While comic books will always hold an important spot in my pop-culture heart… I admit freely that cartoons hold higher rank. Long before I was inundated to the secret society of pulp and paper, animation dictated my fandom. Voltron, He-Man, and The Real Ghostbusters held sway over my early childhood something fierce. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles followed shortly thereafter. And on the precipice of my eleventh birthday, X-Men arrived.
Unlike the aforementioned Turtles, Ghostbusters, or legendary paladins of mighty lions, the X-Men came served with a heaping helping of unknown (to me) backstory. And while all those previous toons had their moments of melodrama… X-Men was a dramatic cartoon show that merely carried lighter moments to offset the continual load of cell-shaded gravitas. It ushered in a new era of what animated kids shows could be – considering that this isn’t being compared to The Simpsons, as that’s an apples-to-oranges if ever there were.
No, X-Men represented action-adventure stories that were built to decidedly not talk down to their intended audience. To deal with prejudice, hatred, and violence (but not outright gore or sex) and not shy away from inter-character conflict. And it did so in media res, assembling a team of heroes, and dropping them immediately into confrontations with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Senator Kelly and his army of Sentinels, Mr. Sinister, and more villains cribbed from the pages of X-lore. That this was done without a single wink or nod to we kids – to let us know that yes this was a cartoon, and we should just be having fun – is what communicated to me (and many of my compatriots at school) a way for us to come of age by way of a cartoon. No winks. No nods. Just adamantium claws, force blasts, and conflict.
Truth be told… Batman: The Animated Series had debuted not long prior to X-Men, and much of my praise above could very easily be copied and pasted. But Batman was given a five-day-a-week run, versus the X-toon’s Saturday morning slot. In terms of playground pastiche, one must always regard that needing to wait a week for another installment brings with it a certain prestige. Batman was always awaiting us when we got home from school. Professor X and his band of mighty mutants were appointment TV for burgeoning Generation X (or whatever the hell my generation is technically classified as).
Clout aside, X-Men dealt its series in more of a serial nature. Batman was long built in two-part acts or one-offs. Because of this X-Men more often felt meatier; taking classic stories from the pages of the comics and adapting them to 22 minute installments was a feat I would later be in awe of. Consider perhaps the apex of the show – the Phoenix Saga. Here, ten months worth of story were tightly adapted into five episodes, an otherwise unheard of berth of shows for a kid to mull through. And while X-Men’s sister series Spider-Man was also heavily serialized (my friends and I would often joke about “the Neogenic Nightmare, part 314”), show-runner Eric Lewald and his team found the right balance between long arcs and one-offs. Case-in-point, the lone episode dedicated to Colossus would be the spark that spawned my actual first comic book purchase. Natch.
(I was gifted an opportunity to sit down with the aforementioned Mr. Lewald and his lovely wife (slash writer) Julia to kibitz over the series itself, as well as their forthcoming coffee-table-worthy tome titled Previously on X-Men. Keep your eyes peeled later this coming week for that conversation.)
X-Men represented to me a high point of story, animation, and gravitas. It was a bridge to a world not yet explored, and it was the perfect tool for a kid who previously giggled over Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends seeking the true potency of Marvel’s back catalog. X-Men begat The Sensational Spider-Man, and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – both amazing Marvel ‘toons worthy of praise alongside the best of the DC offerings (all of the Timm-verse, Young Justice, etc.). Suffice it to say: without Lewald and his team’s contributions? We may not have the age of comics we’re presently living through. Stay tuned kiddos. Leave me your favorite X-men moment below, and we’ll see ya’ll back here next week for the multi-part interview! (Seriously, it’s like The Phoenix Saga of interviews!)
Way back in September, it was announced that Marvel was bringing back Jean Grey for the first time in thirteen years. No, not time displaced Jean Grey. No, not the reanimated Jean Grey from Phoenix – Endsong; the real fictional character. I’ve been thinking about this ever since the announcement. I’ve wanted to say something here, but I just wasn’t sure. I’ve talked privately with people whom all more or less agree with me on this to a point, so I’m finally going to say it here in my column.
I hate that they’re bringing Jean Grey back. It’s genuinely a terrible idea.
