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Thursday, August 30, 2012

X-amining Marvel Graphic Novel #5


"God Loves, Man Kills"
1982

In a Nutshell
The X-Men team-up with Magneto against a televangelist's crusade against mutants. 

Writer: Christopher Claremont
Artist: Brent Eric Anderson
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Editor: Louise Jones
Associate Editor: Danny Fingeroth
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot 
In Connecticut, two mutant children are hunted and killed by a group of Purifiers, who string up the children's bodies on a local playground to set an example. But before morning, Magneto arrives and lays them to rest, swearing vengeance. In New York, Reverend William Stryker is briefed on the X-Men. That evening, the X-Men gather to watch Professor X debate Stryker on TV, and thanks to some clever editing, Stryker comes out looking better. As the X-Men burn off their frustrations in the Danger Room, Cyclops and Storm escort Xavier home, but are ambushed by Stryker's soldiers, the Purifiers. At the mansion, the X-Men are told their teammates died in a car accident.


The next morning, Kitty and Illyana discover monitoring equipment on the grounds while Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Colossus investigate the scene of the accident. Wolverine realizes the deaths were faked. The X-Men are attacked by more Purifiers. but are helped by the arrival of Magneto, who says he comes to them as an ally. Back at the mansion, Kitty and Illyana are captured by Purifiers sent to investigate the monitoring equipment Kitty damaged, while Magneto and Wolverine interrogate the captured Purifiers and learn about Stryker's crusade against mutants. In New York, Stryker is brainwashing Professor X as he explains to Storm and Cyclops how the birth of his mutant son led him to kill both his wife and his child and turn to God to launch a crusade against mutants. He orders the death of Kitty, but when the Purifiers stop en route to their headquarters, they discover she's escaped. The Purifiers proceed to chase Kitty throughout the city, until the X-Men respond to her call for help.


Arriving at Stryker's New York headquarters, Magneto and the X-Men rescue Cyclops, Storm and Illyana, then follow Stryker and Xavier to Madison Square Garden, where a crowd has gathered to hear Stryker's latest sermon. Stryker tells a brainwashed Xavier that he intends for Xavier to use a modified version of Cerebro to target and kill all mutants. As Stryker's vehemently anti-mutant speech begins, his psi-scan device is activated and Professor X starts attacking mutants. With Magneto serving as a distraction, the X-Men are able to get close enough to destroy the device and free Xavier, but Cyclops refuses to leave, deciding instead to engage Stryker in open debate on national TV. The X-Men do their best to sway Stryker, but he refuses to listen, though others in the crowd begin to question Stryker's crusade. When the reverend pulls a gun on Kitty, a nearby police officer fires first, shooting Stryker before he can kill the young girl. A few days later, the X-Men learn of Stryker's arraigment, though his crusade continues. Magneto offers the X-Men a place with him, and though Professor X initially thinks such a course of action might be best, Cyclops refuses to abandon Xavier's dream, arguing that they need to seek coexistence with humanity the right way, or not at all. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This is the first appearance of Reverend William Stryker, a televangelist who believes that if man was created in the image of God, then mutants have been created in the image of the Devil and need to be killed, and who has launched a ministry espousing as much. Originally intended, I believe, to be a one-off character limited to this story, Claremont eventually brought Stryker back during his return to the X-books in the early 2000s, and from there, Stryker went on to become one of the chief antagonists for the New X-Men, the fourth generation of Xavier students.


This is also the first appearance of the Purifiers, the paramilitary wing of Stryker's crusade, and they like their leader remained dormant for years before surfacing with Stryker in the last decade. They were one of the main adversaries of the X-Men during 2007's "Messiah Complex" crossover. 

A good portion of this story served as the inspiration for the plot of the second X-Men film, with Stryker repositioned as a solider but the idea of his crusade coming from trauma involving his wife and child, having a mutant assistant, and using a modified Cerebro and brainwashed Professor X to target and kill mutants, as well as the idea of Magneto teaming up with the X-Men against a greater evil, all carry over into the film.

Magneto makes his first post-issue #150, post-flashback with Xavier (in terms of real time chronology) appearance, and it's another important step in his post-"one dimensional super villain" characterization, as he fights alongside the X-Men against the greater threat of Stryker and his message. In this world of rising anti-mutant sentiment, Magneto is starting to see the X-Men as allies, and while their methods and ultimate goals remain distinct, Magneto can now envision a world where he can stand with the X-Men and they could carry on his work. 


Early in the story, Kitty gets into a fight with a student over his support of Stryker and anti-mutant opinions, and when Stevie Hunter tells her they're only words, Kitty responds by asking Stevie how she'd feel if the boy had called Kitty a "nigger lover" instead of mutie lover. It's the first time (and not the last)  that Claremont makes a direct connection between the fictional racial epithet "mutie" (coined by Stan Lee back in the 60s) and a real-world racial slur. Many have criticized Claremont for making so direct a comparison (here and elsewhere) between a fictional minority and a real one, both for being pretentious and for inadvertently trivializing the racial issues in the real world, but I can't deny that reading this as a teenager, the comparison worked like gangbusters. It instantly gave me both a clear picture of what life was like for the X-Men as a minority in their world, as well as a greater appreciation for the struggles of all minorities in the real world.


Neal Adams was originally slated to draw this issue, and it would have marked his return to the characters following his seminal run in the 60s, but he had to ultimately bow out of the project. Brent Anderson, who had filled in on a handful of previous issues of X-Men, stepped in. His work here is strong, and more similar in style to his work with Kurt Busiek on Astro City than anything we've seen before.

Kitty is referred to by her new codename of Ariel in this issue for the first time, though she appeared under that name in the first issue of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, on stands the month before this issue. She's also wearing a new costume.


