Iceman! Cyclops! Beast! Angel! Marvel Girl! These were always my favorite X-Men!
My preferred X-Men has always been Professor Xavier’s original five students complete in their original black and yellow uniforms. I loved the Giant-Sized X-Men #1 team too, but I’ve always loved the premise and mythology of the original team best. I loved the idea of the secret school for super-powered teen-agers and while the Giant-Sized team was a visually dynamic crew and their stories particularly during the Claremont Byrne days were some of the best super-hero team stories ever, the whole mutant school concept just wasn’t as strong during that run. There was an elegant straight-forward simplicity to the original five that I appreciated. This isn’t to say that there stories were always great. In fact, they had a crudeness to their many of their issues that went beyond the standard Silver-Age clunkiness that I usually find pretty charming.
Late to the X-party, I actually “back-ended” into my preferred X-Men periods. When I started paying attention to the X-Men, I’d just missed the Claremont-Byrne run and I’d never looked at the original team at all. Dave Cockrum had just wrapped up a second turn on the book and Paul Smith was just starting his short, but sweet run. As I said above, visually, I found the team very compelling. I was watching them from the sidelines in guest appearances and in house ads, but I found the rich history of the book too dense for me as a new reader to just jump in. Back in those days, my comic book buying habits were largely at the mercy of my local newsstands which were not always the most reliable venues. I lived in fear of plunking down my fifty cents for a comic book that would continue into the next issue when I had no assurances I’d ever see that next issue! I had no idea what my comic book buying habits would morph into within a few short years or what a labyrinthian mess comic book publishing would collapse into within only ten years from those innocent, simple days.
So for a while, I watched the X-Men from afar. They looked cool, but could I risk my fifty cents on them? Would I know what’s going on in their latest issue?
Then I came across The Uncanny X-Men #166. It was a double-sized giant issue, an odd choice since it wasn’t an anniversary issue or milestone issue number. To my young naive thinking, I thought for sure this double-sized issue would be a great opportunity for me to meet the X-Men. After all, surely a double-sized issue would have a complete, self-contained story including everything I would need to know who everyone was and what was going on! Of course, this wouldn’t be the case. Uncanny X-Men #166 was the climactic final chapter of a six-issue long story arc introducing the alien Brood. I hung in there though and I read the issue, figured out who was who, what was going on, and I totally feel in love with the X-Men! I also fell in love with the art of Paul Smith who forever would be my favorite artist to draw certain characters like Cyclops, Colossus, and later on, Rogue ( the LAST decent X-Man to join the team as far as I’m concerned! Please! Don’t get me started on Gambit and Cable!)
From that issue on, I became a regular reader of the X-Men and as I did with most books that I was reading, I began scouring the comic shops, book stores, and comic book conventions for back issues and past X-Men appearances.
Now a couple of things brought me to the original team… First, around that time… maybe a couple of years earlier… Marvel started reprinting the adventures of the original team in their latest Amazing Adventures series. I bought up this series whenever I could find them. Being a reprint book, Amazing Adventures was usually pretty cheap in back issue bins. It was in this format that I first read X-Men #3, that first meeting with Fred J. Dukes, the Blob. It is the cover to X-Men#3 that I am paying homage to with the piece above.
My other path to the original team would be a bit more roundabout. As my Marvel Comics buying and reading was exploding, Marvel was featuring a brand new animated series on Saturday mornings, the great Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends. Say what you will about this show, but this was a lot of fun for a young Marvel fan. A lot of the fun was watching to see what Marvel guest stars would turn up each week. In addition to Spidey and his Amazing Friends, we were treated to Captain America, the Hulk, and of course a FEW versions of the X-man. Plus, of course, regular Amazing Friend was Iceman, a founding X-man who, as many of my students over the years will verify, would become one of my favorite Marvel characters. I don’t know, but maybe my fascination with cold-themed characters… Captain Cold, Mr. Freeze, Polar Boy, etc… began with Bobby Drake, the Iceman.
I would enjoy the X-Men for years. I don’t really read much anymore. Occasionally, I will revisit the X-Men in whatever form they take these days, but usually not for very long. As intimidating as I found the X-Men way back around #166, I find them utterly impenetrable these days!
I’m not sure if I’m done with this one. I might tweak it some more and then ink it.
What do you think? What are your favorite X-Men eras and members? Please let me know in the Comments below!