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The Problem with X-Men

Greetings. I’m Bill Reed. You may recognize my name from the comments on this site. Surprisingly, I’m actually a contributor; it just turns out I’m one of those contributors that regularly fails to actually contribute. Luckily, Our Lord Cronin does not sleep and has the blogging power of ten men.

This is my first actual post since we moved house, and also the first in a (probably) short series that will take a look at major superhero icons and try to find out what went wrong, and hopefully how to fix it.

Up first? The X-Men. ‘Cause I’ve figured something out… the X-Men turns people into bad writers.

(Excluding Grant Morrison, God of All Comics, of course.)

I know, this is sounding like a total diss, and confirming my status as one of Morrison’s Whorrisons. Sadly, though, it’s true. So, here we go. What’s wrong with the X-Men?

1. Lackluster roots: The X-Men title, at the very beginning, was the redheaded stepchild of Stan and Jack’s Marvel Universe. Its premise was born out of laziness (“Let’s see… um… we’ll have ‘em be born with their powers! Yeah!”) and it didn’t really seem like the creators were very invested in the concept. Sure, some of the ideas were really neat, like Cyclops, but then we got the Beast, whose power consisted of big hands and feet. I mean, I love the Beast, but… The art wasn’t up to Kirby’s usual par either, and the uniforms were very bland.

The book had its ups and downs, but was finally put to rest, though kept around as a reprint series. Without those reprints, I doubt the book would’ve lived long enough to be revitalized as the All-New, All-Different X-Men. From that, the comic got a new lease on life, and shortly, a new writer, Chris Claremont. The book rockets in popularity, becomes Marvel’s biggest franchise, spawns a rabid fan base, etc. Everyone reading this probably knows more about the X-Men than I do.

2. Missing the point: Claremont probably had the magic for a while, but he doesn’t know when to quit, and the title spiraled into a cyclical regurgitative mess. Then the 90’s came, and suddenly the comics were completely enmeshed in a convoluted web of space aliens, time-travel, clones from alternate futures, and all kinds of ridiculous crap that was missing the point completely.

Here’s the thing. The X-Men’s core concept is about two things: civil rights and evolution. When the title loses sight of those two things, it suffers for it. The space aliens were originally just some window dressing, and a break from the usual thing. Soon, though, it was all about the damn aliens and the damn time-travelers. Enough, I say! I demand a moratorium on aliens and time travel! And, just for good measure, the damn Phoenix!

The 90’s were the worst of it all. The writers tried too hard to be Chris Claremont, but failed at it, and the editors began to take over to a ridiculous degree, driving away the sane creators. It was a frightful mess.

Grant Morrison came in and gave the whole thing a shot in the arm, ending the vicious plot cycles once and for all (or so we’d hoped) and tossing in a bunch of new and crazy ideas and tossing out what wasn’t working. He explored mutancy in cultural, societal, political, and media terms, and, of course, utilized the two core themes of the X-Franchise. That’s what it was all about; social and genetic progression.

Naturally, it was immediately retconned and/or ignored, and now we’ve been given House of M, which destroyed mutants as a viable minority and culture, and Ed Brubaker, fan-favorite, who has brought back the precious space aliens and inane continuity tics, like Smothers… er, Summers brothers, and the like. Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men started off pretty strong, and even had a decent plot reflective of the core themes! But it descended into fanwankery, and that really upset me, as I worship at the altar of Joss Whedon, Genius Lord of Film & Television.

The worst recent offender has been X-Men: The End, written by X-God Chris Claremont. Here’s where the guy can put a cap on everything that’s ever needed to be said about the X-Men, where he can take a look back on the themes and concepts of the various titles and develop a suitable conclusion. He failed to do this; it was all about aliens, continuity exposition, and obscure characters no one cares about.

The X-Men’s relevancy is gone.

