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[WIR] X-Men: The Strangest Super-Heroes of All!

JJ Hall

Last Red Hot Swami
Validated User
Hey everyone! I'm going to read X-Men comics in this thread!

I'll start from the very beginning and try to go through everything available on Marvel Unlimited up until the Nineties. I'm told they get really really bad that decade, plus all X-books through 1989 is a big enough project by itself, honestly. I reserve the right to change my mind and keep going when the time comes, though.

The list of spinoff series gets pretty crazy in the Eighties and MU doesn't have every single thing (or even every issue of the ongoing titles), but I've put together a reading list. If anyone can think of anything else I should put on it, please pipe up!

Uncanny* X-Men 1-66, 94-256
Avengers 47
Amazing Adventures Vol. 2, 11-17
The Incredible Hulk 181-2
Giant-Size X-Men 1
Giant-Size Fantastic Four 4
Ms. Marvel 17
Avengers Annual 10
Dazzler 1, 40
X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills Graphic Novel
The New Mutants Graphic Novel
Wolverine 4-Issue Limited Series
New Mutants 1-50, 55-61, 71-82
Alpha Flight 1-29, 39
Magik 4-Issue Limited Series
New Mutants Annual 1-5
Kitty Pryde and Wolverine 6-Issue Limited Series
Iceman 4-Issue Limited Series
Beauty and the Beast 4-Issue Limited Series
Longshot 6-Issue Limited Series
Nightcrawler 4-Issue Limited Series
X-Men/Alpha Flight 2-Issue Limited Series
Avengers 263
Fantastic Four 286
X-Factor 1, 2, 9-11, 18-26, 33-40
Firestar 4-Issue Limited Series
Spider-Man vs. Wolverine One-Shot
Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men 4-Issue Limited Series
X-Men vs. the Avengers 4-Issue Limited Series
Fallen Angels 8-Issue Limited Series
X-Factor Annual 3, 4
Havok & Wolverine: Meltdown 4-Issue Limited Series
X-Terminators 4-Issue Limited Series
Excalibur: The Sword Is Drawn Graphic Novel
Excalibur 1-17
Wolverine 1-19
Excalibur: Mojo Mayhem Graphic Novel

I'm going to write up issue one tomorrow, then try to do one comic every day until I get through this list or go crazy, whichever comes first. If anyone is moved to add their own commentary, feel free to blab as many spoilers as they want -- I already know tonnes of stuff about these weirdos' adventures from reading some comics, researching about the characters and general cultural osmosis, and my attitude toward spoilers generally is that they help me engage with a work.

*{pushes glasses up nose} Actually, the title was officially just X-Men, no adjective, until issue 142, but since the series wasn't renumbered from a new issue one with the name change, I'll just call it that from the beginning for consistency's sake.
 

Monsieur Meuble

Furniture warlord
Validated User
Hey everyone! I'm going to read X-Men comics in this thread!

I'll start from the very beginning and try to go through everything available on Marvel Unlimited up until the Nineties. I'm told they get really really bad that decade, plus all X-books through 1989 is a big enough project by itself, honestly. I reserve the right to change my mind and keep going when the time comes, though.
Wow ! I wish you good luck and good obstinacy in this admirable endeavour. You have several years of work in this thread with just what you have decided upon... and, yeah, triple that if you included the 90's and following.
 

Manitou

Emperor of the Americas
Validated User
I will be watching, as a fan of the X-Men,though I seriously disagree about them being the weirdest....
*glances at Brotherhood of Dada*
Though I suppose they weren't exactly heroes.......

Though some of the 80's stuff makes up for that.
 
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JJ Hall

Last Red Hot Swami
Validated User
Uncanny X-Men 1
Our adventure begins in September of 1963. The federal minimum wage in the United States is $1.25/hour ($10.13 inflation-adjusted), school integration in Alabama sets off retaliatory white violence, and American forces in Vietnam are secretly authorized to take to the battlefield against the NVA.

That's not what the omniscient narrator wants us to dwell on, though. Instead we focus on a bald guy in a reclining chair looking out a window of a mansion in Westchester County, NY. We're told this place is a private school, and that "Professor X" and his students, "the X-Men," are unprecedented in all of human history! The prof summons his students, four teen boys, to class. Two, Scott and Warren, immediately go into teacher's pet mode, adjusting the chair so he can lie down and wrapping a blanket around his legs. The result doesn't actually look very comfortable -- his body is flat, but his head is upright, implying he's got a ninety-degree crick in his neck. No time to think about that; the X-Men need to get to their lessons, and by that, I mean Charles needs to put the boys in deadly peril. Yes, right here in the first issue is the Danger Room, in all its death trap-filled glory! Bobby is told he's exempt from the tests on account of being two years younger than the other students (sixteen, according to the Professor, so the others are eighteen). He clowns around as a way of objecting to the kid gloves treatment -- just as Xavier intended! On his orders Hank throws a bowling ball at Bobby. This is a Silver Age comic, so that doesn't go down the way it really should have. Bobby conjures up a ramp that catches the ball and tosses it back at Hank, who catches it. Scott is dismayed at this. No, not at Charles for thinking any of this is a good idea -- at Hank and Bobby for throwing around the bowling ball near where the Professor is. He might have been hurt! Good to see Scott is getting a head start on claiming his status as team dick. At first Xavier is just fine with Scott facing a three-no-one fight -- all part of the test -- but soon calls the boys off each other and congratulates them for accepting instructions telepathically (he hasn't spoken a word verbally until this point) and tells them a new classmate is now arriving:

