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Things That Turned Out Bad – Mutants Can’t Get AIDS

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In this column, I will spotlight plotlines by writers that probably weren’t a good idea at the time and have only become more problematic in retrospect. I’ll try to stick with stuff that’s more ill-conceived than flat-out offensive (like racist stereotypes of characters during the 1940s).

Today we look at a rather odd revelation in the pages of Uncanny X-Men regarding mutants and, well, AIDS, of all things…

So in 2003′s Uncanny X-Men #423, a bunch of mutant were crucified on the X-Men’s front lawn (how bad guys were able to set up all of those crosses on the X-Men’s lawn without anyone noticing is beyond me). Angel managed to save a few of the dying mutants through the use of his blood, which he had recently discovered had powerful healing properties.

So in #427 (written by Chuck Austen and drawn by fill-in artist Steve Kim and a number of inkers), Husk and Jubilee are at the grave of their friend, Skin, who was one of the mutants who died in #423. While they mourn their friend, they are shocked to learn that he is apparently not allowed to buried there…

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Meanwhile, Angel goes to a local hospital and offers up some help to the doctors there while Jubilee and Husk deal with the situation at the cemetery…

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And then…the scene. Angel is at the hospital when we learn something rather surprising about mutants…

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Yes, let that sink in there. Mutants can’t get AIDS. Mutants cannot get AIDS. I don’t know for sure whether Chuck Austen came up with that idea or whether editorial told him to put it into the comic, but either way, someone had the idea and then someone else approved the idea that it was somehow a good idea to establish that mutants can’t get AIDS.

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The big twist in the issue is that the manager of the cemetery, who won’t let a mutant be buried in the cemetery, later discovers that his kid has been healed via Angel’s blood. Austen dropped some dramatic irony on your brains.

Sooo…yeah, that was a bad idea.

If you can think of a good example for this column, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com.

97 Comments

Those Austen comics were so bad, I had reading them for free, and I still stopped reading after a few issues.

And what was going on with Angel’s wings in his first panel in the hospital? Was someone trying to pull a Batman’s cape aesthetic? They look normal in every other panel.

Ah yes, this issue. The comic that famously devotes half of its plot to the burial of a character whose name the author got wrong.

Although, to be fair, you could probably grab any random issue of Chuck Austen’s entire mainstream comics career and get fodder for this column.

Hehe, yeah, that’s why I just refer to him as “Skin” in the column, so as to skim over that other issue. ;)

Yeah. Angelo Torres, Angelo Espinoza…what’s the difference, right? Jesus. So awful.

Unforgivable by Austen in part just because it’s one of so many mistakes and so much truly horrendous work over time (all the time), but I have to say, the last name so should have been caught by the editor. Then again, editorial was clearly asleep at the wheel given the whole matter of fact aids thing, so not surprising that they missed name mistakes.

The doctor is going to take his blood sample with a SCALPEL?

“Nurse, get me a knife, a bucket, and some cotton swabs. I’m going to do MEDICINE!”

I think this (Name) would be a little more on the Editor than the writer. While awful issues and definitely forgetable, I must have wiped my memory of Mutants cant get Aids and the follow-up “True Mutants” from the doctor.

The doctor didn’t say “True Mutants,” he said “True, mutants…” It’s an introductory clause, not a modifier.

The rest of these pages were so terrible, let’s not get confused on one thing that isn’t awful…

When I read “Angelo Torres” I didn’t notice it until someone brought it up because it’s familiar to me. Angelo Torres was an artist who worked for EC, and later did work for Creepy, Eerie, and Mad Magazines.

As soon as I saw the subject line “Things That Turned Out Bad – Mutants Can’t Get AIDS” my first reaction was “We’re going to be talking about a Chuck Austen comic book, aren’t we?” :)

And, of course, in addition to saying something really stupid about AIDS, Austen also managed to get yet another dig in at organized religion, via the whole cemetary controversy thing… which might have worked out slightly better if he had bothered to get Skin’s last name correct. Torres, Espinosa, whatever… they’re both Hispanic names, who’ll notice the difference! :)

(That’s sarcasm, by the way.)

Between “mutants can’t get AIDS” and “one Hispanic name is as good as another,” this issue reminds me of Don Markstein’s comment about DC’s aborted Black Bomber series: “an insult to practically everybody with any point of view at all.”

I can’t imagine why anyone would want to manage a dig at organized religion.

Maybe the writer had had some experience with it.

Yes, let that sink in there. Mutants can’t get AIDS. Mutants cannot get AIDS. I don’t know for sure whether Chuck Austen came up with that idea or whether editorial told him to put it into the comic, but either way, someone had the idea and then someone else approved the idea that it was somehow a good idea to establish that mutants can’t get AIDS.

My guess for the reasoning behind this: since the Legacy virus was meant to be the mutant version of AIDS, a type of AIDS that only mutants can get and humans can’t, the creators decided to have it work in reverse and say that mutants can’t get human AIDS, for the sake of symmetry. Not that that excuses the idea, it’s still dumb.