3. Outfits that Earth-2 S&M Liberace wouldn’t even wear: Also, they’re back to wearing hideous spandex outfits. Poor, poor X-Men; rarely do their costumes look good. At least in New X-Men, they had dignity and striking designs. I think this image by Bry Kotyk sums it up nicely:

Wolvie

Would you rather have leather, or a frighteningly form-fitting luchador outfit? I know which one I would wear. In public, anyway.

4. They’re freakin’ everywhere: Seriously. There’s just too damn many X-books. House of M limited the number of mutants in the world but doubled the number of mutant-centric comics. That’s just stupid. I think the market is finally hitting the point where the X-line will collapse in on itself, and rightfully so. The X-label is not enough to sell a comic anymore. Yes, that’s right, the comics have to be good and have a point to them! Well, unless they’re written by Claremont, apparently.

5. Show us the light, Pimp Daddy Bill: Well, okay. I propose we kill the ouroboros, and move the concept forward. Really, the X-Men should be the most relevant comic in the world, and definitely shouldn’t shy away from politics or controversy. Also, it must be good, so good that it shall forsake continuity, space aliens, time-travel, and the Phoenix for telling a good story.

As I keep saying… the X-Men should reflect human existence. The book needs to be about social progression, and evolution, not just biologically, but conceptually. The X-Men needs to be about change. This is why it kills me that it always stays the same.

The X-Men aren’t superheroes. They don’t fight crime. They’re a civil rights group, an emergency safety-and-rescue squad, a school of teachers and students. Their message is one of peace and tolerance. Yeah, okay, so you’ve got to throw in some strife (not Stryfe, though, dammit; clones from the future = bad) and some giant robots and some explosions, because it’s Marvel, and that’s how Marvel, in their attempt to mimic the “real world,” explains societal interaction and civil restructuring– through violence (hey, it’s true). Regardless, in the end, it’s got to be about change, and learning that change is a good thing. The X-Men should be new and different. Yeah, that’s *scary*– I mean, you’d be afraid of a big blue monster if you met him at the coffee shop-change is always scary, but eventually we accept it, because we must. The X-Men, deep down, are world-changers.

What would make a decent line of X-titles? I’d desperately try to keep them to a minimum. Yeah, there are quite a few moneymakers that might go bye-bye, but honestly, why do most of them exist? What’s the point of New Excalibur? Anyone? I thought so.

There only needs to be three or four titles. That way, it is easier to maintain quality control, and the hype-filled marketing does not spread too thin. I’d keep Uncanny X-Men and Adjectiveless X-Men around (and I’d be tempted to literally put ‘Adjectiveless’ on the cover). After all, I don’t expect the Astonishing title to stick around post-Whedon, though I’m probably horribly wrong on that. If anything, they’ll cancel Adjectiveless and maintain Astonishing. Frankly, it doesn’t matter; the titles are mostly superfluous.

After that, one would be wise to keep some kind of X-Academy book around, about Xavier’s as a school (inevitably with a focus on the students over the teachers); I feel that the book always misses out on the importance of the setting.

Then, what the hell, keep Wolverine’s ongoing around-for the kids. Just, you know, give it a point. Say, Wolverine as mutant bounty hunter, with a small supporting cast, like Cecilia Reyes, or whatnot.

I know what *my* perfect X-Men line-up would be: Cyclops, Emma Frost, Beast, Wolverine, Rogue, Sage, Madrox the Multiple Man, and Doop. Here’s a diverse group of personalities and abilities. Each one’s going to need their own subplots (except maybe Wolverine, as he’s there mainly to tear ass and boost sales) and everything’s going to have to dovetail back into the main themes.

To make the superhero-inclined fans happy, give them a shiny globe-trotting “Uncanny” adventure book starring Storm, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, Colossus, Iceman, Angel, Dead Girl, and, oh, say, Northstar. (Strangely, most of these guys’ powers are defensive in nature. That’d make a weird action book. Oh well.) Searching out mutant emergencies and saving the day, one soul at a time.

I haven’t come up with a big idea for the X-Academy book; I don’t follow the current New X-Men series. All I demand is that Beak, and maybe Dust, be main characters.

