Psylocke just got her original body back in this week's Hunt for Wolverine: Mystery in Madripoor #4 after decades spent in the body of an Japanese assassin named Kwannon – but was it always the plan for Betsy Braddock to become an Asian woman for almost 30 years? According to Psylocke’s co-creator (and the guy who made her Asian) Chris Claremont – it wasn’t.
Speaking to Women Write About Comics, Claremont explained that the switch was only meant to last a single arc – but the character became so popular, partially because of the way then Jim Lee drew her, that he stuck with the change, planning to undo it a few years later.
"That was almost, in a way, [Jim Lee’s] audition art to take over the series. So it was a self-contained, three-part story, that would lead up to his, you know to his taking over Uncanny and then spinning off into X-Men," Claremont explained. “But … the rationale for it was… We were going to have, as the villain of the piece, the Mandarin. And the Mandarin, being very … China-centric, at a time when China was negotiating with Britain for the hand-back of Hong Kong.
“So the idea of him using an Occidental - pardon me, a pompous phrase - lackey, kind of made no sense. On the other hand, throwing in Mojo, to kind of muck things up, was fun... The whole point of the first issue was to get her to the stage where she comes back as Lady Mandarin," Claremont continued. "And then at the end, when she finally breaks free, in the original concept in my head, the breaking free would be literal. The whole illusion or false face of ‘Asian Betsy’ would shatter, peel off, and she would be back the way she was.
"So - the idea was to put everything back the way we found it, originally. But then, looking at what Jim had created - visually - she looked so cool. 'Heck it, we can fix it later.' I mean, Jim, Jim will be around for three years, and then we’ll get a new artist and we’ll fix it. In the meantime - let’s go with it! And see what happens. See where it leads. Sometimes you have a plan, sometimes you have an inspiration."
As for why Psylocke never wound up changing back during his run, the answer simply comes down to Claremont abruptly leaving the book before he could tell the story.
”The one thing I didn’t consider anywhere in this equation was ‘What if I’m the one to go, and not Jim’,” Claremont quipped.
Claremont left the X-Men titles in 1993 following disagreements with then-editor Bob Harras.