Who coloured this issue? It looks like JD Smith.

veganwithayoyo

May 22, 2014 at 10:25 am

My first thought was “this must have been an 80′s book that was trying to be relevent and failed.” We’ve all seen New Guardians and the like, which were trying to grab things from the headlines and ignorantly writing them into stories that were kinda-bad then and horrible now. That this incident happened in a book that was published in 2003 is a real shame.

I’m just wondering why Austen made this choice. Why was this important to state? Is it to distance mutants further from the concerns of humans? It just doesn’t seem to have a point. Also, what explanation would there be for mutants to be immune to HIV? It’s also troubling that the doctor is testing for AIDS, and not HIV.

The best part is that it is such a non-sequitur. It is as though Warren Worhtington just drops that factoid into every medical conversation that he is involved in.

Rogue: “Sugah, do you have any Advil? Meh head is killin’ me.”
Angel: “Mutants can’t get AIDS.”

One thing that stands out to me in the Austen X-Men run is that issue where Husk admitted a “secret” in her internal monologue: that when she shed her skin, her clothes were destroyed in the process and she was left naked, which is what happened in the scene in question. Even though previous and subsequent issues clearly showed her shedding skin without losing her clothes. I’m not surprised that a comics writer would try to portray a female character’s power in a sexualizing way, but I am surprised that he’d be so cursory about it.

Dang, those grave diggers were about as insensitive as you can get. Please tell me one of the girls meesed them over before the end of the story.

“And, well… some of the other tenants have complained, you know?”

What, the dead people in the graveyard are upset that a mutant got buried next to them?!?

Yeah, yeah, I know, Austen meant that the FAMILIES of the people buried there were the ones complaining. But the way he scripts it makes it sound like the cemerery’s management is receiving letters of protest from beyond the afterlife, or something.

It feels like Austen was trying to make those two guys who were supposed to dig up Skin’s coffin come across as humorous by having them be so freaking laid-back & cusual about the whole thing. But, like so much else in this story, he failed, and the sequence just falls flat on its face.

Chuck Austen got his job at Marvel because of his work in TV. The only (noteworthy) comics he had done prior to that were porn (seriously). There’s this incredible article on Comics Alliance that covers Chuck Austen’s career.

http://comicsalliance.com/ask-chris-89-the-rise-and-fall-of-chuck-austen/

@Ben Herman & Michael P –

The last name was the name of an old EC Comics illustrator. I don’t know why Austen thought it was wise to homage the guy by deliberately flubbing a character’s name, but Austen never made any sense, so…

@T. –

That actually makes sense.

@Eric –

Maybe they were going for the whole “mutants are more evolved than humans” thing and thought immunity to “human diseases” should be part of that.

Or — here’s a thought — MAYBE CHUCK AUSTEN IS JUST AN OBJECTIVELY UNTALENTED WRITER.

A good prose could be that AIDS had not yet manifested itself or adapted to the mutant genome.

I vaguely recall an interview at the time where Austen claimed that he didn’t invent the “mutants can’t get AIDS”, it was something that he found in another comic (maybe around the Legacy virus era) and was just continuing it… which is itself a bad enough idea to merit ridicule, of course. And even if he was honest when he made the claim, given how sloppy he was with Skin’s name, it could easily be that he misremembered or misinterpreted something and that a comic never actually said that, he just thought it did.

Tracer Bullet

May 22, 2014 at 11:29 am

I don’t think it’s a terrible idea. It’s sort of irrelevant and I’m sure it never comes up again, but the idea that mutants might be immune to some human diseases is perfectly reasonable. But that art. GEEEEEZ.

What about Rogue? Doesn’t she take everything she touches? Wouldn’t she be vulnerable to HIV, alongside a whole host of other diseases.

The best part is that it is such a non-sequitur. It is as though Warren Worhtington just drops that factoid into every medical conversation that he is involved in.

Rogue: “Sugah, do you have any Advil? Meh head is killin’ me.”
Angel: “Mutants can’t get AIDS.”

It’s also his default pick-up line.

I was not at all surprised to read that this was written by Chuck Austen.

What the hell is happening with Angel’s wings on that page where he’s entering the hospital?

Ben yes, I wondered if we were dealing with some kind of supernatural issue (“The dead speak to me. They hate muties too.”).
Solid Snake, I can’t see why she’d pick up diseases any more than she would wounds. But yes, I suppose if she absorbs powers and weaknesses, a flawed immune system might count. But that only works if she tries power-zapping someone with the problem.
As someone said above, the idea mutants have some genetic quirks besides their powers isn’t bad. But this just feels silly. Though of course, compared to the exploding mass wafers, it’s a masterpiece of the super-hero genre.

“What, the dead people in the graveyard are upset that a mutant got buried next to them?!?”

