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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

X-amining Avengers West Coast #56, 57 & 60

"Darker Than Scarlet" / "Family Reunion" / "Personal Magnetism"
March/April/July 1990

In a Nutshell 
Magneto attempts to counsel the now-villainous Scarlet Witch. 

Writer: John Byrne, Roy & Dann Thomas (Issue #60)
Penciler: John Byrne, Paul Ryan (Issue #60)
Inker: Paul Ryan, Danny Bulanadi (Issue #60)
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Howard Mackie
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Issue #56: Scarlet Witch, having embraced her power and darker urges in the wake of her recent losses, torments the Avengers she's captured. Meanwhile, at Avengers Compound, Hank Pym is visited by Quicksilver, and Iron Man receives the Avengers emergency signal. Investigating Scarlet Witch's cottage, Pym watches as Magneto arrives, then bursts through the wall. Magneto insists he's only there for his daughter, but Pym draws a weapon from his pocket and turns it on Scarlet Witch. Just then, Quicksilver rushes in, knocking out Pym and declaring his allegiance lies with his father and sister. Issue #57: Human Torch arrives and attacks the mutants, prompting Magneto to fly them away. They're attacked in the air by Iron Man but Scarlet Witch disables his armor, sending him plummeting to the ground. The three mutants arrive at the newly-rebuilt Asteroid M, and shortly thereafter, he Avengers proceed to infiltrate the base.


Magneto and Scarlet Witch make short work of them, however, and Magneto sends the Avengers back to Earth in the wreckage of their Quinjet, over the objections of Scarlet Witch. Issue #60: On Asteroid M, Magneto tests Quicksilver's loyalties, exposing him as a double agent. Scarlet Witch savagely attacks her brother, but he retrieves a shrunk-down Lockjaw and teleports the three of them to where the Avengers are waiting. They attack, but Scarlet Witch suddenly falls into a trance. Magneto tries to flee with his daughter, but is unable to penetrate the strange force field that has enveloped her. Sensing this isn't the work of the Avengers, he flees until he can learn how to overcome the force affecting his daughter. The Avengers pursue him, with Iron Man knocking Magneto into a smokestack, which promptly explodes. Iron Man emerges from the blast, but Magneto is nowhere to be found. Later, the Avengers investigate Scarlet Witch's condition, just as the time lord Immortus appears before them and declares she has been elevated from pawn to queen.

Firsts and Other Notables
These three issues constitute Magneto's involvement in the "Dark Scarlet Witch" storyline, a storyline that John Byrne had been building towards since he took over Avengers West Coast, putting Scarlet Witch through the emotional ringer by destroying her family, leaving her slipping in and out of a catatonic state (as seen in various chapters of "Acts of Vengeance") and attracting the attention of Magneto, concerned for his daughter's well-being. This culminated in Scarlet Witch emerging from her catatonic state for good in a deranged state, determined to kill the Avengers.

At this point in her history, Scarlet Witch's hex power enables her re-alter reality (so instead of causing bad luck to happen to her target, reality is altered such that the outcome preferable to her occurs), something which will play a large role in the X-universe in the mid 00s, when she uses her powers to create the House of M reality and then wipe out the vast majority of (non-commercially viable) mutants on M-Day.


Avengers West Coast #57 unveils a new Asteroid M, rebuilt following the destruction of the last one (by Warlock, in New Mutants #21). Magneto notes its intended as a secondary base of operations, in addition to the Hellfire Club (where he is still, technically, the Gray King of the Inner Circle). This is the version of the base which will appear in X-Men (vol. 2) #1-3.   


Lockjaw is an dog-like Inhuman (one of the genetically-modified beings who live on the Blue Area of Earth's moon) with teleportation abilities (it goes back and forth as to whether he's a dog with teleportation abilities, or an Inhuman mutated into a dog), while Immortus is the oldest iteration of the time traveling villain Kang, who resides over Limbo (but not Illyana's Limbo) and concerns himself with the well-being of the timeline. Iron Man at this time is pretending to not be Tony Stark inside the armor, claiming to be a different person hired by Stark to serve as Iron Man, for reasons. Most of the Avengers, particularly the ones who know Tony well (like Hawkeye & Wasp) aren't buying it, but continue to humor him. Avengers West Coast #56 contains a second story depicting the reunion between Captain America and the original Human Torch (who is a member of the West Coast Avengers at this time), as well as a one page editorial comic from John Byrne apologizing for the continuity gaffe that led to Tigra appearing in "Atlantis Attacks" despite events in Avengers West Coast which should have prevented that.

