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Foggy Ruins of Time – Do Real X-Men Eat Quiche?

This is the latest in a series giving you the cultural context behind certain comic book characters/behaviors. You know, the sort of then-topical references that have faded into the “foggy ruins of time.” To wit, twenty years from now, a college senior watching episodes of Seinfeld will likely miss a lot of the then-topical pop culture humor (like the very specific references in “The Understudy” to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal). Here is an archive of all the Foggy Ruins of Time installments so far.

Today we take a look at a sly reference in an issue of Uncanny X-Men to then then popular book, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche.

In 1982, humorist Bruce Feirstein released the book Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche.

The book was a satire of the notion that there is some defined quality that makes men “real men.” It was extremely popular, staying on the New York Times Best Seller list for over a YEAR!

In 1983’s Uncanny X-Men #171 by Chris Claremont, Walter Simonson and Bob Wiacek, Colossus is preparing an interesting meal…

This scene is practically the epitome of “Foggy Ruins of Time,” in the sense that a modern reader reads this scene and thinks, “Okay, Colossus is making a quiche. Gotcha. Moving on.” At the time, though, it was definitely a reference by Claremont to the then extremely popular best-selling book.

There was another Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche reference a few issues earlier, in Uncanny X-Men #168 (by Claremont, Paul Smith and Wiacek), where Kitty’s room includes a poster gently teasing Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstadt’s Legion of Super-Heroes, which was at the time a major rival to the X-Men in terms of popularity…

That’s it for this edition! If YOU have a suggestion for a future edition of Foggy Ruins of Time, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

43 Comments

Well, how ’bout that. Even reading that second panel just now, I didn’t realize it said “The Legion.” Oh, I still took it as a reference to the book, but I thought it was a counterpoint to it, with the “the” just being a thumb tack or something and “Legion” being…”Logan.” Yes…I thought it was “Logan eats quiche.”

You’re not the only one!

I think Todd McFarlane drew the Kitty panel…

Nope, definitely Paul Smith on art duties. Let’s not assume McFarlance was the only artist that watched Felix the Cat. The cartoon’s been around since at least the 1920’s.

You got to love quickly dated material!

When I was a little kid I couldn’t get enough of Felix and his bag of tricks. What a cartoon.

Also, I never ate quiche.

And I miss the glory days when The Legion of Super-Heroes and the (REAL) Teen Titans rivaled The Uncanny X-Men in popularity! Few would believe that now.

Also, I never ate quiche.

You should; it’s basically a fully-loaded omelette plus delicious pie crust.

“That’s the trouble with being a genius.”

And that’s why I couldn’t stand Kitty Pryde. Well, one of many reasons. She was the first of Claremont’s many Mary Sues.

Well, these references went right over my head when I read these comics. ’87 birth here. I should probably track that book down some day. I can always appreciate the deconstruction of traditional gender roles.

Also, Kitty has every right to be conceited about her genius level intellect. It helped out the team almost as many times as her lack of experience got them into trouble in the first place.

“…it’s basically a fully-loaded omelette plus delicious pie crust.”

Exactly – and what’s not to love about that? Quiche is awesome.

Real rat creatures don’t eat quiche either.

I actually owned a copy of Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, along with its sequels, Nice Guys Sleep Alone and Real Men Don’t Bond. Don’t think I have them anymore, though.

God bless Claremont.

The Kitty Pryde as a genius bit was in a throw in. Claremont felt the team needed a resident egghead and since she was fairly unestablished, he made Kitty it. I believe Byrne disagreed with the move, feeling she worked better as just an average teen, but he left shortly after that.

if real men don’t eat quiche, i’m happy not being one.

Are we humans?
Or are we dancers?

@”kdu2814″ What I assumed was that anyone who got the reference would be bright enough to realize I was making a joke.
I will also assume that posting under my screen name was an accident, and not your version of Poohdickery.

@chakal
Are you at work? That song plays on the music service used at my job.

There was also a quiche joke in an ad for the Popeye video game that appeared around that time.

See, this is one of those scenes that shows why Colossus is my favorite X-Man. In his downtime he’s a gentle giant interested in gentle things like painting, gardening, and cooking. He doesn’t have the disposition of a soldier, or even a swashbuckling hero like Nightcrawler or an energetic super-genius like Kitty or Beast. He’d rather use his strength as a plowshare than a sword.

