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“I’ll keep this reasonably short,” he lied.

§ November 29th, 2019 § Filed under obituary, x-men § 3 Comments

So I’ll keep this reasonably short since it’s Black Friday and the day after Thanksgiving and y’all have better things to do that to read some old guy’s blog. I just wanted to say that I recently watched Chris Claremont’s X-Men, a documentary about that very thing that I found on Amazon Prime. I thought it was quite interesting, with lots of onscreen interviews with Claremont, one of his editors Ann Nocenti, other-mutant-writer Louise Simonson, and former editor-in-chief of Marvel Jim Shooter.

Lots of discussion about what went into making the book what it was, how certain storylines were put together, and how it all began to fall apart. My big takeaway from it, and one that wasn’t explicitly stated but could certainly be inferred (particularly by someone like myself who watched things happen on the retail end in real time) was that Marvel’s biggest mistake in the long-term health of the X-Men franchise was the straight-up discarding of Claremont after his shepherding of the property for so many years.

I went on bit of a Twitter-tear about this a couple of days back, where I essentially said that if Marvel had just kept Claremont in control of the book, instead of booting him off in favor of the Hot Artists that were in vogue at the time…in essence, if Marvel had thought about the health of the X-Men over the long haul instead of chasing that short term dollar, the X-books might have maintained their relatively-large audience (give or take the impact of the overall market decline in the ’90s) all these years. It could have been a consistent moneymaker, rather than a series of diminishingly-returning reboots/relaunches.

As pal Andrew rightfully noted, near the end there Claremont’s writing on the titles was, perhaps, not as keen as it had once been, and in need of a change. I do believe, however, that a carefully managed changeover to a new committed writer, maybe even keeping Claremont on as a consulting editor, would have been an overall better decision than, you know, what they ended up doing. (And who knows, Claremont could’ve found a second wind on the title…if it was necessary, as readers mostly seemed to think even the latter day stuff was just fine.)

One of the unique aspects of the X-Men, like the Legion of Super-Heroes before it, was the large fandom that surrounded it, attached itself to the characters, and were highly involved in the ongoing soap-opera aspects of their lives. Once that singular vision started to splinter with Claremont’s replacement by Many Hands, that addictive soap opera element began to lose its hold…and with cancellations and reboots, the perceived chain of continuity going back years seemed to feel lost. See also…the Legion of Super-Heroes, strangely enough. And New Teen Titans, too.

Of course, there are plenty of other (X-)factors at work here…I already mentioned the declining comic market, which may have forced reboots and relaunches anyway, whether or not Claremont was still on the title. And maybe, like all things, X-Men may have had its run and declined into obscurity. But I still can’t help but feel if Claremont had stayed on the book, or at least overseen a smooth transition to new creators who could have maintained the book’s approach, maybe those readers would have been kept behind, we’d have a book building on its own past, and we wouldn’t have had multiple restarts and #1s over the last few years.

I think having Jonathan Hickman as sort of the overriding “voice” of the new spate of X-titles isn’t a bad idea…the number and frequency of those new titles is a bad idea, but that’s just how Marvel is nowadays. But people are excited about the X-Men (if not especially the other new related titles) again, which is something that hasn’t happened in recent memory. Of course, as soon as Hickman is gone, everything’s getting new #1s again and we’ll be back at square one, but it is nice to pretend that maybe we’ll see an X-Men issue number…100 again? One can only hope.

• • •

I should note the passing of comics legend Howard Cruse a couple of days ago. He was a great cartoonist, by all accounts a fine human, and it’s sad to know he’s no longer with us. His classic graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, is coming back in a 25th anniversary edition next year, and if you haven’t read it yet, you really should. If you’re new to his work in general, his official website has plenty of strips you can peruse.

So long, Howard.

Just reminding you that original Nightcrawler mini-series is nearly thirty years old. You’re welcome.

