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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

X-amining X-Men #139

"...Something WICKED This Way Comes!
November 1980

In a Nutshell 
Wolverine goes to Canada and makes peace with Vindicator. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Pencils/Plot: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
The X-Men work out in the Danger Room under the supervision of Professor X while Kitty Pryde looks on, but the recently re-joined Angel is out of practice, and almost gets Nightcrawler hurt. He apologizes for his mistake as Nightcrawler brings in some refreshments and Kitty Pryde chooses a code name. Wolverine, wearing a new costume, decides it's time to put an end to his troubles with the Canadian government once and for all, and declares his intention to return there to set things right. Professor X agrees, and sends Nightcrawler along to keep Wolverine out of trouble. Later that day, Storm takes Kitty into Salem Center to meet Stevie Hunter, her new dance teacher. Kitty is excited to be able to continue dancing, and takes an instant liking to Stevie. In Canada, Heather Hudson, wife of Alpha Flight's Vindicator, returns home to find Wolverine and Nightcrawler waiting for her. Happy to see Wolverine again and to hear that he's returned to make peace, she tells him that her husband and Alpha Flight are in the north country, on Hudson Bay, investigating some kind of trouble. 


To the north, Vindicator streaks across the sky, landing at a base camp to confer with Shaman and Snowbird when Nightcrawler and Wolverine arrive. Nightcrawler manages to quickly diffuse the tension between Wolverine and Vindicator, and a truce is declared. Vindicator fills in the X-Men on their situation: a Canadian Mountie and his family were attacked on a camping trip, the Mountie killed and wife and children missing. Wolverine realizes they were attacked by a Wendigo, a monstrous beast who feeds on human flesh that Wolverine once fought, along with the Hulk, when he worked for the Canadian government. Believing the Mountie's family might still be alive because Wendigo likes fresh meat, Wolverine offers his and Nightcrawler's help in dealing with the creature. But as Nightcrawler leaves the cabin to fetch their supplies from the rental car, he is suddenly attacked by Wendigo!

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue is best remembered for debuting Wolverine's brown-and-orange, John Byrne-designed costume, which will become his standard look until his old blue-and-yellow costume returns in the early 90s. This costume is generally considered by fans to be the preferred look for the character, as it's a little less ostentatious than the bright blue-and-yellow number, and thus, more appropriate for the character. I tend to go back and forth on the matter.


Kitty Pryde receives her first costume, a black-and-yellow variation on the blue-and-yellow uniforms worn by the original X-Men in the early days of the series. This will become the standard "uniform" for the school, also worn by the eventual New Mutants. She also receives her first codename, Sprite, though she'll go through several codenames in the months to come (in fact, she'll eventually use Professor X's first suggestion, Ariel, which she dismisses in this issue).


The tagline on the cover, "Welcome to the X-Men, Kitty Pryde. Hope you survive the experience!" becomes a recurring phrase, often appearing in some form or another whenever a new member joins the team. 

Angel is revealed to have re-joined the team between last issue and this one, bringing to an end the relatively brief period following Cyclops' departure in which there were no original members on the team, and furthering Byrne's stated mission to bring in as many of the original X-Men as possible. 

This issue also marks the first appearance of Heather Hudson, wife of Alpha Flight's Vindicator. It's revealed that she, her husband and Wolverine were all close friends back in the day, and Wolverine's flirtations with her here will eventually lead to the revelation that she is another in what will become a string of unrequited loves in Wolverine's past. Heather will, in time, lead Alpha Flight in her own right, wearing a version of her husband's suit.


Stevie Hunter also makes her first appearance, as Kitty's new dance teacher, and Storm's jealousy of her is hinted at slightly. Stevie will eventually become something of a phys ed teacher for Xavier's school, working in a similar capacity with the New Mutants as well as Kitty, and will remain a supporting character throughout Claremont's run.


Alpha Flight returns to the book for the first time since their first appearance in issues #120-121, though in a nice bit of editorial coordination you'd never see these days, only half the team appears, with Sasquatch, Aurora and Northstar appearing in Machine Man #18 (the editorial caption refers to Machine Man #19, but the Official Index notes that it's actually issue #18).

This is the first 22 page issue of X-Men (up from 17 pages), a result of a page increase across all Marvel titles at this time.

Finally, this is the first issue of X-Men for which John Byrne receives sole plotting credit, with Claremont reduced to merely scripting the book. 

A Work in Progress
Nightcrawler mentions that it's been several months since Jean died.

For anyone who missed the annual, it's noted again that Storm is now the team leader and that Kitty is uncomfortable around Nightcrawler.

Kitty's status as a genius also gets a bit more play.


In a bit that's always cracked me up, Professor X asks that Wolverine not call him "Charley", to which Wolverine responds, "sure, Chuck". 


Nightcrawler gets a nice moment in which he reflects on Jean's death, and the crisis of faith its caused. 


