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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #165

"Transfigurations!"
January 1983

In a Nutshell 
The X-Men deal with their impending deaths.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Paul Smith
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: L. Varley
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
With the hole in the hull of the ship caused by Binary's abrupt departure threatening to suck the X-Men out into space, they work together to seal the breach with a piece of deck plating. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Moira brings Xavier a letter from Reed Richards asking for help with a young Vietnamese mutant named Karma. When Xavier declines, Moira suggests sending the girl to Magneto or Emma Frost's Massachusetts Academy if Xavier refuses to help. After Moira leaves, Professor X accepts that he has a responsibility to help young mutants, and calls Richards. Back in space, aboard a Shi'ar shuttle, Storm drifts through a nebula, trying to decide what to do with the Brood egg growing inside her. Suddenly, she begins to transform into a Brood, but when her ship breaches the nebula, the bombardment of starlight fills her with energy, reversing the transformation. Realizing what she has to do, Storm absorbs as much energy as she can and explodes her ship, killing both herself and the embryo.


In another part of the nebula, aboard Lilandra's ship, the rest of the X-Men work to repair the ship while struggling with the knowledge that they will soon die. As Kitty propositions Colossus, wanting to be with him before she dies, an image of Storm appears before them. Throughout the ship, Storm appears before each of her teammates at different stages of her life. Just then, one of the Brood's massive whale ships swallows Lilandra's ship. Finally, Storm appears as the X-Men knew her, explaining that it took some practice to be able to communicate with them properly. She tells them that the creature which swallowed the ship is an Acanti, and that she is no longer the Storm they knew: she is now one with the Acanti.  

Firsts and Other Notables
Paul Smith comes aboard as the series' new regular penciller (with Bob Wiacek continuing to ink). Though his run will ultimately be brief, it is memorable, and he is routinely cited by many fans (including myself) as one of their favorite X-Men artists. Smith is also the first artist other than Cockrum and Byrne to draw the new X-Men.  

Moira's conversation with Xavier about the fate of Karma sets up the events of Marvel Graphic Novel #4, in which Xavier re-opens the school to a new class of young mutants. Chronologically-speaking, that issue as well as New Mutants #1-3 all occur between this issue and Uncanny X-Men #167.


The Brood's whale-like living starships are named the Acanti in this issue; we'll learn more about them and their relationship with the Brood next issue. 


A Work in Progress
Between last issue and this one, the X-Men have all changed into more civilian-style clothes in favor of their super hero costumes. Obviously because of the inclinations of the series' new artist, we can probably chalk it up in-story to the presence of the Shi'ar clothes-generating device.

Lilandra notes it is once again uncomfortable to teleport with Nightcrawler; as in issue #163, the Brood egg is making it more difficult.


Stevie Hunter is shown hanging out at the mansion, discussing Professor X's mental state with Moira, in a scene which chronologically occurs before New Mutants #1, somewhat setting up her involvement in that book (or, at least, reminding readers about the character; we are told again that an injury put an end to her professional dancing career).


In the background of that same panel, we (somewhat) get our first instance of another unfortunate trope: the oversexualization of Illyana, as she appears wearing a bikini.

Moira's believes Professor X has never quite recovered from the loss of his legs, having always wanted to be more of a "front line" hero, setting up future developments.


Xavier believes he's failed the X-Men just like he failed Jean Grey, but ultimately, he agrees to take on Karma as a pupil.


The Shi'ar shuttle Storm is aboard is the same design as the one Lilandra flew to Earth in her first appearances.


The dilemma facing Storm:


In light of their impending deaths by Brood egg, Lilandra and Cyclops come around to Wolverine's line of thinking regarding the Brood.


Nightcrawler, on the other hand, turns to prayer.

 

Which prompts another insightful theological debate with Wolverine.


It's noted that Kitty has turned 14, her birthday passing unnoticed while the X-Men are in space.


I Love the 80s
The opening pages of this issue are another textbook example of "every issue is somebody's first" style exposition, in which the characters displays their powers while fixing the hull breach. 

His real power is awkward exposition (also note that Paul Smith draws Wolverine's cowl more like a helmet, as John Byrne did).


Claremontisms
Cyclops' blast is described as "nigh irresistible". Almost "nigh invulnerable", but not quite. 

Artistic Achievements
For whatever reason, I've always liked the way Paul Smith draws hair. I also like that he isn't afraid to draw curvy women. 

Young Love
Faced with death, Kitty more or less tells Colossus she wants to have sex with him before she dies, and while he kisses her, he tells her despite their situation her age does matter, and he still hopes they'll find a way to avoid their fates. It's an easy scene to have some fun with, but it's also quite well done.


For Sale
It's been awhile since we had a Daisy ad, but this one promises a free hat and backpack!


There's also an ad for the New Mutants series.


Finally, we get one of the first ads for a licensed Marvel video game.


Teebore's Take 
This is my favorite issue of this story. After revealing to the X-Men last issue that they are all carrying a lethal Brood egg (and after resolving the relatively pointless action cliffhanger and spending a few pages setting up New Mutants), Claremont settles in to depict the X-Men struggling with the knowledge that they are about to die, all ably depicted by incoming series artist Paul Smith. In fact, the entirety of the art team does a masterful job of adding to the tone of the issue: the bright colors and sci-fi trappings of Lilandra's ship lend the story a cold, clinical feel. The X-Men are alone, adrift, and you can almost hear the empty vastness of space and their ship as the characters grapple with their impending deaths. As Storm tries to reconcile her desire to destroy the evil growing inside her with her vow to never kill, Cyclops and Lilandra come down on Wolverine's side, determined to make the Brood pay with their final breaths. Nightcrawler first prays, then enters into a theological debate with Wolverine before the pair engage in some gallows humor whilst searching for a brew, a sequence which does an excellent job of deepening their friendship in just a few panels. And in the issue's strongest scene, Kitty and Colossus, perhaps the most innocent of all the X-Men, discuss the finite nature of existence, before Colossus' gently rebuffs Kitty's advances because he refuses to give up his hope that the X-Men will find a way to cheat their fates yet again. It is simply Claremont at his best, using a comic book-y plot as a springboard for strong character work that depicts the X-Men as three dimensional, fully realized individuals.   

Next Issue
On the morrow, the New Mutants hit the mall in New Mutants #2

Next week, the X-Men take the fight to the Brood in Uncanny X-Men #166.

37 comments:

  1. I just recently re-watched Aliens, which I hadn't seen since it came out in '86 or so, and I'd never seen the '79 Alien until pretty recently I'm ashamed to say. I'm just now noticing some similarities with a Brood saga and those two movies (as well as Starship Troopers). Bug like monster, heroes isolated on a ship deep in space, a "mother" leader of the bugs...I'm sure Claremont was inspired by the '79 movie, I wonder if Claremont's story had any influence on Aliens?

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  2. @Chris: I'm sure Claremont was inspired by the '79 movie, I wonder if Claremont's story had any influence on Aliens?

    Yeah, I know that both "Demon" in X-Men #143 and the design of the Brood were influenced by Alien, but I have no idea if Claremont' Brood in turn had any impact on Cameron when he did Aliens.

    It's certainly possible they developed independently of each other. The extrapolations from the original alien that are made in the Brood Story and Aliens are certainly logical enough that both Cameron and Claremont reached the same destination on their own. Still, it'd be interesting to know for sure.

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  3. To address a pet peeve of mine, explosive decompression doesn't "suck" things into space; it blows them into space.

    Other than that, spot on review and analysis.

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  4. PART ONE IN A 2-PART COMMENT

    I agree, this is a very strong issue; easily the best chapter of the Brood saga. It seems to me that few writers at the time other than Claremont would think to do a relatively "quiet" issue right near the end of an epic, drawn-out saga, but the concept works very well.

