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Everybody’s Somebody’s Baby – Day Five

Here’s the latest run that did not make the Top 158 runs!

Remember, feel free to send me more essays about these runs! You send ‘em, I’ll run ‘em! I think I only have one more left (maybe two – I forget), so if you want to see more of these, send them in! No ‘Mazing Man fans out there?

Otherwise, enjoy!

Louise Simonson’s X-Factor – 30 points (2 first place votes)

X-Factor #6-46, 48-54, 56-64, plus two Annuals

Louise Simonson took over X-Factor from Bob Layton, and soon changed the book to be more of a “teaching young mutants” book, but in her first issue, Simonson introduced Apocalypse!

Simonson’s husband, Walter Simonson, joined her on the book for an extended run with her as writer and him as artist.

Some amazing artwork by Walt Simonson in this period.

This was also the time when Simonson had Angel become Archangel.

Soon, Simonson had Beast revert back to his blue, furry self!

For the rest of her run, a big part of it was Cyclops and Jean Grey growing closer, while Iceman, Archangel and Beast also developed romances.

Simonson’s tenure on the book ended soon after Whilce Portacio took over – I forget if she was pushed off or not.

Here’s reader Elijah on why this X-Factor run was tops on his list!

I’ve always been an X-Men fan, and yet I’ve come to realize that when I think back on what I consider to be “The X-Men” of the mid-to-late 80′s, the first thing to pop into my mind is the original five as drawn by Walter Simonson. His way of drawing Cyclops particularly, will always be my default version of the character. I certainly do enjoy the Claremont-written Uncanny books of the time, but that X-Factor run is so perfect, beyond the nice symmetry of being done by a husband and wife team.

In his X-Factor Storytelling Engine, John Seavey explained one of the major elements that made the writing so good–namely, a willingness to deal with all of the GAPING HOLES IN LOGIC that were left by the book’s first, short-lived, creative team–but even more incredible than Louise Simonson’s willingness to tackle these problems, was the real emotional resonance with which she did it. She managed to turn Cyclop’s abandonment of wife and child into something that actually made me feel immensely for the character, whereas the original act had just made him just look like a massive, massive (massive) tool.

Also, Louise Simonson’s (rather protracted) way of giving Beast back his fur got to the point of almost painfully drawn out, until rewarding us at just the right time with what might be my favorite moment (and single panel) ever, in issue 33. (Think: “sh*t-eating grin.”)

Combine all of this pathos with the superhero team actually training mutant kids, (something the X-Men seemed to have outgrown at the time) having good ol’ fashioned fights with super-villains, (including completely uninteresting early baddie Apocalypse, whom she entirely retooled) and Walt Simonson in all of his angular, Thor-era glory and you’ve got a classic yarn on your hands.

Oh, and Cyclops freaking punctures the Blob just to prove a point.

Incredible.

Thanks, Elijah!

Okay, that’s it until next week! See you then!

20 Comments

Choirsoftheeye

May 23, 2008 at 8:47 pm

This was a pretty cool run. I don’t think it would make a even a top 50 list from me, but it was thoroughly enjoyable, and a much better take on the characters than their 60s versions.

I’ve really gotta track down all the Simonson & Simonson issues.

Walt Simonson’s art WAS really great on this book. I might have to dig these out soon.

Ahhh…one of my earliest comic books..X-Factor #5..Im still crushed they killed Rusty later on in X-men..I grew up with Rusty and Skids

Bernard the Poet

May 24, 2008 at 1:45 pm

I’m glad someone is giving Louise Simonson a little credit, because this was a really tough assignment.

I always felt that the notion to bring back the original X-Men was a deeply flawed one. The original comic had folded for a reason and that was because the actual core team were pretty boring (the Beast became a great character once he joined the Avengers and formed his double act with Wonderman, but he has never shown that sparkle before or since). This was compounded by Chris Claremont strip-mining the earlier run of its best characters – Professor X, Magneto, Jugglenaut and the Sentinels – and clearly having no intention of giving them back. The-powers-that-be did make Claremont hand over Cyclops, but he retailiated by bringing Cyclops’s wife and child into the X-Men, just so we didn’t forget what a deadbeat dad he was.

