware: while this name is not currently in the U.S. top 1,000 as of 2017, I suspect it will break onto the scene sometime within the next few years, perhaps even in the 2018 list (set to come out within the next few weeks—hooray!). I like Mo, Mona, Nini, or NayNay as nickname choices for Monet.
Created by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, Mystique is arguably the most popular character in this list due to her prominent role in not one, but two, X-Men movie franchises over the past twenty-odd years. Of course, the Mystiques portrayed by Rebecca Romijn and Jennifer Lawrence in those aforementioned movies don’t resemble the Mystique that appears in the comics. (I mean, they’re all evil shape-shifting blue ladies, but I’m speaking metaphorically.) In addition to being a cool and significant part of the X-Men universe, Mystique is also a personally significant character. My wife and I have a dog named Raven Rogue who is named after two X-Men characters: Raven after Mystique’s alias, Raven Darkholme, and Rogue after Mystique’s adopted daughter of the same name.
TBNB takeaway: Before I discuss why Mystique (Miss-teek) would make an awesome girls’ name, let’s take a moment to appreciate Raven Rouge as a truly amazing name, for a dog or a human. But, back to the matter at hand, Mystique’s shape-shifting abilities make this name a cool pick if you want your daughter to have the powers of versatility and adaptability. My top nickname pick for Mystique is Misty, though Missy or Tique would also be good options.
If you’re familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe—and given the immense popularity of that franchise, it’s likely that you are—then you already know Peter Quill (a.k.a. Star-Lord). Created by Steve Englehart and Steve Gan, Star-Lord was actually a fairly obscure character for much of his publishing history. That is, until he first played a prominent role in Marvel’s 2006 “Annihilation” crossover storyline and was then portrayed by Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy and other MCU films. Believe it or not, Quill also has a connection to the X-Men universe as a one-time fiance to longtime X-Men member Kitty Pryde.
TBNB’s takeaway: Given Peter Quill’s devil-may-care attitude, Quill (Kwill) is a nice name if you’re hoping for a laid-back son. But a quill is also an old-timey writing tool. For this reason, before I had even seen Guardians of the Galaxy, Quill Loxley was actually my #1 choice for what I wanted to name my son, but apparently this name was too “out there” for my husband and my other family members. And, though my bias is now already clear, I submit that Quill can have no nickname; it is the perfect name as is.
Valkyrie Unlike the other characters/teams/locations on this list, Valkyrie doesn’t have an explicit connection to the X-Men universe. But she’s a cool enough character that we’ll make an exception in this case. Much like Mystique, the people who know the character mainly from the movies—in this case, Tessa Thompson’s excellent performance in Thor: Ragnarok—will be both surprised and confused by the version that appears in the comics. The first, and arguably most enduring, version of the character was created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema and based on the Norse mythological figure Brynhildr. With that said, a new Valkyrie based on Thompson’s version of the character is also currently appearing in the Marvel series Exiles, so time will tell which Valkyrie will ultimately triumph.
TBNB’s takeaway: Yet another great name for parents who want to raise a (physically and/or emotionally) tough cookie, Valkyrie (Vall-kuh-ree or Val-kuh-ree) would wear well on a boy or a girl. Possible nicknames include Val, Vall, Kara, or Rhee.
Photo credit: Rob Young