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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

X-amining X-Men #136

"Child of Light and Darkness!"
August 1980

In a Nutshell
X-Men vs. Dark Phoenix: Round 2

Writer/Co-Plotter: Chris Claremont
Artist/Co-Plotter: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
On Imperial Center, Lilandra and her Grand Council meet to determine what to do about the threat of Dark Phoenix. On Earth, Peter Corbeau tells the President that the energy matrix he detected leaving the solar system is returning, more powerful than ever. The President calls the Avengers but only reaches Jarvis, their butler, Beast having abandoned his post earlier in the night. At the X-Mansion, Beast is working on a mnemonic scrambler intended to help contain Dark Phoenix's power, while Wolverine, Colossus and Nightcrawler work out in the Danger Room. Dark Phoenix returns to Earth and visits her parents and sister, but finds herself torn between her love for them and her rage at the fear of her she senses in their minds. Distracted by a fog rolling in, Dark Phoenix leaves the house. Suddenly, Nightcrawler teleports on top of her, dropping Beast's scrambler onto her head.


With Dark Phoenix weakened, the X-Men attack, but even weakened Dark Phoenix is able to hold them off. Wolverine briefly gains the upper hand, and prepares to stop her once and for all, but hesitates when Jean's humanity surfaces and she begs him to kill her. Just then Dark Phoenix overload's Beast's scrambler. As she prepares to destroy the X-Men, Cyclops appears, insisting that she won't kill him because of the love they share. Just as Cyclops manages to talk her down, a just-arrived Professor X hits her with a mindblast. A furious psychic duel between teacher and student ensues, and in the end Xavier only barely manages to win by locking Dark Phoenix's power within an unbreachable network of psychic circuit breakers, though he sensed Jean herself helping him, and realizes he wouldn't have won without her. With Jean back to normal, Cyclops proposes, and she accepts. But just as Angel is explaining his arrival with Professor X to Storm and the rest of the X-Men prepare to celebrate their victory, they suddenly disappear, leaving Jean's shocked and confused family to wonder if they'll ever see them again.     

Firsts and Other Notables
Jean Grey's sister Sarah appears for the first time. It's also mentioned that she has two children, though it will be some time before they appear for the first time. It's not made clear why Sarah, who is Jean's older sister and has two kids of her own, is still seemingly living with her parents.


This issue marks the fifth anniversary, to the month, of Claremont's first X-Men story (according to a note in the letter column).

The Classic X-Men backup story following the reprint of this issue continues the Cyclops/Mr. Sinister origin from the previous issue. Amongst its notable revelations are the idea that Cyclops has a wider-than-normal field of vision, causing him headaches as child which were alleviated by glasses with lenses made of ruby quartz, and the notion that Scott and Jean were fated to find one another, as it is a young Jean who first makes telepathic contact with Scott while training with Xavier, not the professor himself.

On a personal note, this was the first original issue of the "Dark Phoenix Saga" I acquired (my first time through, I read it via the Classic X-Men reprints). I picked it up via a trade with a kid at school, though I forget what I traded for it (whatever it was, I remember thinking I got the better end of the deal, and since I can't even remember the other comic now, that's probably still true). 

A Work in Progress
According to John Byrne, he modeled the Grey home after the house from Bewitched.


Just as Dark Phoenix is about to overcome Beast's mnemonic scrambler, Wolverine tackles her and it's clear he intends to straight-up kill her, something he believes the other X-Men incapable of doing. It's only when Jean, fighting to stay in control, urges him to do it that he hesitates, allowing Dark Phoenix to blast him away.


Xavier's mental battle with Dark Phoenix recalls both the Phoenix/White Queen psychic duel of issue #131 as well as the Xavier/Farouk duel in issue #117.


Similarly, here we begin to see (it'll pop up again next issue) how Xavier's exile in space over the course of issues #117 to #129, something that was done at the time mainly to get the mega powerful Xavier off the board, had fortuitous consequences for the "Dark Phoenix Saga". Xavier's last few appearances made it clear that had he been on Earth, he would have sensed Phoenix's rising power and her growing dark side unleashed by Mastermind's seductions, and this issue makes it clear he could have done something about it. In this way, his unrelated absence earlier in the Claremont/Byrne run allowed this story to unfold as it has.

