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Year of the Artist, Day 234: Jim Lee, Part 3 – Uncanny X-Men #275 plus some added bonuses

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Jim Lee, and the issue is The Uncanny X-Men #275, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated April 1991. However, I’m also taking a look at “Brigg’s Revenge” in Classic X-Men #39, which is cover dated November 1989, Uncanny X-Men #269, which is cover dated October 1990, and even one special tidbit from issue #268! Enjoy!

I know I’m cheating more often than I was earlier in the year, but recently I’ve been featuring artists of whose work I have a lot of examples, and I’m finding it hard to track their development in only five days. I’m sure you don’t mind! Jim Lee, of course, became a super-duper-star on Uncanny X-Men, and I adore the issues he drew. They’re some of my most-read comics, because I bought them so early in my collecting days and I love them so much. Yes, Claremont’s writing is often painful today, but I still look back on them very fondly. What’s interesting from this series’ perspective is that Lee was inked by some different artists, which is why I want to check out a few different issues today. First is his short story from Classic X-Men, “Brigg’s Revenge”!

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Classic X-Men seems like a weird animal these days, when so much is available in trade. Marvel reprinted the Claremont run, beginning with Giant-Size X-Men, and beginning in issue #2 (as far as I can tell), they began running back-up stories that were supposed to take place at the same time as the primary issue occurred. They got some pretty good talent to write and draw these back-up stories, and I’m not sure when they stopped doing them – the book changed its name to X-Men Classic with issue #46, and it looks like there wasn’t a back-up in issue #45, the final one of this name. This seems to me like a trade waiting to happen – lots of interesting creators doing short stories – but what the hell do I know – I think an omnibus of the Alan Grant/Norm Breyfogle Batman comics would sell (Marvel has reprinted this particular story, so that’s nice). Anyway, Lee drew this story, which was written by Ann Nocenti, and it’s one of those cool little short stories that might have been cooler if it had had more impact. As far as I know, Billy Briggs has never been seen since, so his mind game has no effect. Oh well.

This is Lee’s first X-Men work, and it’s inked by Joe Rubinstein. Lee has become more “Lee-like” by this time, but Rubinstein’s inks, we’ll see, are a bit more solid than some of the other people to ink Lee. He doesn’t use a lot of lines on Storm’s hair, and those he does use are sturdy, making her hair less wavy and more thick. In Panel 2, Briggs has rough inks on his face, implying that he’s not a terribly high-class kind of dude. The Kirby Krackle coming from his eye is always keen to see – we saw two days ago that Lee liked that effect, so I imagine he put it in here. We get a lot of spot blacks, but they’re chunks of black, while later Lee work would use sleeker black effects. We’ll see some of that below.

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What’s awesome about this story is that Briggs approaches Ororo because he wants to talk to her about being a mutant, and she totally brushes him off – she doesn’t even talk to him, which leads to this page, where Ororo is dazzled by Dreamy McHandsome there even though she ought to know what it feels like to be discriminated against. That’s why I wish these stories had more impact – Ororo doesn’t realize that she’s being as mean as some anti-mutant bigot, but it never comes up. Anyway, this page is much more Jim Lee-esque, as we can see. He’s drawing his faces a bit wider, especially the male ones, which is a Lee staple. Neither Ororo nor the “gallant” dude are over-hatched, which is nice to see in a Jim Lee comic. Panel 4 is what would become, if it hadn’t already, a “classic” Lee face. Briggs’s hair is that thin, flyaway style that would come to define so many of Lee’s characters, while he gives him eyebrows that look slightly thicker than they ought to be. He has thin eyes, which is also something Lee would do more and more of, and a fairly large mouth. Even the angle at which Lee draws him would be somewhat of a staple as Lee got more popular. Rubinstein’s inks are nice in that panel – Lee puts in the blacks at the top of his face, I assume, and Rubinstein’s harsh lines around his nose, cheeks, and mouth make him look even angrier. Billy Briggs is full of rage!

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We never actually find out what Briggs’s mutant power is – he fires generic bursts of energy, which I guess is good enough for a one-off character. He blasts a car next to the X-Men to get their attention, and then we get this sequence, where he tells Storm she has to choose who he’s going to kill. In that first panel, Lee gives us a creepy version of Briggs as he goes a bit around the bend. We get the hair, again, and Lee expands his mouth, making it almost Liefeldian (there’s a panel on the next page that I’m not going to show which is even more like our Rob). The smoke around Briggs means that Lee can pull that “disappearing leg” trick that a lot of Image artists used to avoid drawing feet. Briggs’s legs simply fade, with the black of his shadowed legs becoming hatching and then nothing. Once again, we see that Rubinstein doesn’t hatch too much, which is a good idea. Yes, Logan has a lot of hair, but that’s to be expected. Other than that, the inking is pretty restrained.

