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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

X-amining X-Men #101

"Like a Phoenix, From the Ashes!"
October 1976

In a Nutshell
Jean Grey transforms into Phoenix.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer: John Constanza
Colorist: Bonnie Wilford
Editor: Archie Goodwin

Plot
The Starcore shuttle breaches the atmosphere and heads for New York, crashing onto the tarmac of JFK airport before bouncing out into Jamaica Bay. The X-Men and Dr. Corbeau escape the wreckage, but there's no sign of Jean. Suddenly, from out of the water where the shuttle sank, Jean flies out of the water, declaring herself to be Phoenix. She then collapses, and as the X-Men drag themselves out of the bay en route to a hospital, Professor X covers their escape telepathically.


The X-Men gather at the hospital, awaiting word on Jean. After the doctors declare that, with rest and good care, she'll be fine, Professor X sends the X-Men off on a vacation while he and Cyclops remain with Jean. Banshee suggests his old ancestral home in Ireland as a destination. After spending a week sightseeing in Dublin, the X-Men arrive at the castle, much to the pleasure of Banshee's evil cousin Black Tom, who watches them arrive. Later that evening, as the X-Men gather for dinner, the floor suddenly gives way. They find themselves deep in the bowels of the castle, face to face with Black Tom and his partner, Juggernaut. Realizing how deep underground they are, Storm's claustrophobia overwhelms her, and she collapses, screaming in fear...

Firsts and Other Notables
Phoenix appears for the first time. Though the intent at the time (as will shortly become clear) was that while piloting the shuttle through the solar storm a dying Jean Grey's powers were supercharged to cosmic levels such that she was able to save her teammates and be reborn as Phoenix, later stories retconned that explanation, establishing instead the idea of the Phoenix Force as a primal, universal being which was drawn to a dying Jean Grey and offered to save her life and the life of her friends in exchange for the opportunity to experience human sensations. The Phoenix Force placed Jean Grey in a cocoon intended to heal her injuries, then copied Jean's physical form and transferred her psyche into it. It is the Phoenix Force, then, in the form of Jean Grey (acting as and fully believing herself to be Jean Grey), which emerges from the shuttle crash in this issue while the real Jean lies unconscious and healing on the bottom of Jamaica Bay, at least according to Marvel's current official history.

Chris Claremont, despite being initially upset by the Phoenix Force retcon and all that it entailed, nevertheless did his best to make the retcon fit within established stories, and to that end, used the backup story in the Classic X-Men reprint of issue #100 (which was published in 1987, shortly after the retcon was first established) to elaborate upon the details of the Phoenix Force/Jean Grey agreement, establishing that Jean was motivated by her love for Scott, showing the duplication of Jean's consciousness in a new body, and underlining the fact that the original Jean's healing body still contained a spark of her soul.  

However, this series of posts has always been more concerned with the publication of X-Men from a chronological perspective rather than a perspective more concerned with strict continuity, and as such, future "X-aminations" will continue to refer to and regard Jean Grey/Phoenix (a few chronology-busting notations such as these aside) as would the readers of the time (that is, as simply a more powerful version of the character) until such a time that this retrospective reaches the publication of the issues which officially establish the Phoenix Force retcon.

The panel in which Jean emerges as Phoenix will become one of the more iconic X-Men images.


In non-Pheonix related notables, Black Tom Cassidy also appears in full for the first time (after his brief, shadowed appearance in issue #99), and brings with him the return of Juggernaut to these pages.


To a much, much lesser extent, this issue also marks the first appearance of Cassidy Keep, Banshee's ancestral home.

After publishing a couple issues with two different prices on the covers ($.25 and $.30), the price of the comic "officially" rises to thirty cents with this issue.

A Work in Progress
Storm transforms her costume into street clothes by "re-polarizing" the unstable molecules of her costume.


Similarly, Cyclops notes that Jean created her new Phoenix costume out of nothing. Added pages in the Classic X-Men reprint of this issue elaborate further, saying that Jean is now so powerful she can telekinetically re-arrange molecules, transforming her costume to street clothes and back again.

Professor X tells Moira that when he uses his powers lately, he can't help but be overwhelmed by the recurring dreams of aliens and space battles.

