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Thursday, August 2, 2012

X-amining New Mutants #2

"Sentinels"
April 1983

In a Nutshell 
The New Mutants are attacked by Sentinels

Writer/Co-Creator: Chris Claremont
Penciler/Co-Creator: Bob McLeod
Inker: Mike Gustovich
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Dani races through the Danger Room, pursued by a monstrous creature. She climbs a cliffside to escape it, hoping to reach an exit, but suddenly she encounters a Brood. Recoiling, she falls off the cliff and is knocked unconscious. Meanwhile, at the Salem Center Mall, the New Mutants and Stevie Hunter emerge from a movie. The kids mingle with some students from the local public school, unknowingly watched by Project: Wideawake. Henry Gyrich and Sebastian Shaw examine the new model of Sentinels Shaw has built, but Gyrich insists he won't need them in order to capture the New Mutants. Shaw, however, secretly wants to heighten the New Mutants fear of humans. At the mall, Stevie is accosted by Colonel Michael Rossi, telling her she'll need his help. Government agents arrive to arrest the New Mutants, and uncertain what to do, Shan tells her teammates to go along peacefully.


In the parking ramp, Rossi and Stevie intervene, and a fight breaks out. One of the agents radios in the attack, initiating a contingency plan. As the New Mutants easily overpower the agents, a Sentinel crashes through the roof, quickly joined by two others. With Rossi's help, the New Mutants are able to hold their own against the robots, eventually destroying all three. As the police arrive, Shan possessed the lead agent, forcing him to confess that he works for the NSA and summoned the Sentinels. Arriving at the mansion, the New Mutants awaken Dani, and she tells them she was attacked outside the Danger Room and placed inside with the scenario running. Stevie realizes, with Moira gone and the students with her, the only person left in the mansion had been Professor X.

Firsts and Other Notables
The Sentinels re-appear following X-Men #152, though technically this is the first appearance of the Mark V Sentinels. They are the only models to eschew the traditional Sentinel pink/purple color scheme for blue, and I don't believe this particular model ever appears outside this issue.


Sebastian Shaw also pops up again, his first appearance since X-Men #152. His company is responsible for the creation of the Mark V Sentinels, and Shaw notes that he intends to use them to make the New Mutants fear humans and only trust their own kind, so that when the Hellfire Club eventually destroys Xavier, the New Mutants will be more inclined to join the Club.


In the Danger Room, Dani is confronted by a Brood (though she doesn't know that's what it is), who says only Dani has sensed her presence and can destroy her. Later, the issue closes with the reveal that, like the X-Men, Professor X has a Brood egg implanted inside him as well (chronologically-speaking, this will be revealed in X-Men #166).


Air Force intelligence agent Colonel Michael Rossi, believed dead following X-Men #96 (when he threatened to pull the plug on Stephen Lang's mutant hunting program), re-appears, saying the world believing him dead has served him well. The backup story in Classic X-Men #7 will reveal that he survived his plane crashing, and his knowledge of Lang's involvement with the Council of the Chosen, the precursor to the Hellfire Club's Inner Circle, led to Sebastian Shaw's overthrow of the Council and rise to power. Stevie mentions she's heard his name from Xavier and Carol Danvers; we'll eventually learn he has a history with both Carol and Wolverine (stemming from the incident with the KGB referenced in X-Men #163). Rossi will pop up occasionally over the next few years, working as an agent of Xavier's, before disappearing into the background again.


Shaw mentions that Roberto's father Emmanuel is a member of the Hellfire Club, though not of it's Inner Circle, and Shaw considers recruiting him, kicking off a subplot that will run, mostly in the background, sight unseen, throughout the rest of the run of New Mutants


A Work in Progress
A readout from Project: Wideawake lists everyone except Dani's age, though later stories will reveal that Rahne's age is wrong, as she's considered the youngest member of the team.


While hanging out with the local kids, it's made clear that Rahne's name is pronounced like "rain". The New Mutants also get some grief for being "elite" private school kids who rarely mingle with the "common folk". 

Shan notes that, as the oldest of the New Mutants, she is their de facto leader.

It's established that when Sunspot is powered up, he gains a certain amount of physical resiliency along with his super strength. 