If the X-Factor did have a story to tell it was the return of Jean Grey, but the story we wanted to see was how the X-Men reacted to her resurrection and that didn’t happen for years. Instead we had the completely artificial situation, whereby the X-Men thought that X-Factor were really mutant hunters and the X-Factor thought that the X-Men were members of the Hellfire Club. And NO-ONE PICKED UP A PHONE AND ASKED. I mean, how many X-Men enemies have mind-control powers anyway – Mesmero, White Queen, Dark Phoenix, and that’s just off the top of my head. What an insult to every reader’s intelligence.

So let me repeat, under the circumstances, Louise Simonson deserves a lot of credit for producing even half-way decent comics.

How did Beast become non-furry again to begin with? And what changed him back? I wasn’t reading X-books at the time and had no idea he’d gone back & forth.

Bernard the Poet

May 24, 2008 at 11:19 pm

In issues 2 and 3, a mad professor captures Beast and makes him non-furry. At the time I thought it was so that the team look more like their X-Men prime. Their costumes were very retro too.

But there were practical considerations too. As John Seavey pointed out in his Story-Telling Engine essay for X-Factor; it was a lot easier for them to pretend to be mutant hunters, if one of them wasn’t a blue gorilla.

Interesting post, Bernard. It did seem artificial, especially even after Wolverine caught Jean’s scent – TWICE – we still had to wait until Inferno to see the 2 teams meet up.

As for the issue of Cylcops, wasn’t he being written out of Uncanny anyway? I do think the criticism of Claremont retaliating was a bit harsh, Scott as a character deserved whatever he got for dumping his wife and kid (in my opinion, anyway) in such a quick, thoughtless way. It wasn’t until Claremont brought back Maddie into the title with the whole Marauders faking her death story that we saw Scott dealing with the issue. All moot anyway, since they ended up turning Maddie into a batshit psycho who would be willing to kill her own kid just to absolve Scott of being a deadbeat and Jean of being a homewrecker…but I digress.

My only real complaint with this series, as with the original X-men, was that the line-up was kept static. Caliban joined them for a few issues, and they trained Rusty, Skids, etc, for a while. But it wouldn’t been nice to see a couple more members added full time. I realize the hook of the series was that it was the Original 5 back together, but after a couple of years, it got a bit boring. But it’s a minor point, not a major one. And Walt Simonson did give the book his usual, dynamic, awesome artwork. He def drew the best Archangel, if you ask me.

I really liked this run at the time. Great fun :)

I do think the criticism of Claremont retaliating was a bit harsh, Scott as a character deserved whatever he got for dumping his wife and kid (in my opinion, anyway) in such a quick, thoughtless way.

Just to make things clear – characters don’t do anything their writers don’t want them to do. Bob Layton was the guy who decided that Scott would just dump his family at a moment’s notice when his dead girlfriend turned up alive. Chris Claremont was the guy who decided that Scott was so obsessed with Jean that the first woman he fell in love with after she died was a woman who looked exactly like her. Scott’s obsession with Jean was created by the writers – so I tend to blame Claremont for making Scott so creepy and Layton for his hack writing that made him into a terrible husband/father. The only thing that Scott “deserved” was a resolution of the “Scott is obsessed with Jean” arc one way or another. And it took a couple decades before anyone finally put to paper what an unhealthy relationship Scott and Jean actually had and let Scott move on and stop acting like a creepy-stalker-weirdo-obsessive about her (even if it did involve killing Jean yet again – sigh).

spoon_jenkins

May 25, 2008 at 5:22 pm

I voted for X-Factor. I think it’s unfortunate that dissatisfaction with resurrecting Jean Grey or Scott leaving his family or Claremont not getting the job overshadows how the series developed. Louise Simonson made a vast improvement. This is the true great period for the original five X-Men.

Louise Simonson did a great job at characterization. She managed to draw upon the X-book milieu but give the book its own feel. My vote was cast for Louise Simonson’s X-Factor rather than just Simonson/Simonson, but she did a lot of great stuff when her husband wasn’t on the book. So many superhero team books tend to get into a sort of “incestuous” situation where the superheroes are just romantically involved with other superheroes. Weezie did something great by pairing up members of the team with non-superpowered love interests. It was the dream of integration that X-Men drifted away from.