Xavier: "You may be interested to learn that at this very moment I sense a taxi approaching our main gate! Within that vehicle is a new pupil . . . a most attractive young lady!"

As you might imagine, Scott, Warren, and Hank immediately rush to the window and bray like donkeys. Bobby doesn't think it's any big whoop and snarks at the others for being "wolves." I could make the obvious joke here, but I'm too slackjawed by the implication that sixteen-year-olds are too young to be interested in girls. Um, Stan? You know if you want a little kid in the comic, you can just make Bobby a little kid, right? Anyway, the guys change into their civvies (two-piece blue suits for Warren and Hank, a long-sleeved polo shirt and brown slacks for Bobby, and green sweater over a yellow button-up and green plaid pants for Scott) and Charles welcomes Jean (dressed like Jackie, of course) in the parlour. It's only now that it's revealed Charles is confined to a wheelchair -- he claims it's due to an accident when he was a kid, but that gets retconned in something like ten issues. Jean wants to know what's up -- apparently she was contacted by the professor and told to come in secret, only telling her parents where she was going, and he refused to tell her what she'd be studying here.

Jean: "What kind of school is this, sir? I have a right to know!"

Jean is pretty much what you'd expect, given the times -- assertive, but only up to a point. She makes what sound like declarative demands, but she's not pumping anything Charles is reluctant to tell her from him, and she offers not a word in response when he tells her she'll be using Marvel Girl as a codename. She picks Hank up telepathically and hurls him through the air when he pecks her cheek, but plays the coquette otherwise. This is the big exposition scene, so we get the worldbuilding here: homo superior, evil mutants, protect mankind, yadda yadda yadda, we all know this. Things pick up in the next scene, where we're introduced to this guy:

[video=youtube;gjuWKAMAlQU]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjuWKAMAlQU[/video]​
This is before he has any minions, so he has to exposit his evil plans to himself, which is goofy. He messes with the weapons at a military base, then just straight up attacks it all on his own, empowered by the utter lack of interest Stan Lee has in learning how magnets work. In no time Magneto controls Cape Citadel. I have to wonder what his plan was for the place -- obviously, it's not something Stan thought of or considered important, but still. If Xavier hadn't sent the X-Men to fight him, what was he going to do? The dog who catches the car analogy applies here, I think.

But this is a superhero comic, so of course our heroes suit up and head out in "Professor Xavier's specially-built Rolls Royce, with its dark-tinted windows!" No word on whether it has a NOS tank. At the airport they get on the professor's private jet, which we are told is remote operated from the ground by Charles's "thought impulses," which I don't think is consistent with how his telepathy works later, but whatever. At the base the kids refuse to tell the military who they are and wrangle a promise to let them have fifteen minutes try their luck against the bad guy. The fight is pretty good, with everyone getting to show off and be useful. Magneto gets away, of course, but the military guys are grateful and promise that the X-Men will always have friends at Cape Citadel.

Writer: Stan Lee
Penciller: Jack Kirby

All right, we're at the end and I can't put this off any longer: these costumes are hideous.

Spoiler: Show
Kirby was the King, but the King had an off day when he made these. Bobby comes off the best by virtue of not wearing anything visible. Other than the terrible costumes, though, this is a good start. The Silver Age elements (corny dialogue, paper-thin villain motivation, an all-white, all-American cast, etc.) have aged the book, but if you can put up with them the comic flows well and has good action -- gouts of flame in the Danger Room, Jean "teleporting" chairs, books, and Hanks about, Magneto's missiles and makeshift deathtrap at the base. The cast is diverse by the standards of the time: the professor is paraplegic, Jean's a girl, Hank has an abnormal body type, and Bobby is at least coded as a younger kid, even if he's supposedly sixteen. Kirby plays it safe with the layouts though, putting three rows of panels on every page except the first, which has one panel that takes up two rows showing the guys bursting into the Danger Room in costume. That's a little disappointing.

