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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

X-amining X-Men #94

"The Doomsmith Scenario!/"Death O'er Valhalla High!"
August  1975 

In a Nutshell
The old X-Men leave and the new X-Men go off to fight Count Nefaria

Writer: Chris Claremont
Plotter-Editor: Len Wein
Artist: Dave Cockum, Peter Iro (co-inks, uncredited)  
Inker: Bob McLeod
Colorist: Phil Rachelson
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski

Plot
Professor X congratulates both the old and new X-Men on their victory over Krakoa, but is stunned when Sunfire angrily quits. After the new X-Men agree to stay, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel, Havok and Lorna Dane all announce that they are leaving as well, to pursue their own lives. Cyclops is torn between leaving with Jean and the duty he feels towards the X-Men. Ultimately, when the original X-Men leave, he decides to stay and begins rigorously training the new X-Men.  


Meanwhile, Count Nefaria and his Ani-Men breach the NORAD complex in Valhalla Mountain, Colorado and take control, threatening to unleash America's nuclear arsenal on the world unless they receive a ransom from every country on Earth. With the Avengers otherwise occupied, Beast asks the X-Men to respond, and they depart to oppose Nefaria. As they approach NORAD, he detects their approach and uses the weapons at his command to shoot down their plane. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Chris Claremont receives his first credit on the book, for scripting over Len Wein's plot. This is also longtime X-Men and iconic letterer Tom Orzechowski first issue of the book.

This issue and the next were originally intended to appear as one story in Giant Size X-Men #2, with the adventures of the new X-Men continuing in quarterly Giant Size issues. Between the publication of Giant Size X-Men #1 and this issue, however, Marvel decided the Giant Size quarterlies weren't profitable enough, so the X-Men were restored to their original title, to be published bi-monthly, picking up where the numbering of the reprint title left off. The story intended for Giant Size X-Men #2 was split in two and had some additional pages added to it.

Sunfire quits the team in this issue's opening pages, and is largely a jerk about it, as do Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel, Havok and Lorna Dane, leaving Cyclops as the only remaining original member of the team. Angel and Iceman will shortly join the short-lived, eclectic superhero team the Champions of Los Angeles.


Count Nefaria returns, bringing with him new henchmen in the form of the Ani-Men: Frog Man (called "Croaker" in this issue and the next), Bird Man, Ape Man (called "Gort" in this issue and the next), Cat Man and Dragonfly. This issue is Dragonfly's first appearance, but all the others appeared previously in other comics. 


The words "The All-New, All-Different" appear above the X-Men logo for the first time. 

A Work in Progress
While Cyclops has been the nominal field leader of the X-Men since about issue #7, this is the first issue where he really starts to feel like the X-Men's leader, in large part because it is Cyclops, not Professor X, who leads the new X-Men's training sessions in the Danger Room.


Furry Beast appears in X-Men for the first time, in a brief cameo in which he asks the X-Men to take on Nefaria in place of the Avengers.


Cyclops' piloting skills are established for the first time, as he's seen flying the X-Men's jet, and said jet is also revealed to be a modified SR-71 Blackbird, both of which are likely the doing of Claremont who, we will see, is something of an airplane nut. 


The backup story following the reprint of this issue in Classic X-Men #2 retroactively establishes the beginning of the close friendship between Storm and Jean Grey, something we'll see develop over time but, this backup aside, involves a lot more telling than showing.

That 70s Comic 
The Silver Age might be over but we're still getting hilarious expository dialogue.


Thunderbird has taken to calling Cyclops "One-Eye", which Cyclops angrily corrects. This reminds me of how commenter and friend of the blog Joan Crawford refers to Cyclops as "Orbo".


Claremontisms 
Claremont likes to reference the ethnicity of his characters by sprinkling words of their native language into their dialogue; we get the first example of that here, as Colossus refers to Professor X as "Gospodin Xavier."


Young Love
As Jean leaves the school, she and Scott profess their love for one another and kiss on panel for the first time (one would hope they've kissed behind the scenes already, but this is the first time it appears in the comic).


The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops
As Cyclops muses over whether to leave the X-Men or stay behind, he curses his power and clenches his fists with angst.


Human/Mutant Relations
The army is less than thrilled when the X-Men show up instead of the Avengers.


For Sale
Snap into a Slim Jim!


