Uncanny X-Men #104-105
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #104, Uncanny X-Men #105
Magneto had been re-aged by Eric The Red...
...and he is ready for a fight. The current team of X-Men, two of which have metal-themed powers, aren't really much of a match for Magneto.
The goal, as Cyclops learns as he arrives separately, is simply to distract the X-Men so that Eric the Red can attack Professor X. Cyclops cuts the battle short, to Wolverine's dismay...
... and the team heads back to the US, where they find Eric the Red threatening Xavier, Jean, Jean's parents, and Misty Knight (the Classic X-Men reprint starts with two pages of prologues). Unfortunately, Eric has also recruited the perpetually naive Firelord (and note Cockrum's nice layout, an effect he also used on the previous issue as well).
Firelord gives the X-Men another thrashing, but then Phoenix shows up. This is the first issue we really see her true potential - she is definitely at or beyond Thor class power levels.
During the fight, Lilandra finally arrives on Earth.
Eric soon grabs her and jumps through a portal. Using her new-found powers, the Phoenix re-opens the portal and the X-Men jump through, leaving Xavier to face down Firelord (which will be resolved off-panel).
We also catch an early glimpse of the Starjammers.
The art continues to be of good quality, and the interaction between characters and pacing is top notch. There's a distinct difference in quality between these stories and other books from this time period.
The back-up story in Classic X-Men #13 has Jean Grey and Misty Knight on a beach prior to the events in these stories. Jean communes with dolphins and rescues them from a shark with Misty's help.
It's really about Jean becoming attuned to her new powers.
As the Shi'ar chasing Lilandra approach the Earth, their Science Officer says "Our on-planet agent reports multiple instances of Kree, Skrull, Badoon, even Celestial activity! Nothing for us to worry about -- Wait! There's something more! Captain! This planet has faced Galactus four times in its immediate planetary history -- and beaten him back!"
First of all, that's awesome (!!!) from a shared universe perspective. Second of all, i was surprised to see the inclusion of the Celestials, since the Eternals series was still running and at the time it wasn't necessarily intended to be part of the mainstream Marvel continuity. It's also worth noting that the Shi'ar are not necessarily noting current Celestial activity (something that would be hard to miss) but that was probably the intention.
Just for fun, here is the opening splash from issue #105.
For comparison, after the two pages of added prologues, the reprint in Classic X-Men #13 depicts the same scene as follows:
Added scenes are one thing, but i really don't appreciate the dialogue revisions. The original work should stand as-is. And frankly, Erik the Red's wordy thought balloons are not an improvement over the original.
The back-up in issue #12 takes place after Magneto's encounter with the X-Men (and possibly even after his encounter with Captain America in Cap annual #4). A newspaper headline says that Magneto has "escaped".
The story details Magneto's previously untold backstory, including his experience in the Holocaust...
...the first use of his powers...
...the fire that caused him to use his powers, first to defend himself and his wife Magda...
...and then lash out when his child Anya is killed.
Back in the present, Magneto rescues a human mother and child from a fire, (retroactively) beginning his redemption under Claremont.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 116,992. Single issue closest to filing date = 135,031.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: The X-Men have been at Banshee's Irish castle for an indeterminate period of time before a call from Moira instigates them to leave to investigate Muir Island. Magneto's appearance here takes place before his creation of a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in Captain America annual #4. The framing sequence in issue #106 takes place directly after this issue; i'm placing it in a separate entry only due to the fact that the majority of the story covers a separate, older story.
Continuity Insert? P - (Classic X-Men reprints add new material)
My Reprint: Classic X-Men #12, Classic X-Men #13
Inbound References (21): show
I don't think Dragonfly was ever seen again.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 16, 2011 5:40 PM
Yes, she was- it turns out that she was kidnapped by the Stranger and imprisoned by him. She escapes and returns to Earth in various issues of Quasar. Then we meet her sister in an Iron Man Annual backup, she becomes one of Superia's Femizons in Captain America and she becomes one of the Crimson Cowl's Masters of Evil in Thunderbolts.
Posted by: Michael | July 16, 2011 5:48 PM
Claremont originally wanted tu use Thor rather than Firelord as a heavyweight Phoenix could beat to show her power, but editorial didn't like the idea of seeing Thor humbled.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 25, 2012 1:33 AM
Jo Duffy has a letter in #104.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 29, 2013 4:21 PM
That was so awesome seeing Magneto being a total bad ass and thrashing the X-Men and then he does it again but with Byrne's penciling!
Posted by: David Banes | December 8, 2013 4:33 AM
Had Polaris revealed her new name to anyone other than yelling it while chasing Storm? Is that the kind of info Moira would have told him? ("Yo, Jamie, Lorna Dane is now called Polaris.").
As for Firelord, is there any point where he doesn't show up and screw things up? He has to be one of the most annoying characters in the entire MU.
Posted by: Erik Beck | March 28, 2015 12:19 PM
Walter, do you have any source for the idea that Claremont wanted to use Thor? It's pretty obvious that Firelord wouldn't have been his first choice, but I always assumed Claremont wanted the Silver Surfer and ran up against the no-one-but-Stan-can-write-the-Silver-Surfer edict, so he went with a different herald.
Posted by: Andrew | May 29, 2015 6:54 PM
Here's a big quandary about the Classic X-Men backup: When Magda rejects Magneto and runs away from him is she doing so because he murdered a bunch of people, or because he's a mutant? I feel like we're suppose to take it for granted that it's the former, but the more I look over the backstory, the the more I realize that it's kinda a big assumption on our parts.
Also for some reason, I've noticed (just now, because I am a dumb) that the "Classic X-men" annotations don't reveal who drew them. I'm curious as to who the art team for the backup is in this case.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | July 18, 2015 3:17 AM
@Jon Dubya: You know it was Magda that gave Magneto the core of his anti-human philosophy. Yes the Holocaust laid the foundation, but her abandonment of him when he needed her most, calling him a monster, was the catalyst. How is it that a woman he had protected through the Holocaust, and who had seen her own daughter’s unnecessary death could feel so incensed, nay horrified, at her husband killing those responsible? Or was this reaction intended to drive him on to become the would-be tyrant? Hmmm…
Posted by: Nathan Adler | July 18, 2015 4:39 AM
Nearly all of the back-ups, including the ones here, are drawn and inked by John Bolton.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 18, 2015 7:27 AM
Fnord12 you incorrectly state Dragonfly's previous appearance as X-Men 96 when it should be issue 95.
Posted by: darren | November 13, 2015 10:19 PM
Thanks, darren. Error was in the original, but i shouldn't have blindly followed it.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 14, 2015 1:28 AM
Bit late, Andrew, but the blog 'Secrets Behind the X-Men' quotes Dave Cockrum from the X-Men Companion, on the topic of Phoenix vs Firelord/Thor.
“When we first introduced Phoenix, we wanted her to fight Thor or the Silver Surfer, but (new Editor-In-Chief) Jim Shooter wouldn’t allow it,” Cockrum told Comic Creators On X-Men. “He said no female is going to beat Thor or the Silver Surfer. We kind of sneaked around him by sending her up against Firelord, who had once fought Thor to a standstill. We established her power levels that way.”
Posted by: Mormel | February 26, 2016 2:50 PM
Mormel, it couldn't have been Shooter, since he didn't become Editor-In-Chief for over a year after this story came out. In Back Issue 54, a claim by Claremont that it was Len Wein is cited, and that would fit the timeline.
Posted by: Michael | February 28, 2016 10:04 AM
@Michael: ahh, fair point! Not sure why the quote links Shooter to this editorial decision. Probably a mix-up with how Shooter later had a big hand in taking Jean off the book at the conclusion of 'Dark Phoenix'.
Posted by: Mormel | February 28, 2016 5:13 PM
@Mormel - Cockrum does blame Shooter in the "Comics Creators On X-Men" book, but this was an interview in the mid-2000s, so it's unsurprising that Cockrum's memory may have played tricks on him from nearly 30 years before. Similarly, in Byrne's interview in the same book, he blames Shooter for not letting him do the covers until X-Men 113, unaware that in Cockrum's interview, Cockrum states that he was behind that ("it was a little bit malicious on my part... Byrne and I had a rivalry thing going"), not Shooter.