I feel terrible talking about this because the writer, Matthew Rosenberg, is a great guy writing incredible comics at publishers like Marvel and Black Mask Studios. He deserves all the success in the world. Leinil Yu is a fantastic artist. This has nothing to do with the creative team on this book; it’s about the editorial direction. It’s just plain and simple a terrible idea.
Most glaringly this transparent stunt shows off how Marvel just doesn’t know what to do with the X franchise so they’re just repacking greatest hits collections. In write ups about the move, Marvel makes statements about how it’s interesting because how will the other X-Men react to her suddenly being back? The real question is why would anyone care when we’ve already seen this done before. More than once. More than twice. That’s not an interesting or unique angle.
This also reminds everyone just how needlessly convoluted the continuity is for the X franchise. In the ads for this book they state that this is the return of the adult Jean Grey. Yes, they have to specify which version of Jean Grey is actually coming back. That is a problem. There is no other way to look at this. If you want new readers coming in, this is not how to do it. If you want lapsed readers coming back in, this is a way to remind them why they stopped reading in the first place. I’m a low hanging fruit X-Men fanboy and I will absolutely not be participating in this event. That should be viewed as a bad sign that have no interest in even humoring this concept.
I’d also like to remind everyone that Jean Grey was literally so boring and played up as a damsel in distress to the point where Chris Claremont came in with incredibly talented collaborators like Dave Cockrum and John Byrne and turned her into a space goddess. She remained so uninteresting they had to make her a villain and kill her off.
The first time she was brought back was for X-Factor in which, again, she was the least interesting team member. As characters like Angel and Iceman were fleshed out by Louise and Walter Simonson (in some of the best and lasting ways either of those characters have been portrayed), but even the Simonsons could not elevate Jean Grey to the kind of character Marvel seems to think she should be. Hell, they just started a solo, time displaced Jean Grey comic earlier this year and in the first issue they already started referencing Phoenix. That is how boring this character is, or at least how creatively bankrupt Marvel is regarding the character.
When Grant Morrison took on the X-Men in New X-Men Jean was actually portrayed with a level of depth she’s rarely been given before. She had a complicated emotional story arc that really elevated her and her death resonated. Despite all of that, Marvel has moved so far away from the incredible work Grant Morrison did with the X-Men, even though the collected editions are constantly in print and available, still solid sellers thirteen years later. These stories have been reprinted in more formats than most other Marvel comics. It’s baffling why Marvel would move so far away from a direction that was working in favor of an over a decades long emo mutant sadness porn.
We need stakes in our stories. Stakes are what keeps the reader engaged. Why should I read this story if ultimately nothing of consequence will happen? Of course there are some exceptions, but not when we’re dealing with the heavily action based superhero genre. The characters are what keeps people coming back to these stories. Can Peter Parker pay Aunt May’s rent and stop the Lizard this month? Will we find out more of Wolverine’s past? Stuff like that.
It’s safe to say that in most situations the highest stakes for a character is that they could die. When those stakes are completely removed, as they are in the superhero genre, it makes it difficult for readers to want to pick up and read them month to month. Why am I going to care about the issue where X character dies when I know they’ll be back anyway? There is no more shock value in that and the ways characters come back from different dimensions and magic and aliens makes it hard for anyone to get too invested anymore. It makes it hard for me to get invested.
Mainstream comics have a problem, and instead of dealing with it they are actually celebrating it. People are championing (adult) Jean Grey coming back after thirteen years as something that was a long time coming that we should celebrate. Finally, she’s back! It’s about time! When I hear that, it sounds like people celebrating that their friend or loved one that’s been sober for thirteen years is finally drinking again. This is not only not the time to be celebrating, it’s also very depressing and leaves you feeling hopeless.
Look, I love Marvel. Really. I adore the characters, the stories, the movies, and the TV shows; I even had a Jean Grey Phoenix action figure growing up. Some of the best characters and comics ever made or that will ever be made are from Marvel. The reason I’m writing this is because I care and so do a lot of other people. The comics industry needs Marvel to succeed. I want Marvel to succeed and, in particular, the X franchise to succeed. Back in April, I wrote this open letter to Marvel regarding the direction I saw ResurrXion going in. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be getting better, but just getting worse and the sales numbers are reflecting that.
