Characters Appearing: Colossus, Magneto, Nightcrawler, Rachel Summers, Rogue, Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), Storm, Wolverine
Heroes For Hope #1
Issue(s): Heroes For Hope #1
Stan Lee, Ed Bryant, Louise Simonson, Ed Bryant, Stephen King, Bill Mantlo, Alan Moore, Ann Nocenti, Harlan Ellison, Chris Claremont, Mary Jo Duffy, Mike Baron, Denny O'Neil, George R. R. Martin, Bruce Jones, Steve Englehart, Jim Shooter, Mike Grell, & Archie Goodwin - Script
John Romita Jr., John Buscema, Brent Anderson, John Byrne, Berni Wrightson, Charles Vess, Richard Corben, Mike Kaluta, Frank Miller, Brian Bolland, John Bolton, Steve Rude, Bret Blevins, Herb Trimpe, Gray Morrow, Paul Gulacy, Butch Guice, Howard Chaykin - Penciler
Alan Gordon, Klaus Janson, Joe Sinnott, Terry Austin, Dan Green, Jeff Jones, Jay Muth, Tom Palmer, Richard Corben, Al Milgrom, Bill Sienkiewicz, P. Craig Russell, John Bolton, Carl Potts, Al Williamson, Sal Buscema, Gray Morrow, Bob Layton, Josef Rubinstein, Steve Leialoha, & Walt Simonson - Inker
Pat Blevins & Terry Kavanagh - Assistant Editor
Ann Nocenti & Chris Claremont - Editor
The big problem with the story is the fact that Marvel super heroes can't actually go out and punch famine. Well, actually they could, especially once Apocalypse's Four Horsemen are introduced, but the point is you can't have super heroes solving a real world problem without trivializing the problem or changing the nature of the Marvel universe. So the story instead introduces an African demon (and perhaps "the ultimate primal mutant - who evolved alongside humanity, but on a plane of existence more psychic than physical") that feeds on human suffering.
It's said that it was awoken by the rise of mutants, not the famine in Africa, but it won't be destroyed until suffering in the world is eliminated. Storm finds the creature familiar, which she attributes to genetic memories from her African ancestors.
So it's clearly not a great story. It's the X-Men fighting a big clunky metaphor. But it is put together well enough. The problem, of course, is that since the X-Men couldn't "solve" famine for the purposes of this comic, having them tackle the issue of famine was a no-win situation. It might have been better to just do a straightforward super-hero story that ignored the actual cause and just donate the money to charity. Instead the X-Men fight a demon and then help unload cargo from a plane. And talk about how they can't really do anything, but that i guess having hope is important.
And in the meantime, there are a lot of character vignettes as the demon torments each of the X-Men, which can be interesting, especially if you know the industry and characters and you want to see John Byrne drawing an X-Men story (co-)written by Clarement again...
...or Stephen King writing a scene with Kitty Pryde fighting hunger...
...or Alan Moore scripting Magneto...
...or Walt Simonson inking Howard Chaykin.
And cool moments like Rogue absorbing the powers of all her teammates to fight the demon.
Always cool when she does that, even if in this case the demon winds up subverting her.
So some fun moments, although the story as a whole is a bit of a bust. From that perspective, probably the best you could expect from any kind of jam annual, for charity or otherwise.
The proceeds of this comic were originally going to go to Oxfam. You can read Jim Shooter's account of why Oxfam rejected the issue and the donations and the proceeds instead went to the American Friends Service Committee. For the purposes of discussion, i'll accept Shooter's description of the Oxfam exec as given, but i still do want to share some of the images from this comic, mostly of Storm.
And here's one of Rachel Summers in full-out S&M Hound gear.
This stuff looks pretty typical to us, but it might have been worth Marvel's time to think about what these outsiders (so unfamiliar with comics that their initial reaction to a comic book for charity was "there's nothing funny about famine") thought about those images. In the context of the story, some of the images make sense. But taken as one's first experience with a comic book, it's understandable to see these images as exploitative and degrading, and even accepting the premise of the demon there is a bit much of that.
There's already a sensitivity that comes with this sort of thing. On the one hand, you want to show the suffering so that others understand the scale of the tragedy.
But as some critics have said, the long term effect of those types of images is that people walk away thinking Africans are these hopeless tragic figures that can only survive thanks to the donations of richer nations. I can say that as a kid growing up in the We Are The World era, my impression of Africa was exactly like those two images directly above. Add to that the fact that your only non-tragic African character is repeatedly dressed up like a prostitute and it can come across as racist and sexist. I know that wasn't the intent of anyone working on this project. But the comics world tends to be a bit insular, and the depiction of women in particular is only going to get worse as we hit the 90s. Oxfam's reaction here might have been a wake-up call, but it went disregarded.
