Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Friday, May 21, 2010

X-amining X-Men #41

"Now Strikes...The Sub-Human!"
February 1968

In a nutshell: The X-Men battle Grotesk, the Sub-Human.

Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Don Heck, Werner Roth (2nd Story)
Inker: George Tuska, John Verpoorten (2nd Story)
Lettering: Sam Rosen

Plot: Beast and Iceman are riding the subway with their dates when the train is attacked by a large sub-human. Slipping away under the cover of darkness, the two X-Men attack the creature, who takes the name Grotesk from Beast's description of him. They manage to chase Grotesk away. While fleeing, Grotesk recalls his origins, in which he was the prince of a warlike subterranean race before being mutated by radiation from atomic explosions that left him the sole survivor of his race and determined the destroy the surface world in vengeance.

Back at the X-Mansion, a tenser than usual Professor X is running the X-Men through training exercises before leaving to have a cryptic conversation with Marvel Girl. At the same time, a seismologist is demonstrating his Nuclear Oscillotron, which attracts the attention of Grotesk. He decides to use it to trigger earthquakes that will destroy the surface world. The X-Men investigate the subway tunnels and find Grotesk's lair. Cyclops and Beast push ahead while Angel and Iceman go back to get Marvel Girl and Professor X. But Marvel Girl refuses to help, just as Grotesk returns and confronts Cyclops and Beast....


2nd Story: "The Living Diamond!"

Jack O'Diamonds and Professor X do battle via their mental powers, but Scott refuses to use his power against the professor. Jack smashes a beam, destroying the building and allowing he and Scott a change to escape. They arrive at the location of the Cyclotron, and Scott uses his optic beam to disarm a guard before Jack can kill him. Jack goes inside and power up the device. Professor X arrives on the scene as Scott is battling a group of guards, trying to knock them out so Jack won't kill them. Professor X telepathically puts the guards to sleep and introduces himself to Scott. Just then, Jack emerges from inside the building, smashing through the wall, his entire body transformed into Diamond.   

Firsts and Other Notables
Grotesk, mutated last member of another race of subterraneans, makes his first appearance. He'll pop up a few more times, but his claim to fame is killing Professor X next issue.


A Work in Progress
Except that by this point, thanks to a retcon established in issue #65 anytime we see Professor X it is actually Changeling in disguise. So technically, it's Changeling who'll be dying in the next issue. 

Professor X is acting strangely throughout the issue and only Marvel Girl  "can guess at why"; the later retcon says this is because Professor X is really Changeling, and only Marvel Girl is in on the secret. The original, non-retconned explanation for his behavior will be explained in the next issue (and, cleverly, that explanation will be accounted for in the retcon).


Professor X and Marvel Girl are also working on some experiments together. That plays in to the issue #65 retcon as well.

In the backup, Professor X insinuates that his telepathy somehow saved him from being crushed under concrete. We're entering a phase in these backups in which "telepathically" becomes synonymous with "magnetically", in that a character can do anything as long as one of those words precedes the action.


Ah, the Silver Age
A scientist has just completed his Nuclear Oscillotron, a device which causes earthquakes and will benefit mankind "in ways we cannot yet dream of!", somehow...


Jack O'Diamonds uses radiation to transform himself into a living diamond. That's pretty much the Silver Age in a nutshell.


Build up your Vocabulary with Beast: Cognomen
\käg-ˈnō-mən, ˈkäg-nə-\ noun
name; especially : a distinguishing nickname or epithet 


Young Love
Hank and Bobby have to run out on yet another date with Vera and Zelda. It's a wonder these two gals put up with it.


Scott, being Scott, worries that all the time Xavier is spending with Jean lately means Xavier is in love with her too.


Teebore's Take
Yet another subterranean race shows up as part of a story that is noteworthy only for the death of Professor X. Since that happens in the next issue, this one is mostly (dull) setup. Again, we're not dealing with the stuff of legends in Grotesk, and there's definitely a feeling of padding, which is unusual for a story from the Silver Age.