 
The letter Banshee's lawyer sent him back in issue #99 reaches him in this issue, prompting the X-Men to visit Banshee's castle. As he watches them arrive, Black Tom forces Eamon O'Donnell, the seneschal of the castle, to help him by reminding him that Tom is holding "the families" hostage. Later, Banshee senses something amiss with Eamon after asking Eamon about the families, but decides to wait until after dinner to call him on it. We'll shortly learn to what "the families" refer. 

That 70s Comic
Wolverine buys a bouquet of flowers for a buck.


Dr. Corbeau, a scientist/astronaut, is assisting the medical doctor in treating Jean, for some reason.


After Professor X announces the X-Men must go on vacation, Banshee suddenly manifests a letter saying he's inherited his ancestral home. Apparently the post office delivered it to him at the hospital.


Wolverine's idea of formal wear: a cowboy hat and a denim suit.


Black Tom attacks the X-Men with the oldest trick in the super-villain book: the old hidden trap door routine. Still unclear: if Black Tom installed that feature, or if it came with the castle. As they fall, Banshee orders everyone into their costumes, and proceeds to somehow just slip out of his clothes.


Claremontisms
One of the things Claremont is known for nowadays is his writing of strong, well rounded female characters who stand equal to or even, in some cases, superior to, their male teammates. We get an early glimpse of that in this issue, which nips the small Colossus/Storm romantic subplot in the bud along the way. As Nightcrawler and Colossus playfully argue over who gets to escort Storm to dinner, Storm declares she is no one's date, and that the three of them will go to dinner as equals. It's a fairly revolutionary statement on Claremont's part, as he's essentially declaring that, unlike the traditional portrayal of females in comics, this female isn't concerned about getting paired off with one of the male members of the cast.


Also, Nightcrawler exclaims, "unglaublich!" for the first time.

Artistic Achievements
Cockrum turns out a gorgeous full page spread of Cassidy Keep as the X-Men arrive.


Young Love
Needless to say, Scott is drowning in angst over the fate of Jean and realizes that it is her, not the X-Men, which give his life meaning.


Later, he breaks down after learning she'll be alright.
 

Wolverine's feelings for Jean are made explicit (after being hinted at in the last issue), and he picks up some flowers before visiting her at the hospital, hoping to surprise her. This is also the first time he's referred to a woman as a "frail".


There's actually a rather sad moment when, after getting cold feet once he sees all the other X-Men at the hospital already, Wolverine drops the flowers in a trash can in the background of a panel.


The past romantic relationship between Professor X and Moira MacTaggert is revealed for the for the first time, in the same panel which references Xavier's creepy feelings for Jean for the first time since X-Men #3 (thankfully, it'll be even longer before they're brought up again).

Seriously, Chuck, keep this stuff to yourself...

"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!"
Professor X is back to his old mind-wiping tricks, facilitating the X-Men's departure from the crash of the shuttle with minimum attention. 

For Sale
Spidey web shooters!


Okay...


It's in the Mail
This guy hates the new X-Men, and has some funny ideas about improving the book.


Dave Cockrum on Phoenix
"Cockrum noted in The X-Men Companion that he'd planned for the Phoenix' outfit to be white, rather than the printed green, with gold trim, but was overruled by Archie Goodwin, then the latest, and perhaps most respected, masochist to assume the position of editor-in-chief at Marvel; Goodwin preferred to keep the classic Marvel Girl colors, in part, Cockrum said, out of concern that the other side of of the comic-book page would be visible through the white parts of the uniform. And figuring out such cosmetic details was the easy part, Cockrum said. 'We agonized for a long time over the color, and once we figured out the color we agonized over what the hell she did...I don't know if we made it all that clear to the readers, but we knew that she died up there and recreated herself.' While wanting to bump up her power level, though -- something that Cockrum had earlier discussed with Wein -- he and Claremont didn't know exactly what that power level should be able to accomplish, 'so we left her in the hospital for several issues while we thought about it.'"

Lamken, Brian Saner. "The Phoenix Effect: 25 Years of the All New Uncanny X-Men." Comicology Fall 2000: 29.

"Early on Phoenix was just Jean with additional power. She wasn't a separate entity. But even then, Chris was thinking that Jean wouldn't be able to cope with her power and would become almost like a drug addict. She would become hooked on the Phoenix power and eventually have to be cured of it."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p91.