Posted by: Jonathan | February 28, 2016 5:26 PM
(Incidentally, the "rivalry" Cockrum mentions may have been inspired by Byrne by his own admission telling everyone in the office that he wanted the X-Men job if ever Cockrum left, jokingly threatening bodily harm if it went to anyone else. Also, in Comics Interview 25, Byrne and Jim Salicrup joke about how Byrne earlier introduced himself to Rich Buckler at a convention, telling him he wanted his job on the Fantastic Four. How to make friends, the John Byrne way.)
Posted by: Jonathan | February 28, 2016 7:20 PM
Bob Layton revealed on Facebook that he was originally supposed to become the regular inker on X-Men beginning with issue #105...
"X-Men #105 was the one-and-only issue that I ever worked on during my early days at Marvel. After the Champions was cancelled, my long-time pal Dave Cockrum asked me to take over as his inker on the series. Unfortunately, the book was a bi-monthly at the time and I was struggling to stay alive in NYC working for $23.00 per page for inks. And, those costumes were a bitch to do. So, when DC Comics offered me $5 dollars more per page and a contract, I left Marvel after finishing the inks on this book. History might have been very different had I stayed. There might have been no Michelinie/Layton Iron Man and no Byrne/Austin X-Men."
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 28, 2016 7:52 PM
Considering Shooter was eic for Cockrum's second run and undoubtedly more hands-on than he had been the first time, I'm sure we can put this down to a simple memory failure on Cockrum's part. He did more issues the second time around than the first.
[Although I never really understood that either. He left "X-Men" the first time because he couldn't keep up with the deadlines, when it was a bimonthly and I believe Marvel was cutting their page counts at the time. Granted his return had a number of artistic fill-ins, but still... More issues that had more pages and on a monthly schedule? Was he drawing other regular titles during his first run or something?]
Posted by: ChrisW | February 28, 2016 10:14 PM
According to Cockrum, for the first run he was also on staff at Marvel: "I discovered that it's kind of difficult to take the train into New York, work eight hours, take the train home again and then sit down and draw a comic book." i.e. he was doing a 9-5 job, then struggling to get motivated to then do the X-Men work in his spare time.
The staff job entailed working with John Romita and Marie Severin, who were the art directors at the time. Cockrum says he mostly designed covers (which is how he continued to do some of the covers after he left), also designed characters and did merchandising art and concept pieces for possible Marvel TV series.
Posted by: Jonathan | February 29, 2016 1:23 AM
Ok, that makes sense. Granted, I'll probably forget all that and a couple years from now, I'll probably be saying "I don't understand how Cockrum couldn't handle a bimonthly series on his first run, but...!" Such is life.
This would also explain the memory failure of Shooter as eic during his first run, since Shooter returned to Marvel as writer and assistant-editor on 2 January, 1976, so he may not have been editor-in-chief, but Cockrum would have remembered him being there. [Shooter famously being someone who's not easy to fail to see; I passed the guy's table at some convention, and even seated and from a distance, I thought the guy looked huge.]
Posted by: ChrisW | February 29, 2016 7:20 PM
@Ben Herman - It's interesting to imagine a Byrne/Layton X-Men, but I can't see it lasting long, since Byrne is known to be "demanding" (in Jim Salicrup's words) about the choice of inkers, and dislikes Layton's inks, as per his quote: "It's kind of difficult to put into words why I don't like Bob Laytons's inking. This is going to sound really silly, but I actually feel physically ill when I look at Bob's stuff. I really do. It's like everything is greasy and slimy." (see Fnord's entry on Hulk Annual 7 for more on that)
I don't see the issue with the Byrne-Layton team, but glad he ended up with Terry Austin in our universe anyway!
Posted by: Jonathan | March 1, 2016 6:30 AM
Aloha, isn't issue #104 the 1st appearance of the Starjammers? I couldn't find in your historical significance section... but then again i've had 5 beers.
Posted by: Rocknrollguitarplayer | May 11, 2016 11:42 PM
I considered that part of "development of the X-Men's Shi'ar saga" but i've added a mention of the Starjammers so it's searchable. Thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 12, 2016 7:32 AM
Cockrum was going to use Dragonfly in a new series called Furies that he was creating, using her and several other "Marvel ladies". But alas, it never came to be.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | May 21, 2016 2:06 PM
Cockrum was a terrific character designer.
Posted by: Mizark | July 22, 2016 5:07 AM
Yes! Cockrum's name is my shorthand for saying a character's got a classic superhero look vs. more of an adapted street clothes look.
Posted by: Cecil the Sea Sick Serpent | July 22, 2016 5:55 AM
Here's a thought...could Jean have been able to support her own ongoing series at the time as the Phoenix? She could have had her family as supporting characters, along with the X-Men, but focusing on her battling big villains like Firelord or such. The Dark Phoenix Saga in her own book would have been interesting, as is the idea that the title character gets corrupted and eventually goes evil, something unheard of at the time, I think.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | August 6, 2016 10:39 AM
I literally just wrote about how a series such as you describe would've fleshed out Jean's character as only a solo title can, and yes, she had plenty of awesome supporting characters, particularly Daughters of the Dragon and a guest spot with Power Man and Iron Fist. The big threats could be something that pops pretty hard twice a year, with space in between to build up the consequences, provide for subplots past and present, interactions with street level characters before things get to the point where only the Phoenix can hope to win the day.
Posted by: Cecil | August 6, 2016 1:12 PM
@Andrew Burke - That definitely would have been bold at the time. The year before DC gave The Joker has own title and the creative team was told that he couldn't murder anyone and that he had to be thrown back in jail at the end of each issue (he would break out again at the start of the next issue), so having a title character who destroys an entire solar system would have been beyond belief.
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 7, 2016 9:26 AM
It's funny how much are Shi'Ar obviously Star Trek influenced.
Their uniforms and the cockpit looks very Star Trek, they even start with "captain's log" and talk about Prime Directive.
Of course it diverts from there.
Posted by: Karel | October 15, 2016 2:34 PM
It's been years since I've read this story, so I could easily be wrong, but doesn't Magneto say at one point that of the current X-Men, the only ones he think pose a legitimate threat to him at all are Storm and Banshee?
Posted by: Thanos6 | December 28, 2016 4:19 PM
I'm not a Magneto scholar, but isn't that part of his shtick? In "Secret Wars" #1, he made sure to announce that all of the heroes were beneath him, except possibly Thor.
Posted by: ChrisW | December 30, 2016 12:37 AM
Actually, Thanos6, at one point he tells Banshee that of all the "new" X-men he is "the only one worth fighting." And it's true, the new X-Men are remarkably poorly designed to go up against Magneto: since Colossus and Wolverine have metal in their bodies, he can toss them around effortlessly; Nightcrawler's teleportation disrupts electromagnetic lines of force, so he can sense where he is going to teleport before he arrives; and since electricity and magnetism are two aspects of the same force, he can hurl Storm's lightning bolts back at her. In the end it's only Cyclops who can hold him back long enough for the X-Men to escape.
Posted by: Andrew | December 30, 2016 8:05 AM
Thanks. I seem to remember him saying that Storm could beat him by freezing him to death, but until it got THAT cold, the low temperatures would actually help him by raising conductivity or something like that. Or am I thinking of a different fight?
Posted by: Thanos6 | December 31, 2016 12:05 AM
You're thinking of the fight in Uncanny #112, where Storm does just that and Magneto boasts that she's simply made him a superconductor..
Posted by: Omar Karindu | December 31, 2016 7:02 AM
Ah, gotcha. I always merge those two fights in my mind. Thanks Omar.
Posted by: Thanos6 | December 31, 2016 7:52 AM
Someone beat me to it. I was going to suggest how the X-Men and X-Factor beat Nastirh in "Inferno."
It is awesome to talk about X-books with people who remember them better than I do. :)
Posted by: ChrisW | January 1, 2017 12:13 AM
Fnord not to nitpick because I love ya, but the references here make it seems like this is the first time Magneto flew, yet he was shown flying in Uncanny No. 1. I haven't read this actual issue in a while though, was the comparison to Polaris in the editor's notes?
