Real Name: Elizabeth Braddock
Nicknames: Betsy, Betts
Former Aliases: Captain Britain, Lady Mandarin
First Appearance: Captain Britain (Vol. I) #8
Currently Appearing: Uncanny X-Force, Uncanny X-Men, and X-Men
Formerly Appearing: Captain Britain, Exiles, New Exiles, and X-Treme X-Men
Created by: Chris Claremont, Herb Trimpe
Portrayed in TV/Film by: Grey DeLisle (voice, Wolverine and the X-Men); Meiling Melancon (X3: The Last Stand); Tasha Simms (voice, X-Men)
Character History: Betsy Braddock was born to privilege in England, unknowingly the daughter of a man from the alternate dimension Otherworld. She had an older brother, Jamie, who had reality-warping powers and insanity issues, and a twin brother Brian, who became Otherworld's champion in this reality, known as Captain Britain.
Betsy started to develop her own mutant powers of telepathy, with her own signature purple butterfly effect. She was recruited into a British spy division, lost her first true love, took up modeling, was nearly raped by her twin's alternate reality counterpart (who she killed), and for a time, took on her brother's position as Captain Britain. Betsy stopped adventuring when she was attacked by Slaymaster, who blinded her.
Eventually, Betsy was kidnapped by Spiral and her body shop. Spiral gave her bionic eyes, allowing her to see again and allowing Spiral to spy on the X-Men. Betsy was rescued by the X-Men and took the new codename Psylocke. Psylocke stayed at the X-Men's school until several X-Men were injured protecting other mutants called the Morlocks and Psylocke was left alone to defend the school against the villain Sabretooth. She won and became a larger part of the team.
Psylocke remained with the team for a long time, including sacrificing her life fighting the Adversary and being resurrected by Roma. When the majority of the X-Men were again lost, Psylocke used her telepathy to push her teammates into using the Siege Perilous, a gem giving to them by Roma, to escape from the bionic Reavers.
Siege Perilous teleported them away from the Reavers, but also granted their true desires in strange ways. Psylocke was taken back to Spiral's body shop, and her mind was transfered into that of the Japanese mutant Kwannon. She was then given to the villain Mandarin and brainwashed.
Now known as Lady Mandarin, Betsy attacked her teammate Wolverine but he eventually freed her. Psylocke found that she had new powers: a psychic knife that could cause physical pain or unconsciousness and high-level ninja skills. She traveled with Wolverine until they rejoined the X-Men, even though she didn't know what had happened to her in the Siege Perilous.
Psylocke became part of the Blue Team and started a relationship with her fellow X-Man Archangel. Kwannon reappeared in Betsy's original body, claiming to be the real Betsy Braddock and called herself Revanche, but Kwannon was dying from the Legacy Virus. When the Virus amplified the telepathic powers Kwannon had gained during the body swap, the women finally learned the truth but at the price that the Virus was killing Kwannon. Kwannon's former lover killed her at her request to stop the pain.
Psylocke remained with the X-Men until she was nearly killed trying again to stop Sabretooth, this time from killing the X-Force member Boomer. Archangel saved her life with the mystic Crimson Dawn, granting Psylocke shadow-teleporting powers. Her own telepathy was shut down in a fight with the Shadow King, and then later swapped with Jean Grey's telekinectic powers. Psylocke then left the X-Men mansion to travel with a splinter team but was killed in battle by Vargas.
Psylocke was revived by her older brother Jamie and returned to the X-Men, but Psylocke failed to save him from himself. Psylocke was then summoned by the dimension-hopping Exiles, and helped them to restore reality for some time. She was returned to Earth when the Sisterhood of Mutants were planning to resurrect Jean Grey and used Psylocke as a test, pulling her back into the real world.
Psylocke returned to the X-Men, moving to their new home at Utopia, an island near San Francisco. Recently, Psylocke joined X-Force in the hopes of freeing Archangel, who she had started dating again, from Apocalypse's influence. Psylocke failed, and Archangel's personality was killed, while his body survived. Psylocke remains with the X-Men and X-Force and is currently heading Utopia's security force.
Personality: Psylocke's personality has gone under several drastic changes through her years of adventuring. She began was a beautiful, headstrong girl, who fell into a depression after losing her sight. Joining the X-Men, she regained her sense of adventure and her British wit. As a ninja, Psylocke could be much more quiet, reserved, and secretive, a trait she still retains. Psylocke is quite brave and loves her family, but is not afraid to kill if she needs to, a trait that has intensified since she joined X-Force.