Chris Claremont on Phoenix
"Dave and I had been kicking around the idea. We wanted to take a normal person and kick him or her up to the level of a Thor or a Silver Surfer without going through the Stations of the Cross you need to evolve to the point where you could handle the power. With great power comes great responsibility, but absolute power corrupts absolutely. How do you shuffle those two concepts together? What happens if you don't? We also wanted to put a major character at serious risk. We wanted to take the audience right to the edge, have them worry about what's going to happen. We didn't want to the readers to ever take the book or the characters for granted. We wanted to establish a sense that even the franchise characters in X-Men were not safe. If we could establish that, then I'd figured we'd done something that no series had ever done before."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p66-67.

Teebore's Take
In many ways, this issue is the most retro issue featuring the new X-Men yet, hearkening back to the original X-Men's Silver Age tales. We've got Professor X mindwiping crowds, Scott drowning in angst and the other X-Men shuffled off on a vacation that gets interrupted by a super-villain, complete with trap door. Yet at the same time, it is a decidedly modern comic, the most non-Silver Age issue yet, and the first X-Men issue of its kind: the story here is built entirely around the characters and their interactions with each other. While there is action aplenty (the sequence in which the shuttle crash lands and Phoenix emerges is as exciting as anything that's come before), this is the first time X-Men does not feature, in some capacity, a super-hero/super-villain battle. Yes, the X-Men come face-to-face with Black Tom and Juggernaut, but their actual confrontation is saved for the next issue. In the interim, Claremont and Cockrum spend their time establishing the mystery of Phoenix, deepening our understanding of the characters, and setting up the next storyline, all without a single punch thrown. 

It is the first issue of its kind, but it's certainly not the last, and in many ways, X-Men #101 is a template for the kind of comic book into which Chris Claremont and his artistic collaborators will eventually transform the series, a comic unlike any other at the time, where the beginnings and endings of stories flow together to form a truly ongoing narrative tapestry, where bold and exciting action walks hand-in-hand with quieter moments between characters, and where the development of those characters is just as important as the super-hero slugfests.

23 comments:

  1. O...M...G...
    I just wrote this huge-o comment, and stupid blogger lost it when it decided my cookies were turned off (EFF Blogger! They're SO on!). so let me see if i can remember wth i said...

    first- the guy who wrote that letter is a d-bag. I hope he's choking on his words
    second- wolverine's denim suit was horrendous. i never want to see it again
    third- The phoenix saga is such a classic, even though it's crazy. I remember being suprised that the movies went that direction, since i thought it was too crazy to handle well (which may have been the case if X3 is an indication)
    4th- the caption you added under pic of Chuck talking about Jean had me LMFAO
    5th- wth is up with the 'very, very special people'?! it's like- did you have to add the additional 'very'? wasn't 'very special' good enough? or even just 'special people'. jeeze
    6th- I continue to be exicted about where we're at in the books. EXCITEMENT!

    that is all

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  2. Yeah, that fan was a d-bag. But what's interesting to me is that the only new X-Man he liked was Wolverine whose only been around for like 8 issues.

    I know you've been paraphrasing the stories, but I don't recall a Wolerine-centric story yet.

    To me it's just foreshadowing the fact that Wolverine will become the most popular and probably the most iconic X-Man of all time. And I also think that, at the core of his popularity, is the fact that he's a dude with big metal claws and people think that's pretty bad ass.

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  3. @Anne: wolverine's denim suit was horrendous. i never want to see it again

    Not only do I want to see it again, I want to WEAR it!

    I remember being suprised that the movies went that direction, since i thought it was too crazy to handle well (which may have been the case if X3 is an indication)

    I was COMPLETELY surprised when they introduced the Phoenix stuff into the movies. And yes, X3 most definitely bore out the idea that maybe they shouldn't have (though maybe, MAYBE, Singer could have made it work if he'd stuck around instead of going off to make the snorefest that was Superman Returns).

    wth is up with the 'very, very special people'?! it's like- did you have to add the additional 'very'? wasn't 'very special' good enough? or even just 'special people'.

    I just don't know. As soon as I saw that ad I was like, "I have to include this" but couldn't even wrap my head around it.

    @Dr. Bitz: I know you've been paraphrasing the stories, but I don't recall a Wol[v]erine-centric story yet.