    And Paul Smith is one of my very favorite X-Men artists too, but really only when inked by Wiacek. His occasional returns to the X-Men universe have never looked as polished and dynamic as his work in these eleven issues. And speaking of the length of his run, it amazes me that a guy who drew the title for less than a year is considered by many to be one of the definitive X-artists, but his work was just that impressive (I guess the same could be said for Neal Adams, who drew even fewer issues than Smith did)!

    Speaking of the Smith-Wiacek team, in the most recent Uncanny X-Men Masterworks volume, Louise Simonson's intro says that initially Wiacek inked Smith in the normal comic book style, the same way he'd been inking Cockrum. But Smith, coming from an animation background, wanted his work to look more like a cartoon. So he asked Wiacek to change his style, and make everything cleaner and more streamlined (my words, not Simonson's or Smith's). I think they came out of the gate strong to begin with, but you can really see the difference in the later issues of this run.

    (I have this feeling like I said all that about the inking style before recently, but I'm not sure...)

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  5. PART TWO IN A 2-PART COMMENT

    "...Moira brings Xavier a letter from Reed Richards asking for help with a young Vietnamese mutant named Karma."

    Marvel Team-Up #100 (Karma's first appearance in which she meets the F.F.) - cover dated December, 1980

    This issue - cover dated January, 1983.

    Even in Marvel time, that seems like a very long time for that letter to arrive! Maybe it got lost in the mail?

    "Smith is also the first artist other than Cockrum and Byrne to draw the new X-Men."

    I assume you mean as the regular penciler? Because there have been several fill-ins over the years in which other artists drew the new team. Not to mention annuals and the occasional guest appearance in other titles.

    "It's noted that Kitty has turned 14, her birthday passing unnoticed while the X-Men are in space."

    Which means, for those keeping track, it's somehow been roughly six months since the X-Men met Kitty in the "Dark Phoenix Saga". And Kitty turns 16 in issue #26 of Excalibur (August 1990), meaning that one year of Marvel time will pass in the next seven and a half years of real time. We'll see multiple Christmases in that timespan, but Kitty will stay 15 years old.

    (Yes, I know John Byrne would tell me my overanalysis means it's time for to find a new hobby. I just think it means that specifically stating characters' names in comics and celebrating their birthdays is a bad idea.)

    "...note that Paul Smith draws Wolverine's cowl more like a helmet, as John Byrne did)."

    Wow, I never caught that! I think I remember us talking about whether anyone other than Byrne ever drew it that way. I guess the answer is "yes". Whether or not anyone ever drew it this way again, though, I'm not sure. I wonder who the first artist was to specifically draw it as a hood pulled back behind his neck? We should watch for that...

    "For whatever reason, I've always liked the way Paul Smith draws hair. I also like that he isn't afraid to draw curvy women.

    Agreed on both counts! I can't quite put my finger on why his har looks so great to me. It almost looks like shiny plastic or something. But I love it anyway.

    Also, I distinctly recall reading this particular issue and realizing (though the phrase didn't exist at the time) that Moira had suddenly become a MILF.

    "...he tells her despite their situation her age does matter..."

    Not for sex, but apparently it's totally okay for an 18 year-old guy to make out with and date a 15 year-old girl, as we'll see in upcoming issues.

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  6. Me -- (Yes, I know John Byrne would tell me my overanalysis means it's time for to find a new hobby. I just think it means that specifically stating characters' names in comics and celebrating their birthdays is a bad idea.)"

    Oops, I butchered some of that. It should say:

    Yes, I know John Byrne would tell me my overanalysis means it's time to find a new hobby. I just think it means that specifically stating characters' ages in comics and celebrating their birthdays is a bad idea.

    Obviously you should always state characters' names in comics. Preferrably using their codename, their real name, and any nicknames all at least once per issue, usually in scenes where they're explaining their own powers to themselves.

    Thought Balloon:
    "I am Ororo, called Storm -- the Wind Rider! But not even my mutant ability -- the total control of the very elements themselves will save me now."

    (With apologies to Blam, the master of sample dialogue...)

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  7. @Anonymous: explosive decompression doesn't "suck" things into space; it blows them into space

    Huh. I guess I've always thought of it as space doing the sucking. Good to know.

    @Matt: His occasional returns to the X-Men universe have never looked as polished and dynamic as his work in these eleven issues.

    Agreed. On each of his various returns, I've always found myself thinking "Really? This is Paul Smith?"

    I have this feeling like I said all that about the inking style before recently, but I'm not sure...

    I'm pretty sure I've read that before, but I don't know if it came from you or I read it elsewhere. At any rate, this is certainly the place to mention it, again or otherwise.

    Even in Marvel time, that seems like a very long time for that letter to arrive!

    That thought actually occurred to me when I was typing this up - "gee, it's been awhile since that Team-Up issue was published." I guess we're just supposed to hold off and read that one shortly before this one, instead of when it was published. :)

    I assume you mean as the regular penciler?

    Yeah, that's exactly what I meant. He's the first regular series artist to draw them who isn't named Cockrum or Byrne. I should have been more clear.

    I just think it means that specifically stating characters' ages in comics and celebrating their birthdays is a bad idea.

    I'm okay with the occasional birthday, so long as the age goes unstated and they don't happen too often, but I agree that creators should try to generalize/be non-specific when it comes to characters' ages, specific years in which stories are occurring, depictions of US Presidents, etc.

    We should watch for that...

    I will be. I'm starting to think it might be Silvestri...

    It almost looks like shiny plastic or something.

    Yeah, I definitely don't love it for its realism, but I do love it.

    Also, I distinctly recall reading this particular issue and realizing ... that Moira had suddenly become a MILF.

    Me too. In fact, she's the one who stood out to me as an example of Paul Smith being willing and able to draw a woman who wasn't just a stick figure with big boobs, yet was still sexy ("curvy" being the best word I could come up with for that, though there's probably a better term for it).

    but apparently it's totally okay for an 18 year-old guy to make out with and date a 15 year-old girl, as we'll see in upcoming issues

    This is probably going down a dangerous road, but on paper at least, I don't think there's anything that wrong with a non-sexual romantic relationship between an 18 year old and a 15 year old. I mean, that's essentially a high school senior dating a high school freshmen. Not necessarily common, and likely doomed for failure, but not that out of the ordinary or inherently "icky", at least to me.

    With apologies to Blam, the master of sample dialogue...

    He is indeed the master, but yours was pretty good too. :)

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  8. I learned the difference between sucking and blowing from an early ST:TNG episode, in which Data corrects Riker on using the word "sucked", then explains why "blown" is the correct term.

    Because somehow a career Starfleet officer like Riker, who probably spent more time aboard a starship than on solid ground, wouldn't know that. It's almost Claremontian in its using the characters for a "bit" rather than portraying them the way they probably should've been shown. But then, Data was involved in many ill-conceived "bits" over the years...

    Anyway...

    Teebore -- "I guess we're just supposed to hold off and read that one shortly before this one, instead of when it was published. :)"

    Not to get nit-picky (as I do just that), but the reason that doesn't really work is that the MTU issue features a brief X-Men scene showing Wolverine in his yellow costume, working out alongside Storm and Colossus in the danger room, in the completely intact mansion. Even if you ignore the costume discrepancy, the latest it could take place would be someplace around issue #149 or so, which is still over a year before this one.

    No, I prefer to think Willie Lumpkin lost the letter someplace after picking it up from Reed.

    And by the way, why does Reed send a letter to Xavier when in the very story that introduces Karma, he calls the X-mansion to get the professor's help in locating her?