Archetypes: Psylocke, since her Lady Mandarin incarnation, has been The Ninja, a silent killer type. Psylocke is often displayed as Cheesecake and Pretty Girl, using her body get her way. She has often been the Plot Device, especially her repeated deaths and resurrections and new power sets. Her deaths are also an example of Women in Refrigerators. Psylocke is mainly, though, a Psychic.
Other Versions: In some versions of reality, Psylocke is either still Lady Mandarin or Captain Britain. In the Age of Apocalypse, Psylocke retains her Japanese body, but it is unknown if this character is Betsy or Kwannon. She later helps found New Japan. In the Days of Future Past world, Psylocke joins the evil Hellfire Club and later, Excalibur, where she dies trying to rescue Douglock. In the Earth X reality, Psylocke retains (or regains) her British body and has greatly amplified powers. She is part of the royal family of England in this reality and helps her brother kill the devil Mephisto. In the House of M world, Psylocke is again part of the royal family but adventures around the world with Rachel Grey. In the Age of X, Psylocke dates Iceman and is part of the team of Force Warriors that builds up the X-Men's last defense against humanity every day. And finally, in the Ultimate reality, Psylocke was a British spy who died and found herself in the body of a recently deceased girl named Kwannon. She eventually joined the X-Men and in one future, married that world's Bishop. She may or may not have been killed recently.
Main Analysis: Pictured way above, at the start, is both of Psylocke's selves. The left half is her modern appearance, which she has had since her Jim Lee and ultraviolent 90's reinvention as a Japanese ninja. On the right is her original purple outfit, with the butterfly effect and British body. And it's this oddness that makes Psylocke one of the most complicated of the X-Men.
The idea of the X-Men is simple: they are mutants, who are feared and hated by normal humans, but they have sworn to protect the world that fears and hates them. The central theme here is obviously racism and other types of prejudice. Having one character to have literally changed race over the course of her history should make for an interesting idea.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, this really goes unexplored. When Kwannon appeared, in Psylocke's original body, I'm not 100% sure what the writers wanted to do. Psylocke's new swimsuit outfit was quite popular for its cheesecake factor, wherein artists would frequently drew her stretching or bending over.
But then here was Kwannon, a poor Japanese woman in Betsy's original body, who had lost her ninja abilities and was dying. The irony then is that Psylocke's original body is dead, as Kwannon died shortly after her first appearance. Whether it was always the intention (to explain Psylocke's new body and then kill off the problem in one stroke) is unknown, or at least, I don't know it.
But it does bring up a really important issue: how much worse would this have been if Psylocke had been transferred to a black or Native American or Hispanic body? In comic book art, it's somewhat hard to tell the race of characters sometimes, except for coloring or dialogue. In Psylocke's case, she often appears white in her modern incarnation, especially since she still speaks with a British dialect.
In a series about prejudice, what does it say that the one woman who should have more to say than anyone doesn't say anything at all? Most of the time, Psylocke's transformation from white to Asian is barely commented on. And even when Psylocke's brother Jamie restored her life - why would he restore the Japanese Psylocke, since he never knew his sister in that body?
The answer is that Psylocke's current form is the most recognized form, and is the only one to appear in other media. Even the producers of the X-Men movies didn't know what to do with her, whether the minor villainess that appeared in the movie was supposed to be Psylocke or if she was Kwannon.
To put it simply, even in a book about prejudice, race is still too touchy of an issue to really delve into, even if Psylocke already has the perfect opening.
Other Race-Changed Characters: Marvel's Mach III (who had a surgery that altered his race from white to black transformed his appearance to conceal his identity - he was eventually returned to his original looks), DC's Perry White in the new Superman movie (White is, well, white in the comic books and most other incarnations, and in the new movie, will be played by Laurence Fishburne), and Marvel's Kingpin in the Daredevil movie (Kingpin is normally an Italian mobster but in the movie was portrayed by Michael Duncan Clarke).
Buy Works with Psylocke Here: X-Men: Psylocke, Uncanny X-Force: The Apocalypse Solution, and X-Men by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee Omnibus - Volume 1 (X-Men Omnibus).