Issue #57 marks the end of John Byrne's run on Avengers West Coast (which began with issue #42). Byrne has said he left the book (and Avengers) in protest, after Tom DeFalco told him he couldn't do the Dark Scarlet Witch/Immortus story he was already deep in the middle of when DeFalco told him to stop. The odd thing, though, is that, near as I can tell, the way the story wraps up isn't vastly different from what Byrne had planned anyway (in that it involves Immortus; his larger plans were more sweeping than what got published, of course). 

Issues #58 & 59 are mostly unrelated fill-in issues, featuring alternate timelines being culled by Immortus (something he'd been seen doing in previous issues as well), then in issue #60, Marvel vet Roy Thomas and his wife Dann(ette) take over the series (and stay on the book nearly through to its end, leaving just before the final issue, #102), bringing the Immortus elements of the story to the forefront and ending Magneto's involvement in the Dark Scarlet Witch story, which then concludes in issue #62.

Scarlet Witch, with the Avengers trapped unmoving in some kind of stasis field, appears to torment Wonder Man (who is in love with her) with what is implied to be some kind of...evil, mystical...hand job (there goes my Google hits counter!) or castration (though his crotchal area appears undamaged in later panels). Apparently, as Byrne originally drew it, the implication of what she was doing to Wonder Man was even worse.


A Work in Progress
Magneto declares that one should only take a life only if absolutely necessary.


He also insists his concern has always been for the preservation of mutantkind.

It's noted that Iron Man's armor is not magnetic, something which Magneto wryly notes prevents him from trying to save the Avenger after Scarlet Witch knocks out his system.


US Agent, perhaps serving as John Byrne's mouthpiece, equates Magneto to Hitler.  


In nice bit of attention to detail, Byrne makes a point of establishing that the Avengers have personal force fields, enabling them to travel through outer space without wearing a full space suit, and similarly provides Human Torch with a means to use his powers in the vacuum of space.

Issue #57 ends with the Avengers at Magneto's mercy, yet he simply deposits them safely back on Earth, saying his days of slaying defenseless foes are behind him.


Artistic Achievements
The cover to issue #56 is an homage to Uncanny X-Men #243.

Teebore's Take
While these issues (and the subsequent ones which wrap up the storyline) are significant to the development of Scarlet Witch's character and the role that plasy in future developments in Avengers, for the moment, they are chiefly of interest to X-Men readers for their depiction of Magneto. Other than "Acts of Vengeance", this is the only other notable appearance of the character between the Claremont-penned Uncanny X-Men #253 and #269 (he does make two other appearances; they are not as significant), a time when the character is considered to have reverted to outright villainy following his time as the leader of Xavier's school.

However, even in these issues, written (mostly) by John Byrne, the man credited with spearheading the "return Magneto to villainy" effort, Magneto's portrayal is not as simply villainous as in his pre-Claremont days. His chief motivation is the well-being of his daughter, and while he makes little effort to change her new, more villainous attitude, it could be argued he simply recognized that trying to do so would just make her worse. Furthermore, he does make every effort not to kill anyone (or allow anyone to be killed) throughout this story, even heroes he's sparred with before, even though in several cases it would be easy to do so.

Bottom line, it doesn't take much work to reconcile this Magneto with the Magneto to whom Professor X entrusted his school, the Magneto who, hardened by the events of "Mutant Massacre", agreed to an alliance with the Hellfire Club at the insistence of Storm and who was pushed back into a darker state of mind by by the death of one of the students in his care. Toss in Claremont's attempt to smooth over these more overtly villainous appearances (from X-Men #253), that Magneto is simply playacting the role of the villain to give anti-mutant sentiment a clear target, and it's even easier to reconcile the two Magneto's. He reads very much like a villain acting the part in these issues, one in full villainous regalia flying people to and from his orbital asteroid base, but also someone motivated chiefly by concern for his deeply suffering daughter, who is very careful not to kill anyone and, indeed, prevents his daughter from harming anyone significantly once he's on the scene. This Magneto and Claremont's Magneto are not, in fact, as different as they may appear.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, a "Cross-Time" fill-in in Excalibur #20, followed by more drug-fueled fun in Wolverine #22 on Friday. Next week, Uncanny X-Men #260.

