Teenage runaway, former klepto, abused child, total misfit, sassy sidekick, armed at all times with explosives. How on earth was this not a recipe for success? One of my absolute, all time favorite mutants ever Tabitha Smith has been virtually forgotten by Marvel which is not only a crying shame, it's a cry, sobbing, agonizing shame. Were it not for X-men: Evolution and my penchant for reading comicbook character bios, I would not know nearly enough about Tabitha because for the last 10 years her character has been drastically watered down and near-forgotten give or take a few horrible characterizations in recent storylines. When I first saw Tabby in X-men: Evolution, her juvenile nature and sass was more than endearing, it was downright entertaining! For a kid's show to have a character who crosses the line from aspiring superhero to spitfire villain then back to aspiring hero was awesomer than awesome, she was a rich character in a franchise meant to be inoffensive and totally PC yet still she was a total rebel if I ever knew one.
Now that I've gotten my hands on almost every issue she's ever been in, I am absolutely baffled as to why Marvel dismissed her character. She initially started off as being a runaway who catches the attention of the Beyonder during the Secret Wars arc. Beaten and bruised from her abusive father, Tabby was on the lam and crossed paths with the Beyonder who at the time was fresh off the heels of an unrequited love for the Dazzler. As the two reminisce, Tabitha explains that she was a complete and total misfit back in her hometown where most of her friends were junkies and juveniles and especially for that time where the teenaged sidekicks in almost any comic were polished and squeaky clean, Tabby had a cynicism paired with an unlikely charm and optimism that felt so much more well-realized than most portrayals of teenage girls in comics at the time. From there she's taken in by the founding X-men who, at the time, called themselves "X-Factor" just after she (along with a bevy of other criminal, superpowered misfits) joined a crew of thieves led by Vanisher. She betrayed Vanisher and sold him out to X-factor then is again whisked away by Ariel (a friend of Tabby's and former cohort of Vanisher's) for another adventure under the "Fallen Angels" title. From then on, she was paired up with some fairly high-profile mutants ranging from Jaimie Madrox to Rictor and eventually Cable where she found a chance at redemption serving him in X-force.
Yes, once upon a time there was an X-force without Scott or Wolverine and it was awesome. Tabby's close-knit bond with Rictor and Shatterstar as well her romance with Sam Gurthie built a great dynamic for the team. Where Cable and Domino were doom & gloom with packs of ammo & loaded holsters, Tabby was deadly in her own right and had even developed her explosive powers to a point where she could channel them through a sword thanks to the tutelage of Pete Wisdom. Still maintaining her trademark sass and general unpredictability, Tabby went from Boom-Boom to Boomer to Timebomb in a whole series of escapades involving her troubled past as a junkie on the streets, an unhealthy relationship with an almost brain-dead Victor Creed (who secretly manipulated her), and a dissent into absolute recklessness in panicked response to uninterrupted trauma. You thought X-force now had wild cards? Well Tabby could go toe-to-toe with any of them- at one point she sits on Blob's head, loads him up with explosives, and almost allows him to combust! Something we discover she had done before on the streets to a pimp who cornered her with a knife.
Tabitha was like a wild hybrid of Harley Quinn and Gambit with an edge and a style all her own, though she had childlike tendencies similar to Jubilee there was a vulnerability to her that so beautifully complimented it all- she wasn't ever portrayed as being stupid at that point but more impulsive and mercurial at that point. Where little girl sidekicks were once well-meaning and mostly defined by the head-honcho they were following, Tabitha had an assertiveness that lit up so many possibilities for her character. Of course, I wouldn't be writing this were that still the case.
A series called "Nextwave" came out in 2006 after the original X-fore had been canceled. This series featured Tabitha, along with a bevy of C-list heroes ranging from Monica Rambeau to the Machine Man where absolutely all of Tabitha's pathos was nixed and she was reduced to being a valley girl of absolutely zero intellect. Now I'm not saying valley girls in general are of low-intelligence seeing as how I consider Clueless one of the best movies of all time but it was actually incorporated into the plot that she was mindless at one point. She also speaks of partying with Paris Hilton while shopping which, though her fondness for retail indulgences had been explored before, was largely exaggerated. I don't blame writer Warren Ellis for this transition as it was all meant to be non-canonical but since the series received critical acclaim, Joe Quesada in all his editorial glory arbitrarily shifted it all within continuity and all the characters featured (including Tabby) have been largely affected as a result.
Since then Tabitha Smith has been almost completely converted to what was intended to be a caricature of her character. She now dons a leather teddy with choker (which, NOBODY wears anymore) and has been swiftly demoted to D-list status, appearing only a handful of times in recent years. Once in a short Manifest Destiny storyline where the artist simply can't resist giving an upskirt perspective multiple times as she walks out in San Fransisco on a ridiculously breezy day only to be pummeled multiple times by a mutant named Nuwa whom she later defeats by contrasting Nuwa's sleep-inducing mutant abilities with a highly caffeinated latte. The art is atrocious and it's very odd and almost creepy how often we see her panties simultaneous to her humiliation. She's seen again as a captive of the Leper Queen who kidnapped her while she was shopping and just after yet another upskirt panel, is promptly shot through the head only to be saved by X-23 later on via a time machine. Of course, when Laura goes to save Tabitha she's subsequently almost raped and then depicted as being brazen and disagreeable when questioned about Leper Queen by X-force later on. Tabitha could also be seen later on in the Nation-X/X-factor crossover where she cavalierly refers to Shatterstar's last costume as being "totally gay" much to Rictor's dismay...now, Tabitha was one of the prime examples of people who knew Rictor & Shatterstar were an item in the X-force days, she's always maintained a close friendship with Rictor as well, and is known misfit...is it really likely that she'd say something like that? She can shoot her mouth off sometimes but she's never been offensive in a verging-on-homophobic way at all, she's always been really accepting of Rictor & Shatterstar.
So, now, colored me confused. Because it's almost as though now Tabitha is unfavorably portrayed and robbed of all her pathos and character development, strengths and survival instincts for no apparent reason other than editorial ignorance or complete disregard. Where she once was a rich, interesting, and much beloved character she now can be seen once or twice fighting in a cocktail dress with one or two lines here and there. I've never seen a character reach such high highs and have the carpet ripped out from underneath them in such a horrible way. Is the staff at Marvel just resentful of Tabby for never having been a sidekick of Wolverine's? I know it's protocol for mutant teenage girls but can't there be an exception?
Anyways if anyone needs a comeback, aside from Jean Grey who's relentless dangled in our faces, it's my dear, dear, dear TABITHA SMITH. BOOM BOOM. BOOMER. TIMEBOMB.