All that’s left is to find interesting ways of exploring the themes while putting out coherent plots. It can’t be that hard! And please, no more ill-defined groupings of two-dimensional “new” villains. They invariably turn out to be pointless and end up in limbo.

Well, there you go. Sorry if it was a long and incomprehensible rant (I tend to hate all my prose, especially the non-fiction-y kind… I’m only good with spur of the moment stuff), but I wanted to hit all the talking points and hopefully promote some discussion in the comments thread.

Still, that’s how I’d make the X-Men better (and probably cancelled). Your mileage may vary. I’m probably biased towards hating the X-Men, which is why I think they need to be drastically changed. If there’s one thing I know, however, it’s that X-Men comics should be good. Then again, maybe Magneto was right.

Magneto Was Right

35 Comments

“Morrison’s Whorrisons” … you slay me, Reed. That MUST enter the vocabulary!

I loved the Silver Age Beast! The scenes where he and Bobby would go out to coffee houses and beatnik bars with their gfs were one of my favorite bits of the really old X-Men, for some reason. And I liked the idea that all the original X-Men could pass for human. That they were among us, and we didn’t know who they were.

I would venture as far to say as the Academy book is the best written one, currently being published.

I agree with most everything you say, but ultimately it’s just another “here’s the right way to do X” rant fuelled by personal preferences and actually saying all that much about what should happen in the series.
I think that’s because the task is too immense. X-Men, or indeed most (if not all) heavily expanded superhero sub-verses suffer from so much crud aquired throughout their decades of publication that I doubt they’re salvageable (in an artistic sense) unless one is willing to do really drastic things and has a truly gifted writer on hand and accepts that it may take an overhaul of the fanbase, which in turn may take years.
As you note, Claremont, aliens and continuity wank sell. You might as well give up after that sentence.

Ian Astheimer

July 30, 2006 at 5:42 pm

Bill, you hit the nail on the head in regards to what the focus of the X-Men should be: cultural and genetic evolution. Instead, they’re superheroes with convenient origin stories, who talk a good game of joining the world outside but never take action to become a functioning part of society. Xavier, along with the real writers of his speeches, has been preaching equal rights since the inception of the team, yet he’s done virtually nothing to actually achieve his dream. Rather than training his students to function as productive members of society, he keeps the holed up in a secluded mansion, a makeshift utopia far removed from day-to-day life, where they remain hidden as often as possible. When they do venture outside the gates of Greymalkin, they dress in the kind of garish outfits that render them virtually unapproachable by the common man, unless he’s in a dire situation, preferably involving insane mutants and/or random aliens. Professor X has, in his own, supposedly good-hearted way, assembled his own army, who’re devoted to his cause for life (and death and life again, in most cases) because he never taught them how to survive in and around normal society. They can’t leave his side since they don’t have the motor skills to manage on their own (at least not for any particular length of time). Way to assimilate, Prof!

Hell, it took Xavier nearly forty years to come out and say, “I’m a mutant.” How could he hope to reach his “peaceful coexistence” between mutant- and mankind if he wasn’t even willing to admit he was a mutant? Fear–for himself, for his family, for his students–was, understandably, a motivating factor, but it’s not like he hadn’t prepared his pupils for an attack. Like I said, he’s had a mutant militia at his disposal for a dozen years, Marvel Time. The original X-Men fought Magneto while they were learning to drive, for Christ’s sake. Why cower from the potential of an angry mob invading your home when you know you can defend it with ease?! Is Xavier a liar, luring unsuspecting innocent mutants into his lair and training them to become new members of his army by promising them the tools to re-enter society effectively? Is he a hypocrite, preaching the righteous path and practicing something else entirely? Is he just a dick?