This creates a tough contrast with his role as the team strongman, and forces him to be incredibly careful. And when you piss him off, he will absolutely fucking end you. Just ask Proteus, Riptide, or Ord.

In his downtime he’s a gentle giant interested in gentle things….[but] when you piss him off, he will absolutely fucking end you. Just ask Proteus, Riptide, or Ord.

Sounds rather like most of Jimmy Stewart’s Western characters.

Stupid stupid rat creatures

@ Omar Karindu I should probably start seeking out those Jimmy Stewart Western movies, then. Where would I start?

And on my website, I’ve even gone into length about how one of Ruby’s influences is Colossus…http://www.therubynation.com/comics/1879676/crimson-haired-colossus/

I’ve never been able to eat quiche, or any omelets other plain for that matter. I like eggs and I like cheese, but something about them together just activates my gag reflex.

Other THAN plain, I meant.

I had that book when I was a kid. Never stopped me from eating quiche, though.

Since I got 90% of my “political” and cultural knowledge of the ’80s from Bloom County and Doonesbury, I assume one or both of them also made reference to the book, since I know about it.

Why was quiche such a big thing in the late ’70s/early ’80s that caused the book to associate real men with not eating it?

Oh yeahhh, I think there may have been a Steve Dallas thing about that, now that you mention it.

@ Nitz: The Western with Stewart that best fits the story model you describe is Firecreek or The Man from Laramie, but the place to start is probably either Shenandoah (which is more a Civil War story than a Western) or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. They aren’t exactly the “gentle man pushed into using his skill for violence” plot, but they’re about that sort of plot and characterization. Bear in mind that these are unreconstructed, pre-Speghetti Westerns for the most part. In general, Stewart tends to play his heroes as reluctant masters of violence, men who can kill with ease but don’t like doing it.

Destry Rides Again I think fits the “Reluctant master of violence” category.

Travis, I always figured the writer just picked quiche as a convenient hook. It was definitely the stereotypically manly meat-and-potatoes diet, and it also wasn’t as mainstream as, say, spaghetti, so it made a convenient symbol of nonmanliness.

Also, quiche was a) French, which had already become a synonym for effeminate in parts of American popular culture by then; and b) was associated mainly with Yuppies as opposed to blue-collar types.

And yeah, most of Stewart’s Westerns with Anthony Mann would fit, wouldn’t they?

Stewart’s character in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance didn’t really fit this archetype. He wasn’t skilled or adept at violence in that movie. He was a lawyer who couldn’t shoot, though he was brave enough.

But yeah, lots of movies by Anthony Mann would fit this.

I include that film more as a deconstruction. He gets the reputation of such a man, but really isn’t one.

Well, plus it’s a well-regarded film.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but didn’t “Shane” fit that mold too? If I remember correctly, he was a person who WAS a master of violence but now wanted to be a gentle man and leave the violence behind but it kept following him. Kind of like if 80s Wolverine saw the error of his ways and tried to live his life like 80s Colossus.

Yeah, Shane is perhaps the ultimate example, though I rather like Roger Ebert’s admittedly contrarian take on it, in which he argued that you can read Shane as a guy who’s halfway courting the violence. He can’t leave behind his own instincts for it, and so he acts in ways that eventually do force a vengeful showdown.

It really seems to be a Western trope in general, though, part of the whole “myth of redemptive violence” idea that’s core to that genre. The initial reluctance of the heroic gunslinger to use his skills and wipe out the villains is part of what “proves” that his use of violence is righteous and restorative of order, unlike theirs. It’s sort of the opposite of Orwell’s “rough men” who do the dirty jobs so everyone else can live peaceably and gently; the reluctant gunslinger type and, more broadly, the innately gentle man who’s mastered violence are meant to show that the civilized can return to civility from barbarism. And of course that they’re better at it than the uncivilized, the outlaws or the “savages” who may be killed because they’re defined as intrinsically hostile to all others.

Or maybe sometimes a Winchester rifle is just a rifle, after all.

Omar, great article. Interestingly, much of Ebert’s take can be applied to many superheroes as well. The last three paragraphs applies to a lot of old Hulk stories as well. Or any superhero who cultivates a secret daily identity involving conspicuous weakness, like pre-Crisis Superman.

One thing that struck me the first time I saw Destry is that it’s clearly setting up for Stewart to settle things by the way of the gun, but then the ending doesn’t go anything like expected (I’m avoiding spoilers).