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Ororo chooses Wolverine, as she thinks he’d have a better chance at survival, and before Briggs can finish the runt off, the other X-Men spring into action. The wisdom of Peter using a giant log to clock a man with no protection on the face isn’t addressed here, as surprisingly, Colossus doesn’t actually kill Briggs with the log, just knock him down. Lee, as we see, has become much more fluid with his action, so it looks quite good here. His pose of Briggs is what we might expect from someone who got bonked by a big log, while Peter’s swing is drawn well. Lee or Rubinstein uses a lot of lines on the log to imply swift movement, as they do in Panel 2 when Storm lifts Briggs off the ground. We can see, as with many other artists, Lee gets a bit sketchier when his figures aren’t in close-up, but in the case of Panel 2, it’s interesting that the figures look a bit stiffer, as well. In the final panel, Logan’s face is unusual – it seems like Rubinstein’s sturdier lines might work against Lee’s fluidity a bit too much, as Logan is more Liefeldian than Lee-ish. The squarer mouth, the heavy hatching, and the thatchier hair seem to imply that Rubinstein went a bit too far with the inks. But maybe Lee did more of that, and it’s just a small misstep.

Not long after this, Lee became the regular penciler on Uncanny X-Men, and comics history was made!!!! I’m going to jump to another one of my favorite issues, #269, when Rogue battles Ms. Marvel. Rogue’s in it – of course it’s going to be one of my favorites!

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I’m not going to show very much from this issue, because as anyone who actually owns it can tell you, the print quality is terrible. It was on newsprint, which isn’t a bad thing inherently, but a lot of the pages seem to have bled through to the back, while others are blurry, making me think however it was shot from the original art was lousy. The page where we first see Lila Cheney is awful, but that’s just the worst example, as the fight between Carol and Rogue isn’t much better. This seemed to happen a lot around this time, and I’m not sure why. It makes me want to buy the Jim Lee Visionaries trade[s?] just to see this artwork reproduced in a better fashion. So I’m just going to show a few pages, mainly because Art Thibert inked this, and it’s slightly different than when Rubinstein inked Lee, and it’s different in a weird way. The biggest thing you might notice about this sequence is Rogue’s eyes. Lee had begun making his characters’ eyes thinner, yet with Rogue, we get those wider, almost manga-like eyes. It only happens in this issue, too, which makes me wonder if Thibert had something to do with it. Does Lee not draw in eyes and lets his inkers do it? If Lee drew them, why does he show Rogue with wider eyes than the other characters? Why doesn’t he show Rogue with these wide eyes all the time? THIS MYSTERY IS LIKE AN ONION! Oh, and I like Pretty Boy’s anti-Punisher shirt. Bwah-ha-ha!

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So Rogue goes to the Savage Land blah blah blah. It’s Claremontian Craziness at its best! All of the Lee-isms we see over the next two decades are creeping into the work, with the excessive hair (with strands coming down between the eyes!), the long pony tails and the giant bangs, the adorable noses, and, for his inkers, a tendency to use a lot of lines. Thibert is still a bit restrained, but not as much as Rubinstein was, as the dinosaur is hatched pretty severely, while Thibert or Lee uses vertical hatching on Rogue’s left foot instead of spot blacks, which we might have seen earlier in Lee’s career or from a different inker. Rogue’s eyes are still a bit odd, and I wonder if it’s because Rogue is still supposed to be young – I would assume she’s still a teenager, or perhaps very early 20s – and the eyes make her look younger. I don’t know what age Claremont thought she was at this point, but the eyes and even her frame make her look younger – when Lee drew more mature women, as we’ll see below, he tended to give them longer and thinner legs, while Rogue’s legs are shorter and, while no one would accuse her of plumpness, they’re a bit thicker than other Lee women. I don’t know what Claremont, Lee, and Thibert were thinking with regard to Rogue. Perhaps we shall never know!!!!

Let’s move on to our next issue!