Posted by: Jeff | January 15, 2017 2:31 PM
Yeah, Magneto says to Banshee, "You see, Banshee, I, too, can fly" and the footnote says "As Polaris did in X-Men #97".
Posted by: fnord12 | January 16, 2017 2:39 PM
For some reason, over the years Magneto lost his ability to fly. In fact, it was a key plot point in Avengers 53. Claremont is just making Magneto awesome again. Maybe it can be chalked up to his rejuvenation by Erik the Red.
Posted by: Andrew | January 16, 2017 5:37 PM
"Magneto is eventually restored to adulthood, but to his physical prime rather than his older, chronological age, by the alien Shi'ar agent Erik the Red." This made him as powerful as he was back then.
Posted by: clyde | January 16, 2017 7:23 PM
In the first opening splash panel shown above, Magneto refers to the Brotherhood as the "Legion of Evil Mutants." That's the sort of "mistake" I might expect from Cockrum but not from Claremont, because of Cockrum's work on the Legion of Super-Heroes for DC. I have no idea about just what to make of it however.
There's a host of reasons why one might dislike the Classic X-Men reprint series. Here's one good one: Right from the start, it was a way of gouging more money out of all the true believers who had already paid their dues to the mighty Marvel cause by collecting the original series. Keepers of the flame were forced to buy comics which were mostly reprints of comics they had already paid for, just to get the retcon pages.
Posted by: Holt | March 7, 2018 10:00 PM
It's unclear how much Claremont actually knew about the original X-Men. John Byrne says Claremont knew basically nothing. "Legion of Evil Mutants" sounds like an obvious mistake, but we'll probably never know.
"Classic X-Men" also gave those of us who hadn't read the original comics a way to get more of our new favorite series each month, cleverly worked into the (then) modern era - Rhane appearing with Moira in whatever issue it was, Mr. Sinister and Apocalypse being behind some of the earliest adventures, etc.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 7, 2018 10:29 PM
In real time I don't think I restarted collecting this series until the Jason Wyngarde plot started to develop. Then I had to go back and pick up all the back issues at collectors' prices. It was a pretty penny. I paid a lot, particularly for the first appearance of Jean as the Phoenix. It really reads like a different story without all the retcons-- I know you and most of the regulars here are aware of that fact, but in the larger audience, not so much I don't think.
The Classic reprints also strike me as disrespectful in some ways. In the two "Phoenix Unleashed" splashes shown above, we can see that the credits banner has been omitted in the reprint, and Cockrum's art is shrunk to make room for the other artist, whose work appears at the top of the revised page. In this and a number of ways, it's like they've diminished the credit and contributions of Claremont and Cockrum, and instead they're saying something like, this is a product of wonderful Marvel, and this is not a product of Claremont and Cockrum. And in a way that's true of course. But still. It's not the way the material was originally presented. And in other ways-- well it's really not actually or exactly true.
Posted by: Holt | March 7, 2018 11:06 PM
On the other hand, they didn't have Essentials in 1986 and the back issues were too expensive for most young readers, so this is how many young readers were introduced to the pre-Dark Phoenix X-Men.
Posted by: Michael | March 7, 2018 11:27 PM
They put the credits on the inside front page, I think. My guess is they felt obliged to change the credits to credit the creators of the additions.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | March 7, 2018 11:27 PM
That's fair. I just like those reprints best which are truest to the originals. I collected reprint comics like Marvel Collectors Item Classics for similar reasons-- not because the back issues were too expensive, but because they were unobtainable at any price, in an era and an area where comic book stores had not yet come into existence. But unlike Classic X-Men, Marvel Collectors Item Classics was true to the originals. Sometimes they had small omissions or obvious framing setups around short excerpts, but nothing like this. It's not a big gripe, I'm just saying. I never actually collected the Classic X-Men series myself-- I bought a few of them, but mostly just read them off the rack lol-- just reading the new bits, since I had already read the biggest part of it from the originals.
Posted by: Holt | March 7, 2018 11:47 PM
Well it's even worse when you consider Claremont actively contributed to the retcons for the first several years of "Classic X-Men." He knew it wasn't in the same spirit of whatever got him and Cockrum from issue to issue, but there's no reason to think he wasn't an eager contributor. The transition from #104 to #105 works better if we see the X-Men return to the mansion and then find Erik. Or the reprint of #95 retconning Nightcrawler's limits at teleporting. It sticks out in a garish way - you're right, for those of us who pay close attention, it's like if Paul McCartney insisted in 2018 on rerecording one song on "Sgt. Pepper" for any future rerelease of the album and left everything else the same - but I don't think it's as big of a deal.
Should Marvel maintain the historical record, "Legion of Evil Mutants" and all, or should they "fix" mistakes as they see fit? There's no good answer. In theory, Marvel could have simply paid Claremont and Cockrum to rewrite and redraw each issue (which would have been kinda awesome) but would that be better or worse?
Posted by: ChrisW | March 7, 2018 11:48 PM
IMO it would be better. I would have bought it if it offered all-new art. Even if the writer and artist were both different. And yeah I agree it could potentially be awesome if done right.
Posted by: Holt | March 7, 2018 11:59 PM
It's an unsolvable riddle, should the originals be reprinted as they originally were or should corrections be made, in spelling, coloring, continuity or anything else? Joe Shuster literally chopped up and redrew parts of his original "Superman" story to change it from the newspaper serial he and Jerry Siegel intended it to be into the comic book story DC was willing to buy and publish for "Action" #1.
With hindsight - and all the decades of technological advancement - it's easy to say that the original version should be maintained for historical value, but the original creators didn't know what they were unleashing at the time and I can't really defend putting the owners (DC, Marvel, etc.) in a position where they have to figure out what the best option for reprinting is. Very few comic books have ever been worth reprinting in the first place, so the rules for how to treat those that are worth reprinting don't really exist.
With "Classic X-Men," Claremont, Ann Nocenti and Jim Shooter were reintroducing the merry mutants to a new generation and paying John Bolton to draw extra pages to fill in the gaps made necessary by a decade+ of continuity and the fact that Marvel Comics in the late-70s often had less than 20 pages of story.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 8, 2018 12:53 AM
Exactly: ideally, both should be made available. The interpolated pages in Classic X-Men are no different, really than any other flashback that retcons a prior issue's events. Of course, there are retcons that don't work -- they're a storytelling tool, and like any other can be used well or poorly. And this is often in the eye of the beholder. It takes a pretty solid consensus of readers to cement or overturn a retcon....or a particularly bloody-minded, well-positioned creator.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | March 8, 2018 6:32 AM
Very true, but it's a difficult line to walk. Even by the late 80s, I don't think Marvel saw any incentive to keep the original versions available, or even safeguard them so they can be available in the future. At one extreme there's George Lucas who could pay thousands of people to tinker with his enormous franchise in whatever way he wanted - "Darth Vader shall now be named Ytzakk S'mallliah" - and bury the original versions, and at the other extreme there's the writer and/or artist fixing their old mistakes, where every minute they spend fixing old mistakes is a minute they don't spend on their new work.
Then there's the valid idea that any extensive reworking is itself a retcon, even if it's by the original writer and/or artist, as with Claremont on "Classic X-Men." When Dave Sim started collecting "Cerebus" and making most of his money from the collections, he realized something to the effect that he could redraw the first twenty issues and they'd be a lot better, but it would keep him from redrawing the next issue and anyway, the Dave Sim doing the redrawing only got to where he was because of those original twenty issues.
And the audience would have to accept it. Then there's the editors at Marvel or DC. I don't think any of us are arguing that spelling and coloring mistakes shouldn't be fixed, or some blatant errors, such as [making up an example] drawing Storm in a scene when the subplot has her on the other side of the world. Changing dialogue, that's iffy.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 8, 2018 10:32 PM
I'm surprised everyone is taking it so easy on the Classics filler - at best, it was late Claremont -a writer at his best w/ a strong collaborator and unimportant enough at Marvel to hold his worse tendencies in check, those days being far, far behind him- and Bolton, who I simply never cared for, and at worse, Nocenti scrawling gibberish illustrated cartoon-cartoony by someone with his feet.
