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Friday, April 8, 2011

X-amining X-Men #103

"The Fall of the Tower"
February 1977

In a Nutshell
The X-Men defeat Black Tom and Juggernaut

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Sam Grainger
Letterer: John Constanza
Colorist: Janice Cohen
Editor: Archie Goodwin

Plot
Nightcrawler awakens and finds himself face to face with the leprechauns of Cassidy Keep. They explain how Black Tom and Juggernaut took over the castle from the leprechauns, forcing Eamon O'Donnell to lay the trap for the X-Men by holding the leprechaun families hostage. They tell Nightcrawler that the X-Men are being held in the castle's laboratory. Nightcrawler observes as Black Tom and Juggernaut prepare to torture the X-Men in order to lure Professor X to them. Getting an idea, Nightcrawler uses his image inducer to disguise himself as Professor X and teleports into the lab.


Nightcrawler, as Professor X, taunts Juggernaut to the point where the villain smashes through a wall, exposing the open sky. At the sight of it, Storm overcomes her claustrophobia and summons a great wind which sweeps all of her teammates, save Banshee, out of the castle. Regrouping, Storm, Colossus and Wolverine storm the castle in order to free Banshee, but Nightcrawler gets there first and sets him free. As the other X-Men battle Juggernaut, Banshee and Black Tom fight atop the castle until Banshee manages to knock Black Tom into the ocean. Enraged, Juggernaut dives into the ocean after him, desperate to save his friend. Meanwhile, Erik the Red receives orders from his liege to prevent the princess from contacting Professor X, and Erik the Red reveals he's found a new ally, in the form of Magneto...

Firsts and Other Notables
Wolverine's real name, Logan, is revealed this issue by, of all people, a leprechaun.


And yes, because Cassidy Keep is a castle in Ireland there must be leprechauns, though aside from a random story decades later in Generation X, they are not mentioned again and remain little more than a curious footnote in X-Men history. 

Erik the Red returns, and is revealed as the person who freed Black Tom from prison and paid him and Juggernaut to attack the X-Men. The alien haunting Professor X's dreams also gains a surname (Neramani) and a rank (Princess), and we see the Shi' Ar Emperor D'Ken for the first time, though he goes unnamed.


A Work in Progress
Nightcrawler spends a page or so trying out his newly discovered "turning invisible in the shadows" power.


Storm's lock picking prowess is established.


Colossus gets so angry with Wolverine for calling Storm a "broad" he chucks him over the castle.


We get another possible hint (the last such, I believe) towards the "Wolverine is a mutated wolverine" idea here, as one of the leprechauns professes to not believe in talking wolverines. Then again, the leprechaun could just be being cute.


Possible fodder for the "are Black Tom and Juggernaut gay?" question: Juggernaut's reaction to Black Tom getting knocked into the sea.


It's also worth noting that through the Black Tom/Juggernaut friendship, Claremont has given some added dimension to one of the X-Men's oldest and most one dimensional foes. No longer is Juggernaut just a force of nature who wants nothing more than to kill Professor X; now we see that he has at least one friend whom he actually cares about.

That 70s Comic
For those of you missing the batshit insanity of the Silver Age issues, I present: the Leprechauns of Cassidy Keep.


Also, the castle is equipped with a high tech laboratory and has laser gun turrets mounted on the parapets, because of course it does.


For Sale
A trio of great 70s ads in this one: The Six Million Dollar Man, Evel Knievel, and perhaps the craziest Hostess Ad I've ever seen (click each to embiggen). 


Teebore's Take
Last time, I mentioned that Storm is considered to be Claremont's favorite of the new X-Men; in this issue, Dave Cockrum's favorite character, Nightcrawler gets his chance in the spotlight, confronting Juggernaut and Black Tom on his own and facilitating the X-Men's escape. While Len Wein always envisioned Nightcrawler as a more tragic figure (cursed by his appearance), Cockrum took a shine to him early on and helped setup the contrasting (and more interesting) take on the character as being carefree and adventurous despite his appearance, a take which Claremont latched onto as well. For the first time, we really see Nightcrawler the swashbuckler in full force as he launches into action and taunts Juggernaut, in an almost Spider-Man-esque manner, into defeating himself. 

