WARNING: There are some SPOILERS AHEAD…
Welcome to the second House of Marvel article, brought to you by me, Jake Willis, via the wonderful world of Sequart.com. As announced in the last column, this week is pretty X-Men heavy. Starting off, I take a look back across forty years of the Merry Mutants of Marvel to bring you The Idiot’s Guide To… The X-Men — just in time for next week’s Uncanny X-Men #475, and X-Men #188 due in a fortnight. To add to that, we have the regular There be Spoilers Ahead section, and the launch of The Best Of… The X-Men — where we find out YOUR favorite X-Man of all time.
On that note, time to let the procedures get underway…
The Idiot’s Guide To… The X-Men
When the X-Men were first created, they were nowhere near as popular as they are now. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, they were unsuccessful in the eyes of Marvel Comics, and after 66 issues, X-Men was cancelled and put back on the shelf. However, these years, while not classics in the terms of storylines, introduced the greatest characters to grace the pages of any comic beginning with X and published by Marvel. Early characters like Cyclops, Jean Grey (who would later go on to be Phoenix), Iceman, Angel, Beast, Havok, Professor X and Polaris — all of them (bar Jean Grey and Angel) are being used in the X-Comics nowadays, and those are only the heroes. Magneto, Juggernaut, Scarlet Witch (who, in forty years time would become the most important character in the Marvel Universe), the Sentinels and the Brotherhood of Mutants were all introduced, and most of them are still being used today.
Of course, all of this was not enough back then. Sales were extremely low, and the comic was cancelled, but nine moths later, X-Men was put back on sale, this time reprinting older issues until #93.
In 1975, one of the most influential comics of all time was published — Giant Size X-Men #1. This issue introduced one of the biggest X-Men of all time, Wolverine, as well as Storm, Colossus, Thunderbird, Sunfire and Banshee (who recently met his maker in Deadly Genesis). Shortly after, the X-Men returned with #94 — written by the godfather of the X-Men comics, Chris Claremont, whose name would be on the front of X-Men (later Uncanny X-Men) for 15 years. All of the ‘first-wave’ of X-Men, minus Cyclops, left the mansion, and the ‘New’ X-Men moved in, with Sunfire leaving in #94, and Thunderbird dying on the team’s second mission.
The X-Men quickly rose to fame, with “The Phoenix Saga” taking place during this time. It featured Jean Grey being taken over by a cosmic entity called the Phoenix and leading the team on an intergalactic mission — introducing the Shi’ar and Lilandra, a recurring love interest for the X-Men leader, Professor X.
Later on, the X-Men were lost during a fight with Magneto, leaving Professor X and Jean Grey thinking them dead. A Canadian superhero named Alpha Flight (who later gained their own title) was also introduced. The team had connections to Wolverine and was so popular that an ongoing was later launched, and it lasted for 130 issues.
Soon, a new storyline, which would change comics forever, was released. “The Dark Phoenix Saga” was a changing face for the X-Men comics. Jean Grey, taken over by the Phoenix again, killed a populated planet, putting her on the Shi’ar ‘death list’. A fight between the Shi’ar’s Imperial Guard and the X-Men was to guarantee the fate of Jean, and, with the X-Men losing, Jean Grey was to be killed. However, during a time when Jean regained her persona and fought the Phoenix, she killed herself to stop the Phoenix from killing anyone else. During the arc, future popular characters Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde were introduced, as was Dazzler.
Straight after came “Days of Future Past,” where the psyche of Kate Pryde (the future version of Kitty Pryde) is sent back in time to the body of Kitty Pryde – the newest X-Man. Here she convinces the X-Men to thwart an assassination attempt by Mystique, to abort a future where mutants are put in concentration camps and killed. It succeeded, and the storyline has since been used in many arcs since.
Later storylines consisted of Cyclops and a clone of Jean Grey (Madelyne Pryor) falling in love. The two later married, and Madelyne gave birth to Nathan Summers — now known as Cable. Other storylines included Storm losing her powers and falling in love with Forge, Rogue joining the X-Men, the debut of Reverend Stryker (and his attempt to kill all mutants) and Wolverines love of Japanese Mariko Yashida.
The 1980s sparked the rise of the franchise. The success of Uncanny X-Men led to a new spin-off series, The New Mutants, which marked the debuts of Cannonball, Wolfsbane and Magik, and consisted of Professor X creating a new team of students, who he would teach to control their powers.
Jean Grey was resurrected soon after, and X-Factor was launched. The series banded the five original X-Men together again after Professor X put Magneto in charge of the Xavier Institute and the X-Men. The book introduced Apocalypse, and the struggles between Madelyne Pryor, Jean Grey and Cyclops were all subplots running throughout. This built to a head during the “Inferno” crossover, when Madelyne Pryor helped during a demonic invasion. Eventually, Jean used the Phoenix Force to defeat Madelyne, who later let herself die to save New York.