This issue also kicks off an odd period for the X-Men. Never one of Marvel's strong sellers at this point, sales on the book were well below the standards of the time. Hence, starting with Xavier's death in the next issue, the book goes through a phase in which it throws ideas out there to see what sticks (and what drives up sales): the focus changes, the team breaks up, gets back together, crosses over with better selling titles, creators come and go. In that context, the death of Professor X can be seen for what it is: an attempt to change the (poorly selling) status quo and draw attention to the book, thereby driving up sales.

16 comments:

  1. I think Scott should be more worried about the hold the Professor has on Jean than that other guy. Beast is best! I love how he expounds on this stuff while getting beat up - if you can't win at least be brilliant while you get beat.

    Except that by this point, thanks to a retcon established in issue #65 anytime we see Professor X it is actually Changeling in disguise.


    Woah. What's a retcon? So...where is there real professor? This is sad. He's just gone forever? I don't know why I like him but I think the fact that he wears a blanket impresses me.

    p.s. Did you notice I know all my main character's names? Keep chipping away, Teebore, I'll get it eventually :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. wait...wouldn't earthquakes also destroy the subterranean world as well?

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Joan: Woah. What's a retcon? So...where is there real professor? This is sad. He's just gone forever?

    A retcon is short for "retroactive continuity". It's a term used in fiction (principally in long-form superhero comics, but sometimes in TV shows or serialized movies) when a story changes or revises the events of a previous story, or the way the audience perceives that story.

    An example from Lost: In season five, we believed FLocke was a resurrected Locke. However, "LA X" retconned his appearances in season five by revealing that the Locke we watched on the island in season five was actually Smokey the whole time, and NOT a resurrected Locke.

    In this case, the story in this issue and the next is about the Professor learning he's terminally ill and sacrificing himself to save the X-Men, but a later story (in issue #65) will reveal that, behind the scenes and unknown to the reader, Professor X was approached by a terminally ill Changeling who wanted to make amends, and Professor X asked him to fill in while the real Professor began secretly preparing to fend off an alien invasion.

    Most often, retcons occur well after the story they are retroactively changing was written, and the writer of the original story has no say in the matter.

    And don't worry: the real professor will be back (eventually).

    I think the fact that he wears a blanket impresses me.

    He does have a keen sense of style.

    Did you notice I know all my main character's names? Keep chipping away, Teebore, I'll get it eventually

    You're doing great, Joan! And 25 issues from now, you'll have a whole NEW batch of names to learn!

    ReplyDelete
  4. wait...wouldn't earthquakes also destroy the subterranean world as well?

    Grotesk smash!

    Seriously though, his world is ALREADY destroyed. He's the last survivor of his race, and his homeland was destroyed when his race was.

    So basically, he's just sulking around the subway tunnels with nowhere to go, determined to destroy the surface world like his world was destroyed. He's fairly nihilistic at this point.

    ReplyDelete
  5. damnit, sarah stole my comment.

    How did they tell that this guy was 'subhuman' (whatever that means). I mean Beast said his face wasn't human...but he looked pretty human to me.
    Unless the guy said he was a sub-human by way of introduction...?

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Anne: How did they tell that this guy was 'subhuman' (whatever that means). I mean Beast said his face wasn't human...but he looked pretty human to me.

    Nah, the X-Men are just judgmental. For all their talk of tolerance, they're like "Ah! That looks slightly different than me! Subhuman! Subhuman!" ;D

    Kinda like when they meet the Morlocks for the first time and they're like "ugh, you're not movie star-handsome mutants; stay in the sewer and not in our mansion."

    ReplyDelete
  7. Teebore! This is about Lost - Gah, I am really confused. So, Kate in Sideways World is a con and all this but then she sees Jack and is all I missed you so much. So...how? She just remembered like 15 minutes before and now she's all I missed you so much...for the past 15 minutes. Grr. So she died in real life whenever and then went there and was stuck until what? We don't know if she killed her dad or whoever and then she just delivers Aaron and that's it? Kate had nothing to learn in the Sideways World? She was just waiting to remember?