    Teebore -- "I'm okay with the occasional birthday, so long as the age goes unstated and they don't happen too often..."

    Yes, that's true. Birthdays are fine if they're rare and no specific age is given. It's just when we see birthdays that are specifically stated as being consecutive, while multiple instances of Christmas or Halloween or whatever fall between them, that bugs me.

    I do think exceptions can be made for stories set in the past, though. John Byrne ended Hidden Years with the Beast's twentieth birthday. That's perfectly acceptable, I think, since we know that "now", whenever that may be, Beast is older than 20.

    I should also state for the record that I liked when Fabian Nicieza did a subplot in X-Men where Beast was about to turn 30, even though it goes against my philosophy that ages should not be stated in current-day continuity stories. On the other hand, I was dismayed when Mark Waid tried to tell us Cyclops was 25 around the time of Onslaught.

    I guess I just prefer for the reader to have a general idea of a character's age without it being specifically stated anywhere. When you start giving out characters' ages, it becomes a slippery slope, especially in a shared universe. For the most part, the X-Men's ages can be reconciled with some wrangling if you're only looking at their corner of the Marvel Universe. It gets a lot more complicated when you try to match up their chronology with Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four. Since they all inhabit the same universe, they should match up... but they never will.

    "...on paper at least, I don't think there's anything that wrong with a non-sexual romantic relationship between an 18 year old and a 15 year old..."

    True, I would agree with that. It's just the scenes where we see them making out (of which there are admittedly very few) that kind of creep me out a bit. Also, I accidentally aged Kitty up a year in my earlier post. She's 14 right now, while Colossus is 18. She turns 15, not 16, in Excalibur #26.

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  9. @Matt: But then, Data was involved in many ill-conceived "bits" over the years...

    Ain't that the truth...

    No, I prefer to think Willie Lumpkin lost the letter someplace after picking it up from Reed.

    That probably is the best explanation. No matter what, the transition from that issue to this one is bumpy at best.

    I should also state for the record that I liked when Fabian Nicieza did a subplot in X-Men where Beast was about to turn 30, even though it goes against my philosophy that ages should not be stated in current-day continuity stories.

    Yeah, I liked that one too. Maybe because by then enough time had passed since the 60s that it seemed to fit without also drawing a lot of attention to the sliding timeline. It also fit with the other characters ages: if Beast was 30, then the New Mutants were in their early 20s, and the Generation X kids in their teens, at that all seemed to fit at the time.

    She's 14 right now, while Colossus is 18.

    Ah yes. And for whatever reason 14/18 seems a lot creepier than 15/18. Probably because I figure if both parties are at least in the same school, it's not too bad.

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  10. @Teebore
    Yeah, I know that both "Demon" in X-Men #143 and the design of the Brood were influenced by Alien

    I think "influenced" is being a tad generous, but whatever. :)

    @Matt
    And Kitty turns 16 in issue #26 of Excalibur (August 1990), meaning that one year of Marvel time will pass in the next seven and a half years of real time.

    Believe it or not, Kitty actually referred to herself as being "only sixteen" in a 90's issue. For the life of me I can't remember which, but I'm almost positive it was after she had rejoined the X-Men, probably around the time of The Twelve. I remember people getting their panties in a wad over it, not only because it made absolutely no sense, but also because her relationship with Pete Wisdom in Excalibur was now even more skeevy. I can't recall who the writer of that line was, but I think the general consensus among fans at the time was to ignore it and basically not accept it as canon (especially since most of the Generation X kids had been labeled as sixteen years prior).

    I never found her and Colossus weird together because of their ages (15 and 18 is kinda who cares IMO), but for me it always looked funny because I never felt Colossus was ever really drawn to look like an 18 year old. I know he was supposed to be a big guy, but neither he, Nightcrawler, Storm, etc. ever really registered as "kids" in my mind, even though that's essentially what they were when they were introduced. Same problem with the original team.

    Does anyone know when Marvel scaled back the hard birth dates and just left everyone's age be vague?

    Also, I distinctly recall reading this particular issue and realizing (though the phrase didn't exist at the time) that Moira had suddenly become a MILF.

    I see her in these scans and can't help but see her as Daphne from Frasier for some reason.

    Not for sex, but apparently it's totally okay for an 18 year-old guy to make out with and date a 15 year-old girl, as we'll see in upcoming issues.

    I think Colossus was always just dumb as a box of rocks when it came to women, frankly. He's even doing it again right now, Phoenix Force and all. I've mentioned before that I'm not a Whedon fan, but I thought he handled the two of them finally hooking up pretty well, all things considered.

    I should also state for the record that I liked when Fabian Nicieza did a subplot in X-Men where Beast was about to turn 30, even though it goes against my philosophy that ages should not be stated in current-day continuity stories. On the other hand, I was dismayed when Mark Waid tried to tell us Cyclops was 25 around the time of Onslaught.

    The Beast thing blew my mind. Again, maybe it was his appearance, or the fact that he was smarter, but Beast always came off as much older than that. I couldn't believe that, only in the 1990's, was he 30. And is it me, or does Cat Beast look about 130? And I missed the Cyclops thing, when did that happen?

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  11. Paul Smith didn't have a long run on X-Men but he sure left his mark. I don't think anyone could possibly forget his issues.

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  12. Dan -- "I can't recall who the writer of that line was..."

    Oh yeah, I forgot about that! It was one of the issues that Chris Claremont ghost-scripted over Alan Davis's plot. Claremont was still in that phase where he tried to pretend no time had passed in the eight years he'd been away from the X-Men (see also his 4-part Wolverine arc around the same time for more of that attitude).

    Dan -- "And I missed the Cyclops thing, when did that happen? "

    During Mark Waid's blink-and-you'll-miss-it run writing X-Men, right around the time of "Onslaught". I think he and Jean are visiting her parents or sister or something, and Jean makes some remark about his age, to which Cyclops replies, "But I'm only twenty-fi--". He's cut off before he can finish the statement, but it's obvious what he was trying to say. Not sure why Waid didn't just keep it ambiguous by having him say, "But I'm only twenty-"... ten he could be anywhere in his twenties.

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  13. @Matt
    Oh yeah, I forgot about that! It was one of the issues that Chris Claremont ghost-scripted over Alan Davis's plot. Claremont was still in that phase where he tried to pretend no time had passed in the eight years he'd been away from the X-Men (see also his 4-part Wolverine arc around the same time for more of that attitude).

    Makes sense. It seemed to me he was doing the same thing when he came back to Uncanny for the third time a few years back. Suddenly, Nightcrawler was crushing on both Rachel and Storm, but he didn't know how to talk to Rachel about it and Storm was too busy flirting with Wolverine. The whole time I'm reading this I'm thinking, Chris, you know these characters have been interacting for years since you've been gone, right? Is now really the time for Nightcrawler to get schoolgirl crushes on two women he's known (and not been involved with) for ages?

    Oh, and he came up with Bishop's internal GPS thing, that made me chuckle, too. :)

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  14. I knew Kitty's birthday was mentioned in the main title! I have to say I think I prefer Cockrum to Smith; this isn't the significant improvement that Byrne was to Cockrum round 1, in part because Cockrum's stuff had evolved and he seemed more comfortable, even if his heart was only in the occasional story. Not to trash Smith, whose work I like, but it kind of sucks that Cockrum doesn't come back, ever (although he did do that Nightcrawler mini in 1984-ish).

