“Da na na na NA NA!”
That’s supposed to be the X-Men Animated Series theme song. Remember that? If you’re a member of my generation, should be a fond memory…
Little did my early childhood self know, but there was a lot more to X-Men than that 90s Zeitgeist.
As detailed in my last post: My History of Comics, once upon a time in my adolescence I was given the awesome gift of about a hundred 1980s X-Men comics (as well as New Mutants and X-Factor spinoffs, more on that in a moment). Written by Chris Claremont, this was the crème de la crème of the superhero genre. It changed my reading habits — and hence, my life — forever.
Although these comics posts are mean to be about my experience, I will delve into the greater history of comics for a bit. In Marvel Comic’s “Silver Age” era in the 1960s, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, that is, probably just Jack Kirby, created the X-Men. Cyclops, Angel, Best, Iceman, and Marvel Girl/Jean Grey. It was actually more of a failure compared to Fantastic Four and the Avengers at that time. Yet, in the late 1970s came the All New All Different X-Men and American superhero comics suddenly matured.
With an international cast, featuring the Canadian Wolverine and the African Storm as well as many others, it brought much-needed diversity to the superhero genre. In particular were the many strong, female characters. (Funny though it is that the X-Men were so feminist.)
It still pisses me off that the movies don’t get that. I’ll be complaining about the movies a lot in this post.
By the 1980s, the Uncanny X-Men were the best of the best. While Marvel was publishing a lot of cherished works, scribe Chris Claremont was building an amazing mythology unequaled with anything else out there. He took the metaphor of mutants-as-oppressed-minority and went with it unseen depths. He wrote with equal ease in outer space settings, as the alien Shi’ar Empire fought the Phoenix and the Brood. He wrote about magical concepts, with Colossus’s sister Illyana the ruler of the mystical demonic realm of Limbo. He was on fire, and he stuck with the characters on fire for 16 years from 1975 to 1991. Although, yes, if you wanna critique we was and is a very wordy writer.
My bundle of X-Mens covered about 180 – 240. But with many other heres-and-theres, I got the Dark Phoenix saga graphic novel collection and Classic X-Men reprints. The fun of collecting comics back then was to fill in the gaps and slowly piece together the greater story over the course of years. Then I got X-Factor 1 – 50, the spinoff featuring the original X-Men such as Cyclops, which covered many crossovers. As well as bunches and bunches of New Mutants.
By the time I hit the ground running, Magneto had joined the X-Men in issue 200 and then there was the Mutant Massacre and then for a darker period the X-Men had “died” in the Fall of the Mutants storyline in 225 and lived in Australia while being drawn by Marc Silvestri, and then the demonic Inferno crossover around issue 240 brought together X-Factor and others. Wow fun times!
Meanwhile, I had been filling in the gaps of issues before and after. Some expensive early issues drawn by Jim Lee, for example. The X-Tinction Agenda graphic novel collection helped.
And at the same time, I was reading the current 90s issues as well, though no longer written by the great scribe. The 90s era were written primarily by Fabian Nicieza and Scott Lodbell, and were mere patio additions upon the foundation of the house that Claremont built.
I noticed that as time progressed the X-Men corner of the Marvel Universe had gotten very complex. I mean, it was starting to be really ridiculous. New Mutants became X-Force, with exceedingly bad art (though my stupid 13-year self liked that sort of crap), X-Factor became some government team, Wolverine got his own title, and Excalibur was the British team.
It all went off with a bang ala the new multi-covered X-Men #1 in 1991, a gimmick indeed but we all fell for it.
There was the X-Cutioner’s Song concerning the convoluted history of Cyclops and Jean’s half-cloned son from the future Cable, The Phalanx Covenant with shapeshifting technological aliens, and the epic alternate reality dystopia The Age of Apocalypse.
Marvel took a lot of my money. The crossovers were working.
Yet, somehow, I faded away in my later teenage years. About after that terrible Onslaught crossover. Note: I would never ever say that I was too old for the medium of comics, or even the genre superheroes. No way. But I was becoming more literary in my tastes. I had finally completed the vast storyline of X-Men # 94 – 280 (as well as New Mutants # 1 – 100 and X-Factor # 1 – 80, by the way much of which were written by Louise Simonson who deserves much recognition for introducing a lot to the mythos, like Apocalypse…) and the new issues weren’t doing it for me anymore.
I was getting into more well-written comics, and ultimately I chose DC over Marvel. That is a story for another day.
Chris Claremont did come back to X-Men a few times in the decades since, but it was never as good or as popular as when he caught fire in a bottle in the 80s. Feel free to buy the solo Nightcrawler series, on sale now. I won’t. I feel for him, I wish I could say I was reading whatever he’s working on today, but I’m just not. Still, he will forever remain one of my favorite writers of all time and he truly affected me and my youth.
In the 2000s, I did return to X-Men when my all-time favorite writer Grant Morrison (whom will receive a blog post of his own one day) did his take on the mythos. I enjoyed Morrison’s stories, which had an altogether different feel, kind of portraying mutants now as a metaphor for punk rock counterculture.
There was briefly Joss Whedon’s run after that. Jason Aaron lately is good, all that X-Men vs. Avengers stuff is fun. But enough already with Marvel.
Lastly, let me reiterate how much those movies suck. They are terrible. They miss the point. There are not about international diverse superheroes with strong female figures and three-dimensional characters, they are rehashed awful Hollywood crap shit movies period. I mean really, Days of Future Past was supposed to star Kitty Pryde not overused Wolverine yet agan.
Anyway, X-Men will forever remain my first love. I just don’t like seeing my first love all sold out and slutty and whoring herself out there like that. My and my love are now estranged, but like lovers past of the human variety, I admit I will curiously google her on occasion and see what she’s been up to…
I was, for a time, the biggest X-Men nerd you’d ever meet. Yet that wasn’t all I was into. I was into the greater Marvel Universe as well. (If I’m still doing this lover analogy, does that make me a two-timer?!) Avengers, Spider-Man, all that. Like X-Men, I was introduced to the awesome 80s era before my time, and then subsequently went to my local comics shop every Wednesday to buy the latest trendy 90s books.
A lot more to say about that.