To be fair, this is the Marvel Universe. It’s actually entirely possible that the dead people were complaining.

The Steve Kim fill-in issue was Uncanny X-Men 427

I never heard of this nonsense before.
Was this idea ever followed up?
Or no, since this is the main point of this whole “things that turned out bad” topic.

AIDS is not a virus, it’s a syndrome. HIV is the virus. That doctor is a bit crap really.

I remember at the time Austen’s writing was considered less than crap. Rereading those pages brings back horrible memories. Is he even still writing?

Honestly, it makes sense. Mutants are the next stage of [human] evolution, they’d likely have developed all sorts of immunities we don’t have (that’s pretty typical even within the human race). It’s sort of funny people find it offensive — I wonder if they would’ve been offended if the Kree or Skrull were declared AIDs immune. It’s not like they implied humans are, but mutants are fictional after all.

Chuck Austin is still a crappy writer. I just don’t really think it’s fair to pick on him for that. It’s sort of like picking of Liefeld for drawing Deadpool with a schi instead of a sword and ignoring that he didn’t draw any feet.

I love how the writer is sort of ignoring the fact that mutants are a considered a minority like blacks and gays and most normal people wouldn’t want blood from a mutant even if it heals them.

I’m sorry but we’re missing the big picture here.

How the @#$% did Angel put on that shirt and jacket?

@Dean Hacker: I don’t see it as a non-sequitur at all. The doctor is saying they need to test Warren’s blood for diseases, and specifically mentions AIDS. Warren responds that mutants can’t get AIDS; he’s saying that they don’t need to test for it like the doctor just said, since he couldn’t have it. Warren’s statement seems to follow the doctor’s fairly logically.

It’s still probably one of the most idiotic things ever written, of course.

Also if a bunch of people got Angel’s blood from a transfusion would they suddenly sprout wings? i know this is a stupid question but i’m genuinely curious how that would work or not work.

Chuck Austin definitely writes as if English is his second language.

If I recall correctly Angel was a “playboy” back in the 70s/80s.. he probably keeps saying that to try and convince himself all that unprotected sex was OK.

I understand that these comics were crappy and he messed up the names, but you can’t say someone’s a bad writer because he forgot a name. One of the most famous comics ever did that. Peter Palmer anyone?

Mutants can’t get AIDS is just an odd premise, and really has no basis in the context of the story. Its akin to giving a child a long lecture on AIDS because they have skinned their knee and asked for a band-aid. Why would they talk about this? Also, does Angel still have the healing blood, and if so, is it still used?

I read a lot of Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men and I enjoyed it (for the most part) for the glorious train wreck it was. Grant Morrison’s New X-Men was amazing. I adored the Milligan/Alred X-Force. Austen’s Uncanny X-Men was like the less talented sibling that was amusing to see try and fail. Rarely do comics reach “so bad its good” levels like SHOWGIRLS, THE ROOM or THE LONELY LADY. Sadly, his train wreck became mean spirited and I dropped it after Nightcrawler fought a religious cult formed by a raped nun.

Austin’s first 4-5 issues weren’t horrible per se. It was standard super hero fair and I really liked the focus on Stacy-X, especially when she tried to save M who shouted, “I’m invulnerable. Save yourself!” Rarely do you see rookie heroes try and do the right thing only to learn there was no point. The first two issues with Northstar weren’t bad, but that could be due to the Sean Phillips art.

Does anyone know why Bedlam and Skin were killed off, especially in such a non-glorious way? I know some writers like to add a body count, but this just seems like a slap in the face of anyone who liked those characters or read Generation X.

Charles J. Baserap

May 22, 2014 at 1:01 pm

@T – the only problem is that, eventually, humans COULD get the Legacy Virus, as Moira contracted it and the revelation of it that broke during X-Men: Prime was one of the key moments that led to Xavier becoming Onslaught. The virus mutated, Trish Tilby reported it in the news and a mutant named Dennis Hogan was on his way to Xavier’s for help and found by humans who thought he was infected and could give it to them.

Overall, Austen was just plain awful. lol This is the same man who brought us the Draco, the Dominant Species storyline, Annie the kind of racist nurse, and Archangel banging barely legal Paige Guthrie in the sky…in front of her mother. Yikes!

From http://www.nerdtopiacast.com/2013/04/11/american-history-x-men-issue-15-all-new-different-morrison-casey-austen-charge/

“Chuck Austen took charge…and proceeded to commit what can only be viewed as war crimes against the X-Men from Uncanny X-Men #410-443, and, later, X-Men # 155-164….It started inconspicuous enough, with the X-Men squaring off against old nemeses like Juggernaut and Black Tom. And then it just fell apart in ways most epic, most legendary, that there will likely be minstrels singing of this run years from now in a post-apocalyptic future with songs bearing such titles as ‘Hey, This Could Be Worse—At Least This Nuclear Winter Isn’t Austen’s X-Men Run.’