I Love the 80s
Thanks to a high slit in her skirt, Heather Hudson definitely makes the most out of the "sexy librarian" look.


Vindicator tells Snowbird to investigate a disturbance but keep a low profile, which she does by transforming into...a polar bear.


The Best There is at What He Does
Nightcrawler learns that Logan is Wolverine's real name, and we get a third instance of the classic "I didn't know/you didn't ask" exchange.


Wolverine also spends much of this issue with a beer in hand, smoking a cigar. While it's not the first time the character has been seen doing either, it does seem like the first time a lot of attention was given to these habits.


John Byrne on changing Wolverine's costume
"I wanted to change Wolverine's duds from the first moment I set eyes on him. Yellow and blue? That's a football team, not a wild animal! And an AMERICAN football team, no less! So as soon as I could, I gave Wolverine the brown-on-brown costume."

Byrne, John."Why did JB Change Wolverine's Costume?" Byrne Robotics. 1/3/2012 http://www.byrnerobotics.com/FAQ/listing.asp?ID=2&T1=Questions+about+Comic+Book+Projects#46 

"I'd been campaigning for a costume change for Wolverine since my first day on the book. The 'Fang' costume was, as Dave [Cockrum] said when he showed me the original drawings, 'a bitch to draw!', so I got rid of that immediately. But I wanted something more reflective of what a real wolverine looks like. Amazingly, few of them are yellow and blue!"

Nickerson, Al. "Claremont and Byrne: The Team that Made the X-Men Uncanny." Back Issue August 2008: p10.

Claremont on making Kitty a genius
"I made her the genius of the team because we didn't have one, and I felt the team needed somebody with a brain, somebody who could whip up gadgets in an instant, who could explain things, understand things - a Beast-character, a Reed Richards, a Tony Stark. Every team needs one. The X-Men didn't have one."

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p29

John Byrne on Claremont making Kitty a genius
"I was very pissed off at Chris when he made her a genius. I did not approve of that at all and it was too late for it to be changed when I found out about it. I felt as if I'd lost the character at that point. She wasn't the girl I thought she was...I think that a lot of our readers are that age; and it gives them somebody to - that dreaded word - identify with. Because she's real, because she's all elbows and knees, klutzes around."

"I created Kitty as a challenge. I said, 'Chris, write a normal girl,' and he couldn't do it; he made her a genius, which is not a normal girl, no matter what you do with it. My main faulting with Chris is that he falls into schticks. I probably fall into schticks with my art, but nobody's bothered to tell me about it yet. Maybe I'll fall into schtick as a writer too.

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p76, 99

Claremont on Nightcrawler's crisis of faith in the wake of Phoenix's death
"He believed in his heart of hearts that it was unfair, that there should have been a third way. This is John's [Byrne] argument about the FF [Fantastic Four]. If Person A is about to kill a planet and Reed must either kill Person A or Planet B will die, Reed will find a third way, and that was my feeling. We should have found a third way. The circumstances prevented it. That was my using Nightcrawler to say we should have found a third way."

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p44-45

Teebore's Take
In the comments to last week's post, reader mortsleam likened X-Men Annual #4 to the premiere episode of a new "season" of X-Men (and expressed his feeling it was lacking in that regard). From that perspective, this issue serves as a much better season premiere for the second "season" of Claremont and Byrne's run. It opens with significant changes to the status quo already in place: Wolverine has a new costume, Kitty is in costume, Angel has rejoined and Storm is firmly entrenched as team leader. All of these changes occur off screen, and a later comment from Nightcrawler establishes that several months have passed since issue #138, much in the same way that the time between seasons of a TV show often passes for the characters just as it does for the viewers, allowing for a strikingly-different status quo to be in place at the start of a new season.

Of course, this new "season" of Claremont/Byrne will unfortunately be a short one, and the back half of this issue transitions away from the intriguing new team dynamic to setup what will ultimately be a fairly generic super hero action story featuring a fairly lame villain (but more on that next week). Fortunately, that setup manages to be entertaining in and of itself (a horribly padded retelling of Wolverine's first appearance aside), as we get some nice character development for Byrne-favorite Wolverine (not surprising, since Byrne plotted this story solo) as well as some fun interplay between him and Nightcrawler and the resolution to Wolverine's long-running "feud" with the Canadian government.

Next Issue
Wen-di-go!

30 comments:

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i don't have much to say in regards to this issue. I love wolverine, i love nightcrawler and stick them together and it's a win for me.
I, presonally, have no preference over wolverine's yellow/blue or orange/brown uniform. They're pretty similiar so who really cares?
Also, kitty changing her codename frequently is one of the reasons i disliked her, hard, for many years. That and the fact that she's a genius. I have to agree with Byrne in that sense. She's already got an awesome super power. Why the hell does she also need to be a genius?

Teebore said...

@Sarah: I, presonally, have no preference over wolverine's yellow/blue or orange/brown uniform. They're pretty similiar so who really cares?