Actually, that's a lie about best and worst - the retcons were never good that I recall, and some, the Logan-Jean one cited upthread for example, wildly harmful Hated the filler, hatedall of it forever, but the non-Claremont stuff was merely terrible, not destructive. You don't remake Casablanca.
Posted by: BU | March 10, 2018 10:42 PM
Marvel needed a massive rewrite project like this because the retconned story was so convoluted. That's my opinion. The unretconned story was tight, simple to comprehend, read naturally, and was relatively unflawed. It was the relatively "singular" vision of 3 people: Claremont, Cockrum, and Byrne. The retconned story was/is like something redesigned by a political committee. The retcons were driven by editors, salespeople with political considerations, corporate interests, and dare I say, self-censorship. The result is almost incomprehensible by any casual reader.
People now almost need a roadmap to figure out the retconned story. This Classic X-men series was at least partially intended to serve as that roadmap. It's a reprint only insofar as reprinting already-paid-for "creative product" reduced the costs of providing that roadmap, for an overall profit.
I'm far from being Claremont's biggest fan, but his complicity in all this is sometimes overstated. The two main retcons weren't his idea, they were imposed from above editorially, and he would have been insubordinate in his job if he hadn't complied. (Main retcon 1: Remove Jean's guilt for murdering the planet of the Asparagus People. Main retcon 2: Bring Jean back to life after she'd been killed in service of main retcon 1.)
Posted by: Holt | March 11, 2018 7:09 AM
I’ll defend the Classic X-Men stuff up to a point. Comics had a longer pagecount by the time CXM launched compared to the original run. It would have been really lousy if Marvel charged full late ‘80s price for a mid-‘70s length book. Bonus material fixed that problem, while also giving old readers who bought the book added value, even if they owned the originals. And if you owned the originals, you probably wanted to keep them in pristine condition. CXM was not a rip-off, it was the best reprint program Marvel ever had. These hugely important stories had never before been reprinted, which was another reason to do it. In fact, not until the Essentials program in the late ‘90s would most of these stories be available in another affordable, non-Masterworks format.
Most of the insert material was harmless. No improvement, I agree, but not much of a rewrite. Claremont just tidied up some loose ends And clarified a few things. The only major exception I can think of is adding Apicalypse to Moses Magnum’s backstory.
The backup vignettes, meanwhile were often good stories in their own right and added a new dimension, in a more mature style, to the existing canon. Fans have always complained about Claremont’s loose ends and long-boiling plots, and ‘80s fans had continuity-maniac, no-prize mentalities. Claremont’s inserts and vignettes partially addressed these concerns, and integrated earlier stories with where he was taking the series in the last third of his run.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | March 11, 2018 7:55 PM
I was going to respond earlier but didn't. Lawson's basically right. The insert material was to bring the old stories 'up to speed' on what had happened since. I'm not defending any of the non-Claremont stuff, but some of the back-up stories were good, charming, interesting or outright intriguing. Banshee, Tom and Maeve, Kurt walking down the street without an image inducer, Thunderbird's funeral, Jean preparing for her date with Scott, and I really like Claremont's final back-ups with the newly-dead Phoenix meeting Death and Scott's adventures at the orphanage.
Lawson's exactly right when he points out that these stories didn't exist outside of high-priced back issues. In theory Marvel could have kept them perpetually in print, but really that's imposing our own retcon as an audience on a company that didn't see reprints as feasible. [Thinking about it, it might have been a good idea if they'd started "Classic X-Men" once the original series reached #150, then restarted it once the reprints reached #150, so by the time of "Fall of the Mutants," there were three ongoing series, adding a fourth one by the time Claremont left.]
Posted by: ChrisW | March 11, 2018 9:10 PM
I can only say that there's no accounting for tastes. I've got nothin' when it comes to needing to pad out from 17 pages, but IMO, the backups were various flavors of terrible, and the retcons, if not trying to remake Casablanca, were at least stuffing Hayden Christensen into The Empire Strikes Back w/o Ewan McGregor for consistency.
We're not talking about backup copies; most of the ones I bought were the first time I read the story/issue -and the few I had originals of confirmed this- and the seams constantly showed, and the retcons themselves were consistently lame, when not destructive.
Posted by: BU | March 11, 2018 10:05 PM
Good points. I don't really mind the backup stories so much, and they do serve the agreeable purpose of correcting the page count discrepancy. I do dislike the rewritten dialog in the "reprint" regions of the comic, and the cutting and pasting of new panels interspersed with the old panels-- to a point where a serious student of the material like fnord12 might have trouble telling which is which sometimes-- and then still passing it off as a reprint, and even as a "Classic" reprint. Which it's not. It's a rewrite. Hell, it's major surgery.
But my main hangup is really over the fact that I just don't like the 2 major retcons that I described above. IMO they do ruin the original story and not really for any good reason. Or at least for any reason that I agree with. So a lot of it is just sour grapes on my part I guess. I liked the story as it was and I didn't like the retcons at the time they were done. Especially the later retcon that established the Phoenix Force and brought Jean back from the dead, after milking the pathos of her death for all it was worth. The original story was just so much better of a story IMO. And they ruined it. For me they ruined Jean's character to a point where there's just no fixing it anymore. I'll get over it. It's been a long time, and I'm all better now.:)
Posted by: Holt | March 11, 2018 10:07 PM
Well, if you need a hug, you know where to go. [Hugs.com, what did you think I was talking about?]
It sounds like you're describing your particular objections to the two major retcons - which is fine, we all have those - but there's no way "Classic X-Men" could have satisfied everybody in that regard. Not the long-time fans, not the people who quit partway through, not the newcomers. The newcomers were probably the most prized of the readership, as you could aim a 'by the way, Jean Grey came back from the dead, see recent issues of "X-Factor"' at them and we'd buy it. Yes, I was one of those newcomers so maybe I'm biased.
Outside of the back-up stories, there was no way to add new material that everybody would go with. Those of us who pay close attention to comics would notice that John Bolton's art really didn't mesh with Cockrum or Byrne's. But some explanation would be required. Why doesn't Nightcrawler turn invisible in the dark anymore? Why can't he teleport to places he's never been? They'd be buried in requests for "No-Prizes" if they didn't do something.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 11, 2018 10:44 PM
One viable alternative might be that they could've done a straight and true-to-the-original reprint series, with extra pin-up pages to pad it out, or any kind of new or old art. Then as a separate project they could've done the New Coke version using all-new material. Both projects would have likely sold extremely well. But they didn't. And why not? Because then new readers would have read and interpreted the reprint series as it was originally intended to be read and interpreted, and they would've grokked the original story in it's fullness. Then some gigantic percentage of new readers would have undoubtedly joined the glorious legions of long-time fans in their preference for the unrevised story. Marvel would have thus been hoisted by their own petards. Can't have that.
Posted by: Holt | March 11, 2018 11:44 PM
I suppose, no, I'm sure, that I'd still be complaining if they'd left the reprints alone and more carefully coordinated the backup filler to take care of the retcons, too - because I never thought a single backup or retcon was good. But obviously, I wouldn't be able to complain as much or as hard, because then we'd at least have gotten the reprints (I came in when X-Men was still good, late in the Dark Phoenix Saga [and began being increasingly unhappy from Paul Smith on until I dropped out at #205 after Jrjr came in, neither seeming to be the strong story collaborator Claremont needed])- not chopped up with all the virtuosity of toddlers armed with butter knives and crayons.
I will differ with Holt in this: the Phoenix/Jean lives retcon was a creatively bankrupt cynical money-grab to be loathed -nothing all that worthwhile was ever done with her to be worth it- BUT, with it already there and them already retconing a lot of good out of good stories, I can't single that one out as the worst or close when the Jean-craved-Wolvie-back crap wasn't. even. right. for. Wolverine, let alone her.
Posted by: BU | March 12, 2018 11:11 PM
Now, I have Byrne Robotics on my regular browse schedule, largely because the gentleman is prone to telling inside baseball stories out of school about comics, even if he's not a terribly credible witness for events at which he was present(but I do take that as him being mistaken rather than lying) and I do love the comics inside stories, (at least reading carefully and also looking up Peter David or Jim Shooter's versions).