§ November 6th, 2013 § Filed under pal plugging, x-men § 7 Comments


So it’s been a while since I last bought an X-Men book, and I had absolutely no intention of picking up Amazing X-Men until I actually held it in my hand. I’ve liked writer Jason Aaron’s work in the past, I enjoy Ed McGuinness’s art, and I have enough fond memories of the classic Dave Cockrum Nightcrawler mini, which the cover and parts of the story somewhat invoke, to decide to take it home. It’s a light enough adventure, with minimal wallowing in current X-continuity that even a dabbler like me can dive into the setting with only the slightest exposition. And then there’s the bonus oddball theological aspects that always crop up when you have superheroes bouncing in and out of the afterlife, which can be embarrassingly campy when handled poorly, but goofy and fun when handled right, like here. Well, they’ve got me for five issues, anyway, which is how long this initial arc is apparently going to last. We’ll see what happens when the inevitable crossover tie-ins begin to invade, but I am going to continue hoping this remains a fun Nightcrawler book, the other X-Men just supporting characters, becoming a solo title in all but name only. I’m not going to bet on it, but it’s nice to think about.

In other news:

  • How Did This Get Made is an entertaining podcast where the comedian hosts of the show spend an hour shouting at each other about a different terrible movie every couple of weeks, and it’s always hilarious. This week the film of choice is Daredevil, and some of you may be interested to note that comics writer Ed Brubaker (whom you may recall wrote the Daredevil series for a while) joins in on the fun, bringing his funnybook knowledge to the proceedings.

  • Hey. Hey, you. Awesome Hospital is back with an all-new two-part adventure. Go check it out.

I apologize in advance for using the word “pamphlets” to describe comic books.

§ September 16th, 2013 § Filed under cerebus, collecting, x-men § 9 Comments

So I recently acquired a comic that’s been haunting the back of my mind for nearly thirty years:


I glanced through this comic in the shop back when it was released in 1986, and two parts of the book have lingered with me all this time. One, the pronunciation guide on the cover (and repeated several times inside as a running gag):


I have been sort of privately pronouncing the name “X-Men” this way in my head for years. I usually don’t say it out loud, unlike “Defective Comics,” which I say every time I pull down the Detective Comics box because I think I’m hilarious.

And two:


…the shocking Cerebus cameo has stuck with me, because, you see, in the regular X-Men books, Professor X uses Cerebro, a big ol’ computer thingie, to enhance his mutant psychic abilities to find mutants. However, in Xmen (pronounced ZHMEN, one syllable) it is, of course, Cerebus who tracks mutants for Professor X, because “Cerebus” sounds sorta like “Cerebro.” Or, excuse me, “Cerebos,” as the clearly-edited-after-the-fact Us in these word balloons would have it:


I’m not even really sure why I kept this comic, which showed up in a collection recently. It’s not as if I haven’t had opportunities to pick it up in the past, since copies turned up at the shop from time to time. The comic itself as a parody doesn’t really do anything for me. There’s the funny names for the characters, the poking at X-Men tropes, the satirizing of then-current X-Men plot twists and character quirks, and so on, which might play a little better for someone more invested in the X-universe. The comic does feature some nice early work by Charles Troug, who would go on to illustrate Grant Morrison’s run on Animal Man, so there’s that.

I suppose I mostly kept this comic to finally have a physical representation of those two wires this comic crossed in my head so long ago, a print version of the memories still echoing from that brief exposure.

Speaking of Cerebus, this comic came out last week:


…an anthology of parody/tribute stories by cartoonist Cerebus fans, using the Cerebus character as per creator Dave Sim’s decision to allow other folks to use it in new creative works. For the cover alone this probably deserves a place in your Cerebus collection, and you can read about its creation here (and buy a color print here!). The contents are amusing as well, with even the…less polished entries still having an undeniable and entertaining enthusiasm. Like the Xmen book above, it’s probably best appreciated by those folks still in the bag for the property being parodied, and a little too much “reading someone else’s mail” for the uninitiated. But, I’m still game for new Cerebus spin-off stuff, making me the target audience, I guess.