This issue is a prestige format, 64 page issue, printed on slick paper and sold for $6.95 (ten times the price of a regular comic book). It appears without the Comics Code seal of approval, and was on sale at the same time as Uncanny X-Men #166, New Mutants #1 and Special Edition X-Men #1. 

A Work in Progress
The Purifiers scan of Illyana show her to be neither fully human nor mutant.


Stryker tells the X-Men that he learned about them through the files amassed by Fred Duncan, the X-Men's former ally in the FBI, files which were smuggled out of the FBI to him by agents sympathetic to his cause.


Kitty learns she can phase a person along with her in this issue.


Claremontisms
Would you be surprised to know that Colossus was described as being "nigh-invulnerable" this issue? 

Young Love
Kitty and Illyana discuss Kitty's feelings for Colossus. 


The Best There Is At What He Does
This issue contains the first instance of Wolverine threatening to unleash his "third" claw after framing a subject's face with the left and right claws, a technique that has become somewhat famous, and was featured in the first X-Men movie (in fact, I think this is the first time we've seen that Wolverine can pick and choose which claws he extends, rather than having to extend them as a group or not at all).


Human/Mutant Relations
This entire issue is, of course, a treatise on human/mutant relations, with Stryker and a large swath of his followers more or less declaring genocide on mutants (Magneto gives a fantastic reaction to this notion) while also depicting a handful of humans who find Stryker's teachings too extreme, including the cop who shoots Stryker to prevent him from killing Kitty.


Teebore's Take
Without a doubt, this is Claremont's most in depth examination of the themes of prejudice and intolerance in X-Men since "Days of Future Past", and it's arguably his definitive statement on the matter. It's not surprising that this story served as the basis for one of the best X-Men movies; largely self-contained and isolated from the main series in terms of plot and characterization, it's the kind of story you could hand to anyone and say, "this is what the X-Men are all about". It's also one of the most adult X-Men stories, not because of the use of the N-word or the prestige format or Claremont's eye-rollingly-pretentious credit as "Christopher Claremont", but because the direct conflict is essentially resolved through an exchange of dialogue.

Stryker deploys his fair share of super-villain gadgetry (including a mock-Cerebro that targets mutants, just as in X2), but he's not a traditional super-villain, and once the X-Men have dismantled Stryker's sci fi tech, they stop punching and slicing and start talking, attempting to reason with Stryker as well as to make a point to the crowd he's gathered. Stryker, of course, cannot be swayed, but the X-Men's words don't fall on entirely deaf ears, and in that regard, they win a bigger victory than just stopping the super-villain plot du jour. But just as the problems of intolerance, prejudice and persecution can't be blasted away, they can't entirely be talked away either, and the story ends with plenty of people still buying what Stryker is selling. The important thing is that the X-Men changed some minds, and reaffirmed for themselves their goals and methods - the solution lies not in conquest, or separation, or open rebellion, but through leading by example and the honest exchange of ideas.

Next Issue
On Wednesday, the X-Men venture into the sewers in Uncanny X-Men #169, and on Thursday, we catch back up with the New Mutants in New Mutants #4.  

29 comments:

  1. I didn't realize the Magneto transition was so sudden. I knew it would still take some time after #150 for him to get to where he was going, but I never knew this was his first chronological appearance since that issue. For some reason, that kind of blows my mind. He's clearly been doing some thinking.

    That said, I can't freaking wait until you get to Fatal Attractions.

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  2. I like this story, but I don't love it. It does come across as somewhat pretentious as you said, but it's still straightforward and exciting enough to enjoy. It really reads like a movie, more than anything else Claremont ever did.

    Brent Anderson does a serviceable job here, and his work is aided by the beautiful coloring, but I really wish Neal Adams had been able to finish the project. Have you seen the first few pages he drew before he backed out? He drew six of them, and they're tremendous. They can be viewed here.

    Adams's version begins with what appears to be Magneto being executed by the Purifiers. Also, Angel is seen as a member of the team, apparently setting the original iteration of the story somewhere shortly after Byrne left the title. It seems likely that when Adams left the project, Claremont rewrote things to fit in with the more current continuity.

    "Claremont eventually brought Stryker back during his return to the X-books in the early 2000s..."

    If I recall, "God Loves, Man Kills II" was an editorially mandated story to tie in with X2. I'm not sure Claremont would've brought Stryker back if he hadn't been told to. He always seemed perfectly content to let this story be the first and final word on the character.

    Also, I love that he's a normal guy and this is -- relatively speaking -- a pretty "street level" X-Men story, but he still has a good old-fashioned comic booky name.

    "...I can't deny that reading this as a teenager, the comparison worked like gangbusters..."

    I agree. Claremont was heavy-handed with this comparison, but for the age group he was targeting, it's appropriately melodramatic and it just works. I had a similar experience with the equally heavy-handed scene where Kitty tries one puff of Wolverine's cigar and swears off smoking forever. It's over the top, but when you consider who it's aimed at, it makes perfect sense.

    "She's also wearing a new costume."

    I like this costume, though I like it better when Paul Smith draws it. I don't think it lasted very long though, did it? Romita ditched it pretty early on; in fact I recall that he played around quite a bit with all the X-Men's costumes except Nightcrawler and Wolverine during his run.

    Anyway, this green costume is probably my second favorite look for Kitty after the blue Alan Davis Excalibur look. I like the school uniform for her too, but at this point she needed something to separate her from the New Mutants. And I still don't get why the modified school uniform has become her default "look" for the past couple decades. Is it really possible that that many people remember her best that way? I would think the blue costume would've been her best known look from the first decade or so of her existence.

