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Monday, April 26, 2010

X-amining X-Men #40

"The Mark of the Monster"
January 1968

In a nutshell: The X-Men fight Frankenstein's Monster. But not really.

Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Don Heck, Werner Roth (Backup Story)
Inker: George Tuska, John Verpoorten (Backup Story) 
Lettering: Art Simek, Al Kurzrok (Backup Story)

Plot
(Main Story) Professor X reveals to the team that scientists have recently located Frankenstein's Monster, encased in ice at the Arctic Circle. He believes that Mary Shelley's book is based on fact, and that the Monster is an android built by an advanced mutant. The X-Men and Professor X travel to the City Museum to investigate, arriving just as the unfrozen creature goes on a rampage. Fighting off the X-Men, it heads for the docks and boards a freight ship bound for warmer climates. The X-Men follow and confront the Monster. Professor X, believing the creature to be vulnerable to cold, has Iceman freeze it, causing the Monster to explode. He then reveals that he probed the Monster's mind before it exploded and learned it was an android sent by an alien race from a tropical world to Earth 150 years ago. Meant to be an emissary to Earth, it malfunctioned and was fleeing from its alien masters when it was frozen in the Arctic Circle.


(Backup Story, "The First Evil Mutant!"): Scott meets Jack Winters, a fellow mutant who sensed Scott's mutant brain and called him to his side. When the police arrive at his shack, Jack teleports the two away. Professor X, using his makeshift new device Cyberno, detects their energy signature and begins to triangulate their position.

Jack and Scott arrive at a nuclear power plant, and Jack reveals his origin: he once worked at the plant, until he stole radioactive material to pay off his gambling debts. Contact with the material triggered his mutant mental powers and transformed his hands into flexible diamond. He believes a higher does of radioactivity will expand his power further and make his entire body indestructible diamond. Xavier arrives, hoping to rescue Scott, and Jack orders Scott to blast the professor. Scott refuses, not wanting to become a murderer. Xavier tries to disable Jack with a telepathic attack, but Jack's own power deflects it, and the villain turns his attention to Professor X...


Firsts and Other Notables
An extra-terrestrial, android version of Frankenstein's Monster appears for the first, and only, time.

However, Marvel will later publish a "Monster of Frankenstein" series featuring the non-alien, non-android version of Frankenstein's Monster depicted in the Mary Shelly novel. Because one panel in the flashback of the Frankenstein Monster's previous activities must be a reference to that character and not the alien android one, this issue is, retroactively, also the first appearance of the "real" Frankenstein Monster in the Marvel Universe.

And yes, that means that in the Marvel Universe, Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" novel (as well as Bram Stoker's "Dracula", for that matter) are considered historical accounts wrongly accepted by the denizens of the Marvel Universe as fiction.   

After a cameo at the end of last issue's backup, Jack Winters aka Jack O'Diamonds appears fully for the first time. Despite being the first super-villain encountered by Cyclops, he is largely forgotten outside of this story.

A Work in Progress
X-Men #65 will reveal that between this issue and the last, a terminally ill Changeling approached Professor X, asking to make amends for his past misdeeds. Xavier, preparing to go underground in order to secretly stave off an alien attack, asked Changeling to "fill-in" for him with the X-Men, bestowing the shapeshifter with a portion of his telepathic power to that end. According to the Official Index to the Marvel Universe, the novel "X-Men Legends" reveals that in order to ease the transition, the substitution was initially part time. Thus when Xavier is briefing the X-Men in this issue it's Changeling, while the real Xavier accompanied them in the field. 

Angel reference's Marvel Girl working with Professor X on a secret project; I believe this is a reference to the same plan that led to Changeling impersonate Xavier (only she of all the X-Men remained fully aware of Xavier's plan and the Changeling substitution), a plan which will be revealed in its entirety in issue #65.

Professor X mentally projects an image of Frankenstein's Monster on the wall, something telepathy probably shouldn't be able to do, at least as depicted. 


In the backup story, Professor X uses a prototype of Cerebro called Cyberno to locate Cyclops and Jack O'Diamonds. Later will stories will establish that Cerebro existed long before the events depicted in this story.