I don’t know, but I do know I wouldn’t want him leading my team. If nothing else, he’s proven to be a highly ineffective leader and mentor. In addition to taking his sweet time revealing his identity and showing public pride for who he truly is, his success rate in training his students is atrocious. For every Jean Grey, who mastered her telepathy over time, there’s a Scott Summers, whose powers are still behind his full grasp. Despite spending years in the Institute, Rogue has never been able to touch another person–not because of anything the Professor taught her, anyway. Hank McCoy didn’t come to understand the full potential of his abilities until he left the mansion. Bobby Drake has learned the most about his gifts by other people tampering with his body…against his will! And on and on… Has any X-Man seriously learned anything useful from Xavier’s tutelage? Offensive and defensive maneuvers are all well and good for epic battles that erupt every thirty days, but what about learning to cope and adapt to daily life? Weren’t there any classes in practical application?

Keeping Cyclops and Rogue and the like around is, then, an advertisement against coming to the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. “If they can’t succeed after years of training, what chance do you have, scared adolescent going through more than the regular volley of changes that accompany puberty?” Instead of being asked to shape up or ship out (and they’d all likely do better outside of Xavier’s walls, where they’re faced with real life situations), these non-success stories are teaching the next generation of X-Men! What kind of sense does that make? It’s one thing for a new mutant to idolize Cyclops because he kicks ass with his laser-eyes, but, honestly, would you really trust a guy who can’t control his own powers to teach you how to use yours? That’s like asking a guy who flunked math to teach Algebra: he may make for an okay substitute teacher now and then, but what does he actually know? What advice can he actually impart? Date a hot psychic who’ll fix your head?

That’s all he knows, isn’t it? That’s been his story for years: succumb to self-doubt, fall for a psychic, experience boost in confidence, lose psychic, lather, rinse, repeat. Thus, my next point: If you (the writers) don’t have anything new to say, don’t say anything at all. There is–or was–a virtual cornucopia of characters at your disposal, so why keep going back to the old wells that are near empty after being drained of all their creative life? Xavier’s story’s been told. Cyclops’ has been told. Jean’s has been told. Wolverine’s has been…well, the pertinent parts have largely been revealed, anyway, but I guess he’s still got decades left of “Origin” stories. Find new outlets, man! Venture into uncharted territories. Bring B- and C- and D-Listers (but not Kathy Griffin) to the fore. Give them a chance to shine because no one else has. They’re still ripe with content, as yet unexplored; they still have facets barely broached. We all know what the deal is with the stalwarts. But, what’s going on inside Dr. Reyes’ mind? What’s up with Penance? Where are Artie and Leech? Whatever happened to Magneto’s Mutant Force? Shine the spotlight outside of the center ring, and who knows what might be found? Primal might be the next breakout star.

If the moneymakers–the characters, by and large, from the flicks–must appear (despite not having anything new/interesting to say about them), relegate them to background status and spread them out. Clustering them all in one book leaves scant space left for the development of unexplored characters. Should the New Mutants ever graduate (by the time such an occasion rolls around, I imagine most of them will be long dead, if recent arcs are any indication), they’ll need all the help they can get finding screen-time, if the current crop of characters doesn’t move along. But, hey, I guess the prospect of retirement is frightening when you don’t have any useful life skills.

Ha! Excellent point, Ian. The X-Men aren’t social misfits because of their strange powers, but rather, because they’ve been so ridiculously sheltered for so long. Thanks for explaining why change is desperately needed in the X-mythos better than I did.

Also, that’s pretty much why, if I ever wrote the X-Men, I would kill Xavier off in the first issue.

My problem with the X-Men has always been that they actually do things that make them deserve discrimination. Seriously, read here. You’d have to be crazy not to hate them, they shelter criminals all the time and live to regret it when said criminals go apeshit later.

Links don’t seem to change color or get underlined here, so just so you know, the word “here” in the above comment is a link.

I think there’s a tendancy for writers to shy away from the core X-men concepts and opt for straight superheroics is because the anti-mutant discrimination theme doesn’t make a lot of sense within a universe filled with publicly accepted Avengers, FFers and the like. People in the Marvel Universe are cool with a guy who claims to be the Norse god of thunder, but freaks out over the fact that mutants might walk among them?