Story-wise, Claremont continues to couch the more standard "villain of the month" style stories in his larger ongoing narrative by revealing Erik the Red as the force behind the Juggernaut/Black Tom team-up. As a result, it becomes clear that since issue #97, Claremont has been developing three separate ongoing plots: the story of Professor X's alien visions, Erik the Red's attacks on the X-Men, and the circumstances of Jean's transformation into Phoenix. Shortly, these threads will come together and the opening act of Claremont's run will stand revealed.

All that aside, this issue is probably best remembered as "the leprechaun issue". The less said of that, the better, methinks.

14 comments:

  1. For reals? I mean, who thought Leprechauns were a good idea? At the very least they should have been brownies running around the castle, keeping things clean.
    I had another comment, but i forgot it...

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  2. "they are not mentioned again and remain little more than a curious footnote in X-Men history."

    True in life and in fiction.


    "Nightcrawler spends a page or so trying out his newly discovered "turning invisible in the shadows" power."

    Uh, there are already people who have that power...they're called NINJAS. Fact.

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  3. @Falen: I mean, who thought Leprechauns were a good idea?

    I'll have a quote from Claremont in the next post that sheds a little light on that, but really, there is no good explanation.

    I had another comment, but i forgot it...

    Great story. ;)

    @Hannah: Uh, there are already people who have that power...they're called NINJAS. Fact.

    Nightcrawler's training is not yet complete.

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  4. As far as I can remember, the issue of Nightcrawler's invisibility was addressed in an Alan Davis-penned issue of Excalibur, when Nightcrawler was being detained and tested by the RCX (?). They determined that he was always in flux between our dimension and the dimension he "bamfs" through, which is why his face is depicted as constantly in shadow. Basically in darkness he actually partially moves into that dimension. Or something.

    Which goes to prove that the only person who liked Nightcrawler more than Dave Cockrum was Alan Davis.

    Also, for further Ninja Nightcrawler discussion, I refer you to:

    Why be a either a pirate or a ninja when you can be both?

    Interesting fight between an old "classic" X-Men Foe and the new team. The new characters all get some good time, especially Nightcrawler. Even Juggernaut gets some depth. I never got the friends-with-benefits vibe between Juggernaut and Black Tom, to be honest, just that Tom was pretty much Marko's only friend and business partner. Juggy showed some interest in women after all. Though to be fair, one of them was a disco diva...

    --mortsleam

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  5. The leprechauns showed up in the all-ages continuity insert Uncanny X-Men: First Class series.

    It was very, very shitty indeed : you couldn't have sent a clearer signal that the First Class imprint had gone to shit after Jeff Parker moved on.

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  6. Who is mortsleam and can we keep him? (or her...)

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  7. well, Destination Truth did spend some time in Ireland looking for Leprachauns, and if i remember right it may have been partially successful (unless i'm thinking of Elves in Iceland...)
    but seriously- i don't need crap like that in my xmen books- i mean- did they actually ADD anything of worth the the issue? who edits these and thinks that they were vital to the story and shouldn't be cut?

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  8. @Mortsleam: Which goes to prove that the only person who liked Nightcrawler more than Dave Cockrum was Alan Davis.

    Ha! Too true. Thanks for the info. I knew the power got covered in (fairly specific) detail in an issue of Excalibur, but unfortunately my familiarity with the title pre-Warren Ellis' run is severely lacking.

    I never got the friends-with-benefits vibe between Juggernaut and Black Tom, to be honest, just that Tom was pretty much Marko's only friend and business partner.

    Yeah, that's how I've always read it too.

    @JD: It was very, very shitty indeed : you couldn't have sent a clearer signal that the First Class imprint had gone to shit after Jeff Parker moved on.

    I did not know that. Makes me even more glad I bailed on First Class when Parker did.