Remember a couple of years ago when rumors started swirling that maybe the X-Men would be put in their own mini-universe separate from the rest of the Marvel Universe? Remember how some people were genuinely excited by that idea, and were kind of sad when Axel said that wouldn’t be the case? Instances like these are maybe worth taking more seriously, because I honestly can’t fathom that approach being worse than what’s happening now and you, the reader, probably can’t either.
I understand that this is a problem that didn’t happen overnight. It took a long time to get here and it will take a long time to get out. Either way, something has to change soon, because this is not sustainable.
For those following along at home, this has been a contentious week. For reasons I’m too bored to research, writer extraordinaire Gail Simone has started a blood feud with Fabian Nicieza over the specific pseudo-science of an X-Man’s mutant ability.
Before we explore the depth of the debate, let’s just catch up those few of you who truly don’t know your X-Men from your West Coast Teen Titanvengers.
Cyclops, the almost-often leader of Charles Xavier’s mutant strike-force, has the mutant ability to (according to Wikipedia which cites the Marvel Handbook as a source) shoot Optic Blasts — the product of his body metabolizing sunlight and other ambient energy. This is similar to his brother Alex (alias Havok) who metabolizes cosmic radiation. This metabolized energy is then released in the form of the beam from his eyes. (Thank you, Wikipedia)
Ms. Simone posits that these beams are, in fact hot, and as such said blasts are akin to Superman’s heat vision. Mr. Nicieza dutifully leans on his Marvel Handbook definition wherein the blasts are merely concussive – hence not containing any heat. Hilarity has since ensued as each creator has taken to social media to defend their point of view.
Conflicting reports have buoyed from the argument being tongue-in-cheek to absolutely-sincere. The fanboys have taken to arms over it. One might even posit that Simone’s initial declaration was more a way to oust angry fan-boy-man-children into a stupor to question her authority – not as a creator, but as a female creator. But subsequent meme’ing across the Facebook-Twitter-verse has perhaps grown what might be a funny little distraction to an all-out who-gives-a-flying-fuck (pardon me) for folks now declaring themselves #TeamGail and #TeamFabian – with equal membership aligned on the aforementioned spectrum of sincerity.
In the same week where #MeToo has spurned significant debate and discussion, it’s hard to figure out if the snowballing of the argument itself has been the barely concealed point this whole time, or offered as scapegoat distraction against some heavy and tumultuous postings.
Furthermore, why I bring this all to you this week, comes seated in my own idiotic apprehension to voice my (unnecessary) opinion on who specifically is right.
Whilst a litany of women whom I love have bared their souls across my feeds, I was personally compelled to do something, anything, to show my love and support. I cribbed a posting from a good (guy) friend who did his best to respond. In short, he wrote a blanket apology to all women whom he might have inadvertently scorned or hurt through his jovial nature; making it clear while he had never committed any heinous physical action to any women, he was unsure if in his own brand of humor had not ever accidentally offended any women in his life, or made them feel harassed. His sentiment was pure, and in seeing it, I was compelled to share it myself.
The reaction was positive – as many of my female friends ‘liked’ and commented in support of my desire to ensure my stance as someone who never intends to harm any living soul with my actions or words – keeping in mind that no matter how mindful I may be, my own brand of humor may have pushed limits unintentionally. Within the post came a desire for any women who I’d ever committed an inadvertent sin to let me know (privately or otherwise) so that I may sincerely apologize, and (of course) recognize where I might have previously been an idiot.
But in taking even that action, I was reprimanded a day later. A very intelligent, thoughtful, respected friend of mine took my posting to task. She let me know that in my desire to right a wrong, my intentions may have been pure, but the desire to do so was couched in the very thing the #MeToo movement is in essence fighting to change. To tell a woman (or anyone who has been harassed) to speak up to correct me may be unduly forcing them to relive erroneous feelings I caused. In short: If I can’t recognize what I’ve done wrong? I’m still part of the problem.
And with that, we return to CyclopsGate. You see, I side with Fabian. To the best of my recollection, Cyclops’ beams carry no heat. While they may have the ability to melt objects and such as shown in many comic books throughout X-history, I’ve long held the belief in those instances the concussive blasts caused friction across the target, which in turn caused combustion. Or, at very most, when specifically stressed Cyclops can add heat to his optic blasts inadvertently (like, say, he’s mad. Mad beams hot. Being tactical? Beam stays cool.).