After her duel with Xavier, a Dark Phoenix-free Jean greets Cyclops with "hi", to which he responds "Hi yourself". This exchange becomes something of a recurring trope, popping up a few more times throughout Claremont's run.


I Love the 80s
Though he goes unnamed, the President is clearly Jimmy Carter.


In one of those "every issue is somebody's first" scenes, Wolverine, Colossus and Nightcrawler are shown working out in the Danger Room, giving them an opportunity to display their powers. Wolverine even makes sure to describe his claws to his teammates even though, you know, they've heard all that before.


Jean's father cries out "Good Grief!" when his daughter turns a houseplant into crystal; were it my daughter, I'd probably have said something a bit stronger.


Also, following her duel with Xavier Jean spends the rest of the issue naked, so that's pretty cool.


Claremontisms
The sequence in which Cyclops essentially talks down Dark Phoenix by pointing out how much she loves him, the X-Men, etc. is classic Claremont, both in its assertion of love being a force powerful enough to conquer all (an idea that also goes back to that fateful issue #108) and in its verbosity (which isn't a criticism; it works quite well here).


Artistic Achievements
The cover of this issue is an homage to Michelangelo's Pieta, a work of art referenced on countless other comic book covers.

Byrne and Austin do a masterful job throughout the issue of twisting and distorting Jean's face as she grows more or less evil, with her looking normal when suppressing her power but twisted and evil when at the height of her rage.


There's also a neat panel where Dark Phoenix blasts Xavier through the "A" in the "ZAM" sound effect (I love it when the sound effects interact with the action).


"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!" 
It's debatable how much of a jerk move it is (depending on how much you believe Cyclops' pleas really worked), but just as Dark Phoenix stands down, Professor X telepathically sucker punches her from behind, believing only he is capable of defeating her once and for all.


Young Love
With Dark Phoenix seemingly defeated, Jean picks up stray thoughts from Cyclops that sound like a marriage proposal, and she accepts.


The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops
In another "for anyone who's never read this comic before" scene, Cyclops makes sure to let any new readers know just how terrible a burden his optic blast is.


For Sale
This issue contains one of my all time favorite products to be advertised in a comic book: Gregory the bat.


Claremont on the timing of the "Dark Phoenix Saga""From the end of #125 to the end of "Dark Phoenix" you're talking at most three weeks. The Proteus saga takes place in something like 50 hours, if that, and then they come back to New York and within a week you've got the Hellfire Club scenario, and then there's two weeks in New Mexico, and then they're back and from the end of #132 to #137, you're talking about one night. From the moment they walk into the door of the Hellfire Club at about nine o'clock that night to the beginning of #137, you're talking four hours of real time, tops."

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p120

Claremont on Dark Phoenix's lust for power
"Well, it was a sexual thrill. It was the ultimate. To use a somewhat gross term, it was the quest for the cosmic orgasm. Her feeding...on the star, was an act of love, of self-love, of masturbation probably. She was on an extreme emotional high, and what happened towards the end - well, what Xavier did was reassert the control of her conscious mind, of her intellectual self over her emotional self."

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p103

Teebore's Take 
The penultimate issue of the "Dark Phoenix Saga" is, essentially, an X-Men vs. Dark Phoenix rematch. Having been thoroughly trounced the last time out, the X-Men come prepared and with a fancy gizmo, some teamwork, Claremontian ideals about the power of love, a telepathic assist from Professor X and a little help from Jean herself, and they emerge triumphant. On another level, this issue is an excellent representation of Claremont and Byrne's ability to elevate the super-hero action story to its highest levels, with plot, characterization and action all working together in perfect synthesis, the events of the previous thirty-five issues building to an elegant, seeming-crescendo. From the changing depictions of Jean at various levels of villainy to the psychic duel between her and Xavier to Claremont's pointed, passionate narration, this is an issue that could be dissected and pored over again and again. It is a showcase for two master craftsmen at the top of their game, and though, in the end, the X-Men appear victorious and the stage set for a happy ending, there is one more issue left to this tale. Claremont and Byrne are about to top themselves; the final fate of Phoenix is yet to be revealed.

Next Issue
The "Dark Phoenix Saga" comes to its thrilling conclusion!

21 comments:

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

man, both cyke and wolverine explaining how their powers work are painful. Especially wolverine's, where he mentions extending his retractable claws. The very fact that you have to extend them tells us they're retractable.