“Taking full advantage of Morrison’s concept of second mutations, Casey gave them out like Halloween candy, mutating Black Tom into a life draining tree monster, making Archangel’s skin white again…and making him have healing blood, and granting all mutants immunity to HIV and AIDS. Yeah.

“Other highlights of the run include having Juggernaut join the team—all right, so that wasn’t so bad—revelations that Xavier was regularly beaten by his stepfather contrary to what we’d seen, and Archangel and Paige Guthrie, aka Husk/barely legal younger sister of fellow X-Man Cannonball, hooking up ass naked while flying above the house of Paige’s mom after a riff on Romeo and Juliet called She Flies With Angels where warring redneck families fought with Gundam type suits of armor…

“But of course, the coup de grace was what was done with Nightcrawler. In addition to slandering Christianity seemingly every chance he got, Austen kicked it up a notch and had Nightcrawler’s priesthood having been part of a larger plot by the Church of Humanity to raise him to the state of being Pope, where he’d be revealed as a mutant, the act of which would destroy the Catholic Church. And it was all because the Supreme Pontiff of the group was really a woman. Who was formerly a nun. Who was impregnated by a priest. Who gave her follows special Communion wafers. That made them explode, simulating the rapture.

“None of this, keep in mind, is anything I’m making up. These are all actual plotlines.

“Surely, at that point, Austen was done with Nightcrawler, right? No? What more could he have done? Let’s talk a moment about the Draco, in which we found out that Nightcrawler’s real father was Azazel, who professed to be the equivalent to the Devil, and spent his life knocking up women and then leaving like a Hollywood actor. Forget about how much Nightcrawler’s conception and all of the demon aspects blatantly contradicted pretty much everything in his backstory, there was a whole angle where Archangel was believed to actually be descended from a race of proto-mutant angels like Azazel was from a race of proto-mutant devils, and then Iceman had his body blown up at one point, was just a talking head, and Havok threatened to pee him back to life. Again, none of this is made up.

“It was like the editors at the time were so focused on trying to find ways to deal with Morrison going wild on New X-Men that they let Austen do his own thing, kind of like when a toddler is writing on your walls while you’re trying to clean the last mess that was made.”

It doesn’t seem any more ridiculous than a thousand other comic book concepts, however I concede it is a sensitive issue.

The doctor had, actually, already brought up the “AIDS test” before Warren replied. It wasn’t quite so out of the blue. Austen’s stretch was bad, and the art didn’t help… But I am with Purple Hayes in that it was sunch an enjoyable mess. The referencing of Showgirls is beyong perfect. It was so fun to watch the fighting between the characters, comic book DYNASTY. And StaceyX drops a line about Fredricks of Hollywood being classic. PURE GOLD!!!

OH, thanks UncannyXmen.net

Suddenly, ‘What? You never heard of a bra?’ Stacy shouts at Husk, who is leaning close to Warren. ‘Are – are you talking to me?’ Paige asks. ‘Cain smiles and tells Wolverine that this has potential. ‘Yes, it does’ Wolverine agrees. ‘Yes, it does’ Sammy repeats while Carter looks at the strange fish-like mutant. Stacy angrily tells Husk to go and feed some starving third world kids and to go shake her untethered “groove things” in someone else’s face. Annie begins to ask them to discuss this somewhere else, while Warren tells Stacy that she needs to calm down. ‘For your information, I am wearing -’ Husk begins, but Stacy interrupts: ‘Not much, lemme tell ya!’ she shouts, pointing out the truth, as Husk is indeed only wearing a tank top and small shorts.

But, Husk retorts ‘You’re one to talk, with your Frederick’s of Hollywood “ravish-me-please” underwear suit!’ Stacy just asks if that was meant to be an insult, because it isn’t, and she actually likes Frederick’s. ‘Frederick’s is class’. Warren tries to stop them from squabbling. ‘As opposed to your HOOTER’S BUTT all hanging out of your “look-at-my-runner’s-butt” short-shorts!’ Stacy shouts. Xavier turns to the girls, ‘For Heaven’s sake’ he calls out, while Bobby mutters that he cannot believe he is missing this. ‘It’s her fault!’ Stacy calls out.

‘What’s your problem, lady? I come in here concerned for a friend -’ Husk begins, and Stacy interrupts her once again, exclaiming ‘You came here for loooove, princess! I know arousal, and I “see” pheromones, all right – and Wings here has you fogging the room with love like some “thanks-gimme-horn-y-o’-plenty”!’ Stacy shouts. Husk goes wide-eyed, and hangs her head, while Warren looks away from her. Charles looks over at them, while Annie continues to work on Warren’s leg. Bobby and Kurt are both in shock, while Juggernaut grins, although Wolverine looks concerned. ‘Yeah, take that, Baywatch!’ Stacy smiles. Husk then turns and walks out of the room, crying.