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Issue #275 was the culmination of the “Rogue in the Savage Land” story as well as what we thought was the end of the “X-Men rescuing Xavier” story (but it wasn’t!!!!), so it’s a 40-page chunk of Lee art, which to my almost-20-year-old brain was a jolt of sheer awesome. Scott Williams, who would become Lee’s go-to inker, is working on these pages, and we see much more of the Lee Look here. Lee has never been afraid of intricate page layouts, and with Claremont writing a script (in San Diego, John Romita may have been joking when he said Claremont could give him 200-page scripts that he needed to fit into 22 pages, but if he was exaggerating, I’d bet it wasn’t by much), Lee needed to pack panels onto the page. So we get Jubilee pulling a spear out of Logan’s back, Logan stalking off to find Deathbird, and Ororo commanding Jubilee to free the rest of them. Lee’s Jubilee is awesome – he and Williams always got her facial expressions really well, showing her as an adolescent who tries to act like she’s not out of her depth but really is. The way her face contorts as she pulls the spear out and she knows she’s hurting Logan, who has become a father figure to her, is excellent. She’s wearing one of those hideous X-costumes, which makes her look like she’s wearing a completely inappropriate bathing suit, but that’s the way it is, I guess. Ororo’s excellent early Nineties haircut, with the trademark Lee flop on the top and the shaved look around the base, is … well, it is, I suppose. Logan in Panel 5 is where I want to focus, because if there’s one thing that Williams became known for, it’s hatching a TON over Lee’s pencils. We don’t see it too much here, as Lee and Williams stick to black chunks, but the cross-hatching on Logan’s shoulders and the somewhat unnecessary line work on his chest, arm, and crotch point the way to future excess. Note, too, that Logan’s foot disappears in the haze. Oh, such handy haze! In this case, the hatching is not a bad look, as Lee and Williams want to show that Logan is going to a dark place because he’s mighty pissed at Deathbird. I get that, but I don’t have to like the trend!

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Rogue, Nick Fury, and Magneto go off to fight Zaladane, but the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicopter gets shot down and Rogue ends up in the jungle. Lee, naturally, doesn’t waste any chance to rip her pants and show Rogue’s butt, which I certainly don’t mind at all, and hey, the girl got eaten by a dinosaur, so give her a break, man! Notice that we’re getting more busyness here – the dinosaur is hatched pretty heavily, which makes it look tougher and older, but it’s still creeping toward unnecessary excess. The one thing I don’t like about this page is the coloring on the dinosaur and Rogue in Panel 2. Both Glynis Oliver and Joe Rosas are credited with colors in this issue, so I’m not sure who did this panel, but the fact that they’re colored yellow isn’t the best thing. I get that the colorist wanted to make the violence stand out, so we get a more dramatic orange and yellow palette, but I’m not sure if it works as well as it should. The preponderance of detail in that panel means that Rogue and the dinosaur almost blend together, so that while we see Rogue, it’s hard to tell completely what’s going on. This is another issue where the reproduction isn’t as great, which makes it more unclear – crisper lines might have worked in this panel. It’s frustrating.

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I LOVE this pose. It’s so “that era” that it makes me smile whenever I see it. What in the hell is Zaladane doing? She has used that mutate, Worm, to seize control of the Russian colonel, who stands behind her, and I guess she might be trying to seduce him? But why? That outfit totally rules, too, as we know Jim Lee is the best designer of comic book clothing EVER!!!! So Zaladane is standing there, pushing her toned belly against the column and then sticking her butt out. Her legs stretch forever, and of course she has stiletto heels because that’s the easiest thing to walk in. This is the way Lee draws more mature women, as opposed to Rogue in the earlier examples, and that’s why I wonder if that’s why Rogue’s eyes are that wide. I love that she has all those horizontal stripes. It’s just awesome.

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Magneto begins to “discorporate,” and Lee gives us this tremendous page of his memories as the procedure takes hold. Brainchild and Colonel Semyanov, in the upper left, are drawn fairly roughly, with Lee being somewhat sketchy and Williams using thicker, sketchier lines. Note the arch on Brainchild’s nose! As we get into Magneto’s brain, Lee does some nice work with him. First of all, as he kneels on the disc and grabs his head, we can see that Lee simply uses an outline and thick black on his body, which makes him look more beaten up. On the right, while Lee still draws his stereotypical hair, he draws Magneto more basically, with black for eyes and a simple shape for his mouth. The blacks on his face also throw him into more stark relief, especially when we compare him to his “beloved Isabelle,” who is more Lee-ish. Lee or Williams drips ink on the page to simulate blood splatter, and deeper in the background, we get flicks of paint that create a jagged foundation for the page. This is really well done, and it hints to some of Lee’s versatility.