Ah, the Silver Age
Marvel Girl: "The answer to that question, Warren, is... yes and no!"
Angel: "And if that isn't a typical woman's answer, I don't know what is!"


Professor X has "always believed the book [Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein"] was based on an actual occurrence", for some reason.


Jack O'Diamonds origin story is classic Silver Age stuff, featuring stolen radioactive material intended to be sold in order to pay off gambling debts. And, of course, because it's the 60s, exposure to that radioactive material doesn't harm Jack, it just activates his super powers.

It's not "Superboy made me bald!", but it's close.


Professor X has a personal computer. Jealous? You're jealous. He probably also has two televisions in his house. 

"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!"
While this issue retroactively kicks off the whole "let the X-Men think he's dead for the good of the world" plot, I'll cover that in more detail when we get to the issue that establishes the retcon.

Meanwhile, in this issue, Professor X, eager to get into the museum where the monster is being held, orders Marvel Girl to telekinetically knock out a guard.


Wouldn't it have been easier (and more humane) to just telepathically order him to let them in? Or telepathically make the guard think they were allowed access? Or just tell the guard to go to sleep instead of forcibly knocking him out?

Young Love
Marvel Girl worries about Cyclops while in battle.


For Sale
Do you like surprises?


Bullpen Bulletins
Stan Lee on the Comic's Code.


Of course, Marvel will feel less charitable towards the whole thing by the time the 00s roll around and they simply stop submitting books for approval. Heck, three years from the publication of this column Stan himself will publish three issues of Amazing Spider-Man without code approval, as they dealt with Harry Osborn's drug problem, a plot the code felt inappropriate for comics but one which Stan felt was important to tell as it focused on the negative side effects of drug abuse.  
Teebore's Take
Well, the X-Men fight Frankenstein's Monster, but he's actually an alien robot. That's about all there is to it. Definitely not one of the comic's finer moment. It feels very much like a fill-in issue, except it was done by the regular creative team. The fight itself is basically what'd you get if the X-Men fought Hulk, except in this case Hulk is sensitive to cold and it still takes the X-Men until the end of the issue to tell Iceman to freeze him, despite having been found at the beginning of the story frozen and comatose in a block of ice. Definitely an issue marking time between the end of Thomas' last big story and his next, which will kick off in the following issue.

The backup story hums along, glacially paced as it is. Seriously, reading this in monthly installments back in the day was probably the equivalent of watching paint dry, but the Jack O'Diamond's origin story adds a touch of enjoyable Silver Age goofiness to this chapter.

19 comments:

  1. a body made out of diamonds? That's has to be the most ridiculous mustant power ever concieved...
    oh wait...

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  2. The funny thing is, Jack O'Diamonds mutant power is technically telepathy (though he also has a random teleportation power) and the diamond hands/body thing comes from the accident, a secondary mutation, if you will.

    Then decades later, along comes Grant Morrison, who comes up with the idea of "secondary mutations" for mutants so he can take the telepathic Emma Frost and have her transform into diamond to serve as the strongman on his team.

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  3. Sometimes, after reading these posts, i am AMAZED that Xmen made it to become the book we actually love

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  4. @Anne: Sadly, while there's definitely some interesting and fun (both intentionally and not) stuff ahead, you're right: X-Men won't become the book we know and love until after it's canceled and resurrected with the 'All New, All Different' team under Claremont.

    Actually, I take that back; the Thomas/Neal Adams run that's not too far off is very good, and is probably the best showcase for the original X-Men you're gonna see.

    Needless to say, this issue is NOT one of the title's finer contributions.

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  5. He's the creation from an alien race from a tropical planet that "passed near our world 150 years ago?" How is that even possible?

    Jack O'Diamonds? They're not serious with that, are they?

    And really, shouldn't Frankenstein's Monster be vulnerable to fire and not cold?

    Also, I think we've all learned over the years from all sorts of fiction that there's nothing easier to accomplish than to knock a person unconcious. Best of all, it has no ill effects! The person will just wake up refreshed and grateful for having a chance to nap.