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the best, purest X-men stories have been the Claremont/Anderson graphic novel and the first two movies, both of which seem to take place in their own isolated worlds, without any connection to the outside Marvel Universe. Morrison’s run and the best of the early Claremont years barely acknowledge the Marvel Universe, and the books are the better for it.

T.– and I don’t think I’ve ever said this before– you’re totally right. That was a hilarious and true-as-hell article.

And Dan, I agree that the X-Men work best in their own little world. See? Inter-title continuity is a bad thing! Hahahah!

Geez, the X-books are really screwed up.

I totally disagree that the X-Men should be based around civil rights and evolution. Those are the two core ideas, true, but the MOST INTERESTING (non-Morrison), MOST EXCITING X-Men were the early Claremont, Cockrum, Byrne years. I just finished re-reading the stories in the X-Men Omnibus and those comics were not about civil rights or evolution AT ALL. They were about interesting characterizations, duty, and self-sacrifice. They were about crazy ideas like a loving island and the Shi’ar Empire protected by a a rip-off of the Legion of Super-Heroes. They were about getting put into a giant pinball machine by a Danny Bonaduche look-alike. No civil rights or evolution there. Yet those issues are still great fun!

In addition to the “what’s wrong with (insert character/franchise here)” articles you plan to write, maybe you or someone else can write articles regarding “what’s good about (insert character/franchise here) too.

I dunno, if I were Wolverine, I’m not sure what would be worse: a) trippy spandex with funny ears (?) on your mask, or b) black leather jacket with yellow (!!) highlights – what is that, vinyl?

I think that given the choices, he’s better off not choosing. It’s a lose big/lose just as big situation. He should go plainclothes – like whatshisname from Starman. Bobo?

Right near the start you hit the nail on the head on why I was never a big mutant fan–although some individual mutants were good.

Their creation was lazy–and often their powers were ill defined–I wasn’t sure who could do what.

But because their mutants their powers could mutate sometimes–it was too confusing–and there’s too many of them…

Your main article was right, but your teaser text wasn’t: The real problem isn’t that the X-Men make people into bad writers, it’s that their core concept is a concept that’s very very hard to use in the context of an unlimited series in a shared universe. Plus, also, Chris Claremont casts a long shadow. I have great respect for Claremont, but too many X-writers follow his lead instead of getting back to the core of the concept or trying something new.

but even the concept of the XMEN mutants as the next evolutionary step for homo sapiens is a bit flawed. i mean, logically, shouldn’t the next evolutionary humans have, i dunno, lungs that can process pollution, or cancer-resistant skin, as opposed to claws made out of bones, or laser eyes?

in XMEN, it seems like humans just evolved into what most of the Marvel U homo sapiens are accusing them as being: living weapons.

nice analysis, though. i agree on shifting the spotlight towards the lower tier characters, and actually having the senior cast GRADUATING to wherever. maybe four year arcs of constant renewal of cast, a la real time academic process? but christ, that’d actually give Marvel more mutant characters!

Ian Astheimer-

Fantastic analysis! I’ve feel the exact same way about the execution of the X-Men concept. Xavier seems to want them all to fail.

Personally, I think the X-Men should function like Sinn Fein used to, with a political arm led by Prof. X as Gerry Adams and a military arm led by Scott Summers. Charles Xavier would be the public face, lobbying Congress and making the rounds on TV shows, operating the Institute, etc., while Cyclops would be in the trenches fighting and striking from the shadows.

Finally, it seems like the idea of the X-Men being a tale of discrimination and civil rights is just a conceptual “Potemkin’s Village” Quesada and crew trot out whenever the mainstream media shows up at the Marvel offices. It’s really just tights and super-powered punchouts.