To her credit, by the time the Sentinels start trashing the mall, Stevie realizes she's in over her head. 


I Love the 80s
The New Mutants see ET. It is the first movie Rahne has ever seen.


Thinking her name is "Rain", one of the local girls compares Rahne to Moon Unit Zappa, Frank Zappa's daughter, and asks if she's punk or new wave.


Amongst other things, Gyrich is worried that the Soviets might have mutants of their own to use against the US.

When Stevie calls the mansion and no one answers, she finds it odd that Professor X would leave without turning on the "recordacall system", which is either a fake comic book-y name for an answering machine, or a specific device with which I am unfamiliar. 


Claremontisms
A thought bubble shows Dani thinking "I think --  I hope -- I pray" that she's safe, the think/hope/pray progression being a favorite construction of Claremont's.  

Human/Mutant Relations
This issue gives us our first real look at Project: Wideawake since its first mention in X-Men #142. Gyrich is convinced that mutants pose a threat to humanity, and is determined to round them up for containment and examination in order to learn more about them. 


Teebore's Take
This issue effectively serves to introduce the idea of human prejudice against mutants to the series. While plenty of readers were likely coming to this series from X-Men, it's also not hard to imagine plenty of first time readers being drawn to a new title featuring teenaged characters. To that end, Claremont establishes the idea that mutants are feared and hated by some humans, and distrusted by the government, by having the New Mutants tussle first with some government agents, and then with that ever-reliable villain of mutant oppression, the Sentinels (and, just to keep all the players on the field, Claremont is sure to point out that the Sentinels, though built for future use by the government, were in this case deployed by an evil mutant).

The Sentinel attack in this issue also serves as an example of how Claremont can balance the idea that the New Mutants aren't superheroes with the conventions of the genre: here, the characters aren't looking for trouble, aren't being sent out on a mission, but rather, stumble into some traditional superhero action when their trip to the mall is co-opted by government agents. Thus, we get our superhero fights while still allowing the book to stay true to its "students first" aesthetic. It's a technique (trouble finding the New Mutants when they're not looking for it) that runs the risk of becoming tiresome and/or laughably unrealistic, but for now, it's effective.  

Next Issue
In Uncanny X-Men #165, the X-Men take the fight to the Brood, while in New Mutants #3, the Brood inside Xavier makes its move. 

24 comments:

  1. Claremont loves to title stories with the name of a prominent character featured in them. Offhand, I can think of:

    "Dazzler" (during "Dark Phoenix")
    "Sentinels" (this issue)
    "Rogue" (coming up in the Paul Smith run)
    "Psylocke" (during the Mutant Massacre)

    Also, there was "Rogue Redux" during the Jim Lee era. I'm sure there are plenty of others that I'm not thinking of.

    As I've mentioned before, when I collected back issues in the early 90's, I never bothered with New Mutants. Things are mostly coherent without needing to read it, but there are little bits of information that you miss while only reading Uncanny. In this case, Michael Rossi's return was very confusing in the "Rogue vs. SHIELD" solo issue a few years from now, because I'd never seen him come back here first. Likewise, the team-up between Shaw and Gyrich, first shown during the Claremont/Byrne run, is never really visited again in Uncanny, so it always seemed like a dropped plot to me.

    I wonder, now that I think about it, how much of Claremont's reputation for dropping plots could have come from people who read only Uncanny but not New Mutants, like I did.

    "...I don't believe this particular model ever appears outside this issue."

    I think you're right, though because they were the most current/recently seen Sentinels at the time, their illustration in the original Marvel Super Heroes RPG used this design.

    "...a subplot that will run, mostly in the background, sight unseen, throughout the rest of the run of New Mutants."

    I love the idea of a subplot running "sight unseen".

    "A readout from Project: Wideawake lists everyone except Dani's age..."

    Funny how we were just talking about this. And this seems to be another point in favor of not listing characters' ages, since Wolfsbane (or Sunspot) is later ret-conned.

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  2. @Matt: Claremont loves to title stories with the name of a prominent character featured in them.

    Huh. I'd never noticed that before. Good catch. I'll have to keep an eye out for those.