Like I said, I go back and forth on it. On the one hand, I kinda like his original look. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but it looks good, in a dynamic, super hero-y way.

On the other hand, the brown and orange look makes a lot more sense, both in terms of "wolverine" and for a stealthy character, and looks kinda bad ass in its way. So I guess I'm happy no matter what.

Also, kitty changing her codename frequently is one of the reasons i disliked her, hard, for many years.

That never bothered me because by the time I read her for the first time, she was firmly entrenched as Shadowcat, so from my perspective, all the name changing was just goofy past stuff on her way to getting there.

That and the fact that she's a genius. I have to agree with Byrne in that sense. She's already got an awesome super power. Why the hell does she also need to be a genius?

My only defense for her being a genius is that it makes it easier to buy the idea of her being a member of the team, both in terms of being a productive member able to help her teammates out of jams and helping explain how a 13-year-old can process some of the junk she'd encounter as an X-Man.

I mean, the idea of a completely normal (other than her power) teenage girl being a member of the team is great in principle, but if she's all "elbows and knees", as Byrne said, what business does she have fighting Magneto?

Basically, as a character, she belongs in the New Mutants, but she came along before their inception, so I see the genius thing as being a way to rationalize her presence on the team and then differentiating her from the other gangly, untrained kids who come along later.

So I guess you could say I agree with Byrne on principal, but not in execution.

Matt said...

My main problem with Kitty being the "team genius" is that she's 13 years old and we just met her... she hasn't "earned it" yet for me at this point, plus -- even in comics -- a 13 year-old super-genius-prodigy is too hard for me to swallow. Claremont likens her to Reed Richards and Tony Stark, both grown men who I've always read as being in their mid- to late-30's at least (more like mid- to late-40's for Reed). Even Beast is over 20 by this period.

Besides, isn't Professor X kind of the X-Men's genius around this time? He did build Cerebro, after all. Plus they have Moira on hand, too!

Anyway... this issue doesn't really do a whole lot for me. I like the character development stuff, but the plot is, as you say, fairly generic.

I go back and forth on Wolverine's brown costume too. It's what he was regularly wearing when I first encountered him, but through Classic X-Men reprints and flashbacks and such, I got to see the yellow costume once in a while too, and I liked it. Overall, I think I like the yellow better because it's become the character's iconic look, but I don't mind occasional use of the brown costume as well -- like how Spider-Man seems contractually obligated to put on the black costume for an issue or two every few years.

Speaking of the costume change, Byrne has a funny anecdote about it -- which is corroborated pretty much exactly by Jim Lee, so it must be true. In fact, you may have it queued up for when you get to X-Men #4, but since that's probably several years from now, I'll tell it here:

Byrne was the X-Men's new scripter, and Jim Lee was the artist and plotter. He was a fan of the original Byrne/Claremont run, and liked the original yellow costume better than the brown, so he returned Wolverine to the yellow suit. During a phone conversation, Lee excitedly told Byrne that he had restored Wolverine to his "real" costume, and had gotten rid of the "dirty" one, apparently thinking Byrne would be happy to hear the costume he'd drawn for most of his run was back. Byrne then reminded Lee that he had gotten rid of the yellow costume and created the "dirty" one in the first place, leading to a moment of embarassed silence from Lee.

Two things worth mentioning:

1. Byrne was apparently irritated by the fact that he drew the scene with Nightcrawler looking at the sunset simply as a POV shot from Wendigo to show him sneaking up on our hero, but Claremont made no reference to the POV at all, and instead gave Nightcrawler an anguished monologue about Phoenix's death.

2. Byrne was also irritated (shocking, I know) by Kitty mocking her own codename as soon as she receives it. His story is something to the effect that he suggested Ariel but Claremont didn't like it, then they racked their brains and came up with Sprite together. Then Kitty made the joke about no one "popping her tab," and Byrne felt that the name was ruined by the character's own self-loathing.

(Byrne is big on accusing fans and writers alike of contempt for the characters, self-loathing, and such.)

Anyway, maybe Claremont agreed, since he pretty quickly did away with Sprite. In fact, I know Kitty had a couple of official codenames before Shadowcat, but none of them were really used much on the page, were they? I'm personally not a fan of Sprite or Ariel, but I love the name Shadowcat. I also love the Alan Davis Shadowcat costume from Excalibur (strongly based on the JR jr one) more than any of her other outfits. Not sure why Marvel loves to revert her back to varations of the school uniform look all the time...

Lastly, I have to say that Byrne seems much more mellow in the 1982 interviews than he does today. I would expect it to be the other way around, because you'd figure that in '82, the memory of his difficult collaboration with Claremont would have been fresher in his mind.

Teebore said...

@Matt: Claremont likens her to Reed Richards and Tony Stark, both grown men who I've always read as being in their mid- to late-30's at least

I definitely agree, as well as with your point that it's a bit much to saddle the newest character on the team that we've just met with the "team genius" role.

