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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

X-amining X-Men #129

"God Spare the Child..."
January 1980

In a Nutshell
As the X-Men return to the mansion, Kitty Pryde, White Queen and the Hellfire Club debut.  

Writer/Co-Plotter: Chris Claremont
Artist/Co-Plotter: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Roger Stern
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Several days after their battle with Proteus, the rested X-Men prepare to depart Muir Island, though Banshee has decided to stay behind with Moira. En route to New York, the X-Men's jet passes an Hellfire Club jet carrying Jason Wyngarde. As they pass, Jason reaches out to Phoenix's mind and Jean suddenly finds herself back in the 18th century, aboard a sailing ship and married Jason. Scared, she runs out on deck and is approached by a sailor, who transforms into Cyclops as Jean shifts back into the present. With a quiet moment to themselves, the pair finally reconcile and declare their love for one another. Receiving an intruder alert when they land at the mansion, the X-Men storm inside only to discover Professor X, returned from space. Days later, Scott and Jean witness Wolverine storming out of a training session in the Danger Room, and Cyclops tries to explain to Professor X that his style of teaching won't work on the new X-Men, but is interrupted by Cerebro, who suddenly detects the presence of two new mutants, one in Chicago and one in New York. Xavier splits the team, sending Scott and Jean to New York while he takes Storm, Wolverine and Colossus to Chicago. But unknownst to the X-Men, the Hellfire Club have tapped Cerebro, and dispatch the White Queen to Chicago as well.


In Chicago, a young teenage girl named Kitty Pryde arrives home from dance class and meets Ms. Frost, representing a school in Massachusetts. As Frost discusses the school with her parents, Kitty, suffering from a headache goes to her room, and collapses on her bed. The pain passes, but when she awakens, Kitty finds herself in the living room. Just then the X-Men arrive, passing Ms. Frost on her way out, and Xavier sends the X-Men to the malt shoppe with Kitty. There, Storm tells Kitty they are the X-Men just as three armored men burst in and attack the X-Men. While the X-Men spring into action, Kitty unknowingly phases herself through the wall of the malt shoppe, collapsing outside from the strain. The X-Men quickly quickly take out the armored Hellfire Club goons, only to be felled in turn by a telepathic blast from the White Queen. The X-Men are loaded onto the Hellfire Club's hovercraft, which departs for their Chicago base, unknowingly carrying Kitty with them, who snuck onto the craft and is determined the help the X-Men.  

Firsts and Other Notables
In terms of characters introduced, this is probably the most notable issue yet of Claremont and Byrne's run. Katherine "Kitty" Pryde, who will go on to join the X-Men as Sprite (and later Ariel and Shadowcat) and become a fan favorite, makes her first appearance in this issue. She possess the ability to "phase", allowing her to essentially become transparent and pass through solid objects. Kitty is notable for being the first Jewish character to be featured in the book, as well as the first X-Man to be co-created by Chris Claremont.


After being mentioned in previous issues, the Hellfire Club also debuts this issue, though the majority of its members remain in shadows (we do get to see their distinctive masked goons for the first time). This is technically the first appearance of Sebastian Shaw, Black King of the Hellfire club and a powerful industrialist, though he goes unseen this issue and won't receive a full name for a few issues yet.


Similarly, Harry Leland and Donald Pierce, fellow members of the Hellfire Club, technically first appear in this issue, though they remain shadowed and unnamed. 

The one member of the Hellfire Club we do see is the White Queen, Emma Frost, and she is the third significant first appearance in this issue. A telepath of significant skill, Emma will remain a mainstay of the X-Men's rogue's gallery throughout Claremont's run, and will eventually transition away from outright villainy and become the acerbic headmistress of Xavier's students alongside Banshee in Generation X and later a member of the X-Men in her own right.


Emma also mentions a school she runs in Massachusetts while trying to recruit Kitty Pryde; this is the first mention of what will become known as the Massachusetts Academy, future home of the New Mutants' rivals the Hellions and later Generation X.


Banshee officially leaves the team this issue, his sonic scream still out of commission, opting to stay behind on Muir Island to be with Moira. Similarly, both Phoenix and Professor X, who has returned from Shi'ar space, are considered to have officially rejoined the team with this issue.


Of somewhat less significance, this issue also marks the first appearance of Kitty's parents, Carmen and Terri Pryde. Later stories (as they are prone to do) will reveal a shared history between Carmen, Professor X and Wolverine, though none give any indication of that history here (which, in the comic book world, can be attributed to some combination of amnesia, mindwipes and/or willing ignorance on the part of all three). 

An early 90s issue of Wizard magazine ran a contest for a complete set of the then-latest wave of X-Men action figures in which entrants had to correctly identify the issues from which three panels were lifted. One of the panels was from this issue (despite eventually figuring out all the answers, I did not win...).


A Work in Progress
Cyclops offers membership in the X-Men to Madrox, Havok and Polaris, but all three turn him down.


It is revealed that Warhawk, who attacked the X-Men and bugged the mansion in issue #110, was working for the Hellfire Club, giving them eyes inside the mansion. Though, as mentioned before, as Sebastian Shaw is not a telepath, the "boss" with which Warhawk was communicating in that issue was either Emma Frost, or a Frost-assisted Shaw.

Wyngarde continues his psychic seduction of Jean. 