Excalibur was another X-Title launched, except this time the series was set in England and featured Captain Britain and Meggan from Marvel UK as main characters. Other members were Nightcrawler, Rachel Summers and Kitty Pryde, who joined after believing the X-Men dead.
In 1986, Xavier relocated to space with the Shi’ar, and Magneto took over the school at his request. The original X-Men left and became X-Factor, as seen above.
Also in 1986 was “Mutant Massacre,” which introduced Mister Sinister as a recurring bad guy. Mister Sinister ordered the Morlocks dead, forcing his team of Marauders to do the deed. It was later revealed that Gambit organized the Marauders, and led them to the tunnel.
Later on, the X-Men were killed and resurrected while attacking the Adversary. This led to the X-Men operating from an abandoned Australian outback. This era of the X-Men led with Storm and Rogue thought dead, while Dazzler and Longshot left to raise a child. Also, during this time, the X-Men and X-Factor met. X-Factor was surprised, mainly because they believed the X-Men dead, while the X-Men were also surprised to see Jean Grey alive again after the “Dark Phoenix Saga.”
In 1989, Uncanny X-Men was released twice a month, and a new team was created, consisting of Storm, Banshee, Wolverine, Psylocke and three new members. Forge was a mutant inventor, responsible for the weapon that neutralized Storm of her powers a few years back. Jubilee was a young teenage mallrat, who lived with the X-Men secretly, until she revealed herself to them when she saved Wolverine. Finally, the Cajun Gambit joined, leading to him being a popular member throughout the 1990s.
In 1991, Marvel changed the line-up of the X-Books in one major reshuffling. X-Factor returned to the X-Men, changed from their experiences in the past. Angel (now named Archangel) now had blue skin and metallic wings after he became a horseman of Apocalypse. X-Factor became home to Polaris and Havok’s new government-sponsored team, while New Mutants changed to X-Force and was led by Cable in a more military-style team.
To make room for the now-enlarged team, Marvel launched a new X-Book, simply titled X-Men. The X-Men were split into two teams, Blue and Gold — with X-Men featuring the Blue Team, and Uncanny X-Men featuring the Gold. The Blue team featured Beast, Psylocke, Gambit, Rogue, Wolverine and Cyclops, while the Gold team starred Colossus, Iceman, Archangel, Jean Grey, Storm and Bishop.
During the “X-Cutioner’s Song” storyline, Stryfe, a clone of Cable, tries to assassinate Professor X, while Jean Grey and Cyclops are abducted. The storyline launched the Legacy Virus, which would only end years later when Colossus sacrificed his own life to save humans and mutants after the virus mutated.
“Phalanx Covenant,” another storyline, launched the Generation X series, which followed Emma Frost’s school in Massachusetts. The Generation X students, including Jubilee, were not meant to be future X-Men; instead they were there to learn how to use their powers. The book was a late replacement for THE New Mutants book, which had been cancelled a few years earlier.
One of the most acknowledged storylines of the 1990s was “Age of Apocalypse,” where Professor Xavier’s mutant son, Legion, traveled back in time to kill Magneto before the X-Men and their nemesis became enemies. Instead, Xavier gave his life for Magneto; therefore Legion disappeared because Xavier died before Legion could even be fathered. Magneto, because of Xavier’s sacrifice, started to believe in his late friend’s cause and created the X-Men, while Apocalypse launched his attack on civilization for the Survival of the Fittest. For more information on this crossover, look out for a feature on it, sometime this year.
The troubled times for the X-Men were still unfolding, as Onslaught was soon unleashed. Following Xavier’s mental contact with Magneto some time before, Xavier launched a separate consciousness named Onslaught — the dark side of his persona. All of Marvel’s heroes combined their efforts to stop Onslaught, and the Avengers and Fantastic Four later sacrificed their own lives to save the world. (In fact, they had actually gone to a pocket reality created by Franklin Richards.) Xavier, feeling guilty that he was the reason that Earth was left without heroes, had lost his powers and gave himself up when Valerie Cooper came to put Xavier in prison for public safety.
In fact, Xavier was put under the care of Bastion, the leader of Operation: Zero Tolerance. Bastion tried to find out the secrets of the X-Men, while a fellow mutant hater, Graydon Creed, a presidential candidate, was later shot dead by Mystique — his mother.
In 1997, when Operation: Zero Tolerance ended, Bishop, Gambit, Jean Grey and Cyclops had been written out of X-Men, making way for new members, including Cannonball, Joseph (a clone of Magneto), Marrow, Maggott and Cecelia Reyes.