And…nobody gets AIDS or gets tested for AIDS. People get HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus– which sometimes leads to AIDS, which is a medical diagnosis based on various cell counts or opportunistic infections. In 2003, any mildly educated writer or editor should have known the difference about HIV and AIDS. And exempting the most popular and profitable cast of characters from a such a socially stigmatized virus and disease just reeks of crass corporate interests over the ability to educate or help fight stigma. It works to reinforce that the X-men, despite being compared to minorities, aren’t in fact stinking dirty queers. (Because in American society, only queers or other “deviants” are thought get AIDS. We must protect our money mill from such implications) I’ve never liked Chuck Austen and now I really can’t stand him.

I’m very happy at the number of people here already realizing no doctor would ever talk about testing AIDS or contracting AIDS…

and then deeply saddened that nobody involved in the creation of this issue understood why it just looks stupid. I’m more irritated at such crap knowledge of the subject that a statement was being made on, rather than the crap way in which it was made.

@ Peter
No, as a X-men reader since #190, the only person to every utter “Mutants can’t get AIDS” was Austen. He could be trying to deflect criticism, but that is 100% Austen’s fault.

Also, would this lead to demands for mutant blood to be tested to find the cure

the doctor is going to get his sample of warrens blood by a scapel has he not heard about maybe using a needle to draw blood? for austen x-men run could be a whole colum given how he proved he really was just when it came to writting the x-men just throwing things at the wall and using no matter how crazy what stuck.

Tracer Bullet

May 22, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Because in American society, only queers or other “deviants” are thought get AIDS. We must protect our money mill from such implications

Yeah, no. Not by 2003. Magic Johnson announced he had HIV in 1991 and that “gay cancer” nonsense had died long before 2003. Only complete idiots still believed HIV/AIDS was a gay disease at that point.

Organized religions are big boys, they can take criticism.

But Austen is so hillariously bad a writer that any attempts of his to slander Christianity is probably going to help Christians.

Forget “Mutants can’t get AIDS” nonsense. What’s with those ridiculously long wings? That’s so stupid!

RE: Scalpel to draw blood.

Having never read this at all, my first impression as a reader of that sequence was that the doctor for some strange reason wanted to cut Warren’s wings (Angel expands the wings, doctor asks for a scalpel).

But that’s because the idea of a doctor asking for a scalpel to draw blood would never enter my mind anyway. Not that it makes the first thought any better, but…yeah, this is bad all around.

Matty Macomber

May 22, 2014 at 2:09 pm

I remember how very communicative Austen was with readers when taking over Uncanny from Joe Casey’s run. At least in the forums I was visiting then, Casey’s run was strongly disliked and Austen’s online persona seemed to indicate he’d correct the problems of Stacy X, the pop-media sensibility, etc. He was going to be the savior of the franchise but overall, though, his Uncanny X-Men run could be described as Things That Turned Out Bad.

To be fair, though, I am glad he brought Northstar formally to the team and really liked his character Squidboy/Sammy Paré. I wish that he didn’t kill off the one great new idea he brought to the franchise.

In response to Anonymous, yes Austen has done a fair amount of porn work but another positive claim to fame before Uncanny was his art work with Alan Moore on Miracleman under his birthname of Chuck Beckum. It’s easy to hate on Austen but he’s not all bad.

While “Mutants can’t get AIDS”, maaybe they could be HIV asymptomatic carriers, and should get tested anyway. Like some HIV-resistant people.

Although I don’t think Austen has thought about that.

@ Anonymous 11:13 am-

Yes, but unlike most of his mainstream work, Austin’s porn work was actually pretty good.

(the 80′s was a golden age of comic book porn. Most comic shops had a section devoted to it)

Just because the author mentioned a controversial, painful topic, folks, does not mean he is “for” or “against” homosexuals or people suffering from AIDS.

While perhaps not relevant to the plot, the statement that mutants do not contract AIDS here is neither positive or negative. With comic book deadlines being what they are, some dialog and plot devices remain in the finished product sometimes which do not necessarily seem to fit.

Mutants get the Legacy Virus, which caused them lots of pain and anguish in the 90s/2000s. I am guessing that Mr. Austin was thinking that to introduce the possibility of a X-character having AIDS would be kind of redundant after the Legacy Virus arc. “But the comics should attack real-world issues,” you say. Well, folks, comics are an escape from the real world, and often omit such topics.

I enjoyed Chuck Austin’s run very much. I was sad when he left, and almost stopped reading the books. He brought a humanity to the characters that other writers have not brought since. He treated the X-Men like real people, and gave us more character development than any writer of whom I am aware. I particularly enjoyed how he showed us Husk’s vulnerable side to contrast with her strong exterior after she fell in love with Angel. I also enjoyed the story of Juggernaut’s friendship with little Sammy Pare, and of the romance between Havok and a human nurse. Good job, Mr. Austin!!!