Almost universal reaction from customers at the shop (and even an employee or two) to seeing Low Society on the stands has been “a Cerebus parody comic…now?” which, well, fair enough. It has been nearly ten years since the series ended, but I do have to note that I’m seeing a small uptick in sales on Cerebus trade paperback collections lately, so someone out there is still discovering and reading it. Or, at the very least, upgrading their collections from the pamphlets to the phonebooks. At any rate, I did fear that once it was over, Cerebus would fade into memory, but there appears to be a little life sticking to it yet. It’s a complex, multilayered, and (especially in the latter half) divisive, problematic and controversial work, and still contains a wealth of material to be mined, discussed, criticized, and, yes, parodied.

Anyway, Cerebus: I still need to reread that someday.

I too have a savage fighting ability and an incredible wit.

§ September 4th, 2013 § Filed under found art, x-men § 8 Comments


Found in that blue X-Men box, this coloring book from 1994.

 
 

The only image in the entire book upon which
a coloring attempt was made.

 
 

That is one stern-looking (or poorly “referenced”) Kitty Pryde.

 
 

We are very disappointed in your sense of mutant duty, Strong Guy.

 
 

Goodbye, Tiny Wolverine…

 
 

…goodbye.

How to get me to buy an issue of Wolverine and the X-Men.

§ September 29th, 2012 § Filed under x-men § 6 Comments


Put Doop in it.

 
 
 

from Wolverine and the X-Men #17 (November 2012) by Jason Aaron and Mike Allred
– also, here’s your Doop translator

You mean…like a…mutant?

§ August 27th, 2012 § Filed under found art, x-men § 13 Comments

Recently acquired at the shop…issue #59 of X-Men (August 1969), with a special message for you X-fans scribbled onto the logo by some anonymous comics critic:


And apparently our critic wasn’t satisfied with warning you on the cover…he hit the first page, too:


Just what we needed…a back issue that deliberately insults possible buyers. …Surely that’s my job?

You go ahead and read your Avengers Vs. The X-Men

§ May 17th, 2012 § Filed under collecting, x-men § 19 Comments

…and I’ll read my 1993 trade paperback of X-Men Versus The Avengers:


I kind of miss the days when Marvel would put spangly foil logos on their trade paperbacks. (Of course, this ain’t a patch on those all-foil covers Marvel put on their Age of Apocalypse trades.)

ALSO: haven’t looked at panel one of any of these new Avengers Vs. The X-Men comics or tie-ins, but I feel pretty safe in saying there probably isn’t anything in them as cool as that battle between Ursa Major and Doctor Druid from the older series:


I’m sure there are only another, oh, three or four dozen more comics to go in this current Avengers/X-Men hoohar…hopefully there’ll be room to revisit this classic rivalry.

Suddenly…a 1986 Rogue sticker drawn by Art Adams…

§ January 21st, 2012 § Filed under trading cards, x-men § 8 Comments

…from the Heroic Origins card set from Comic Images:


I certainly hope they remembered to trademark that image. And logo. And hair.

Is there anything more topical than a handful of X-Men pins from the 1990s?

§ November 9th, 2011 § Filed under pins, x-men § 8 Comments

Came across a few of these while going through some boxes at the store:

“Do you have a small metal pin with a close-up of Cyclops’ grimacing, visorless face in a snowstorm?” “Why, as a matter o’fact….”


BEHOLD: cloisonné stubble:


That may have been too much detail, but on the other hand…granted, this next pin’s actual size is only about an inch tall, so there’s only so much detail they can put in. Still, Cable’s near-featureless face and its soul-sucking gaping maw are just plain creepy:


“Limited to 2,500” says the back of this next pin:


I’m pretty sure they did pins for the other covers, too, but I sure hope they did an extra-wide pin for the fold-out version.

I’m not normally this cynical…oh, wait, yes I am.

§ December 12th, 2003 § Filed under pal dorian, x-men Comments Off on I’m not normally this cynical…oh, wait, yes I am.

My pal Dorian, after looking at the preview copy of next week’s New X-Men #150: “Boy, the hardcore X-Men fans are going to hate this issue.”

Me: “Why, does something fun and interesting happen?”

Dorian: “Yup.”

 
(post updated 7/2016)

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