Collected Editions

43 comments:

  1. Byrne on West Coast Avengers. Yuck. Well, the writing, anyway.

    "At this point in her history, Scarlet Witch's hex power enables her re-alter reality"

    This whole reton and reasoning behind was unnecessary. Why couldn't Byrne just let the explanation behind her powers just stay the way it was? She causes bad luck. That's it. Move on. I mean, shit, we can blame House of M and the further degradation of Wana on Byrne indirectly as much as we can on Bendis.

    "the implication of what she was doing to Wonder Man was even worse."

    So basically, she goes from giving him a blow job to a hand job instead?

    "US Agent, perhaps serving as John Byrne's mouthpiece"

    Yes..."perhaps".

    "Toss in Claremont's attempt to smooth over these more overtly villainous appearances (from X-Men #253)"

    I think it's easier to reconcile Byrne's Magneto because of your taking into account CC's smoothing over. Given how Byrne and CC felt about each other, I doubt it was planned.

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  2. @wwk5d: Why couldn't Byrne just let the explanation behind her powers just stay the way it was?

    I actually don't think Byrne came up with that change - someone else (Englehart, maybe?) did. I'm pretty sure Byrne railed against the idea, saying pretty much the same thing you did (that she causes bad luck is enough). I think the scene I posted was just him establishing for the audience how her power worked, even though he didn't like it.

    So basically, she goes from giving him a blow job to a hand job instead?

    That's what it seems like. And in terms of "oh, won't someone *please* think of the children", I'm not sure that one is any better than the other.

    Yes..."perhaps".

    Heh. Just covering my bases. :)

    Given how Byrne and CC felt about each other, I doubt it was planned.

    Oh, not at all. But I do think independent of Claremont's efforts Byrne's Magneto still isn't *that* bad. He looks and talks like a villain, but he really doesn't do much that's all that villainous in this story. He defends himself when the Avengers attack, he goes out of his way to not kill anyone or let anyone be killed. Even without "I'm pretending to be a villain", it's not hard to reconcile that with his earlier Claremont-penned appearances.

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  3. I like Byrne's WCA run, except for turning the Vision white. I think I talked about this back when you posted that picture of the disassembled Vision, so I won't get into it again here.

    Teebore, you're correct that Byrne didn't come up with the "probability" aspect of the hex power. He feels it was fine that the Scarlet Witch just caused bad luck. Steve Englehart, I'm pretty sure, is the one who said she manipulates probabilities. Byrne was just going with what was established.

    Which, I'll add, is an area where he gets a lot of undeserved flak. Byrne pretty much always played fair in accommodating other writers' work. Yes, he would ret-con stuff he couldn't stand at the earliest opportunity, but he rarely, if ever, outright ignored or contradicted it. He understood that to do that would ruin the illusion of a shared universe.

    He hated Magneto's Holocaust origin, but that didn't stop him from acknowledging it (though he did have plans to ret-con it into a memory implant in X-MEN: THE HIDDEN YEARS). He hated Englehart's explanation of Wanda's powers, but he went with that as the established way they work. Heck, he never even wanted Magneto to be "outed" as Quicksilver's and Scarlet Witch's father, preferring it remain a secret known only to the readers -- but since it happened, he worked with it.

    Byrne deserves his reputation for being temperamental and uncooperative, but his track record for participating in the shared universe, despite objections to various developments, is actually pretty good.

    P.S.: I like this story, and I wish Byrne had been able to stay on the series and finish it as originally planned. I think this characterization of Magneto is just about perfect, too, and I agree that it works just fine without needing Claremont's UXM 253 justification. In fact, I'd bet that the scene in 253 was a knee-jerk reaction to NEW MUTANTS 75. If Claremont had seen this story before the 253 scene, he might have felt it wasn't even needed.

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  4. "Yes, he would ret-con stuff he couldn't stand at the earliest opportunity, but he rarely, if ever, outright ignored or contradicted it"

    In hindsight, I wish he had ignored it here.