Chuck Austin was writing when I jumped back into the X-Men comics in 2002, after a hiatus since 14yrs old. I have been following the X-books ever since, and can truthfully say that he is tied with Mr. Morrison for my favorite run on the X-Men in the 2000s.

@Charles J. Baserap: That article leaves out the best part of why the “Holy War” plot really doesn’t make any sense–Catholics don’t believe in the Rapture.

Acutally, Chuck Beckum isn’t his birth name either; he said in Kimota!: The Miracleman Companion that wasn’t his real name, it was just something he chose to get away from what he suggested was an abusive upbringing. He later changed his name to Austen on the suggestion of his wife, IIRC.

Does this explain why Warren slept around so readily? And was that his instinctive response to the line”do you have protection?”

Joe Cavanaugh

May 22, 2014 at 3:45 pm

I wasn’t reading X-Men back then, so when I started reading people bashing Austen’s run I was surprised. I remembered his book Strips as one of the stand-out titles of the slut glut. The more I read about his mainstream work, the more I understand the low opinion most people have for it. But I’m really tempted to check this run out.

akkadiannumen

May 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Both the AIDS immunity idea and the name mistake are primarily Austen’s fault but it’s also the editor’s responsibility to reject bad ideas (which in this case as in others might have come from editorial) if and check facts like character names to make sure the writer didn’t screw up obvious things (at the very least) dedicated fans would easily catch.

How in the hell was Warren able to put on a shirt and jacket with those huge fucking wings? They don’t look like they have holes big enough for his wings to pop out.

The only thing I can think of is that Warren is shirtless and is using a holographic emitter to appear clothed.

All this talk about Showgirls makes me think that Austen missed a prime opportunity to write this line:

“Everybody got AIDS and shit….except mutants!”

If he had done that, all would have been forgiven.

Mutants get the Legacy Virus, which caused them lots of pain and anguish in the 90s/2000s. I am guessing that Mr. Austin was thinking that to introduce the possibility of a X-character having AIDS would be kind of redundant after the Legacy Virus arc. “But the comics should attack real-world issues,” you say. Well, folks, comics are an escape from the real world, and often omit such topics.

Huh? Austen’s the one who is specifically BRINGING UP the “real world issue” by writing it into the comic.

Matty Macomber

May 22, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Huh. My reading of Kimota! was that Beckum WAS his birth name and they chose Austen as his new name, after their favorite author, Jane Austen, to make a break from his family-related abuse. Been awhile since I read it, though.

I will agree with Nigel1275 that Austen had some strengths…I really enjoyed Juggernaut during his run, as an example…and at the time it seemed like Austen was just taking his cue from the other writers when it came to just tacking on random new mutant abilities. So the offhand random HIV twist did not strike me as that strange at the time.

On the other side of the coin, it probably didn’t catch my attention because there were too many other things that were going on during Austen’s tenure that just made no sense. I realize these are comic books, and lots of fantastic things happen. But for the fantastic elements to work, there has to be some internal cohesiveness to hold things together in a somewhat logical way. I spent too much of the run just trying to figure out what was going on–not in the figuring-out-a-good-mystery kind of way–but in the what-is-going-on-in-this-story kind of way. I hung in there for the character moments and such, but I don’t remember the era fondly.

As far as the use of the terms HIV vs AIDS, that didn’t really bother me either because, again, there are so many other things that don’t make sense about the scene with the doctor. I work in the medical field, and usually I can’t really get into a show like Grey’s Anatomy because I just nit pick to death. But without typing a big long(er) thing about it, I’ll just say that nothing in that scene makes any sense at all.

Whilst we’re all on Austen’s run, has anyone retconned The Draco yet? Because I honestly hate that my favourite X-Man has such a terrible origin after decades of it being a mystery. It wouldn’t even be that hard – retcon it that Azazel is an actual demon, was using some sort of subconscious hypnotic power/spell to make everyone believe him, and bamf! Clean slate, the mess is completely forgotten, and we can move on and tell a much better origin for Nightcrawler.

Captain Haddock

May 22, 2014 at 8:19 pm

I think this was the comic that turned me off Marvel as a whole for a while and allowed me to “discover” DC in my teens. Even as a stupid teenager, what really annoyed me was getting ALL the BASIC details about Skin wrong (Generation X was my introduction to comics), and then casually saying “Mutants can’t get AIDS”. I suppose it worked out as it forced me to read DC and discover so many stories I wouldn’t have found out about otherwise, but I can’t imagine who Chuck Austen thought these stories would appeal to. It’s astonishing that editorial would allow so much to escape unfettered, and it took me a good few years to get back to Marvel. Just the worst.

Are you kidding me with those wings? They’re forty feet long!

As a gay guy with the CCR5 gene, I don’t really mind the idea of mutants not being able to get aids. It really wouldn’t be all that different than saying mutants are immune to human diseases. Though on the other hand, with knowing what we do about the CCR5 gene, it would make you think that all mutants are of european descent and we’ve seen mutants that are from other ethnic groups.

