They must also beable to fluidly tell a story and fit it all in the allotted number of pages. The stories oftenprobe deep into the human psyche, questioning what is right and what is wrong orshowing human frailty. That is not all. In a series like the X-Men, where there are at leasta few hundred characters, past and present, leading and supporting, even dead and alive,the writer must keep track of a characters experiences and their personality. They mustalso keep track of continuity, making sure they dont contradict past events. This last ruleis only loosely followed sometimes.
All in all, a long, ongoing story can be like a soap opera. My favorite example ofthis is The Summers Family, Which goes a little something like this: There are twobrothers, Scott and Alex Summers, who were orphaned as children when they werepushed from a plane being attacked by an advanced alien race. Their mother died but theirfather went on to become a space pirate. Later, Scott falls in love with Jean Grey, who becomes an omnipotent primal force,the Phoenix, who commits suicide to save the universe from herself.
Meanwhile, a badguy has made a clone of Jean named Maddie, who marries Scott. They have a baby,Nathan. Jean returns from the dead, not actually having been the Phoenix, but actually abody template. Scott leaves his family and joins a team of super heroes with Jean andsome other old friends. Well, Maddie becomes a bad guy and apparently dies. Later, the baby, Nate, isinfected by another bad guy with an incurable virus, so hes sent 2000 years into the futurewhere he grows up then comes back to help fight the good fight.
Nate was brought intothe future by a group of people pulled together by his older sister. His older sister is Rachel, who was born in an alternate timeline where almost allthe good guys were dead. Her parents were Scott and the real Jean. She came back toprevent her time from ever happening and ended up about 2000 years in the futurebecause a friend was stuck traveling about in the time stream. Meanwhile Alex feels that he cannot live up to Scotts standards so he constantlytries to escape his shadow.
He gets brainwashed into being a bad guy, recovers to lead agroup of good guys, and gets brainwashed again. Great family history, no? Oh yes, there may be another brother aroundsomewhere. The X-Men are all mutants, Homo Sapien Superior, the next evolutionary step forhuman beings, a minority group of people with a genetic quirk, an X-Factor that grantsthem extraordinary powers. Some are blessings, like the ability to control the weather orto fly. Some are curses, such as the ability to blast uncontrollably strong beams of forcefrom the eyes.
Blessed or cursed, mutants are a group of people who are feared for theirdifferences. Some mutants strike back against humanity in a harmful manner. One groupwho attacks regular humans is the Acolytes, formerly lead by the X-Mens oldest enemy,Magneto. They have attacked hospitals and orphanages just to cleanse the genepool. Some strive to bridge the gap between mutant and human.
These are the X-Men, a groupof mutants, formed by Professor Charles Xavier, the worlds strongest telepath, sworn toprotect a world that fears and hates them. The X-Men comics are not just aboutprejudice either. They tackle many social issues, such as abortion and AIDS. The original team of X-Men consisted of five teen-agers and Xavier (ProfessorX). These were not as popular as other titles of the times such as Superman, Batman,Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, and The Avengers. The early stories were basically abouta supergroup that went around facing super bad guys and some prejudice now and then.
After sixty-odd issues, X-Men started just reprinting old stories. This went on for aboutthirty issues when the book was going to be canceled. The X-Men were saved by thecreative team of Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, and Terry Austin with Giant Sized X-Men#1. Giant Sized X-Men #1 introduced an all-new, all-different X-Men. This boastedin a new team of mutants. The new team of X-Men was multi-racial and multi-national,whereas the original team was a bunch of white American kids.
It was also a very radicalteam, considering the time period (the late seventies). Since the book was scheduled to becanceled, the creators decided to be a little bit radical in their approach to this dying comicbook. The person who took over field command was Storm, an African native. Think ofthat, a black woman leading a superhero comic book team, a role she usurped from ayoung white male (Cyclops).
It was quite a change from the norm. There was also ayoung Russian, Colossus, during a time when Russians were taboo in America. The others in the team were Wolverine, a Canadian, whose violent nature was verydifferent from the boy scout types like Superman. There were also Sunfire from Japan,Banshee from Ireland, Nightcrawler (no, he is not a worm) from Germany, andThunderbird, an Apache Indian. One thing that made this group of X-Men stand out wasthat on the first mission for the new team, issue #95, they killed off Thunderbird, anextremely new and radical thing. About 40 issues later they killed off one of the largemainstay characters, Jean Grey, who was a founding member.