    Yup, Wolverine hasn't made it into the spotlight yet. In fact, thus far, he's had a tendency to get his ass kicked more than anything. His biggest moment so far has been disemboweling robut Marvel Girl in #100.

    Wolverine won't really come into his own until shortly after fellow Canadian John Byrne becomes the book's artist. Wolverine's first real spotlight issue is #109, and as the book goes on, Wolverine gradually becomes more of the cool, mysterious badass we think of him as under Byrne's influence.

    Something I keep meaning to bring up but haven't is that all the creators at this time had a favorite character. Cockrum LOVED Nightcrawler and HATED Wolverine to the point where he urged Claremont to write him out of the book.

    Byrne, of course, loved Wolverine simply because he was Canadian and felt there was some potential there, and Byrne is a contributing factor to Wolverine's prolonged popularity.

    Claremont's favorite was Cyclops, and, I think, Storm, simply because she gets the most characterization of the new X-Men the soonest.

    And I also think that, at the core of his popularity, is the fact that he's a dude with big metal claws and people think that's pretty bad ass.

    Indeed. I mean, put aside everything else, and just that, right on the surface, is enough for the character to at least grab your attention.

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  4. Son of a bitching BLOGGER! I just left a long comment (not good, just long but hell, I give what I can, you know?) and this little asshole just said it can't post my comment

    >:i

    Haha, that's an angry man smoking.

    >:r

    Hehe, and here he is chewing gum while being mad.

    <:C

    And now he is very sad at his birthday party.


    I feel a little better :)

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  5. i feel your pain, Joan

    Blogger is being a real douche canoe today

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  6. @Joan: Son of a bitching BLOGGER! I just left a long comment (not good, just long but hell, I give what I can, you know?) and this little asshole just said it can't post my comment

    That sucks. I wonder what the hell is up with Blogger?

    Well, at any rate, we're happy to get what we can. :)

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  7. Ok,when i saw Wolverine's formal wear, first i LMAO, but then i threw up in my mouth a little bit.
    And you know, i could buy that a powerful enough telekinetic could rearrange the molecules to change clothes. But not Storm. Not in a million years

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  8. @Sarah: but then i threw up in my mouth a little bit.

    You threw up because it was so awesome, right?

    And you know, i could buy that a powerful enough telekinetic could rearrange the molecules to change clothes. But not Storm. Not in a million years

    To be fair, it's only because her costume is made of unstable molecules and polarization and other vaguely scientific words. It's not like she can lightening bolt regular clothes into different clothes and, presumably, it only works on her costume and not EVERY costume made of unstable molecules.

    It's still kinda lame though...

    (Oh, and incidentally, that added scene in Classic X-Men which mentions telekinetically rearranging molecules is pretty much the sole inspiration for Malcolm's power in Fate Lost).

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  9. My father had the "Very, Very Special People Book" and showed it to me when I was a kid. Scarred me for life. Why would they make that available through a comic book?

    Loving these posts. This is still my favorite era of the X-Men.

    - mortsleam

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  10. I think you hit every single aspect of the issue I'd taken notes on and more, except for one. Nice writeup!

    A caption on Pg. 6 is the one other thing. It reads, "... Except for the fact that the X-Men have always been notoriously hard to kill..."

    I'm looking at that and marveling (Ha!) how quickly Claremont forgot #95. I mean, for comic books, good ol' John Proudstar bit it ridiculously easily.

    @Teebore: the idea of the Phoenix Force

    You know, I have to admit that the retcon works really well with Jean's dialogue on these pages — her being overwhelmed by memories and stuff — which is very impressive given that it wasn't planned in the least.

    @Teebore: Storm transforms her costume into street clothes by "re-polarizing" the unstable molecules of her costume.

    Riiiiight.

    And then Dr. Corbeau says that "disguises aren't going to help us much" because "this is the second time the X-Men have made a mess of Kennedy Airport." Given that Professor X has just said, "Perhaps the fewer costumed super-beings present when the police arrive, the better," if the point of the disguises are indeed (as the point of disguises tends to be) to hide your identity, and if the disguises actually work, um, yeah, Dr. Corbeau, they should help a a great deal. Of course, Xavier ends up using his mental powers to cloud everyone's minds as to their participation, so moot point; let's chalk up the redundant panels to Claremont and Cockrum likely working "Marvel style".