Also, i checked out the links for the pieta covers and i LMAO at the tomahawk and Daredevil covers because of the text.

Also, what is up with that major bummer cover? The body structures make no sense. She must have arms down to her knees or something

Matt said...

This is a great issue! Every time I read the scene where Jean becomes herself again, I get that feeling where you know how something is going to turn out, but you find yourself hoping irrationally that this time it might end differently. But then I move on to the next issue and my hopes are dashed. I guess that speaks to how well-constructed this story is.

"It's not made clear why Sarah, who is Jean's older sister and has two kids of her own, is still seemingly living with her parents."

For that matter, is the father of Sarah's kids ever mentioned? Is she divorced? A widow? Something else? I honestly have no idea.

"Wolverine tackles her and it's clear he intends to straight-up kill her..."

I always loved the "energy lines" around Wolverine's claws whenever he popped them back then. I'm not really sure when that effect went away, but I kind of miss it. Though it would look out of place in today's comic books, I suppose.

"Wolverine even makes sure to describe his claws to his teammates..."

I'm pretty sure that's Jim Shooter's influence. He's very big on explaining everything in every issue for potential new readers. He's said before that he had to ride Claremont hard on this point, and as I recall, his example was of Claremont turning in scripts where characters would refer to Storm as "Ororo" or "Wind Rider" or some other nickname, without ever using her codename.

"...were it my daughter, I'd probably have said something a bit stronger."

I dunno... I've never seen anyone turn a plant into crystal, but whenever I see anything especially crazy or surprising or even frightening, rather than any sort of strong language, the first thing out of my mouth is almost always "Holy Cow!"

I'm not making that up.

"Artistic Achievements"

It's kind of trivial, but I've always liked the first of the two panels you posted just above "Artistic Achievements", where you can see (what I've always assumed to be) the skycraft carrying Angel and Xavier landing in the background behind Phoenix. But that might not be big enough to qualify for special recognition.

"...Dark Phoenix blasts Xavier through the "A" in the "ZAM" sound effect."

Wow. I have never in my life noticed that. Cool!

"'From the moment they walk into the door of the Hellfire Club at about nine o'clock that night to the beginning of #137, you're talking four hours of real time, tops.'"

I love when comics do stuff like that. I don't know exactly why, though. But it's something John Byrne was always good at (per our discussion of X-Men: The Hidden Years in another comment thread), and Roger Stern as well. The idea that these characters move from threat to threat in the span of a day or even a few hours, then have weeks or even months of downtime feels very "real" to me.

Wow... my verification word for this X-Men comic book review is "logan". I win the Internet!

Teebore said...

@Sarah: The very fact that you have to extend them tells us they're retractable.

Ha! You know, I've probably read that line (this isn't the only comic it'll appear in) a million times and I never realized the redundancy in the word retractable.

Also, what is up with that major bummer cover? The body structures make no sense. She must have arms down to her knees or something

That's 90s comic book anatomy for you.

@Matt: Every time I read the scene where Jean becomes herself again, I get that feeling where you know how something is going to turn out, but you find yourself hoping irrationally that this time it might end differently.

I know exactly what you mean, and there's several points in this story where I feel that way. Part of it, I think, is that the story has several pivotal moments, those instances where, if just one thing would have turned out differently, the entire sequence of events would have been aborted.

is the father of Sarah's kids ever mentioned? Is she divorced? A widow? Something else?

I have no recollection of ever hearing anything about the father of Sarah's kids. I recall that Sarah/the kids become something of a minor plot point during the early days of X-Factor and "Inferno", and then an even minor-er plot point during the 90s-riffic "Phalanx Covenant", but I don't think we've learned anything about their father or his seeming absence in Sarah's life.

I'm pretty sure that's Jim Shooter's influence. He's very big on explaining everything in every issue for potential new readers.

I've heard that as well (and probably should have mentioned it). The sad part is that I've read a lot of Claremont's critics chide him for doing that kind of stuff (constantly having the characters explain their powers), when it seems more than likely it's coming from Shooter/editorial. Yet Claremont ends up getting blamed for it.

whenever I see anything especially crazy or surprising or even frightening, rather than any sort of strong language, the first thing out of my mouth is almost always "Holy Cow!"

First of all, that's pretty awesome. Secondly, I've obviously never seen anyone turn a plant into crystal either, but I imagine myself letting out a "Son of a bitch!" at the sight.

