The Phoenix Force holds a significant place in the Marvel Comics and stands as the most unforgettable element of X-Men member Jean Grey’s comic book history. This character-defining arc, known as the Phoenix Saga and the Dark Phoenix Saga, has resonated with fans for decades with its compelling plot vibrant panels and shocking ending.
The legacy of the Phoenix Force stretches well beyond the pages of Marvel Comics. The Dark Phoenix Saga is regarded as one of the best comic book arcs in history and has become a fan-favorite. It is also one of the favored arcs by comic book critics around the world. In this article, we will share some of the lesser known facts about this terrifying cosmic force’s origins, its history in Marvel Comics and its connections to the entire Marvel Universe. Here are the X-Men: 15 Things You Didn't Know About The Phoenix Force.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Phoenix Saga and the Dark Phoenix Saga.
15 The Phoenix Force Was Marvel's First Female Cosmic Hero
Introduced in Uncanny X-Men issue #101, the Phoenix Force presented itself in Jean Grey. Previously regarded as the weakest member of the X-Men, the character’s powerful transformation was introduced by writer Chris Claremont and artists David Cockrum and John Byrne. The purpose of the Phoenix Force storyline was to create the first female cosmic hero for Marvel.
As the only female superhero of the X-Men, Jean Grey (initially introduced as Marvel Girl) lacked an impactful role in the comic series. Her biggest storyline involved her love triangle with Cyclops and Wolverine. Claremont wanted to expand her powers with the Phoenix Force and rebrand her as an influential teammate with cosmic abilities. Much like Thor’s significant addition to the Avengers, Claremont wanted Jean to hold a similar importance with the X-Men.
However, as they wrote the Phoenix Saga, her powers proved too dominant, and the character’s presence took over the focus of the comic. Their cosmic hero proved too much for everyone involved.
14 Connected To Iron Fist
The Phoenix Force is one of the oldest cosmic entities in the Marvel universe. Created during the Big Bang, this power has existed for billions of years throughout the Omniverse. As such, the Phoenix Force existed in alternate timelines and universes. One such timeline connected the existence of the Phoenix Force to the legacy of the Iron Fist.
First appearing in 2012’s The New Avengers, vol. 2, issue #25, Fongji Wu appeared in Yu-Ti’s prophetic dream. She found Fongji (whose name means “bird of fire”) in the city of K’un-L’un and decided to train her. Named as the next Iron Fist, she went through the ritual of Shou-Lao the Undying and gained the powers of the Phoenix Force as well. Fongji emerged with both powers and departed for outer space forever.
To further allude to their cosmic connection, Jean Grey’s Phoenix outfit incorporated the green and yellow design of Iron Fist’s trademark uniform. This serves as a very subtle nod to their connected history.
13 13. Death Brought The Phoenix Force and Jean Grey Together
After its creation, the Phoenix Force wandered the universe as a nameless celestial being. After an interaction with Feron the magician while on Earth, it took on the shape of a firebird and became the Phoenix. This force was drawn to Earth again once it sensed a kindred energy. Ultimately, death became the defining influence that brought Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force together.
As Jean attempted to keep her dying friend’s mind from moving into the afterlife, her mind was taken in as well. The Phoenix Force broke the deathly connection and stayed close to Jean, watching over her over the years. During her next brush with death, the Phoenix Force came to Jean’s rescue.
As she lay dying from solar radiation, her mind called out for help and reached the cosmic force. She accepted the Phoenix’s offer for help and became one with the being. This result varied slightly in the retconned origin story, where Jean was preserved in a cocoon in suspended animation while the Phoenix Force lived as a fake Jean Grey.
12 12. Her Suicide Was A Corporate Decision
After introducing the Phoenix Force into the X-Men world, the writers’ plans for the character took a life of its own. Its unyielding power overtook not only the X-Men within the story-- it invaded the comic as a whole. The choice to have the Phoenix sacrifice herself was not just a narrative choice, but an executive decision by Marvel management.
Editors Jim Salicrup and Louise Jones were hesitant about how powerful the Phoenix (Jean Grey) was becoming in the comic book. Her transformation from weakest member to indomitable entity was unbalanced and shifted the focus to only her Phoenix storyline. During the story’s development, Jean caused immense damage and took the lives of billions of living beings. Her uncontrollable and destructive nature became a concern from Marvel higher-ups.
Their conclusion was to finish the story and remove this immense power from Jean Grey. Her suicide came as a shock to many readers and served as an effective means to conclude the Dark Phoenix Saga.
11 Controversial Violence Led To A Firing at Marvel Comics
The actions taken by the Phoenix Force came into question by the editorial staff. The Dark Phoenix Saga transformed Jean Grey into a cosmic terror, making her a nemesis for the X-Men. In her new evil role, Jean Grey even destroyed an entire solar system, killing billions in the process. This plot point eventually led to editor Jim Salicrup being fired from the series.
Then Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter was outraged at this mass killing and questioned Salicrup’s decisions for the series. He was not sure that someone as immoral as the Phoenix could continue as a member of the X-Men. Readers could no longer relate to her since she became an indestructible force with no regard for the lives she had taken. As a result of the murderous plot, Shooter removed Salicrup from this project. The writers and editors then worked on a feasible way to bring the Dark Phoenix arc to a plausible end.