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  3. This was originally in the middle of my first comment, but I decided to excise it and put it here since it goes off on a tangent:

    "Magneto makes his first post-issue #150 ... appearance..."

    I really don't like Anderson's depiction of Magneto as an exceptionally old man in a baggy costume. It's more realistic for a man of his age, sure -- but he looks so undynamic. And why does he not wear his helmet in this story? As I recall, he has it on for exactly two panels, when he bursts into the TV studio near the end of the story, and then it promptly gets knocked off his head. I've always wondered, due to its brief appearance, if even in those two panels it might have been added as an art correction. Because it's absolutely nowhere to be seen anywhere else in the story, even when he's fighting Purifiers.

    I will admit that if you consider this story a part of the canon, Magneto's 360 is a little more believable. We see him team up with the X-Men here while still espousing his mutant superiority beliefs, which helps. He teams up with them again during Secret Wars, so if you take all that into account, his joining the school is a little easier to swallow. But I still maintain that his abrupt "turn" in issue #150 makes no sense.

    In fact, I could buy his turn more without the bit in #150! If the X-Men had simply straight-up defeated him there, then we moved onto this story, then Secret Wars, then his reformation, it would read as more believable to me. It's just his remorse in #150 that really comes across as contrived, in my opinion.

    All that said, it doesn't change the fact that I prefer Magneto as a villain and am not a fan or his reformation, whether done well or not. I don't need him to be a cackling maniac, but I don't want him as an earnest good guy either. The depiction from this story works just fine for me.

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  4. Oh! I can't believe I forgot to note how much I love that even though he's a prisoner through much of the story, in the end Cyclops still gets to do some strategizing, use an awesome ricochet attack move, and give an impassioned speech on television! He gets possibly a greater awesomeness to page time ratio than anyone else in the story.

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  5. If I recall, "God Loves, Man Kills II" was an editorially mandated story to tie in with X2. I'm not sure Claremont would've brought Stryker back if he hadn't been told to. He always seemed perfectly content to let this story be the first and final word on the character

    Yep, it was meant to tie in with X2. I remember it being such a weird story at the time (not to mention, it was the first issue of that series to feature Igor Kordey as a replacement for Salvador Larocca, talk about jarring) and I couldn't believe they billed it as a sequel to God Loves, Man Kills. The "new" Stryker didn't even seem like the same character to me, nor did he look like him. Honestly, he reminded me of Bastion more than anyone and this would remain so in his subsequent appearances. And Kitty and Stryker having a "scripture off" with each other at the end was kind of silly.

    All that said, it doesn't change the fact that I prefer Magneto as a villain and am not a fan or his reformation, whether done well or not. I don't need him to be a cackling maniac, but I don't want him as an earnest good guy either. The depiction from this story works just fine for me.

    I agree. Silver Age Magneto is too much, but I do kind of like him when he's extremely menacing on his bad days, and a thoughtful but curmudgeonly old bastard on his good days. His "don't take that tone with me, boy" line pretty much sums up how I think of Magneto.

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  6. Nice introspective. I've been wondering when this would show up. I actually talked about this GN on my blog back in January when I did an X-Men themed month. I don't own the book yet, but it's at my hometown's library.

    I thought it was a pretty good story. It's probably one of the better X-Men stories. The art was cool, but I do admit Neal Adams could have made it epic.

    And Matt's right. Cyclops was frickin' awesome in this book. These days, he's kind of a d-bag and that sucks.

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  7. Teebore: "...the first time we've seen that Wolverine can pick and choose which claws he extends, rather than having to extend them as a group or not at all."
    - Isn't there a panel in GSX-M#1, where Wolverine resigns (from the Canadian govt?) and joins the team, and he slices someone's tie with one claw only?

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  8. While the comparison of mutation to race works, I have always felt that the analogy to sexual orientation was stronger. Most children of color are in families of the same racial/ethnic background and who don't think negatively of the child's race/ethnicity (since they share it). They can better empathize with a child who has faced racial discrimination because it's more likely they themselves have been subjected to it.

    Most mutants come from a home where their parents aren't mutants. Their non-mutant parents may share the cultural hatred of mutants and look upon mutants as something "freaks" or "deviants" who need to be "cured". We've seen lots of mutant kids desperate to conceal their mutation (which usually emerges in puberty, around the time many gay kids begin realizing their homosexuality), disowned by family and friends when their mutation is discovered and seeking out a cure. Especially with the religious basis of Stryker's bigotry in this story, the analogy to homosexuality is much stronger.

    Of course this story was published during the reign of Jim Shooter who infamously declared that there were no gays in the Marvel Universe (except of course for the two who tried to rape Bruce Banner at the Y) so there was only so far an analogy could go in those days.

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  9. I agree totally that homosexuality is a much better analogy for mutants than race. But as you say, under Shooter's watch, that wasn't about to be made apparent. Plus, in all honesty, I'm not sure the general public was ready to embrace a homosexual civil rights analogy in the early 80's. Beyond that, the X-Men were originated as a race-based civil rights thing in the 60's, when that was a big deal.

    It was finally in the early 90's, when Scott Lobdell (or was it Bob Harras -- the lines blur at that time) unleashed the Legacy Virus as an HIV/AIDS analogue and began a more overt look at mutants as an analogy for homosexuals -- a concept that Marvel still embraces, as far as I know.

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  10. I had given up on the X books in disgust long before the Legacy virus. I was hanging around Alpha Flight though when Northstar's planned AIDS diagnosis got turned into "you're a half-elf who's allergic to Earth" (the retcon of that retcon with Northstar sitting under a tree in Asgard calling himself an idiot was hilarious).