...you can see (what I've always assumed to be) the skycraft carrying Angel and Xavier landing in the background behind Phoenix.

That's what I've always assumed it to be, too. And it is a nice touch by Byrne, especially for the way it sets up their arrival without spoiling the surprise of Xavier's attack (I probably should have pointed it out as well, but left it out since it is relatively minor and I was already emphasizing a few other artistic things).

I love when comics do stuff like that. I don't know exactly why, though.

Me too. Part of it is the way it makes the stories feel more realistic, as you mentioned, but there's something else about it I can't quite articulate.

I want to say it has something to do with being unique to comics books (or at least serial fiction), like "blood in the gutter", but that's not entirely true either, since plenty of novels or movie manipulate the audiences' perception of the passage of time in a similar manner.

So I got nothing.

Wow... my verification word for this X-Men comic book review is "logan". I win the Internet!

Haha! That is awesome!

Anne said...

how in the shit did Jean turn a plant into Crystal?!
i call shenanigans on that

Dr. Bitz said...

@Anne: Unstable molecules

Anne said...

so now telekinesis allows the weilder to basically do whatever they want?

SHENANIGANS!

Teebore said...

@Anne: how in the shit did Jean turn a plant into Crystal?!

@Dr. Bitz: Unstable molecules

Magnetically.

Seriously though, she does it the same way she transforms her clothes from one outfit to the other: by telekinetically manipulating things on an atomic/molecular level. So she's essentially moving around atoms and molecules of one thing to make it into another.

Super Lad Kid said...

So this was my first time reading this, and I have to say that it was done really well. What a kick in the pants it must have been for readers at the time to finish this issue with a sigh of relief thinking Jean was going to be ok.

I'm curious about X-Men sales at this time. Was this the top Marvel comic yet, or would this be the story to put it over the top? Just curious when the sales juggernaut begins.

Blam said...


A great job as usual, Mr. T!

You noted — in greater detail — a lot of what I'd jotted down, also as usual, including of course Cyclops' expository thoughts about his Awesome and Terrible Power. (I've learned not to type too much on the basics of topics that I think you'll cover, as I read, just a couple of key words that'll jog my memory.)

Cyclops has a wider-than-normal field of vision

I did not know that.

[I]t is a young Jean who first makes telepathic contact with Scott while training with Xavier, not the professor himself.

?!? Wasn't Jean "only" telekinetic until Professor X unlocked her (even more) latent telepathic abilities?

Xavier's exile in space over the course of issues #117 to #129, something that was done at the time mainly to get the mega powerful Xavier off the board

I got the impression that it was less his power level than his role as headmaster / mentor that prompted Claremont & Co. to remove him, since the "New" X-Men were older than his previous students and so that they could further mature on their own terms.

Jean's father cries out "Good Grief!" when his daughter turns a houseplant into crystal; were it my daughter, I'd probably have said something a bit stronger.

Were it your daughter? Does who's turned the houseplant into crystal really factor into this situation? I think that the only impact that a family member being involved would have on what I said is perhaps the fact that I would add "Uh... Sorry, honey" after what the FCC describes as a fleeting expletive.

With Dark Phoenix seemingly defeated, Jean picks up stray thoughts from Cyclops that sound like a marriage proposal, and she accepts.

Most emotional but also weirdest moment to get engaged ever?

This issue contains one of my all time favorite products to be advertised in a comic book: Gregory the bat.

No no no... It's Gre-Gory. Ha?

this issue is an excellent representation of Claremont and Byrne's ability to elevate the super-hero action story to its highest levels, with plot, characterization and action all working together in perfect synthesis

You said it. Even having read this so many times, carrying so much of the imagery and even dialogue in my permanent memory, it's great, thrilling stuff.

VW: Marcon — Fan exhibition devoted exclusively to the work of J.M. DeMatteis.

Blam said...


Some further notes:

I don't know if Claremont planned ahead on this, but it's kinda brilliant that Beast is the Avenger who was supposed to be in the Mansion on monitor duty, allowing the station to be left unattended and allowing Hank to join the X-Men in one stroke.

The first panel on Pg. 6 of Beast welding together the psionic-inhibitor thingie is mildly iconic. I'm pretty sure that it's reproduced in one of the X-Men Companions or someplace like that, with commentary.