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  5. I think this discussion is getting confused about Byrne's and Englehart's explanations for Wanda's powers. Matt, Teebore isn't arguing that Byrne came up with the bad luck idea, he's arguing that Byrne didn't come up with the altering reality idea. Teebore, Byrne DID come up with the altering reality idea- it's first introduced in issue 56, forgotten about after this story and brought back by Bendis.
    "So basically, she goes from giving him a blow job to a hand job instead?"
    I always assumed she was castrating him myself, since she was clearly scratching his chest and going lower.
    This is the second time in a year that we've seen a mother turned from a strong woman to a crazy dominatrix with a perverse lust for her brother-in-law. Marvel writers seem to have had some disturbing ideas about mothers. Like Maddie, Wanda never recovered- this set the stage for Bendis's destruction of her.
    Lockjaw's powers seem to be as inconsistent as Gateway's- when Quicksilver is injured, Lockjaw teleports him to an amusement part where the Avengers are but later on, when Tigra is missing, the Avengers don't just ask him to teleport them to Tigra.

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  6. @wwk5d: Byrne's handling of Scarlet Witch's powers, and Vision's disassembly, are retcons which both characters never quite recovered from.

    @Teebore: Given the editorial fix of the infamous Wanda and Simon scene, I was always intrigued by US Agent referring to what she did to him as "HURT", unless ionic ejaculation does cause pain (or he was upset that he wasn't Wanda's mouthpiece;)

    As for most of the other Prime Movers being revealed as LMDs (i.e. Doombot and Red Skull), given the Demi-Men plot replete with Magneto android CC could easily have written his villainous appearances during this crossover with that approach.

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  7. You know, guys... what a fancy "coincidence" that (according to Nathan Adler's theory) Thomas and William surface on the other title as Cable and Stryfe pretty much the same time that Wanda goes over the edge here over losing them, what with her powers having been shown to have just acquired the retroactive element. People with mile-long dossiers and elaborate history suddenly appearing and at the same time having been there a decade, despite no one this side of the fourth wall remembers ever having seen them prior this moment. Also note than in the perfect world according to Wanda (House of M) Cable is an infant, and make what you want of the fact that Stryfe is in family business employing a brotherhood of evil mutants including a temporal manipulator, a grim reaper, a feral person, a shrinking person...

    Yeah okay but about the job on hand, these tidbits (courtesy of uncannyxmen.net issue summaries), though can be written off as things mutant terrorists usually say, are pretty hilarious metatextually, considering HOUSE OF M which heavily builds on the legacy of this storyline:

    ‘Father…dear sister…it is good to be with you again!’ Pietro exclaims, adding that it is good to be once more along his fellow mutants, ‘As we set forth at last on the path that will make us MASTERS OF THE WORLD!’

    - - -

    Pietro turns to his sister and asks her what is wrong, what happened to make her more cruel, more ruthless than ever - even in those unenlightened days when they sought to bend humanity to the mutant yoke? ‘You speak of those days in the past tense. To me, they are the certain future!’ Wanda declares


    We didn't actually ever get one single issue of Avengers West Coast from the local publisher, but that one time I bought an assortment of original flimsies #60 here was one of them. I was quite put off by the art, even moreso after finding out I had missed Byrne run very closely, but the issue is kind of fun even if being of mid-arc put some serious challenge on getting it. The tiny Lockjaw came out of nowhere.

    Iron Man knocking Magneto into a smokestack, which promptly explodes.: "Could this be the last we've seen of Magneto?" -beat- "NAAAAH!"

    Funny scene also where USAgent berates the tourists for confusing him with Captain America. "The name's USAgent - remember it!"

    Immortus is the oldest iteration of the time traveling villain Kang

    No, newest, wait, no, 'tis, too, hard!

    I totally love the villain outlook of Wanda's. She's always been sporting her Silver Age costume, so changing it here for this arc gives the change some massive(st ever, perhaps) gravitas. I've stated my appreciation for the inverted-villain-Magneto-M cloak-thingy before already.

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  8. Nathan: As for most of the other Prime Movers being revealed as LMDs (i.e. Doombot and Red Skull)

    So essentially Magneto's pretending villain to robots pretending to be villains. And Loki, who's pretending to be no one really. No wonder their business didn't amount to anything.

