Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Probably Repetitive Musings on the X-Men

I love the X-Men cartoon. I love the first two X-Men movies. I love the idea of the X-Men. I will always love poor Scott Summers. But for some reason I've never been a huge fan of the X-comics.

I read them occasionally. I do have a strange fondness for those old horribly cheesy, impossibly sexist original 5 comics. (I intend to pick up First Class, but haven't gotten around to it.) I did enjoy Ultimate X-Men for a brief time until I realized that they were trying way too hard to be "edgy" to the point where "edgy" became "idiotic". (I have that problem with the Authority sometimes too. At least the Ellis-Millar versions. It's a good comic but sometimes it got to be too much.)

I love the Summers family tree. I love Cable and Corsair, Stryfe, Madeleine Pryor and Rachel and all that lunacy. Mr. Sinister. Apocalypse. Even the clumsy metaphor mutation becomes to race, gender, sexual orientation or whatever issue du jour the writers are using this week.

But it's just really hard for me to sit down and read them.

I think a part of it's that I don't like Wolverine. I simply don't. I've had many an intelligent person try to explain his appeal, but nothing's worked. I simply don't like him. It's hard to be an X-fan and not like Wolverine I think.

I also for the record dislike Gambit. Unlike Wolverine, he's a character I outright hate. He's easier to avoid than Wolverine.

It might be my problem with the premise. While I am by and large a huge fan of a shared universe, X-Men is the one team that really seems to suffer for it. In a world where Mutants are as despised and hated as they are in the Marvel Universe, Xavier's strange blend of sanctuary/stronghold/militia does make a kind of sense. But not from the mind of a man whose ideals are so patterned after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There is no way a secret militia can further the notion of mutants and regular folk together in peace and without fear. It's a SECRET ARMY. That'd scare the shit out of me too!

That's actually a digression though. I don't doubt that mutants are (or were pre-House of M at least) hated and feared in the Marvel Universe. But then...the Fantastic Four are (pre-CW at least) celebrated. The Fantastic Four may not have been born mutant, but they certainly fit the literal definition. Reed and Sue and Johnny may pass for normal, if not for Reed's absent-mindedness or Johnny's showy tendancies. But Johnny at least has a very potentially dangerous power. Sue could literally be anywhere, the perfect spy/saboteur. Ben's monstrous and Reed's power is frankly really freaking gross.

But people like them!

The Avengers are a huge team of superheroes with powers gleaned from various methods and they work with the government. Heck, She-Hulk practices law AS She-Hulk.

It really doesn't read like the same world, to me. And if it IS the same world, it's a clear indication that Xavier is WRONG. A hidden army makes things worse, when living as open heroes may have a much better chance of garnering wide-spread acceptance. And honestly, most of the characters are smart enough to realize that. And heck, considering how often Wolverine seems to be on every team under the sun, you'd think he'd have brought that up.

I think that may also be part of my objection to Storm and Black Panther's marriage. Her characterization blips aside, it's more proof that the X-Men (and related X-Teams) are stuck in a larger universe that they don't fit.

This is discounting Civil War of course. Though I do think it's a shame that the mutants, what's left of them, really didn't seem to be explored much at all. 'Course it might have helped if the Superhero Registration Act were more consistently portrayed...

I admit, as I said above, I don't read very much of the comics themselves. Handfuls here and there. It's possible that some of this crap was actually addressed. That would be cool. I'd be interested in seeing that.

I do like Excalibur/New Excalibur. I think because it does away with the secret army element and has much more of a direct interaction with the people and government. It's probably then not that much of a shock that the persecution element doesn't turn up as often in the book.

But yeah, this is all babbling anyway. I really wish I could get into the series, since I love everything else. (I also like the backstories I've read/read about...batshit crazy is fun). I love the idea of the teams. (Except Excalibur which I genuinely love). It's just the teambooks themselves...I'll pass.


  • At June 06, 2007 8:51 AM, Blogger Anthony Strand said…

    I've never been a big fan of X-Men comics, or of non-Avengers Marvel in general. But a friend just gave me a bunch of issues of Excalibur, and I'm really digging it. It's funny and off-beat, and not typical Claremont at all.

  • At June 06, 2007 9:30 AM, Blogger Dogma Central said…

    I don't have words to describe how bad excalibur is, a shame, because some characters deinately have appeal.

    give it a go with Astonishing X-men, or X-factor, they are the only x-comics maintaining a certain degree of quality in the last year.