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  11. @Teebore: Wolverine's idea of formal wear: a cowboy hat and a denim suit.

    Don't forget the gloves and bolo tie...!

    @Teebore: Banshee orders everyone into their costumes, and proceeds to somehow just slip out of his clothes.

    He screams his way out of them. Are you not paying attention?

    @Teebore: Wolverine's feelings for Jean are made explicit (after being hinted at in the last issue), and he picks up some flowers before visiting her at the hospital, hoping to surprise her. This is also the first time he's referred to a woman as a "frail".

    Wolverine's thought balloons here and the captions talking to him — well, to us, about him, in that adorably earnest old-school Roy Thomas & Friends fashion — are so inconsistent with later revelations about his past. Logan has indeed been "hot-an'-bothered over a frail" and has indeed had friends, although the stoicism and denial aren't entirely out of character.

    @Teebore: The past romantic relationship between Professor X and Moira MacTaggert is revealed for the for the first time, in the same panel which references Xavier's creepy feelings for Jean for the first time since X-Men #3.

    I was really surprised to see that, especially having heard Byrne discuss how Claremont knew and/or cared little about X-Men history before the Neal Adams run — not that the men are always the most reliable sources on one another. 8^)

    @Teebore: [T]he price of the comic "officially" rises to thirty cents with this issue.

    I know that 30¢ is just one-tenth of what the least expensive comic books cost today, but it was a 20% increase and meant only three instead of four issues for a dollar (with, granted, 10¢ left over).

    The Bullpen Bulletins page also announces that Archie Goodwin is now Marvel Comics' editor-in-chief. After Stan Lee held the position for over three decades — Vince Fago taking over pro tem for a few years during Lee's military service early on — in the space of the next six years Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Gerry Conway, and Goodwin would rotate through the position fairly quickly. When Goodwin was succeeded by Jim Shooter, another editorial tier was finally instituted so that the chief wasn't directly charged with the increasingly impossible task of overseeing each title directly; many of the editors were also the writers, who at the time were also the former editors-in-chief.

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  12. @Teebore: Spidey web shooters!

    Every time I see those ads — remember, I have a lot of comic books from this era — I wonder why they're being loaded with ketchup.

    @Teebore: Okay...

    Seriously! I read that page and immediately thought of Joan.

    @Teebore: In many ways, this issue is the most retro issue featuring the new X-Men yet, hearkening back to the original X-Men's Silver Age tales. ... Yet at the same time, it is a decidedly modern comic, the most non-Silver Age issue yet, and the first X-Men issue of its kind: the story here is built entirely around the characters and their interactions with each other.

    My thoughts exactly. I won't go so far as to say there's no actual plot in this issue, but it's basically subplot / superplot all the way — the resolution of the last issue, the setup of the next issue, and of course the launch of the whole Phoenix shebang. We get plenty of character bits (most of them heavy-handed) but, as you point out, no fight scene. The soap opera is not exactly uncommon to Marvel superhero titles, but Claremont and his collaborators indeed perfect it in particularly satisfying fashion; X-Men is elevated to the rank of phenomenon as much for the characterization than for the big-picture adventure. Over at DC, Legion of Super-Heroes under Levitz & Giffen and New Teen Titans under Wolfman & Pérez will become fan favorites by dint of similar recipes, although down the road the mainstream superhero genre will suffer (both creatively and ultimately financially, when long-time readers finally drop books that have become too dense for new readers to join in progress) of being nothing but serialization.

    I went to high school with Cassidy Keep.

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  13. @Dr. Bitz: Yeah, that fan was a d-bag. But what's interesting to me is that the only new X-Man he liked was Wolverine whose only been around for like 8 issues.

    And like you guys say, Wolverine at the time wasn't a particular favorite of most fans or of the creative team. From what the letter says, I think the guy likes him in part because he wears a mask and seems like more of a traditional superhero than the other new X-Men — when, ironically, what distinguishes this new group is that while, unlike the Fantastic Four, they do maintain secret identities to an extent, they most certainly don't have the dual personalities typical of the genre.

    @Dr. Bitz: I also think that, at the core of his popularity, is the fact that he's a dude with big metal claws and people think that's pretty bad ass.