My defense of her being a genius is really less a defense and more an attempt to rationalize a condition of the character I can't change (that said, her being a genius is one thing, and I can live with it. But things get ridiculously Mary Sue-ish later when she's also a genius gifted dancer ninja master with leadership potential and a pet dragon).

I like the character development stuff, but the plot is, as you say, fairly generic.

I've always been a bit down on these issues, but I think I've finally figured out why. I'm saving it for the discussion next week though, as it pertains more to that issue.

Byrne then reminded Lee that he had gotten rid of the yellow costume and created the "dirty" one in the first place, leading to a moment of embarassed silence from Lee.

I love that story. Byrne does indeed tell it in the same passage I quote from his website in this post.

Byrne was apparently irritated by the fact that he drew the scene with Nightcrawler looking at the sunset simply as a POV shot from Wendigo to show him sneaking up on our hero, but Claremont made no reference to the POV at all, and instead gave Nightcrawler an anguished monologue about Phoenix's death.

Huh. I hadn't heard about that. Seems odd, especially since the next three panels ARE from Wendigo's POV, so it isn't like Claremont ignored it entirely.

Byrne felt that the name was ruined by the character's own self-loathing.

Nah, it was ruined by being fairly lame and generic. :)

But that's another anecdote I hadn't heard before (his irritation at her mocking the name right out of the gate).

I know Kitty had a couple of official codenames before Shadowcat, but none of them were really used much on the page, were they? I'm personally not a fan of Sprite or Ariel, but I love the name Shadowcat.

Yeah, Shadowcat is pretty much the first codename that gets used regularly within the book itself. She cycles through Sprite and Ariel for a bit (maybe even one more?), but gets referred to simply as "Kitty" for the most part until Shadowcat comes along.

I too prefer it to all her other codenames, as well as the Alan Davis costume, and share your confusion over why Marvel keeps putting her back in some variation of the old school uniform look.

I have to say that Byrne seems much more mellow in the 1982 interviews than he does today. I would expect it to be the other way around, because you'd figure that in '82, the memory of his difficult collaboration with Claremont would have been fresher in his mind.

I've begun to notice that too. I wonder if it's because he was trying not to burn any bridges, as he was still working significantly for Marvel in '82, or if, through the years, he's just gotten tired of rehashing the same stuff such that in more recent interviews he's a little more jaded/tired of it all?

Nathan Adler said...

You know, instead of complaining about Wolvie's yellow/ blue costume, since a legitimate explanation for its colour was never provided it could have provided the impetus for an interesting background story. I always had this theory that after being inspired by his adventure with Cap in UXM 268, he participates in some mission with the Liberty Legion, in particular the Whizzer, who saves his life. When the time eventually comes for him to suit up as Weapon X, he chooses the colours in memory of Frank:)

Teebore said...

@Nathan Adler: When the time eventually comes for him to suit up as Weapon X, he chooses the colours in memory of Frank:)

I like it!

I forget where I read it (and whether it was fan-based or something that actually got inserted into continuity), but I always liked the notion that he switched the more somber brown-and-orange costume as a way of mourning Jean.

Not that he was desperately in love with her when she died, but just the idea that a teammate and a woman he once cared about had died, and that called for a more somber look.

Dr. Bitz said...

I like how Byrne is adamant that Kitty Pryde was supposed to be a normal girl. Last I checked normal girls can't walk through walls.

That being said, I actually agree with Byrne on principal.

Matt said...

Teebore -- "I've always been a bit down on these issues, but I think I've finally figured out why. I'm saving it for the discussion next week though, as it pertains more to that issue."

I'm looking forward to reading it! I usually tend to like these sorts of issues, but this one just doesn't do a lot for me. As someone who grew up on the X-Men of the 90's, it seemed like practically every other issue was a "calm before (or after) the storm" type thing, so you kind of had to get on board with the concept.

Teebore -- "But that's another anecdote I hadn't heard before..."

A lot of this stuff comes from reguarly reading Byrne's message board -- which is why I paraphrase instead of quote, since I'm not a member so I can't search the threads for exact verbiage. He has a ton of info in the FAQ's, but he also regularly relates plenty of anecdotes that don't necessarily apply there.

Though he's kind of like my grandfather -- he'll tell the same story over and over again until you have it memorized, but every once in a while he'll take you by surprise by throwing in a brand new one that you've never heard before!

Teebore said...

@Dr. Bitz: Last I checked normal girls can't walk through walls.

That is, as they say, the rub.

Like I've said, I don't necessarily disagree with Byrne on principal, but Kitty being a genius comes with its own kind of problems, as we've discussed, and I don't think you can get too bent out of shape when someone adds something abnormal to your already-abnormal character because you wanted her to be "normal" all along.



Ha! I can see that. He also has that "things were better in my day!" tone so common in grandfathers. :)

Nathan Adler said...