Chris Claremont on being assigned X-Men
"Len decided he'd had enough of being Editor-in-Chief. He gave notice and part of his severance package was to write four books-Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Thor and Hulk. Len said he could write a book a week, but X-Men would have been too much. X-Men was originally supposed to be a quarterly, which he could have handled, but then they decided that Giant Size quarterlies were not profitable. They made X-Men a bi-monthly book and Len felt he just didn't have the space in his schedule to do it. It was also a very low profile assignment since it was only a bi-monthly title. No one had any great expectations for the book, but the new X-Men were great characters. So, God smiled and Len tossed it into my lap. It was like a dream come true."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p61-62

Teebore's Take
Chris Claremont gets his first credit on X-Men, though he's only scripting over Len Wein's plot, a plot which, like Giant Size X-Men #1, is very much of its time (even a little retro). Count Nefaria remains the Silver Age villain, employing a team of underlings in the service of a grandiose plot whilst twirling his mustache. Last time, it was Plant Man, the Eel, etc. taking Washington DC hostage; this time, it's Frog Man and Dragon Fly capturing NORAD. Same stuff, different story.

Left with a fairly routine plot, Claremont does what he can via the dialogue and character interaction to leave his mark and jazz things up, though as Jason Powell points out, his early efforts here at the kind interpersonal drama that would define his run are clunky at best, coming for the most part via the Cyclops/Thunderbird antagonism. Still, glimpses of what Claremont is capable of and what is to come are present: there is a nice, easily overlooked scene between Nightcrawler and Cyclops, Scott and Jean's relationship feels more real than it ever has, and for the first time, Cyclops is really shown to be the leader of the team.

21 comments:

  1. Ha! Orbo.

    Do you think cyke feels like a dick later, scolding Thunderbird, when he bites it?

    Also, i think that is the most angsty panel from Scott ever. Or at least so far.

    And why would you leave the x-men just to join another superhero team? Lame-o

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  2. I think it's weird that they have Sunfire join the team in one issue and then he leaves in the very next. (I feel like Marvel did a lot of that stuff in the old days, but I could be wrong.)

    It's like the reverse of the first Defenders issue where the rest of the Defenders wanted to recruit Silver Surfer but he had accidentally knocked himself unconscious (not kidding). Of course, a few issues later Silver Surfer was a Defender.

    Also, I hate the English language. Were you saying that the X-Men comic was being published twice a month or every other month?

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  3. @Falen: Do you think cyke feels like a dick later, scolding Thunderbird, when he bites it?

    Or maybe, if he's scolded him MORE, he wouldn't have died.

    Either way, there's angst ahead.

    Also, i think that is the most angsty panel from Scott ever. Or at least so far.

    It's a close second to the time his angst woke up the Super Adaptoid. That second panel especially is like the quintessential comic book angst panel.

    And why would you leave the x-men just to join another superhero team? Lame-o

    To be fair, when they left the X-Men, they didn't know Marvel was going to want to shortly assemble a hodgepodge team of random characters.

    @Dr. Bitz: I think it's weird that they have Sunfire join the team in one issue and then he leaves in the very next.

    Yeah, it is weird, and I've never read anything about the thought process behind it. I mean, the death of Thunderbird, which we'll get to next issue, was something they had in mind from the beginning to serve a clear purpose, and is well documented. But I have no idea why they decided to add Sunfire to the team then write him off immediately thereafter. It's not like he had another comic to get back to...

    It's like the reverse of the first Defenders issue where the rest of the Defenders wanted to recruit Silver Surfer but he had accidentally knocked himself unconscious

    Man, that still cracks me the hell up.

    Were you saying that the X-Men comic was being published twice a month or every other month?

    Bi-monthly: once every two months
    Bi-weekly: once every two weeks

    One of those things comics taught me, but it confused the hell out of me when I was a kid.

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  4. Not according to Merriam-Webster:
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bimonthly

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  5. @Dr. Bitz: You'll notice Merriam-Webster oh-so-helpfully lists two completely different definitions for bimonthly.

    The definitions for bimonthly and biweekly that I gave are how comic book publishing (and, I think, magazine publishing as a whole) use the words, Merriam-Webster be damned, apparently.

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  6. DAMN YOUR EYES!!!

    Too late.

    "As Cyclops muses over whether to leave the X-Men or stay behind, he curses his power and clenches his fists with angst."

    Tee-hee! I love it.

    I often curse my own powers of procrastination and clench my fists with...meh, forget it, too much work.


    I don't get the Slim Jim advertisement. Why does it matter if you're a werewolf?? I'm so confused.