  • At June 06, 2007 10:07 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Yeah, the whole "hated and feared" thing seems to only work sporadically. For example, when Beast, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (ALL mutants) were in the Avengers, they didn't have any problems. Of course with Magneto blowing things up and sinking Russian subs, I suppose that it is possible that people can have a negative reactions, but still!

    This is part of what bothers me in the Marvel Universe. The average person on the street seems to be an utter moron most of the time. The super heroes save them over and over and over, from alien invasions, to undersea attacks and so on, and yet they never seem to give them any sort of credit or gratitude.

    Remember when they did the JLA/Avengers crossover? The Marvel heroes were stunned by how much the DC populace loved and honored their heroes, while conversely, the DC Heroes were horrified at how nasty everyone was over in the Marvel universe.

    And yes, Gambit is even more annoying than Snapper Carr. And I never thought I'd say that.

  • At June 06, 2007 10:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You should read the Morrison run. The whole 'Secret Army' schtick went out the window and (thus far) hasn't returned. It also gave us a cheating Scott Summers and a suddenly british White Queen...good times.

    But (and I should write a post on this on my blog) many of the reasons you don't like the X-universe are the very same ones I can't stay away from it. I love that there are so many variations of the team that if I don't like one, I can still read another. Also, wolverine is in only one x-book now...much easier to avoid!

    But yeah...I don't think anyone likes Gambit. He should just be blasted off into space from where he won't return for a couple of years.

    And (I just read the comments by other people) the Avengers actually had major problems with Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver's memberships. Especially Wanda around the Heroes Return era. People turned on the Avengers and Wanda was one of the problem points. Beast...I don't think anyone even knew he was a mutant initially.

  • At June 06, 2007 10:46 AM, Blogger Flidget Jerome said…

    I liked Gambit. Or, well, liked. It was more his magical kaitou thing than anything else and that side of his character hasn't been seen for years.

    I think the main difference, though, between mutants and other superheroes is you can only be born a mutant and in the Marvel Universe, where almost every hero is an everyman, that's the sort of thing bound to stir resentment. Almost all of Marvel's other big names got their powers by accident, like the F4, or through the help of others, like Cap or Iron Man, and so there can always be the thought of "well, that could happen to me too!".

  • At June 06, 2007 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My take is very similar to yours, Kalinara. I *loved* the first two X-Men movies, and Ultimate X-Men for a little while... but pretty much none of the comics have ever done anything for me.

    I imagine it's a combination of a bunch of little things. The "hated and feared" business doesn't quite fit the larger Marvel Universe without a lot of handwaving. I've never much cared for the overwrought Claremontian writing style that tends to define them. Never much cared for "teen" titles even when I was a teen, much less now. I'll keep up with a convoluted continuity, but only if I care a lot about it, which I don't in this case.

    But I was surprised by how much I loved those movies. The concept really works there, and I think a lot of it is that it's a stand-alone universe, not just a mutant-centric bunch of titles that usually *act* like a separate universe.

  • At June 06, 2007 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I actually used to enjoy Wolverine quite a bit about 10-15 years ago, when he was solo from the X-Men or when he was in the X-Men but mostly in the background to the drama. In a team setting I don't think he's a character who works very well, and what makes me horrified these days is that he's sort of becoming the Backstreet Boy of the X-Men. He's becoming a source of drama and that's really offputting.

    As for X-Men on a whole, I've tended to view the inconsistencies in the world with much the same attitude as you. I loved the cartoons as a kid, they're what got me (briefly) into the comics. Reading the comics, however, never worked for me.

    I like the X-Men in theory (and in other mediums), but the books are too bogged down by the Marvel U. The result is that I pick the book up sporadically and I go by writer, knowing that I'll get a good solid story involving characters I enjoy (even if it's not necessarily a specifically "X-Men" story). I enjoyed Mike Carey's recent run of issues and would recommend that.

  • At June 06, 2007 2:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You're not the only one who hates Gambit.

  • At June 06, 2007 5:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well, while I love the blog, I just have to say in all due affection- CHRIST, you always seem to like the most abusive asshole male characters- Guy, Hal, Hank freaking Pym... I knew about the Scott love from AIM conversations with you, but sheesh.. No accounting for taste, I suppose.

    And no particular love for Gambit or Wolverine here, either. I never, EVER saw what was so shit-hot GREAT about either of them.

    But I read X-men comics as a young teenager. This was the mid-nineties, so it wasn't exactly a high point for them. But I enjoyed them as brightly-colored power fantasies. I still get a pretty good hit of nostalgia off the idea of the X-mansion, and the weird shared community therein. I was a big fan of Generation X back in the day- same concept reinvented for the younger audience, I suppose.