Of course, as I explainedearlier, she came back a few years later, but it was a really big thing at the time. That X-Men team went on many adventures, saved galaxies and all reality, andbuilt up a huge supporting cast, paving the way for spin-off books. A current list ofX-Men books includes the following titles; Uncanny X-Men, X-Men, X-Factor, X-Force(originally New Mutants), Excalibur, Generation X, X-Man, Wolverine, Cable, andDeadpool, not to mention a lot of four issue limited series titles. So, you may be asking, where does all the social stuff come in? Well, it startedcoming into play early on, with the first group of X-Men. People began to realize what itcould mean to have people being born with great super powers. They began to feel afraidand obsolete.
One man, Dr. Bolivar Trask, played on these fears and built giant robots tocapture and control mutants. I believe this was around issue #15. They were calledSentinels and have been a recurring problem for they X-Men.
This parallels to the UnitedStates government taking action against other groups of people they did not understand,such as the Indians forced onto reservations, or the blacks that were oppressed with lawsuntil very recently. Another government action was the Mutant Registration Act, which requiredmutants to check in with the government to the government could keep tabs on them. One storyline dealing with racism is called Days of Future Past (which I recentlybought for a total of $21, one issue is even autographed by the artist). This storyillustrates a consequence of racism out of control.
In it, the Sentinels are programmed toprotect humans from all mutants. The Sentinels figure that the best way to do that is bytaking over the humans. In the end, all the heroes are dead and the Sentinels prepare tolaunch an attack on the rest of the world to save it from the mutant menace just as Europeis about to launch nuclear missiles at the conquered North America to keep the Sentinelsaway. The world is a nightmare where people are killed or shipped to concentrationcamps for being born a little differently from most others, when racism wins out overreason. Another template of a society gone mad with racism is shown in the island countryof Genosha.
At one time Genosha was a thriving country, one of the most popular touristattractions in the world. It seemed perfect, everyone seemed happy. But things are notalways as they seem. Genosha was secretly taken care of by mutates, mutants who weremade to be subordinate through mindwiping techniques. The whole country, even thetransportation systems like the railroads, were run off mutate energy. All the low jobswere given to the mutates, who didnt even have mind enough to speak in protest.
Eventually the X-Men helped to free the mutates, but, after failing to live peacefullytogether, a civil war broke out, leaving the once prosperous nation in ruins. The normal humans are not the only people guilty of racism in X-Men. Thefirst villain ever fought by the X-Men was Magneto, a mutant who sought to rule over themutants and crush humanity for being inferior. After being defeated time and again andeven switching sides once, Magneto decided to gather up mutants and live off of Earthand away from humans on an orbital space station called Avalon.
It was eventually blownup and Magneto lost his memory then joined the X-Men again. Magneto mirrors many things tried by minorities in America. His attempts to fightback are like the Black Panthers and some Indian tribes. His separationist views are likesome of what Malcolm X thought.
Then there is the inevitable attempt to fit in, whichseems to work as a temporary, surface fix. Another group who struck back out of fear was the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants,lead by Magneto, then Mystique, and now Havok. Mystiques Brotherhood was evenmore militant in some ways than Magneto was. They attempted an assassination of apresidential candidate which, if successful, would have set the Days of Future Paststoryline into actuality. They were as much, if not even more like the Indians and BlackPanthers than Magneto (until they became a government sanctioned group in return forfull pardons). Havoks group is too new to assess right now.
Social organizations have also been involved in the racial issues, as they often werelong ago. There have been two prime examples of this. One was a story called GodLoves, Man Kills, where the preacher tells his clergy that mutants, having strange powers,are all hellspawn and condones hunting them down and killing them to keep the threataway and to put a little chlorine in the gene pool. This is like the Ku Klux Klan or a racistchurch one may hear about in movies or television shows. The other example is also achurch but it shows a school of more open thought.