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Joan: No! We must talk of X-Men in this post!

    Seriously though:

    She just remembered like 15 minutes before and now she's all I missed you so much...for the past 15 minutes.

    When she "awakened" in the Sideways universe, Kate remembered her entire life: the time on the island, and the time after the island, in which she (presumably) spent decades growing old, raising Aaron, and missing Jack.

    So when she saw Jack for the first time in the Sideways universe, with her "real" consciousness awakened, she told him how much she missed him for all those years after she got off the island and he died.

    Kate had nothing to learn in the Sideways World? She was just waiting to remember?

    At least, nothing to learn that was worth showing us. And frankly, since "What Kate Does" was the worst episode of the season, I'm okay with having not seen more Kate. :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for answering that Teebore:D I'm stupid though and I just can't make it all work in my head. Ok, so, she has a long life, blah, blah and the dies. At that point - zoom - she flies to Sideways World - as Young 30's Kate - and what - with what memories? Everything is different there so, all different memories are needed - until you remember the real world, right? Do they zoom to sideways world and are born as babies with new lives? Or do you go with downloaded memories like the Matrix and run around until you solve the "puzzle"?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oooh! I just read what you wrote on Blam's blog. Do you think the sideways people existed before the Real World People died? As placeholders? And then...they meld. That's a creepy thought, eh? Sigh. It makes sense and then flits away from me like a hateful little hummingbird.

    Ok What I mean is, let's say Kate died when she was 95. 60 years after Jack. He's been there, 'living' and whatnot the whole time. Why is he only 35? Yes, I know there is no time but that MAKES NO SENSE. What are they all head injury victims in sideways world? Nobody ever says "Shit, I've been 35 for 60 years, that's weird."? Grr! And he has memories of marrying Juliet so time does have the same basic concept there. He knows something happened before - so there is so me time there.

    This is the flailing of a frustrated dummy. Sorry to eat up space here with this nonsense!

    ReplyDelete
  11. @Joan: Ok What I mean is, let's say Kate died when she was 95. 60 years after Jack. He's been there, 'living' and whatnot the whole time. Why is he only 35? Yes, I know there is no time but that MAKES NO SENSE.

    It's a tough idea to wrap one's head around, and I'm not even sure I fully get it.

    Try this: at a place outside of time, where it is the past, the present and the future all at once, the souls of the 815ers (who are all dead, because everyone dies at some point, and when dead, time has no meaning) create the Sideways world.

    Within that world, time flows normally, and the characters we know age and live lives similar but different to their lives in the real world. There is no island.

    When a sideways character "wakes up", they became aware of their existence as a shade, a being in an afterlife, and the memories of their real self is "downloaded" into their sideways body as it looks at the time they awake.

    So when Sideways Kate wakes up in Sept. 2004 of the sideways world, she suddenly has the entirety of real Kate's memories and experiences at her disposal. She looks like she did in 2004, but she's aware of her existence before and after 2004.

    Maybe someone like Ana Lucia, who's not ready yet in Sideways 2004, will be ready in Sideways 2034, and when she "wakes up" in Sideways 2034, she'll suddenly remember everything the real Ana Lucia did (which would end at some point in Island 2004, when she died) while having lived 30 additional years in the Sideways world.

    ReplyDelete

  12. Teebore: The X-Men battle Grotesk, the Sub-Human.

    Well, duh... They're riding the subway!

    Hank McCoy: "That face!! It's not... human!"

    Says the mutant with size-25 feet (who a few years later will turn into a furry blue creature).

    Brown Suit: "But... to create earth tremors... with a machine called a nuclear oscillotron? It's impossible... and you know it!"

    "Now... if it were called... something else... it would be entirely feasible!"

    Teebore: Scott, being Scott, worries that all the time Xavier is spending with Jean lately means Xavier is in love with her too.

    Actually, back in X-Men #1, he was. [But you already knew that, True Believer! -- Smilin' Stan]

    ReplyDelete

  13. Joan: I don't know why I like him but I think the fact that he wears a blanket impresses me.

    ...

