Excalibur (1st series) #33

Issue Date: 
January 1991
Story Title: 
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof!

Chris Claremont (author), Ron Wagner (artist), John Wilcox (colors), Tim Harkins (letterer), Terry Kavanagh (editor), Tom deFalco (editor in chief)

Excalibur created by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis

Brief Description: 

Kitty Pryde is still a pariah at her new school, thanks to Phoebe Huntsman and her friends. Sneaking after Phoebe one night, she learns that the school has debts and is about to be closed. Phoebe discovers her and after another fight he two girls have a heart-to-heart and start to see eye to eye. Together, they develop a plan to save the school, by having the senior girls compete as cheerleaders for the new American-style football team. In the meantime, Mesmero, who is being blackmailed by a mysterious party, captures Excalibur to have the heroes protect him and flush out his blackmailer. Not too far away, Russian agents watch Mesmero’s doings, but they are more interested in the Shadow King.

Full Summary: 

The studios of the British Broadcasting Corporation…

This is wonderful, Meggan enthuses to her boyfriend, Captain Britain, as she looks around. It’s a television set, he replies, not sharing her enthusiasm. Meant to represent some sort of sports oriented event. She calls him a silly man. Doesn’t he know anything? This is Sporting Live. The best, most popular soap show on telly. Puts Eastenders and Coronation Street to shame. She doesn’t miss an episode thanks to the memory machine he got her. A video cassette recorder, Brian corrects her as he looks at the posters on the wall. He was wondering about her increasing reluctance to go on missions every Tuesday and Thursday evening. Seemed the logical thing to do.

“American football comes to Britain,” he reads the promo poster. ”Debuting this season, England’s own professional team.” Unbelievable, he exclaims. Where is the attraction in watching hugely muscled bods in helmets and body armor thump into each other? he wonders. Can’t hold a thing to soccer or cricket; now there’s a proper game!

Well there’s one thing the Yanks offer that the stodgy old islanders don’t have, Meggan replies and jumps into the air. Cheerleaders! British lions hear us roar – just sit back and watch us score!

She’s daft! he tells her. And he is absolutely no fun, Meggan pouts. Not allowed, he’s the hero, he replies.

They interrupt the banter when they notice another poster in the stage. Cassidy’s circus. It shows former X-Man Sean Cassidy aka Banshee as a circus presenter and several X-Men as circus attractions. Somberly, Captain Britain realizes those are X-Men. It’s only a prop, Meggan tells him. In extremely poor taste, he replies. Three of these figures, Colossus, Storm and Wolverine are dead, slain with his sister Betsy in Dallas. And as for the Master Mentalist at the bottom, he’s Mesmero, one of their foes. What’s this all about anyway?

Meggan takes out the official invitation they received. For her to appear in this show, he continues, but there is nobody there. He threatens what he’ll do if that’s a hoax, but then they stare at the newcomer and suddenly their eyes turn glazed as they lose their will power.

At Excalibur’s lighthouse, Kurt Wagner balances on the tower’s balcony ready to dive head first into the water, watched by a harrumphing Lockheed. No comments from the peanut gallery, he orders the dragon. He jumps, somersault and dives elegantly. Now for the real test, he tells himself, teleport back into the air. He teleports up, but doesn’t quite reach the top. Not surprising, he muses. Always takes more effort to jaunt vertically and going up is the hardest trick of all because he’s going against Earth’s gravity. Still, he feels unstrained and decides to try again.

He falls back into the water. However, this time the jump doesn’t work. He remains under water and is completely disoriented. Which way is up? He finds he has no air left, and no idea where he is. Yet before he loses consciousness, an energy claw draws him up, courtesy of Phoenix.

What have they here? the bikini-clad Rachel asks him strictly. Feeling a trifle suicidal this morning? Testing our powers without a back-up? She reminds him that while he is getting better he is still a long way from his old capabilities.

No pain no gain, he tells her with a grin as he dries off. Not when it does more harm than good! He thanks her. What are friends for? she asks which is also why she’s yelling at him.