En route back to New York, Jean experiences another time shift, finding herself aboard an 18th century sailing ship. Having previously believed the time shifts were being caused by Proteus, she wonders if the power of Phoenix could be allowing her to psychically experience the life of ancestor, a level of power which scares her, as does the fact that the time shifts are happening more frequently and the question of what would happen to her if she got stuck in the past. 


Jean notes that Xavier is running a series of tests on her, a reference to his concerns about Phoenix's power, mentioned in issue #125, which motivated his return to Earth.


Wolverine storms out of the Danger Room, earning him ten demerits from Professor X. 


This prompts another of my favorite scenes, in which Cyclops discusses with Professor X the difference between the original X-Men and the new, and how the new X-Men are grown adults who operate differently than the teen aged original X-Men.


We haven't seen Cerebro in ages, let alone have it detect any new mutants, but here it picks up two new mutants.  

Kitty Pryde is specifically stated to be 13-and-a-half years old in this issue, is already taking dance classes, and says that she's smart. Like Cyclops, she is experiencing tremendous headaches which are alleviated by using her mutant power (as someone who suffers from a lot of headaches, when I read this as a kid I always hoped all my headaches meant I was a mutant...). She also mentions that her parents are on the verge of getting divorced.


Kitty and Storm also develop an instant rapport with one another, the beginning of what will become a very close, familial relationship between them.


In a particularly vicious moment, White Queen executes the Hellfire Club goons who failed to capture the X-Men.


Later, she orders the captured X-Men strip searched, a tactically sound though slightly creepy move.


That 70s Comic*
*This comic is dated January 1980 but due to the comic industry's practice of cover dating issues up to three months in advance, this issue was actually on the shelves in October of 1979 (read more about it here); thus, we'll keep the 70s category going for a few more issues.

The X-Men take Kitty Pryde to a malt shoppe, where Wolverine gets into an argument with the owner for reading Penthouse.


Kitty makes some slightly awkward comments about Storm.


Claremont and Byrne playfully homage the scene from X-Men #60 in which Cyclops somehow manages to forget which door leads to the Danger Room.


Claremontisms
Colossus gets in on the catch phrases, letting loose a "By the White Wolf!" and a "tovarisch" in the course of the story.

Claremont continues to reveal his villains slowly, as the previously mentioned Hellfire Club is finally seen, but its members, aside from White Queen, and ultimate goals, remain shrouded in mystery.


"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!"
Professor X makes his presence known again, handing out demerits and snapping at Cyclops after the later tries to make Xavier realize that the new X-Men can't be treated the same way as the the original X-Men.


Young Love
Scott and Jean finally get a proper reunion, and Cyclops puts a pin in his relationship with Colleen, explains why he felt so little grief over Jean's apparent death, and once again declares his love for Jean.


At first glance, Kitty finds the X-Men weird, but notes that Colossus is "kinda neat-looking".


For Sale
As mentioned in the comments section of last issue's post, writer Kurt Busiek featured one of the Hostess Ad villains, Icemaster, in the pages of his Thunderbolts comic. The ad featuring Icemaster appears in this issue, featuring art from future superstar and controversial writer/artist Frank Miller (he of The Dark Knight Returns, 300, and "I'm the Goddamned Batman!" fame).  


John Byrne on introducing Kitty Pryde
"Originally she was created to be part of a whole new secondary team. Shooter used to get these bees in his bonnet. The books used to have this top copy that was above the story. The X-Men blurb said something like, 'Cyclops, Storm, Nighcrawler, students of Charles Xavier, mutants - feared and hated by the world they have sworn to protect.' Chris and I thought the defining part of the top copy with the X-Men was, 'feared and hated by the world they have sworn to protect.' Shooter said, 'No, the important thing about the X-Men is it's a school.' I said, 'Well, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would disagree with you because they got rid of that with X-Men #9. They had them graduate and get their own costumes. They got rid of the school motif.' 'No, no, no,' he said. 'It's a school. It's got to be a school. I want to see these people getting demerits. I want to see these people getting homework assignments.' I didn't think Wolverine was going [to] react real well to demerits. I mean, come on! So, I came up with the idea of having a secondary team who would wear the original school uniforms. The current team, the new X-Men, would be like teachers. Kitty was going to be the first of the new students. We set it all up and then Shooter said, 'No, this is the Legion of Substitute X-Men. We're not going to do this. You've got to make these guys the students.' Mmm-hmm, okay. But Kitty was in place by then, so we went ahead with her. It never really went any further until Chris did New Mutants."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p109-110

Byrne on Kitty's inspiration
"She started about 18, and as I drew her she got younger and younger. At one point Chris said we should call her Thunderbird, and I didn't like that at all but it put the bird name into my head and I started writing down bird names, trying to think of a name for her, and one of the ones I wrote for her was Kitty Hawk. And then I remembered a girl I knew in college whose name was Kitty Pryde, and I always felt that was a neat name, so as soon as I wrote "Kitty Hawk" I thought, 'No - Kitty Pryde; that will be her real name.'"

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p73

Claremont on Banshee leaving the team
"What I wanted to show was the transition out of being a super-hero, what happens when a super-hero hits 40, what happens when the physical instrument happens to be not quite as effective as it once was. What happens when you start thinking about, 'What if I had a wife and a family, and a home?' In a sense, Banshee is the person Xavier would like to be to the X-Men - a friend, as opposed to the mentor, the father figure. He's mature, he knows who he is, he knows what he is, he's a very straightforward person because he's gone through the valley, he's been down to the pit and up again in his life, and in a sense he's found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: he's found Moira."