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We get some nice action here, as Rogue smashes through Zaladane’s goons before getting zapped herself. The perspective is a bit weird in Panel 1, as we’re supposed to believe that Rogue is flying parallel to the ground, but if she’s doing that, how are the bad guys standing? If she’s flying upward from the ground, are they flying through the air as well? It’s very weird. In Panel 2, we see Shanna and Ka-Zar, both of whom are typical Lee characters. Shanna’s hair is long and lush, while Ka-Zar has that movie-star hair that Lee loves. Williams, as we can see, does some good work with the hair on Fury and Ka-Zar, while he uses thicker lines on Ka-Zar’s muscles, defining them pretty well. Panel 3 is pretty cool, as Zaladane blasts Rogue, and Lee does a neat job with the perspective. Rogue’s uniform gets even more shredded, which Lee shows pretty well, and I like the overlay effect of Zaladane’s power. Meanwhile, Oliver’s or Rosas’s use of blue and pink when Zaladane uses her power is neat. We don’t see it as well as we do in other panels, but you can get a good sense of it.

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Magneto kills the colonel and then Zaladane in this tremendous sequence. As we can see, the hatching is slowly becoming more apparent, as we get a lot of black blood all over the place, so much body hair, and flyaway hair on Magneto, Ka-Zar, Rogue, and Zaladane. The bangs are tremendous on all of them, too. Lee rips up Zaladane’s robe in Panel 6/7 (it comes after both the Rogue/Fury one and the Ka-Zar one), and notice that the wonderful haze once again covers up Magneto’s feet. Lee is becoming a bit more angular with his faces, and notice how much Magneto, Semyanov, and Ka-Zar look like Briggs in that earlier example. The male eyebrows are becoming a bit more wild (yes, Magneto and Semynov are a bit older and their hair is a bit crazier, but even Ka-Zar’s brows are a bit poufy), while we get nice black/red color on Rogue’s and Zaladane’s lips. As melodramatic as Claremont’s script is, Lee does a good job showing the anguish on the characters’ faces as Magneto makes his choice. The expressions are very cool, but Lee and Williams’s shading is excellent, too. Obviously, this was back when Marvel used a bit more restraint, so we don’t see Zaladane get skewered, and Lee building the tension to that point is really well done.

So that’s the awesome work Lee did on Uncanny X-Men. “But Greg,” you say, especially if you’re Tom Fitzpatrick, “we come here to see more Sexy Time Jim Lee Ladies! What the hell, man?” Well, don’t let anyone say I don’t listen to the fictional comments of my readers, so here’s a scene from issue #268, the famous Wolverine/Captain America/Black Widow story:

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Yes, that’s Psylocke smoking a cigarette and Natasha going on board a ship owned by Matsuo Tsurayaba, who helped turn Betsy into a ninja. Oh, and the Strucker twins (also known as Fenris) are around, too, because Fenris kicks ass (don’t even tell me it’s not true!). But look at those ladies! And look at those outfits! 1990 FTMFW, yo!

Lee, of course, went on to co-found Image, but for a long time, I didn’t buy any Lee comics because I just wasn’t interested in his Image work. But tomorrow, I want to check out a very cool short story he drew from the end of the decade, not the beginning of it. You know you want to check it out! And be sure to delve deep into the archives!

31 Comments

Them’s some good X-Men issues. Bought the entire run (again for the third time after floppys and Essentials, plus a few of which I have in colour UK trades) in a Comixology promo a month or two back. There’s some real energy to it..

Chris Claremont and the Uncanny X-men is the reason I read comics today.
Jim Lee was the beginning of the end of the X-men.
Give me Cockrum, Smith, Romita, Windsor-Smith, Silvestri and Adams before Jim Lee.

Loving these ones about Lee. Whether people like him or not, he was a major influence in the comic art world, both with professionals and amateurs.

Just an aside, but for me, UXM #275 is when I really started to notice the difference in coloring done for a comic compared to other comics from that time. They were doing more shading (which we are so used to today) and more vibrant than before. The X-Men uniform (which I loved, sorry) above is a great example of that. You can see the base yellow, the darker shade, and a touch of bright highlight to help give the character visual depth was extremely rare in standard comics back then.