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  11. If people think comparing mutant hatred to racism is trivializing a serious real world issue, than I can't even imagine what they'd think about the stupid Legacy Virus. God, I hated that damn thing. Created by an evil Cable clone, it proceeded to infect third tier mutants that nobody cared about, killed off child Illyana for shock value (I guess it also killed Pyro a couple of times), killed off Revanche (easily the best thing to happen to her), infected Moira for no apparent reason (Mystique killed her with a bomb anyway so who cares) and hung over the X-books like a bad case of fleas for years until Colossus saved the day by killing himself. People make fun of the 90's for big guns, extra pouches and a whole lot of EXTREME, but for me, the Legacy Virus is what I see in my 90's X-Men nightmares. It really was the Decimation of its day, and can't even begin to work on the same level as the racism / mutant bigotry thing.

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  12. One problem with the continuity of this story: Wolverine left for his limited series in #168, and Cyclops is hanging with Madelyne in Alaska, so when exactly should this take place? Technically it goes in the "days pass" section of #168, right?

    Yeah, Neal Adams' pencils look good. Very well rendered, but what the hell is going on? Magneto shot to death? Wolverine being used for comedy relief? I dunno...

    This was the first comic I read that made me think it could be almost directly translated into a movie. And then they used it as the basis for X-2 and screwed the whole thing up. Executive producers' script notes pointlessly changing the story... And yet it was still the best X-Men movie.

    --mortsleam

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  13. @Dan: I never knew this was his first chronological appearance since that issue. For some reason, that kind of blows my mind. He's clearly been doing some thinking.

    It's not a complete 180 by any means (he's still pretty condescending towards the X-Men), but it's definitely the biggest jump in his transition from villain to anti-hero.

    That said, I can't freaking wait until you get to Fatal Attractions.

    Me too. :)

    @Matt: I like this story, but I don't love it

    That's about where I land with it as well. I'd definitely recommend it as as a good X-Men primer for new fans, but rarely feel compelled to re-read it myself.

    He drew six of them, and they're tremendous.

    It definitely seems like Claremont changed the direction of the story after Adams dropped off, but there's no denying those are fantastic pages.

    If I recall, "God Loves, Man Kills II" was an editorially mandated story to tie in withX2

    Ah, you're right. I remember that now as well.

    I like this costume, though I like it better when Paul Smith draws it.

    Agreed on both counts. It doesn't last long; I think she goes through a couple more changes before finally settling on the blue puffy sleeve look following her miniseries w/Wolverine.

    I recall that he played around quite a bit with all the X-Men's costumes except Nightcrawler and Wolverine during his run.

    He did, and the subsequent results were probably my least favorite result of his run on the title...

    Is it really possible that that many people remember her best that way?

    I wonder if it's less that and more that current creators don't like the blue costume (for whatever reason), and after it, something that resembles the classic school uniform becomes her default look?

    I really don't like Anderson's depiction of Magneto as an exceptionally old man in a baggy costume.

    Me neither. I meant to comment on it in the post but forgot.

    And why does he not wear his helmet in this story?

    Huh. I never really noticed that. Good question.

    I will admit that if you consider this story a part of the canon, Magneto's 360 is a little more believable

    For what it's worth, Marvel considers it canon. I know everyone has their own personal canon of stuff that does and doesn't count, but Marvel counts this, and so do I, which is part of why I enjoy the Magneto turn so much (that said, I still agree that the spark of his turn in #150 (almost killing Kitty) is easily the weakest, most forced step in his journey towards three-dimensionality).

    The depiction from this story works just fine for me.

    And honestly, this is how I think of "heroic" Magneto, even when he's headmaster and fighting alongside the mutants. I know there are some moments where he's an earnest good guy, but they're few and far between (and mostly penned by Weezie, not Claremont), but I tend to just ignore those (see above: personal canon. :) )and view his entire tenure with the X-Men as not much different than his depiction here: convinced of his superiority but willing to work with the X-Men towards a greater good. Or, to steal Dan's observation, I still see him having a "don't take that tone with me, boy" attitude even when he's ostensibly a member of the X-Men.

    He gets possibly a greater awesomeness to page time ratio than anyone else in the story.

    Hell, I can't believe *I* forgot to mention it. This is a great issue for Cyclops. It makes his relative absence in the film adaptation of this story even sadder, though...

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  14. @arw1985: Cyclops was frickin' awesome in this book. These days, he's kind of a d-bag and that sucks.

    It does indeed. Glad you enjoyed the post!

    @Pete: Isn't there a panel in GSX-M#1, where Wolverine resigns (from the Canadian govt?) and joins the team, and he slices someone's tie with one claw only?

    Yep, you're right; I'd forgotten about that. Then this is just the first time he did the old "don't make me pop the third claw" routine.

    @Anonymous: I have always felt that the analogy to sexual orientation was stronger.

    As have I, though as you note, I understand why Claremont didn't/couldn't play that up at the time.

    I was hanging around Alpha Flight though when Northstar's planned AIDS diagnosis got turned into "you're a half-elf who's allergic to Earth"

    Ha! I haven't read much of the post-Byrne Alpha Flight, but it's good to know the X-Men and Spider-Man books weren't the only ones subject to some whacky ideas...

    @Dan: If people think comparing mutant hatred to racism is trivializing a serious real world issue, than I can't even imagine what they'd think about the stupid Legacy Virus.

    Yeah, I don't think they'd react to it very favorably. :)

    I came of age reading X-Men while the Legacy Virus storyline was raging, so I have a hard time being objective about it. I was captivated by it initially, at a time when I still believed everything that happened in the comics was part of a plan mapped out well in advance, and it remains a plotline I enjoy nostalgically, as a representation of the time when I first fell in love with comics.