She hears the doorbell ring and runs downstairs. Doesn’t mean she lets Kurt off though, as part of her astral form remains, still reading him the riot act.

Rachel doesn’t sense any threat from their visitor and wonders who it is. When she opens the door, she gasps. Before her stands Jean Grey in a mini-dress. No cheery greeting for her dear old mom? Jean asks. Rachel is transfixed. Guess not, “Jean” remarks.

On the balcony, Kurt admits to Lockheed that Rachel is right. He is pushing far too hard. Overcompensation for the loss of Kitty? He still can’t accept that she is lost to them, in some other dimension. Widget could take them to her, if they had the slightest clue where to go. He scratches Lockheed’s tummy as he continues, that Widget seems to be incapable of locking on a solid.

Suddenly, he gets it. Suppose Kitty is on their Earth! That would explain why Widget stubbornly refuses to take them anywhere else!

He sees Captain Britain flying towards him and greets him, announcing he has some splendid news. Him too, Brian replies and strikes him, then goes for Kurt’s throat. Nightcrawler finds he has no energy left to teleport.

He sees Rachel coming up and behind her Meggan (who was disguised as Jean before). He wonders why Rachel isn’t helping, even while he finds Meggan’s outfit familiar somehow, as is the scenario. No surprise, as the villain makes his entrance. Kurt recognizes Mesmero. He should have, Kurt gasps. That’s right, Mesmero agrees, but he didn’t. Kurt is his now too. Way back when, Mesmero recalls, he walked into the X-Mansion and took over the whole team of X-Men. Now it’s Excalibur’s turn. But this time there won’t be any mistakes…

Meanwhile, quite surprisingly close to the lighthouse, at St. Searle’s School for Young Ladies, Kitty does her martial arts training on the athletic fields in the early morning. As she goes through her moves, she muses on what she has found out about this place. While it seems to be totally traditional the students are girls who have been thrown out everywhere else. Here basically because nobody else will take them. Aces place Courtney sent her to. Was it any different when she was back here? Does Courtney Ross, the ice queen of international banking, have some interesting shadows in her past? Question is why does she find it means so much for her to fit in?

She recalls that for some reason she can’t phase on the school grounds. Which means she has to fall back on her other skills, as the deadly killer demon ninja from Chicago.

Some of the younger girls excitedly watch her from behind the bushes and remark she is better than Bruce Lee. Their conversation wanders to a newspaper article about the new British American-style football team. Look at the bods, one of them sighs. She likes the quarterdeck. That’s quarterback, comes a voice from behind her. If she’s going to be so totally obvious about her obsessions, at least get the terms right. It’s Phoebe with her two cronies, Veronique and Ashley.

She tries to chase the younger students away. But after the way Kitty beat her, the kids are a lot less respectful and Phoebe ends up with jellyroll in her face.

Veronique decides they have to do something. It’s all her fault, Ashley remarks about Kitty. Before Kitty came here, the brats would never have dared to behave that disrespectfully. Phoebe points out that Kitty knew precisely what she was doing when she hit Phoebe in the face with that field hockey ball. A fraction more effort and she could have done permanent damage. Look at her. She isn’t playing. She really knows how to fight.

Kitty walks past them, ignoring them. So what do they do? Veronqiue asks. Nothing, Phoebe decides. They’ll make her miserable by ordering everyone to not have a thing to do with her. Not in class. Not outside of class. As far as everybody at this school is concerned, Kitty Pryde doesn’t exist.

Some time later, Kitty in her room admits that Phoebe really has the school locked up tight. Even the youngest class, who hate her guts, are toeing the line. She doesn’t know what is more frightening, that Phoebe was like them once or they’ll eventually grow up to become like her. She won’t leave though, unless she’s ready to, on her terms. No matter how lonely it gets.

Suddenly, Rutherford enters. Kitty is embarrassed at the state of the room, but Miss Rutherford tells her to relax. This is an informal visit. She tells Kitty she is concerned that she’s not making any friends. Kind of hard when nobody will talk to her, Kitty admits. But she’s trying.