However, I think this column is awesome and I look forward to reading it. Thanks Greg!

Imraith Nimphais

August 22, 2014 at 4:06 pm

You know…as much as I loved his work back then (and I really did) …I can’t help but look at it now and be somewot put off by his ‘technical” quirks, viz, his pin-heads on super elongated bodies (yes, that Zaladane panel you and I both love) and of course, his ubiquitous “cocked hips” (even teen-aged Jubilee, poor girl, is not exempt). But so many other qualities to his work were definitely “on point”. It was visually exciting, with dynamic composition and freaking energetic even with the production quality being so degrading. And I have to say, that Rogue/Magneto/Zaladane/X-Men/Xavier/Skrull arc remains one of my top favourite X-men stories to this day.

“I’m not going to show very much from this issue, because as anyone who actually owns it can tell you, the print quality is terrible.”
_____

So the whole print run looks crappy? And I always assumed it was just my copy. I agree. The excessive bleed did tarnish what would, otherwise, have been an nice looking comic.

When I was 13 years old, I thought that panel, with Briggs’ fist raised, crackling with energy, snarling “Nobody move” was so freaking awesome. Actually, all these years later, I think it is STILL very cool.

And, y’now, the script by Ann Nocenti is very well done. I think that it is one of those few instances where a writer actually took an in-universe look at the fact that, all their platitudes about fighting against bigotry aside, sometimes the X-Men do not actually do that good job at helping out other mutants and fighting against prejudice.

Anyway, I do think that circa Uncanny X-Men #275 was when I started to experience the first symptoms of Jim Lee Fatigue. That was when I began to notice that he was now drawing nearly all of the female characters as overtly sexy babes who were constantly posing to show off all of their assets.

I’ve still never read any of Lee’s X-Men work, with Claremont or otherwise. But it was what would become the Image style that turned me off Marvel Comics in the late ’80s/early ’90s, so I guess that makes some sense.

Zach: Thanks for the nice words! I know a lot of people share your opinion, so no worries! :)

Zhaxra: Good point about the coloring. This would have been very early in the digital coloring era, so I doubt if it was done that way, but there’s definitely more shading. And I’ll always hate those uniforms!!!! :)

Imraith: Yeah, he’s definitely “Jim Lee” by this point, for good or for ill.

Cerebro: You’re not alone!

Ben: It took me a bit longer to notice that about the females, but looking back, you can definitely see it. This was so early in my comics-reading career that I really didn’t care, but today, it’s far more obvious. I still love these issues, though!

buttler: But they’re so awesome!!!! :)

For me, #275 was the peak of Jim Lee career (arti$tically at lea$t)…Also I liked Scott Williams more at this point, when he used a lot of solid black instead of thousands of crazy lines.

I think the use of the “computer color” of the Image era had an negative impact in the style and quality of both pencillers and inkers: they started to leave more empty space, more lines instead of shadows, more “flat” finishes to make room for the color effects…(the same happened to McFarlane). The size of the average panel helped, too…They 90′s drawings seems “lazy” compared to this still-at-marvel samples (the Rogue vs T-rex panels are so detailed!).

Ooh, I actually know what tomorrow’s going to be! I’ll hit ya twice cuz I made ya….

tom fitzpatrick

August 22, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Never read this part of the Uncanny X-men (there was a long period in which I didn’t read X-men).

For some reason, that panel of Rogue looking like deer-in-headlights, made me thought that McFarlane was drawing that Rogue. (As far as I know – he never did Uncanny X-men, did he?)

Just weird.

I started collecting comics in 1987 so I had no choice but to discover X-Men through the Jim Lee era…and I won’t lie at age 10 I thought Jim Lee was pretty damn great…but I also owned (and still own!) every Liefeld issue of New Mutants and X-Force…they were big cheesey action movies with big guns and hot babes but I love the Lee/Liefeld/Portacio/Silvestri era! That was my youth man! Lol

Definately looks like McFarlanE! You are not crazy!

Lee was the natural successor to Buscema.
Don’t blame Lee for the big hair and the sexy outfits. Thats what happenned in the late 80s/90s.
High schoolers wore that to school!

Lee simply took things to the next level, and moved millions of comics

Its Kirby/Adams/buscema/Lee/Kuberts. Its not the Image style Buttler. The art of McF, Liefeld, Churchhill, Art Thibert and a few others is vastly different from Lee/Kuberts

I know you’ll get to Hush eventually but the wait for you to cover it is killing me.