Ian, I was 100% with you until here:

What kind of sense does that make? It’s one thing for a new mutant to idolize Cyclops because he kicks ass with his laser-eyes, but, honestly, would you really trust a guy who can’t control his own powers to teach you how to use yours? That’s like asking a guy who flunked math to teach Algebra: he may make for an okay substitute teacher now and then, but what does he actually know? What advice can he actually impart? Date a hot psychic who’ll fix your head?

I disagree with your analogy. What Scott has is an incurable handicap, so to say that he can’t teach unless he cures it is a mistake I believe. It’s like saying that a paralyzed person that learns to have a fulfilling, well-rounded life despite his handicap isn’t suited to inspire and teach others unless he can walk again.

Ian Astheimer

July 31, 2006 at 9:53 am

T,

Is Scott’s handicap actually incurable, though? Jean and Emma have both proven that, if he can get over the mental scars from his past, he’ll have a finer control of his powers. With the right kind of therapy (and/or some telepathic coaxing), he should be able to come to grips with his childhood trauma: being forced out of an exploding plane by his parents, watching them “die,” trying to save his brother, facing abandonment, and so forth. After a series of sessions with Doc Samson, Summers should, theoretically at least, be able to turn his optic blasts on and off mentally.

Unless, of course, I misunderstand Cyclops’ malady, and his brain actually has scar tissue that can’t be removed. In which case, I recant my statement.

In either case, you’re right: he can certainly still inspire and educate. Few know more about leadership than he does.

T: What Scott has is an incurable handicap, so to say that he can’t teach unless he cures it is a mistake I believe. It’s like saying that a paralyzed person that learns to have a fulfilling, well-rounded life despite his handicap isn’t suited to inspire and teach others unless he can walk again.

No, I’d say it’s more like this: Scott is like a a crippled person trying to teach a class on walking. His efforts are surely appreciated, but it falls under a “physician, heal thyself” banner. If he can’t control his powers, how can he help others do the same?

Yeah, flimsy argument, but worth saying, perhaps.

Ian,

I spent a long time away from the X-Men in the 90s, so there may have been retcons since then. In the 80s, I remember the reading that the reason he couldn’t control his eyeblasts was because when he parachuted out of the exploding plane with his brother, he suffered a blow to his head, and that if he never suffered that blow he’d have grown up with control over his eyeblasts. But that could have been retconned, which is always highly probably with the X-Men.

team: Cyclops, Jean, Wolverine, Shadowcat, Beast, Rogue, Colossus

stories: about ‘mutant issues’, screw aliens/ time travel etc.

only because all that has been done well for X-Men in the past and need not be repeated and works better with the fantastic four :P

costumes: that’s tough, i loved the new x-men uniforms, and it’s mainly because they were UNIFORMS not costumes and made them feel like a proper team not a random bunch of earths mightiest heroes. on the other hand i love the jim lee era costumes – they’re some of the greatest in comics.

I was given the first two X Men films by son as a present and he said you will enjoy these Mum. So I thought good I will watch one tonight and then one the following night.
My son told me Patrick Stewart was in the film, and I knew he was a good stage and screen actor so I was really looking forward to it. Hum, I actually watch them back to back that night.

Well they were so different from other ‘action’ SF films I was thrilled with them. I love the idea of the mutants who could pass among the human world – and as ever there is good and evil on both sides and this lead to many confrontations, stnunts, action excitement etc.

Next astounding experience was Wolverine played by Hugh Jackman – I did rub my eyes I thought I was seeing things the first time and last time up to then I had only seen Hugh on the London Stage playing Curley in ‘Oklahoma’ to full houses all the time and standing ovations during the performances. He wasnominated the Lawrence Olivier Award for his performance.

The change was astounding and then he made the part of Wolverine not only his own but the most popular of the series. His acting is special, facial expressions and small details are in abundance and so graceful in movemnet and walks tall. The whole team of this series worked and bounced off each other and were extremely happy in production. A rare commodity nower days with so many prima donnas about [mostly men]

I think it is a great series and have enjoyed it very much in fact I had been in a bad accident just before X3 The Last Stand was released and I was unable to go and see it – I was in great pain and still am to a lesser degree but it is getting better. But two of my friends helped me to the cinema so I could see the film. I enjoyed it and it was only when the film had finished and I had been sitting still for quite some time did I realise I was in pain. I would not go through that for any other actor than Hugh Jackman a multi talented actor of our times whom I am sure will make his mark this year and next and may be there is that Oscar with his name on it.