    (And since I have no particular love for or opinion about the idea of a shared universe of superhero comics, I don't really have much to say on that angle of your post.)

    But yeah- Xavier's X-men plan is a bit flawed in execution, publicity-wise. The in-story explanation was, IIRC, that there were evil mutants doing evit shit, so Xavier had to rally some good mutants to police them. But even aside from the serious PR problems with how he went about it.. who the hell went and elected Xavier the moral arbitrator for all mutants, anyway?

    So, no- it sure didn't hold water. But I was 13 and I just didn't care. I just liked the setting and the characters and the interplay. It was the same comfy little entertainment you get from any bit of fluffy serial story.

    I suppose you could argue that the hated!X-men and loved!FF/Avengers thing made sense in terms of social double standards- love for the 'clean, beautiful, superior ubermensch, white, WASPy' FF and hatred for the 'ugly, dirty, different, not-the-right class/race/gender, not-normal, not-pretty, not-camera ready' mutants. That's sure a bigass part of our society then, now and probably freaking forever. We are human and we love to divide people into perfect elite superiors and evilbaddirty subhuman inferiors. (I just wish we'd stop patting ourselves on the back for it and/or getting off on the sadomasochistic fun of it all.)

    *cough* and I'll end this comment here, because I feel a rant about suspecting a vein of furtive little worship of white!rich!blond!male!straight 'power' in teh superhero comics coming on. And seeing as I officially don't like the bloody things, and haven't read them in ages, I suppose I should leave that to more informed parties.

  • At June 06, 2007 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is why I liked the idea of "Heroes Reborn." You have a world with the FF, Avengers, Cap, and Iron Man. Where heroes would be good guys who the public generally liked.

    Then you had Mutant world. Where you either had street level vigilantes (Moony, Spidey, Daredevil) Super natural beings who didn't really care who you were (Strange, Ghost Rider, Hellstorm) or the Mutants.

    It's a lot easier to have a world where spider-man, mutants, and ghost rider are pubilcy hated.

    To bad they got Rob Liefield involved...

  • At June 06, 2007 6:08 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I'm just going to mildly point out that there's a difference between "asshole" (Scott and Guy) and "abusive asshole".

    Hank's the only one that remotely fits in the second category, and considering he was in the middle of a psychotic break at the time and is continually and endlessly called on what happened, I tend to place him in the first category.

  • At June 06, 2007 7:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    (commenting on the run- beware of typos)

    I've seen some scans on s_d that would put Scott (and Reed Richards, now that I think about it) in the 'abusive asshole' category imo. But as all are 60s-era or earlier, I suppose you could chalk this up to the sexism of the time, rather then the character.

    I don't think much is going to be served by us arguing the merits of characters you love and I just don't have any use for. You like 'em, I don't. I suppose I can avoid making snarky comments about them. But eh.. it was a pretty lighthearted jibe. Wasn't meant to be a big fat *insult.*

    That said, I'm constantly amazed by how much people invest emotionally in their objects of fanlove. Am I required to be respectful of that love? I suppose it would be polite, yeah.

    Anyway- the salient point of my comment was that yeah, the X-men concept doesn't stand up well in terms of external (or even internal logic). But that was cool with me, I wasn't reading X-men with the expectation of anything other then some brightly-colored hyperbolic fun. *shrug*

  • At June 06, 2007 7:15 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I can answer a comment without reading it as an insult. :-)

  • At June 06, 2007 7:35 PM, Blogger Evan Waters said…

    The X-Men are a really great premise that's really easy to screw up. There's a certain balance to "grim and real mutant politics" and "big explosions and crazy powers and SPACE!" that is hard to get right.

    One vignette I really liked in FIRST CLASS was the one with the mutant Beatnik poet. It reminded me of one of the cooler things in the Silver Age run, which was the coffeehouse, and Hank and Bobby going there all the time with their girlfriends and ragging on the silly poetry and so on. They don't do that anymore. They SHOULD. (Hank wouldn't have to disguise himself- there are probably some very open-minded joints.)

  • At June 06, 2007 8:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Kewl. ^^

    Hey- just out of curiosity, did you ever blog about Moore's 'Lost Girls'? I'm reading it right now, and would be interested in your commentary.

  • At June 06, 2007 8:20 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I have to admit, I haven't read it. I've heard it's interesting social commentary.

    But honestly, much as I tend to enjoy Alan Moore, my initial response to hearing about it was "That's nice, but if I want to read slashfic I can find it for free."