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p41-42

Byrne on Banshee's departure
"Banshee I always thought didn't really belong, which is why I did what I could to get rid of him and finally succeeded in getting rid of him. He was the older, wiser head who was unnecessary because there was Xavier. His was power was a long-distance zap which is unnecessary because of Cyclops. His costume lost any outstanding points it had as soon as we had Phoenix, because he was the redhead with the green-and-yellow costume. So I liked Banshee a lot in terms of his personality but I could never really think of him as belonging in the group and I remember after we wrote him out with #129...some five or six issues later I realized he hadn't been in the book for five or six issues and that I hadn't missed him."

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p100

Teebore's Take
And here we go...

This issue kicks off "The Dark Phoenix Saga", Claremont and Byrne's seminal work, and a story that is largely considered one of the best superhero comic book stories of all time. Much of their collaboration, starting all the way back in issue #108, has been building towards this story. But for the first few issues, Claremont and Byrne are still largely in setup mode, moving pieces into their final place and ramping up the tension (even moreso than in the previous issues). To that end, we get the introduction of three new characters this issue (Kitty Pryde, White Queen, and the Hellfire Club). That the creation of these characters comes in the first chapter of the story is a testament to both the skill of the creators and the high level on which they were operating at this point: introducing three characters who will go on to have a significant impact on the book is just the beginning of the story.

This issue also finds the X-Men returned to their classic status quo, living in the mansion, training in the Danger Room, and seeking out new mutants, all under the supervision of Professor X, for the first time since issue #110. As discussed above, this is done in service to Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter's edict that X-Men needs to be about a school for mutants (Claremont and Byrne make their feelings on the matter apparent through Wolverine's reaction to receiving "demerits" and Cyclops' discussion with Xavier comparing the new X-Men to the old). But putting the focus of the book back on the X-Men as students means bringing back Professor X, and while his absence, on the surface, seems little more than a plot convenient way to make the whole "everyone thinks the X-Men are dead" plot work (and to let the new X-Men stand on their own without a super powerful telepath looking over them) and his return little more than a result of editorial fiat, his time spent in Shi'ar space will pay dividends by the end of "The Dark Phoenix Saga", both in terms of the effect his absence has had on the evolution of Phoenix as well as in the ultimate resolution of the story.

Next Issue
Claremont and Byrne aren't done introducing new characters, as we follow Cyclops and Phoenix to New York and meet a dazzling new mutant.

31 comments:

  1. Wow, I have a lot to say here, mainly thanks to your quotes and such.

    But first, one general thought on the issue: It's hard for me to judge the "Dark Phoenix Saga" as individual issues. The very first time I read it was in trade paperback format when I was about 12 or so, and pretty much all in one sitting. Looking at this one on its own, I like the mystery surrounding the Hellfire Club. I wouldn't have minded seeing that drawn out longer.

    Also, I love the Hellfire goons' costumes; probably my favorite look for an "evil army" next to Cobra troopers from G.I. Joe.

    I never really "got" Kitty Pryde. She's okay enough, but I didn't have a huge crush on her or anything, as a lot of young readers apparently did. Possibly because, though she's 13 here, by the time I started reading she was more like 16. Also, like most of Claremont's teenage characters, she mostly acted like an adult from day one, so I didn't find her all that relateable.

    (On the other hand, I did have a bit of a crush on Scott Lobdell's version of Jubilee, who actually acted like a 13 year-old...)

    "...the first X-Man to be co-created by Chris Claremont."

    John Byrne would (strongly) disagree with you there. He says he created Kitty -- the visual appearance, the powers, the name, were all his. He has a point, though it was Claremont who gave her a personality. Byrne also says that Kitty was supposed to be a "typical girl" who woke up a mutant one day, and he often complains that his version of her was ruined immediately when Claremont made her a genius without asking.

    Incidentally, check this out if you haven't already: Letters of Note: Suggested Real Name: Katherine "Kitty" Pryde.

    "...a shared history between Carmen, Professor X and Wolverine..."

    Seriously? That's ridiculous. Where did this happen?? I really hope it wasn't a writer I like who did it.

    "Wolverine gets into an argument with the owner for reading Penthouse."

    Weird, for some reason I always thought it was Hustler. I suppose because this vintage of Wolverine seems more like a Hustler guy.

    Also -- Wolverine in his cowboy ensemble never gets old!

    "The ad featuring Icemaster appears in this issue..."

    Wow, perfect timing!

    Claremont on Banshee leaving the team

    I have no problem with Banshee retiring, but I sure wish they'd used him a little more afterwards. I can't even recall how many times the X-Men and/or New Mutants traveled to Muir Island to see Moira, and Banshee was nowhere in sight. Sometimes I think Claremont forgot that he was supposed to be living there.

    Byrne on Banshee's departure

    I kind of get where Byrne's coming from here, regarding the similarities to other characters, but I still disagree. Banshee became one of my favorite X-characters because of his time on this iteration of the X-Men. I liked the idea of a seasoned, level-headed veteren mixed in among all these young hot-heads. He generally seemed to be the only X-Man who was always totally in sync with Cyclops, and as I pointed out a while back, he was the de facto second-in-command, too.

    Also, Byrne just said on his website a few months ago that it was never intended to keep Banshee depowered for as long as he was. He didn't specifically mention bringing him back to the team, though, so maybe that wasn't intended either. And I have no problem with him as a "reserve" X-Man, but shuffling him off to limbo was not a good way to deal with the character.