    Funnily it would have been better for Red Skull had his real iteration over at CAP pretended to be the communist one.

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  9. @Teemu: Wanda goes over the edge at this time as she gets a glimpse that Thomas and William become Cable & Stryfe. And so she retcons them to become Nathan Summers;) Come on guys, it'll work (Chris Tolworthy does say "Nathan Adler's theories are usually right;) And the MLF power-set just nails it (though I'm unsure which shrinking person you're referencing).

    And I'll state it again that Lucifer so works as Wanda and Pietro's father from a Kirby perspective. And hey him being master of Mount Wundagore, and his and Charles's original confrontation taking place there and leading to him having to abandon his base there, for the High Evolutionary to later take up residence in is just perfect, don’t you think!

    Iron Man knocking Magneto into a smokestack brings to mind the original Spider-Clone saga, so there we have it Claremont, the villain here was a clone;)

    While I was fine with the Rama-Tut/ Kang connection I personally preferred Immortus and Kang as separate (and thanks to Busiek they now are, except for the remaining retcon nightmare that was Avengers Forever).

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  10. Nathan: Wanda goes over the edge at this time as she gets a glimpse that Thomas and William become Cable & Stryfe.

    You got the cause and effect backwards there: Wanda flips, and the consequence of that is that Thomas and William appear, out of nowhere, at her dad's students, with mile-long retroactive dossiers like they had always been there. It's Wanda who brings forth Cable and Stryfe, and as super-cool adults, because it's less likely anyone messes with them then. The Mephisto figment bit is curious, considering that it's specifically Mephisto who would later on attempt something similar retroactiv..ating.

    I was always intrigued by US Agent referring to what she did to him as "HURT"

    There's such thing as emotionally hurt. Simon's been in unrequited love with Wanda for years, only to see it "returned" in taunting fashion after her villanous turn. Harsh, considering they both have had their villanous beginning and lots of atonement has been done on it, and now it looks the only chance to get her, if it even is there, is to backtrack on that. You know you've gone too far if USAgent of all people has to lecture you on the subject of people's emotions.

    Plus, he's in stasis and that's essentially a rape what she does there, especially if we go by the original art. Even if the initial reaction of the bloke in you was: "Really, Teebore? 'Worse'?"

    I loved though the suggestion over at the associated Comic Book Legends Revealed comments: "Replace US Agent’s “hurt” with “tickle”, and it all makes sense. (And is a lot funnier)."

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  11. Oh, the shrinking person: Pym, of course. Lets not forget she's a bit deranged.

    Of course, in the out-of-universe level it's about John Byrne moving on all fronts to utterly destroy Chris Claremont's legacy.

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  12. @Teemu: Or like my Space Phantom origin on my blog, Wanda transforms Thomas and William into Cable and Stryfe respectively to protect them from Mephisto as he intends to kidnap them to his dimension to use their future abilities.

    Re: Simon, I was making a joke;)

    And yeah I even thought Byrne's run on Fantastic Four sucked (which was just a pastiche of Lee & Kirby instead of creating new inroads as had originally been done).

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  13. "Byrne's handling of Scarlet Witch's powers, and Vision's disassembly, are retcons which both characters never quite recovered from."

    I think Busiek did a good job rehabbing the characters and made them somewhat viable again. Though your mileage might vary on how you feel about Chaos magic.

    "Wanda goes over the edge at this time as she gets a glimpse that Thomas and William become Cable & Stryfe."

    In my best Regina George voice:

    "Nathan, stop trying to make Thomas and William become Cable & Stryfe happen! It's not going to happen!"

    ;)

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  14. Y'know, I wish Byrne added a scene of Magneto acknowledging that the Android Human Torch incinerated Adolf Hitler in April 1945 (a fact that was introduced in the 1950s revival of the character, used in WHAT IF#4 (The only What if set in the mainstream universe) and used in the 'Sue-gives-birth-to-Valeria' storyline in FANTASTIC FOUR). It would be an interesting scene.

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  15. @wwk5d: I agree with you that Busiek did a good job rehabbing Wanda & Vizh. And Chaos magic was as good an explanation as we'd previously had.

    In my best Tom Farrell voice:
    "Oh bitch!"

    I know though, but bloody hell what I much better explanation it would've been for Cable and Stryfe once the unmasking happened.