Greg: Oh, do not get me wrong. I enjoy illustrations of lovely ladies. In fact, one of my favorite artists is Paul Gulacy, who draws some of the most drop dead gorgeous women in comic books, at least in my opinion. But the thing about Gulacy is that he never lets that that get in the way of telling the story. He doesn’t just toss in a bunch of gratuitous pin-up shots. Instead, he concentrates on creating solid, effective, dramatic layouts.

In contrast, you have someone like Jim Lee, and he will have various panels like the one with Zaladane above, where she’s standing with her back arched & her rear end thrust out, looking like she’s posing for a Skin Two photo shoot, and that just totally takes me out of the story as a reader.

Lee doesn’t have his beautiful women as a part of the flow of the narrative. Instead, he is shoehorning in pin-up images right into the story. Rather than having pages where some of the characters happen to be beautiful women, he lays out his art and positions his figures so that his sexy ladies become the central focus on the pages. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but that’s the best way I can describe it.

Honestly, I do think that Lee has a lot of talent. I just think I would enjoy his art a hell of a lot more if he didn’t do that so often, if he wasn’t designing his layouts in such a way that his pages are screaming “Look, hot babes!” :)

Looking back at this issue reminds me of just how much gratuitous nudity could be thrown around a comic back then. That Spider-Woman cover’s got nothin’ on this issue.

@Ben Herman
YES!!!! Paul Gulacy!!!! YES!!!!!!!!!
Gulacy did some great single images, but everything served a whole. He tended to keep the posing to the cover and the splash page (or pages). Master of Kung Fu is probably the best illustration of this. Gulacy would do splash pages that looked like a James Bond poster, then got down to the atmosphere and action. He did quiet moments and combat, hadr and soft.

Lee can draw a great poster (and even real ones, like the X-Men triptych he did) , but tended to do so in the middle of a page, like many of his colleagues. And fans loved it. me, I was a bit older and thought it was a step up from some of what I was seeing; but that feeling didn’t last long as the stories didn’t grab me and keep me around. I suppose some of it was that I was moving on more and more to alternative material. Around that time, I also discovered Pepe Moreno (Generation Zero, Zeppelin, Rebel), found some Corto Maltese, and started reading Will Eisner’s graphic novels. I was hunting down Modesty Blaise while everyone else was scooping up Lee, Liefeld, McFarlane, Miller, and a few others. I still dipped my toes in those waters, but I was swimming more often in a tributary.

Gulacy and gratuitous pin up shots — I think Ed Brubaker might disagree from when Gulacy took over the art on Catwoman….

Mattmadeacomment: Maybe I won’t cover “Hush”! Maybe I’ll just skip right over it!!!!

Oh, I’m just funnin’. Of course I’m covering “Hush”!

Ben: Yeah, I agree. He was perfectly able to fit sexy women in where it fit – Betsy and Natasha are sexy for a reason in that last panel – but it did get weird after a while.

A Horde of Evil Hipsters

August 23, 2014 at 12:26 am

You say “Sexy Time Ladies”, I say “those are some seriously damaged spines”…

#268 had one of my favorite scenes. Jubilee looking at Natasha and Betsy and then looks down her shirt at her own chest with a frown. Still one of my favorite moments.

I’m definitely a Jim Lee fan, though he is no longer my favorite artist (as he was in the ’90s). Whether you like his art or not, you can’t deny the influence he had on the medium. For both good and bad.

Man, the early 90s were a pretty amazing time in X-Men comics, through the Silvestri and Lee period. X-Men was the biggest title at Marvel at the time, and yet Claremont was still able to completely dismantle the team and spend months and months on end building it back up, sometimes with nothing but C level characters in a given issue. As much as the twice monthly event comics nowadays claim everything’s going to change, these comics legitimately did change the status quo pretty drastically, and did it on the best selling comic. I can’t really imagine that happening nowadays. Or even being allowed to happen back then with anyone else. It was an exciting time to be an X-Men fan.

It was such an odd trend. Women posing all the time as if they were pole dancing after having their legs horribly stretched. Action that was energetic yet impossible to follow. Black hatching from hell.

Let us all learn from the past so that it shall never repeat itself.

That Jim Lee run on Uncanny got me back into super hero comics as a teenager, and without it I might not still be collecting them twenty-something years later.