Byrne & Austin sure don't skimp on the backgrounds. Look at that establishing shot of the living room on Pg. 10! (Which you all can actually do, since Teebore chose to embed it.)

I can't believe that #137 is next week.

Blam said...


Matt: I dunno... I've never seen anyone turn a plant into crystal, but whenever I see anything especially crazy or surprising or even frightening, rather than any sort of strong language, the first thing out of my mouth is almost always "Holy Cow!"
I'm not making that up.


I'm with you, as you may already have read. And I say "Holy Cow!" too, due to some combination of growing up reading comic books and having a real thing about swearing when I was younger. I also say "Holy Moley!" — even stranger, perhaps, since it's so specific to comic books — but draw the line at the more esoteric "Blazes!", "Holy blue hannah!", and Beast's "Oh my stars and garters!" Sadly, I've become something of a convert to more serious swearing in my middle age, mostly I suspect thanks to frustrating, life-altering health problems.

Matt: I've always liked the first of the two panels you posted just above "Artistic Achievements", where you can see (what I've always assumed to be) the skycraft carrying Angel and Xavier landing in the background behind Phoenix.

Yes! I forget about that and notice it anew every time.

Matt: The idea that these characters move from threat to threat in the span of a day or even a few hours, then have weeks or even months of downtime feels very "real" to me.

I totally agree. The downtime is also good for shoehorning in untold tales later on, as well as evening out the rapid-pace adventures in terms of aging — or at least real time passing for — the characters; even though the real time ends up getting compressed in the long run, since they're not allowed to actually age much, contemporarily the characters will often refer to events within the past couple of years as having taken place however long ago the actual publishing interim has been.

Regarding Jean's sister, I recall that she has something to do with the X-Men issue of Bizarre Adventures — a quick Google search confirms that it's #27, dated July 1981 — but not much else about it. That's something that I haven't re-read in ages.

Blam said...


Super Lad Kid: I'm curious about X-Men sales at this time. Was this the top Marvel comic yet, or would this be the story to put it over the top?

My recollection, without looking things up, is that it would be a few more years before X-Men was dominating Marvel, and the industry as a whole, across the board. I believe that it was a top seller through the direct-market system before it reached that status on the newsstand — or that direct-market sales simply began to dominate, making its sell-through on the returnable newsstand market (at drug stores, convenient stores, etc.) less relevant. The highest sales in the X-Men family, and in the comic-book industry overall, wouldn't come for another ten-twelve years after this issue, with the multiple-variant-cover blockbusters X-Force #1 and X-Men [2nd series] #1.

VW: patedis — A street thug's response to "If you would only put that gun down, my good man, I should be happy to share my paté."

Teebore said...

@Super Lad Kid: What a kick in the pants it must have been for readers at the time to finish this issue with a sigh of relief thinking Jean was going to be ok.

Yeah, that's one of the things that I think makes this story work so well: it's not just that a happy ending is possible, but that we actually see the happy ending before everything falls apart again.

I'm curious about X-Men sales at this time. Was this the top Marvel comic yet, or would this be the story to put it over the top? Just curious when the sales juggernaut begins.

@Blam: My recollection, without looking things up, is that it would be a few more years before X-Men was dominating Marvel, and the industry as a whole, across the board.

Like Blam, I don't have any hard numbers to back it up (well, aside from looking at the last few Statement of Ownership reports prior to this issue, which simply show a steady increase in sales), but my understanding gels with his: at this point, X-Men was still growing in terms of popularity/sales and not quite the industry juggernaut it would become.

"Dark Phoenix" definitely helped put the book on the map in terms of critical and commercial success (especially compared to its early bi-monthly days and even earlier reprint days) but, for all the acclaim the Claremont/Byrne run gets these days, it does not coincide with the book's high point in terms of sales.

It won't be long, though. X-Men (and New Teen Titans at DC) will come to dominate sales in the 80s. The New Mutants, the first of the now nearly countless X-Men spinoffs, will debut in 1983, just a few years after the end of "Dark Phoenix", suggesting that between this issue and then, sales increased to the point that Marvel realized they could cash in on this mutant stuff even further.

From there, sales (and the X-Men line) would continue to grow throughout the 80s, climaxing, as Blam said, with 1991's X-Men (vol.2) #1, which I believe still holds the record for highest single issue sales of comic at around 8 million copies (helped along by all the variant covers...).