    I actually think Generation-X was the best place for him. I loved him as a sort of "junior Professor X", and I thought Scott Lobdell had a pretty good handle on the character.

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  3. ...and so begins my love/hate relationship with Kitty Pryde.
    And demerits? Really? I mean, wtf does that even mean?
    And i'm sure wolverine is just reading penthouse for the articles

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  4. @Matt: Looking at this one on its own, I like the mystery surrounding the Hellfire Club. I wouldn't have minded seeing that drawn out longer.

    I know what you mean. I didn't read this in one sitting for the first time, but I did read it without having to wait months between issues. I'm very curious about how reading it in monthly installments changes the pacing/tone/etc.

    On a similar note, I've always read these issues knowing, for example, this was the first appearance of Kitty and Emma, and what those characters would go on to do, so I wonder what it would have been like to encounter them for the first time with no knowledge of that.

    At one point while re-reading the issue for this post, I double backed because I couldn't remember if we (the audience) were told the Ms. Frost visiting Kitty was the White Queen or if that was supposed to be a mystery (because even when I read this for the first time, I knew they were one and the same). Turns out, as of this issue at least, it's either left a mystery or something for the readers to piece together.

    probably my favorite look for an "evil army" next to Cobra troopers from G.I. Joe.

    Ditto, though I do have a fondness for the Hydra outfits as well. Henchmen just don't get the kind of cool threads these days that they used to.

    I never really "got" Kitty Pryde. She's okay enough, but I didn't have a huge crush on her or anything

    I've always liked Kitty (especially during the Romita Jr. years) but I never really had a crush on her. And then when I encountered the sheer volume of fanboys out there who LOVED Kitty Pryde, it made me not want to admit to liking her even a little bit, in a non-creepy, non-romantic kind of way.

    (Similarly, I always enjoyed Gambit until everyone decided he was the KEWLEST CHARACTER EVAR!, at which point I started to retroactively dislike him).

    John Byrne would (strongly) disagree with you there. He says he created Kitty -- the visual appearance, the powers, the name, were all his.

    I know. But I'm pretty sure as far as Marvel and/or the law is concerned, she was co-created by him and Claremont, and that's good enough for me. ;)

    Byrne also says that Kitty was supposed to be a "typical girl" who woke up a mutant one day, and he often complains that his version of her was ruined immediately when Claremont made her a genius without asking.

    I have a Byrne quote on that subject all ready to go once it's established that she's a genius (here, she just mentions being smart, so Claremont hasn't "ruined" her yet).

    That link is fascinating, thanks. It completely gels with everything I've read from Byrne about Kitty, the junior team, etc. It's also interesting to note that back then, if the junior team worked out, they could do interlude issues featuring them, whereas today the idea would get its own book and no one would give it a second thought.

    Just shows again how the industry has changed.

    Seriously? That's ridiculous. Where did this happen?? I really hope it wasn't a writer I like who did it.

    Yeah, apparently they all served in the army together, with Wolverine having forgotten it due to all the memory implants and whatnot and Carmen having his mind wiped by Xavier.

    According to my trusty Marvel index, it was revealed in Excalibur (vol.3) #14 in 2005. So that would have been Claremont, but the latter day, post-return, not-as-good-as-he-used-to-be Claremont, who is almost a totally different writer entirely.

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  5. cont...

    Also -- Wolverine in his cowboy ensemble never gets old!

    This is true.

    Wow, perfect timing!

    I know, right?

    Sometimes I think Claremont forgot that he was supposed to be living there.

    I wouldn't be surprised if you were right. There are tons of time where people are on Muir without Banshee. The first Legion story springs to mind...

    I loved him as a sort of "junior Professor X", and I thought Scott Lobdell had a pretty good handle on the character.

    I agree, I thought Banshee made a lot of send and worked really well as the headmaster of Generation X. That book had its fair share of problems, particularly towards the end, but Banshee was never one of them.

    @Sarah: ...and so begins my love/hate relationship with Kitty Pryde.

    Yeah, I thought of you the whole time I was working on this post. "Sarah is going to LOVE this one!"

    And demerits? Really? I mean, wtf does that even mean?

    It's an old boarding/prep school punishment system. Kinda like the house points in HP. Which makes giving them to Wolverine all the more ridiculous. Apparently, Professor X thinks he can stop from Wolverine from, I dunno, going to the bar on Saturday night if he's accrued too many demerits.

    And i'm sure wolverine is just reading penthouse for the articles

    Ha! Yeah, I'm sure that's it.

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  6. I'm with you on wishing my headaches were my mutant power manifesting....turned out it was a benign brain tumor but still...I think I even wrote a letter to Xavier and sent it to the address of the school....

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  7. demerits are ridiculous. Maybe if anyone in the house was still a child they would be worth something.

    Could Kitty Pryde have any more obnoxious names? Also- i'm already skeeved out by her thinking Colossus looks 'neat'. wtf does that even mean, anyway?

    I appreciate Matt's comments about Banshee. Also- i love me some Gen X.

    Finally- you hold your tongue about Gambit!

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  8. @MOCK!: I'm with you on wishing my headaches were my mutant power manifesting

    Eek, at least it was benign, but still. Mutant powers, even an optic blast, would have been better than that...

    @Anne: Also- i'm already skeeved out by her thinking Colossus looks 'neat'. wtf does that even mean, anyway?

    It means she wants to bang him, but doesn't know it yet. ;)

    Finally- you hold your tongue about Gambit!