    Could not disagree more re: birthdays and putting things in the real world. The president in a comic should be the president when the comic's published, end of story. Otherwise a (non-obsessive) fan reads it and says "hey how come X isn't the president?!" Yes, it can create confusion for super-fans 20 years later, but saying "oh none of that should be there" is like saying all stories should take place in a vacuum; most great comics are tied to a specific era anyway, and just pretending that they're not tends to result in disposable, crappy comics. Not to say it automatically makes a comic better to be anchored to our universe, with time passing in a somewhat normal way, but it helps. Spider-Man's coming of age is attached to the late 60's-early 70's, Miller's Daredevil only works with New York City of the late 70's/early 80's being a hellhole, etc.

    The whole "Marvel Time" thing exists pretty much exclusively to keep selling lunchboxes so that the big heroes of 2012 are the big heroes of 1970. Other than Claremont's X-Men, it's hard to think of a single valuable property at Marvel that was created after 1975, and "marvel time" is to blame. It doesn't really bug me except when I think about how little change is allowed. I loved Busiek's Avengers and how he added Justice and Firestar to their ranks in a way that seemed like natural character progression from their time as New Warriors. Then in the past ten years both become obscure again so that we can focus on the same guys that are ALWAYS Avengers, plus Spider-Man and his pals, and characters with no business being on any Avengers team, ever (Iron Fist, Daredevil).

    Back to the X-Men, from a writer's perspective, Claremont clearly wishes he had made Kitty a bit older to begin with, but of course, at the time she was part of that planned "school" X-Men, so it made sense for her to be so much younger than everyone. Now that she's not defined as "the baby" of the X-Mansion, he's sort of stuck trying to age her up so that Colossus seems less like a perv. It's funny to see how often in these comics you can see the writer's intention creeping through, like Professor X being the planned father of Proteus turning into Professor X being the father of Legion. Or the whole Madelyne debacle, which starts to gain steam once the team gets to earth.

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  15. @Arion: Paul Smith didn't have a long run on X-Men but he sure left his mark. I don't think anyone could possibly forget his issues.

    Well said.

    @Dan: I remember people getting their panties in a wad over it, not only because it made absolutely no sense, but also because her relationship with Pete Wisdom in Excalibur was now even more skeevy.

    My recollection of which issue it was fits with Matt's, but that reaction to it is what I really remember. It was a big deal, especially for a time that predates the internet as we know it now.

    But neither he, Nightcrawler, Storm, etc. ever really registered as "kids" in my mind, even though that's essentially what they were when they were introduced. Same problem with the original team.

    Ditto. For me, I think it stems from the fact that I was a kid when I started reading comics, so all the characters were "old" to me. I mean, to a 10 year old, 18 and 25 are both just "old", even though there can be a world of difference between the two.

    I have similar problems with baseball players. As a kid, they were all just old, like my parents. Now, even though a good chunk of baseball players are significantly younger than me, I still have a hard time not thinking of them as "adults" who are older than me.

    I've mentioned before that I'm not a Whedon fan, but I thought he handled the two of them finally hooking up pretty well, all things considered.

    And while I am a Whedon fan, there was plenty in his Astonishing run that I didn't like, but the Kitty/Colossus stuff wasn't one of those things. I agree he handled it pretty well.

    The whole time I'm reading this I'm thinking, Chris, you know these characters have been interacting for years since you've been gone, right?

    Oh man, that was rough. Neither of Claremont's return to the book turned out very well, did they? I remember being terribly excited when his first return was announced, and then what followed was just awful.

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  16. @Dobson: The president in a comic should be the president when the comic's published, end of story.

    My preference is that the identity of the President is vague/not directly stated, kinda like how Cap's "Secret Empire" story handled it in that we all knew it was Nixon but they never outright said as much, or how it was pretty clear in the 2000s that the President being portrayed was George Bush without anyone saying it.

    That way, they get their cake and eat it too. No one is pulled out of the story by the presence of a fake president, and no one is pulled out of the story by the presence of a President who's been out of office for 30+ years.

    Spider-Man's coming of age is attached to the late 60's-early 70's, Miller's Daredevil only works with New York City of the late 70's/early 80's being a hellhole, etc.

    And I have no problem with that, either (I actually almost wrote something to that effect in my initial response), I just don't think the stories need to point out the specific date. The art (both in terms of the style and the styles it's depicting) will make it clear what era the story was originally meant to take place in, and explicitly telling me one issue takes place in 1977 and another in 1978 just pulls me out of the story.

    If I'm reading Miller's Daredevil, what's on the page makes it very clear it's depicting the New York of the early 80s, and I'm fine with that. But as soon as a caption tells me it's specifically 1981, I start thinking, "okay, so Daredevil was in his late 20s in '81, it's 2012, so he's now in his fifties, except with the sliding timeline, he's probably only a few years older than his 1981 age, which means all his stories between this one and the present day took place in maybe three years. Divide that by three, carry the one..."

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  17. @Dobson:The whole "Marvel Time" thing exists pretty much exclusively to keep selling lunchboxes so that the big heroes of 2012 are the big heroes of 1970.

    Absolutely. Spider-Man the marketing figure is worth way more money to them than Spider-Man the comic book character, and they have to make sure they keep him relatively young so they can keep telling stories about him in order to keep the intellectual property under their control.

    Other than Claremont's X-Men, it's hard to think of a single valuable property at Marvel that was created after 1975, and "marvel time" is to blame.

    I suppose it depends on your definition of valuable, but I'd argue that Spider-Woman, She-Hulk, War Machine, Venom and even Cable have made some money for the company through the years. Punisher debuted in 1974 but his heyday was in the 80s/early 90s, when he was Marvel's cash cow. Nova never quite took off on his own, but for years now he's anchored a pretty successful succession of cosmic stories, and now appears in the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon. Bendis' Alias is poised to become a TV show, Young Avengers seems to do well whenever Marvel can be bothered to publish it, and Runaways was, qualitatively speaking, fantastic, and if Marvel hadn't so bungled that book, likely could have been turned into some kind of successful licensed property, be it TV or cartoon or movie.

    Moreoever, I think the lack of quality, valuable characters post '75 (and especially today) has less to do with "Marvel time" and more to do with a desire, on the part of creators and some fans, to rehash existing stories, as well as creators being less interested to turn over their best ideas to giant companies, opting instead to save them for creator owned projects where they have complete control of the characters and any resultant profits.

    All that said, I don't disagree that the relative lack of forward momentum in the ongoing narratives is terribly frustrating. I understand the need to keep telling stories with these characters for IP reasons, if nothing else, but that doesn't mean the same stories need to be retold over and over.

    One of the things I loved about DC in the 90s was the rise of the "legacy" heroes, former sidekicks graduating into the roles of their mentors or into heroic identities of their own, the creation of distinct generations of heroes that allowed for ongoing stories while also acknowledging the passage of some time. Then the Nu52 came along and wiped all that out...

    Back to the X-Men, from a writer's perspective, Claremont clearly wishes he had made Kitty a bit older to begin with

    Yeah, you can definitely see him struggling with that right around this time.

    It's funny to see how often in these comics you can see the writer's intention creeping through, like Professor X being the planned father of Proteus turning into Professor X being the father of Legion. Or the whole Madelyne debacle

    Indeed. Claremont definitely had a persistence, that if he couldn't make an idea work, or wasn't allowed to, he'd keep trying it until he was satisfied with it (see also the various instances of the "world believes the X-Men are dead" plot).

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  18. Dan -- I agre with your assessment of Claremont's more recent return to Uncanny, but at least there you finally had the impression he'd bothered to actually read the issues that were created while he was gone. He still wasn't using all of the more current characterizations, but at least he had a better grasp on the continuity.

    Dobson -- "The president in a comic should be the president when the comic's published, end of story."