10 Several Alternate Endings To The Dark Phoenix Saga
The Dark Phoenix Saga’s ending was chosen as the best method to allow Jean Grey to atone for her sins as the Phoenix. However, two alternate endings for the saga would have drastically changed Jean’s future in the comics.
After the controversy of Jean’s destruction of a solar system, the writing team questioned the extent of her Phoenix persona. In the first argument, the Phoenix Force possessed Jean and was the true culprit of the mass murders. The first alternate ending depicted that she never became the Dark Phoenix, she had all of her powers-- including telepathy-- removed and she was returned to the custody of the X-Men.
However, in the second argument, Jean and the Phoenix are one entity, and she knowingly destroyed that solar system. Because of this, she had to be punished. A second alternate ending was developed where Jean would be imprisoned forever. However, in this scenario, she would still be the focus of the comic because the X-Men would continue to search for and rescue her. Also, it was not fair for her to simply be absolved of her heinous killings without some form of serious punishment.
The writing staff finally concluded that the two functioned as one entity and the only resolution for her heinous crimes was the selfless suicide of Jean Grey.
9 Three Marvel Fans Created The Phoenix Retconned Storyline
Any comic book fan would love to have the opportunity to write a story for their favorite character. Sadly, most of us will never have that chance. However, three lucky Marvel fans had their Phoenix Force story included in the Marvel Universe. In fact, their Phoenix Saga retconned story was what led to the resurrection of Jean Grey.
Kurt Busiek, Carol Kalish, and Richard Howell were huge fans of Marvel Comics back in college. After they heard about the upcoming ending of the Dark Phoenix Saga, they wrote their own story that helped to resurrect the fallen Jean Grey. The challenge was to create a story that would help absolve Jean Grey of the Phoenix’s horrific crimes. Their solution was to separate Jean Grey from the Phoenix and place all of the immoral actions on the Phoenix alone. According to their story, Jean Grey had been in suspended animation at the bottom of Jamaica Bay since the start of the Phoenix Saga. The Phoenix Force used her likeness to commit those wrongdoings.
Busiek eventually became a writer at Marvel and pitched his ideas to the editors. The final revival story was published in Fantastic Four issue #286, and Jean returned in Avengers issue #263.
8 The Phoenix Force and Misty Knight Were Roommates
Following the retconned Phoenix Saga storyline, the Phoenix Force took Jean Grey’s place with the X-Men, and lived as Jean for years, which included living with her then-roommate Misty Knight.
Jean and Misty Knight have had a long comic history together. The two roomed together in an apartment in New York City. They frequently crossed into each other’s storylines, with Misty popping up on the X-Men side and Jean on the Luke Cake/Iron Fist side.
A particularly humorous storyline in Iron Fist issue #15 took place after Phoenix “Jean” appeared in the comics. In this story, Wolverine was stalking Jean’s apartment and mistook Iron Fist for an intruder breaking into her apartment. A fight broke out between them, with Colossus and Nightcrawler joining later to help. Storm also showed up to stop the fight but gets hit in the face with a bowl of potato salad. The match eventually ended when the Phoenix returned with Scott Summers after grocery shopping. Just a few panels later, we saw everyone boozing it up at Jean’s house party as if nothing had ever happened.
If only this plot never happened...
7 Connected To The Grey Family By Genetics
The link between Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force extended beyond their connection with death. Over time, other relatives of Jean Grey became hosts to the Phoenix Force, including her daughter Rachel Summers and her clone Madelyne Pryor. Her family carried what would be known as the Grey Genome, a genetic sequence that seemed to attract the Phoenix Force to them.
Ever since she bonded with the Phoenix Force initially, it constantly sought Jean out when it wanted to reconnect again. However, when she could not be found, the Phoenix Force looked for anyone with similar mutant abilities as Jean and/or who was a carrier of the Grey Genome. First referenced in Uncanny X-Men vol. 1, issue #466, every member of the Grey family, whether ancestors or descendants, carried this distinct sequence and could potentially bond with the Phoenix Force. With the discovery of the Grey Genome sequence, however, dire consequences befell Jean Grey's relatives.
6 The Grey Family Was Slaughtered Because Of It
Jean Grey had long suffered because of the Phoenix Force. From the slaughter of billions of innocent lives to the loss of her sanity, being the Phoenix became an unrelenting burden on this X-Men team member. The Grey Genome continuously drew the Phoenix Force back to her and her living family members. Sadly, this genetic connection led to the slaughter of the entire Grey family.
In The End of Greys arc, Rachel Summers, the daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey-Summers, was the latest Phoenix Force host. Since her mother passed away, Rachel wanted to connect with her mother’s side of the family. She reached out to her maternal relatives to get to know them better and organized a family reunion. However, members of the Shi’ar Empire wanted to eliminate the Phoenix Force indefinitely and targeted any carriers of the Grey Genome. As they gathered for their reunion, the Shi’ar soldiers arrived and slaughtered almost every member of the family. By the end of the massacre, the only relatives that remained were Rachel and her brother Cable.