Miss Rutherford believes she understands that it must be hard for her, coming from another country, trying to make a place for herself. If there is any way she can help…

That moment, another member of staff comes in, telling Miss Rutherford the finance council is there. So she has to leave. She remembers this was her room once and wishes Kitty a good night.

Kitty admits to herself she’s a dear and wonders what’s up. Way Miss Rutherford reacted didn’t look too pleasant. None of her business, she tells herself, but she is starting to like the school too.

Looking outside, she sees Phoebe on the prowl, breaking into the attic across the way. Despite herself, Kitty decides to follow.

From the attic, Phoebe can spy on Miss Rutherford’s office (and Kitty in turn on her). They hear the finance council tell Miss Rutherford that St. Searle’s is bankrupt and has to be closed down as soon as possible. Miss Rutherford pleads for some more time and is told times are too hard for charity. If the debts are not paid by the end of the month… Well, he thinks, the sooner she informs staff and students, the better.

Toad, Phoebe swears silently. She looks up and sees Kitty above a pile of crates. Kitty instinctively tries to phase, but instead topples over the crates. How dare she spy on her? Phoebe snarls and attacks. She was spying on Miss Rutherford, Kitty retorts. This is her school, Phoebe insist. She does what she wants! Which is what, Kitty spits, to make everybody’s life totally miserable?

Phoebe tells her to get off her high horse. All they were doing that first day was having a bit of fun. Kitty’s the one who turned it into a war. If she’s miserable, it’s her own fault!

She doesn’t like being picked on, Kitty snarls. Who does? But when Kitty pushed hard, they pushed back harder. And why shouldn’t they? This is their school, their turf. She’s the stranger. She doesn’t dictate terms. She finds a way to meet them on theirs.

Not that it matters anymore. Way things sound, they’ll all be on the street in a few weeks. No big deal. She going somewhere else, right? Home even. Kitty remarks. Fat lot she knows, Phoebe snaps. If they went home, mostly their parents wouldn’t know hat to do with them. She has seven herself, three daddies, four mummies, though it looks pretty certain real Daddy’s about to trade in for a newer model.

Her folks are split too, Kitty confides. The school she loved best got blown to bits last term. Pretty much closed down now. And the friends she had there, well almost all of them are dead. That’s tough, Phoebe admits. Yep, But to coin a cliché, life goes on. Kitty hands Phoebe who is only wearing underwear her sweater. What about her, Phoebe asks, Kitty laughs. Guy who taught her to fight used to start each day with a swim. Midwinter, mountain stream. Ice and snow. She thinks she’s forgotten what cold is.

Suddenly, they hear sounds from Miss Rutherford’s office. Alone, she is crying. At least they have some sort of homes, Phoebe remarks. But St. Searle is her life. She’ll be left with nothing. Only if they let it happen, Kitty decides.

In London, in the shadows two mysterious characters watch as PM Margaret Thatcher leaves her therapist, Mesmero. She can’t believe her eyes, Russian spy Debra Levin tells her superior Colonel Vazhin. What does the British PM see in such a charlatan? Princes and presidents need analysts, just as commoners do, Vazhin replies. Somehow she finds it impossible to accept that of her Debra replies. Perhaps then someone to confide in, Vazhin suggests. A means of unburdening oneself of the stresses and strains of public office. By all accounts, this one seems far more reputable and effective than most.

So what’s their next move? Debra asks. Get a line on that shrink, through him hook her? Wouldn’t that be the intelligence coup of the century? Mockingly, Vazhin exclaims in shock. Hasn’t she heard? The Rodina is now friends with the west. They of the KGB simply do not do that sort of thing any longer.

Debra scoffs. Gag her with Dragunov sniper rifle. Vazhin tells her he won’t let her near an issue of G.I. Joe anymore. That writer’s positively corrupted her.

Levin complain that other intelligence agencies wouldn’t hesitate. He orders her to leave well enough alone. He’s simply been satisfying some idle curiosity. And besides they have far more pressing concerns, such as surviving long enough to find a means of dealing once and he prays for all with their true enemy, the ultimate threat to all humanity, the Shadow King.