@Teebore: I always liked the notion that he switched the more somber brown-and-orange costume as a way of mourning Jean.

So did I:)

Michael said...

I don't know what you all are talking about. This two-parter is GREAT.

After the death of Jean and introduction of the Phoenix, the fight with Magneto, the world tour, Proteus, the nine-part Dark Phoenix saga -- it's good to have a good ol' superhero romp disconnected from the back-to-back-to-back breakneck action that defined Claremont / Byrne up to this point.

Also, am I really the only one who sees the lesbian subtext to Storm and Stevie in these issues?

Dr. Bitz said...

@Michael: I'm the wrong person to ask, because I see lesbian subtext in EVERYTHING. Oddly, even in things that don't involve any women...

Teebore said...

@Michael: it's good to have a good ol' superhero romp disconnected from the back-to-back-to-back breakneck action that defined Claremont / Byrne up to this point.


Most of my issues with this two-parter stem from the second part (I like this issue fine), which is why I'm saving a more detailed discussion of why for next week. That said, the traditional super-hero romp aspect of it really isn't the issue I have with it.

Also, am I really the only one who sees the lesbian subtext to Storm and Stevie in these issues?

I don't see it as much in this issue as I do in later issues (#148, I think?), but I can definitely see it once you mention it.

Chris said...

Comparing these last five issues with Byrne with the next 20-30 odd issues where Claremont had complete control over the plots (and for that matter later Byrne written comics), it's interesting noticing the difference how they curbed each others worst excesses. Claremont humanizes the characters while Byrne keeps the plot taut.

Poor Angel doesn't last long once Byrne leaves, I always liked that he came in to replace Cyclops as the token original member. Otherwise he doesn't have much to do except act as a foil to Wolverine.

This issue's cover and 141 are probably my favorite Byrne X-men covers.

Teebore said...

@Chris: , it's interesting noticing the difference how they curbed each others worst excesses. Claremont humanizes the characters while Byrne keeps the plot taut.


They really were a team that pushed against the other such that the best of both of them made it onto the page. But it's surprising their collaboration lasted as long as it did with that kind of tension at its core.

I always liked that he came in to replace Cyclops as the token original member.

Me too. I've always had a soft spot for post-new X-Men, pre-Archangel Angel, whenever he comes in and tries to make a place for himself on a team despite being able to do nothing but fly in a world of superheroes where that becomes less and less of a unique power as time goes on.

Michael said...

Just thought about this for the first time --

"Welcome to the X-Men, Kitty Pryde. Hope you survive the experience."

How much of a sucker punch must that been for fans at the time? Phoenix had just died. Cyclops had quit. Banshee had been so severely injured that he was written out of the book and had no sign of returning. Thunderbird was dead.

X-Men was a book where serious, lasting injury actually happened to the characters. That cover must have greeted fans with a real sense of dread.

It's too bad that comics book deaths have become such a cliche today because something like this cover has totally lost all meaning.

Blam said...


I like this issue for both the character stuff and the return of Alpha Flight.

The character stuff in the return of Alpha Flight, in fact, is probably my favorite. We still knew very little about this Logan guy at the time, and the introduction of Heather as well as the larger role the Hudsons played in Wolverine's backstory was intriguing.

At other points where DC and Marvel had page increases or decreases, there was sometimes notorious scrambling to adjust story-page counts over at least the first couple of issues affected. I don't see a natural break after the 17th story page in X-Men #139, but it's hard not to wonder when during the production of this issue the increase to 22 story pages was enacted. — and how much of the issue feeling a bit piecemeal was due to the page increase vs. how much was simply due to it being a transitional issue.

I'm not sure I ever noticed this before, but whoever colored the cover didn't get the memo on Wolverine's new costume. Angel's gloves are yellow instead of white, too, which is a change, but that's also the case inside.

Head shots for Kitty Pryde and Angel are in the cover's corner box now. They haven't been added to the logline on the splash page yet, though, and Cyclops is still named there.

The ad on the inside front cover makes the claim "Trans Am. Everybody wants one." It's true. While I was never a tenth of the car freak that my (male) cousins were, that cool ride with the wicked firebird decal on the front hood spoke to me.

I do not see how Angel could have avoided being hit by those shooting metal bars on Pg. 1.'

We're past the years of the ads for Saturday-morning TV that bring me the most nostalgia, but I did enjoy me some Drak Pack.

There's an elegiac poem for Jean Grey in the lettercolumn. Here's my version:
On the moon, a suicide
That's how the Phoenix finally died
"Jean!" yelled Scott, and "Scott!" Jean cried
She liked her Broccoli People fried

Blam said...


Kitty Pryde ... receives her first codename, Sprite

As we see in the repro'd panel, she rejects Professor X's suggestion of Ariel for a codename ("Yuck.") but likes Storm's idea of Sprite — although she adds that she'd "better not hear any cracks about people pulling [her] 'Tab'" or "having an appointment with Dr. Pepper" or "being a Coke-head".

