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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

X-amining X-Men #104

"The Gentleman's Name is Magneto"
April 1977

In a Nutshell
The new X-Men face off against Magneto for the first time.

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

Plot
Leaving Ireland, the X-Men charter a boat to take them to Moira MacTaggert's research station on Muir Island in Scotland. Nearing the island, the craft is destroyed and the X-Men are pulled towards the island and trapped in a bubble of force by none other than Magneto. Meanwhile, Cyclops and Moira arrive on the island and learn of Magneto's trap. Magneto quickly overpowers the X-Men and is poised to destroy them when Cyclops surprises him. Learning that Magneto was restored to adulthood by Erik the Red, Cyclops realizes Magneto is being used to keep the X-Men busy and unable to protect Xavier. He orders the X-Men to retreat, and they head back to New York. Magneto basks in his triumph as, in outer space, Corsair and Cho'd plan to oppose the Shi'ar Emperor just as Princess Lilandra arrives on Earth and Erik the Red stands poised to attack Xavier.


Firsts and Other Notables
Magneto makes his first post-Silver Age appearance in X-Men, re-aged (after his regression to infancy in Defenders #16) by Erik the Red to destroy the X-Men. Later stories will make it clear that Magneto in this story was re-aged to a point younger than in his previous appearances, subsequently making him more powerful as well. He also flies for the first time, by utilizing his powers just as Polaris did in issue #97.


Corsair and Ch'od, members of the space pirate Starjammers, make a one panel cameo appearance, their first.


Moira MacTaggert is revealed to be a highly-skilled geneticist and professional colleague of Xavier (as opposed to a simple machine gun-wielding housekeeper) in this issue, and it's also the first appearance of Muir Island and Moira's mutant research center/evil mutant containment facility, which resides on the island.

Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man, after making his first appearance in Giant Size Fantastic Four #4, appears in X-Men for the first time. He'll flit around in the background as a supporting character (usually seen working with Moira on Muir Island) for awhile before being featured in Peter David's 90s and 00s X-Factor series.


Wolverine notes that Dragonfly, the female member of the Ani-Men (from issues #94-95) has escaped from her cell on Muir Island. This was a setup for an all-female team book Dave Cockrum was planning at the time, which would also feature Storm, but the project was ultimately scrapped before seeing print.

A Work in Progress
In between last issue and this one, Scott and Jean appeared in Iron Fist #11 (written by Claremont and drawn by John Byrne), which showed Jean checking out of the hospital to complete her recuperation at the X-Mansion.


Nightcrawler comments on the X-Men's tendency to have vehicles destroyed out from under them. 


Wolverine balks at Cyclops ordering the X-Men's retreat.


A caption notes that the jet which Cyclops flies to Muir Island is the second such vehicle the X-Men own, explaining why it looks identical to the one destroyed in issue #94. 

As Magneto leaves Muir Island at issue's end, a panel shows that the containment cell of "Mutant X" has been breached, a setup which will be paid off in roughly twenty issues.


Angus MacWhirter, a Scot from whom the X-Men rent a boat, will pop up a few times in subsequent issues.


That 70s Comic 
The X-Men charter a hovercraft to take them to Muir Island. I don't know if that's strictly a 70s thing, but it definitely makes you go, "huh?"


Claremontisms
Claremont has a knack for coming up with new and innovative ways to use super powers in his stories, and we get a taste of that here, as Magneto uses his power in some unique ways, such as encasing Banshee in a shell of iron filaments. And of course, Wolverine and armored Colossus manage to do little against him.


Artistic Achievements
The cover of this issue is an homage to the cover of issue #1.

For Sale
I'm pretty sure this is the first ad for a movie we've seen in an issue of X-Men. I love that it's being touted as an original film when it's a remake of the 1933 King Kong


This book was one of my first exposures to Golden Age comics, which I (repeatedly) checked out of the library as a kid.


Chris Claremont on the early days of writing X-Men
"The beauty of writing X-Men at that time was that nobody had any expectations at all. We were so far beneath the radar. It was Dave (Cockrum) and me and the X-Men. We were like, 'What outrageous thing can we do now? How about a space battle?' Dave would go, 'Whoa, yeah, space battle, yeah! Starship, binary stars - eat your heart out, Star Trek!' It was all the stuff that we wanted to see and no one would ever do. You know, alien space battles and demons. Let's kill off Jean! Nobody'll see it coming! And then we'll bring her back! We wanted to do stuff that we enjoyed and stuff that was fun. Let's blow up Kennedy Airport! Let's throw in homages to John Carter, Warlord of Mars! Let's bring back Magneto and have him beat the living daylights out of the X-Men! It was almost like, 'Can you top this?' In this issue: leprechauns! For some reason, the effervescence, the audacity, the good stuff outweighed the bad. I look back on it now, and it's like, 'Oh, God, I could throw out, like, two-thirds of the copy!' We didn't know what we were doing, but we were certainly enjoying ourselves."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p63.