Another perspective on this comes from Christopher Priest (whose website seems to be descending into linkrot so i am reprinting the entire section for preservation):
The most heated racial episode in my career occurred during Marvel's production of their charity book for Ethiopian famine victims. Promoted as work from "the top writers and artists in the industry-- the very best of the very best," profits from this effort were going to be donated to help the poor starving Africans. It was a truly noble effort, one the entire industry rallied behind (at least until DC decided to do their own book, thus dividing the talent pool along company lines).
Whatever you think of Priest's reaction, i found it an interesting contrast to this section from Wikipedia's We Are The World entry:
"We Are the World" was also influential in subverting the way music and meaning were produced, showing that musically and racially diverse musicians could work together both productively and creatively. Ebony described the January 28 recording session, in which Quincy Jones brought together a multi-racial group, as being "a major moment in world music that showed we can change the world"
Granted the recording industry had more prominent black artists than the comics, but Kyle Baker was something of a rising star at this time and just staying within the Marvel office there was also Ron Wilson, M.D. Bright, Denys Cowan, and of course Priest himself.
Again, i don't think anyone working on this project had anything but the best intentions, and surely it sucks to work hard on something positive, for free, and have people call you a racist and sexist for it. Consider my comments and my citations of Priest and the Oxfam guy as just an analysis of how things might be done better in retrospect, not as criticism of anyone involved.
Outside of that, it's not a story that had a larger impact on Marvel continuity, but it's an interesting footnote to have some of these creators working on a Marvel book.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP place this between Uncanny X-Men #201-202. The X-Men are still living at the Mansion, but it's after Magneto has become a member of the team.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
At least they tried.
Posted by: doomsday | November 3, 2013 9:55 PM
Historians now generally agree that the famine in Ethiopia during the '80's was a result of the policies of the Mengistu regime, although some argue that the actions of the rebels also contributed. This- and DC's Heroes Against Hunger- both avoided painting the Mengistu regime as the villain. Heroes Against Hunger even had one character imply that the problem was the evils of capitalism, which is a bit like a relief comic for Holocaust survivors claiming the Jews were victims of Allied bombing. This was probably because they didn't want to offend the Mengistu regime in case they interfered with delivery supplies, although it should be noted that the media coverage in general neglected the man-made aspects. (Of course, in the X-Men's case, having the X-Men state that there's nothing that a telepath like Rachel can do to stop a man made famine would just look ridiculous.)
Posted by: Michael | November 3, 2013 10:26 PM
Michael, that is a great point. Having never read the book, I was going to ask if any mention of Mengitsu and the Communist Derg was made in the book.
At the time, I can't remember any mention of the Communist policies of the Ethiopian government during the famine. It was not until many years later reading more world history that I learned Communists were in control of the country, and that it was a major cause of the famine.
Marvel's creators had heavily backed away from Stan's early Silver Age anti-Communism since the early seventies, and seemed incapable of mentioning it. Either characters were represented somewhat sympathetically (like Darkstar) or completely downplayed. I wonder if that had any bearing on the book, or (most likely) if it was simply because the creators were completely ignorant of Mengitsu and his policies.
Posted by: Chris | November 3, 2013 11:17 PM
It depends- as we'll see when fnord gets deeper into 1986-1988, the Soviets were portrayed as the bad guys in some issues like X-Factor Annual 1, West Coast Avengers 33-36 and Captain America 352-353 (the last two were particularly bizarre since they took place after the US and the Soviets were in a period of detente). And there were many anti-utopian (though not anti-communist) works in comics from 1985-1986 (Squadron Supreme, Emperor Doom,etc.) But the explicitly anti-Communist stories might have been the exception that proved the rule.
Posted by: Michael | November 3, 2013 11:56 PM
In the case of the Ethiopian famine, Marvel was not at all unusual in dropping the political context. I was about Fnord's age and my memories are the same: the media impression that sank in was poor, rather primitive Africans losing a struggle with nature. I think Fnord has commented on this vibe in the "Lifedeath" issue of X-Men. It was ubiquitous at the time.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | November 4, 2013 12:40 AM
(Actually, looking back, the Lifedeath II isn't such an offender here. I misremembered that.)