    Ha! I figured that would get a reaction out of either you or your sister.

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  9. "Cyclops offers membership in the X-Men to Madrox, Havok and Polaris, but all three turn him down."

    I like how they basically say, "No, we don't want to be X-Men, but if you ever need help just let us know and we'll come running."

    And I'm thinking Cyclops should say, "OK...I need help. I need you to be X-Men."

    Anyway, am I the only one who can feel the sexual tension between Kitty Pryde and Storm? I wonder if there's any fan fiction on the subject?

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  10. "According to my trusty Marvel index, it was revealed in Excalibur (vol.3) #14 in 2005."

    Hmm, I've even read that issue! I must've blocked that bit of it from my memory. I do seem to recall that it also revealed that Mr. Sinister was a professor to Xavier and Moira while they were in school together, which was a very "Lobdell-esque" revelation that I actually found really cool.

    "There are tons of time where people are on Muir without Banshee. The first Legion story springs to mind..."

    That was my first thought, too. I recently read most of Claremont's New Mutants issues in the New Mutants Classics trades, and that story stuck in my mind, though there are one or two other occasions in that run where Banshee is totally forgotten. I think the second Legion story was one, in fact.

    Also, I never considered that Ms. Frost's identity as the White Queen might have been a secret, for the same rason you said -- I already knew all this stuff when I read the trade!

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  11. @Dr. Bitz: And I'm thinking Cyclops should say, "OK...I need help. I need you to be X-Men."

    Haha! Too true. Especially since Madrox could just, you know, send three or four duplicates off with Cyclops and still stay on Muir Island.

    I wonder if there's any fan fiction on the subject?

    Have you met the internet?

    If you want to go down that dark, dark path, be my guest. :)

    @Matt: I do seem to recall that it also revealed that Mr. Sinister was a professor to Xavier and Moira while they were in school together, which was a very "Lobdell-esque" revelation that I actually found really cool.

    I did not know that. For whatever reason, Mr. Sinister is one of those characters I don't mind having pop up in tons of characters' backstories. It just seems to fit him, somehow.

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  12. "Anyway, am I the only one who can feel the sexual tension between Kitty Pryde and Storm? I wonder if there's any fan fiction on the subject?"

    I've always thought that Storm and Kitty's relationship was exclusively and explicitly maternal. Claremont isn't exactly subtle in laying this out to the reader in later issues -- Uncanny 150's Magneto / Kitty climax ends with Storm saying "Give me my child" -- but I feel like it's hinted as far back as Kitty's introduction here.

    But, speaking of Storm and sexual tension, I have never been able to read Issues 139 and 140 -- where Stevie Hunter is introduced -- and get past what appears to be absurdly thick sexual tension between Stevie and Storm.

    From the very first interaction --Stevie is stretching on the dance bar, looks up with a big smile, and Storm hesitates -- "I am... Ororo." I've always read that scene as Storm being caught off-guard by Stevie's beauty.

    Next issue, Storm thinks "Steve is one of the nicest women I've ever met -- yet these feelings... remain."

    It is revealed issues later that Storm is insanely jealous Stevie and the Storm-Kitty mother-daughter thing with Kitty is really overdone, but these scenes between Stevie and Storm have been very homoerotic to me.

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  13. Okay, I'm clearly not catching up on past entries fast enough to hold off on reading new posts until I reach them, so since I'm current on re-reading the issues themselves it just makes sense to do both concurrently.

    Teebore: Kitty, suffering from a headache goes to her room, and collapses on her bed. The pain passes, but when she awakens, Kitty finds herself in the living room.

    And then the Hellfire Club reveals its newest member: GHB!

    I've always been thankful that Claremont & Byrne didn't name Kitty, like, Hannah Goldberg — not that Hannah isn't a lovely name, just that writers (even Jewish writers) often make their Jewish characters "more Jewish" in name and custom than your average assimilated Americans of Jewish heritage might be. "Welcome to our home, Professor Xavier! I'm Shlomo Goldberg and this is my wife Rivka. Can we interest you in a nice knish?"

    Byrne once (probably more than once, actually) has told a story about finally bumping into the real Kitty Pryde years later. She recognized him because it was Canada and he was wearing a Next Men jacket, so she figured location + bearded guy + "sure, he could be the guy I used to know" + Next Men jacket + Byrne's infamous ego = "gotta be him".

    Teebore: Later stories (as they are prone to do) will reveal a shared history between Carmen, Professor X and Wolverine, though none give any indication of that history her

    Really? Way after my time, I guess...

    Teebore: This prompts another of my favorite scenes, in which Cyclops discusses with Professor X the difference between the original X-Men and the new, and how the new X-Men are grown adults

    I like the gist of the scene, too, except that Xavier comes on so strong that we pretty much have to wonder if it's just guilt or if he's under the influence of some other entity. Scott is totally right here. As it turns out, Professor Xavier is a jerk.

    Teebore: [Emma Frost] orders the captured X-Men strip searched, a tactically sound though slightly creepy move.

    We've already had Magneto and Arcade strip and re-dress the X-Men, so it might as well be an equal-opportunity thing.

    Teebore: I've always read these issues knowing, for example, this was the first appearance of Kitty and Emma, and what those characters would go on to do, so I wonder what it would have been like to encounter them for the first time with no knowledge of that.

    For one thing it means that I've never been able to accept Emma Frost as an ally let alone an actual member of the X-Men.