    That said, even as a burgeoning reader, that storyline dragged on WAY too long (so long, it fact, that it outlasted by naive belief in everything being planned out) and at the end of the day, as you say, no one of any real consequence was affected by it, which takes some of the muscle out of it.

    @Mortsleam: Wolverine left for his limited series in #168, and Cyclops is hanging with Madelyne in Alaska, so when exactly should this take place? Technically it goes in the "days pass" section of #168, right?

    The Marvel Index lists it in this nebulous way: in the entry for #168, it lists Wolverine's next appearance as the first issue of his limited series AND this issue; I'm not quite sure how that works.

    It has to follow #168 because of Kitty's costume; following the "days pass" section of #168, Kitty bemoans her lack of an individual uniform. In the first issue of Wolverine's series, on page six or seven there's a narrative caption as he flies to Japan that mentions him returning to New York following his Canadian vacation (at which point he checked his mail and received a letter which prompted him to go to Japan), so I think this story is supposed to take place in that time between Wolverine' time in Canada and Japan in Wolverine #1.

    None of which explains Cyclops' presence, of course. Maybe he flew down from Alaska to take the Professor to his TV debate, then flew back there following the end of this issue?

    And then they used it as the basis for X-2 and screwed the whole thing up.

    X2 had some issues, particularly at the end when it suddenly tried to cram in too many plots at once, but I still think it stuck pretty close to the gist of this story, with Stryker's change from preacher to soldier the biggest change (and an understandable one, given that it gave him lackeys without having to spend time on who the Purifiers were and why they followed him, how he equipped them etc.).

    But the basic ideas of focusing on human/mutant prejudice, Stryker being motivated by his mutant child, using a re-worked Cerebro and hoodwinked Professor X to kill all mutants and Magneto working with the X-Men out of necessity all carried over to the film. That's a pretty decent track record for an adaption, in my opinion.

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  15. Another nice write-up, Teebore!

    You're right about the "Christopher Claremont" credit but it's not just him getting pretentious. I've seen Brent Anderson listed with the "E." or "Eric" elsewhere, so I won't cast stones in his direction — hey, I've always used my full name professionally. But I get a little giggle fit at "The Marvel Comics Group" (emphasis mine) on the credits page.

    I still don't love Anderson's work, but for the most part here that's just a matter of style preference than quality. His cover has a very Sienkiewicz look about it to me, the Magneto face at left in particular, although Colossus' face looks weirdly like John Buscema's Belasco; Wolverine is of course uncharacteristically lanky again. In general the least effective stuff for me is the superhero action.

    The whole presentation has an appropriate gravitas, though. We can't forget that this was — or, less charitably, was what passed for — serious issue-oriented drama in American superhero comics at the time. I can attest that it felt like a big deal to a contemporaneous 12-year-old, in the days when the age if not maturity of the average reader was really beginning to tick up, certainly darker and more "grown-up" than your standard X-Men issue, even under Claremont, even after the death of Jean Grey and "Days of Future Past".

    I like that the interior pages are "full bleed" — a rarity at the time given the limitations of newsprint — and that the art takes advantage of that sparingly, as well as that the backgrounds of many pages are black. It's a much classier (for lack of a better word) package than the New Mutants graphic novel, which was largely just an extra-length issue, for whatever that's worth, given better paper and coloring.

    I forgot about the N-word and was going to ask if it was kept in later editions, but I think you're reading a later edition so I guess the answer is yes.

    Less shocking but still surprising is the fact that Marvel actually used ABC's Nightline by name. I generally hate the low-imagination, tongue-in-cheek substitutions for brand names like Coca-Cola and McDonald's used in passing, but when it comes to incorporating a news institution into the plot I'm more forgiving if not actually in favor of it; name-checking something that actually exists but presenting it unrealistically is not necessarily preferred.

    I'd forgot about the mention of Fred Duncan, too. Stryker's mole must have passed along the files on before records were deleted at the Pentagon.

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  16. Magneto makes his first post-issue #150, post-flashback with Xavier (in terms of real time chronology) appearance

    Written by Claremont, anyway... Like I just said in belated comments on Special Edition X-Men, Magneto was appearing this same month over in Vision and The Scarlet Witch #4. Have you heard about whether Bill Mantlo (or editor Mark Gruenwald) coordinated with Claremont (or Weezie), and/or if there was hay made because of the lack of such consultation?

    This issue is a prestige format, 64 page issue, printed on slick paper and sold for $6.95

    At least in its first printing it was actually $5.95 and oversized — not as big as the treasury editions that were recently phased out, but larger than a standard comic book, the size used for "graphic novels" by DC, Marvel, and First in the early-mid '80s, back when the term meant a relatively stand-alone story in a particular package rather than the more generic original and/or collected self-contained trade paperback or hardcover volume of today.

    While it was a prestige format, it should not be confused with the Prestige format introduced by DC in 1986 with Batman: The Dark Knight, which other publishers adopted under the generic name of "squarebound" or "bookshelf" format. DC used Prestige to distinguish this highest-quality comic book with its Deluxe format, used on Baxter titles (soon to be a dodo), and the later New format, used for direct-market titles on Mando paper, not quite as nice as Baxter and without the sturdier covers but still a step up from the interior and exterior page quality of the plain old standard format.

    The Purifiers scan of Illyana show her to be neither fully human nor mutant.

    I know we'll find out soon enough, but this has me trying to remember whether Claremont was just holding back Ilyana's usage of her mutant and sorcerous abilities because he hadn't quite figured them out yet or if she'd blocked them in some way after her return from Limbo. 'Cause if it's the former like I suspect it is there's really no good reason in retrospect for her not to be using her powers.

    Kitty and Illyana discuss Kitty's feelings for Colossus. 

