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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

X-amining X-Men #60

"In the Shadow of...Sauron!"
September 1969

In a nutshell
Sauron appears for the first time

Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Neal Adams
Inker: Tom Palmer 
Letterer: Sam Rosen

Plot
The X-Men depart the Sentinels' base with the injured Alex, leaving Judge Chalmers to wipe Trask's memories via his medallion and to free the remaining prisoners. Scott and Jean take Alex to see Dr. Lykos, an old associate of Professor X. He tells them that Alex will be fine, but he needs to look after him in private, asking them to return later in the evening. Scott and Jean return to the mansion, and join the others training in the Danger Room.


Unknown to them, Lykos sucks the energy from people in order to survive, and worked with Xavier in order to locate mutants and feed off their greater-than-human energy. Draining Alex, he transforms, due to the huge amount of energy, into a humanoid Pteranodon ruled by his evil side, and names himself Sauron. At the mansion, the X-Men hear reports of Sauron that are blamed on mutants, inciting Angel, who dons his old costume and flies off into the city. He soon encounters Sauron, and after locking eyes with him, screams.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue is the first appearance of Sauron, who remains a relatively-minor but consistent member of the X-Men's rogues gallery, as well as the first full appearance (after a cameo at the end of last issue) of Sauron's alter ego, Dr. Karl Lykos. Sauron is humanoid pteranodon who sucks energy from and hypnotizes people. Lykos intentionally names his alter ego after the villain from Lord of the Rings because he's just as evil. Future stories will show this to be an overstatement.


Sauron's origin is also recounted: as a child, Lykos was traveling with his father and the Anderssen family in Tierra Del Fuego and rescued Tanya Anderssen from a flock of pteranodons, one of whom bit him. As he got older, Lykos discovered he needed to draw energy from other people to stay alive. Hoping to impress Tanya's father so he could marry her, he became a doctor and used his position to draw energy from his patients, eventually working briefly with Professor X to locate mutants (believing mutant energy would sustain him longer).   


Lorna more or less joins the X-Men in this issue, saying there's no other place for her and she belongs with the team, though she hasn't received her codename yet.


A Work in Progress
Larry Trask is in a state of shock, and Chalmers believes putting the medallion back on Larry will make him forget about his mutant power and anti-mutant crusade. The X-Men, presumably because they're more concerned about Alex, seem to be okay with letting the man who unleashed the Sentinels on them go free.


Similarly, Judge Chalmers releases all the captive mutants and lets them go on their merry ways, even the criminal ones.


Chalmers, Trask and the sun-bound Sentinels will be seen next in Avengers 102-104, also penned by Roy Thomas, which is essentially a sequel to this story. In that story, Trask is killed helping the Avengers defeat this batch of Sentinels once and for all. 

It's revealed that in the past Professor X worked with Karl Lykos on something called "Project Mutant". Little is made of this, and it seems to simply be a plot device meant to explain the X-Men bringing Alex to Lykos.

It's specifically mentioned that the Sentinels captured all the known mutants except Changeling and Magneto, which is setting up two future stories.  

Angel returns to the Avenging Angel costume he wore before joining the team (as seen in his backup origin story) because he's angry about the way mutants are being treated. But really, it's just an excuse to get him out of an ugly costume. 


The book's logo gets tweaked by Sam Rosen, using the same Steranko design but with slightly different proportions that will remain the standard for years to come. The tagline "Strangest Teens of All" also returns, and will remain throughout the rest of the book's Silver Age run.

Ah, the Silver Age
Cyclops references the title character from Ben Casey, a hospital drama from the mid-60.

Scott accidentally stumbles into the Danger Room. To be fair, it has been awhile since they were at the mansion...


Dr. Lykos helpfully narrates his transformation into Sauron for us, as only comic book villains can. 


Young Love
Scott and Jean leave Alex with Dr. Lykos and go for a drive in Angel's new car.


Later, Lorna claims she's "no one's girl", which is either a feminist statement or further indication that she's become less enamored of Bobby. 


Human/Mutant Relations
The X-Men take Havok to Dr. Lykos because of his past association with Professor X, fearing that the fact that mutants are still considered a menace by the federal government would cause problems with any other doctor. 


It's in the Mail
With the arrival of Neal Adams, the hyperbole on the letters' page suddenly seems less hyperbolic. 


College boy, eh?


Neal Adams on the creation of Sauron
"Sauron's an interesting one, because at the time of his creation I'd sort of been battling with the Comics Code...The Comics Code wouldn't let you put a vampire in a comic book story. So I wondered if it was possible to come up with a character that was just like a vampire, but would still pass the Comics Code. If you look at Sauron, he's basically a vampire, but an energy vampire...I couldn't have him turn into a bat because that was too obvious. What else flies and has leathery wings? A pterodactyl. Okay. So a pterodactyl bites somebody. He gets sick and seems to die. But he comes back to life by drawing energy from someone else. Sauron was basically a vampire and the Comics Code never spotted it."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p52  

Teebore's Take
As Neal Adams says, Sauron is basically another attempt to get around the Comics Code restrictions regarding vampires (see also: Spider-Man's Morbius, the living vampire) by making Sauron suck energy instead of blood and turn into a Pterodactyl Man instead of a bat. As such, this enables Roy and Neal to tell a vampire story utilizing familiar vampire/monster story tropes: the innocent victim who gets turned, who must fight against his more evil urges before transforming into a full fledged monster preying on the weak. And though Sauron may have been designed as such due to the visual similarity between bats and pteranodons, by making their energy vampire a pre-historic creature, Roy and Neal are also tying this story to the Savage Land, another Lee/Kirby idea that Adams and Thomas will shortly present their own spin on as well.   