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  6. He's the creation from an alien race from a tropical planet that "passed near our world 150 years ago?" How is that even possible?

    Magnetically?

    Jack O'Diamonds? They're not serious with that, are they?

    Sadly, yes, they are.

    Shockingly, Jack is pretty much forgotten after this backup story wraps up.

    And really, shouldn't Frankenstein's Monster be vulnerable to fire and not cold?

    The real Monster sure, but this alien robot Monster is from a tropical planet, so of course he's vulnerable to cold.

    Not that anyone knows that when they're attacking him. I'm pretty sure Professor X's line of thinking was "the Monster was found encased in ice, so he must be vulnerable to cold!"

    Which completely overlooks the fact that anything abandoned in the Arctic Circle is going to end up encased in ice eventually...

    Also, I think we've all learned over the years from all sorts of fiction that there's nothing easier to accomplish than to knock a person unconcious.

    True. I suppose a telekinetic shove is a better way to go down than an oar to the back of the head.

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  7. reading this actually made me wish I had read X-Men back in the day. Dude, Frankenstien's Monster is real?!

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  8. Dude, Frankenstien's Monster is real?!

    And Dracula too!

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. Oops. Sorry, Teebore. I just saw the note about comment moderation being enabled. I'd have suspected that before, but I'm not sure 've never seen it used in conjunction with the Word Verification, and I just left a comment on your latest Lost post without moderation. Delete this after you read it.

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  12. Well, crap.

    Now I have to apologize to Blam, for in trying to delete your second post, I managed to somehow delete the first one, too.

    I was going to say I appreciated your tale of Matchbox trading, and that I agreed with the sentiment that Professor X giving Changeling telepathy was, indeed, lame.

    The comment moderation got turned on when I enabled the word verification, but it's only for posts older than 14 days (this was to further cutdown on spam popping up on old posts) which is probably why you hadn't noticed it.

    And then, I failed to realize there's a specific place I need to go to check for comments in need of moderation, so a bunch of stuff on older posts sat for awhile.

    But now I have it set up so I'll get that stuff emailed to me as well, so it shouldn't be a problem any longer.

    Again, apologies for the inadvertent post deletion. This time, at least, it wasn't blogger's fault. :(

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  13. Well, as luck would have it, since the comments never came through via E-mail, I never deleted the HTML'd-up original in TextEdit (which is where I compose all but the teeniest posts lest my brain, WiFi, or Blogger fail me at some point in the process).

    Teebore: And yes, that means that in the Marvel Universe, Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" novel ... [is] wrongly accepted by the denizens of the Marvel Universe as fiction.

    Marvel actually had the Frankenstein Monster officially integrate into the Marvel Universe in Marvel Team-Up #36, when he crossed paths with Spider-Man.

    Teebore: Professor X mentally projects an image of Frankenstein's Monster on the wall, something telepathy probably shouldn't be able to do, at least as depicted.

    Well, I think it's kosher if you take the visual representation as non-literal and assume that the image was projected into the X-Men's minds (despite the dialogue indicating otherwise). Xavier giving The Changeling a portion of his powers, though, that's right out.

    Teebore: Professor X has a personal computer. Jealous?

    So why did he need that room full of filing cabinets? 8^) PS: He also has, um, Cerebro.

    Matchbox ad: Tells you how to trade them too!

    Oh, good... I'd never figure it out otherwise. "Hey, Teebore! I kinda like that red fire truck." "Well, gosh, Blam, I've been admiring your red Police Captain's car." "That old thing? I don't even like it!" "..." "..." "Well... 'Bye!" "See ya!"

    Teebore: and it still takes the X-Men until the end of the issue to tell Iceman to freeze him, despite having been found at the beginning of the story frozen and comatose in a block of ice.

    That would've been somewhat more forgivable from a dramatic perspective if freezing things hadn't been the primary offensive power of one of the heroes — y'know, something they'd have tried anyway, even with absolute short-term memory loss.

    Teebore: The backup story hums along, glacially paced as it is.

    Unintentional funny!