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  7. man cyke needs to get over himself
    i love his whole 'i'm the only one who can't pass as human because of these damn eyes!'
    1- quartz glasses
    2- Beast trumps your eyes

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  8. @Hannah: I don't get the Slim Jim advertisement. Why does it matter if you're a werewolf?? I'm so confused.

    Ha! I was hoping someone would comment on that.

    I think the idea is supposed to be that if you're hungry and a werewolf, you'll just feast on man-flesh, but if you're hungry and NOT a werewolf, well, then, a Slim Jim is for you.

    @Anne: Beast trumps your eyes

    To be fair, Beast is now an Avenger, and thus, because the general populace of the Marvel Universe is stupid, beloved despite being a mutant.

    Which makes Cyclops, by default, the freakiest X-Man.

    At least of the old ones. Cuz, you know, Nightcawler...

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  9. ha! true about Beast AND Nightcrawler

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  10. I love nightcrawler. Fact. Man, i am SO excited about the future of these posts!

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  11. @Falen: I love nightcrawler

    I feel bad for Nightcrawler, cuz whenever I think of the "new X-Men" I always think of Storm, Wolverine and Colossus long before I get to Nightcrawler, even though I like Nightcrawler, as a character, far more than Storm or Colossus, at least in these early goings.

    It might be because when I first started reading X-Men comics, Nightcrawler was firmly entrenched in Excalibur so that's become my default way of thinking about him.

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  12. It's so great to see Orz's lettering. For me it's as much a part of the neo-classic X-Men era as the Cockrum, and later Byrne/Austin, artwork. So far Cockrum's pencils (under various inkers) are very uneven — frankly, not always pretty — but even though Nightcrawler has yet to evolve into his more familiar, less demonic look, so many of the dynamic Cockrum poses are there and the looks of the other characters are pretty consistently established.

    Joan calling Cyclops "Orbo" is a hoot. [Where has she been, apart from needling my blog on occasion (and, likely, drinking while shouting at passers-by from her windows)?] I always find Thunderbird and others calling him "One-Eye" annoying, though, because during this period Cyclops' ruby-quartz visor isn't colored in solidly but rather depicted with two glowing red spots where his eyes are surrounded by black — rather defeating the idea behind the whole "Cyclops" moniker altogether.

    I used to love me the meaty Slim Jim goodness. [You can't resist that one, Joanie!] The idea behind the werewolf reference, Hannah, is that if you are a werewolf you have other things to bite — but when the rest of us get cravings for a chewy, meat snack, not being indiscriminately violent creatures of the night, well, thankfully we have Slim Jims. At some point there were more ads actually depicting rather friendly-looking werewolves (vampires, too) drawn by famed Mad artist Jack Davis.

    My favorite moment in the issue, paraphrased:
    "You are in restricted airspace."
    "We're good guys."
    "Okey-doke!"

    VW: tudier — adj. [too dee ur] 1. Having more sass. 2. (cap., Tudier) More like the line of Henry VII.

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  13. I've had this bi-monthly / bi-weekly conversation before. While the terms are both defined in both directions, as Teebore says periodicals publishers in my experience tend to use them in the "less frequent" senses: Bi-monthly pretty exclusively means every other month. Bi-weekly used to be seen as more confusing, and often replaced with twice monthly or even the archaic fortnightly; if you really mean twice per week, you tend to say that.

    I can't argue with you over The Champions as "a hodgepodge team of random characters," Teebore, but they're in the sweet spot of my personal Golden Age of Comics where rationality and even quality have nothing to do with my affections.

    The cover to this issue, penciled by Gil Kane and inked by Dave Cockrum, deserves mention, by the way, not only for the curious lack of Thunderbird among the head shots — and the in-retrospect-hilarious absence of Wolverine from the main figures, given that he'll be the breakout selling-point character in decades to come — but for the sheer dynamism that surely parted many kids from their allowance at the spinner rack even if they'd never heard of the X-Men before.

    VW: antick — n. [an tik] 1. Ye olde foolish behaviour. 2. Half ant, half tick.

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  14. Teebore: It might be because when I first started reading X-Men comics, Nightcrawler was firmly entrenched in Excalibur so that's become my default way of thinking about him.

    Whoa. I know you're 10-12 years younger than I am, but I tend to forget what that means translated into pop-culture terms. 8^) So this "All-New, All-Different X-Men" era was history to you the way the launch of the first series was to me — except actually more significant in the scheme of things in every other way than actually introducing the original concept.

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  15. I'm just seeing some of the later comments now, because I originally wrote up mine a while back and couldn't post them.