    Which is the latest and maybe the most blunt scene yet of Illyana being in the strange position of gossiping with her best friend about the boy she likes and presumably being at least a little skeeved out that said boy is her brother. I must admit that this tension is not unrealistic, as I've been witness to similar situations, but it's still weird — especially since they all live under the same roof. One of the subplots I'm looking forward to rediscovering is how this all plays out.

    All due respect to Dan, since I'm hardly one to sneer at other folks' favorite comics (especially nostalgic ones), but I can so freaking wait until you get to Fatal Attractions.

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  17. @Matt: I had a similar experience with the equally heavy-handed scene where Kitty tries one puff of Wolverine's cigar and swears off smoking forever.

    You're not suggesting that this is in God Loves, Man Kills, right?

    @Matt: I would think the blue costume would've been her best known look from the first decade or so of her existence.

    Now that you mention it, I would think so too, although for some reason this green one also sticks out prominently in my head — maybe because it's in this book, and Smith drew it, and as Teebore mentioned it's in TOHOTMU (although I haven't looked at that thing for ages). The blue one's my favorite too, despite the fact that I remember it starting out with what looked like leg warmers.

    @Matt: The depiction from this story works just fine for me.

    I agree that this is how Magneto works best, something that the movies picked up on, almost wistfully compelled by Charles' vision for a better world but ultimately disbelieving that it's possible and that the way for mutants to survive is to dominate. Him working alongside the X-Men in "Days of Future Past" was a neat idea, given the total dystopian nature of that future; him taking over as headmaster at the mansion, though, just didn't work (and of course that ridiculous costume didn't help).

    Great discussion, folks, as always, and my apologies for not joining in sooner!

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  18. Blam -- "I forgot about the N-word and was going to ask if it was kept in later editions, but I think you're reading a later edition so I guess the answer is yes."

    It was in the edition I bought in the early 90's. Likewise, the issue of Uncanny where Kitty has practically the same scene with another use of the N-word while lecturing a different black character was kept uncesored in Classic X-Men around that time, too.

    Blam -- "Less shocking but still surprising is the fact that Marvel actually used ABC's Nightline by name."

    Well, we've already seen Claremont use real life news personalities like Geraldo Rivera and John Cheever in the past.

    I actually like the fake names that are sometimes used in fiction, though it irritates me to no end when they're inconsistent. I remember a subplot in Erik Larsen's "Revenge of the Sinister Six" where Mary Jane was auditioning for a role in the latest Arnold Schwarzenheimer movie. Which would be fine, except I'm pretty sure that Schwarznegger's name had been used in Marvel comics before then, and after. Does that mean that in the Marvel U., there is an actor named Arnold Schwarzenheimer, and an actor named Arnold Schwarznegger? It's sloppy.

    I liked in the 80's, though, when McBurgers was Marvel's go-to fast food establishment for a while.

    Blam -- "You're not suggesting that this is in God Loves, Man Kills, right?"

    No, I realized after posting that comment that I had worded it poorly. It happened in an issue of Uncanny during the Romita run. In fact, I'm almost positive it was the same issue I mentioned above, where Kitty dropped another N-bomb.

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  19. @Matt: Does that mean that in the Marvel U., there is an actor named Arnold Schwarzenheimer, and an actor named Arnold Schwarznegger? It's sloppy.

    Yeah. I think the problem arises when real people and places and brands are name-checked for verisimilitude or hip factor (even when it comes across as painfully dated or unhip) but then a plot deals directly enough with a celebrity or institution that the writer or editor decides that a stand-in would be better. Like, DC had the magazine Newstime based in Metropolis — even released a mock issue circa "The Death of Superman" — but it also mentioned Time and Newsweek before and since.

    Of course Clark Kent had to work for GBS / Galaxy Broadcasting pre-Crisis rather than an actual network, but there's been more than one "eBay" clone name-checked as well as the real thing in the past decade.

    Sometimes the stand-ins work well enough as a running gag, like Soder Cola in the DCU, but it was way funnier that J'onn J'onzz was addicted to Oreos in the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League than it would have been if they'd used the later made-up stand-in Chocos.

    And what I really hate is well-known TV shows or stars being used as a tangential plot point at best but having a silly fake name substituted for them anyway, which Archie does a lot. Yes, I still read some Archies too.

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  20. Blam -- "The blue one's my favorite too, despite the fact that I remember it starting out with what looked like leg warmers."

    Forgot to comment on this earlier. I wanted to clarify that when I say I like Kitty's blue costume, I am speaking very specifically about the Alan Davis version from Excalibur, which took the Romita Jr. "Shadowcat" design and tweaked it somewhat to make it more streamlined.

    Shadowcat - Romita version (drawn by Art Adams)
    Shadowcat - Davis version

    Both are similar, but I think the Davis one is much more appealing and looks pretty timeless, too. The Romita version just looks like it was created in the 80's. It's not just the "legwarmers", either. Something about the whole thing has a very dated appearance, despite being more or less the same design as Davis's rework.

    As much as I love JR Jr., he was a pretty awful costume designer in the 80's, as we'll soon see...

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  21. @Blam:But I get a little giggle fit at "The Marvel Comics Group" (emphasis mine) on the credits page.

    Ha! Good point. Pretentious AND nonsensical. :)

    I forgot about the N-word and was going to ask if it was kept in later editions, but I think you're reading a later edition so I guess the answer is yes.

    As Matt attested, I too have never seen an edition that cuts it out (not that I've seen ALL possible editions, mind).

    Stryker's mole must have passed along the files on before records were deleted at the Pentagon.

    That was my assumption as well. Certainly seems likely, considering Stryker's operation has clearly been around for awhile, and the file purge is, comic time, a relatively recent occurrence.