Okay, I might've made a couple of those up.

Stevie Hunter also makes her first appearance, as Kitty's new dance teacher

"I'm Stevie Hunter. Welcome to my studio. ... Some iced tea, anyone? I'd offer you some cocoa, Kitty, but I see you already brought a tall drink of hot chocolate with you."

Alpha Flight returns to the book for the first time since their first appearance in issues #120-121, though in a nice bit of editorial coordination you'd never see these days, only half the team appears, with Sasquatch, Aurora and Northstar appearing in Machine Man #18

So Nightcrawler and Wolverine are hanging out in costume in the Hudsons' kitchen?

I can't believe I've never taken Louise's advice and checked out Machine Man #19 — or even #18. 8^) Frankly, I can't believe that as many times as I've read this I don't even remember seeing that footnote. (I just looked at the cover to that issue online, by the way; Aurora and Northstar have blond hair on it.)

John Byrne receives sole plotting credit, with Claremont reduced to merely scripting the book. 

Snowbird's dialogue patterns are very out of character here based on her later appearances, to wit: "Don't fret, boss. I'll be careful. Be seeing you, guys." In Alpha Flight Byrne will establish that, at least in her Snowbird identity, she speaks if not exactly haughtily then at least with a prim sense of detachment.

Thanks to a high slit in her skirt, Heather Hudson definitely makes the most out of the "sexy librarian" look.

No kidding... I jotted down "slit in Heather's skirt is insane".

Vindicator tells Snowbird to investigate a disturbance but keep a low profile, which she does by transforming into...a polar bear.

To be fair, [1] Snowbird only transforms into white creatures and [2] this is a hotbed of activity for The Dharma Initiative.

Blam said...


Nightcrawler learns that Logan is Wolverine's real name, and we get a third instance of the classic "I didn't know/you didn't ask" exchange.

Which is really noticeable when you read these issues in bunches. And soon after we get the familiar Claremontian syntax of "I hope -- I pray -- you know what you're doing."

Claremont: "I made her the genius of the team because we didn't have one, and I felt the team needed somebody with a brain, somebody who could whip up gadgets in an instant,"

I don't recall Kitty whipping up many gadgets, and certainly not operating at the level of a Tony Stark or Reed Richards, but it's a little weird that if Claremont was looking for such a character that — even if he couldn't use Hank McCoy — he'd fill the void with a 14-year-old newbie, not because natural aptitude can't lead to astounding creations in the Marvel Universe, just because we're talking about someone whose civilian life wouldn't have afforded her any experience with super-science tech.

Byrne: "My main faulting with Chris is that he falls into schticks."

Yah.

Byrne: "I probably fall into schticks with my art, but nobody's bothered to tell me about it yet."

Awkward straight-hand thing! Awkward straight-hand thing!

a horribly padded retelling of Wolverine's first appearance

Which meant that in the very issue Wolverine's new costume was introduced Byrne had to draw the original version of his older one that he couldn't wait to get rid of — complete with ugly whisker-striped mask — and he's the one who plotted it.

Blam said...


Falen: She's already got an awesome super power. Why the hell does she also need to be a genius?

Well, I guess if your power shorts out anything mechanical or electronic that you phase through, you should know how to fix it. 8^)

Teebore: from my perspective, all the name changing was just goofy past stuff on her way to getting there

I like Shadowcat as a codename but it never quite felt right for Kitty to me. Part of that might be because I did read her from the beginning, when Ariel and Sprite — nondescript codenames, to be sure, neither particularly exciting — did sort-of go with her youthful exuberance and the lightness of her powers. The pseudo-ninja protege-of-Wolverine phase (no pun intented) of hers circa Kitty Pryde and Wolverine was still in the future. I didn't hate Kitty, but I did hate the back-and-forth over her codename, which seems to have become a permanent thing since she's mostly known best as Kitty Pryde. I also hated the title of Kitty Pryde and Wolverine for that reason; it was kind-of the nail in that coffin.

Teebore: I guess you could say I agree with Byrne on principal, but not in execution.

I don't mind so much her being a genius in the literal IQ-level sense — especially if you expand that to EQ; yeah, she'd have to be a special young woman to deal with being part of the X-Men. She is enrolled in Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, after all. And maybe that's all she was really saying to Storm, but that quote from Claremont shows that he was indeed going for something more.

Blam said...


Matt: My main problem with Kitty being the "team genius" is that she's 13 years old and we just met her... Claremont likens her to Reed Richards and Tony Stark, both grown men who I've always read as being in their mid- to late-30's at least

Exactly my thoughts, as I wrote earlier before reading the comments.

Matt: Byrne was apparently irritated by the fact that he drew the scene with Nightcrawler looking at the sunset simply as a POV shot from Wendigo to show him sneaking up on our hero

You can't draw a wide-open half-page panel and not expect Claremont to fill it up with words. Byrne of all people has to know that.