Teebore's Take
Claremont and Cockrum's tour of Silver Age X-Men villains continues as Magneto becomes the latest pawn of Eric the Red against the X-Men. Being the X-Men's #1 villain, he's given his due here, as almost the entire issue is set aside to showcase his first encounter with the new X-Men. And in a fairly unique (for the time) turn, he more or less wipes the floor with them. He is "defeated" only by Cyclops showing up and distracting him long enough for everyone else to escape. While the in-story explanation for the X-Men's ineptitude against Magneto is given as the team having never trained to face Magneto (because he was an infant when the new team was formed), what this really does is allow Claremont to draw a line between all past Magneto appearances and this (and subsequent) ones. In doing so, and in having Magneto tower over the new X-Men, he manages to restore some of the villain's credibility and re-establish him as the X-Men's greatest adversary after years of one Silver Age defeat after another (Claremont also retroactively gives the original X-Men some additional credibility, by making them old hats at defeating this uber-poweful foe the new X-Men can't handle).The evolution of Magneto's character over the course of his run stands as one of Claremont's greatest achievements, and while the Magneto that appears here is little removed from his previous depictions as a ranting megalomaniac, this issue marks the clear beginning of what Claremont will do with the character.

9 comments:

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

oh king kong. you don't know what you're talking about.
Also, how retro are space pirates, amiright? Even though they're kinda badass, i still have to shake my head a bit

Teebore said...

@Falen: oh king kong.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's the remake with Jessica Lange where Kong climbs the World Trade Center instead of the Empire State building (ohhh, modern!).

Even though they're kinda badass, i still have to shake my head a bit

Well, space pirates, in and of themselves, are pretty badass.

The Starjammers, on the other hand, are worthy of a little head shaking.

Matt said...

Hooray, I'm all caught up!

Wait... now I have to wait like a week between these things? Lame!

"We didn't know what we were doing, but we were certainly enjoying ourselves."

I think that quote from Claremont perfectly encapsulates why I love these issues so much -- I tend to have a soft spot for comics done by the seat of the pants.

Larry Hama has said in interviews that when he sat down to write an issue of G.I. Joe, he often didn't know how it would end until he got to the last page, and that's another of my All-Time Favorite Comic Book Runs Ever. I get the same vibe from these X-Men issues -- they were obviously building to something (the Shi'ar confrontation), but along the way they were just throwing in whatever they wanted for the heck of it, and generally just having a lot of fun -- and it really shows in the work.

Teebore said...

@Matt: Hooray, I'm all caught up!

Wow, that was an impressive run. Thanks again for checking us out and joining in.

Wait... now I have to wait like a week between these things? Lame!

Well, to make up for not posting last week, I'm planning to have issue #105 up Friday, and then #106 regularly scheduled for next Wednesday, so hopefully that'll help ease you into the weekly grind. ;)

they were obviously building to something (the Shi'ar confrontation), but along the way they were just throwing in whatever they wanted for the heck of it, and generally just having a lot of fun -- and it really shows in the work.

That's how I like my comics: a definite framework of an overarching story with plenty of room for the creators to stretch out, have some fun, and see what happens.

And incidentally, Hama's Joe run is one of my favorites, too.

Joan Crawford said...

Hovercrafts! Oh man, I remember hovercrafts being the single coolest vehicle you could hope to own (for a good couple of months anyway - until we became aware of hoverboards) when I was a kid. In my neighborhood, most of the kids had remote control cars and then one day, this jerky little rich kid came out with a remote control hovercraft! Holy shit! It didn't go fast, couldn't really be controlled, couldn't go on grass and eventually deflated but hot damn - it could conceivably go over water (should there be any around)! He also had a miniature car that he could ride in that actually used gas and went way faster than was safe for a child. The 80's were pretty cool in some ways.
Did people ever really say "Roomie" to each other? Surely, even at the height of Dork-Times, this seemed goofy? And creepy. I am going to have to remember this one. I'll start calling my husband that! Hehehe! He'll frown and say "You're making me feel weird. Again."
Yay!