    @angmc43: re: Vizh being the original Human Torch, don't get me started with that stupid stupid retcon. It was obvious Vizh was the revived Adam II android, secretly inhabited by Aarkus;)


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  16. wwk5d: In my best Regina George voice:

    My favorite non-imaginary Rachel Anne!

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  17. Anonymous -- "Matt, Teebore isn't arguing that Byrne came up with the bad luck idea, he's arguing that Byrne didn't come up with the altering reality idea. Teebore, Byrne DID come up with the altering reality idea- it's first introduced in issue 56, forgotten about after this story and brought back by Bendis."

    Now that you mention it, I guess Byrne did originate Wanda altering reality. As I recall, he felt this was the natural extension of the idea that she manipulates probabilities. I believe he's said that if her power causes a criminal's gun to jam by altering the probability that it would do so, that means that her power is actually reaching back in time to the day the gun was manufactured and instilling a latent defect into it which would then be triggered in the present as said criminal pulls the trigger.

    As usual, in his effort to "explain" something, Byrne went way overboard. Though I suspect, had this story played out to his originally intended conclusion, the point would've been to show why Englehart's "probability manipulation" angle was a bad idea, specifically because it made Wanda so overly powerful. I don't know that Byrne would've fixed it -- the cat was too far out of the bag at this point -- but he probably just wanted to demonstrate how problematic the concept was.

    Unfortunately in so demonstrating, he planted the seed of "Avengers Disassembled" in Bendis's head.

    Yes, "she causes bad luck" should've just stayed Wanda's power. It never needed to be anything more than that. Same way "he teleports" works much better for Nightcrawler than "he travels through a parallel dimension to jump from one spot to another." I don't understand what's gained by overanalyzing superpowers (which is a criticism I would level at both Englehart and Byrne with regards to the Scarlet Witch).

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  18. Matt: Same way "he teleports" works much better for Nightcrawler than "he travels through a parallel dimension to jump from one spot to another."

    Ha, do you have some pages stuck together on your Marvel Universe Official Handbook so that it skips a couple of pages from middle of N, Nightcrawler to O, Ohnn, Jonathan?

    But yeah, didn't they sometime insist that Cyclops' eyes are portals to another dimension that is, like, totally full of optic beam? That's a bit one-dimensional and very soon tiresome template for explanation.

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  19. Yes, Cyclops's eyes as apertures to another dimension was the OHOTMU's way of explaining, I guess, why he didn't suffer recoil when blasting someone, as well as why his power had a seemingly infinite charge.

    I like OHOTMU a lot for the character histories and quantifications... but the ridiculous "real world" explanations for the superpowers is silly. I think, from what I've heard, this was Jim Shooter's edict. But whoever came up with it, it was completely unnecessary. Superpowers are an invention of fantasy. There's no need to know why they do what they do (unless it's a story point, of course)! Just tell me where they came from and what they do, and leave it at that. Cyclops is a mutant who fires concussive beams from his eyes. That's all anyone needs to know about his power.

    But heck, I think it's silly that Iron Man is constantly shown in the movies using his hands as well as his feet to fly, and that he always comes in for really awkward landings when he cuts his jets. I don't want or need real world physics applied to superheroes. In ruins the fantasy element of the universe for me.

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  20. So technically, Cyclops' mutant power isn't his optic beams per se, it's his ability to open a portal to a different dimension with his eyes, and a side effect is that the optic beams are funneled through his eyes via the portal.

    Well, that makes sense!

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  21. Maybe I'm naive, but I didn't read Wanda as giving him a hand job; I read it as her clawing up his junk, probably due to the "hurting" line. That sounds pretty evil & painful.

    I hated this story so much. It took a character who had busted her butt to redeem herself & slammed the reset button so hard that it still gets sporadically stuck even to this day. And this is one of those times that I wish Byrne's Silver Age obsession had retconned her powers back to being mere bad luck instead of warping the fabric of reality.

    (Tangentially related - add me to the list of folks who thought Byrne's FF was largely just a big pastiche of Kirby/Lee, even though I do appreciate him revamping She-Hulk into the character she is now.)