    I wonder, now that I think about it, how much of Claremont's reputation for dropping plots could have come from people who read only Uncanny but not New Mutants, like I did.

    Or vice versa (if such readers existed). There's a definitely a period of time where the two books are pretty fluid, passing characters, ideas and plots back and forth amongst them. You could be on to something...

    though because they were the most current/recently seen Sentinels at the time, their illustration in the original Marvel Super Heroes RPG used this design.

    I was going to mention this in the post then forgot, but they also show up a lot in the Marvel Handbook, as seemingly a lot of panels from this issue were used in the entries of the various New Mutants.

    I love the idea of a subplot running "sight unseen".

    I was trying to come up with a concise way of saying "a subplot in which we only ever hear about its events second hand, without said events ever being depicted in an issue", and that was the best I could do...

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  3. I just remembred another one, which in retrospect is kind of obious: Uncanny #266 is titled "Gambit".

    Though, having just looked it up to verify, I'm reminded that techincally it's subtitled "Out of the Frying Pan", to match it up with issue #267: "Nanny: Into the Fire".

    Teebore -- "...that was the best I could do..."

    I think you did it just fine, but I hope you noticed that in Mr. Sinister-esque fashion, I manipulated you into typing out the whole thing anyway.

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  4. @Matt: I hope you noticed that in Mr. Sinister-esque fashion, I manipulated you into typing out the whole thing anyway.

    Ha! Nicely done. But don't try to tell me anything about my brother(s); I'm not falling for that one!

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  5. Funny about Rahne's name. "Rain" is how it always sounded in my head, but I always assumed I had it wrong for some reason. I didn't really care, because I liked "Rain" better than "Ron" or whatever. Then again, I spent most of my childhood calling Nightcrawler "Kurt WAYG-NER" so what do I know?

    And I always wondered why the Sentinels didn't get their color schemes changes more often. Anyone ever play that X-Men arcade game? It was based on "Pryde of the X-Men" and had more colors of Sentinels than Baskin Robbins has flavors. Some of them were pretty neat looking.

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  6. @Dan: Then again, I spent most of my childhood calling Nightcrawler "Kurt WAYG-NER" so what do I know?

    Ditto. Not until my high school German classes did I realize the correct pronunciation.

    Anyone ever play that X-Men arcade game?

    All the time, back when there were still arcades. I actually have it on my iPhone now.

    And yeah, that game had a veritable Skittles bag of multicolored Sentinels.

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  7. Those Mark V Sentinels get depicted in a lot of outside ads and artwork for this being their only appearance. I always wondered where that model came from. I think the Tri-Sentinel that Captain Universe/Spider-Man fights is also made up of one of these.

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  8. Also, I always pronounced Rahne as "Ronnie." Though I was also a "Mag-net-o" person instead of "Mag-neat-o" as a kid and I've switched on that.

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  9. @Jeff: I think the Tri-Sentinel that Captain Universe/Spider-Man fights is also made up of one of these.

    I think you're right; one of the three Sentinels looks like a Mark V.

    Though I was also a "Mag-net-o" person instead of "Mag-neat-o" as a kid and I've switched on that.

    I've always pronounced it as "Mag-neat-o", yet I have no idea reason why. It wasn't until after I'd started reading comics that I ever heard it pronounced, and frankly, just looking at the word on the page, I really should have been reading it as "Mag-net-o".

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  10. Teebore -- "I actually have it on my iPhone now."

    Wait -- what? How did I not know this existed?? To the App Store!

    Now they need to get Captain America & The Avengers on there, and I may never put my iPad down...

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  11. Now they need to get Captain America & The Avengers on there, and I may never put my iPad down...

    Agreed. Though oddly enough, I think the X-Men game is only available on the iPhone.

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  12. Agreed. Though oddly enough, I think the X-Men game is only available on the iPhone.

    If you have a PS3 you can download the X-Men game from that as well. It's a lot easier when you don't have to keep pumping in quarters. Not sure about Captain America and the Avengers.

    Oh, and "Welcome to DIE!!!"

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  13. @Jeff: It's a lot easier when you don't have to keep pumping in quarters.

    Definitely.