The X-Men remained a sales juggernaut throughout the 90s, though after the speculator bubble burst in the mid 90s, even though the X-Men remained Marvel's cash cow, their sales weren't even close to what the Claremont and Byrne issues pulled in back in the day (though, of course, that had to do with a lot of different factors, both within Marvel and the comics industry as a whole, including the fact in 1980, there was one X-Men book, and in 1995 there was anywhere from two to six, depending on how you wanted to count them...).

Again, that's just my general understanding of the situation; as we continue on with this series, I hope to get a better feel for the specifics of that kind of stuff.

Teebore said...

@Blam: ?!? Wasn't Jean "only" telekinetic until Professor X unlocked her (even more) latent telepathic abilities?

I believe he official explanation (whatever that may mean) is that her powers first manifested when she was ten years old, after her best friend was struck by a car, forcing Jean to telepathically experience the death of her friend, which left her comatose.

As a result, her parents brought her to Xavier, who helped heal her mind and shut down her access to her telepathy until she was more prepared to deal with it, leaving her with only the telekinesis she displayed in the earliest issue of X-Men.

All of which is, of course, a big retcon, but I believe it was established in the Bizarre Adventures issue you mentioned (which we may or may not discuss in its own post one day), so it is, at least, a Claremontian retcon, and more contemporaneous to the original Lee/Kirby stories than more modern retcons.

I got the impression that it was less his power level than his role as headmaster / mentor that prompted Claremont & Co. to remove him, since the "New" X-Men were older than his previous students and so that they could further mature on their own terms.

In this case, you're probably more right than I am. I tend to lump all of Claremont's various write-outs of Xavier together, and I know some of his subsequent efforts are more about dealing with Xaiver's power level than his role as a teacher (since, when they occur, the New Mutants are around to fill the "student" role instead of the seasoned, adult X-Men).

Either way, it worked out fortuitously for "Dark Phoenix". :)

Does who's turned the houseplant into crystal really factor into this situation?

Haha! Good point.

Most emotional but also weirdest moment to get engaged ever?

Indeed. "Honey, I know you've just been freed from the control of your dark side and the seduction of the near limitless power at your disposal, and that you're currently naked in front of your parents, co-workers and boss, and that you've spent the last several hours trying to kill those selfsame co-workers, and also, earlier this evening, wore some questionable S&M attire that was still kinda sexy, but, gee whiz, will you make me the happiest guy in the world and marry me?"

No no no... It's Gre-Gory. Ha?

Oh, it's definitely "ha", though I'll grant there's a fair amount of irony in that "ha"...

I don't know if Claremont planned ahead on this, but it's kinda brilliant that Beast is the Avenger who was supposed to be in the Mansion on monitor duty

Yeah, I'd love to know if Claremont planned that, or if it was just a happy accident.

I can't believe that #137 is next week.

Me neither! It's such an iconic, milestone issue that ever since I started this series, I've always viewed as a pretty significant benchmark to reach, and now we'll be discussing it in days. Crazy!

I recall that she has something to do with the X-Men issue of Bizarre Adventures — a quick Google search confirms that it's #27, dated July 1981 — but not much else about it. That's something that I haven't re-read in ages.

Ditto, which is partly why I'm thinking of devoting a post to it. We shall see.

Matt said...

Regarding the X-Men sales question -- I've never seen any official numbers either, but I've always read that it really took off when Paul Smith came on board as artist, in the late 160's. Up till that point the book was growing steadily as noted, but that's apparently when it became a blockbuster.

Also, regarding this:

"I don't know if Claremont planned ahead on this, but it's kinda brilliant that Beast is the Avenger who was supposed to be in the Mansion on monitor duty"

"Yeah, I'd love to know if Claremont planned that, or if it was just a happy accident."


I'm not sure what you guys are getting at... wouldn't it have had to be planned that way in order for it to work? Or are you suggesting that they could've incorporated Beast by having him out on a date when he notices the antics at the Hellfire Club and goes to investigate, while Captain America is at Avengers Mansion on monitor duty (and therefore the Avengers would also find out about it)?