    Written by Claremont, anyway...

    Yeah, that's what I meant. His first appearance, in the X-Men narrative at least. Should have been more clear.

    Have you heard about whether Bill Mantlo (or editor Mark Gruenwald) coordinated with Claremont (or Weezie), and/or if there was hay made because of the lack of such consultation?

    I haven't seen/read anything indicating either that Mantlo/Gruenwald coordinated with the X-Team, or that Claremont and Weezie were bothered by a lack of said coordination.

    You can bet if Byrne were involved, we'd know if there had been a problem. ;)

    At least in its first printing it was actually $5.95 and oversized

    I swear I typed "$5.95"...

    ...back when the term meant a relatively stand-alone story in a particular package rather than the more generic original and/or collected self-contained trade paperback or hardcover volume of today.

    Honestly, as both a comic book nerd and long time bookstore employee, the rise of the term "graphic novel" as a catch all for all comic books bound and sold in a book store drives me bonkers. I came of age in a time when "graphic novel" meant, as you say, a larger, longer, prestige format story not all that dissimilar to a regular issue, while a "trade paperback" represented a bound collection of issues.

    'Cause if it's the former like I suspect it is there's really no good reason in retrospect for her not to be using her powers.

    It's the former, and you're right - she should be using her powers.

    I must admit that this tension is not unrealistic, as I've been witness to similar situations, but it's still weird

    Agreed. Illyana must be really good at compartmentalizing.

    my apologies for not joining in sooner

    No apologies needed. MY apologies for not joining sooner. :)

    @Matt: It happened in an issue of Uncanny during the Romita run. In fact, I'm almost positive it was the same issue I mentioned above, where Kitty dropped another N-bomb.

    You're right: it was in issue #196 (also, oddly enough, a Secret Wars II tie-in), which is also one of my favorite single issues of X-Men.

    Something about the whole thing has a very dated appearance, despite being more or less the same design as Davis's rework.

    The sleeves are more subtlety puffy in Davis' version, if that makes sense, which I think helps. I do like the mask in the Romita/Adams version, though I'm pretty sure Davis did use it in Excalibur, just not in the image you posted.

    As much as I love JR Jr., he was a pretty awful costume designer in the 80's, as we'll soon see...

    Absolutely. As much as I love JRjr, I will never his costume designs from this era...

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  22. @Teebore: Honestly, as both a comic book nerd and long time bookstore employee, the rise of the term "graphic novel" as a catch all for all comic books bound and sold in a book store drives me bonkers. I came of age in a time when "graphic novel" meant, as you say, a larger, longer, prestige format story not all that dissimilar to a regular issue, while a "trade paperback" represented a bound collection of issues.

    I'm with you there, mostly. You surely know this as a bookstore employee as well, but "trade paperback" is just a term for softcovers with larger dimensions and, usually, fancier cover dress in general than a mass-market paperback like Pocket Books, so I wince sometimes when it's used as a comics-industry term to denote specifically reprint collections as opposed to softcover OGNs that are also strictly speaking trade paperbacks.

    That said I admit that it's handy to have a term for long-form comics works, especially new vs. reprint, as my above usage of "OGNs" attests.

    As much as I'll agree that JR Jr. was a pretty awful costume designer, by the way, I... um... well, I actually don't like his art during this upcoming run either — and the covers were mostly atrocious. Of the ones he did, I think only "Young Dragons in Love" and maybe the Vision/Colossus one stand out in a good way. So as we've discussed before, I'm at least 1/2 if not 1/3 with you guys on that score, but I can burn that bridge when we come to it.

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  23. I prefer to use the term "graphic novel" for its original intended use, a special story that stands on its own, not a part of the main series.

    I do use "trade paperback" for pretty much any collection of multiple comics in one book, but I feel that the best technical term is probably just "collected edition" or "collection".

    It really pisses me off to no end when producers, directors, and actors refer to a long-running comic book series as a graphic novel. Like changing the term somehow elevates the source material. Just embrace it for what it is! It's okay to call it a comic book, especially if it's something like Avengers. I'm pretty sure no one would think any less of them. Opinions on the subject are already cemented.

    If you suddenly call a comic book a graphic novel, the people who used to look down on comics aren't suddenly going to change their minds! I really think it's just the movie-makers themselves who feel embarassed to use the term, so they just have to call it something else to feel better about themselves for working on it.

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  24. Blam -- "...and the covers were mostly atrocious."

    Wow, seriously? I'm not a big fan of this run -- though that's more due to Claremont's writing -- but I love a lot of Romita's covers! They aren't all winners, but I really think there are some truly iconic ones in this run, including:

    -Cyclops vs. Squid (#176)
    -Wolverine standing over "dead" Kitty (#177)
    -Colossus vs. Juggernaut (#183)
    -Selene vs. Xavier (#184)
    -Rogue vs. Storm (#185)
    -Cyclops vs. Storm (#201)
    -Wolverine solo (#207 -- possibly my favorite single-figure illustration of Wolverine ever)
    -Colossus vs. Nimrod (#209)
    -"C'mon, mess with us" (#210)
    -"battle damaged" Wolverine (#211)

    Plus the two you already mentioned. Those are some of the X-Men covers I remember best from the full run of the series, and I've barely read the issues more than twice!

    My only complaint about some of Romita's covers is that he leaves too much unused space on occasion, usually on the covers with small figures. It's like he was leaving room for cover copy, but there was very little of that during his run.

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  25. @Blam: I wince sometimes when it's used as a comics-industry term to denote specifically reprint collections as opposed to softcover OGNs that are also strictly speaking trade paperbacks.