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  22. @wwk5d: If I was writing Cyclops I'd show the ridiculousness of his eyes containing inter-dimensional apertures by exploring the dimension where these energies are released from and showing a civilisation there that then decides it is going to escape through his eyebeams;)

    Another thing I think I'd play with is the idea that, technically speaking, each mutant is his or her own species even as they are also clearly not a separate species from humankind (mutants and humans have had children together, as have mutants and Inhumans for that matter, meaning that the Inhumans aren't a separate species at least) and the whole idea of how evolution and mutation intersect. I mean, technically speaking, mutation is the means by which the product of evolution selects, but there are plenty of mutations in nature that have no real viability in that they don't allow said mutant to breed and thrive and pass his or her DNA down to succeeding generations. Technically speaking, how does the ability to shoot laser beams out of your eyes translate to the old 'survival of the fittest' especially in a modern situation? Sure, to a tribe of hunter/gatherers, it would have been a positive boon, and I'd expect a whole bunch of laser-beam eyed savannah-walkers before too long, but does it translate to getting a lot of child-producing booty in a society with birth control and television? Are women going to want to have your baby just because you can turn to stone? Obviously the above idea that some people would, yes, for powers like those: but what about Jimmy, who can make plants change colour, or Sally with her ultra-hard and sharp fingernails that she can't cut? It doesn't help that in the comics, genetic transmission of mutant powers isn't straightforward: in real life, a mutant animal that has offspring will most likely transmit forward the same basic mutation, for instance a black panther has more black panther children (technically, after the first individual leopard was born with a melanistic pattern the offspring it produced weren't mutants anymore, but this is a quibble to my main point), it doesn't have green, yellow and hairless panther children, each one born with a wholly new and different mutation. Yet in comics, the children of mutants can have exactly that happen, such as when the mutant Quicksilver and the inhuman Crystal have a child and that child carries neither the mutation of the father nor the genetic potential of its mother, but is rather born entirely human. Clearly, comic book mutation is all sorts of fucked up, and if writing X-Men I'd clearly have fun with Hank McCoy trying to figure out why it's all so fucked up. The solution could say 'team of X-Men shrunk down to sub-molecular size to examine mutant DNA and determining that there's some kind of alien civilisation living on it, a multi-dimensional doppler shifting society of beings from Bohm's implicate order that are living as hitch-hikers on the inert introns of human DNA, and some of them have so 'over-developed' their hosts that they've started the expression of mutant powers as a kind of combined microscopic/extradimensional version of global warming'? (What's really cool about this is it could lead into an exploration of the supposed 'sixfolded dimension' theory in some quantum singularities and the idea that the various Marvel Comics Microverses aren't really subatomic at all, but rather curled up inside the six impacted dimensions of our universe, like the irritants sealed up in pearls, and that all mutants are gaining their powers because new 'microverses' are being created inside their DNA.)

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  23. @Mela: Byrne did the same with Vision, undermining his efforts to become human by saying he was nothing more than a glorified "toaster". Thank goodness he never wrote Longshot! I'm surprised he didn't try and suggest Quicksilver's powers weren't actually super-speed but him manipulating the very fabric of space to make it appear as though he arrives at one point almost before he's left the previous point.

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  24. Matt: the ridiculous "real world" explanations for the superpowers is silly. I think, from what I've heard, this was Jim Shooter's edict. But whoever came up with it, it was completely unnecessary. Superpowers are an invention of fantasy.

    It's a fine balance really I'd like to expect there. If there is a thing like Cyclops visor or Spidey's web-slinger, I kind of expect the technics behind it be sort-of-plausible, while totally allowing for the dependence from fringe-scientific concept like "ruby quartz" or "web fluid", at least when originating from the Silver Age. The actual superpowers need no explanation whatsoever for their working, and as the origin of theirs go it's merely an added bonus really if it vaguely makes sense.

    Unless it's Vision and we get to actually see his innards and how everything works, then I'm all for that. And I mean Roy Thomas/Neal Adams style, not John Byrne style.

    Byrne's FANTASTIC FOUR is for me the definite one, what with the 80's and all, but then again what (little-ish) I have read of Kirby/Lee has clobbered big time and should I read the whole run the opinion might be subject to change.

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  25. @Teemu: No one beats Lee & Kirby's Fantastic Four:) They're the definitive, period!