The thing is, I love Gail Simone. I am thoroughly #TeamGail. But to declare her right when I believe her to be wrong? Well, I got #MeToo’d into silence.
My fear of missing the joke (or non-joke) of this feud (or faux-feud) has me fretting over my opinion. Gail is clearly a lot closer to mainstream comics than I am. Perhaps she is right! But if I voice my opinion (one bolstered only by the internet research I could complete via sources that vacillate between hearsay and Wikipedia), do I accidentally side with tiki-torch-wielding man-children?
I don’t know, so, I’ll just declare myself #TeamWolverine (X-23 though, not that misogynist Logan, damnit).
NEW YORK SHOULDN’T HAVE GIVEN THE X-MEN A PARKING PASS
Let’s say you’ve done something really stupid. No, let’s say I’ve done something really stupid; that’s more realistic. There are many answers I could give when someone asked me, “Why did you do that?” However, I presently subscribe to the theory championed by no less a personage than Harlan Ellison. The best answer is, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Sometimes, however, not even that answer – which, unlike me, is direct and to the point – will suffice. There are some stupid things for which the answer, “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” will not work because they are so monumentally stupid that they could never have seemed like a good idea at any time. Things like Clippy, New Coke, and X-Men Gold #1.
No I’m not saying the idea of publishing X-Men Gold was stupid. I’m saying that something that happened in X-Men Gold #1 was of the so-monumentally-stupid-that-it-could-never-have-seemed-like-a-good-idea variety.
After the X-Men Gold team saved Manhattan from an attack by former Galactus herald Terrax – Why did Terrax attack Manhattan; it seemed like a good idea at the time – they went back to the new Xavier Institute for Mutant Education and Outreach to have one of their relaxing Softball games. They were met by the City Register for New York who presented current X-Men leader Kitty Pride with the invoice for the first six months’ rent and property tax for the parcel of land on which the Mayor of New York agreed to let the X-Men relocate their school. Kitty was shocked when she read the bill. It was for eighteen million dollars. That’s eighteen million. With an eight.
Turns out the X-men relocated the Xavier Institute to the middle of Central Park.
And that’s what was so monumentally stupid that it could never have seemed like a good idea at any time. For both the X-Men and New York City.
Judging from Kitty’s shock at seeing the invoice, I can only conclude she signed the lease without reading it first and ascertaining how much the rent and property tax was going to set the team back. And there is never a time when signing a lease without reading its terms – especially its rent terms – could seem like a good idea.
Thirty-six million dollars a year in rent and property tax isn’t just steep, it’s pushing Sisyphus’ rock up a right angle. Unless every oil sheik and internet billionaire in the world has offspring in need of mutant training or Kitty can get a copyright on the word “The,” I don’t see how the Xavier Institute will ever earn enough money to pay rent and property tax that’s so x-orbitant.
And speaking of monumentally stupid ideas, which we were, who in the Mayor’s office thought it would be a good idea for the Xavier Institute to relocate to Central Park?
Central Park is home to a zoo, a castle, a carousel, a concert shell, several playgrounds, baseball fields, skating rinks, fountains, a boat house, several theaters, statues, gardens, a world-class restaurant, several other restaurants, even more hot-dog carts, jogging trails, horse-drawn carriage rides, a memorial to John Lennon, lakes, ponds, and enough trees to make Robin Hood, his Merry Men, and every dog in the tri-state area happy. It is the fourth most-visited tourist attraction in the world with forty million visitors every year. And this is where the Mayor of New York agreed to put a school that’s attacked so frequently its got a training facility called The Danger Room?
Your Honor, have you heard of “collateral damage?” In case you haven’t, collateral damage isn’t what the 2008 housing bubble burst inflicted when people got their collateral foreclosed on. It’s what happens to innocent people when they’re hanging around major battlefields.
Mr. Mayor, the X-Men have villains with names like the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Mr. Sinister, and Apocalypse. These are not nice people. They would think nothing of attacking the X-Men in their home. A home you just allowed them to put in Central Park. If even one percent of those forty million visitors get hurt the next time someone attacks the Xavier Institute, you’ve just opened your city up to about 400,000 lawsuits. I practiced criminal defense law for 28 years and don’t know a tort from a torte, and even I would know how to file the complaints for the class action suits that are sure to follow.