    Teebore: I think the idea is supposed to be that if you're hungry and a werewolf, you'll just feast on man-flesh, but if you're hungry and NOT a werewolf, well, then, a Slim Jim is for you.

    You said it better than I did.

    Teebore: To be fair, Beast is now an Avenger, and thus, because the general populace of the Marvel Universe is stupid, beloved despite being a mutant.

    Also well said and something I commented upon in the previous X-Men post, which I just realized I have even more to say about if the WiFi holds up...

    PS to Hannah: I always love a good Young Frankenstein reference, and that's one of my favorites.

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  16. And PS to Teebore (or anyone who cares to reply): So many of the advertisements in these issues are ridiculously nostalgic for me. When you re-read comics from your own youth, do you feel a pang when you see similar material, whereas older stuff just looks intriguingly bygone and newer stuff looks like junk?

    VW: eurth — n. [yurth] The ground bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, Asia, and Antarctica.

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  17. @Blam: So far Cockrum's pencils (under various inkers) are very uneven — frankly, not always pretty

    Agreed. Cockrum's style has grown on me, but these early issues are very uneven. I find that I like his closeups far more than the detailed panels with multiple figures in them.

    [Where has she been, apart from needling my blog on occasion (and, likely, drinking while shouting at passers-by from her windows)?]

    I dunno, but if you find her, tell her to put down the moonshine and come say hello!

    during this period Cyclops' ruby-quartz visor isn't colored in solidly but rather depicted with two glowing red spots where his eyes are surrounded by black — rather defeating the idea behind the whole "Cyclops" moniker altogether.

    Frankly, the "Cyclops" moniker has always been a bit dodgy, though especially at this time.

    Whoa. I know you're 10-12 years younger than I am, but I tend to forget what that means translated into pop-culture terms. 8^) So this "All-New, All-Different X-Men" era was history to you the way the launch of the first series was to me

    Indeed. I didn't start reading X-Men regularly until 1992, near the end of the Jim Lee era. Everything before that has been history to me.

    Though I definitely came to X-Men later than most. I'd read comics throughout my childhood, random issues of things I'd pick up here and there at newsstands or grocery stores, but it wasn't until I was almost a teenager that I started reading comics (and X-Men specifcally) regularly, so I came to it even later than my relative age would suggest. :)

    So many of the advertisements in these issues are ridiculously nostalgic for me. When you re-read comics from your own youth, do you feel a pang when you see similar material, whereas older stuff just looks intriguingly bygone and newer stuff looks like junk?

    Absolutely; there are ads from comics that fall within a group of issues (the stuff around the time I started reading regularly and the issues a few years before them, which are the back issues I acquired first and read the most often) which trigger almost as much nostalgic affection as the stories themselves do.

    But there are some great ads in these issues as well. I took screen caps of five or six from this issue alone, to get sprinkled in throughout the next few posts.

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  18. I love these early "All New, All Different" issues. Chris Claremont is very raw in his writing style, and though I like his later work, there's something exciting about reading his scripts before he became the accomplished professional we would later know.

    Cockrum's art is also somewhat raw (possibly due to the various inkers mentioned in previous comments), but it really complements the similar nature of Claremont's scripts. I love Byrne and Austin, but I think Cockrum does a lot to set the tone of what is to come in these early issues.

    P.S.: Angel and Iceman didn't exactly leave the X-Men just to join the Champions. Champions establishes that they move to Los Angeles and enroll at UCLA, where they just sort of bump inot Hercules, Ghost Rider, and Black Widow, and form the team on the spur of the moment.

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  19. @Matt: I love Byrne and Austin, but I think Cockrum does a lot to set the tone of what is to come in these early issues.

    I agree. I would never call Cockrum my favorite X-Men artist, but I wouldn't want to change what he did in these early issues as well. His work is just as important to the evolution of the X-Men as anything that came later.

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  20. I always thought that it sucked that Sunfire quit the team here, he has a fair bit of potential which I don't think he's ever really hit. Hopefully his upcoming joining of Uncanny Avengers will remedy that.

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  21. @Harry: I always thought that it sucked that Sunfire quit the team here, he has a fair bit of potential which I don't think he's ever really hit.

    Agreed. I remain surprised that no writer has ever thought to toss him back onto the team for an extended period of time. The closest we've ever got was AoA, and Milligan's run, when Sunfire was featured as Horsemen of Apocalypse.

    It'll be interesting to see how long he sticks around in Uncanny Avengers.

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