I think Bill nailed it in one word – change.
The X-Men SHOULD be about change. Unfortunately, it’s also a serial, mainstream, longrunning comic book series, so that’s never going to happen.
As a result, what we’re left with is the ILLUSION of change. Characters die, only to be reborn. Characters leave, only to return. New characters show up, and never, ever leave.
Look at Morrison’s run. The second he was off it, Chris Claremont dedicated himself to undoing everything that Morrison had done… a complaint he made after being fired. “I worked on X-Men for 17 years, and 17 months later, they’ve undone everything I did.”
It took Claremont 30 days to undo Grant’s work.

So yeah. X-Men, as a comic, is pretty much doomed. Doomed to blunder about, mouthing the same empty platitudes about racism and civil rights, about Malcolm X and MLK, about love and loss and change and doing something good and making the world a better place, but in the end (as Hank McCoy would undoubtedly point out) “It’s a tale told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

I think Bill nailed exactly the problem with X-Men in his essay: Us.

I’m sorry, but we are the problem. We have officially Heard It All Before, and we demand that the writers do All-New Things with the characters. We want them to kill off Professor X, ditch the entire cast, change the status quo, kill off all the villains, and completely revamp things.

If that’s what we want, then why are we still reading freaking X-Books?

The fact of the matter is, every year, a whole new set of people gets into comic books for the very first time. (Or at least they should; I’ve stood on that soapbox before, so I won’t here.) Those people deserve to get stories with a setting, cast, and central concept that work. (Setting, cast, and central concept forming the “status quo” of the book, but “status quo” is a dirty word for a lot of comics fans, so we’ll stick with the longer definition.) But we, the older fans, have seen so many stories with the existing setting, cast, and central concept that we’re sick of them, we want something new…but yet, out of nostalgia, we want that new thing to still be X-Men. So we demand these changes, which destroy the central concept of the series.

One writer above suggested killing Xavier. Y’know what? There are a lot of stories you can tell about Xavier while he’s alive. It’s a substantially smaller number when he’s dead. :)

Eventually, there are stories you’re meant to outgrow. If X-Men books don’t interest you anymore, stop reading them. Leave them to someone who still finds them new, fresh, and interesting. But don’t break the damn things trying to get one last fix out of them. Don’t assume that any big change is a good change (Morrison’s a great writer, but his editor should have told him, “No, you can’t kill Magneto; if you do, the next guy to write the book is just going to bring him back, and it’s going to sound stupid when he does it.”) Sometimes these stories just aren’t for you. Deal with it. :)

I was under the impression that Cyclops couldn’t control his powers because of the psychological trauma of the plane crash. Much like Rogue can’t control her powers because on an unconscious level she doesn’t *want* to be touched by anybody, Cyclops can’t stop his eyeblasts because on an unconscious level he *wants* to keep his eyes clamped shut all the time (so he doesn’t have to see what happened to his family, etc).

Bill sums up (sometimes in ways I’ve been unable to express myself) why I’ve never really cared much for the X-Men, even in their glory days. Oddly or not, the only incarnation of the X-Men I’ve ever *really* cared about is the first two X-Men movies (haven’t seen the third yet.)

You want X-Men to change when that is the antithesis of every American superhero comic. It’s like asking that the Pope be an atheist.

Great article. I agree that civil rights angle should be what the X-books are all about. It never really made sense to me that they existed in the Marvel Universe proper: Captain America is ok to have powers, but not somebody born that way? Much more effective if mutants were the only ones around with strange powers.

