Characters Appearing: Beast, Cyclops, Fred Duncan, Jean Grey, Professor X, Wolverine
X-Men: Odd Men Out #1 (Agent Duncan)
Issue(s): X-Men: Odd Men Out #1 (Agent Duncan story only)
Worse, this isn't so much a story as a retrospective of the X-Men's history up to approximately where the story would have been published (the last event mentioned is the re-crippling of Xavier during the Muir Island Saga). This is why i wondered if it was even meant to be a fill-in. It's more like something you'd find in the back of an annual or anniversary issue, or some other Saga-type piece. It would kind of suck to get this as an actual issue. If Cockrum's art were looking better, it could at least be considered a showcase for him, allowing him to do pin-ups of various important events in the X-Men's history. So it's surprising to learn that Stern wasn't aware that Cockrum was going to pencil it when he wrote the plot.
The framing sequence that goes around the history is a meeting between Professor X and his old ally, FBI Agent Fred Duncan. Duncan is now retired from the bureau and is now a security consultant.
He's also writing a book that will expose the government's actions during Project: Wideawake and other such anti-mutant efforts.
The most interesting part of the story is why he wasn't consulted during the period where the government was putting together the commission that included Henry Gyrich and Val Cooper, and why he eventually quit. With his early connection with the X-Men, he should have been a prime candidate for that committee, and it turns out that he was initially a part of it. But he was moving against the winds of the times, and got sidelined.
I bought this issue in realtime (2008) because i buy every Roger Stern Marvel comic, no questions asked (at least until i get home). I was pretty disappointed by this. But a part of me wishes that this story did get published back in 1992 and Stern somehow was able to do a follow-up where Duncan's book got published and it turned the tide on anti-mutant hysteria. After the Image exodus, Marvel could have used a good writer for the X-books, and there's potentially something to be made of Duncan's book. In practice, this turns out to be Duncan's last appearance, which kind of makes me worry that the government or another X-Men enemy assassinated him.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This was meant to take place some time after X-Men #3 (Professor X's wheelchair, Cyclops and Jean's costumes)(and don't be confused by the Beast using an image inducer in that one scan). I'm placing it between #3-4. It's worth pointing out that the 1983 Marvel Handbooks listed Fred Duncan as deceased, and yet, here he is. Faked his death for an undercover op, i guess?
Continuity Insert? Y - inventory story
My Reprint: N/A
Dave Cockrum mentioned this fill-in issue in an interview in Alter Ego #24. Cockrum was under the impression that the reason why his entire run on Uncanny X-Men was summarized in a single panel was that Roger Stern was close friends with John Byrne, and so he focused more on the period when Byrne was co-writing & penciling the book. As fnord points out, though, Stern later said he had no idea that Cockrum was going to pencil this, and that if he had known then he would have focused a bit more on Cockrum's contributions to the series such as Nightcrawler. Sounds like back in 1992 or so Marvel editorial was being their usual non-communicative selves.
Anyway, has Fred Duncan's death ever actually been depicted in a story?
Posted by: Ben Herman | June 3, 2016 2:07 PM
Duncan's death definitely is confirmed in Nicieza's Gambit (with the X-Cutioner) and Mike Carey's X-Men Legacy (during it's Xavier solo book days). I'm also sure there's another character that hinges on Duncan being dead but I may just be thinking of X-Cutioner again.
Posted by: AF | June 3, 2016 2:12 PM
Duncan appeared in the FIRST X-MEN mini-series in 2013 by Christos Gage and Neal Adams. I never read this book, but I do know that he was a big character in it and that he and Bolivar Trask were assigned to deal with the threat of mutants, with Duncan and Trask on opposite sides, of course.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | June 3, 2016 2:37 PM
I was just wondering if there was ever a flashback showing Duncan's actual on-panel death, as opposed to the X-Cutioner merely reporting him as deceased. After all, plenty of comic book characters have returned from seemingly-irrevocable demises that had numerous witnesses. So merely finding out that someone was supposedly dead via a second-hand account would certainly make it easy enough for a writer to bring Duncan back if they really wanted to.
Posted by: Ben Herman | June 3, 2016 2:57 PM
I think that the only place other than the X-Cutioner's report that mentions his death is in one of the handbooks, so as far as I know it was never depicted on-panel. Since he was writing that book exposing government mishandling of the mutant stuff, maybe he faked his death and went underground? It would be nice if a writer would address the issue and even bring back the X-Cutioner as well.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | June 3, 2016 3:20 PM
Wasn't there another Cockrum story on this "anthology" that toomplace around 1983 it so (Rogue was there and Ithink it mentioned Cyclops's recent marriage to Madelyne as well)?
Posted by: Jon Dubya | June 3, 2016 3:50 PM
Jon Dubya, perhaps you are thinking of the story by Chris Claremont & Bob McLeod that appeared in the X-Men Gold anniversary special?
Posted by: Ben Herman | June 3, 2016 4:11 PM
Hmmm, I remember that issue. Haven't looked at it in a while. Stories by Wein, Thomas, Niceiza, and others. Claremont's took place between UNCANNY X-MEN #173-174. Fnord should tack this one on his list, as most of the stories took place during various runs. Almost one from each if I recall.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | June 3, 2016 4:32 PM
Duncan's death comes up in the early issues of X-Men Legacy (as I said). And X-Cutioner isn't the source of the claims.
Posted by: AF | June 3, 2016 5:19 PM
@Andrew-Fnord does have X-Men:Gold on his What's Missing list.
Posted by: Michael | June 3, 2016 11:22 PM
To be fair to Cockrum, by the late 80s/early 90s he hadn't drawn an ongoing title for years, so I would assume that he hadn't been exercising his artistic muscles for a while.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | June 4, 2016 10:28 AM
Cockrum would have drawn the X-Men Spotlight on the Starjammers, a story originally intended for Marvel Comics Presents, no more than three years before this, though, and his art in those specials is classic Cockrum: not his best, but far better than what we see either in this story or in the New Mutants one, which would have been drawn at a pout the same time as the Starjammers story.
Fnord's is right that the modern style of production bears some blame for the poor appearance of the Odd Man Out material, but something else seems off as well: did Cockrum only do breakdowns?
Posted by: Walter Lawson | June 4, 2016 11:23 AM
Until yesterday, I had no idea this story ever existed. And then last night, I discovered I had "Alter Ego" #24 with the Cockrum interview Ben mentions above. Weird.
Posted by: ChrisW | June 4, 2016 5:42 PM
I wonder if Senator Thompson from X-Factor #3 & X-Factor Annual #1 was connected with Project: Wideawake too if the commission's origin took place as far back as The Uncanny X-Men #150.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | March 8, 2017 11:47 PM
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