And Byrne is fond of saying that Chris could never leave anything alone -it's a frequent refrain I deem to be accurate, looking at Claremont' work for myself- and my certainty approaches 100% that this is a case of that more than editorial or by-committee, at least until he wasn't writing the backups as he was on his way out the door or already gone, if I recall the timing right. -Then it got up to late Dark Phoenix Saga and I stopped needing to buy.
Posted by: BU | March 12, 2018 11:22 PM
Jean Grey's been dead almost 40 years and she's been reborn over 30 and we're still arguing about both. Comic books, gotta love 'em! :D
The only possible way to do "Classic X-Men" would have been with the retcons included and back-up stories (of whatever quality) to make up the page count. Anything else, from straight reprinting the originals up to and including Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne remaking everything from scratch, would have meant Marvel was competing against itself with an ongoing "X-Men" title.
Jean and Wolvie barely knew each other and almost literally the last thing she did before flying the shuttle was to scream about how unlikeable he was. There is no relationship, at worst there are Wolverine's fanboy fantasies, entirely different from the Logan we came to know. Sure he'll hit on Jean. If she says 'yes,' another notch on the bedpost. If she says 'no,' he'll move on to Storm or Moira. Or grab Kurt to go out chasing girls on the street. That's a horrible retcon and it was surely Claremont-driven.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 13, 2018 12:13 AM
Chris, exactly right about Wolverine. Everything about that plot thread, as it played out at the time, was to do with unrequited longing. It was really about Logan, a smelly little guy with no charm or social skills, nothing to really do with her, everything to do with him being secretive and abrasive and lonely.
Hobbes characterization of man in the primitive state in the wild as "Nasty, brutish and short"? THAT's a description of Wolverine. It's a description of (shudder) sex with Wolverine.
All subsequent attempts to make him cool were antithetical to what he really was as a personality role on the team. "Cool" Wolvie was to do with him as a solo character, absolutely contradicting what was firmly established - and is basic to the ill-considered idea that Jean could possibly rather look at the nasty little piece of work rather than step on him.
The Frank Millers and Larry Hamas (and late Claremonts, who was distorting all the X-Men beyond recognition by then) who did such work in "cool" Wolverine don't have to like it -nor the fans who didn't know the firmly previously-established personality being diametrically opposed- but it WAS a reversal for Li'l Stinky, who wasn't cool and worked pretty well that way.
Posted by: BU | March 13, 2018 12:40 AM
I basically have the same answer from the opposite direction [I was a newcomer who started with "Mutant Massacre," think the JRjr and Paul Smith issues are among the best and Marc Silvestri is my favorite X-artist.]
Wolvie as originally conceived, had no place in the X-Men. He was totally unlikable and it's not hard to imagine Thunderbird eventually working out as a better 'hardass' on the team, if Claremont hadn't been forced to kill him.
Wolvie buys flowers for Jean in the hospital, thinks about how stupid it is to go nuts over a dame but maybe they could get to talkin', then the second person narration tells him he should have expected Jean's friends to stay close to her. Or not, Wolvie's never had any friends. And all the X-Men look incredibly depressed as they're sitting around the hospital, waiting for news on Jean. Wolvie throws the flowers away. Scott breaks down in tears once he hears she'll be all right. *THAT* was clearly driven by Claremont, and a Wolvie-Jean attraction was obviously written in after-the-fact.
I disagree with you in that I think Wolvie learned what it meant to be a civilized person. James and Heather Hudson were retconned into this, as were all the other parts of his hidden past. As a writer I don't think it's too much of a stretch to think that Logan's memories of Jean led him to be a nicer person when he met Mariko, picking second-best. Never mind Jean's opinion, it still isn't a healthy relationship, especially once she comes back.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 13, 2018 12:59 AM
I've been trying for the last several answers to make this point, but didn't find the room. One retcon that isn't being mentioned is how much went into the Scott-Madelyne relationship. Whatever you think about Jean's death and rebirth, Scott and Maddie were one of the best examples of an actual relationship in superhero comics. Is she Phoenix reborn? What does it all mean?
Then it proves meaningless, she turns out to be Phoenix reborn and evil anyway. You don't get "War and Peace" by deciding at the last minute that the final third of the book will be in Spanish-held Florida during the Jefferson administration. A Logan-Jean relationship is horrible enough as characters we know and love, but subplots like Maddie are what really destroyed the long-term continuity, whether or not there were reprints.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 13, 2018 1:07 AM
I will get up with you tomorrow, X-n00b. This is fun to kick around, but it's way past bedtime.
(But there could have been a workable growth arc for Logan to justify him becoming cool, and you're just piecing together one after the fact, I think, that they didn't think to do as they went, when it was needed.)
Posted by: BU | March 13, 2018 1:28 AM
Then it proves meaningless, she turns out to be Phoenix reborn and evil anyway. You don't get "War and Peace" by deciding at the last minute that the final third of the book will be in Spanish-held Florida during the Jefferson administration. A Logan-Jean relationship is horrible enough as characters we know and love, but subplots like Maddie are what really destroyed the long-term continuity, whether or not there were reprints.
But this was, of course, because Jean came back when Claremont had clearly moved way past the point that this was a viable option, and Maddie ended up being treated as at best an obstacle to Scott-Jean and at worst a bizarre superfluity. This wasn't the way they had to go, of course, but Claremont really did seem to see Maddy as a kind of "replacement Jean" after all, basically what Jean would've been had the original Dark Phoenix ending of her losing her powers been used.
Getting back to the Classic reprints issue, as with any retcon its a question of "ownership" in the metaphorical sense. Claremont had been on the books long enough that this was away to make them fit his increasingly singular vision, and to revise pas stories with hindsight so that they fit his, er, evolving image of the franchise and its purpose. But fans also feel ownership, and so do Claremont's past co-plotters. And then it became moot, as marketing and editorial -- the literal owners -- started making moves of their own.
Hence the fracture of the franchise and fans.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | March 13, 2018 7:12 AM
Getting *all* the way back to the Original Phoenix Saga of these issues (up through #108), it's striking how spontaneous the plotting is, how ad hoc it feels. There are some plans -- Lilandra as Xavier's space love interest, for example, and Corsair as Cyclops's poppa -- but otherwise, new characters and concepts are thrown in at a breakneck pace. I'm not sure the M'Krann Crystal, for instance, gets much setup, and then it's there and suddenly has guardians and Jean can fix it as Phoenix and it's over. The Imperial Guard is a one-off- one-issue in-joke; the Crystal's guardians are, too,a Mutt 'n' Jeff reference. The broad outlines are here: evil emperor, doomsday plot, love from beyond the stars -- but the details are clearly worked out on the fly and the pacing is incredibly fast, even for the era.
Compare the slower build of hints and subplots as early as issue #109, one issue after it's done, and you see the longer-term, more coordinated plotting the Claremont-Byrne team brought. For all his tendency to swerve, Claremont seems to have slowed down the pace of plotting after the Phoenix Saga ended, even after Byrne left, and favored a more indirect, slow burn sort of plotting.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | March 13, 2018 7:20 AM
@Omar- but the problems were caused by the X-Factor people not deciding to go the simple route and have Maddie turn out to be an amnesiac Jean.
Posted by: Michael | March 13, 2018 8:18 AM
Never thought a *single* retcon was good?
Also, to make sure this post stays on topic: IDGAF, that Bolton art is tight.
Posted by: cullen | March 13, 2018 11:57 AM
I've been trying to resist the urge to keep posting off-topic, and apologize for my earlier digressions. I think Bolton's art might look better to me if he let someone else ink it, but it's not too bad. I appreciate the fact that it's pretty easy to tell the difference between his panels and Cockrum's panels. It would also be nice if the rewritten dialog could be lettered in a different font, but that's probably too much to ask.
I particularly don't like Bolton's bikini pinup of Phoenix Force shown above, or for the most part, any of the Phoenix Force depictions I can recall from this series, but I do like the mood he sets in the Magneto flashbacks. Partly that's also due to the use of colors in those scenes, but a lot of it has to do with that same inking style I didn't like in all those ugly Phoenix Force cheesecake shots. I'm speculating that the concentration camp/old Europe mood Bolton set here for the Magneto backstory might've carried over to other concentration camp flashbacks we see in later issues, and maybe even to the X-men movies which (I'm guessing) might likely have used these comics as reference material for Magneto's backstory.