7/10
 
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Manitou

Emperor of the Americas
Validated User
Pretty sure Jean moved hank telekinetically, unless you are quoting from the book there.
Though telekineis and teleportation are also kinda confused in the Charmed TV series as well. When they get a new sister, Paige, who can also move things with her mind like Pru did. Only she does it by teleporting things instead of using telekinesis as Pru did.
 
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Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Wait, who is this "Scott" you are speaking of ? Cyclops is called Slim Summers in this first issue.
(Stan Lee will change his mind and fix it in issue #3.)

Jean having no clue of what the school is about has since been retconned into oblivion (making the scene elaborate roleplay between her and Professor X for the sake of the other students), most famously in Bizarre Adventures #27. (Not sure whether it's on Unlimited, but if it is, you should add it to your list.)

In the beginning Iceman is in his weird "snowman" form ; he'll switch to the more iconic "ice" look a bit later on.

At first the book was bimonthly. Marvel initially had a super-strict agreement with their distributor that limited the number of books they could publish each month, so at first X-Men was alternating issues with... Daredevil, I think. (It's also why they had so many "double feature" books : Tales of Suspense with Captain America & Iron Man, and so on.)
 

Spatula

More Ideas Than Time
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I wish you luck! I embarked on a similar quest a couple of years ago and stalled out in the late 80's, I think. And I was just reading for myself and not writing recaps.

The O5 days are pretty bad, especially after the book is handed off to different creators. They are fun in a goofy Silver Age kind of way, but it's amazing how little they did with the premise at the time. Which makes the work of Claremont, Byrne, etc. all the more impressive. They took a thoroughly mediocre book and turned it into the one-time crown jewel of Marvel's lineup.
 

JJ Hall

Last Red Hot Swami
Validated User
I checked, and the only issue of Bizarre Adventures MU has is #25, a Black Widow story. Jean's huffing and puffing re: the whys and wherefores of the school works better as roleplay than it does as drama, in the sense that it's cute to think of Jean and Charles planning it out and putting the guys on. I like looking at retconned material from both angles -- it's like a warped mirror; you get a different image just by shifting your weight from one foot to the other.

Thanks for the tidbit about the distribution; I knew the title was bimonthly for a while, but not the reason why.
 

JJ Hall

Last Red Hot Swami
Validated User
Uncanny X-Men 2
Okay, so I'm going to see if I like this format better:

Plot -- Some guy in an even uglier outfit than what Charles makes the team wear uses his ability to disappear and reappear instantly elsewhere to steal secret American defense plans and then blackmail the US government for ten million dollars ($81M today) or else he'll sell them to the highest bidder. The X-Men fail to stop "the Vanisher" from getting the plans, and he brings a crowd of henchmen who probably have names like Bugsy and Mutt to the White House to collect the ransom. Charles accompanies the team this time and with his telepathy tricks the Vanisher into believing his power doesn't work anymore. The villain surrenders immediately, and the remainder of the book is a brawl between X-Men and gangsters on the White House lawn.

Charles -- The aggressive, impatient "Type-A personality" hero was still in vogue at this time, and that's clearly the archetype Stan and Jack want the professor to embody in these early days. He's not too bad; he's just as liberal with encouragement and compliments when the kids need or deserve them, but definitely more brusque than I'm used to, and far from warm. This issue establishes that Charles has a relationship with the FBI and introduces Special Agent Fred Duncan of the Bureau's "Department of Special Affairs." Duncan seems to be not just a friend or informant, but an official go-between for Xavier and the government: when the X-Men travel to Washington, they travel in a D.S.A.-provided "XV-1 Convertiplane," and Xavier has enough pull to call the White House and quickly get them to accommodate to his plan. It's funny to think that Charles will be compared to MLK often when his best buds, the FBI, were installing listening devices in King's home at the time this comic was on newsstands.

Vanisher -- Not much to say about this guy. He's arrogant and preening (He puts his cigarettes in a cigarette holder to smoke! What a snob!) until his comeuppance, then is completely cowed and doesn't say another word. A child who throws a tantrum as is put to bed early, basically.

The Kids -- Bobby's immature, Jean's a girl (She faints twice in this issue, and gets jealous when Warren is swarmed by admirers).

Worldbuilding -- The Cape Citadel incident must have made a splash since the team are identified by the public already. Mutants don't seem to be well-known by the general public yet, but the Vanisher knows he's a mutant and even uses the term "homo superior." Xavier keeps his connection to the X-Men a secret, and unless I'm mistaken keeps the fact he's a mutant under wraps until he's outed during Grant Morrison's run.

Writer: Stan Lee
Penciller: Jack Kirby

The Vanisher isn't exactly one of the team's classic foes, and the henchmen fight doesn't take any real advantage of the White House setting. There are good bits here and there -- I liked the press and public snarking at the team after the first fight with the bad guy. "Over-rated Phonies!" -- but a weaker entry than the first issue. 4/10
 
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