13 comments:

  1. "Future stories will show this to be an overstatement."

    Best. Line. Ever.

    You know, i don't know if i knew about the whole Lykos draining Alex to turn into Sauron. If i did, i'd forgotten it.

    Also, i can totes see this happening in our house:

    The ahiers family returns from vacation.
    "Boy, that vacation sure was fun," Anne says
    "I definitely agree, twin sister."
    Suddenly, there is a loud boom followed by crashing sounds.
    "What was that?" Anne asks.
    "I don't know," Sarah says. "Pat! Are you OK?"
    "No," Pat yells. "I fell into the bathroom!"
    "How did that happen?"
    "We've been gone so long, i forgot we even had a bathroom!"

    true story.

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  2. @Falen: Oh my god, I'm still laughing. Bwahaha! That was awesome.

    I even love that you snuck some sixties-style exposition into the dialogue in order to let any new readers know that Anne is your twin sister.

    You know, i don't know if i knew about the whole Lykos draining Alex to turn into Sauron.

    Yeah, that first time, it was Alex. After that, I think it's basically anytime he drains a mutant's energy (rather than a regular human) he becomes Sauron. And I'm pretty sure he eventually reaches a point where he's just Sauron all the time.

    Best. Line. Ever.

    Glad you liked it. I debated putting it in there, but the more I read that panel where he names himself, the more I thought about how not that evil he is.

    I mean, the guy eventually joins Toad's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He's a cool enough just-above-cannon fodder villain, but Magneto or Dr. Doom he's not...

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  3. yeah i thought about trying to make it even more silver-agey, but figured i'd just blow it and would sound weird instead of funny

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  4. @Falen: nah, you pretty much nailed it. Without having a super power to angst about via dialogue, of course.

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  5. everything about this article and the comments are full of win!

    I also wanted to comment on the overstatement line and the fact that Scott forgot about the danger room, but sarah did it much better that i was going to

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  6. @Anne: everything about this article and the comments are full of win!

    Thanks!

    And look, people, it's a big school. And Scott has a lot on his mind, what with his brother being injured, and, you know, the constant crushing angst that comes with his power. I think its entirely understandable that he might happen to forgot which door leads to the Danger Room. ;)

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  7. "I think its entirely understandable that he might happen to forgot which door leads to the Danger Room. ;)"

    He'll forget again, in Uncanny X-Men 129.

    (It's a deliberate homage to the scene in this issue -- the dialogue is exactly the same.)

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  8. I thought I was the first person to ever point the connection out, but I am wrong.

    http://www.thecomicnerd.com/cyclops-is-a-tool/

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  9. @Jason: He'll forget again, in Uncanny X-Men 129.

    Ha, that's right! I completely forgot about that. Thanks.

    I'll make a note to point that out when I get to issue 129.

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  10. Unknown to them, Lykos sucks the energy from people in order to survive, and worked with Xavier in order to locate mutants and feed off their greater-than-human energy. Draining Alex, he transforms, due to the huge amount of energy, into a humanoid Pteranodon ruled by his evil side, and names himself Sauron.

    Of course he does.

    I love the way you state so much of this stuff so matter-of-factly. Even when it's not news to me, it's good for a giggle. In this case the revelation of the pteranodon bite makes some sense out of his transformation (well, given the whole context of superhero "science"), but before that it's even more random.

    Larry Trask is in a state of shock, and Chalmers believes putting the medallion back on Larry will make him forget about his mutant power and anti-mutant crusade.

    Of course it will.

    Angel returns to the Avenging Angel costume he wore before joining the team

    I really like that costume.

    Cyclops references the title character from Ben Casey

    This is more "Ah, the In-Jokes" than "Ah, the Silver Age"; the Ben Casey newspaper strip was Neal Adams' first significant comics job, in 1962.

    "... as I am a science buff who went to college ..."

    Hahahahahahahahahaha!!!

    VW: Sculliki — Muldriki's partner?

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  11. I love the way you state so much of this stuff so matter-of-factly. Even when it's not news to me, it's good for a giggle.

    Yeah, generally speaking, this stuff is humorous enough on it's own that it doesn't need me to force it into some lame joke to be funny. So I just try to be as earnest in the retelling as they were in the telling, and hope everyone finds the humor in it. Glad to know you do.

    I really like that costume.

    I do too. The blue and white one he'll get shortly is nice too (ANYTHING is better than the yellow suspendered abomination he's been wearing) but I always thought the red played off Beast and Cyclops' color schemes nicely.

    This is more "Ah, the In-Jokes" than "Ah, the Silver Age"; the Ben Casey newspaper strip was Neal Adams' first significant comics job, in 1962.

    Wow, I did not know that. Thanks!

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  12. Lykos intentionally names his alter ego after the villain from Lord of the Rings because he's just as evil. Future stories will show this to be an overstatement.

    Oh lord, you want to talk about villains overestimating themselves? Try reading Nova (Vol.1) #4 some time. We get the Corrupter, who possesses "all the evil of the ages!" And don't even get me started on his costume (shudder).

    @Teebore:
    I do too. The blue and white one he'll get shortly is nice too (ANYTHING is better than the yellow suspendered abomination he's been wearing) but I always thought the red played off Beast and Cyclops' color schemes nicely.


    As far as I'm concerned, the blue-and-white is the defining costume for Angel. With the possible exception of his X-Force Archangel costume, I really feel that this costume suits his look perfectly, and it looks really nice.

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  13. A bit late to the party...but isn't that Jean, of all people, commenting on where the Chnageling is?

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