And you thought your family reunions sucked…
5 It Has Possessed 28 Different Hosts
The Phoenix Force has always had a special connection with Jean Grey. Since it was first introduced in 1976, this all-powerful force was always associated with the telepathic mutant. However, the Phoenix Force has since moved to other hosts over the course of its comic history. To date, the Force has had 28 different hosts.
Since the Phoenix Force cannot be defeated, it continued its search for new hosts after Jean Grey’s death, and went on to possess many other powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe. Some previous hosts included Cyclops, Colossus, Namor, Emma Frost, and Rachel Summers. Many of these hosts came in contact with just a small amount of its power, known as an echo. The Phoenix Force has influenced even Professor Xavier by way of an echo.
In one instance, Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) was resurrected by the Phoenix Force in Secret Avengers issue #26 but immediately died again when the force left his body. Wham, bam, thank you Mar-Vell!
4 Rachel Summers Is The Longest Earth-Born Phoenix Host
Known for having the strongest connection with the Phoenix Force, Jean Grey has delved into the best and worst parts of the cosmic force. Rachel Summers, however, maintained a long-standing relationship with the Phoenix Force without any evil incarnations. Introduced in the Days of Future Past alternate future, Rachel became the longest Earth-born host of the Phoenix Force.
Referred to as “The One True Phoenix,” Rachel connected with the Phoenix because of her Grey Genome. In this storyline, the Phoenix Force reached out to Kate Pryde and asked her to help Rachel. Kate used her powers to awaken Rachel's mind and connected it with the Phoenix Force. After she had learned of her deceased mother's actions as the Phoenix, Rachel vowed to use the power of the Phoenix Force as part of her birthright. She was then able to tap into the Phoenix's power going forward. Moreover, with the absence of the Dark Phoenix powers, Rachel had the potential to become stronger than the previous Phoenix incarnations.
3 The Phoenix Force Becomes The Leader Of The X-Men
The Age of Apocalypse narrative brought many changes to the Earth-616 timeline. In this arc, Legion traveled back in time to kill Magneto. He accidentally killed his father, Professor X, instead. This significant change brought about the arrival of Apocalypse 10 years sooner than expected and he began his quest for world domination. In the midst of this war, the X-Men eventually turn to the Phoenix Force to become their leader.
Known as “Mutant Alpha” in the storyline, the Phoenix’s powers awoke in Jean Grey after Havoc killed her. Mister Sinister managed to capture her, and brainwash her into joining his team. She joined his Sinister Six and became an enemy of the X-Men. With the Dark Phoenix powers, she became an unstoppable foe yet again. However, Psylocke was able to awaken Jean’s brainwashed mind and brought her back to her senses. After she and her fellow X-Men team members killed Mister Sinister, Magneto (the current leader of the X-Men) is taken into custody and placed in jail for his crimes.
He asked Jean Grey to take over as leader of the X-Men in his absence. She agreed and led the X-Men in their quest to restore their timeline.
2 Phoenix Force + Kinetix = Phoenetix
In 1996, the Amalgam Comics brought together Marvel and DC Comics superheroes to form new characters. The Phoenix Force, in the form of Rachel Summers, was included in this series and found its match with DC's telekinetic hero Kinetix. The two heroes combined to form telepathic hero known as Phoenetix. As a member of the Legion of Galactic Guardians 2099, Phoenetix first appeared in
As a member of the Legion of Galactic Guardians 2099, Phoenetix first appeared in Spider-Boy Team-Up issue #1 in 1997. Some of her team members included Universe Boy (Marvel’s Captain Universe and DC’s Ultra Boy), Dark Star (Marvel’s Darkstar and DC’s Umbra), Living Colossus (Marvel’s It, the Living Colossus and DC’s Colossal Boy), and Ladybug (Marvel’s Wasp and DC’s Violet). The team brought Spider-Boy to their timeline to question him about the Phantom-Negative Zone Projector.
Created by R.K. Sternsel, Phoenetix's powers included levitation, telepathy, telekinesis, psychic powers and psionic abilities. This was her first and last comic book appearance in the Amalgam Comics series.
1 Possible Dark Phoenix Movie Reboot?
Regarded as “one of the best comic series ever written,” the Dark Phoenix Saga has been integral to the history of the X-Men and the character Jean Grey. Marvel fans have long expected this popular saga to be included in any of the X-Men movies or TV shows.
To date, the Phoenix Force has been in the live-action movies X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, and X-Men: Apocalypse, but these portrayals have been subpar compared to the compelling storytelling in the comics. However, there are rumors that the Dark Phoenix Saga may be returning in the next X-Men movie.
As we reported earlier this month, the movie has a working title of X-Men: Supernova. There's a strong possibility that the film will bring a “Dark Phoenix 2.0” storyline. Fans would love to see a more accurate depiction of the Phoenix Force in the X-Men Universe. This could also give current Jean Grey actress, Sophie Turner, the chance to explore the character as a younger version of Jean Grey.
There's no official release date for X-Men: Supernova yet.
Do you have anything to add about X-Men's Dark Phoenix? Let us know in the comments!