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Homo Superfluous

Robert M. Price

I admit to being old enough to have bought the original X-Men comics off the stands. As always, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby comics were and remain great comics. Boy, was that Stan a fan of radioactivity! Forget about “Smilin’ Stan;” they should have called him “Glowin’ Stan”! Just about every Marvel hero you could name owed his powers to Madame Curie. Pardon me, then, if I could never see much of a difference between the X-Men and the rest of the Geiger-registering tribe. I mean, Cyclops and his pals were born with weird powers after their parents had been exposed to radiation, while Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, and Spider-Man received their powers after their own immediate exposure. Weren’t they all pretty much mutants any way you cut it?

Of course, the major difference was the notion of punctuated equilibrium, as Professor X says in the voice-over to the first X-Men movie: evolution had revved up all of a sudden, as Niles Eldridge said it sometimes does, and the X-Men and Brotherhood of (Evil) Mutants were accordingly, and unlike the Thing or the Hulk, the beachhead of a new super-race, Homo Superior. This has all sorts of interesting political and moral implications, which the X-Men enterprise has not been slow to explore and exploit. (Though if I have to hear the word “mutie” one more time…!)

But enough is enough. Maybe even way too much. It took me years to get used to the New X-Men. For the longest time I couldn’t help thinking of them as the Phony X-Men. I like them now, and the movies helped a lot. I always thought Havoc, Polaris, Banshee, and Mimic were meant to be X-Men (heck, I’d even throw in the Cobalt Man). I only really saw what a great character Wolverine was once I saw the first movie. (Recently, as I was reading the X-Men issue they included with the Marvel Legends Colossus figure, even though he hardly appears in it, I was taken aback by a scene in which the mighty Wolverine is trying to pick a fight with some hapless soda jerk who catches him reading a magazine he hadn’t paid for! What kind of a psychotic bully was he in those early days?)

Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, and Rogue are great characters, not entirely original, but who cares? But then, in my grumpy opinion, they ought to have pulled the plug to the mutant factory right there. The rest are, I think, Homo Superfluous. X-Men whose only mutant ability is that they are in the X-Men.

How about the highly annoying Gambit; what’s this guy’s power? Speaking with a Cajun accent? Propositioning Rogue? You say it has something to do with playing cards that glow? Brother.

Cannonball, huh? Guy assumes a fetal position and fires himself like a dodge ball? Big deal. In my day, this creep wouldn’t have made it into the Legion of Super Heroes. Or if he had, he’d have been called Bouncing Boy.

Forge? Mutant mechanic? What, did he make it onto the team by Affirmative Action?

Morph? A shape-shifter? How many of those do we need? Hell, by now they must qualify as a mutant species by themselves!

Cable? Bishop? Mutant power of beefiness and scowling?

And what about that pathetic freak in Generation X with the skin problem? It’s as if he was supposed to be yet another Plastic Man rip-off, and then somebody remembered how many of these there are and decided to freeze him in mid-stretch. I guess we’re just lucky they didn’t make this guy into, say Tumor-man, whose unnatural growths could stretch with a life of their own. Come to think of it, I hope nobody at Marvel is listening!

And then there are all the Rob Liefield mutants who, like his Image and Awesome Comics characters, all obviously are just chance costume doodles given a name and some vague powers, not that it mattered who could do what. They could all bicker and leap into the air and wear garter belts. That seemed to be enough. For some fans, I guess it is. X-Factor, X-calibur, X-crement. I’m beginning to think that Senator Kelly has a point! Maybe mutants are getting out of control!


Robert M. Price

July 18, 2000


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