    :-) I might be a phillistine.

  • At June 06, 2007 8:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well, it's definitely femmeslash fic, complete with pervy threesomes and incest and shouta/loli and BDSM and toys and just about everything that people were getting tossed from LJ for. Kinda with an artsy dreamy intellectual icing on top.

    It's pretty looking, anyway (some of it- the art goes through different phases).

    I wouldn't pay money for it, but it's worth downloading from dc++ (*cough*).

    I've yet to form an opinion on Moore. I'll get back to ya after I read Watchmen, LoEG and Promethea.

    Oh- reminds me. Planning on writing anything about the end of Strangers in Paradise? I've enjoyed the series, but Terry Moore's self-congratulations are starting to bug.

  • At June 06, 2007 8:37 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Honestly, I've never enjoyed SiP. I mean, it looks cute and all. But honestly, none of the characters appeal to me. (In particular Katchoo does not strike me as the incredibly awesome amazing character find that others have indicated she was.)

    *shrug* Personal tastes I guess.

    Though I AM curious. How DOES it end?

  • At June 06, 2007 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Moore is deeply convinced that Katchoo (feisty girl who can kick butt like Buffy and has a angsty past of child abuse while being gorgeous and brilliant and smart and amaaaazingly talented artistically) is a work of utter heartbreaking genius. Y'know.. completely UNLIKE all the other angst!Sues out there.

    But admittedly, I found SiP entertaining enough to overlook that. If Moore would stop singing the praises of his 'genius', I'd be able to ignore it completely.

    I dunno yet. The last issue allegedly comes out today, but I'll probably just *cough*dl*cough* it. My guess is that Katchoo finds out she's pregnant with David's baby and she and Francine get married. With Freddie and Casey as the witnesses. And maybe Tambi shows up too- and she's pregnant with David's baby TOO! Reminds me...

    ...Moore really valorized David near the end, too. As soon as we found out that David was secretly a big rich Japanese yakuza kid tied into all that gangster shit.. uh. yeah. But all the girls just LOOOOOVED David. David was god's gift to women. Or something.

    Anyway, I'll let you know. ^^ I've got your AIM SN.

  • At June 06, 2007 9:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sallyp, starting in issues 45 and 46 Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch did have to deal with anti-mutant feelings, even though they are in the Avengers. I have only just finished reading vol. 2 essential collection, so I don't know if that continues.

    My reasoning for the disparate feelings for mutants vs. other heroes is that other heroes are not part of a systemic, inevitable (untile M-Day) process to replace the human race with a "better" version. And not even Prof. X ever really questions that mutants are better than humans - he just thinks mutants and humans should live in peace. That kinda attitude would make anybody feel touchy.


  • At June 07, 2007 11:12 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Blake, that attitude towards Wanda and Pietro pretty much went by the wayside later on. There was also the little thing about them being former criminals...along with Hawkeye.

    The point about the twins and Beast being mutants was only rarely raised, certainly there wasn't the constant angst that there was over in the X-men.

  • At June 07, 2007 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sallyp: OK. I did notice a pretty big jump in terms of characterization for all the characters in issue 45 and 46. ITs as if everybody started to go crazy all at the same time. I guess I shouldn't be that surprised the crazynes vanished later on.


  • At June 07, 2007 1:12 PM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…


    That's from an old X-Factor issue. Pretty well encapsulates what Marvel seems to see as the essential nature of mutants in general and the X-Men in particular. [Who are, as my friend likes to describe them, "emo paramilitary bitches."]

    I think a big part of why the X-Men work so well in the movies and cartoons is that mutants are typically the only super-powered beings around in those continuities. Thus it makes sense that the general populace is wary, suspicious, and fearful of them. The central themes of alienation and hatred - and its metaphorical connections to [insert -ism of your choice here] - work better.

    Whereas within the shared universe, where you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a super-powered freak, it's harder to understand why mutants are singled out for public hatred but everyone else gets a pass - apart, of course, from maintaining that all-important angst.

  • At June 07, 2007 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think the Marvel Universe's attitude toward mutants stemmed from:
    a) bad PR. I imagine the Fantastic Four or the Avengers would have a press conference after they beat the crap out of Annhilus or Ultron to let folks know what happened. Plus, you know where to find them: the Baxter Building or Avengers' Mansion. They're in the phone book. Conversely, the X-Men (and Spider-man)would get into a scrape, destroy a mall, then slink off into the night. A little information and accountability go a long way toward building goodwill;
    b) the fear that mutants could out-compete humans in the job market.


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