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  14. My favorite line...

    Jamie: I may be "Madrox the Multiple Man," but at heart, I'm still just a Kansas farm boy. I'm going to stay on Muir Island and help Sean and Moira run the lab.

    Because working on highly advanced genetics research off the coast of Scotland is what Kansas farm boys do.

    Other thoughts on the issue, the post, and the comments...

    This is the last time that Banshee's head and name are in the cover's corner box and splash-page logline text, respectively, but it's still weird that they've been there while he's basically out of commission and Phoenix hasn't yet been added in despite never really leaving the series even when she nominally quite the team back circa #94.

    Did you check out that dip into philosophy on the letters page?

    I liked Kitty quite a bit but never "liked" her — which is strange. Not that I'm prone to weird crushes on underage fictional characters, but because at least in this instance it would've been somewhat appropriate, given that she was only a few years older than I. Somehow, though, despite the fact that she was introduced at 13 when I was only 9, Kitty Pryde has always felt to me totally like a character who was and is younger than I am, whereas in general both characters introduced at a greater age than mine and characters whose existence predates me have always felt older (even when the latter characters, due to the slow passage of serialized-comics time, have remained at an age that I've since passed). I should add that I stopped reading X-Men regularly with #205 in 1986 — although I did read the first couple of years of Excalibur — and I haven't dipped back into any of the related series at all since about 2000; I totally missed Kitty's relationship with that Pete Widsom dude back when there was editorial confusion about how old she'd become by that point.

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  15. I hadn't read most of the comments when my previous ones were written, obviously. Yeah, 2005 is definitely after my time on X-Men and pretty much keeping up with the Marvel Universe in general.

    Matt: Incidentally, check this out if you haven't already:

    Very cool! I've seen some other amazing stuff over there in the past, but I hadn't ever seen this.

    Teebore: For whatever reason, Mr. Sinister is one of those characters I don't mind having pop up in tons of characters' backstories. It just seems to fit him, somehow.

    I suppose if I knew anything about Mr. Sinister that would make sense. The first time I sampled the X-Men titles after bailing in 1986 (save the early days of Excalibur) was during Inferno — mostly 'cause I heard the Madelyne Pryor lookalike thing was being resolved. I figured that Mr. Sinister tied into Colossus' backstory somehow, just from his looks. I guess this illustrates how age or just when you first experience serial fiction colors your perspective; to me, Mr. Sinister and Apocalypse and Genosha are all "new" additions to the X-Men lore 'cause it's not what I grew up with.

    Michael: I've always thought that Storm and Kitty's relationship was exclusively and explicitly maternal.

    Ditto... And I also got the homoerotic vibe from Storm and Stevie Hunter, although it wasn't really erotic.

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  16. "...to me, Mr. Sinister and Apocalypse and Genosha are all "new" additions to the X-Men lore..."

    Strangely, I consider them "new" also, even though I started reading not long after their first appearances. I still think of Cable and Bishop as "new" also, even though they've both been around for about 20 years! I kind of think that anything that happens after or around the time when you start reading gets permanently locked into your brain as "new" forever. At least, that's how it is with me.

    "Mr. Sinister is one of those characters I don't mind having pop up in tons of characters' backstories. It just seems to fit him, somehow."

    I agree, Teebore. Anytime he appears in the backstory of a mutant, I figure it makes perfect sense since he's been studying them for over a hundred years.

    (Plus he's one of my very favorite villains, so anything that gets him some exposure is fine with me.)

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  17. I believe Frank Miller drew the Hostess Ad.

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  18. @Michael: but I feel like it's hinted as far back as Kitty's introduction here.

    I agree. It definitely seems like something Claremont had planned from the beginning, as you can see it starting right here in their first meeting.

    these scenes between Stevie and Storm have been very homoerotic to me.

    I can't say I've ever picked up on that, but it's a been a long time since I read those issues.

    I do remember getting an odd vibe off the Stevie/Storm interactions, even after the whole "Storm's jealous" reveal, so I'll definitely re-read that stuff closely.

    @Blam: "Welcome to our home, Professor Xavier! I'm Shlomo Goldberg and this is my wife Rivka. Can we interest you in a nice knish?"

    Okay, that almost made me lose my coffee this morning. Well done!

    But seriously, I too like the fact that, really, the only way we know Kitty is Jewish is the little Star of David necklace Byrne drew on her. It's a nice to way to show that she is Jewish without that being ALL that she is, if that makes sense.

    Byrne once (probably more than once, actually) has told a story about finally bumping into the real Kitty Pryde years later.

    That's funny. I hadn't heard about that before.

    For one thing it means that I've never been able to accept Emma Frost as an ally let alone an actual member of the X-Men.

    Ah, I can see that. When I first read this issue, it was pre-Generation X but I'd already read a lot of stuff where Emma was, if not heroic, at least slightly less villainous that someone who just casually executes some failed goons. I knew her best as the mentor of the Hellions, where she might have been evil, but at least genuinely cared about her students.

    Thus, her transition into Generation X's headmistress and eventual X-Man was a little easier for me to buy.

    Because working on highly advanced genetics research off the coast of Scotland is what Kansas farm boys do.

    Haha! Well said!

    Did you check out that dip into philosophy on the letters page?

    I did. It was pretty crazy. I was going to post it, but the letter gets split on the page and then the screen cap is less aesthetic and I'm anal enough for that to bug me.