Matt: I also love the Alan Davis Shadowcat costume from Excalibur

I do agree with you about the Excalibur-era costume, and like I said above I like the stealthy Shadowcat concept, but to me Kitty is the gawky girl who came up with that horribly clashing homemade costume in #149. Not that characters can't evolve — see the Titans, the Legion, and of course the X-Men themselves... I think that part of this is that as much as I enjoy the later stories, where she's more of a veteran of the team despite her relative youth, I haven't re-read in quite some time the issues where she transitions to that role as the aged Illyana's best friend and foil to the New Mutants.

Teebore: Marvel keeps putting her back in some variation of the old school uniform look.

I wasn't aware of that, although my X-Men reading after #205 in 1986 basically consists of the first couple years of Excalibur, a brief revisitation during Inferno, a little of the first Wolverine ongoing, maybe a half-dozen issues when the new X-Men series was launched of both that title and Uncanny, flip-throughs at the very least of most mutant titles in the early-mid '90s while working at a comics shop, and a sampling of a few months' worth of the New X-Men / "Counter X" era in 2001, plus the extremely rare single issue here or there when recommended by a friend. My last encounter with Kitty was in one of the latter, as if I recall right she mourned the recent death of Peter while just starting college.

Matt said...

Teebore -- "...whenever [Angel] comes in and tries to make a place for himself on a team despite being able to do nothing but fly..."

Not only that, but he flies the old-fashioned way -- with big, cumbersome wings! Most flying characters simply defied gravity.

But we can't forget Angel's other superpower -- being the richest man in the room. In the days before kickstarter.com, if you were an aspiring hero trying to get a new super-group off the ground, this guy with the bottomless expense account who could never find a permanent team would be your first recruit, even if flying was his "only" power!

But seriously, I agree with you, Teebore -- I'm not sure when it happened, but at some point Angel (the pre-Archangel, red costume version) became one of my favorite X-Men characters.

Blam -- "I'm not sure I ever noticed this before, but whoever colored the cover didn't get the memo on Wolverine's new costume."

I just figured the colorist didn't want to ruin the "surprise" of the new costume until you actually got to the page, but maybe I'm giving the production staff too much credit...

Blam -- "Angel's gloves are yellow instead of white, too, which is a change, but that's also the case inside."

Weren't the gloves on Angel's red costume always yellow at this point? I could be wrong, but I thought they were yellow from that outfit's first appearance in Champions. Anyway, I'm positive they're yellow when he shows up during the Dark Phoenix Saga. I don't think they became white until he joined the Defenders...

Blam -- "So Nightcrawler and Wolverine are hanging out in costume in the Hudsons' kitchen?"

To be fair, of all the "new" X-Men, those two were the most likely to always be in costume at any given time! If it were Colossus and Storm in this scene, I think you'd have a point, but since it's Wolverine and Nightcrawler, it seems somehow appropriate. Especially for Nightcrawler, who was rarely ever seen out of his costume up to now (image inducer notwithstanding).

Blam -- "I like Shadowcat as a codename but it never quite felt right for Kitty to me."

According to John Byrne, Claremont got the name Shadowcat from a book by Robert A. Heinlein called "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls". I'd never heard of the book till I saw Byrne mention it, so I Googled it and saw that it was published in 1985, the same year of Kitty Pryde and Wolverine, the mini-series wherein Kitty takes the name Shadowcat. So, depending on which was published first, I'd say it's certainly possible that Claremont read Heinlein's book and made one of his famous spur of the moment decisions to appropriate that name for his own use.

Blam said...


Matt: Weren't the gloves on Angel's red costume always yellow at this point? I could be wrong, but I thought they were yellow from that outfit's first appearance in Champions.

I just did a spot check online and you're right. My image of him in this costume, like the blue version, has white boots and gloves; the yellow just does not compute somehow, which is weird because I've never consciously noticed the discrepancy until this issue. Strange!

Matt: According to John Byrne, Claremont got the name Shadowcat from a book by Robert A. Heinlein called "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls".

I'd never made that connection. I haven't read that book since it came out, either, and don't actually recall the source of the title allusion; I do know that it involved alternate timelines and neat multiverse stuff. Kitty's name was already Kitty, though, so the "cat" part of Shadowcat doesn't necessarily have to have come from the novel.

Matt said...

"...the yellow just does not compute somehow, which is weird because I've never consciously noticed the discrepancy until this issue. Strange!"

Even stranger is that it's the exact opposite for me. A few years ago when I saw that Bowen Designs was making a statue of Angel in his red costume, and the gloves and boots were white, I started complaining to my friends that they were supposed to be yellow. Then I learned (or re-learned) that they actually were white in Defenders. I'd somehow never noticed!

Teebore said...

@Michael: X-Men was a book where serious, lasting injury actually happened to the characters. That cover must have greeted fans with a real sense of dread.