Posted by: Holt | March 13, 2018 12:42 PM
cullen, never thought a *single* X-Men Classics retcon was good. -A rather crucial distinction...
-No quibbles with anything Omar has added, and hope to resume with Chris re: Smith and JRjr later...
Posted by: BU | March 13, 2018 3:32 PM
Now JRjr, I won't spit into the wind bad-mouthing more than I already have said, other than to mention I didn't love his stuff. SMITH, I HATED at the time, drawing everyone off-model while the writing went into the first big nose-dive of out-of-character and endless bad yucky Claremontisms that hadn't become characteristic then. Dave and John had very clearly been INTO the book - and Chris needed that.
Now, years later, I found The Golden Age -loved it- and while I had a close to a complete run of All-Star Squadron, ROy never kept artists long enough for Smith to be drawing anyone profoundly wrong, and it turns out I don't at all hate Smith's art - just disliked him on X-Men.
Posted by: BU | March 13, 2018 8:18 PM
Oh sorry - I was talking recently on a forum about Stan's basic brilliant innovation/insight into comics writing being that if you can't come up with a good villain, you can always still write the soap opera and make a good issue - thus the Thing and the Torch fighting. -And the soap opera reference in my previous post, I was absent-mindedly thinking I'd already set up in a previous post - on a gaming forum. Oops.
Yeah; point being, all you mention, ChrisW, about early Wolvie sucking as an X-Man? True enough, but that was writing the soap opera by Claremont on his "A" game bouncing off a strong collaborator, Cockrum. Dave didn't like Wolverine, because you weren't supposed to, then John Byrne LOVED Wolverine - and these days, to his credit, freely owns his guilt in what Wolvie became since, and even the general trends in grim-n-gritty in comics he represents and helped bring about.
Posted by: BU | March 13, 2018 8:32 PM
Posted by: Bernard the Poet | March 13, 2018 8:40 PM
Briefly, the original plan was doing something vague with Jean's sister Sarah in that X-Factor lady slot. Kurt Busiek was a still just a fanboy then, but he'd been hustling for work and heard something around the offices and planted the notion on someone that it was never really Jean and she was at the bottom of the bay all along to be found and fill her own spot on the not-X-Men. And the notion caught on, and the committee piled-on the opportunity to sell books and not settle for giving Sarah Grey superpowers, blah blah. It is unclear how Byrne felt, but Shooter had already ordered it, and Claremont hated everything about the idea - Maddie was always his and he was married to the character - and if you search around, the pages Byrne produced for his part that had the Phoenix Force black-evil are on the net, and probably nobody but him liked that, I think, and it was especially offensive to Claremont somehow -the Maddie marriage going away, I maybe, or his own ideas about Phoenix, who he co-created and Byrne didn't- so Shooter placated Chris with letting him do some re-writing, and thus also the Butch Guice art corrections in what was published - and nobody much ended up happy over the mess besides suits upstairs looking at X-Factor #1 sales, and fanboys too young to know how it undercut a truly great story.
Pretty much every syllable of the above is common knowledge from many sources who were there.
Posted by: BU | March 13, 2018 9:38 PM
I agree with Omar about the "fracturing" and his views of the initial storyline [counting the Death of Thunderbird and the N'Garai] through #108. My understanding is that Claremont/Cockrum's "X-Men" had serious buzz about it right from the start. It didn't sell enough to go monthly, but "Howard the Duck" and "Tomb of Dracula" were the only Marvel titles that even approached it. It starts off with stories that aren't even close to traditional superhero stories - which most of Marvel/DC were at the time - and then pole vaults into new areas several times so our heroes suddenly find themselves on the other side of the universe fighting against the End of Everything.
It's not hard to imagine many Marvel fanboys reading #97-108 in one sitting and realizing that they provided more thrills and chills than anything they've ever seen (except maybe that new "Star Wars" movie.) But the fanboys had been following it for nearly two years, from the moment Eric the Red intruded on Alex and Lorna.
Re: John Bolton and Paul Smith, if you don't like them, that's more than understandable. Except for "Golden Age," I think Smith is an acquired taste. Bolten was probably picked because he could do superhero stuff and the lighter, more character-driven stuff that Claremont would have wanted to go back and add. 6-8 pages of Jean and Misty in bikinis with a few Phoenix firebirds along the way, why not?
Posted by: ChrisW | March 13, 2018 9:41 PM
I was including Stern and Byrne among the X-Factor team. My point is Layton and Guice could have said "Wouldn't it be simpler to have Maddie turn out to be Jean?". As I understand it, what happened was this- Layton and Guice wrote the first 3 issues where Scott leaves Maddie, then Claremont dragged Maddie into the X-Men.
Posted by: Michael | March 13, 2018 9:48 PM
@BU- Close. Dazzler was the original choice for X-Factor's fifth member. Claremont suggested Jean's sister at the last minute when he heard about Jean's return to try to stop it.
Posted by: Michael | March 13, 2018 9:58 PM
"Wouldn't it be simpler to have Maddie turn out to be Jean?"
If Maddie turned out to be Jean, would that really serve their purpose? One of their purposes was to cleanse Jean of the guilt of the Asparagus people's genocide. So, as it was published, the Phoenix Force winds up taking on all of the guilt of the genocide, and the original Jean Grey is found totally innocent insofar as she was in a cocoon sleeping at the time of the crime. But if Maddie turned out to be Jean, wouldn't she still be guilty as charged? Maybe I don't understand the problem correctly-- most of what I've read about it has either been here, or the John Byrne version-- which is maybe a little biased--:/ although he does admit to having "slipped in" the crucial scene which established Jean's guilt in the first place, saying it was not in Claremont's original script-- of that much I'm pretty sure anyway.
Posted by: Holt | March 13, 2018 10:12 PM
Yeah, but they could have still said Maddie was an amnesiac Jean that escaped the cocoon or something. That would have been infinitely less complicated then what we eventually got.
Posted by: Michael | March 13, 2018 10:29 PM
I hadn't thought of it that way but it would simplify Claremont's problem with the Jean-Scott-Maddie triangle. I think I remember that Claremont was bigly preoccupied with that part of the story all along-- he didn't like killing off Jean by editorial edict because in interrupted the Jean-Scott romance, so he invented Maddie after the the death of Phoenix-- then he didn't like bringing Jean back, because he had at that point invested a lot of story in building the new Scott-Maddie romance angle-- and he was planning to have Scott and Maddie retire from the X-action altogether in the long run-- so a lot of his long term story plans got aborted due to circumstances outside his control. I can sympathize with his unhappiness. I really think I he sort of quit trying so hard-- became disillusioned somewhat-- but kept on going. Being a work-for-hire creator can be a pretty hard row to hoe sometimes and no doubt about it.
Posted by: Holt | March 13, 2018 10:45 PM
@Michael- Perhaps so; I wasn't there, and ISTR people thinking it would be Dazzler in the run-up w/ only a silhouette --- and now that you try to pin it on Claremont, it does indeed have his scent on it somehow.
Both ideas, of course could conceivably been make to work, but few ideas are quite so lame they couldn't possibly. I do believe the most likely outcome using Dazzler would have disappointed those suits upstairs fairly badly; pretty much everyone, I think, had been a little sick of having Dazzler shoved down our throats for years by then.
Posted by: BU | March 13, 2018 11:02 PM
Michael, do you have any more details on what Layton and Guice had done?
My understanding was that they were going to use Dazzler - possibly since her title was headed for cancellation - but however far the idea was taken, the five original X-Men was what they were going to do and Claremont's opposition would be the only reason any other ideas were considered. Then once Byrne started arguing for Busiek's idea, it became feasible and Claremont was out-of-luck. He tried suggesting Sarah or offering to create a new character, but there was no winning that one. As compensation, Claremont and Guice got to re-write Byrne's "Fantastic Four" issue and Claremont took Maddie (and Dazzler) back as his characters.