Yeah, I really can’t get past those wings either. That’s wayyyyy beyond artistic license. Somebody’s been hitting the Gingold.

One would think Austen would avoid that whole kerfuffle given his past experience. Now, I’m about to paraphrase because my own copies are buried in one of many longboxes in the basement, but you’ll get the gist.

When Austen was doing Strips (his sex comedy comic from Eros), someone wrote and complained that his characters (college students) did not use protection.

Austen tried to explain that it was artistic license, and that he deliberately chose not to address those issues in the comic because it would have bogged down the narrative.

But the way he said it, it seemed like he said AIDS and other STDs didn’t exist in his world.

The debate raged pretty much every month that followed, with some readers raving about how insensitive it was for Austen to refuse to acknowledge the issue in story, and Austen kinda digging the hole deeper as he “defended” himself.

With that in mind, you’d think he’d have stayed far away from that point on such a high-profile book. Because of someone who knowingly bought sex comics could get so offended…

(By the bye, Strips was actually good. He had a knack for character drama, and the sex actually fit within a story context. So while most people had no idea who Austen was and wondered what the devil was going on, I did know his work and was even more baffled!)

As soon as I read the title, I knew it had to be Chuck Austen.

Wow, second-last panel… Look at Jubilee’s ass. In what universe would a coat do that?

I read that Austens original intention was to lampoon Jim Shooters old “no gay characters and no AIDS in Marvel comics” decree.

@Jim- the problem is that it’s been a plot point in numerous stories that mutants can be affected by the same diseases as humans. Why only AIDS?

@Brian Cronin: I don’t think this was the first mention of “Mutants can’t get AIDS” by Austin. An issue or two previously, Husk was in the med-bay telling Annie how dreamy Warren was for bleeding all over her and healing her during the Dominant Species arc. Annie mentioned AIDS, and Paige responded by saying mutants can’t get AIDS. I want to say #421?

I remember hearing about Austen’s run and just thinking that the anti-hype was fanboy whining. It couldn’t possibly be that bad, I told myself. Then I bought the DVD containing every issue of Uncanny up until House of M. Austen’s run was a shock. I really don’t think The Draco is that bad. Poorly executed, but not the worst concept. And Jason Aaron just proved that I was right by doing a kickass story with Azazel. The rest of this mess, though? Ouch. She Lies With Angels was the most painfully bad thing I ever read until Claremont shat the bed with On Ice. It’s especially a shame because I LOVED Casey’s run. It riffed so well off what Morrison was doing. I maintain that the strongest era between the end of Claremont’s run and the beginning of the modern era (Which I count as starting with Messiah Complex, and think it’s only gotten stronger since then.) was that brief time when Morrison, Casey, Claremont, and Milligan were each doing their own unique thing in the X-Books, really fleshing out the concepts of mutant culture in three of them while Claremont did some great classic super hero stuff over in X-Treme.

You’re totally right, Mikhail! I’ll post the earlier mention later. Hilarious.

Given the insanity of much of Marvel at the time (secret identies being dropped by Iron Man and Cap, Daredevil outed in the press, various retcons about), I’ll cut Austen a bit of slack and speculate this was pushed on him by Marvel editors at the time who somehow thought it was a good idea.

Let’s face it, Chuck Austen’s entire writing (including his Action Comics run) is enough material to keep this column going for years.

I love how folks harp on “no doctor would actually talk about testing for AIDS” here, forgetting this is a man who did an entire story about a crazy Catholic nun trying to destroy the Church with a plot involving faking the Rapture and totally missing the fact that the Rapture is not recognized by Catholics.

Tell you the truth, I never understood why Captain America and Iron Man needed secret IDs, except for, you know, the tradition that every superhero must have them. Captain America barely used his. Iron Man was equally a public figure in both identities, and a target to supervillains in both. It’s little more than an excuse to use the “my girlfriend can’t know who I am” plot for the uptenth time.

So yeah, good of Marvel to get rid of those storytelling relics.

Now, Daredevil actually needs a secret ID, being a lawyer AND a vigilante.

Pete Woodhouse

May 23, 2014 at 1:51 pm

I didn’t know about the naming mistake so when I read the final panel, I thought: “Angelo Torres? What’s a Mad Magazine artist doing in X-Men?”

What I find odd here is that mutants are immune to HIV (or AIDS, as Austen calls it) but they are not immune to hepatitis.

By the way, is this still canon? Does Warren’s blood still have the ability to heal people? If so, how is it handled? Does he donate a certain amount of blood every month to critically ill people? Is there a foundation working round the clock to synthesize the healing factor in his blood?

You know that you can basically dump “Hiring Chuck Austen to write X-Men” or just plain “Hiring Chuck Austen” under “Things That Turned Out Bad” and be done with it.