Those Classic X-Men issues are real treasures. Classic X-Men #40 was one of my first comics. I also bought X-Factor #47, and Uncanny #256. I didn’t realize that CXM was a reprint series; I thought it was new stories about the “classic” lineup. I was soooo confused; Uncanny was in the “no team” period, Classic seemed like it must be the “flagship” or traditional title, and Jean Grey was acting very, very strangely in X-Factor. I didn’t know there was such a thing as “continuity” at the time, figuring comics were just single-issue stories, or short arcs. In retrospect, it’s a miracle I stuck it out with the X-Universe since it was in such disarray. But it wasn’t long before I collected only X-Titles (quickly loosing interest in Spiderman and Avengers, and only keeping up with Green Lantern from DC).

Anyhow, some of the backup stories in Classic X-Men have been collected into two trades called X-Men: Vignettes 1 and 2, and are well worth picking up. The Claremont/Bolton stories are arguably some of the best X-Men stories ever written because of their subtle character work and gorgeous art. Greg, I heartily second your lament that they are not often referred to as character touchstones. Claremont did so in continuity that was published contemporaneously with the stories, but now they have been largely forgotten.

The backup stories were added to the early Classic X-Men run because the original stories being reprinted were only 24 pages, and Marvel wanted to publish a 32 page comic, so they added the 8-page backup. Claremont was also given the opportunity to add in whole pages and sequences of panels to the reprinted stories, which helped him to tie together old continuity little more tightly. For instance, he added in a scene where Warhawk was hired by the Hellfire Club–20 issues before the Hellfire Club actually debuted–to steal data from the X-Men. It explained the pretty random attack by Warhawk; it also explained how the Hellfire Club got it’s data on the X-Men. Given that the title was so steeped in Claremont’s own continuity, it was a really good idea, and Claremont executed it very, very well.

The other fabulous feature of those early Classic X-Men issues were the added pinups and exterior art. The back covers were illustrated by the likes of Art Adams, John Bolton and Steve Lightle, rather than the normal advertisements. There was art in the inside of the front covers too, and random pinups inserted. And many of the new front covers were far superior to the original covers.

The only flaw in the series was that a few single-issue stories were not reprinted if they didn’t have a significant impact on continuity. Despite that, if I knew that someone was collecting old monthly X-Men comics on a budget for reading purposes, I would recommend finding the Classic X-Men issues in lieu of the Essentials, trades, or even the original issues. They have so much excellent added content that they’re worth the hunt.

#268 had one of my favorite scenes. Jubilee looking at Natasha and Betsy and then looks down her shirt at her own chest with a frown. Still one of my favorite moments.

Okay, yeah, that was funny :)

I’ll second Classic X-Men. One of my favorite pin-ups was of Wolverine and Beast combing their hair, with cans of mousse sitting nearby. I laughed pretty hard at that one. One of the back-up stories featured Wolverine and Nightcrawler talking over a beer. Logan challenges Kurt about his image inducer disguise (which Kurt used to make himself look like Errol Flynn) and his shame over his appearance. It was really great character stuff and also explained why Kurt tossed it away, as it was inexplicably dropped in the original series.

Jenos Idanian #13

August 23, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Those Classic X-Men selections, especially the first ones, have a major Paul Smith feel to me. The Ororo in the last panel of the 2nd page, all the X-Men in the 3rd page, and the Storm in the 4th scan all really look Smithy to me.

Once again I’m going to give the credit to Joe Rubinstein…

I read this, enjoyed it at the time, and still own it. And yet, I have almost no memories of it! I spent some time thinking about what that could be and realized that although the art is a bit too busy to make iconic permanent memories in my brain, the real reason is probably that I read it once and never re-read it. I believe a lot of the late bronze/early copper age comics that I grew up on are so implanted in my brain because I got to re-read them all the time (having so few comics). By the 90′s, I had almost too many boxes to easily get back in to (I finally had given up sorting the whole collection and had to be satisfied with sorting within each long box), and was reading a lot of current comics as well. I just didn’t have the time to do any re-reading. And thus, details of a lot of comics, especially ones with somewhat cluttered art, has evidently been forgotten.

Still it is enjoyable to see these spotlights and try and see what I can and can’t remember. :-)

That’s Whilce Portacio hiding behind Psylocke.

Amazingly, I never put Zaladane and Lorna Dane together before this book. Claremont, you sneaky devil, you!

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