Mr. Mayor, you may have thought renting Central Park to the X-Men was a good idea at the time. You might have even thought it would be a win-win situation. And it will be. For the plaintiffs and their lawyers.
I don’t always get around to seeing movies that I want to see while they’re in the theaters. I prefer seeing movies first in the theater and preferably in IMAX. I love the big screen and I think that’s how they were meant to be seen. I don’t mind seeing it later on the small screen, especially if I still have the memory of seeing the large-scale version.
Sometimes, for one reason or another, I just don’t get around to getting to the movie theater in time to catch the feature. Logan was one of those films.
As you already probably know, Logan is the last film that Hugh Jackman will make playing Wolverine. It’s a part that made him a star and that he basically owns. This time it’s set in the not too distant future of 2029 and things have not gone well for the mutant population. (Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen the film and want to, best stop reading now or you may learn more than you want to.) By inference, we learn that there are almost no mutants left and none have been born in the past 25 years. There was some kind of unspecified disaster around the school in Westchester NY several years back.
Logan is now keeping it on the down low near the Mexican border as a driver/bodyguard. He drinks a lot and he’s sick; his mutant healing factor is fading and the adamantium that laces his bones (and claws) is poisoning him. He’s also taking care of Professor X, Charles Xavier (played once again by Patrick Stewart, who has said this is also his last go-round with the X-Men), who is also ailing. The man with the most powerful brain in the world is losing control of it; every once in a while, he has seizures that wreak havoc on everyone near him.
Into Logan’s and Professor X’s life comes an 11-year-old girl named Laura who is a mutant, who may have been created in a lab where she was dubbed X-23. She also has retractable claws, rage issues, and a violent nature. Sound like anyone we know? She is Logan’s “daughter” in that his DNA was used to create her.
The movie is a road picture, one in which Logan, Laura, and Professor X are chased as they try to find their way to a possible haven. The film is very violent (having earned an R rating) and bleak. Very bleak.
Professor X founded the X-Men in the belief, the hope, that mutants and normal humans could find a way to live together. His frenemy, Magneto, didn’t think they could and his path was more violent. He saw humans and mutants as being at war.
Evidently, Magneto was right. That appears to be the premise of Logan – very few mutants are left and the ones that exist are being hunted. Xavier was wrong.
That’s also been the premise of more than a few X-Men comics that touch on the future. I don’t recall seeing one such future where Professor X’s vision came true. I will admit, I find that a bit depressing. It seems to me to undercut some of the basic premise of the X-Men – that there is hope that all these different types of people can live together. The X-Men have been stand-ins for so many different persecuted minorities. Xavier’s dream, his vision, has always held out hope to me that our differences can be overcome, however tough the battle.
That’s not what Logan seems to say.
I don’t know if I have the right to gripe. My career seems to be about anti-heroes and bleak characters and bad times; it’s how I make my living. I can certainly see the allure in taking that attitude in Logan; it feels closer to life as we see it these days. More and more so all the time. But maybe that’s why we need a little more hope.
This is not to say that Logan is a badly made film; far from it. It’s not simply violent; it’s intelligent and well written and has wonderful performances. In the blu-ray pack that I bought, I had a chance to experience it in black and white. They call it Logan Noir and it has the feel of noir films of old. I was very impressed.
I was also a little saddened. It’s hard to watch a dream die, especially one that was meant to give us hope. These days, I think we need all the hope we can get.
This week we battle it out to see whose favorite super heroine is the best. Maddy brings her favorite DC Superhero Black Canary to the fight against Anya’s favorite Marvel Superhero Scarlet Witch.
To Marvel Entertainment,
Last week I read X-Men Gold #1 and, controversy aside which I won’t be getting into as you have gone above and beyond to address the issue properly and professionally, it really invoked a lot of strong feelings in me. Because of that, I’d like to talk about the X-Men and what they mean to me.