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  14. It's available on Android. And Xbox, and PS3. It's one of those games that probably isn't as fun as you remember, but if you can get six players together, it's fun to run through a couple times. Over in about 20 minutes.

    I like when Magneto says "Die, X-Chicken!" Lol.

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  15. @Dan: Over in about 20 minutes.

    Yeah, without worrying about quarters/life, you can cruise through it pretty fast...

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  16. @Teebore

    Definitely. The game is over quickly and is very simple. That said, playing with five other players is still pretty unique for these types of games. I'd say if you have a console and five other interested players (and controllers), it's easily worth ten bucks. Oddly enough, the Xbox version doesn't support six players locally (only online) but the PS3 version does. Who knows.

    Final Fight is still the better game, though, haha. :)

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  17. I want to start off by saying that I love these X-aminations. I've been following along for some months now and have thoroughly enjoyed them.

    New Mutants fall squarely into "turducken nostalgia" (to steal the phrase) for me. This series had ended not long before I got into comic books, but I ended up getting my hands on all the back issues during my personal comics golden age. I'm currently having a go through this era of Uncanny and NM so it's fun to be able to check these posts out and see other people's take on these issues.

    It's established that when Sunspot is powered up, he gains a certain amount of physical resiliency along with his super strength.

    Perhaps this is just a hazy memory on my part, but it always seemed to me that a big emphasis was placed on Sunspot's lack of invulnerability to the point that it bothered me. I'll grant that he could get by without resilience on the level of Rogue or Colossus, but it always bothered me that he could lift things like cars without injuring himself while getting hit hard could drop him. This ultimately comes down to "comic book physics" but it still always bugged me. It seems Claremont acknowledged this at least somewhat and tossed that line in there to explain away why Sunspot doesn't get hurt without having to turn him into a powerhouse.

    "I wonder, now that I think about it, how much of Claremont's reputation for dropping plots could have come from people who read only Uncanny but not New Mutants, like I did."

    "Or vice versa (if such readers existed). There's a definitely a period of time where the two books are pretty fluid, passing characters, ideas and plots back and forth amongst them. You could be on to something..."


    Funny enough, I was one of those readers that had read New Mutants but not Uncanny during this period. I never delved too deeply into the back issues of Uncanny back then so my knowledge of anything from Days of Future Past up to issue 200 was very hazy. It never really hindered my enjoyment of New Mutants, but it did leave me going "huh?" a few times. I'm just now reading both titles together, and it's interesting how the sense of a large overall narrative comes through.

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  18. I never did like Henry Peter Gyrich. He's right on that line between the kind of antagonist you love to hate and the kind you just outright hate, for me.

    Mike Gustovich, the inker, uses a lot of screentone (a film of closely placed dots [or lines] used for uniform shading) in this story, either of his own accord or at penciler Bob McLeod's suggestion.

    Just about everything on the last two story pages looks to be lettered by someone other than Tom Orzechowski. I wonder if he just needed a sub or if there was some late rewriting by Claremont or the editorial offices.

    I have to say that, for all of his faults, in my experience Jim Shooter lived by the "Law of Dealing with Readers and Fans in Person" included in this issue's Bullpen Bulletins.

    Would you believe that there was a kid in my 10th-grade English class named Mark V. Sentinels?

    Later, the issue closes with the reveal that, like the X-Men, Professor X has a Brood egg implanted inside him as well

    Didn't we get that reveal several issues back in X-Men? Maybe it was just hinted at, when Oracle mind-probed him, but I'd thought that in that scene or another one when he was in the Starjammers' sickbay we actually saw a Brood sort-of floating above him like we do at the end of this issue.

    A readout from Project: Wideawake lists everyone except Dani's age

    Height and weight, too — all in hand-lettering!

    [O]ne of the local girls compares Rahne to Moon Unit Zappa ... and asks if she's punk or new wave.

    That piece of dialogue is almost as painful as Roy Thomas's attempts to be hip (much as I respect the guy). Claremont almost saves it, though, with the obvious but amusing reply from Rahne, "I'm Scots."

    While plenty of readers were likely coming to this series from X-Men, it's also not hard to imagine plenty of first time readers being drawn to a new title featuring teenaged characters.