That's a good point. We read that today, knowing both that Kitty Pryde has, more or less, survived the experience, and that death in comic books has been devalued almost to the point of meaninglessness, and we think little of it.

But to readers at the time, in the wake of everything you mentioned at a time when it was still possible to reasonably believe anything could happen, it probably did sound like a legitimate threat.

(And I definitely share your lamentation on the state of death in comic books today).

Teebore said...

@Blam: I don't see a natural break after the 17th story page in X-Men #139, but it's hard not to wonder when during the production of this issue the increase to 22 story pages was enacted.

Neither do I, though one has to assume the overly-long flashback to Wolverine's first appearance was a result of the page increase, right? I mean, the story certainly called for the flashback, but not one three pages long...

Head shots for Kitty Pryde and Angel are in the cover's corner box now. They haven't been added to the logline on the splash page yet, though, and Cyclops is still named there.

Good catches. I meant to point out the headshots (one of those conventions of super hero comics of yore which I miss in this day and age; I used to be endlessly fascinated by those headshots on any book back in the day, and still remember being disheartened when I learned they weren't always an accurate representation of who was on a given team at the time of the issue's publication) but totally glossed over the logline.

I do not see how Angel could have avoided being hit by those shooting metal bars on Pg. 1.'

Ha! Even before it received an upgrade with funky 3D holograms, there's much about the Danger Room that seems nonsensical the more you think about it.

On the moon, a suicide
That's how the Phoenix finally died
"Jean!" yelled Scott, and "Scott!" Jean cried
She liked her Broccoli People fried


Double ha! I love it.

I can't believe I've never taken Louise's advice and checked out Machine Man #19 — or even #18. 8^)

Ditto. I should really try to track it down sometime and give it a looksee.

In Alpha Flight Byrne will establish that, at least in her Snowbird identity, she speaks if not exactly haughtily then at least with a prim sense of detachment.

Could point. It's been a few years since I last read Alpha Flight; I'd totally forgotten about Snowbirds dialogue style.

To be fair, [1] Snowbird only transforms into white creatures and [2] this is a hotbed of activity for The Dharma Initiative.

Ha! That explains why she skipped over the more subtle snowy owl or mouse. :)

And soon after we get the familiar Claremontian syntax of "I hope -- I pray -- you know what you're doing."

Ah yeah, that's another Claremontism. They're getting harder and harder to keep track of...

he'd fill the void with a 14-year-old newbie, not because natural aptitude can't lead to astounding creations in the Marvel Universe, just because we're talking about someone whose civilian life wouldn't have afforded her any experience with super-science tech.

Good point. I wonder how much of that quote is after-the-fact justification?

My last encounter with Kitty was in one of the latter, as if I recall right she mourned the recent death of Peter while just starting college.

Just prior to that, in Excalibur and then the X-Men books when she rejoined, she'd been wearing a blue-and-yellow costume that was reminiscent of the school uniform in color if not style/design, and then she disappeared from the books for awhile following the issue you mentioned. When she popped back up, in Whedon and Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men she was back in a modernized version of the black-and-yellow school uniform, and that remained her look throughout that series.

Teebore said...

@Matt: if you were an aspiring hero trying to get a new super-group off the ground, this guy with the bottomless expense account who could never find a permanent team would be your first recruit, even if flying was his "only" power!


That is a good point: the Champions, Defenders, X-Factor, all bankrolled by ol' WWIII.

According to John Byrne, Claremont got the name Shadowcat from a book by Robert A. Heinlein called "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls".

Interesting. I hadn't heard that before.

Blam said...


Matt: I'd somehow never noticed!

I've now gone back and looked at previous issues of X-Men, Champions, and even the cover of a Marvel Two-in-One where I was sure his gloves and boots were white — and they're yellow. There's an old episode of Amazing Stories that explains this kind of thing...

Blam said...


Teebore: one has to assume the overly-long flashback to Wolverine's first appearance was a result of the page increase

I'd never thought of that, but you may well be right. Frankly, I chalked it up to some combination of back issues (or reprints) being less accessible back then and Byrne liking to retell stories on his own terms — even stories that he respects.

Teebore: When she popped back up, in Whedon and Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men she was back in a modernized version of the black-and-yellow school uniform, and that remained her look throughout that series.

I've really been itching to read that run, which I hear is pretty stand-alone from contemporaneous Marvel Universe crossovers.

Teebore said...

@Blam: I've really been itching to read that run, which I hear is pretty stand-alone from contemporaneous Marvel Universe crossovers.

It definitely is (which was kind of frustrating when it was coming out, often late, and contradicting the status quo in other books, but that's irrelevant now). You can pickup the entire 25 issue Whedon/Cassady run and get an entirely self-contained story totally isolated from everything else going on in the X-books/Marvel in general.

I think you'd enjoy it, even given Emma Frost's presence as a member of the team.