“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.
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As I said before that I never got into these comics but this is simply due to the fact how massive they are! All those different eras, crossovers and side stories would drive me mad especially because I am a person who wants it all, collecting each and every single issue which well, is pretty damn hard 🙂
I like to be a completest as well, and tt was pretty damn hard to collect each issue! But it was a good hobby for me at the time. I wouldn’t recommend superheroes to most people, although of course there are a lot of other comics out there that don’t require such commitment. I’ll share a lot of recommendations in the coming posts, but first let me get my superhero guilty pleasure out of the way.
Looking forward to the coming posts. Love to read about it as it reminds me on all the manga I consumed over the years and other things collected
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Agreed all over the line: the Marvel I like and I remember better is all in the 80’s. I started reading the X-Men when Cockrum was leaving for the second time and Paul Smith was about to arrive for a short stint right before Romita jr.
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Seems we have similar problems with the X-Men movies. Sure, some of them have decent story elements, and sometimes changes are necissary for adaptation (sending back Wolverine instead of Kitty Pryde makes sense considering Kitty didn’t even exist in the 70’s in the movies, and they did still give her an important role) but they completely miss the point of the franchise – diversity. With the sole exceptions of Magneto and Wolverine, they Americanize pretty much every character in the franchise. How hard is it to make Pyro Australian, or Colossus Russian? Why is almost every member of the team white when X-Men books are usually quite diverse? First Class feels outright racist when you realize that of the only 2 black characters, one is killed off (even though his power should make him impossible to kill) and the other joins the villains with little thought or development whatsoever.
I admit that I probably wouldn’t have gotten into comics without enjoying the X-Men movies first, and I can still enjoy 3 of them (out of what, 7 so far?). I’m still fairly new to comics after all. Even before I started reading comics though, I started to realize how badly they missed the point.
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Well, one good thing about the movies is it at least introduced some people to the books 🙂
Actually, it didn’t. Sales didn’t rise at all.
When Marvel opened the books to understand, they saw Chris Claremont writing an X-Men story that didn’t use half the heroes from the movie and any of the villains — instead, it had The X-Men battling some group called The Neo with no easy way in for new readers who were going from the movie into the comics and/or from the freebie comic given away thanks to Toys R Us to the main series.
To his credit, Harras had already begun working on a correction for Spider-Man the following year but by that time there’d begun to be grumblings from the ranks about editorial interference — which is why Marvel fired Harras and put Quesada on instead. Quesada would have his name on top of Ultimate Spider-Man and THAT book’s continued success at the top of the charts when the movie came out was seen as the right type of connection.
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As much as people may complain about the lack of diversity in the movies compared to the comics, you need to keep in mind first and foremost The X-Men were only diverse in its “All-New, All-Different” incarnation in Giant-Size #1. From Kitty onwards, all of the main team are American until Maggott and Northstar — the former a joke and the latter more a member of Alpha Flight than an X-Man. And all of them are white except the second Psylocke (seen in film 3), Jubilee (film 1), Bishop (DoFP), Maggott, Reyes and now Monet. New Mutants started diverse but add white characters from there on until Warpath joins in X-Force; Excalibur was all white, essentially, as was X-Factor.
Generation X was a big leap forward in diversity, but there was no way Marvel or Fox would go near that group for a long time thanks to a horribly received telefilm. Note that White Queen only shows up in Origins: Wolverine at a time when her character has become essential to the present team, and she’s shown cozying up to Scott. Banshee is one of the last of the Claremont X-Men of any note to appear, and the background characters have never included Synch, Skin, Mondo or Monet.
You need to also keep in mind that when it comes to the movies the original leads were chosen based on their essentialness to X-Men (the first generation it’s Scott and Jean, the second it’s Logan and Ororo) and popularity — with each subsequent sequel adding the most obvious characters missing from the legacy. By the time of Origins: Wolverine, the only real popular X-Man from the Claremont era missing is Gambit, which is why he gets a part there. First Class uses modern characters like Angel and Darwin because there is no one else they really feel the need to touch at that point other than Bishop, who belongs to the future and not the past.
Finally, to emphasize that last point, Marvel and Fox were looking to make CABLE the next film after the third — if they could find a plot that could explain the character without being too complicated. When that fell through, and McKellan was too busy with another major franchise to do a Magneto film that was barely sketched out, they went with Wolverine instead. It was Origins: Wolverine’s success, even with the leaked copy, that convinced them to do another prequel — and the success of that film, under original director Singer’s supervision, that led to the rekindling of the franchise.
NOW, Fox is looking to X-Force the television series or sequel — and you can bet that will be more diverse because they will have to delve into lesser known characters that are more interesting rather than just for their powers, especially if it gets to television.
Lot of information about the films there.
Okay, granted that Marvel tends to introduce white Americans as new characters I still submit this as my number one problem with those awful films: Storm. Storm is supposed to be a leader, a three-dimensional character, probably the most well-developed superheroine of all time. And they did pretty much nothing with her in the movies. If that’s not awful Hollywood whitewashing — far worse whitewashing than even the basest of mainstream superhero comics — than what is??
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