What did you think of X-Statix? I thought it was a great spin on the civil-rights angle. Whereas older X-books were more of a race metaphor, more modern takes (especially thanks to Singer’s X-movies) seem to be going more for the sexuality metaphor. I thought X-Statix hit the minority-as-celebrity angle, in addition to being darn fine storytelling.

Dan Larkin has hit the nail on its head: the X-Men’s central premise DOES NOT WORK in a shared superhero universe. I mean, seriously: we’re supposed to accept that the general MU population despises mutants but reserves hero-worship for regular superhumans? WHY AND HOW DO THEY MAKE THAT DISTINCTION?

I mean… it’s supposedly the same “universe”, but in the Fantastic Four’s book Ben Grimm is nicknamed “the idol of millions” and Human Torch has his own fan-club, while in the X-books Jean Grey and Angel are treated as “freaks”? What the–?!? Where’s the difference? Is it because one is “mutant” and the other is “human”? Heh, show a picture of the Thing and one of the Scarlet Witch to ANYone and ask them which of those characters is human. Why is the hot babe called a “freak” and the other is a hero? Is it just because she calls herself a “mutant”, and he doesn’t? In that case, you’d have to be truly retarded to EVER announce yourself as a mutant in the Marvel Universe.

If non-mutant superheroes become idols but mutant superheroes become pariahs, why would any/i> mutant youngster admit that he’s a mutant? Far better to just say that he was bitten by a radioactive hamster, or that space aliens gave him his powers. Admitting that you’re a mutant in the Marvel Universe is just about the dumbest thing anyone could do. “A mutant, me?? Nah, I got my powers from… a magical amulet! Yeah, that’s the ticket, it’s all magic.” And if someone stole his amulet to steal his powers, our theorethical mutant could explain that his magical amulet only works on himself. Why admit that you’re a mutant, if that would make you an instant pariah?

Argh, I messed up with the italics tag. Sorry ’bout that.

Wow, that was an interesting read. Not just the article but the comments too.
I’m a long time x-fan but I hadn’t taken an interest for a while, and stumbled across this because I’m doing a school project on literature about discrimination and chose x-men. I only buy second hand comics nowadays, mainly because nothing fresh happens in the new comics.
However, despite this, I don’t think that there should
be drastic change in the world of X-men.
If xavier’s team made a drastic advance in acheiving xavier’s dream, then there’d be less comics to be had, and if they ever reached their goal there’d be no point in the comics. There has to be that constant conflict. Also, no one would ever rotate the cast around ever few years, remove the staple characters. These guys- cyclops, storm, jean grey, beast, rogue, gambit, nightcrawler, and so on- they ARE the x-men. It’s not just a concept, it’s about characters. No one will want to read a book full of unfamiliar characters just because it has loosely the same theme.
I agree that the x-comics need to be more focused on the original issue, civil rights and evolution etc. Apart from shi’ar and stuff, I think theyve done an alright job over time. With Genosha and all that sort of stuff, like Sentinels, and the movies sort of helped revive the original ideas. It can’t just revolve around the core concept because it would seem like some sort of bland political thing after a while; we need weird colours and explosions and all sorts of different stories. With the “illusion of change” and the idea that eventually it all ties back into the central theme, the writers should be given some creative licence over what happens.
Anyway, I agree with whoever a while back said that if you’re bored with x-men and want a complete reinvention of the x-world, characters and all, read something else, because there’ll always be new readers coming along and experiencing this for the first time, so for an ongoing series, it has to go around in circles alot. Doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining and meaningful at the same time, if done well.

Eurgh, why so much italics?

i am omegA

Marianne Farleybaconcheeseburgercombo

October 10, 2009 at 10:31 am

You know reading this article over a year later the problems are as worse as ever. Just with new faces behind. Hack Fraction (does that ring a bell CBR staff) and Greg “Swipe File” Land. Also editor Axl “Don’t Call Me Rose’ Alonso insists on resurrecting titles and drawing out the Messiah baby epic to 3 freaking years. What a lunatic.

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