The Judgment War arc was very cool because it was so original. Simonson was using her own setting rather than drawing on pre-established aliens.

Simonson’s X-Factor is also my favorite run for Jean Grey. I think did more difficult yet more interesting work with Jean Grey by developing her as a mortal woman than a lot of writers do by going back to tap the well of the Phoenix yet again.

Yeah, Louise Simonson was dealt a bad hand, but she did the best she could. I remember that it took me a while to get used to non-Claremont mutant stories, but those X-Factor tales slowly grew on me.

It would soon become standard procedure, but back in 1987, it wasn’t as common to have a long-standing hero becoming “darker” and more powerful, and the extended storyline of Angel losing his wings and becoming Archangel was sorta cool.

I even like the Celestials storyline. I mean, X-characters in a cosmic adventure that had nothing to do with the Shiar Empire is a true novelty. Probably a bit goofy by today’s standards, though.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

May 25, 2008 at 6:58 pm

Man McFarlane must’ve redrawn the hell out of that Liefield cover – looks nothing like his usual work.

Bernard the Poet

May 26, 2008 at 7:10 am

“As for the issue of Cyclops, wasn’t he being written out of Uncanny anyway? I do think the criticism of Claremont retaliating was a bit harsh”

I didn’t mean it to sound harsh, and I don’t have any insider knowledge about Claremont’s motivation. It was just supposition based on the stories that came out at that time. Prior to X-Factor, Claremont had spent a lot of time building up Rachel Summers and slowing revealing that she was Cyclops and Phoenix’s child. He finally had them meet in the Alpha Flight/X-Men mini-series – they shared a touching scene – but Cyclops was still unaware that they were related. I would assume that Claremont, being Claremont, was planning to milk the story for as much pathos as possible

But then, out of the blue, Cyclops loses a sparring competition to Storm and is kicked out of the team, and then six issues later- just as out of the blue – Rachel is gutted by Wolverine and disappears from X-Men comics for years to come.

It certainly seemed to me, that these stories were imposed on Claremont by Marvel.

Well, I’m not sure if it was his choice or Marvel’s, since it seemed like the team itself was being reshuffled as a whole. Remember, just a few issues later, Nightcrawler and Shadowcat were also written out, as was Colossus, although in his case, it was briefly. And he ended up using the 3 of them again a year or so later for Excaliber.

Hmm, does anyone have any information regarding that period? It seems as if Marvel wanted to expand the franchise at that point, and I wonder if that was imposed on Claremont – we need Cyclops for a new book, and can u spare 3 or 4 X-men for a title set in Europe?

Matthew Johnson

May 27, 2008 at 6:20 am

Brian, if nobody’s written an essay for Zot! yet let me know and i’ll do one. I’d hate to see it go unremembered (especially with the trade coming out this summer.)

Matthew

You know, I completely overlooked this run when voting, but thinking back on it now, I certainly have enough fond nostalgia of it that I should have considered it. After all, at the same time I was snatching up the Claremont/JRjr back issues I as devouring (and loving) this stuff.

The whole Angel/Suicide/Apocalypse arc was great (even if Archangel later became a parody and the “darkened hero” bit was beat to death), Beast slowly losing his intelligence was heartbreaking and made his triumphant return to blue form all the more exciting, the Judgment War arc was original and heck of a lot of fun (I’d buy a trade of that) and the work she did with the supporting cast (both the trainees and the non-mutant romantic interests) was excellent and very Claremontian (in a good way).

I think I’m going to have to pull some of these out and read them again…

The thing that I remember about this run, other than the great Judgement War arc, was that it “souped up” the other three members of the team. Angel, Iceman, and Beast all had their powers increased in such a way that it no longer felt to me that Cyclops and Jean were carrying the others.

And, not only were their powers increased, but their presence in the book was also slowly increased. The three finally, after all those years and different teams, became A-list characters instead of supporting.

Theno

Yeah, this book really helped shore up the concept of the original X-Men, to the point that afterwards, when I’d go back and read the pre-Claremont stories, the somewhat lackluster original team was strengthened because it was now informed by the work Simonson did with them in X-Factor

I agree whole-heartedly with this review.

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