The reason I ask is because it's not feasible for Layton and Guice to have done much on the first three issues of "X-Factor" if it was still up in the air who the female lead would be. What I've written above is my understanding of how things went down.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 13, 2018 11:10 PM
What I meant was this- the female lead was supposed to be Dazzler, then things happened like you said, then Layton and Guice wrote the first three issues of X-Factor with Jean, THEN Claremont took Maddie back.
Posted by: Michael | March 13, 2018 11:29 PM
Jean's death, Jean's rebirth, the Madelyne Pryor subplot and using "Inferno" to try to straighten out the mess. Claremont, Byrne and Shooter will have much to answer for on Judgement Day.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 14, 2018 12:05 AM
It also sabotaged the Cyclops character almost beyond recognition. Which was maybe less of a loss, but, still. And they buried the original story in which Jean Grey all by herself became one of the most powerful characters in the MU or very close to it. Once an official story, but now, an apocryphal story, buried in between the seams of the X-Men New Coke Classic reprint series.
Posted by: Holt | March 14, 2018 1:08 AM
Not sure why these issues have this debate as opposed to the first appearance of Phoenix, Jean's resurrection, or whatever, but I agree that bringing Jean back was the biggest mistake ever made at Marvel. The easiest solution - not that Claremont would have allowed it - was to put Rachel in that surrogate role for Jean after she tells Cyclops the truth about herself.
Dazzler would have filled the missing female mutant spot, but that's all she would have been. She couldn't have replaced Jean's role on the team because of her lack of ties to the boys and vastly different personality. There really wasn't an unspoken for mutant female who could have slotted in nicely thematically. Polaris maybe, but that would have brought in Havok as well. A new character would likely fit best (say the first mutant the new team saved), but it also would have seemed like a cheat.
Posted by: Chris | March 14, 2018 1:26 AM
I would guess bringing Jean back was the solution those who pushed for it wanted. For many fans and professionals the original X-Men were the version they grew up with.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | March 14, 2018 4:09 AM
I heard a rumour that when Layton heard that they were planning on resurrecting Jean, he asked to bed in the team first and then reintroduce her around #12. This was vetoed, because Marvel wanted a make a big splash with #1. That was probably a mistake, they could have ironed out a lot of the more obvious problems with a bit more space to tell the story.
These early X-Men issues are a bit of a mess. The main problem is Erik the Red. He is the principal villain for twelve issues (two years in real time), but I suspect Claremont and Cockrum never really had a clear idea where they were going with him. He is just a vehicle to reintroduce old characters from the original series. They do manage to conclude this arc with a suitably apocalyptic climax, but only by completely dropping him from the narrative. After #107, he is never seen again. Who was he? Was he a villain or just a working Joe following orders? After the events of #108, did he return to work as the Shi'ar's agent on Earth or did Lilandra have him executed/imprisoned?
Nevertheless, this Magneto story does give us a hint of just how good the X-Men series is going to be in the next few years. Loads of old-time villains have been given power-boosts - "forget all those times I have been defeated, because this time I am more dangerous than ever!" - but they soon shrivel back to the goon they were before. But with Magneto, it really sticks, from now on he really is the most powerful mutant on Earth.
Posted by: Bernard the Poet | March 14, 2018 6:13 AM
I'm horrified to learn that Bob Layton asked to bed Jean. Sexually harassment really was a problem back then...
As for Erik the Red, see the comments thread for X-Men 97. I believe he was supposed to actually be Michael Rossi, in a plot thread that just fizzled out when Ms Marvel was cancelled and John Byrne took the X-Men book in a different direction.
Posted by: Andrew | March 14, 2018 7:30 AM
I think this whole thing started as a debate about the Classic X-Men backups/retcons and turned into a Phoenix debate from there.
The entry for Fantastic Four #286 has some more info about the series of events leading up to Jean's resurrection and the launch of X-Factor, including a link to an article with more information about Dazzler's would-be inclusion.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | March 14, 2018 8:58 AM
"Jean's death, Jean's rebirth, the Madelyne Pryor subplot and using "Inferno" to try to straighten out the mess. Claremont, Byrne and Shooter will have much to answer for on Judgement Day."
I quibble that, though Claremont indeed will, it's maybe not for any of that; while at the height of his power in the company, the editors were falling down on the job about saying no to all the sick freak stuff he worked in - but he was still being cut off at the knees creatively, and the work inarguably suffered while he tried to make the best of a bad job.
I've slagged off the guy mercilessly for losing his way later, and I don't mean to walk a word of it back - but early Claremont on X-Men was very, very good, maybe the best in his way, and had to do what he could with some bad fruits of his overwhelming success, even if I don't care for how later Claremont did it. Props to early Claremont, and the stuff at issue wasn't right or fair to him at all...
Posted by: BU | March 14, 2018 11:02 AM
I don't see much evidence that Rossi is Erik the Red. Granted, there wasn't any evidence that Kingsley was Hobgoblin either, so I am not saying it is impossible. Anyway, regardless of what was originally planned, in the story we actually have, Erik dominates the first two years of publication and then is abruptly shelved.
I have just noticed that in Claremont's and Cockrum's first run together, the only truly original supervillains they create are the N'Gari, Black Tom and D'Ken. An awful lot of this is just riffing on the original series.
Posted by: Bernard the Poet | March 14, 2018 11:38 AM
-And the N'Gari, Black Tom and D'Ken are nothing to write home about; Tom's dangerous mutant power, I read somewhere, is that he's friends with the Juggernaut. :lol:
X-Men had had a pretty strong rogues gallery when New X-Men came in - I couldn't fault them for using it, to the contrary.
Posted by: BU | March 14, 2018 12:08 PM
I am wary of saying Claremont's later work wasn't as good as his earlier stuff. When I was seven-years-old, I use to like Gerry Conway's Justice League, by the time I got to about ten, it seemed rather childish and a bit samey, so I dropped it. Of course, the Justice League hadn't changed, I had.
I think the same thing essentially happened with the X-Men. I loved Claremont's series:-the Dark Phoenix saga, the Brood saga, From the Ashes, Lifedeath - they all had an extraordinary impact on me. Then I got a bit older. It started getting kinda samey. When it was revealed that Wolverine was old army buddies with Ms Marvel, it was cool. By the time you get to stage where Wolverine is old army buddies with Black Widow, it starts to become irritating. But that wasn't really Claremont's fault, that was simply the nature of the genre he was in. "Sliding time-scales", "the illusion of change", "every comic is someone's first," it is designed to be repetitive. If anything, Claremont tried harder than any other Marvel writer to break out of the rut.
The difference between the Justice League and the X-Men was that when I stopped enjoying the Justice League, I stopped buying it. Whereas, when I stopped enjoying the X-Men, I kept buying it and hoping it would get better. But it couldn't get better, because my relationship with the material had changed.
Posted by: Bernard the Poet | March 14, 2018 12:38 PM
The original X-Men did have a strong rogues' gallery. One of the reasons that X-Factor was on a loser from the start was that Claremont had cherry-picked all the best bits from the original series. All Layton and Simonson were left with were five Silver Age superheroes, who hadn't been particularly popular in the Silver Age.
Posted by: Bernard the Poet | March 14, 2018 12:43 PM
@Bernard, RE Erik the Red: There's not much evidence, but what there is fits: Erik the Red first shows up immediately after Rossi "dies", so no overlap, and Rossi's firey death makes a dead body switch very plausible. "Rossi" is Italian for "red", and his plane goes down over Red Hook, New York. Claremont was running Shi'ar sub-plots in both X-Men and Ms Marvel. Erik clearly had to have some secret identity, and there just aren't that many other options. It doesn't seem likely that Claremont would introduce the love of Carol Danvers' life, just to immediately kill him off, without some plan to bring him back somehow.
Of course, that was then. Rossi shows up alive before too long, and Davan Shakari shows up again in Captain Marvel in 1996.