I first discovered X-Men on television when I was in elementary school. I remember watching the first episode and immediately being sucked in. To this day, the Sentinels are still menacing to me and I’ll always have a fondness for Jubilee, Rogue and Storm. I remember the time between Saturday morning after the episode finished to the next Saturday felt like an eternity. I was a shy kid who knew he was queer, but I didn’t understand it. I didn’t have a lot of friends, didn’t enjoy sports and couldn’t really connect to other kids on a lot of things, but one thing I could talk to the other kids at lunch in the cafeteria was about cartoons like X-Men. That meant a lot to me.
I was lucky to have parents that did well enough to get a lot of those action figures. It was very confusing to me, and I’m sure my parents as well, how they had action figures based on the cartoon as well as ones based on the comics. Why did my Storm action figure have a black costume when it was white on the show? I remember some of the times very clearly of being at Toys R Us in Levittown, NY with my parents specifically wanting X-Men action figures. It’s a DSW Shoes now. I really pushing hard for the yellow and blue costume Wolverine and how exciting that was for me to get it. Or how it took my mom more than one attempt to get a Phoenix action figure for me.
My parents also got me the VHS of the pilot that never took off, Pryde of the X-Men. I watched it over and over again. I once used all my quarters allotted to me to beat the X-Men video game based on that unsold pilot at the arcade in Bayville, NY. I’d got to beat it again in Walt Disney World a decade before Disney bought Marvel;the only character that worked was Dazzler. I’ve been obsessed with Dazzler ever since. I also had played that Sega Genesis X-Men game where it almost all takes place in the Danger Room – it was definitely harder than it needed to be. I was even in an AOL chatroom X-Men role playing game for a bit. I played Cyclops.
The first X-Men movie came out while I was in high school and watched some of the resulting X-Men Evolution cartoon. I saw that first X-Men movie opening weekend, and have seen each X-Men movie opening weekend ever since. College brought about a lot of nostalgia for the 90s animated series. Covered in scorpions was a running gag. A guy I met while in college, Jake, was the first openly gay X-Men fan I befriended. It was when Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassiday was coming out. I’d pick him up and we’d go to Fourth World Comics, our local comic shop. We’d go back, read it in silence, then discuss. We also went together to pick up X-Men Legends 2 the day it came out and played it as late as we could into the night.
Since then I’ve befriended people in comics, other LGBT fans of the X-Men, and have had all sorts of long philosophical and meaningful conversations about these comics. I’ve waited on long lines to get signatures at cons from people like Chris Claremont, Louise and Walter Simonson, Mike and Laura Allred, Peter David, John Cassiday, and Frank Quitely because of the work they did in the world of X-Men and have gotten original comic pages, con sketches and commissions of the X-Men.
I’m telling you all of this not to brag or claim that I’m a bigger fan than anyone else because it’s honestly no astonishing feat. I’m saying this to let you know how much the X-Men has meant to me over the years, how it’s impacted my life for the better, made me more social, and is one of the biggest reasons I’m writing about comics at all. I’m also telling you this because I read X-Men Gold #1 and it left me so frustrated I that I had to write this.
I think it’s fair to say that as an X-Men comics reader I’m within your target demographic and would take that one step further and say I’m likely be perceived as low hanging fruit. I have to be completely honest and say that there is something wrong here with this book. It’s not the writing, and controversy aside it’s not the artwork. It’s not even the editing. Marvel put together an impressive team to work on this book, and it shows. The problem I’m talking about runs deeper and doesn’t necessarily have an easy fix.
The weight of the X-Men falls heavy on this book. Because of the decades and decades of continuity, this debut issue spends so much time trying to explain what happened before this started that it’s basically all we get. We get reference after reference, explanation after explanation, and we are left with little story. And despite all of the references and explanations we still get six full pages at the end of the comic to further explain everything leading up to this issue. If you need six pages at the end of your comic to explain your comic then we have a problem. A big problem.
Writer Marc Guggenheim talks in his letter at the end of the issue about how this is going to be more of a throwback to an older time in X-Men history when it was fresh and new. This is also a problem. Nostalgia has been driving these books for a long time and it has to stop. It needs to stop or you’re condemning the X brand to never grow its audience.