Teebore said...

@Joan: I remember hovercrafts being the single coolest vehicle you could hope to own (for a good couple of months anyway - until we became aware of hoverboards) when I was a kid.

this jerky little rich kid came out with a remote control hovercraft! ... The 80's were pretty cool in some ways.

I love your stories.

Did people ever really say "Roomie" to each other? Surely, even at the height of Dork-Times, this seemed goofy?

I wonder if that's one of those terms that only gets used in fiction. *I've* certainly never known anyone to use that term in the real world.

Blam said...


The Statement of Ownership this issue says that total paid circulation was 135k and total copies printed was 250k, which just goes to show you the margins on which Marvel could operate back then in the days of significant, returnable newsstand distribution. As I write this, DC has announced that its best-selling issue of 2011 so far is the "New 52" Justice League #1, which has sold out of its first printing at 200k, and even with a $3.99 cover price, further printings, and digital sales I suspect that it's still perilously close to being a loss-leader in the larger Warner Bros. scheme like almost all the rest of the periodical DC line, unlike the relatively cult (but definitely growing) success that X-Men was at 35¢ twenty years ago — in a very different market that was just transitioning away from newsstand primacy to the very direct-market model that's now blowing up in publishers' faces (and in some cases, thanks to digital and collected editions and rising single-issue prices, being blown up by those selfsame publishers, sadly if perhaps inevitably).

So at least Matt came along when I left. Cool! Not to slight your other faithful followers…

Teebore: how I like my comics: a definite framework of an overarching story with plenty of room for the creators to stretch out, have some fun, and see what happens.

I think that it's an element of the '60s and '70s Marvel efforts that the Claremont / Byrne and/or Cockrum X-Men and the Wolfman / PĂ©rez New Teen Titans really honed to perfection.

Joan: Did people ever really say "Roomie" to each other?

Teebore: I wonder if that's one of those terms that only gets used in fiction. *I've* certainly never known anyone to use that term in the real world.

My college roommates and I, then, were either fictional or dorks. I have certainly been accused of being a dork, but then again I know for a fact that I've appeared in works of fiction (including by my own hand back in college). Given how real my memories of college are, I suppose that I plead guilty of dorkitude, but on this count, at least, under protest.

Blam said...


[T — I'm not sure if it didn't go through or you just missed it, but I submitted this comment right before the one that you *did* okay, so just in case I'm sending it again.]

I have to say that the DC Hostess ads are generally better than the Marvel ones, but "The Champ" makes no sense at all.

Teebore: Wolverine notes that Dragonfly, the female member of the Ani-Men (from issues #94-95) has escaped from her cell on Muir Island. This was a setup for an all-female team book Dave Cockrum was planning at the time, which would also feature Storm, but the project was ultimately scrapped before seeing print.

Huh. I did not know that.

Teebore: As Magneto leaves Muir Island at issue's end, a panel shows that the containment cell of "Mutant X" has been breached, a setup which will be paid off in roughly twenty issues.

Which for Claremont is, like, "That was quick." 8^)

Teebore: This book was one of my first exposures to Golden Age comics, which I (repeatedly) checked out of the library as a kid.

Ditto! I eventually got a copy of my own — same with the few others that I pored over in (and out of) the library like they were illuminated manuscripts of secret, ancient knowledge — but there was nothing like the thrill of returning to visit them there, back when I had little to no knowledge of fandom, comics shops, etc..

Teebore said...

@Blam: I suspect that it's still perilously close to being a loss-leader in the larger Warner Bros. scheme like almost all the rest of the periodical DC line, unlike the relatively cult (but definitely growing) success that X-Men was at 35¢ twenty years ago

I'm endlessly fascinated by sales figures of yesteryear compared to today, and the way the market has changed. It's crazy (and kinda sad) to think of how the small, cultish books of the 70s and 80s drew numbers that qualify for "blockbuster hit" status these days.

Which for Claremont is, like, "That was quick." 8^)

Haha! Indeed.

there was nothing like the thrill of returning to visit them there, back when I had little to no knowledge of fandom, comics shops, etc..

I still remember with fondness the time early in my comic reading days when the full extent of my knowledge of comics, beyond what I'd bought or could get my hands on via friends, came from the half dozen or so library books shelved in the 700 section.