    I suspect that, to whatever extent the revived X-Men inspired The New Teen Titans over at DC — where it was likely a much greater catalyst at the publishing level than it was at the creative one, as writer Marv Wolfman and editor Len Wein had been wanting to revisit/rework the concept for some time but couldn't get the green light — the success of Titans was in turn as much an impetus at the marketing level at Marvel to launch New Mutants as was Shooter's long-standing desire to return to the Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters concept.

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  19. @Matt: Claremont loves to title stories with the name of a prominent character featured in them.

    I had never noticed that. Are you counting stuff like "I, Magneto" and "Like a Phoenix from the Ashes" or the name, the whole name, and nothing but the name?

    @Matt: I wonder, now that I think about it, how much of Claremont's reputation for dropping plots could have come from people who read only Uncanny but not New Mutants, like I did.

    That's a nice observation. As someone who read both at the time, I must say that I don't recall this infamous trait of Claremont's being a topic of debate back then; of course, I only talked comics with a few fellow die-hard friends and there was no Internet to get collective fandom's take on such things. On one hand, I can see in retrospect things that didn't always jump out at me at the time — even when rereading issues in bunches — like the unexplained total disappearance of Lee Forrester, but on the other hand I have long had the sense that the big-time perceived dropped subplots and mysteries, such as What's the deal with Madelyne Pryor? (only a "thing" after-the-fact, as we've discussed) and Who's the Third Summers Brother?, date to after I took my leave from the series, which coincided with the uncontrolled boom in spinoffs and overexposure of Marvel mutantdom.

    @Jay: New Mutants fall squarely into "turducken nostalgia" (to steal the phrase) for me.

    I can now pass into the next life knowing that my mark has been left upon the world.

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  20. Blam -- "I never did like Henry Peter Gyrich."

    I like Gyrich, in particular when he has those rare moments of humanity come through. When written well, you just want to strangle him most of the time, then suddenly he'll hit you with one panel of doing the right thing out of nowhere. It's a fun reading experience.

    But then, my first exposure to him was in the 90's Fox X-Men cartoon, and I'm really only familiar with him in general through his X-Men appearances. I've never read his original run as liaison to the Avengers. Speaking of which, I wonder where the media rights to the character lie? Is he part of the X-Men license, currently at Fox, or could he pop up in a Marvel Studios movie as part of the Avengers license? I'd love to see him pop up in Avengers 2, maybe working for the Powers Boothe "evil senator" character.

    Blam -- "Are you counting stuff like "I, Magneto" and "Like a Phoenix from the Ashes" or the name, the whole name, and nothing but the name?"

    The latter (with the exception of "Gambit" and "Nanny" as I mentioned above, but those are both a matter of title/subtitle, where the main title is clearly just the character's name). And you just reminded me of another one -- issue #175 is titled simply, "Phoenix".

    I decided to research this myself, and going off of Claremont's original run on Uncanny and New Mutants only (not incluiding Annuals, mini-series, specials, etc.), this is what I found:

    Uncanny #130: "Dazzler"
    Uncanny #135: "Dark Phoenix"
    Uncanny #143: "Demon"
    Uncanny #146: "Murderworld"
    Uncanny #171: "Rogue"
    Uncanny #175: "Phoenix"
    Uncanny #213: "Psylocke"
    Uncanny #257: "Lady Mandarin"
    Uncanny #265: "Storm"
    Uncanny #266: "Gambit"
    Uncanny #267: "Nanny"
    Uncanny #269: "Rogue redux"

    New Mutants #2: "Sentinels
    New Mutants #11: "Magma"
    New Mutants #26: "Legion"

    So in a run of about 240 issues combined, he only did it 15 times. But still, I think it's notable.

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  21. @Jay: I've been following along for some months now and have thoroughly enjoyed them.

    Thanks!

    It seems Claremont acknowledged this at least somewhat and tossed that line in there to explain away why Sunspot doesn't get hurt without having to turn him into a powerhouse.

    Yeah, it seems like Claremont wanted to establish that while Sunspot was more vulnerable than Rogue or Colossus, he could still, I dunno, punch through a brick wall without shattering the bones in his hand.

    On one hand, I appreciate the effort made to rein in his power level and make him somewhat unique (a superstrong powerhouse who isn't invulnerable); on the other hand, it does, as you say, require some dicey comic book physics.