Three years later, in 2000, Claremont returned to the X-Books. Marvel organized a six-month gap between all X-Titles, yet this ‘Revolution’ didn’t work, and Claremont was brought off of the two titles to write X-Treme X-Men in 2001, penciled by Salvador Larroca. The book’s second issue included Psylocke being killed by new enemy, Vargas, while Beast returned to the mansion after only three issues. The team also consisted of a new Thunderbird, Neal Shaara (who later left with Aussie X-Man Lifeguard to look for her brother, Slipstream), Rogue, Gambit, Storm, Bishop and Sage (an old spy of Professor X’s who was placed in the Hellfire Club). The team was placed away from the institute and traveled around the world — Spain, Australia and, later, California.
X-Men was renamed New X-Men with issue #114 and featured the debut of Grant Morrison on the title. Morrison added several new elements to the X-Men, and relaunched them for the 21st Century. The Xavier Institute was transformed into an actual school, Xavier was revealed to have twin sister, Magneto was killed and later bought back in a seemingly uncomplicated plot (until a few months later), Xavier revealed himself a mutant to the public, Genosha was destroyed by Sentinels, and Cyclops had an affair with Emma Frost, ending his long-running relationship with Jean Grey, who later died at the end of the series.
Uncanny X-Men was then written by Joe Casey, and later Chuck Austen, and featured a superhero team, unlike the team in New X-Men. The team consisted of Archangel, Nightcrawler, Husk, Iceman, Stacy X, Northstar, Chamber, Polaris and Havok, though not all at once. The Juggernaut also redeemed himself, and joined the X-Men at the blessing of Xavier.
In 2004, Morrison left New X-Men, and Marvel relaunched the X-Titles again. X-Treme X-Men was cancelled, and the plotlines and characters (adding Nightcrawler and Marvel Girl) from that series were taken to Uncanny X-Men, featuring the return of Claremont to the series. Chuck Austen was moved to X-Men (the adjective New was removed), also taking most of his team with him, with the addition of Rogue and Gambit. Astonishing X-Men, written by Joss Whedon, replaced X-Treme X-Men and featured the main team of X-Men returning to super heroics. New X-Men: Academy X was also launched, starring the students at the Xavier Institute.
It was soon after this that things got complicated. It was revealed at the end of Grant Morrison’s run that Xorn was actually Magneto, yet in Excalibur (volume 2) #1, it was revealed that Magneto was alive and kicking. It was later revealed that Xorn had a brother named Shen Xorn (his name was Kuan-Yen Xorn). Kuan-Yen Xorn came under the influence of a yet-to-be-revealed entity that forced him to take the identity of Magneto and destroy Manhattan. He was killed at the end of the “Planet X” storyline.
The other Xorn, Shen Xorn, was depowered as part of House of M (more on that later). The Magneto in Excalibur was revealed to be created by Scarlet Witch in House of M #7.
A year after the reshuffling of the X-Teams, an event named House of M happened. The mutant, Scarlet Witch, daughter of Magneto and sister of Quicksilver, was forced by her brother to change the world so mutants were the main species. She did so, and Magneto was now ruler of Genosha, and the X-Men, Avengers and other teams never happened. Wolverine was the only character that remembered his previous life and set out to convince people that Magneto had changed the world in his image, with the help of Layla Miller. At the end of the crossover, Scarlet Witch changed reality back, and the mutant population was brought down to a mere fraction of what it was before.
Following the event, “Decimation” happened. All major X-Titles followed “Decimation,” and in the issues that followed, New Excalibur was launched, this time starring Captain Britain, Sage, Nocturne, Dazzler, Juggernaut and Pete Wisdom. Rachel and Jean Grey’s family were all killed by the Shi’ar, Sentinels were sent to protect the X-Men, the remaining mutants came and stayed at the Xavier mansion, and the third Summer’s brother was revealed to be Vulcan — part of an X-Team put together before the ‘All-New, All-Different’ X-Men in Giant Size X-Men #1. Xavier and Magneto were also depowered, and Xavier was sent away from the mansion by Cyclops.
Now, next week, the new teams of X-Men take center-stage in Uncanny X-Men and X-Men during the roster and creative team changes. As the Uncanny X-Men go to space, the X-Men will be staying on Earth, yet it is unsure where. For more information, again check out Uncanny X-Men #475 next week, and X-Men #188 the week after.
There be Spoilers Ahead…
Time for the bi-weekly round-up of all things Marvel…
- Spider-Man unmasked himself in Civil War #2, revealing his identity to the world.
- The Superhero Registration Act has come into effect with Iron Man leading the superheroes who choose to register and Captain America leading the resistance.
- Johnny Storm is in a coma after being beaten up.
- The X-Men are still being guarded by the Sentinels at the Xavier Institute.
- The New X-Men are being forced to fend for themselves after the arrival of William Stryker, who was later killed by Elixir.
- Daredevil is in prison, yet an impostor is out there, who is known by the rest of the Marvel heroes.