    I actually agree with this. Your whole point about reading comics with the zeitgeist of the time in mind is definitely true (did I use that word right?). In more recent years, I've come to find that any old comic I read is set in my head when it was published. That is, if I read a Lee/Romita Amazing Spider-Man, it's set in the mid- to late-60's. If I read a Stern/Romita Jr. issue, it's taking place in the early 80's. Somehow only a few years have passed for Spidey, but the stories still take place when they were published. When I was a kid, thinking that way would've driven me nuts. But as I've gotten older and less anal about the whole "Marvel Time" concept, it's much easier for me.

    I just think that as a general rule, specific ages should be avoided in serial fiction like comics. It leads to too many headaches, even if you aren't anal about these things. The matter of Beast's and Cyclops's ages is a perfect example. Nicieza told us Beast was 30. A couple years later, Waid told us Cyclops was 25. But Cyclops was not five years younger than Beast when the X-Men debuted! I believe Beast was usually cited as the oldest X-Man, so if we assume he was 17 or 18, that would've made Cyclops 12 or 13 at the time?!? It's unnecessarily complicated just because some writer(s) had to state the characters' ages in a comic.

    (And again, I liked Nicieza's "Beast turns 30" story... but that doesn't mean I think it should have been done.)

    Dobson -- "...characters with no business being on any Avengers team, ever (Iron Fist, Daredevil)."

    On this point, I agree with you one thousand percent! Bendis's favorite Mary Sue character, Luke Cage, should be on that list, too.

    "...Claremont clearly wishes he had made Kitty a bit older to begin with..."

    Y'know, that's a really good point, and something I never really thought about -- but it's completely obvious. When she first appeared, super-genius stuff aside, she at least acted like a girl in her early teens. We're in a transitional phase right now, and pretty soon -- during the Romita Jr. run -- she basically begins acting like a totally mature, level-headed adult in a teen's body -- frequently, she's the most level-headed among the X-Men!

    It's kind of the opposite of what later happens with Jubilee. I don't believe ages were ever stated on page, but I've read before that Claremont intended Jubilee to be about 16 years old. However, when Scott Lobdell started writing her, he decided she was 13.

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  19. @Matt: Your whole point about reading comics with the zeitgeist of the time in mind is definitely true ... In more recent years, I've come to find that any old comic I read is set in my head when it was published.

    You managed to say what I was trying to say much better and more efficiently than I did. :)

    @Dobson -- "...characters with no business being on any Avengers team, ever (Iron Fist, Daredevil)."

    @Matt On this point, I agree with you one thousand percent! Bendis's favorite Mary Sue character, Luke Cage, should be on that list, too.

    I was going to let that one go, but now I feel compelled to comment. :)

    Just as I did for Spider-Man, I'll stick up for Cage's inclusion on the Avengers. On paper, it seems like a horrible idea, but I've actually enjoyed some of the stories that have come out of it. And it wasn't like anyone else was doing anything with the character. Ditto Spider-Woman: she's clearly a Bendis Mary Sue, but I think it makes sense for her to be an Avenger.

    Now, when it comes to Daredevil, we all agree: he has no business being anywhere near the Avengers. And I always kind of enjoyed the fact that he was pretty much Marvel's one main character who had zero connection to the team.

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  20. If I'm reading Miller's Daredevil, what's on the page makes it very clear it's depicting the New York of the early 80s, and I'm fine with that. But as soon as a caption tells me it's specifically 1981, I start thinking, "okay, so Daredevil was in his late 20s in '81, it's 2012, so he's now in his fifties, except with the sliding timeline, he's probably only a few years older than his 1981 age, which means all his stories between this one and the present day took place in maybe three years. Divide that by three, carry the one..."

    But that's your own hang-ups as a reader. The average reader wants to see a world connected to theirs in a fun comic. The adult reading 30 year old comics is not the ideal reader Claremont (or any comics writer) imagined here. The "don't mention birthdays" idea is like saying writers should avoid annoying fanboys by picking the wrong number. Instead of writing about a character having a birthday and reacting to it in a way that makes them human to the reader.

    Rant for another day, but I've never understood Marvel's infatuation with keeping Spidey young. All it did was make his comics suck for a solid decade and change.

    I suppose it depends on your definition of valuable, but I'd argue that Spider-Woman, She-Hulk, War Machine, Venom and even Cable have made some money for the company through the years. Punisher debuted in 1974 but his heyday was in the 80s/early 90s, when he was Marvel's cash cow. Nova never quite took off on his own, but for years now he's anchored a pretty successful succession of cosmic stories, and now appears in the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon. Bendis' Alias is poised to become a TV show, Young Avengers seems to do well whenever Marvel can be bothered to publish it, and Runaways was, qualitatively speaking, fantastic, and if Marvel hadn't so bungled that book, likely could have been turned into some kind of successful licensed property, be it TV or cartoon or movie.

    You know you're stretching when Nova is a valuable post-1975 property. Spider-Woman and She-Hulk barely debut post '75, and both are completely dependent on male legacy characters for any money they might have generated. I think both were made to secure trademarks before the characters were brought to TV, too, so both were pretty blatant cash-ins. Venom was a pretty big deal in the 90's, but it seems like today he's lost that special something.

    That Alias show was scrapped, too. God, speaking of writers eventually having their cake and eating it too: could Bendis have been any more clear that Jones was an ersatz Spider-Woman? Then he brings both into New Avengers.

    Again, my issue with marvel time is more that it allows such laziness and lack of character growth/turnover. Marvel constantly creates new batches of heroes without ever making room for them. The X-Men have had how many groups of kids get trained, and how many end up on the main roster with any regularity? And even when a character like Cannonball does make it, they end up getting demoted right back to the minors, so the roster has room for a couple of originals, three of the new X-Men, and whatever mysterious stranger the X-Men have met this week.

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  21. @Dobson: But that's your own hang-ups as a reader.

    Granted, but it definitely bothered me more as a kid than it does now, so I wonder if it didn't/doesn't bother some of the kids these comics were originally written for (assuming there's any kids reading comics these days anyway...).

    ...I've never understood Marvel's infatuation with keeping Spidey young. All it did was make his comics suck for a solid decade and change.

    Agreed.

    You know you're stretching when Nova is a valuable post-1975 property.

    Yes, that one was definitely a stretch. :)

    I think both were made to secure trademarks before the characters were brought to TV, too, so both were pretty blatant cash-ins.

    Spider-Woman, at least, was, but the fact that there was any cash to grab means she was somewhat valuable.

    Venom was a pretty big deal in the 90's, but it seems like today he's lost that special something.

    Yeah, he's definitely not what he used to be, market-wise. But he probably made enough money in the 90s to (commercially) justify his existence for at least another decade or so.

    Again, my issue with marvel time is more that it allows such laziness and lack of character growth/turnover.

    Again, largely agreed. I think there needs to be some kind of sliding timeline, because I don't want to read about a 66 year old Spider-Man, but I have no issues with (and prefer) a Spider-Man who is allowed to gradually get older.

    The X-Men have had how many groups of kids get trained, and how many end up on the main roster with any regularity?

    Three by my count (the New Mutants, the Generation X kids, and the New X-Men kids) and very few, which is another pet peeve of mine (though Fraction did a pretty good job of working in some of the younger students during his run, but they've been largely ignored since).

    At this point I'm pretty bored by the umpteenth Wolverine or Colossus story, but put them on a team for a decent amount of time with, I dunno, Moonstar, Sunspot and Husk and suddenly things are lot more interesting simply because not all of those characters have interacted with each other much, and there's room to develop them.

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  22. Honestly, I wouldn't mind a timescale that was at least kept close to accurate, although 1:2 or 1:3 wouldn't be so bad. And it's actually getting worse all the time, considering what, six years pass between AF#15 and Peter's graduation in #185, 16 years in regular time. Now Marvel says it's been about 7-8 more years have passed, Marvel time, in the ensuing 34 years.