    Speaking of which — kinda-sorta — I found it funny that Logan was the one complaining most loudly about the rocky road to Banshee's castle. I guess the fact that you have a mutant healing power doesn't compensate for having your bones lined with an indestructible metal when it comes to bouncing up and down on your butt.

    @Joan: Son of a bitching BLOGGER!

    I don't wish Mrs. Crawford or Androgynous Asian Anne the least frustration, but if I had a nickel for every time I said something like the above Joan could afford reconstructive surgery. Not only have my comments been getting et up like yours more frequently lately, as some of you know I cannot publish posts on my own blog without constant revision to eliminate all sorts of crappy formatting that creeps in for no obvious reason.

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  14. @Falen: i could buy that a powerful enough telekinetic could rearrange the molecules to change clothes

    On this score, one of the neat things that was attempted with DC's character Firestorm to make his atomic/molecular manipulations seem a bit less like magic was that he had to have some grasp of the chemistry and physics behind what he was transforming.

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  15. @mortsleam: My father had the "Very, Very Special People Book" and showed it to me when I was a kid. Scarred me for life.

    I can imagine. That would have freaked me the hell out as a kid.

    Loving these posts. This is still my favorite era of the X-Men.

    Thanks!

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  16. @Blam: I mean, for comic books, good ol' John Proudstar bit it ridiculously easily.

    Haha! Good point.

    You know, I have to admit that the retcon works really well with Jean's dialogue on these pages — her being overwhelmed by memories and stuff — which is very impressive given that it wasn't planned in the least.

    On the whole, the Phoenix retcon does work surprisingly well. I think it stems from the fact that the initial intent was that Jean WAS reborn, as a more powerful and slightly different person. Thus, much of her dialogue to that effect applies equally well to the retcon as the original story.

    He screams his way out of them. Are you not paying attention?

    D'oh! Of course he does! ;)

    Logan has indeed been "hot-an'-bothered over a frail" and has indeed had friends, although the stoicism and denial aren't entirely out of character.

    I'd suggest that, perhaps, we could retroactively chalk this up to being a function of Wolverine's shoddy memory (perhaps at this point in his history, he doesn't recall any of his past romances or friendships) but attempting to untangle Wolverine's convoluted history, especially as it pertains to what he remembers when, is such a gargantuan task even I don't want to tackle it (and, of course, we know that idea is bunk anyway, as we'll shortly learn of his friendship with, at the very least, the Hudsons, and there's nothing to suggest he shouldn't have access to those memories at this time).

    I was really surprised to see that, especially having heard Byrne discuss how Claremont knew and/or cared little about X-Men history before the Neal Adams run — not that the men are always the most reliable sources on one another. 8^)

    Me too, for the very same reasons. I've always heard that it wasn't until further into his run that Claremont went back and familiarized himself with the early days of the X-Men, and the whole "Xavier loves Jean" business is a very minor point from a very early issue.

    Though I hesitate to ignite a flame war with Bryne's ... passionate followers, it seems this scene casts some doubt on his claim regarding Claremont's familiarity with the older stuff.

    When Goodwin was succeeded by Jim Shooter, another editorial tier was finally instituted so that the chief wasn't directly charged with the increasingly impossible task of overseeing each title directly

    Thanks for pointing out the ascension of Archie Goodwin. I've always been endlessly fascinated by the change of editorial power at Marvel, and should have pointed that out myself.

    From a production standpoint, it boggles my mind that Marvel went so long (and went through so many EiCs) before switching over to the editor/editor-in-chief system. It was one thing when Stan was editing a dozen books a month (3/4 of which he was writing, too), but by the mid to late 70s Marvel had tons of titles relative to Stan's heyday as EiC.

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  17. @Blam: X-Men is elevated to the rank of phenomenon as much for the characterization than for the big-picture adventure.

    Definitely. That more anything, I think, is what other creators took away from its success, as you mention, and what is really the lasting legacy of Claremont and his collaborators.

    they do maintain secret identities to an extent, they most certainly don't have the dual personalities typical of the genre.

    That's a very good point, and something that probably was very strange to audiences, even in the 70s. I mean, the new X-Men are almost entirely devoid of any secret identity drama. They all have real names and code names, but from Giant Size X-Men on the series just doesn't ever get into any of the secret identity shenanigans that even the old X-Men dealt with from time to time, and which more or less dominated super hero comics (especially at DC) for many years.

