Monday, October 1, 2012
Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)
I never seem to shut up about Chris Claremont and how much I think he brought to this book, but there are tons of great writers and illustrators (Jim Lee, just to name another) who have had their crack at the mutant-verse of the years. Today, Uncanny X-Men remains one of the best selling comic books of all time. And, truth be told, I think it is one of the most dedicated comic books to it’s own in-universe continuity.
There’s so MUCH to write about X-Men we probably could start a whole news post just for it alone. This week is just going to touch on some bits and pieces of the X-universe that I think are cool--past and present--and maybe some that are actually a bit underappreciated.
I suppose one thing that’s kept X-Men so interesting for so long is its wide and ever expanding cast. X-Men is all about diversity and there are mutants galore, each one decked out with their own complicated mutant power and worldview. In fact there are so MANY mutants out there that there are plenty that just don’t get the attention that they deserve.
X-Men has become somewhat nortorious for it's spin-off books: New Mutants, X-Factor, X-Force and even the tongue in cheek X-Statix. But when I was a kid, Generation X was the coolest, hippest, hottest new Marvel comic book on the rack.
I still can't believe how quickly this series sort of burned out. The art was great, the writing was great, the story was great. The aptly named Generation X promised to make good not just on mutant superpowered showdowns but also on dialogue concerning thought-provoking issues related to teenagers learning to respect and appreciate diversity.
I admit, Generation X was a bit of a knock-off of a, well, knock-off. After all, the X-Men already kind of had their junior varsity team and I was (am) a huge fan of the New Mutants/X-Force. But they always seemed to be getting swept up into intergalactic adventures and so on.
Not to say that that kind of stuff didn't happen in Generation X. It did, but there was a stronger sense that these mutants were teenagers. Teenagers with a lot of growing up to do and who needed to be nurtured and taught by the preceeding generations.
Still, despite perhaps muddying the waters with a plethora of X-Men, I liked the idea that the X-Men were kind of divided up into graduating classes or cohorts. Essentially, the breakdown looked like:
Senior class: Cyclops, Phoenix, Iceman, Beast, Archangel, Havok, Polaris
The original X-Men and their allies still carried Xavier's ideals with them but really had started to go their own way from their old mentor. Now adults and seasoned superheroes, they sought out new challenges, sometimes returning to help the current team deal with problems in their life.
Junior class: Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Rogue, Kitty Pryde (advanced student), Dazzler, Psylocke and Gambit (among others)
The "new" X-Men, also likely the most iconic, embodied diversity in the truest sense and were used to facing danger. Still, they understood family and looked out for their own...even if a few of their own were rough around the edges.
Sophmore class: Cannonball, Sunspot, Wolfsbane, Magik (Colossus' older brother), Mirage, Boom Boom, Siryn (X-Men ally Banshee is father), Richter and Feral
You'll recognize most of the names here as the roster of Cable's X-Force. While Xavier's third team of X-Men definitely bonded closely, they seemed plagued by problems related to living in a world that was increasingly hostile and intolerant towards mutants.
Xavier was less than enthusiastic when a number of his former students took up with a more agressive, millitant (and at the time, completely unknown) leader. At that point, X-Force was a big deal for this reason--there was a split in the X-Men's ranks and it threatened to widen into an X-Men civil war.
Freshman class: Jubilee, Chamber, Husk (Cannonball's older brother), Skin, Pennace, Mondo, M and Synch
Something of the antithesis of the last team, Xavier placed strong emphasis on providing these students with education and support, perhaps in a precautionary way considering the X-Force dillema. Headed up by long-time X-Men ally Banshee and now reformed X-Men villian Emma Frost, Generation X had a lot to learn. But they had a lot of potential too.
Of course now there are so many students I don't know where to begin. But I always liked this standing of the X-Men. You kind of knew who came on when and what sort of seniority they had as a student. And Generation X played this to the hilt.
You really felt like you were getting in on the ground floor of a comic that was going to evolve into something phenomenal, that you were going to watch the newest generation of X-Men grow up. Despite M's perfect-ness I was particularly enthusiastic to see Jubilee come into her own and maybe take the lead when the team was in action.
So why didn't this comic take off?
Well, maybe it was too good. The art of those first issues is so well stylized, where everyone was drawn to kind of reflect their personalities and it was like you really felt what each character was like. And the panels were loaded up with cool, funny inside jokes if you were paying attention (look for frogs in Generation X and then read up on frogs within the Thor universe. I'm drop dead serious about this).
And the writing is so well thought out, it was sort of like that comic couldn't sustain itself, couldn't stay that good over time. Eventually the quality of the issues started to decline, some choices happened with characters you didn't love and before you know it, I'm sitting here writing about this line-up of characters you've probably never even heard of.
Well, New Mutants has had its second go-round, which I have to say has stayed pretty true to the spirit of the original book.
The point of my post is this. How about a Generation X revival? The first fifteen issues of this book really were phenomenal. Wouldn't a second go be worth the time? What about giving Generation X another shot? How about getting the team back together?