    The old "I don't want to read comics about old people" has always been an argument against real-time, but I don't think it's a very good one. If Spider-Man were 40 years old with two kids, I doubt he'd go out patrolling every week. You'd have a new character: Arachne, Ricoshet, or some other new character be the lead, with Peter Parker around as a supporting character, similar to what Ultimate Spider-Man is doing right now with Miles Morales.

    You'd still have Peter Parker showing up as Spider-Man in all-ages books or an Untold Tales type anthology, but you'd be free to move on with new stories. Plus you'd always have the "come out of retirement for one last heroic act" type story, which is awesome when it was done in Batman Beyond (or, frankly, DKR).

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  23. @Dobson: You'd still have Peter Parker showing up as Spider-Man in all-ages books or an Untold Tales type anthology, but you'd be free to move on with new stories.

    Oh, I totally agree. In a perfect world, Marvel would publish a Spider-Man comic that featured the character getting older, passing on the mantle, etc. at the same time they published a title in which the character is perpetually a young(ish) Peter Parker, enabling them to both move the character forward while still publishing a IP-friendly version of the character in a comic they can give to incoming readers lured in by TV/movies/lunchboxes, etc before they graduate to the older, evolving character.

    In fact, one of the things that irritated me the most about "Brand New Day" was that Marvel was almost at that point: a married, older Spider-Man in the "main" Spider-Man books, and various younger, unmarried Spideys in Marvel Adventures, Ultimate Spider-Man, etc.

    Why Marvel insists that EVERY version of the character has to be young and unmarried, I do not understand, but it bugs me to no end.

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  24. Paul Smith's pencils aren't yet at their loveliest — some panels are really uneven, almost painfully subpar — but it's really exciting to be entering his too-short-lived tenure.

    Bob Wiacek does a fine job inking, as well. That full-figure shot of Colossus at bottom of Pg. 2 is great.

    I don't think I'd ever noticed that the colorist on this issue was Lynn Varley. And she (or the engraver) makes some pretty big mistakes, too — most notably with Scott's hair in the second half of the story, but also with Kurt's fingers when touching a vision of Ororo.

    Maybe you can explain it away by recent events being so traumatic that they really haven't stopped to check, but I kinda don't buy that Kitty's birthday passed without notice (at least on her part). There has to be a gizmo on Lilandra's ship that provides Earth dates for convenience, even if a standard day cycle in the Shi'ar Empire isn't equivalent to Earth's.

    So Kitty walks around in a bikini top at every available opportunity, but sleeps in a nightgown that would look conservative on The Waltons?

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  25. As Kitty propositions Colossus, wanting to be with him before she dies, an image of Storm appears before them.

    He was already turning Kitty down with hopes of them surviving, I know, but leave it to Storm to conjure up the most cosmic Peter-blocking I've ever seen...

    The whole Colossus/Kitty thing used to be perfectly sweet to me, honestly, because he was such a big, naive 18-or-19-year-old. And then this re-read reminded me that it was suggested, with confirmation apparently occurring in a Classic X-Men backup, that he engaged in some hot jungle action in the Savage Land. I appreciate him not taking advantage of Kitty all the more in this issue if he's not a virgin, but it spoils how compatible I found them more than a little bit.

    Moira's conversation with Xavier about the fate of Karma sets up the events of Marvel Graphic Novel #4, in which Xavier re-opens the school to a new class of young mutants. Chronologically-speaking, that issue as well as New Mutants #1-3 all occur between this issue and Uncanny X-Men #167.

    I totally get why you did what you did, Teebore, but I think that I'd have preferred to read New Mutants as the issues were released. Having the first few issues lag behind the story unfolding not-quite-parallel in X-Men would be preferable to the schism that jumping ahead brings, seeing Moira, Stevie, Illyana, and Professor X at the mansion in X-Men before the New Mutants GN and #1-3. I'd rather have to read the New Mutants launch as a "flashback" — which is kind-of what the publication order makes it — than read the events of X-Men #165 that way, since the older title feels like the main narrative.

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  26. also note that Paul Smith draws Wolverine's cowl more like a helmet, as John Byrne did

    Which, as I believe we all concurred at the time, is cool.

    It's been awhile since we had a Daisy ad, but this one promises a free hat and backpack!

    Somehow I get the sinking feeling from the way Dad (?) is positioned that he's about to stamp out the fire, chloroform the kid, and go Marvel Max.

    I blame society.

    There's also a subscription ad which has run before with Thor's hammer randomly firing into the air; it cracks me up harder every time I see it.

    Claremont settles in to depict the X-Men struggling with the knowledge that they are about to die, all ably depicted by incoming series artist Paul Smith.

    I'm with you on the tone of this issue. While previous installments felt very "comic-book" by contrast — solid (the Wolverine solo chapter especially) but obviously fantastic in their sci-fi trappings — this issue really drives home how isolated, and how bonded by that isolation, the characters are in a personal, emotional way.

    Smith's pencils, and Wiacek's slick inking, may have something to do with the different kind of sci-fi feel that this issue has, I'm just realizing. I've long associated Smith's art with the open, unfussy look necessary to (and, when it's done well, beautiful in), animation — particularly necessary to TV animation and particularly intriguingly done in what when this issue was published was popularly known as "Japanimation". Star Blazers (a.k.a. Space Cruiser Yamato) was on television at the time, and Robotech was soon to come; Smith came to comic books from animation. I knew of Smith's background, and I've always associated his stark style, including the well-spotted blacks and the cool hair that Teebore likes so much, with Japanimation, but I never made the direct correlation between that and his earliest issues' conclusion of the Brood saga in space.

    23 comments?!? Oy!

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  27. @Blam: So Kitty walks around in a bikini top at every available opportunity, but sleeps in a nightgown that would look conservative on The Waltons?

    Ha! I noticed that too. That is one frumpy nightgown. I'm glad she's not wearing lingerie, but yeesh.

    I appreciate him not taking advantage of Kitty all the more in this issue if he's not a virgin, but it spoils how compatible I found them more than a little bit.

    I know what you mean. I've never been a big fan of the idea that Colossus has a son running around the Savage Land, both for what that does to his character and for the fact that it's so often remarked upon the son may as well not exist.

    I think that I'd have preferred to read New Mutants as the issues were released.

    Honestly? In hindsight, so do I. I'd completely forgotten how much setup there was for New Mutants in the X-Men issues; I just remembered New Mutants #3 leading in to X-Men #167. In the end, it probably would have been better to stick with the pub dates.

    Maybe for the collected edition. :)

    Somehow I get the sinking feeling from the way Dad (?) is positioned that he's about to stamp out the fire, chloroform the kid, and go Marvel Max.

    Bwa-ha-ha! Way to make that ad even creepier.

    ...but I never made the direct correlation between that and his earliest issues' conclusion of the Brood saga in space.

    Thank you, once again, for your comments about the art. I was hoping you'd have something to say that would cover for my lack of well-informed comments on the subject, and you didn't disappoint. :)

    23 comments?!? Oy!

    Yeah, we went off on some tangents...

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  28. @Matt: Even in Marvel time, that seems like a very long time for that letter to arrive! Maybe it got lost in the mail?

    Their mail was, you'll recall, being forwarded to the Bermuda Triangle right before this, so... 8^) [Later: The Willie Lumpkin scenario is also perfectly acceptable.]

    @Matt: Also, I distinctly recall reading this particular issue and realizing (though the phrase didn't exist at the time) that Moira had suddenly become a MILF.

    Ha! Yuir goin' t' Hell f'r that one, boyo.

    It's true, though, that Paul Smith's rendering of her by the pool in this ish made me consider her in an entirely different light.