I can't imagine any scenario where they didn't plan it out to work as it does. It's the easiest way to get Beast involved... and he doesn't just leave the monitor station unattended. He specifically deletes the report so the other Avengers won't see it! I think it's pretty clear from that bit that the point of the scene is to get Beast involved and explain why the Avengers don't respond to a mutant attack just up the street from their house...

It is, as Blam says, a brilliant and elegant way to get him involved, but I can't see how it could be an accident or something that wasn't planned ahead...

(I wonder if there was ever any follow-up on that in The Avengers, by the way... given the interconnectivity of the Marvel Universe at this time, I would expect someone to give Beast a formal reprimand when he returned... who was writing the title at this time, anyway -- Jim Shooter?)

Teebore said...

@Matt: I'm not sure what you guys are getting at... wouldn't it have had to be planned that way in order for it to work?

I can't speak for Blam, but I was thinking it might have been a happy accident; Claremont (or Byrne) could have decided to bring Beast into it by having him be on monitor duty, and keep the Avengers out of it by having delete the record.

Then, a few issues later, they decided to highlight the threat of Phoenix by involving the President, and because they'd already setup Beast's absence, realized he could call Avengers Mansion and reach Jarvis.

So I guess I'm just curious if they came up with both scenes at the same time (setup Beast's absence, then have the President call), or if they did the first scene as a way to bring in Beast and leave out the Avengers, then later realized they could use that setup to their advantage even more. If that makes any sense...

Which is, I'll grant, a small distinction, either way.

I wonder if there was ever any follow-up on that in The Avengers, by the way... given the interconnectivity of the Marvel Universe at this time, I would expect someone to give Beast a formal reprimand when he returned... who was writing the title at this time, anyway -- Jim Shooter?

I forget offhand which issue of Avengers shows Beast's return from the events of "Dark Phoenix" but I know there's a few issues where Beast is absent from the team during his time in X-Men (and the subsequent aftermath of the events of "Dark Phoenix"), which is the kind of thing you'd never see these days, and I'm pretty sure he does get some kind of reprimand when he returns.

I don't have the indexes handy, but a quick Google search tells me Avengers #200 was published with the same cover date as X-Men #138, but I know Beast was in that issue. Without the other issues handy, I can't pinpoint exactly when he was gone for/returned from "Dark Phoenix".

At any rate, "Dark Phoenix" occurred at the same time as the David Michelinie/George Perez run on Avengers, with Shooter's second run on the title still about a dozen issues away (#211 marked Shooter's return, Beast's departure from the team, and the beginning of the "Hank Pym-Wife Beater" story).

Matt said...

Okay, that makes sense. I think I misunderstood what you were getting at.

Having never read The Avengers from the 70's, I wasn't aware that Beast was actually written out to accommodate Dark Phoenix. That's pretty cool, and as you say, totally unheard of these days. Was he also written out of Avengers during the storyline where they were prisoners of Magneto?

I'm not sure when exactly the writers and editors stopped doing that, but it's unfortunate. I feel like maybe it was the post-Shooter era? Though I think some particularly continuity-conscious parties, such as Kurt Busiek and even Bob Harras's X-Office, kept up the practice when possible. It probably ended once and for all when Bill Jemas came into the picture.

Regardless, the practice really added to the whole "shared universe" thing. Nowadays when Wolverine shows up in three X-Men books, two Avengers books, and his own title(s) every month, on the off chance that it's even addressed in-story, it's likely to be with a flippant non-answer.

I remember during the Chris Claremont/Alan Davis run on Uncanny a few years ago, Claremont wrote in a "downtime" issue where the narration specifically mentioned all the other X-book plots using his characters happened in that timeframe. It was kind of pointless since no other writers would ever have the courtesy to do the same thing, but it was nice to see him try!

As I recall, during the same period when it was editorially mandated that Storm appear in Black Panther, Claremont offered to write her out of Uncanny, but he was told it wasn't necessary or something. I can kind of understand not bothering to keep track of that sort of thing, but when a writer offers to add a little extra continuity touch, it seems ridiculous and kind of dickish to turn him down.

(However, it's entirely possible I got that whole scenario wrong, so if anyone would like to correct me, please feel free! I definitely know I read something about Claremont offering to help out for an X-Men/Pantehr crossover and getting shot down...)

Chris said...