Well, roughly speaking, leftists defend that violence is never justified, while right-wingers defend the use of violence as long as you didn’t start it (yes, I know that when it comes to enacting social change, sometimes these positions reverse themselves, with right-wingers demonizing anyone who uses violence for it and leftists trying to defend it).

In any case, that is why classic, more conservative westerns had a righteous guy “forced” into violence to defend himself and others, while more left-inclined later westerns would end up casting the violent hero more and more as an anti-hero. And that is why leftists like Ebert are more likely to find that Shane was subconsciously provocking the violence.

I’m not saying Ebert was wrong, by the way. It’s a fascinating take on the movie. Well, the one thing I find him wrong is in saying that “High Noon” has grown dated!

Chaim Mattis Keller

February 17, 2014 at 7:58 am

Thanks to Jeff Smith’s “Bone”, a whole new generation of comic-book readers got introduced to quiche, albeit not by men, real or otherwise.

Well, roughly speaking, leftists defend that violence is never justified, while right-wingers defend the use of violence as long as you didn’t start it (yes, I know that when it comes to enacting social change, sometimes these positions reverse themselves, with right-wingers demonizing anyone who uses violence for it and leftists trying to defend it).

I’d argue that the reversibility you note suggests that the “leftists” and “right-wingers” we’re talking about are more like the conservative and progressive flavors of liberal consensus, which is where the selective and situational legitimation of violence takes place. Rightist and Leftist though writ large have almost always taken violence as simply one way politics happens, a structural or foundational element. (I use liberal in the broad, Enlightenment sense, not the popular American sense.) Because there’s plenty of Left politics, historically, that’s quite openly amenable to violence as a means from the start.

And really, that’s what the Western — both pre- and post-Spaghettification — is about how to liberalize. In more deconstructive Westerns, the difference is often that the virtues of toleration and so forth are simply relocated to that “elsewhere.”

In any case, that is why classic, more conservative westerns had a righteous guy “forced” into violence to defend himself and others, while more left-inclined later westerns would end up casting the violent hero more and more as an anti-hero. And that is why leftists like Ebert are more likely to find that Shane was subconsciously provocking the violence.

I think it’s more that the classic Western doesn’t really look at social structures or even deep psychological explanations in the first place. The situation of the righteous hero is just sort of assumed and not questioned. But I don’t think that sort of questioning of existing assumptions is exclusively the province of the left at all.

For example, is Unforgiven, by noted conservative-libertarian Clint Eastwood, really a “left-inclined” western? Or is it a right-leaning version of the tragedy of violence?

I’m not saying Ebert was wrong, by the way. It’s a fascinating take on the movie. Well, the one thing I find him wrong is in saying that “High Noon” has grown dated!

Yeah, I don’t necessarily agree with him there either.

To clarify, the classic Western is to some extent about figuring out and enforcing the distinction between illegitimate violence and legitimate violence so that the latter may be used to prevent or respond to the former. The modern Western is to the same extent typically about the tragic persistence of violence. Neither position is inherently “left” or “right.”

Omar,

Since the 1960s, pacifism has entered the leftist Westerner worldview in a big way. Before the 1960s, that wasn’t really the case. Perhaps I should say “selective” pacifism, as some leftists that are horrified if someone tries to violently attack common criminals, would still respond sympatheticaly to violent attempts to strike against authority.

Heh, I can’t believe that I’m more or less agreeing with some modern conservatives in that I don’t think of Eastwood as a “conservative-libertarian”. At least when it comes to his depiction of violence, Eastwood seems more like your run-of-the-mill moderate liberal (in the American sense). “The tragic persistence of violence” is a typically liberal theme (still using “liberal” in the modern American sense). Stereotypical conservatives are more likely to cheer when some bad guy is blown to kingdom come, nothing tragical about it.

“Unforgiven” is, in my view, a liberal deconstruction of the conservative “Dirty Harry”. Even though the first Dirty Harry isn’t as messianic and gang-ho as some later vigilante movies. Actually, an even more blatant liberal deconstruction of Dirty Harry may be something like David Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence.”

Rene, I think that was part of what Omar was saying, that Eastwood’s attitude to violence in his films may not necessarily jibe with his real-world politics. His film’s depiction of violence could be argued to be “liberal”, but in real life he is openly conservative, having even famously spoken at the Republican National Convention.

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