    @Anne: did they actually ADD anything of worth the the issue? who edits these and thinks that they were vital to the story and shouldn't be cut?

    Well, the quote in the next post will essentially say this, but what it boils down to is that X-Men was so low profile at this point that no one really gave a rat's ass what they did.

    And that included leprechauns, apparently.

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  9. Dude, Black Tom and Juggernaut are totally gay for eachother. Why else would Juggeranut jump after Black Tom if not for love?

    For example, Teebore, you're a good friend of mine. If you were thrown off a castle into the sea I'd take one look and say "That's a looooong ways down...and that water's butt-ass cold. I'm sure he'll be fine. I'll just take the elevator and try to fish him out with a pool skimmer."

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  10. @Dr. Bitz: I'd take one look and say "That's a looooong ways down...and that water's butt-ass cold. I'm sure he'll be fine. I'll just take the elevator and try to fish him out with a pool skimmer."

    And you'd be right to do it.

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  11. I haven't read the quote from Claremont you've promised for the next issue, but I've always assumed the leprechauns showed up because Dave Cockrum seems to really like tossing whimsical/"out there" elements into the comics he works on.

    The X-Men are rarely more sci-fi than when he's the artist, for example -- both his periods on the title involve fairly long running alien storylines, and the Starjammers are practically main characters when he's involved, compared to being minor, minor supporting characters when he isn't.

    Plus there's "Kitty's Fairy Tale"... and of course, his Nightcrawler limited series...!

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  12. @Matt: I've always assumed the leprechauns showed up because Dave Cockrum seems to really like tossing whimsical/"out there" elements into the comics he works on.

    The quote doesn't speak to that, but I could definitely see Cockrum coming up with the idea of the Leprechauns. They SCREAM Cockrum.

    the Starjammers are practically main characters when he's involved, compared to being minor, minor supporting characters when he isn't.

    He does seem to have a particular fondness for them, doesn't he? (Sometimes I wonder if he's the only one...)?

    Plus there's "Kitty's Fairy Tale"... and of course, his Nightcrawler limited series...!

    Maybe that's why I've never appreciated Cockrum as much as some other artists. I've never been a big fan of "Kitty's Fairy Tale" and the like; I like my comics fun, but I tend to have less patience for whimsy.

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  13. I'm ba-ack! 8^)

    Teebore: Also, the castle is equipped with a high tech laboratory and has laser gun turrets mounted on the parapets, because of course it does.

    Ha! Yeah, I love all the tech Black Tom had there, which just raises all sorts of insane questions.

    I had that Steve Austin Mission Control Center and an Evel Knievel figure on his motorcycle. Sigh… The latter was kind-of disappointing, being smaller and more rubbery than the hard, plastic 8" Mego action figures of my favorite superheroes, but Knievel himself was pretty cool to a kid at the time. And I well remember the Christmas / Chanukah that I got the Mission Control Center playset; heck, I can smell the utterly artificial, quite possibly carcinogenic plastic aroma it gave off now.

    Anne: i don't need crap like [the leprechauns] in my xmen books- i mean- did they actually ADD anything of worth the the issue?

    One phrase. Three words. Rhymes with shmeus shmex shmachina.

    Teebore: I've never been a big fan of "Kitty's Fairy Tale" and the like; I like my comics fun, but I tend to have less patience for whimsy.

    I'm normally one to agree to disagree, but while I can relate to a low tolerance for the precious I've always adored "Kitty's Fairy Tale" and indeed I'm not sure I've ever met any X-Men fan who didn't.

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  14. @Blam: I'm ba-ack! 8^)

    Huzzah! Your comments are always a pleasure.

    I've always adored "Kitty's Fairy Tale" and indeed I'm not sure I've ever met any X-Men fan who didn't.

    I wouldn't say I dislike it, just that I don't adore it (especially as much as everyone else does). It's just a bit too cutesy and inconsequential for me to to include it as an all-time classic. But it has been awhile since I last read it. Perhaps the upcoming re-read will improve my esteem for it.

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