Posted by: Walter Lawson | November 4, 2013 12:46 AM
This was the point in the mid-80s where we had a lot of these charity-type events where people thought that they could do something to help these people in another part of the world without any real understanding of the politics and whatnot that lead to these messes. It got the message across there is a problem but obviously it's understandable why Christopher Priest would be upset, in that they were trying to simplify matters and treat it in one way while not even using what they had in giving a powerful impact by someone who could show the real depths of the problems.
But hey, it had Alan Moore writing Magneto and Stephen King writing Shadowcat...so at least we got that out of this.
Posted by: Ataru320 | November 4, 2013 8:58 AM
With a book like this, the behind the scenes is more interesting than the comic. Fnord I think you do a great job analyzing the different views fairly. I have lot of respect for both Shooter and Priest, but its very interesting to see both of their inabilities to see things from others' perspectives.
As you point out, those images look really racy to non-comic book people. Shooter should have noticed that. And when they were assembling the talent, they probably weren't even thinking about the race of the contributors. Why would you think about that? Do black americans have more "rights" to African problems?
Posted by: kveto from prague | November 4, 2013 5:13 PM
Come to think of it, there was another problem with acknowledging the Ethiopian famine as a result of the Mengistu regime- Peter's admiration for Lenin. As late as Uncanny X-Men 230, Peter spoke of Lenin respectfully. And while Lenin's policies might not have caused the Russian famine of 1921-1922, they definitely made it a LOT worse. It would have raised the question of why does a hero admire someone just like Mengistu.
Posted by: Michael | November 4, 2013 7:54 PM
Another reason why Mengistu's policies were never mentioned with the famine back then: some folks just didn't wanna know.
When I started college in 1988, there were still lingering concerns about African famine. The professor of my freshman english composition class spent most of the semester lecturing on the famine(why was this being taught in a composition class rather than some sociology/world affairs class instead? That was an impertinent question and not to be asked) and most of the writing assignments were centered on it. It became rapidly obvious to me that Mengistu and other dictators were making things much worse, if not actually causing it--but that guy DIDN'T WANNA KNOW. No, if the dictators had any hand in it at all, it was because the nasty old USA was hypnotizing them with big shiny weapons for sale, causing them to react like Fred Flintstone yelling "BET!BET!BETbetbetbetbetbetBET!" The media at at large? MTV? the LiveAid folks? Not a peep about that from them either. I'm not sure whether this stemmed from an overwhelming desire to not appear racist at all, or because some a bunch of overly political types wanted to dump the famine blame on America's head(I tend to be an extremely liberal guy, but even I ran out of patience for that), and I'm not claiming that anyone at Marvel had either mindset(though I could be persuaded in some instances), but the end result was just plain: African dictators? THEY DIDN'T WANNA KNOW.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 6, 2013 6:17 PM
This was also Richard Corben's first work for Marvel(his appearances in the 1970's b&w's were reprinted from fanzines).
Stephen King's section has some dialogue taken from his "Survivor Type".
Harlan Ellison actually DIDN'T cause this to be late due to a petty argument. Amazing.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 7, 2013 6:00 PM
Also: Shooter wasn't quite accurate about DC's famine benefit being strictly along DC writer/artist lines--for example, Barry Windsor-Smith, pretty much strictly a Marvel guy, did his first DC work on that book.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 7, 2013 6:03 PM
I couldn't agree more about the images of Storm posted above and about how a "civillian" might view them. I'm not against sexuality in supehero comics per se, or even a little cheesecake (something that fnord seems less tolerant of), but those images are ill advised for a project that was intended for those who had never picked up a comic book before (and that's supposed to be atanding atop some kind of moral high ground as well). Yes, if you were a dedicated Marvel Zombie and kept up with Claremont's work in X-MEN you would have known that Storm was Claremont's favorite pet. Character, that he was notable for writing strong women, and that he often put his characters through the emotional wronger only to have them emerge stronger than they were before, but to anybody who wasn't part of the insular world of comic books, the only thing thing worth noting is that somebody at this mostly white, mostly male purveyor of adolescent boys' power fantasies had decided that a book intended to help Africans was the ideal place to show an African woman humiliated, tied up in bondage gear and lingerie, and to have goo dripping off her face. Whatever the intentions of that scene were, the fact that no one at Marvel was able to see it the way the rest of the world would see it is pretty embarrassing.
Posted by: Jay Patrick | November 9, 2013 12:55 AM
According to Bernie Wrightson in Comics Journal #100(just before the book came out), the plot was a result of a jam session involving strictly Bernie, Starlin, and Claremont.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 10, 2013 9:43 PM
On the subject of "appropriate" feminine attire for charity comics: when DC did a Superman/Wonder Woman comic to promote "landmine awareness" in the early '90s, they extended WW's skirt (which she doesn't wear that often anyway) and covered her cleavage. I don't think her regular costume would've been shocking to any American reader in 1993, but the comic was also distributed in a bunch of Central/Latin American countries (and possibly some African ones as well), so they decided to play it conservatively.