    I'm just now reading both titles together, and it's interesting how the sense of a large overall narrative comes through.

    I have always enjoyed, at least when Claremont was on both titles, the way each would pass stuff back and forth. Good to know there were some New Mutants-only readers back then.

    @Blam: He's right on that line between the kind of antagonist you love to hate and the kind you just outright hate, for me.

    He's very close to that line for me as well, though still on the "love to hate" side of it, I think. He has some interactions with Beast in the 90s that I really enjoy.

    Just about everything on the last two story pages looks to be lettered by someone other than Tom Orzechowski.

    Huh. Good catch; I never noticed that.

    Would you believe that there was a kid in my 10th-grade English class named Mark V. Sentinels?

    I would not. :)

    Maybe it was just hinted at, when Oracle mind-probed him, but I'd thought that in that scene or another one when he was in the Starjammers' sickbay we actually saw a Brood sort-of floating above him like we do at the end of this issue.

    It's only ever been hinted at, never outright stated, until the end of X-Men #165/this issue. There have been a couple occasions, both during the Oracle scan you mentioned and elsewhere, that a Brood-like image appeared, though it was never as explicit as the image here.

    I have no idea how it read to readers the first time through, not knowing in advance that Xavier had a Brood egg inside him, but the impression I got was that Claremont was trying to keep it a mystery even while (visual) clues were planted.

    Claremont almost saves it, though, with the obvious but amusing reply from Rahne, "I'm Scots."

    Yeah, I've always found Rahne's reply far more endearing, and much more effective at establishing her cultural naivete, than her earlier gushing over the magic of motion pictures. Agreed on the Thomas-esque painfulness of that pop culture reference, as well.

    ...the success of Titans was in turn as much an impetus at the marketing level at Marvel to launch New Mutants...

    Ah, good point. I'd never considered that before, but you're probably right.

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  22. @Blam: I have long had the sense that the big-time perceived dropped subplots and mysteries, such as What's the deal with Madelyne Pryor? ... and Who's the Third Summers Brother?, date to after I took my leave from the series

    And I've long had the sense that a lot of Claremont's critics in this regard attribute a lot of the post-Claremont dangling subplots of the 90s (such as "The Third Summers Brother") to Claremont himself.

    While Claremont was certainly capable of taking a long friggin' time to resolve some subplots, for the most part, he resolved (to some extent) most everything he set up (with a few exceptions).

    But because that style of writing was, correctly or not, perceived as part of the title's popularity, I think a lot of the post-Claremont writers and editors tried to imitate Claremont's dangling subplot approach, and ultimately did a poorer job of it, for a variety of reasons, and in the end, Claremont gets blamed for the failure of his successive imitators.

    @Matt: Speaking of which, I wonder where the media rights to the character lie?

    Huh, good question. Marvel should publish a list somewhere of which studios own the licensing rights to which characters. It would really help internet speculation. :)

    So in a run of about 240 issues combined, he only did it 15 times. But still, I think it's notable.

    Definitely. Thanks for the rundown.

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  23. I'm not sure how this never got posted. I guess I missed it after bowing out of the massive X-Men discussion from the same week.

    @Matt: Speaking of which, I wonder where the media rights to [Gyrich] lie? Is he part of the X-Men license, currently at Fox, or could he pop up in a Marvel Studios movie as part of the Avengers license?

    I completely and totally associate him with The Avengers, so if he's popping up I'd like it to be there. I'd completely forgot he was involved with the X-Men / mutant hysteria / Sentinels at all, to be honest.

    @Matt: I decided to research this myself ... So in a run of about 240 issues combined, he only did it 15 times. But still, I think it's notable.

    I'd quibble with "Demon" since it's more descriptive of a nameless creature. I applaud your initiative, though. 8^) I'm actually impressed, too, that Claremont's usage of "Rogue Redux" indicates that he remembered he'd already used "Rogue".

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  24. @Blam: I completely and totally associate him with The Avengers, so if he's popping up I'd like it to be there.

    Which is funny, because I totally associate him with the X-Men, because I read him there first before I ever encountered him in Avengers.

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