Looks like the only Avengers issue where Beast was absent during this period was #202:
http://marvel.wikia.com/Avengers_Vol_1_202

I was an intermittent Avengers reader during this period before X-men 137 turned me into a consecutive issue buyer, turning 8 seemed a good age to walk to the store on my own. Beast was my favorite Avenger(partly why I wound up buying that issue of X-Men), I pretty much stopped reading Avengers with #199. I don't remember any mention of Beast taking a leave of absence in the 20 odd issues prior but I never read all of them.

Chris said...

Just for purely historical interest, the same month this issue came out, about 500 Richie Rich titles were published:
http://www.dcindexes.com/newsstand/coverdate.php?year=1980&month=7

Teebore said...

@Matt: Was he also written out of Avengers during the storyline where they were prisoners of Magneto?

@Chris: Looks like the only Avengers issue where Beast was absent during this period was #202

Now that I think about, I believe his "Dark Phoenix" absence/reprimand was just noted in an issue (since his involvement in the events of the story only lasted a few hours), whereas his absence for the Magneto story in X-Men #111-113 was reflected by a lengthier absence from Avengers (in fact, I think he might have missed out on the climax of "The Korvac Saga" as a result).

Though I think some particularly continuity-conscious parties, such as Kurt Busiek and even Bob Harras's X-Office, kept up the practice when possible. It probably ended once and for all when Bill Jemas came into the picture.

Though it was never as tight as it was in Shooter's time, some of that continued well into the 90s (it doesn't become terribly difficult to slot all the various X-Men appearances into some order until after "Onslaught"). It was definitely a dying practice by the time he came along, but I think Jemas definitely killed it (along with the use of footnotes). He seemingly had a very "every comic is an island unto itself" attitude, which undermines pretty much everything that is great about Marvel and DC superhero comics.

Claremont wrote in a "downtime" issue where the narration specifically mentioned all the other X-book plots using his characters happened in that timeframe. It was kind of pointless since no other writers would ever have the courtesy to do the same thing, but it was nice to see him try!

I remember that too. I think it was during his second (more successful) return to the book, when Whendon was on Astonishing and he was on Uncanny, shortly before Brubaker came aboard.

Needless to say, I think the guys who write the Marvel Indexes appreciated it!

I definitely know I read something about Claremont offering to help out for an X-Men/Pantehr crossover and getting shot down...

That I don't recall. The only Panther/X-Men crossover I recall around the time of Claremont's last run was in Adjectiveless, but it was written by Peter Milligan. Since it featured Storm, and Storm was one of the featured characters in Claremont's Uncanny, maybe he offered to write her out of his book to explain Milligan's use of her, and was told not to bother (which, I agree, is ridiculous and kind of dick-ish on the part of editorial)?

@Chris:
Just for purely historical interest, the same month this issue came out, about 500 Richie Rich titles were published


Ha! And a shit ton of Archies, too. I love that website.

Blam said...


Teebore — I appreciate the replies.

Matt: I'm not sure what you guys are getting at...

I think that the confusion stems from me not giving enough context to my original statement. Yes, Beast could've joined up with the X-Men some other way than answering the call on the Avengers' monitor, but that isn't what I was referring to; all of the stuff with the Hellfire Club, from Beast heading out when the call came in to the Avengers therefore being kept out of that situation because he deleted the record of the call, is Point #1. Point #2 is nobody being on monitor duty at Avengers Mansion when the later alert came in and the White House contacted the Mansion because of the Starcore alarms set off by Phoenix's use of cosmic power. I don't know that Claremont and Byrne were thinking about this when they had Beast abandon his post a few issues before, and neither answer would surprise me: Claremont was pretty good at thinking ahead. There were also a lot of "happy accidents" due to not just the scripter/penciler conflict in Marvel-style plotting or co-plotting but due to seat-of-the-pants long-term serialized storytelling altogeter. I just really like the fact that instead of some lame, generic line about the Avengers being all caught up in some major battle on the other side of the world, if not off-planet, we got a real reason for nobody being on monitor duty (including Jarvis, who didn't have to take a shift because someone was indeed supposed to be there) that actually tied in to the story itself, since the Avenger in question was Beast.

Whew. 8^)

Chris: — I was going to link to the same site, having gone there to check on the creative teams the other day after the question about exactly who was handling Avengers during this period of X-Men came up, plus Super Lad Kid's query about X-Men's place in the industry re sales rankings. Mike's was great when it was just focused on DC; now, with that Newsstand feature, it's astounding.