    On this score, one of the neat things that was attempted with DC's character Firestorm to make his atomic/molecular manipulations seem a bit less like magic was that he had to have some grasp of the chemistry and physics behind what he was transforming.

    I haven't read a ton of Firestorm comics, but I always did appreciate that little wrinkle in his power.

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  18. As he is my second favorite X-Man (after Cyclops), I love that Banshee is always the de facto leader whenever Cyke and Xavier aren't around.

    It's interesting that during this era, the informal "chain of command" usually went:

    Professor X
    Cyclops
    Banshee
    Wolverine (!)

    But when Cyclops takes his leave of absence after Phoenix dies, Xavier appoints Storm the team leader. Though I like to think that if Banshee had still been around at that time, he would've gotten the nod...

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  19. @Matt: I love that Banshee is always the de facto leader whenever Cyke and Xavier aren't around.

    Yeah, Banshee is definitely played up as Cyclops' second-in-command and leader in his absence in these early issues.

    Xavier appoints Storm the team leader.

    Ultimately, I think that boiled down to Claremont liking Storm the most of the new X-Men and wanting to stretch her character/have more opportunities to writer for her.

    I have nothing to back that up with though; it's just become my impression that he really liked Storm thanks to all the screen time/development she gets relative to the other new X-Men.

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  20. Didn't someone (Byrne, I think, but I'm not 100% sure) originally want the Phoenix Force to be malevolent, with Jean's soul/essence/contrived plot reason being the reason it wasn't so in the original stories?

    There's actually a rather sad moment when, after getting cold feet once he sees all the other X-Men at the hospital already, Wolverine drops the flowers in a trash can in the background of a panel.

    I always really liked this bit, it not only shows Wolverine's insecurities with making advances on Jean, but how he's still the outsider of the team - he didn't consider for a second that the other members would be as concerned about Jean.

    @Teebore:I was COMPLETELY surprised when they introduced the Phoenix stuff into the movies. And yes, X3 most definitely bore out the idea that maybe they shouldn't have (though maybe, MAYBE, Singer could have made it work if he'd stuck around instead of going off to make the snorefest that was Superman Returns).

    I remember hearing something about Scarlet Witch being used instead of Jean in the movie, but I'm not sure whether it was a "Oh, why didn't those fools do this instead?!" type post or an actual idea that was being thrown around. I have no idea where I read it, btw.

    @Teebore: Cockrum LOVED Nightcrawler...Byrne... loved Wolverine...Claremont's favorite was Cyclops...

    That's awesome! Those are my three favourites! (Nightcrawler > Cyclops > Wolverine)

    @Blam:He screams his way out of them. Are you not paying attention?


    You win five internet points for the day.

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  21. @Harry: Didn't someone (Byrne, I think, but I'm not 100% sure) originally want the Phoenix Force to be malevolent, with Jean's soul/essence/contrived plot reason being the reason it wasn't so in the original stories?

    Could be. I can see Byrne eventually advocating that, but I haven't heard for sure one way or the other.

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  22. I object to the script calling for Cyclops to state Jean used to be the weakest X-Man. I actually think the original series had pegged Iceman as the 'weakest' due to his immaturity and lack of will (I think you noted this in one of your reviews for an earlier issue). Perhaps this was a way for the creative team to express how much her powers had grown using shorthand?

    In retrospect, the original story behind Jean Grey's powers makes the most sense and wouldn't lead the X-Men into the bland places the Phoenix Force did. It is unfortunate that they didn't stick with it, because at this point in time, secondary mutations have become more common and she was arguably given the most common sensical means of explaining the power boost - the whole, 'cosmic rays boosting her powers to Thor and Silver Surfer levels' involves less gymnastics then the conceit that a cosmic force is constantly going to resurrect her to experience human sensations. The nugget regarding Ms. Marvel and her possible Dark Phoenix storyline really brings the idea together - even her costume seemed primed for that storyline and even though her book was cancelled, she still had references to 'planet destroying power'.

    The Phoenix Force used to be my favorite storyline but I do think that it didn't put the X-Men in a good place storyline-wise, and it did little for Jean in the long term.

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  23. You know, after all these yeats defending the 'unstable molecules' deal, I think it's safer for all of our sanities if we just agree that Storm's quick changes are the manifestation of her latent magical talent and leave it at that, no?

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