    Yeah, that bugs me as well. I guess I liken it to Trade Paperbacks (reprinted collections of comic books) and trade paperbacks (generic industry term for a paperback larger and more tricked out than a mass market), but that's just my distinction, so I can't get antsy when others don't respect it. :)

    Of the ones he did, I think only "Young Dragons in Love" and maybe the Vision/Colossus one stand out in a good way.

    Matt beat me to the punch on this one, but it probably wouldn't surprise you to hear me defend Romita's covers during this era anyway. So I'll just add that in addition to the ones you mentioned (and some of the ones Matt mentioned), I also have a fondness for #179 (the Kitty/Caliban wedding), #194 (Juggernaut/Nimrod/Rogue), #196 (despite its disconnect from the story inside), and #199 (despite featuring Rachel).

    @Matt: It really pisses me off to no end when producers, directors, and actors refer to a long-running comic book series as a graphic novel.

    Agreed. It bugs me both for being incorrect ("novel" is finite; certainly applicable when discussing either an original OGN or a "graphic novel" reprinting of a story previously published as single issues, but not when discussing a serial comic book where the narrative has yet to end), and for illuminating the stigma of shame that still comes with reading comic book for some people, despite the embrace of their characters, themes, tropes and traditions (if not the actual format) by a large swath of the pop culture audience these days.

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  26. Okay, I just randomly had a few thoughts about Magneto this morning, so this seemed like the best place to mention them since he won't return to these pages for a while yet. Hopefully I can keep this concise:

    I would have bought Magneto's reformation (or attempt at reformation) more if he had struggled with it. Maybe I'm misremembering and stuff like this did happen, but I would've liked to have seen him occasionally restrain himself from, say, backhanding Mirage if she missed a question in class, or cutting the flow of blood to Cannonball's brain if he messed up in a fight. Similarly, it would've been nice to see Storm talk him down or Colossus hold him back from murdering a villain in a fit of rage during a fight.

    If Claremont had slipped in some stuff like that, to show us that following Xavier's path was actually a challenge for him, but he was making progress, I would have much fewer problems with it -- and his return to villainy would be easier to buy, too, since we would have seen along the way that his "old ways" were still in there someplace.

    As I've stated before, my main problem is that he suddenly becomes a good guy with very little internal conflict about it, and never even momentarily reverts to his previous self (except possibly in X-Men vs. Avengers, which was written by someone other than Claremont) -- but my other problem is that after those years as an outright good guy, he basically goes straight back to villainy -- more three-dimensional villainy, to be sure -- but it's almost as out-of-the-blue as was his turn to heroism.

    But again, maybe some of this stuff did happen and I just don't recall. I'm pretty sure it didn't, though.

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  27. @Matt: Maybe I'm misremembering and stuff like this did happen, but I would've liked to have seen him occasionally restrain himself from, say, backhanding Mirage if she missed a question in class, or cutting the flow of blood to Cannonball's brain if he messed up in a fight.

    There was some stuff like that, though mainly in New Mutants, and mainly during Simonson's run (which meant it occurred probably later than it should have).

    Magneto actually didn't end up interacting much with the X-Men much, even after he became headmaster. He fought alongside them in issue #202 and a little bit during "Mutant Massacre", and that was about it. So the opportunities for the X-Men to have to reign him in were (for better or worse) few and far between.

    but my other problem is that after those years as an outright good guy, he basically goes straight back to villainy -- more three-dimensional villainy, to be sure -- but it's almost as out-of-the-blue as was his turn to heroism.

    Again, the transition back to villainy does have some gradual-ness to it, though again, a lot of that comes from Simonson's New Mutants (Doug's death plays a big role in both driving a wedge between Magneto and the New Mutants, and putting Magneto back on an "ends justify the means" path).

    And even when he does return to "villainy", I maintain that at no point when Claremont is writing him does he truly become an out-and-out villain again. Magneto after his break from Xavier's is more about staying out of the human/mutant conflict than a return to world-conquering villainy, again, at least when Claremont wrote him.

    Full-on villain Magneto doesn't really come back until after his return in "Fatal Attractions", and thankfully even then he still has some of the dimensions Claremont added, even while being much more obviously villainous.

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  28. Good point about him not teaming up often with the X-Men. I always forget how infrequently he worked with them. It's not long after his arrival that they go off on their pre-Mutant Massacre road trip.

    "And even when he does return to "villainy", I maintain that at no point when Claremont is writing him does he truly become an out-and-out villain again."

    Oh, I definitely agree with this. Even when he kills Zaladane, it's like he doesn't want to, but he's resigned himself to becoming a "bad guy" again.

    Anyway, we can talk about all of this in depth as it happens. I just wanted to get those thoughts out there before I forgot them.

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  29. @Matt: I'm not a big fan of this run -- though that's more due to Claremont's writing -- but I love a lot of Romita's covers!

    We can agree to disagree there, I guess. I'll probably bring up my problems with them when we get to the individual issues, but I confirmed when looking through a bunch of them recently that part of my problem is the hideous coloring (which likely isn't Romita's fault). Also, I'm coming to anything after #205 for the very first time, at least until Inferno, and then not again until right when the new series launches with Jim Lee and Claremont leaves; I won't peek ahead on my DVD-ROM to see if Romita's covers got more to my liking after I left.

    Okay, I'll just add, since Teebore piped up too, that while a fair bunch of the covers work for me in concept — the dichotomy between nice layouts and horrible ones is actually a little mind-boggling — I don't like the rendering at all. I look at "Cyclops vs. the squid" and think, oh, if only Smith had drawn that. Smith is just about everything I like in clean, open line art for comics, albeit in a slightly different way than guys like Alex Toth, whereas JRJr. is the opposite side of that coin; so close, but it just doesn't work for me.

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