Posted by: Bob Violence | December 14, 2013 11:31 AM
My father has lived in several Muslim countries over the last decade or so, and on one of his visits back to the states, he showed me a reprint of (I think) Ultimate Spider-Man, where a female in the background was drawn with major cleavage showing, and the following panel had her in the foreground and suddenly her shirt had filled in. We had a good laugh over the haphazard censorship.
I can understand why the depiction of Storm would be offensive, and further understand why anyone in the Marvel Office never noticed. It's just Claremont being Claremont. Mick Jagger ripped off Tina Turner's skirt during the "Under My Thumb" duet at Live Aid, what's a comic book writer compared to that?
That said, Christopher Priest's complaints are stupid. He's really judging the worth of a comic book by the skin color of the contributing writers and artists. "It was extremely stupid to do an African relief charity project and not invite any damned Africans to work on it." How many AFRICAN comics creators had he hired in his capacity as editor? Sure, he hired AMERICANS, but he's not complaining about nationality, he's complaining about skin color. I'm not even a fan of this 'benefit concert' mentality, and his response is exactly why, because it does nothing but undermine the (theoretical) good intentions of those who made it possible by making it about skin color. Live Aid had the same issues. I also don't think 'benefit concerts' are a good solution to any problem, but at least I can enjoy Queen's Live Aid performance, "We Are The World" and Alan Moore's script without caring about skin color. Unfortunately, Christopher Priest can't.
Posted by: ChrisW | June 22, 2014 5:35 PM
My bad, it wasn't "Under My Thumb." Jagger ripped Tina's skirt off in "It's Only Rock'n'Roll." Which is so much better.
Posted by: ChrisW | June 22, 2014 5:45 PM
I'm surprised somebody like Fred Hembeck didn't do a "Villains for Despair" spoof.
Posted by: Robert | June 22, 2014 6:15 PM
Then again, no I'm not. It would be seen as mocking a serious real world issue and the sound of the soapboxes being scraped across the floors of the world would be deafening.
Posted by: Robert | June 22, 2014 6:18 PM
"I can understand why the depiction of Storm would be offensive, and further understand why anyone in the Marvel Office never noticed. It's just Claremont being Claremont."
I'm not so sure. By Shooter's version of events, he showed the issue to people in the higher up office (ie, the corporate people who tried to stay as far away from the comic side of things as possible), and they didn't see anything wrong with it either. These are people who probably didn't even know who Claremont was (except possibly being vaguely aware that he was writing that one book that was making the most money, but even that is questionable), let alone what "Claremont being Claremont" would even mean, and who wouldn't have been desensitized by "institutionalized sexualizing" or the like because they didn't actually read comics.
I'm actually inclined to believe it, if only because I think a lot of the things people tend to point out in X-men of that era are really only issues if you're aware of the outside context (it wasn't until MANY years later that I had even the remotest of awareness that Rachel was basically wearing BDSM gear). So in a time before the Internet when a lot of people were more sexually repressed, I can easily see some people looking at some things we look back on now as somewhat risque and not realize (hell, Storm in that one "sexy" picture is probably wearing more clothes than her normal original costume).
Is it obvious to people that the Hellfire Club women are basically walking around in Victorian Era underwear if you've never actually seen that kind of clothing before?
Posted by: ParanoidObsessive | July 14, 2014 1:00 AM
No doubt Shooter showed the issue to the 'suits' and no, they wouldn't recognize "Claremont being Claremont." It would be surprising if they even recognized Storm. [Halle Berry will never get the attention she deserves until she acts out every single Storm scene, including leaving the swimming pool naked!] I only mean the in-house Marvel office just saw the pages as "Claremont being Claremont" and thought nothing of it.
As to why the higher-ups approved it, I can't even guess. I assume Shooter had showed them pages before, but they weren't interested. I assume the higher-ups had at least glanced at the comics, realized what they were selling and carried on. Superheroes are usually the nude body in pretty colors, sometimes with a mask or cape. I'm extrapolating wildly, so don't take any of this as fact, and will freely admit I'm at a loss as to how the "offensive" sequences made it past the editor.
I've been reading a lot of Claremont's mutie titles lately, and it's disturbing to see how much BSMD he worked into those books which I never considered at the time. Why couldn't he have written a healthier story, like Rogue dating the Absorbing Man?