Meanwhile, in the therapist’s home, Mesmero sulks. His whole life he’s been looking for the perfect scam. He had the power for a life of crime, but not the smarts. Each of his scams blew up in his face. He managed to do what even Magneto didn’t manage. He captured the X-Men. On their own home turf, too. Trouble was once he had them he had no idea what to do next. And by the time he figured something out, there came Magneto to stomp his case and grab them away from him.

But finally it hit him, why use his gift to hurt people, especially when the one who got hurt the most was usually him? And that notion paid off. He’s pulling in more cash legit than he ever did as a crook. And he got status to go with it. Play his cards right, could be a knighthood or a peerage in for him.

He downs his drink, adding that, weirdest of all, he actually feels some sense of satisfaction doing good. Him, Mesmero. Who’d’a thought. Which is why he is totally ticked off at those two true brass bozos, referring to the golden armoured goons behind him, waltzing in and flushing his life down the toilet.

They ask him to consider the alternative. Possible disgrace versus certain obliteration. He counts among his patients some of the most powerful in this land. Through his hypnotic powers their master will triumph. Mesmero demands to see their boss personally. They refuse as Mesmero’s powers are too dangerous. That’s why the sent the war-droids. Can’t hypnotize a machine. But that’s the deal, he insists. If they don’t like it, they can fry him now. Course without him it’s bye-bye, master plan. Their move, but make it snappy. He’s either dead or he’s got things to do.

They decide to consult with their master. They know where to find him, he shrugs. They know the way out.

As they fly off they are secretly chased by the hypnotized Captain Britain. And Mesmero is revealed to be a shapeshifting stand-in… Meggan.

The real Mesmero kisses her. Then tells his pets they wait for Captain Britain to finger the bad guys. At which point, they get to do what heroes do best, namely squash them like the bugs they are. Won’t that be great? When there is no reaction he angrily repeats the question and they applaud him.

At St. Searle’s, the students have secretly met, discussing the possibility of the school being closed. The younger students have collected their pocket money, whereas the elder students, led by Veronique, mock their attempts. One of the younger girls remarks she doesn’t see them making any contributions, and another suggest they could offer themselves up as pin-ups to some tacky magazines; they’ve already got the costumes (referring to their skimpy nightwear). Not to mention the attitude. One of the girls call them “thunder thighs.” Veronique threatens them and the kids are unimpressed.

Kitty enters, stating she has a plan, if anyone is interested. The other girls turn away. Phoebe joins Kitty, remarking that Pryde misspoke slightly. Kitty corrects herself. They have a plan. Everyone is flabbergasted to see the two archenemies together.

Kitty rolls out her poster on the ground. It shows Britain’s first US style football team, which is about to make its debut. What that team lacks is cheerleaders. As a publicity gesture, they’re holding an open call tournament to see if they can find a homegrown alternative to importing cheerleaders from the States. At Wembley Stadium in a fortnight. For the winner, there’s a performance contract plus a major cash prize. Enough money to buy St. Searle’s time, if not save the school outright.

What if Miss Rutherford sees them? one girl asks. Kitty suggests they go disguised with wigs. This can work. The girls are skeptical. Who can teach them the routines? Her, Kitty replies. To which the other older girls groan.

Characters Involved: 

Captain Britain, Meggan, Nightcrawler, Phoenix III, Shadowcat (all Excalibur)


Mrs. Rutherford

Phoebe Huntsman

Ashley, Veronique and other senior girls

Younger students


Colonel Vazhin

Debra Levin

Story Notes: 

The title is taken from the famous play by Tennessee Williams.

Mesmero took over the X-Men in X-Men (1st series) #111, as shown in more detail in the back-up story in Classic X-Men #13.

On page 19, Kitty’s thought bubble seems to come from Phoebe.

Vazhin and Levin next appear in Uncanny X-Men #265.

“Rodina” is the Russian word for mother country.

GI Joe comics having a bad influence on Levin is a kind of in-joke, as then GI writer Larry Hama was also the creator of the original Deborah Levin in The Nth Man.

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