    Also, rather but not entirely randomly, I'm suddenly aware that the only character who's probably more potentially destructive in the heat of passion than Banshee is Black Bolt. So it's a good thing for Sean & Moira's love life that he lost his powers, but his reunion with Teresa must've been all the more awkward. "I never knew I had a daughter 'cause th' only time I was wi' yuir mother she went deef an' would have nothin' t' do wi' me after."

    @Matt: With apologies to Blam, the master of sample dialogue...

    No, no, no... That was spot-on.

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  29. @Teebore: I've never been a big fan of the idea that Colossus has a son running around the Savage Land

    A son? I didn't remember that part at all.

    @Teebore: Thank you, once again, for your comments about the art. I was hoping you'd have something to say that would cover for my lack of well-informed comments on the subject, and you didn't disappoint. :)

    It's totally my pleasure, Teebore, but I think you're being too hard on yourself. What you had to say about the art was so apt that I almost didn't bother adding to it.

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  30. @Matt: I just think it means that specifically stating characters' ages in comics and celebrating their birthdays is a bad idea.

    I'm with you here and will expound more on this later.

    @Teebore: for whatever reason 14/18 seems a lot creepier than 15/18

    On paper it's demonstrably at least 33% creepier, but I agree that it feels even more so — especially, as you say, when you take into account the school thing.

    @Dan: Does anyone know when Marvel scaled back the hard birth dates and just left everyone's age be vague?

    I don't know that there's ever been a company policy either way, but "Marvel time" definitely started to take effect during the 1970s. Peter Parker went through high school and into college in something resembling real time, and dropped out of college and/or switched to part-time classes in part to help keep things fuzzy. Steve Englehart had the Avengers specifically refer to having been formed in 1963 in a mid-to-late '70s issue. Whether it was a conscious decision on the part of the writers and editors, or even an edict from above, or whether it was just an understanding carried over from the DC titles that the creators had worked on and/or grown up reading, however, the sliding scale of "Marvel time" was certainly in effect by the 1980s. That all refers to tying characters' origins and histories to actual dates, of course; tying characters to specific ages or even general age ranges is a different thing that's sort-of the whole point of "Marvel time" and based on some of the references to age mentioned here continued through at least the mid 1990s. I haven't read any X-Men, Spider-Man, or Avengers in pretty much exactly a decade now, but I assume that the characters have been aging incrementally if sometimes a little out of sync with one another as usual.

    John Byrne once said that he roughly figured 1 year passed in the Marvel Universe for every 7 years of publication but that this would eventually have to stretch even further. He said this while on Fantastic Four, when he caused a minor hubbub — some fans loved it, other hated it — by showing 43 (I believe it was) candles on Reed Richards' birthday cake.

    @Matt: Claremont was still in that phase where he tried to pretend no time had passed in the eight years he'd been away from the X-Men

    Seriously? I guess Byrne ("I'd rather ignore anything that wasn't done by the original creators... or other creative teams I enjoyed... which includes me") rubbed off on him more than he thought.

    @Teebore: I mean, to a 10 year old, 18 and 25 are both just "old", even though there can be a world of difference between the two

    I agree to a point, but even as a kid I felt that the oft-repeated company line that Superman was "eternally 29" was bullpucky. Oddly enough, DC keeping the Golden Age versions of its characters rooted in the 1940s and letting them age in real time on Earth-Two came back to bite it in the rear because ever since the advent of the parallel-worlds scheme and the reintroduction of the JSA in the 1960s — which as a reader in the '70s and '80s I absolutely loved — there were obvious changes to the primary Earth-One superheroes over time that couldn't be reconciled.

    Most grown-up superheroes were in their 30s in my mind, and as we've discussed before there were some, like Banshee, whom I placed in their 40s as vaguely older.

    Also? Ditto everything you said about baseball players. 8^)

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  31. @Teebore: I just don't think the stories need to point out the specific date. The art (both in terms of the style and the styles it's depicting) will make it clear what era the story was originally meant to take place in, and explicitly telling me one issue takes place in 1977 and another in 1978 just pulls me out of the story.

    I'm not entirely sure why it makes sense, but I agree with you. (Agreeing with you makes sense; I mean our acceptance of the milieu / discomfort at explicit dating.)

    To me — and I have a vague memory of us agreeing on this point not long ago — there's a sort of rolling continuity rewrite occurring in periodical ongoing superhero comics that I semi-consciously apply, such that every story happens exactly when and how I'm reading it (except for the part that I need to rewrite for the better in my head) but relates to later stories in a way that makes sense for those later stories.

    Honestly, I'd like to have even the mainstream superhero universes take place in real time, because I think that no real character growth occurs without aging, but even setting marketing considerations aside I understand that that's not feasible because even before the explosion of extremely long, far-reaching crossover "events" there were continued stories that ran over several issues yet took place in a fraction of the publishing time. You can try to neaten things up at the end of a year, the way scripted TV series do by balancing compressed stories in certain episodes with greater gaps between or within other episodes, but TV characters are played by real people (the live-action ones, anyway) and aren't expected to run indefinitely. What's ruefully ironic is that over time, especially since the advent of multiple spinoff titles, the stagnation of in-universe time works against this fudging, as eventually there are not only more Christmases or birthdays than could have occurred over a character or feature's relevant lifespan but more encounters between, say, Batman and The Joker than are believable, with most of them considered to be continuity. Arkham Asylum can't seriously be breached that often without the citizens of Gotham crying foul, and certainly some random cop if not Jim Gordon himself would've just shot The Joker dead by now; it's even more problematic, though, when inevitably lame acknowledgment is made within the stories themselves to attack these points head on or wave them away.

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  32. Dan and Blam -- I don't know when, if ever, an official edict about Marvel Time was put in place. You can see early on that things are slowing down under Stan Lee. As Blam notes, Peter Parker aged in real time for the first three or so years of his series, but by the time he got to college, things started to slow down considerably. The remaining five years or so of Stan Lee's run had Peter in college the entire time. During Gerry Conway's run, Peter refers to himself at one point as a sophomore, meaning only a couple years had passed for Spidey in the time from the mid-60's to the early 70's. It then took another seven or eight years for Peter to graduate.

    So a slowing of time was in place on the part of some writers in the 70's, but others, most notably Englehart (again as mentioned by Blam) continued to use real time. Claremont did too, as we'll recall from Jean's reference in a 1975 comic to the Sentinels having last faced the X-Men in 1969. But Claremont begins to adopt Marvel Time by the early 80's, when Storm notes that she had lived at Xavier's for three years when it had actually been about five for us.

    I could see Jim Shooter laying down the law about Marvel Time, but I've never heard anything to that effect, and you'd think you might. I would guess that most writers eventually realized this stuff just couldn't be happening in real time, so, using newspaper strips as an example, they slowed things down themselves. But even in the 80's and 90's you'd still occasionally see characters referring to an issue published 12 or so months previous, and saying that it happened "last year."

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  33. Blam -- "John Byrne once said that he roughly figured 1 year passed in the Marvel Universe for every 7 years of publication but that this would eventually have to stretch even further."

    Now he just goes by what he calls the "seven year rule", which is that Fantastic Four #1 is always seven years before whatever the current issue is. Personally, if you're going to go that route, I've always preferred a "ten year rule". It's a much rounder number. I have no idea where or why he settled on seven years. But I already explained my philosophy on how I approach these things. The FF were formed in 1961, but somehow it's only been ten or so years since then in the Marvel Universe, even though in the Marvel Universe right now it's 2012. It hurts to think too hard about it, but that's how I read comics.

    "...by showing 43 (I believe it was) candles on Reed Richards' birthday cake."