    I should add that I stopped reading X-Men regularly with #205 in 1986 — although I did read the first couple of years of Excalibur — and I haven't dipped back into any of the related series at all since about 2000

    Does that mean you're going to disappear when we reach that point? Cuz that would be a shame...

    I totally missed Kitty's relationship with that Pete Widsom dude back when there was editorial confusion about how old she'd become by that point.

    Yeah, that was...awkward. Though I don't dislike Pete Wisdom as much as some X-fans do, or as much as I probably should...

    to me, Mr. Sinister and Apocalypse and Genosha are all "new" additions to the X-Men lore 'cause it's not what I grew up with.

    @Matt: Strangely, I consider them "new" also, even though I started reading not long after their first appearances.

    When I first started reading X-Men in the early 90s, I intially assumed those characters had been around for awhile. Then, as I went further into the back issues, I realized just how new they were.

    I remember that Mr. Sinister turned out to be the big villain of Peter David's first arc on X-Factor shortly after I started reading, and I just assumed he'd been around forever. And then I quickly realized that was, like, the third story in which Mr. Sinister had ever been.

    Plus he's one of my very favorite villains, so anything that gets him some exposure is fine with me.

    Me too. I have a fondness for "behind the scenes schemer" type villains. Plus, Cyclops is his favorite X-Man too. :)

    @Chris: I believe Frank Miller drew the Hostess Ad.

    He did indeed.

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  19. Me: For one thing it means that I've never been able to accept Emma Frost as an ally let alone an actual member of the X-Men.



    Teebore: Ah, I can see that. When I first read this issue, it was pre-Generation X but I'd already read a lot of stuff where Emma was, if not heroic, at least slightly less villainous that someone who just casually executes some failed goons.

    I liked Generation X when it launched, in concept — return to the students / superheroes-in-training stuff, updated for the '90s — and in execution, particularly in terms of Chris Bachalo's art. Yet I had to will myself not so much to see Emma as multidimensional but to accept that her genuine concern for her charges outweighed her conniving, cutthroat murderousness — and more to the point accept that Sean would accept her. The idea of her becoming involved with Scott makes me gag, especially on the level of an extramarital affair.

    Deathstroke and The Punisher were similar problem cases, their popularity among both fans and creative teams requiring that they be redeemed or, really, just rewritten as nobler characters capable of "protagonist" if not "hero" status.

    And then there's Ben Linus...

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  20. Me: I should add that I stopped reading X-Men regularly with #205 in 1986 — although I did read the first couple of years of Excalibur — and I haven't dipped back into any of the related series at all since about 2000



    Teebore: Does that mean you're going to disappear when we reach that point? Cuz that would be a shame...

    Not at all! I'm really curious to experience stories that I've only vaguely heard about or had to research cursorily for some reason. A lot had changed just between my dropping of all the mutant titles around X-Men #205 and picking up the Inferno crossovers; even more between then and my brief return when the new adjectiveless title launched in 1991 and the teams were split into Blue and Gold. The only real sustained following I did after 1986 was during the early-to-mid '90s when I was working at a comics shop and could read stuff without buying it, which I did, lots of it (including lots of absolute drek), to keep up with what was current. I felt duty-bound to check out the revamps of the whole X-Men line in 2001, as a working comics journalist, but I felt very at sea and was either nonplussed or outright turned off.

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  21. Blam: "Ditto... And I also got the homoerotic vibe from Storm and Stevie Hunter, although it wasn't really erotic."

    You're right, "erotic" isn't the right word. I blame it on being tired. But there was clearly a lot of sexual tension between the two during the issues when Stevie first appeared -- and it was still around when Stevie made her next appearance in Issue 145.

    Stevie and Storm go to the ballet together because Kitty takes ill -- I always read it as Stevie and Storm's first date. It's clear that Claremont is trying to set up that Storm is jealous of Stevie, but I still read the lines as Storm being in love with Stevie. Honestly, it's not much of a stretch with lines like "I want to reach out to comfort her -- yet something holds me back."

    Storm is in love with Stevie. She's just a closet case.

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  22. @Blam: The idea of her becoming involved with Scott makes me gag, especially on the level of an extramarital affair.

    Well, to be fair, their extramarital affair was only psychic and not physical, which, while not excusable, does muddy the waters a bit.

    (But then, I'm a bit of a Scott/Emma apologist, as I've tended to like their interactions together even if I'm not a big fan of how the relationship started. And I never, ever, EVER thought I'd become one. But here we are...).

    Deathstroke and The Punisher were similar problem cases, their popularity among both fans and creative teams requiring that they be redeemed or, really, just rewritten as nobler characters capable of "protagonist" if not "hero" status.

    I've only ever known Punisher as an anti-hero (his being well established as such by the time I first read about him) but I've never been a big Punisher guy anyway (a few Ennis stories aside, and he's hardly any kind of hero in those, nor makes any claim to be).

    Deathstroke, I've largely avoided the popularity-induced "redemption" stories, and thus only know him as a supreme baddie, thankfully.

    And then there's Ben Linus...

    Ha!

    Not at all! I'm really curious to experience stories that I've only vaguely heard about or had to research cursorily for some reason.

    Phew! Glad to hear you won't be leaving us any time soon.


    @Michael: Storm is in love with Stevie. She's just a closet case.

    I am totally going to read their upcoming interactions with an eye towards that, and be sure to bring up this discussion again when we get there.