Also, who the fuck is Angelo Torres? I was honestly dumbfounded back when I tried reading this. I honestly thought there was some hidden meaning in it, like it being another character or some subplot. Of course it was just Chuck Austen.

ARRRGH! Site went done for a little bit RIGHT when I pushed “Publish”.
So to try to recap what didn’t post before……
I seem to recall that Mutants are supposed to have some higher immunity/resistance. I believe that in the old TSR Marvel Super Heroes RPG Mutants got a +1 rank to Endurance. Still think it’s stupid that they would be immune to AIDs or HIV though, but that may be another idea of why they came up with the stupid idea.

But Even if Mutants couldn’t get Aids, how would they KNOW? “Hey Angel slept around A LOT and never got Aids”??
Even if no Mutant had ever reported getting Aids Yet, that wouldn’t mean they all Couldn’t. Several could have had it and never knew or reported it, or died in one of the Mutant Massacres before the Aids killed them. Or someone who did have Aids but didn’t know they were a Mutant, or hid the fact they were.

Even if no Mutant had been recorded as having Aids or HIV, you wouldn’t know that none of them could get Aids UNLESS you purposely infected them with Aids. Even then you’d need to inject a large amount of them to make sure that the ones who didn’t get it didn’t just have some secondary healing mutation.

So does Angel know of some Mutant concentration camp doing Aids experiments on mutants?

It doesn’t quite seem fair to make mutants have both the Legacy Virus and AIDS, as options. But I am pretty sure that isn’t how diseases work, they don’t care what is fair.

Stephen Conway

May 24, 2014 at 8:01 am

I think I’m the only comics fan who doesn’t get the hype about Jason Aaron. Not only does he acknowledge the Draco in his Amazing X Men story, but he reinforces the bloody thing by making Nightcrawler’s resurrection dependent on Azazel.

Everyone else on the X-books had been doing trojan work for the last decade ignoring Austen, but Aaron revels in it.

The point is that he took elements from a shitty story and did something awesome with them.

In the way Austen was structuring his story this does make sense because from nearly the start he was trying to set up the idea that mutants weren’t human at all but the genetic throwbacks to species of angel-people and demon people that existed in pre-history.
Ignoring how stupid that was, He never got to making that explicit beyond Azazel. And Nightcrawlers 23 demonic teleporting half brothers & ‘Kiwi Black’ (which is a name right up there with Apache Chief, let me tell you).
Paige’s brother Josh was also revealed to be an angelic winged being with healing blood before they decided to kill off most the XAFGY kids, but I can’t remember If he was responsible for that piece of wankery.

I think I’m the only comics fan who doesn’t get the hype about Jason Aaron. Not only does he acknowledge the Draco in his Amazing X Men story, but he reinforces the bloody thing by making Nightcrawler’s resurrection dependent on Azazel.

Really? Not having followed any of the ongoing X-Men titles regularly in over a decade (except X-Men Forever, but that was in its own separate reality) I had no idea that anyone had referenced Azazel since… well, other than showing up in the X-Men: First Class movie.

Suddenly the way Chris Claremont has scripted the first two issues of the new Nightcrawler solo series makes a hell of a lot more sense. Claremont is usually quite detailed when it comes to exposition and explaining everyone’s backstory. So I was a bit perplexed that the narration & dialogue about Kurt’s return was so vague and basically boiled down to “I was dead, but I got better, and these cute li’l naked Bamfs came back with me, the end.” But, yeah, finding out Azazel was involved in Kurt’s revival, yeah, I can see why Claremont wouldn’t want to touch that with a ten foot pole.

Travis Pelkie

May 27, 2014 at 10:25 pm

“Austen dropped some dramatic irony on your brains. ”

I still love this line, looking at this post again now. HA!

Yeah, Mikhail’s right about Nurse Annie/Husk having the first “Mutants can’t get AIDS” moment.

I remember referencing that in a thread and darknessatnoon effectively went, “WTF? Really?” I think they thought I was joking that it actually happened. I mean, it sounds like an exaggeration.

For reference, I think I have that panel scanned on a photobucket somewhere. Lemme see if I can find it.

Mikhail’s right. Nurse Annie, a 2nd medical professional, didn’t get the memo about mutants and AIDS. Here’s the original page/panel:

http://i197.photobucket.com/albums/aa262/surrealmonkey_wedding/worstblogever/SillyNurseAnnie.jpg

Seriously, I always heard it like Husk was a child lecturing the Trix Rabbit. “Silly Nurse Annie! Mutants can’t get AIDS!”

Which, I don’t know why the doctor/nurse then don’t follow that up with, “Oh, really? That must be great for you X-gene bearers. By the way, your tests came back. YOU’VE GOT HEPATITIS C, JACKASS.”

There’s more than 1 blood-borne disease that’s also can be sexually transmitted. Someone should let Chuck Austen know.

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