I’m 31 years old and the X-Men has been a part of my life for well over two decades. I for one am absolutely sick to death of nostalgia, and I’m not the only one. I fell in love with X-Men when I saw the animated episode Night of the Sentinels Part 1 because it was inviting, explained enough of what was happening so I could follow it, and told an engaging story. Had that cartoon been a bunch of characters making references to things they did 30 years previous and took so long to set everything up that the first episode ended a few seconds after something started to move the plot forward, I might not be the X-Men fan I am now. Nostalgia has its place, but it is not why we fall in love with stories and it is certainly not what will grow an audience.
I certainly do not mean to diminish the works of everyone at the company. Marc Guggenheim is a wonderful writer whom I’m embarrassingly not as familiar with as I should be and will be rectifying that in the coming weeks. Daniel Ketchum is a great editor who took the time to chat with me after a panel at NYCC a couple of years back encouraging me to keep giving the Iceman storyline a chance and it’s really paying off now as I’m most excited for Sina Grace’s Iceman #1. Jay Leisten is an incredible inker whose work I first got into with Peter David’s run on X-Factor that is one of my favorite chapters in mutant history. Cory Petit is great letterer and a friend. Axel Alonso with Peter Milligan and Mike Allred put together what is easily to me one of the best things that ever happened to the X franchise with their run on X-Force/X-Statix.
As a long time fan I want to tell you that I acknowledge that X-Men has become too old, too bloated, and is crippling itself under its own weight in continuity. As a long time fan I want to tell you that it’s okay to let it loose, cut it free from its continuity and start fresh. It’s unsustainable how it is right now. Let it have that new fresh start it needs to survive.
I felt a certain magic when I first picked up X-Force/X-Statix, Grant Morrison‘s New X-Men, Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, Peter David’s X-Factor, and Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force. I want to feel that magic again in an X book, not because they’re going back to what works, but because they’re trying something new and daring and they aren’t getting caught in the current of continuity and dragged under. I didn’t feel that magic in X-Men Gold #1.
That’s not to say it won’t ever come. I’m picking up issue 2. I’m going to be picking up the rest of the X books coming out in this new wave and I’ll see what sticks. However, the flagship title of a franchise relaunch should be blowing a reader away, and that wasn’t the case here; at least for me. Maybe I’m wrong and I’m the odd man out in this situation. Maybe my love of the franchise has set the bar unreasonably high and that’s not fair of me.
I just want the X-Men to continue to succeed well into the future. I want the queer kids in school like me who maybe didn’t understand they are queer and what it is to have a team of heroes to look up to, because they need a team of them. They need to see a world where there are a lot of people like themselves and they can work together and be special no matter how the rest of the world perceives them. They need to see a world where these characters who sometimes have vastly different philosophies and strategies on how to keep themselves safe can come together to protect each other because taking care of each other is most important thing. They need Northstar, Iceman, Rictor, Shatterstar, Mystique, Destiny, Karma, and more.
I know this was long, yet I have so much more I could say. Please don’t let the X-Men crush themselves under their own weight. I’m still going to be a fan, and I’ll keep giving these books a shot over and over again, but I’d love to have some of that magic back.
Joe Corallo, Lifetime X-Men Fan
Death has been everywhere lately this March of 2017. Actor Bill Paxton. Rock and Roll pioneer Chuck Berry. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Jimmy Breslin. The great artist Bernie Wrightson. Underground comics’ Jay Lynch and Skip Williamson. ComicMix’s Tweeks Maddy and Anya Ernst’s grandmother. Fellow columnist Marc Alan Fishman’s college friend. My dad.
As Martha Thomases said last week, although in an entirely different context – Too Much! Too Much!
Radiolab, which airs on NPR – check your local station – is a show that features issues both philosophical and scientific. In its 15th year, I was listening on Saturday as the hosts, Jay Abrumrad and Robert Kulwich, discussed a case brought to their attention by reporter Ike Siskandarajah. It was called “Mutant Rights.”
Two international tariff lawyers, Sherry Singer and Indie Singh, discovered that the legal classification of “doll” were taxed at a higher rate – 12% – than the legal classification of “toy,” at 6.8%. This was because dolls are considered “human,” and toys, such as figures of robots and demons and vampires and monsters, are not. A very strange idea to begin with, but what really piqued their interest was that Ms. Singer and Ms. Singh happened to include in their client list none other than Marvel Entertainment, also known – around here, at least – as Marvel Comics. And Marvel was importing its action figures as “dolls.”