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  23. Like Blam I gave up on X-men (except for a hesitant return 1990-91) completely around 1986, my enthusiasm went down after #175. But one development I like, having only read the Whedon Astonishing series, is the Scott/Emma relationship. They're like opposite sides of the coin.

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  24. @Chris: one development I like, having only read the Whedon Astonishing series, is the Scott/Emma relationship. They're like opposite sides of the coin.

    Seriously, I continue to be amazed at how much I enjoy that pairing. I was such a nerd for Scott/Jean that I never, ever thought I could enjoy a Scott/Emma relationship at all, let alone as much as I do.

    Like you, I think Whedon's Astonshing did a lot to sell me on it.

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  25. Me: Ditto... And I also got the homoerotic vibe from Storm and Stevie Hunter, although it wasn't really erotic.

    Michael: You're right, "erotic" isn't the right word. I blame it on being tired.

    Oh, I wasn't saying that to correct you. I just tend to think of "erotic" as more sexually or sensually charged than, say, "romantic" (or some other way of saying "non-platonic"), and was drawing the contrast because of the word's presence as part of "homoerotic" — whose usage I tend to think of as suggesting sublimated / subtextual desire, i.e. exactly how we were employing it. So no harm, no foul... Although I now have an internal debate brewing on whether the use of "homoerotic" instead of just "romantic" is inherently bigoted because of its specificity on the homosexual aspect of the emotion or if that's entirely valid because the social mores of the time the story was published, and to a significant extent even those of today, render homosexuality as unusual to a degree worthy of remark. Part of the point is, after all, that Storm's feelings towards Stevie were vague and not entirely understood by Storm herself. I'll chew on that. The rest of you carry on!

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  26. Me: The idea of her becoming involved with Scott makes me gag, especially on the level of an extramarital affair.

    Teebore: Well, to be fair, their extramarital affair was only psychic and not physical, which, while not excusable, does muddy the waters a bit.

    I did not know that. Although there is that tangled web of if and when emotional involvement outside of a committed relationship becomes transgressive to that relationship, as you suggest; I tend to think that it can rise to the level of infidelity, and surely if there is a "like physical" component to it made possible by psychic connection I would say, yeah, Scott's being a dog.

    That's part of what put me off of reading Whedon & Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men, but I came close to borrowing it from a friend as I heard it stood on its own reasonably well and was very good. I've consistently passed largely because I have so darned much to read that I've paid for or that friends have bought me. One fine day, though, I'd really like to bring my 21st-century comics literacy up to date; if only that didn't really mean "many fine months" of uninterrupted reading.

    Chris: [M]y enthusiasm went down after #175.

    That's my dropping-off point as well. I didn't care for the John Romita Jr. / Dan Green art, the more sprawling and self-indulgent aspects of Chris Claremont's scripting seemed to increase, and I just didn't feel spoken to by the characters/milieu/thrust of the series any more. I decided to drop Uncanny with #200, after nearly doing so with the 100th "New X-Men" issue at #194, and only stuck around through #205 because of the plot points and/or guest artists.

    VW: clonyma — Your mother's genetically engineered duplicate.

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  27. Interesting that two people have said they lose interest in the series after #175, because I feel the same way (though for me it's #176, Cyclops's honeymoon).

    There are a number of factors that contribute to my loss of interest around that time, and I'll detail them further when we get there, but in a nutshell: the departure of Cyclops, along with Claremont's evolving style and his evolving sensibilities, are the biggies. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to superhero comics, and post issue 175, the title becomes too "progressive" for me, for lack of a better term.

    That's not to say I don't like some of what comes after, because I do. I still own all the issues, and I've been buying Marvel's fancy hardcover collections of things like "Mutant Massacre", "Fall of the Mutants", "Inferno", etc. But to me, the hands-down all time best period for the X-Men -- and for Chris Claremont as a writer -- is issues 94 - 176.

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  28. I started collecting around 172 and in retrospect have always agreed 175 (that cover!) began the slide...

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  29. @Blam: That's part of what put me off of reading Whedon & Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men, but I came close to borrowing it from a friend as I heard it stood on its own reasonably well and was very good.

    It's definitely worth checking out sometime, even in spite of your understandable aversion to Scott/Emma. It's two biggest problems (pacing and delays between issues) are largely negated when you can sit down with a chunk of issues at one time.

    I didn't care for the John Romita Jr. / Dan Green art, the more sprawling and self-indulgent aspects of Chris Claremont's scripting seemed to increase, and I just didn't feel spoken to by the characters/milieu/thrust of the series any more.

    @Matt: Interesting that two people have said they lose interest in the series after #175, because I feel the same way

    @MOCK!: I started collecting around 172 and in retrospect have always agreed 175 (that cover!) began the slide...

    Hooboy, we are going to have some fun around here post issue #175!

    The run of issues from Paul Smith's arrival up to "Mutant Massacre" is probably my all time favorite run of X-Men comics. Matt, it's interesting that you mention that era as being progressive, because I've always considered those some of the purest super hero comics: it's just the X-Men, living in the mansion, fighting evil mutants, doing their thing.

    To me, Claremont doesn't really start getting all progressive and start deconstructing the idea of the superhero team until after "Mutant Massacre", and especially, after "Fall of the Mutants".

    But we'll cover that in due time, I suppose. It should be fun. :)

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  30. Icemaster was in one of the books I read this week. I believe it was "Vengenace".

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  31. @Anonymous: Icemaster was in one of the books I read this week. I believe it was "Vengenace".

    Very cool.

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