Posted by: Andrew | March 14, 2018 5:43 PM
Bernard, you make two excellent sets of points -though I still refuse to walk back my position on Claremont's creative evolution- and had meant to say to ChrisW on preferring Smith that "your favorite Dr. Who is when you were 12 and so was the Golden Age of comics." I was 16 when I came in on that very very good X-Men book w/ the fine art and the masterful soap opera. And I'm writer enough to see the virtuoso handling of twist moments like brute butthole Wolvie gently handing Mariko a flower through the window of her limo. -But Mohawk Storm is a bridge too far, and the Morlocks sending the professor home in leather straps was the sick freak stuff I mentioned happening way too often, and by the time I, like you, stopped buying after years of hoping it would get good again, the book was about a bunch of impostors, not my mutant super friends. Great that Claremont tried to break out of the cycle -I daresay you're right and I never thought of that- but no, I didn't change that much; HE did, and (grin) his old stuff was better. -Also, um, Conway ... had some good stories in him, I guess, but I never saw one in Justice League - or any from him in a early-middle aged person's lifetime.
Posted by: BU | March 14, 2018 5:52 PM
...70s style Mutant Super Friends cartoon on YouTube yesterday, BTW. Chop-chop.
Posted by: BU | March 14, 2018 5:57 PM
And on early Claremont being good, possibly the best --- read Captain Britain written at the time and see that Alan Moore was impressed enough to read and reference and riff on things Claremont was doing in X-Men,and not in his moore usual 'jewels among the trash' way...
Posted by: BU | March 14, 2018 8:56 PM
There's always the 'it was best when you first discovered it' argument, but I know for a fact I don't fall into that category, at least as far as "X-Men" is concerned. I think Claremont's first dozen issues are some of the finest superhero comics ever written, I think his peak as a writer was during the JRjr issues (while he was writing some excellent "New Mutants" at the same time) and my favorite period was drawn by Marc Silvestri.
I don't think it's as simple as saying Claremont's work got weaker without a strong artist or editor. Couldn't the Hellfire Club been good villains without the bondage outfits on the females? The Scott-Maddie relationship was largely built with Paul Smith and supplemented by JRjr, does it lose value because of that? YMMV on who was primarily responsible for killing Phoenix, but Jim Shooter's the one who brought the series to that point, and then decided several years later to bring her back. Claremont wrote every page of every issue in between because he was that dedicated to his job. His weaknesses as a writer built up with the success of "X-Men" but his strengths meant a lot. I'm not the only person who was able to identify the exact pages he left the title in the "Shadow King Saga." For good or bad (mostly good) he was a mind-bogglingly strong writer in his prime.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 15, 2018 12:31 AM
And this dumpster fire thread officially goes into week two.
Posted by: Aron the Rogue Watcher | March 15, 2018 1:26 AM
Posted by: BU | March 15, 2018 10:48 AM
I think Aron is saying those of us who visit this site regularly read the comments hoping they will be informative, funny, or at least short. A lot of this thread is none of those.
Posted by: Andrew | March 15, 2018 12:51 PM
Please just take any discussion not about Uncanny X-Men #104-105 to a relevant entry, as Chris and Morgan suggested. Or to the forum.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 15, 2018 1:10 PM
Okay fnord, it's your house - but I already own a forum and don't intend to join another; where exactly is the appropriate entry here for talking about X-Men Classics and Chris Claremont's career arc and overall long-tem trends in the team and the entire (gag) X-franchise?
I submit that having a comments thread undergo a bizarre mutation into life the universe and everything related to this very book is, in fact a very good thing, else what's a comment thread for? Dunno how many regulars here having a genial and informed argument about all these intertwined issues are members of your forum - but if you count regulars enjoying the interaction, not-really-off-topic, exactly, is stepping on it the smart play?
Posted by: BU | March 15, 2018 9:04 PM
Yeah, it's fnord's house so I'll shut up too, but I think "X-Men" #104-5 is self-evidently connected to the issues surrounding it and the overall series from the Death of Phoenix to Maddie and Claremont's departure. It's not like we're arguing about how John Byrne forgot to draw a vanishing point in "FF" #271 page 7 panel 2 here [whadda dope he is, amirite?]
Posted by: ChrisW | March 15, 2018 9:36 PM
It's not really like a separate forum, it's hosted on this very same site here and doesn't really get much activity outside of topics related to this site. I consider it to be part of the site. Registration is easy and relatively painless. I'd start a topic on it myself but I've already pretty much said what I had to say on this subject. I've enjoyed participating in this discussion though and would follow it if you continued your conversation there. I learn a lot in these comment sections, but it's true like Morgan was saying-- there's a lot of very similar discussion in the comments for Fantastic Four #286, and scattered in various entries, such that it's actually much harder to find these discussions again later, than it would be if it was more consolidated in the forum directory. There's another link to the "Forum" on the sidebar, right above the "Recent Comments" section of the sidebar.
Posted by: Holt | March 15, 2018 9:57 PM
Thanks Holt. You said it very well.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 15, 2018 10:40 PM
Again, I run my own place and totally understand and would engage in the recruiting pitch myself in you gentlemen's place -Indeed, Goodness, what I wouldn't give to have fnord and Holt and ChrisW and many more of you who've commented in this strange and wonderful thread sign up at Alpha Centauri 2 http://alphacentauri2.info/index.php?action=community so I could have more comics nurdz than the GIJoe fan I settle for and chat about them there funny books w/o having to leave the house- but it's still no-sale, I'm afraid.
My question still stands - as well as my frustration, and belief that you step on these thing when they go stupid or ugly - and rewarding two complaints that strike me as indisputably the rudest posts in an otherwise fun and informative comment thread is not at all wise.
Y'know, when killjoys stomp into threads they don't like at my place -not that we get that, but I've seen it too many times elsewhere- It's my duty to be the first in there to step on them and suggest they not read it, then, not the people behaving reasonably.
I do love your comics blog, fnord, and have gratitude for your hard work; but it makes me unhappy when I see conversations stamped out precipitously, which is too often here, IMO. I know I'm spitting into the wind, now, and you're going to call me a sea lion, at least in your thoughts, but I wanted to make it crystal clear that I now shut up under protest.
Posted by: BU | March 15, 2018 11:46 PM
Something possibly of interest - Angus MacWhirter, the boatsman who clashes with the X-Men at the start of #104, refers to Banshee as a 'Mick'. In the 1970s, Norris and Ross McWhirter, the founders of the Guinness Book of Records, had gained a lot of attention in Britain for their calls for restrictions on the movement of Irish people in Britain, including requiring them to register with local police. Ross was assassinated in 1975 after offering a personal reward for information about IRA activity.
Angus MacWhirter is also the name of an Agatha Christie character, but considering the timing of the issue, Chris Claremont's British origins, and the obscurity of the name 'MacWhirter/McWhirter', it seems likely that the character with that name who's introduced spouting an anti-Irish slur might have been an allusion to the McWhirter brothers. A dual reference, most likely.
Posted by: James M | April 20, 2018 7:56 PM
To embellish on earlier comments about Dragonfly's escape, later resolved in Quasar, here's Cockrum on his plans: "Wolverine notices that the Insect Girl - from Count Nefaria's Ani-Men - had escaped from confinement, and that was because I had worked up an idea for a spin-off book that I was going to call The Furies, It was going to feature the Insect Girl, Storm, Clea from Doctor Strange, Tigra, Namorita, Dragonfly and an alien girl that I had come up with called Moon Fang, who rode a giant bat. I had gotten a tentative okay to do the book, but I just never got around to finishing the first plot, so it never happened. That escape was left hanging. They never cleared it up."
Not sure why he seems to refer to Dragonfly both as Insect Girl and Dragonfly in the same list. The "tentative okay" doesn't seem that positive, perhaps they were concerned about Cockrum's slow workrate on the X-Men comic he already had.
Cockrum had also intended the Starjammers as a "stand-alone space pirate series - swashbucklers in space" he had unsuccessfully tried to get Roy Thomas interested in letting him do, so "I wound up donating it to X-Men" and "that's how Corsair became Cyclops' father". I wonder if he regretted the donation when he left the book quickly after. Interesting that Thomas arranged the Marvel franchise of Star Wars, first becoming keen when Lucas showed him some space opera concept art for the film, but Thomas was apparently not interested in Cockrum's space opera idea.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | June 12, 2018 9:33 AM
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