This meant that Ms. Singer and Ms. Singh set out to save $$$ for their client by using the X-Men action figures to claim that these representations of the mutant superheroes were not human, and therefore should be taxed at the same lower rate as toys. To help illustrate their point, the two lawyers collected between 60 and 80 samples of action figures, and especially the mutant X-Men.
Bryan Singer, oft-time director and executive producer of the X-Men movie and television franchise, discussed the history of the X-Men with Ike and the two lawyers, reflecting on the history of the X-Men, and how, throughout their history, they have represented those who are different from or outside the society in which they live, whether by skin color or sexual preference or religion or place of birth or, well, whatever.
But the crazy thing is, the court case, which lasted over ten years, became to be about what it means to be human (as did the segment). And the final verdict? All Marvel actions figures, whether representing mutants or not, are now classified as “non-human” – therefore, toys.
But does that ruling apply to all the action figures from all the companies from all the world? I mean, not all action figures are created equal. Kal-El is Kryptonian, so that’s easy, and Diana is either made from clay or half-goddess, depending on which origin you prefer (YMMV), so that’s easy, too. Buffy’s powers come from the demon darkness, Willow and Tara are witches, Oz is a werewolf, Angel and Spike are vampires. But what about Giles? And Xander? And what about Bruce Wayne, and Dick Grayson, who may classify as superheroes, but are totally and completely human?
I’m guessing that, having set a precedent with this ruling, imported action figures, if they are connected to comics or other popular media specializing in science fiction and fantasy, are paying the lower 6.8% import tariff. But…
This is a case for ComicMix’s resident commenting attorney.
Up, up, and away, SuperBob!
I’ve heard quite few comics fans say (write, text, think out loud, bitch, moan, complain) that because of the large number of good comic book teevee shows they’ve found themselves having to cut back on their comics reading.
Let’s see. I think I sympathize. After all, we’ve got Legion, Arrow, Agents of SHIELD, Gotham, Marvel Netflix (hey, that’s the same as a series, isn’t it?), Flash, Legends, Riverdale, Supergirl, and Powerless. Soon we’ll have The Inhumans and The Punisher (part of the Netflix rotation) and The Defenders (another part of the Netflix rotation) and Cloak and Dagger and Black Lightning and The Runaways and maybe Ghost Rider and maybe still Damage Control and maybe The New Warriors (so long, Stamford!), and maybe Scarlett and maybe a Matt Nix-produced X-Men spin-off show. And I am certain there are other shows that I can’t remember right now.
I get the point. When I was born, there were two and one-half networks beaming to our black and white remote-controlless 16-inch round cathode ray tubes. Two and two-half if you count the DuMont network, a severely under-programed effort whose best-known show, The Honeymooners, didn’t even air on their own network (long, irrelevant story; Google it). Combined, they offered slightly more programming than the list of superhero shows I noted above.
Then again, at that same time there were dozens and dozens of comics publishers and many titles sold over a quarter-million copies. A few sold in the millions. Today, we’re ecstatic when we see a circulation of 40,000.
Of course this can’t last. I suspect we will have new comics-birthed programming as long as there are comics to birth them, but pop culture phenomena tend to roll in fads. Do you remember when there were about two dozen westerns on the tube 39 out of 52 weeks of the year? If so, then keep your eye on upcoming Medicare legislation.
In a couple hours Marvel Netflix will drop Iron Fist, the final introduction before The Defenders event. The advance word isn’t strong, and that may be so. However, it’s come to the point where a lot of people simply want to see a major superhero series fail. Yes, Iron Fist comes with some unfortunate whitewashing baggage, and a guy with a green costume, a tattoo instead of chest hair, and glowy knuckles isn’t as compelling as, say, an all-powerful mutant with severe memory and relationship issues. I’m not sure I care as much about the lead character as I do about Claire Temple (Marvel’s Netflix glue) and Colleen Wing, who has always been one of my favorite characters.
So, between all this television, a plethora of movies (which usually come in plethoras) and an infinite number of comic books, how much rock’em sock’em action can you fit into a single attention span?
Ask me again if and when somebody gets off his ass and gives us a GrimJack series.