Posted by: ChrisW | July 14, 2014 9:47 PM
The difference between BDSM gear and standard super-hero costumes went on to be pretty blurred in the 80's and 90's. How much of that is put to the popularity of the X-Men is hard to say. The fact is, there was no sex on panel ever and no nudity. Every panel was CCA approved for news vendors to sell(I wonder if Shooter made sure to show the higher-ups the pages after CCA stamped them? They might have said, these are stamped, what's the problem?) So complaining about the content of a book that made KaCHING $$$$ turned out not to be to OXFAM's financial advantage. Maybe it would have been to their organization's reputational disadvantage to take the check(I've noticed that there's more sensitivity about bondage gear in the UK). In the end, the money got to a appropriate charity and all was well.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | March 14, 2016 5:27 AM
fnord, I know that at times there has appeared to be something of a disconnect between Jim Shooter's recollections of events and everyone else's memories of how things played out. But, sadly, I do find his recounting of his interaction with the representative from OXFAM to be all too plausible. Quite a few large charitable organizations have been revealed to have spent the majority of the donations they have received on so-called "administrative costs." The Wounded Warrior Project is just the most recent example. Just another example of profiting off of other people's misery.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 14, 2016 1:27 PM
Oh, yes... I never read Heroes For Hope. Most of the artwork from it I'm seeing here for the very first time. And, yeah, if I had been in Shooter's position I would have instructed Claremont and the artists to tone down the BDSM. Just because this sort of stuff was being utilized in the regular X-Men series doesn't mean it was appropriate for a one-shot intended to raise money for charity.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 14, 2016 2:00 PM
I think Shooter was busy trying to re-neg and take Jean Grey from Chris without him quitting thir number selling book at the same time. He really didn't want to fight for what he and his bosses perceived as a non-issue over a charity book. Also, editor Ann Nocenti wrote the scene with Rachel back in her "Hound" get-up. So then he would have been picking on not just a writer, but an editor, which would have exposed him to the suspicion/wraith of the other editors, many of whom were writing. This is just hypothetical, based on what my interpretation of Marvel office dynamics at the time, but I am sure Shooter had to pick his fights.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | March 14, 2016 4:34 PM
I'd venture that Shooter was bad at picking his fights, not to dump on the guy, and I sorta wish he'd picked this one. All the creepy bondage stuff was one of the factors that drove me to drop X-Men right about this time.
Posted by: BU | March 15, 2016 10:11 AM
But when does Heroes for Hope #2 come out!?
Posted by: david banes | March 15, 2016 5:50 PM
It already did.
Except it was called Avengers Vs X-Men. And instead of a single second issue, it was twelve of them.
But it was indeed all of Marvel's Greatest Heroes searching for the writers' pet favorite character, Hope.
Posted by: JC | March 15, 2016 6:16 PM
I should note here with this issue that the evil entity may actually be the Shadow King. This entity is of similar age and was also the dark side of human thought. Storm seemed to be familiar with this entity, so perhaps she was subconsciously reminded of the Shadow King, who has always been interested in corrupting Storm? Plus, the "sexy" scenes with Storm sure seem like the Shadow King's influence.
In addition, the Shadow King later claimed that Rogue had once absorbed him, and the only time I can find that fits this claim would be here in this book.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | June 10, 2016 10:21 AM
I don't have this issue, but I own DC's Heroes Against Hunger and yes, inevitably it suffers from the same core thematic problem fnord mentioned here. Being from a Third World country myself, and one in an alarming downward spiral as we speak (Venezuela) first hand experience has left me very cynical about the developed world's efforts to ever help the least economically advanced countries. When they even exist at all, that is. Most of the time, we're just ignored altogether. Who cares if our children die starving and our political liberties wither as long as the people who matter can regularly amuse themselves with Kim Kardashian throwing her money around, right?
It's always or a lack of real interest or, at the best of cases, a well intentioned lack of understanding of our problems. Problems that come both from ourselves (which places us in the situation of being unable to change ourselves) and from the First World's own exploitation of the rest of the world. To set us in an actual 'straight path' towards full economic and social recovery, a full on intervention would be needed, but not only that violates every country's independence, but those willing to intervene only have THEIR OWN interests in mind. It's a real Catch 22 and a perpetually self-preserving (and even worse, self-worsening) situation.
Also, 'Why do you have to make a RACIAL ISSUE OUT OF EVERYTHING?' is such a funny thing to say when you're editing the freaking X-Men.
Posted by: OverMaster | June 19, 2017 6:10 PM
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