    Teebore: An example from Lost: In season five, we believed FLocke was a resurrected Locke. However, "LA X" retconned his appearances in season five by revealing that the Locke we watched on the island in season five was actually Smokey the whole time, and NOT a resurrected Locke.

    That's not actually a retcon, just a revelation. Or did Darlton pull the Smokey idea out at the last minute? 8^)

    I'm with you on "when a story changes or revises the events of a previous story," but not "or the way the audience perceives that story" — unless the term has expanded in scope from the way it was originally used, which was to designate either outright contradictions to what was on the page or screen previously or interpretations counter to the authorial intent at the time the story was produced despite consistency with the original text as read or seen.

    An example of this would be if Olivia Goodspeed was originally meant by the writers to be Horace's wife in "Cabin Fever". When he's later married to Amy in "LaFleur", no mention is made of Olivia, and the retcon would be that Olivia was instead his sister, contradicting the writers' intentions and what viewers assumed but not anything actually spoken (though apparently she was referred to as his wife in the "enhanced" version of "Cabin Fever"). Of course the writers never said that Olivia was his sister, either, as far as I know, and another explanation is that Olivia died or they divorced, allowing him to marry Amy, so it's not really an example of a documented retcon.

    The bones of Momma and Esau being side-by-side is a retcon, albeit possibly born out of a repeated production error rather than a narrative decision.

    Teebore: He's fairly nihilistic at this point.

    Yet still articulate.

    I'm not touching the Lost-afterlife stuff right now.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Says the mutant with size-25 feet (who a few years later will turn into a furry blue creature).

    Yeah, the X-Men really aren't afraid to cast the first stone.

    "Now... if it were called... something else... it would be entirely feasible!"

    That was my exact thought when I read it!

    Actually, back in X-Men #1, he was. [But you already knew that, True Believer! -- Smilin' Stan]

    Ha! And actually actually, it was X-Men #3 when Xavier first mentioned his love for Jean [But now this True Believer is just being nitpicky and pedantic! -- Swingin' Stan].

    That's not actually a retcon, just a revelation. Or did Darlton pull the Smokey idea out at the last minute? 8^)

    I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on that one, and you're right, that's not really a retcon. I'm also not willing to chalk up the Adam and Eve placement as a retcon, calling that one a sloppy production error.

    Good points all around, though, about retcons.

    When I say "the way the audience perceives that story" I simply mean, in the Professor X example, the audience believes he's dead until the retcon comes along and says "he's not dead! Changeling is dead-Professor X has been in hiding!"

    So, at first, we think Xavier's dead, and then a later retcon makes us re-evaulute the story such that he's not dead, but in hiding, and the Xavier we see dying is actually Changeling.

    ReplyDelete

  15. Me: Actually, back in X-Men #1, he was. [But you already knew that, True Believer! -- Smilin' Stan]

    You: Ha! And actually actually, it was
    X-Men #3 when Xavier first mentioned his love for Jean [But now this True Believer is just being nitpicky and pedantic! -- Swingin' Stan].

    Er... I was retconning it back to #1?

    You: When I say "the way the audience perceives that story" I simply mean, in the Professor X example, the audience believes he's dead until the retcon comes along and says "he's not dead! Changeling is dead-Professor X has been in hiding!"

    Oh, no, the Changeling thing was a total retcon after they decided they didn't want Professor X dead. I was only disagreeing with the Smokey-as-Locke example, which was akin to if they'd planned the Changeling-as-Xavier gotcha all along; intentionally holding something back from the readers/viewers isn't a retcon, just storytelling.

    ReplyDelete
  16. @Blam: I was only disagreeing with the Smokey-as-Locke example, which was akin to if they'd planned the Changeling-as-Xavier gotcha all along; intentionally holding something back from the readers/viewers isn't a retcon, just storytelling.

    Ah, gotcha. Yeah, the "Locke is Smokey" is, in hindsight, a very poor example of a retcon, being that it isn't one, really.

    ReplyDelete

Comment. Please. Love it? Hate it? Am mildly indifferent to it? Let us know!