Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wonder Wednesday - More Thoughts on the X-Men

I've been a tad busy. Had a lot going on. Sorry I haven't blogged. I can't believe I didn't even do a Manic Monday! Oh fine, here:There, happy? His name is either David Jones of Adam Cousins, depending on the website. Happy Googling!
Anyway, I was thinking that The X-Men are always the "odd" property at Marvel when it came to merchandising. So much merch uses classic 60s artwork, classic Ditko and Kirby stuff, but then you see like Cochrum or Byrne Wolverine or Storm tossed in, incongruously. Well, incongruously to me anyway. Joe Schmoe off the street probably doesn't think twice about it and probably thinks Wolverine and Storm WERE original X-Men.

That's another challenge to the X-Men First Class movie. No Storm. No Wolverine. None of the cool characters people, y'know, like!

This isn't the "First Class" from the comics, either. It's a precursor to that even! The X-Men comic was one of the rare misfires in the early Marvel pantheon. It just never took off like other properties like the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man. That's possibly because it was just a knock-off of the Fantastic Four to begin with.

To begin with, the ONE thing people gravitate toward with the X-Men is the cool, pop-out metal claws idea of being an outcast. But look at these guys! They're like the Legion of Super WASPs! What are they outcasts from? Boy Scout Pack 36? Let's examine them one by one:

The Beast - The Ben Grimm knock-off. Tough, cranky, thick. At least Stan Lee realized he was just a Ben Grimm knock-off and early on switched his personality to that of the "brain" of the group. His "grotesque" mutation that made him an outcast was his huge hands and feet. Today, that would just make him super popular with the ladies. Have you seen Kim Kardashian's boyfriend? He could palm a watermelon!
Eventually, The Beast morphed into this form, which became his most famous look, living up to his name. But strangely, he was never depicted as being any MORE of an outsider like this. In fact, he became even more mainstream, joining the Avengers for a lengthy run. And in a silly move that will be repeated again later, in the 80s, they decided to reform the original vanilla X-Men under the name X-Factor and for old-times sake, Beast reverted to his old big hand/footed human look. It was temporary as EVERYONE thought he was cooler looking like a bad-ass Cookie Monster.

Just as Beast was initially the Ben Grimm-lite of the X-Men, Iceman was the Human Torch knock-off, the pain-in-the-ass kid brother who annoyed everyone else and was a hot-head who charged into battle without thinking. Also... he looked more like Snowman back in the early days. And his whole costume consisted of pirate boots. That's all. If you're gonna run around in just one article of clothing, PANTS are the only option! Anything else just looks pervy.

Eventually, someone had the bright idea to throw Iceman against the Human Torch and they teamed up/fought off and on for years (in the Mighty Marvel Manner!). In fact bother were supposed to be featured on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, but Human Torch was bumped in favor of new character Fire-Star. Thus, Iceman became the original X-Man with the highest profile.

So you might think being made of snow ice might qualify you for misfit status.But wait, that was only when he was in Super Mode. Otherwise, he was just an ordinary dude.
The generically-named Marvel Girl was "the girl" of the group and somehow had the least personality of anyone in the group. That was kinda common back then. Being a "girl" was considered a personality trait. She was there to be lusted after by the boys, particularly sulky, stoic leader Cyclops and carefree pretty boy Angel. And in one particularly creepy tale, Prof. X. No, for serious!

Powerwise, she sucked and spent her time sweating and fainting in order to move the slightest object with her telekinesis. Ironically, she went on to become the omnipotent Dark Phoenix.
Her powers were purely invisible. She was a pretty red head. What made her such an outcast? Because they said so, that's why.
Blond millionaire Angel had almost less personality than Marvel Girl. He was rich. Handsome. Must be torture. Oh, but he had those grotesque wings! He could never fit into polite society!
Oh except he could harness them and tuck them away, so problem solved. Poor outcast.

Not only is his personality on the dull side, his powers were pretty boring too. I mean wings and flight? Like 75% of heroes can fly! But the majority of them can do other stuff as well! Not this guy. Eventually, someone wised up and in the 80s, he was reinvented as Archangel, with razor sharp metal wings that could fire dart-like feathers. Bad ass! And then some old fart was like, "I like him better the way he was before." And like with The Beast, they removed his only offensive powers and gave back his regular feather wings. He was stuck that way for ages, but they've recently given him back his Archangel look and metal wings.

And finally, the team was led by Cyclops, the one member who might have actually had trouble fitting in at the tea party at the country club. His eyes constantly emitted powerful energy blasts that he had to wear ruby quartz glasses to absorb. So, he was constantly rocking these funky red glasses, or an adjustable visor in Super Mode.

Cyclops sulked a lot. Carried a lot of responsibility and was a general stick-in-the-mud. He pined for Marvel Girl. (He was like the Nick Jonas of the team.) They eventually got married in between all her dying and coming back. He's currently banging sexy Emma Frost. Marvel Girl/Jean Grey/Phoenix/Dark Phoenix is currently dead.
The team, of course, was assembled and commanded by scary telepathic taskmaster, Professor X. Nowadays, Charles Xavier comes across as a loving, fatherly leader, but back then, he was just bald and creepy. (I mentioned that he hit on Jean, right?)

Comic fans love to point out one of those cosmic coincidences, in that around the same time Marvel debuted the X-Men, DC also had a group of misfit heroes led by a creepy guy in a wheelchair, The Doom Patrol. These outcasts were actually much more "weird" than the original X-Men. Robotman was a race car driver whose body had been destroyed and his brain transplanted into a copper robot body. Negative Man's skin was destroyed and he was wrapped in mummy bandages. Beast Boy had green skin. Elasti-Girl... could shrink and turn giant. Otherwise, she was still pretty. Well... I mean no one wants to read a comic with an ugly girl in it! It's The Munsters Rule.

Like the X-Men, Doom Patrol wasn't all that successful either and was eventually canceled... in grand manner! The four adult members sacrificed their lives to same a New England town from destruction! The X-Men chugged along into the early 70s but was eventually canceled as well, before the concept was completely overhauled with an all-new, diverse team in 1978.
But, the producers of the movie chose not to focus on this particular team and instead a younger Charles Xavier, Magneto, Mystique, Emma Frost and some others. Some younger X-Men have been retconned onto this team, like Havok who is Cyclops' younger brother in the comics and Banshee who joined the team at the same time as Storm, Wolverine, et al.

I'm gonna admit, I have a soft-spot for Banshee. Must be my weakness to Ginger Kryptonite. Plus he really filled out that Jim Lee-designed team uniform from the early 90s.

I've never heard of some of the characters like Azazel... a red "demonic" looking character. From the brief glimpses in the trailer, he might be able to teleport, so I assume there's some tie to Nightcrawler. Maybe he and Mystique hook up and he is their child? Zoe Kravitz plays a character named Angel... Salvadore. So Angel is her real name. Is she a new character? She appears to have fairy wings, like Pixie from the modern comics.

So yeah, there's my little commentary on the original X-Men.

No comments:

Post a Comment