    If anything, that's younger than I've always thought Reed should be. I guess he could be prematurely gray, but those temples really make me read him as late 40s or even 50. Though I guess that doesn't really match up with his being in college and meeting Sue when she was like 12 or something. But I will say that Byrne's way of "sneaking" the age into the story is something I'm okay with. If Ben had come out said something like, "Happy forty-three, Big Brain!", I'd have a problem with it. Since it's just an Easter egg in the artwork, I don't mind.

    "...even as a kid I felt that the oft-repeated company line that Superman was "eternally 29" was bullpucky."

    Superman is another character that just reads older to me. Maybe it was because of the Curt Swan "receding hairline" Superman that I knew when I was a kid, but he seems like he should be about 40 also. Batman, too. Byrne's "Man of Steel" was the first time I considered that Superman could be in his 30's or even 20's.

    Though Teebore is right -- old is old when you're a kid.

    And I also agree on baseball players. I was older than Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain when they were rookies, but I've always thought of them as more "adult" than I am. Even now, I still think that way -- about Cain, at least. I might even still feel that way about Lincecum, if he'd get a darn haircut.

    Fun Trivia: at age 27, after seven full seasons with the team, Matt Cain is currently the longest-tenured Giant.

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  34. Claremont was wrong. Kitty actually turned sixteen in that issue of Excalibur. She turned fifteen sometime around when Magneto was arrested by Freedom Force.

    Whoever said Cyclops was twenty-five was on crack. He's a year or so younger than Beast, which made him twenty-eight (about to turn twenty-nine) when Onslaught happened.

    Byrne is generally wrong about a lot of things. But mostly the seven year rule, because it has now been 17, almost 18 years since the Fantastic Four gained their powers.

    It's all in my spreadsheet. My glorious spreadsheet.

    FWIW, during my comic-reading heyday, 1986 - 1993, I counted 52 issues, or 48 regular issues and 4 annuals, as equaling one year. (Not including specials and one-shots, which were worked into the general tapestry) So four years of issues to one year Marvel Time. BUT that only started in the late 70's.

    Essentially, (in my mind) five years pass between X-Men #1 and Giant-Size X-Men #1. (With FF#1 occurring a year before that.) Then a further 5 years pass up to Uncanny #281. And another five up to Uncanny #444. And a little under or over 3 since. It's not perfect, and the "Six-Month Gap" is more like six weeks, but it seems to make sense to me.

    Of course with decompression and Wolverine and Spider-Man being on twelve teams apiece and most continuity being politely ignored, this has all gotten kinda fuzzy of late. Also, the Wolverine: Origins book and all that Romulus nonsense never happened. Maybe the “Marvel NOW!” pointless status quo shake-up will be the start of the 18th year, I haven’t quite decided.

    The point is, Kitty turned 16 in that issue of Excalibur, and she’s around 22 right now.

    --mortsleam

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  35. @Blam: Their mail was, you'll recall, being forwarded to the Bermuda Triangle right before this, so...

    Ha!

    Ha! Yuir goin' t' Hell f'r that one, boyo.

    Double ha!

    A son? I didn't remember that part at all..

    Yup. Claremont reveals that in X-Men annual...12? It's the "Evolutionary War" tie-in annual. Little has been done with that fact since (and it's really just a throwaway bit in that issue).

    What you had to say about the art was so apt that I almost didn't bother adding to it.

    Aw, shucks. Thanks.

    Seriously? I guess Byrne ... rubbed off on him more than he thought.

    Yeah, Claremont's first return to the title was...rough. His second return was still problematic, but at least he was more in synch with the status quo of the franchise that time around.

    there's a sort of rolling continuity rewrite occurring in periodical ongoing superhero comics that I semi-consciously apply...

    I recall agreeing on that point as well. It almost works like the suspension of disbelief inherent to most comic book stories, in that I'm willing to subconsciously overlook stuff like Batman not having his arm ripped out of his socket when he's swinging around Gotham.

    ...it's even more problematic, though, when inevitably lame acknowledgment is made within the stories themselves to attack these points head on or wave them away.

    Agreed. Those kinds of things have to be handled very delicately, and usually they just end up drawing too much attention to the problem they're trying to fix, making that suspension of disbelief even harder.

    Superman is another character that just reads older to me. Maybe it was because of the Curt Swan "receding hairline" Superman that I knew when I was a kid, but he seems like he should be about 40 also. Batman, too.

    Ditto. I've always figured that Batman started out being Batman in his late 20s/early thirties and is, in the (always changing) present day, perpetually in his early 40s, which doesn't seem unreasonable in terms of his physical capabilities while also allowing for the "growing up" of Dick Grayson into 20s-ish Nightwing/occasional Batman fill-in.

    Matt Cain is currently the longest-tenured Giant.

    Interesting. I did not know that. I do know he's been tearing it up this season, as he's on my fantasy baseball team. :)

    @Mortsleam: He's a year or so younger than Beast, which made him twenty-eight (about to turn twenty-nine) when Onslaught happened.

    That's kind of how I always read it. Seems to make sense to me.

    It's not perfect, and the "Six-Month Gap" is more like six weeks, but it seems to make sense to me.

    That seems to fit with my general impressions of the characters' ages, though I try to give it considerably less thought than you do. :)

    Also, the Wolverine: Origins book and all that Romulus nonsense never happened.

    Hooboy, agreed.

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  36. Although it pains me to say it, I was witness throughout the 1990s as a comics-shop clerk/manager, as a fan, and as a journalist that Cable, Venom, and Deadpool, as well as what they wrought in terms of further characters and storylines, were huge. They may not have had the staying power, especially beyond comics, as Wolverine, but frankly neither have the other "New" X-Men who debuted (unlike Wolverine) in Giant-Size X-Men #1. Venom is still a way bigger deal, thanks to the '90s Spider-Man animated series and merchandising, than Colossus, Nightcrawler, or Storm. When my sister's kids — 5YO boy, 7YO girl, 9YO girl, all of whom take after me in adoring comics, superheroes, and other fantasy, which totally stymies their dad — arrived for their visit last month, the first thing they asked me was to explain who/what Venom was. My nephew latched on to Venom's origin like it was the last hidden secret of the universe, asking me to repeat it over and over; I only know the comic-book version, and that only in terms of Secret Wars and "The Saga of the Alien Costume" (as the collection calls it) plus a vague sense of Eddie Brock becoming Venom after Spidey rejected the suit, because I'm not sure I've actually ever read anything with Venom in it. We later watched episodes of the '90s cartoon, putting the lie in my nephew's mind to my explanation of Spider-Man getting the costume from an alien device on another world where a bunch of superheroes had gone to fight a bunch of supervillains until I showed him a copy of Secret Wars #8. The kids didn't know anything about Venom or Spider-Man's black costume before that outside of an action figure.

    @Teebore: in the end, Claremont gets blamed for the failure of his successive imitators

    You'd probably know better than I, having actually read that stuff and possibly having paid attention to it in the fan press or even online.

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

    Ha!

    @Teebore: I do know he's been tearing it up this season, as he's on my fantasy baseball team. :)

    So when does Matt Cain get traded to the Dodgers?

    I still haven't gotten to several more comments copied into TextEdit for replies. So with us being yet another week removed from this issue as of tomorrow, I'm just gonna move on. Given that fictional-universe continuity and related subjects have popped up before, I suspect they'll pop up again.

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  37. @Blam: So when does Matt Cain get traded to the Dodgers?

    Given the other moves on my team, I'm surprised he hasn't already. ;)

    Given that fictional-universe continuity and related subjects have popped up before, I suspect they'll pop up again.

    As do I. As long as we get the gist of your would-be comments somewhere down the line, I'll be happy. :)

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