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
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
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.
mechanic? What, did he make it onto the team by Affirmative Action?
shape-shifter? How many of those do we need? Hell, by now they must qualify as a
mutant species by themselves!
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