In this church, the preacherrecognizes that some of these mutants use their powers to help others and they should notbe prejudged. The X-Men are even compared to angels in this story. This shows theorganizations, such as churches, that are open to people, no matter who they are. As said earlier, the X-Men dont revolve only around prejudice, but they battleother social injustices as well. One is the fear inspired by the Legacy Virus.
This is adisease that attacks a mutants genetic structure and eats it away, much like the AIDSvirus attacks and destroys a persons immune system. The X-Men have already lost someclose friends to this disease. At first it was thought that only mutants could get the virus,like it was once thought that only homosexuals or drug users could get AIDS. Then afriend of the X-Men, genetic researcher Moira MacTaggert, a normal human, contractedthe disease and panic spread like wild fire. Now all of the sudden every Tom, Dick, andHarry is afraid of catching that Mutie disease. For a while, as I remember, peoplethought one could catch AIDS by being near an infected person.
That is how people seethe Legacy Virus: get near a mutant and youll catch that non-curable disease they allhave. Another issue the mighty mutants have confronted is abortion. Is it right toprevent a life if it is known that the baby will have what is essentially a birth defect? Inone storyline in X-Factor a doctor discovers a way to tell if a fetus will be a mutant or not. This information can be passed along to the parents who can decide if they want a mutantbaby or not.
In the end, Wolfsbane, a conservative Scottish Catholic lass, destroys all theresearch information the doctor has, preventing mutant abortions. Currently, anti-mutant hysteria is at an all time high. An ultra-powerfulcombination of Professor X and Magneto took control of an army of Sentinels andprogrammed them to round up super-powered people and destroy New York City. Thisamalgamated being, called Onslaught, decided he would get rid of all normal people andthen decided to just kill everybody. To destroy him, Earths popular heroes, the FantasticFour and the Avengers, sacrificed themselves. Most people view it in this way: a mutantkilled all of their favorite heroes so mutants are all evil.
It also did not help the mutant cause that a popular anti-mutant presidentialcandidate was killed on live television by an as-of-now unknown mutant. No, mutants arenot riding high on Americas popularity list. The X-Men are popular outside comic books also. There is a cartoon and a comicspin off of the cartoon, since it is geared towards younger people. As Philip always pointsout, there is an X-Men ravioli out there. Clothing, shoes, video games, toys, dolls, Pezdispensers, shoestrings, you name it, the X-Men are likely to have it.
So why do I like the X-Men so much? It is a combination of a lot of things. Greatstories, characters you can get attached to, beautiful art, a different perspective(everybody loves Superman, but nobody loves mutants), and social relevance. What elsecould make a better escapists world? Not only all that, but they are everywhere you turn. And now, a few of theProfessor Xavier, founder of the X-Men, telepathMagneto, first enemy of the X-Men, one-time leader, now a team mate, ability tomanipulate magnetic fieldsCyclops, first and leader of the X-Man, Phoenixs husband, fires uncontrollable opticbeamsPhoenix, Cyclops wife, founding X-Man, telekinesis (can move objects with thoughts)and telepathyBeast, founding X-Man, super strong and intelligent, hand-like feetArchangel, founding X-Man, originally had feathered wings, but they were ripped off andlater replacedIceman, founding X-Man, can turn into ice and manipulate nearby temperatureStorm, leader of second team of X-Men, manipulates weatherWolverine, most well-known X-Man, has bone claws and the ability to heal extremely fast,had indestructible metal laced bones and claws until Magneto sucked them out of himNightcrawler, now leads Excalibur, ability to teleportColossus, now with Excalibur, body transforms into an organic steel, also super strongJubilee, now with Generation X, formerly Wolverines sidekick, ability to producefireworksCable, son of Cyclops and a clone of Phoenix, leads X-Force, telepathy and telekinesisThere are many, many other mutants, but these are a few pretty important ones. Freak.
Flatscan. Deadend. Genejoke. Mutie. Words.
Powerful wordsmeant to distance. . . to demean.
. . to destroy the havens of self respect we eachcarry and nurture within us. Seeing past their differences, humans and mutantsshare a common, unbreakable bond.
Underneath all the words. . . we are related.
We are all family.-Professor Charles Francis Xavier, Uncanny X-Men #294————————————————————–