    Dr. Bitz: And really, shouldn't Frankenstein's Monster be vulnerable to fire and not cold?

    I vote both.

    Palindrome: Dude, Frankenstien's Monster is real?!

    Teebore: And Dracula too!

    The X-Men meet him in about 15 years, publishing time, drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz. [Uh... spoiler alert...]

    VW: hamyot — [ham ee oh tee] n. Extra innings in pig baseball.

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  14. and Blam for the win! Plus, you managed to confirm that the "email comments for moderation" setting works.

    Well, I think it's kosher if you take the visual representation as non-literal and assume that the image was projected into the X-Men's minds

    Yeah, I suppose you could say that Xavier was telepathically making them all see the picture on the wall.

    Xavier giving The Changeling a portion of his powers, though, that's right out.

    Agreed, although surprinsingly enough, that's probably the wonkiest bit of the whole "the dead Professor X is Changeling!" retcon; otherwise, it holds together pretty well.

    Oh, good... I'd never figure it out otherwise.

    Hahaha...well done!

    That would've been somewhat more forgivable from a dramatic perspective if freezing things hadn't been the primary offensive power of one of the heroes

    Indeed. The next thing you know, the Fantastic Four will be fighting a Frost Monster and holding Human Torch back until the very end...

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  15. Teebore: otherwise, it holds together pretty well

    If you don't count what a Koosh-Ball move it is to make your students believe you're dead for however many months.

    Me: I've been admiring your red Police Captain's car.

    Somehow I didn't catch this during the half-dozen times opportunities I had to re-read this post, but for the record the Police Captain's car was white; the Fire Captain's car was red. Yes, this imaginary exchange was based on my own Matchbox collection. I kinda miss those things.

    Teebore: Indeed. The next thing you know, the Fantastic Four will be fighting a Frost Monster and holding Human Torch back until the very end...

    Or forgetting that Invisible Woman could take out 90% of their opponents in a few seconds by cutting off their oxygen with a force-field bubble.

    VW: unroting — Deciding not to do something on autopilot after all.

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  16. @Blam If you don't count what a Koosh-Ball move it is to make your students believe you're dead for however many months.

    Good point. In fact, that move is pretty much the reason I have the "Professor X is a Jerk!" category in these posts, though the fact that such a category opos up in more reviews than just the one covering that retcon proves that it wasn't the only (or, arguably, even the worst) Koosh-Ball move in the prof's history.

    Or forgetting that Invisible Woman could take out 90% of their opponents in a few seconds by cutting off their oxygen with a force-field bubble.

    Well, yeah, but she's a GIRL. Girl's can't defeat super-villains, at least not by themselves. Then need a big strong man to help them. ;)

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  17. After a cameo at the end of last issue's backup, Jack Winters aka Jack O'Diamonds appears fully for the first time. Despite being the first super-villain encountered by Cyclops, he is largely forgotten outside of this story.

    Jack O'Diamonds, as well as some other terrible X-Men villains, later appears as zombies in John Byrne's She-Hulk series, in a team called the X-Humed.

    Professor X has "always believed the book [Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein"] was based on an actual occurrence", for some reason.

    "Oh, you know, I finished reading it and thought 'Eh, sounds plausible'."

    On the whole Jack O'Diamonds entire-body-made-of-diamonds thing, there's actually a Bronze Age Nova villain, Diamondhead, whose power is having a body made out of diamond. How did he get these powers, you ask? He was hit by a diamond-powered laser, of course!

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  18. @Harry: Jack O'Diamonds, as well as some other terrible X-Men villains, later appears as zombies in John Byrne's She-Hulk series, in a team called the X-Humed.

    I did not know that. I've read Byrne's She-Hulk run, but I'm not surprised he thought to use old, poorly-regarded X-Men villains.

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  19. @Teebore:
    I haven't actually read the issue myself, but a quick search reveals that it was a two-part arc from She-Hulk #34-35. Other members of the team were Changeling, Scaleface, and Harry Leland. Off the top of my head, I'm fairly sure that it was Black Talon resurrecting them.

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