    And come on, no response to "mutant powers";)

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  26. Well, Nathan, what you say is essentially spot on scientifically. There's just the other definitive thing by the same gentlemen Lee & Kirby weaved into the very fabric of Marvel Universe that this is how mutant powers work there. It's like writing over a very core level rule on a computer operating system, and they got their own genetists for sorting out that stuff, walking around in hi-tech armors and whatnot.

    And, in-universe, I-tell-you-man it's the goddamn Celestials that dunnit!

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  27. Hey...! AWC #60 was the issue where Magneto bested Wasp by clanging his helmet with his fist when Wasp flew into it to pester him (B. Cronin coincidentally posted on Wasp beating the X-Men in Secret Wars on his Wrong Side Won column just yesterday on the Good Comics and the scene came up)! The issue was even funnier than I remembered.

    Also, I wish to change my shrinking person into Wasp, as I forgot she was available. And (no one asked, and I salute you all for that really) Forearm is of course the Wonder Man equivalent of MLF, because a) what woman would not wish her lover to have four arms and 2) maybe with two arms per side he could finally hit as hard as Thor.

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  28. Someday I intend to read Lee/Kirby FF. I read the first ESSENTIAL FANTASTIC FOUR volume way back when it originally came out, and I wasn't terribly impressed, so I never went for more. But as I understand, their stuff gets really good around issue 50 or so, and I just didn't stick it out that long.

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  29. @Matt: issues 1-30something are hit-or-miss, but FF 40-60 is the good stuff. Essential FF vol. 3 has most of that run.

    Re Wanda assaulting Simon: so unnecessary, and had no place in an all-ages book (back when kids bought Marvel comics in great numbers). Given that the options are either rape, mutilation, or both, I can't understand how it was allowed.

    I think Byrne's art deteriorated badly in the '80s. Without a good inker (Terry Austin in X-Men, Dick Giordano in Man of Steel) his art loses a lot of its appeal.

    Ugh, real explanations for impossible super-powers suck. The one Byrne-based explanation I like is Superman's powers being psionic in nature. It's a neat way of tying his abilities together without getting too convoluted.

    I can only imagine the denizens of the teleporting dimension, the red energy dimension, and the mass shifting dimension noticing blue demons, energy getting sucked out, and random amounts of mass appearing and disappearing and going, "WTF?"

    - Mike Loughlin

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  30. "Re Wanda assaulting Simon: so unnecessary, and had no place in an all-ages book (back when kids bought Marvel comics in great numbers). Given that the options are either rape, mutilation, or both, I can't understand how it was allowed."
    As mentioned in the article Teebore linked to, the problem was the editors only noticed it at the last minute.

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  31. Mike: The one Byrne-based explanation I like is Superman's powers being psionic in nature.

    Did he do this on the actual title or otherhow officially, or is it extrapolated from FF #250 where Reed notices that the very poorly masqueraded Shi'ar equivalent has his powers work this way?

    I swear, thinking Byrne-drawn Superman and Byrne-drawn Gladiator next to.each other fills my heart with joy.

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  32. Also, yeah, I bet Cyttorak's pretty damn mad with all Cyke's wasting.

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  33. I've hated that magenta cloak on Wanda since I first got this issue way back when. Magneto's purple and red work fine together, and I'm rather partial to magenta itself, but against her red bodysuit the cloak clashes terribly. Her 'W' being an inverted copy of his 'M' is a nice touch, though.

    // Byrne makes a point of establishing that the Avengers have personal force fields, enabling them to travel through outer space without wearing a full space suit, and similarly provides Human Torch with a means to use his powers in the vacuum of space. //

    Byrne's callbacks to stuff like that "oxygen webbing" are fun. The frustrations his work often provides, both on-page and behind the scenes as contextualized by his and others' commentary over the years, wouldn't be nearly as maddening if there wasn't so much to like about that work, in my opinion; it's much easier to just dismiss a writer or artist (or combination thereof) who's just uninterestingly bad at their job — all of which is germane to the larger conversation here, not just to this detail.

    // The cover to issue #56 is an homage to Uncanny X-Men #243. //

    Unless that's from Byrne's own mouth, I would disagree. We see much more of Wanda than Sinister and the heroes aren't positioned at all figure for figure. Byrne's signature doesn't show on the cover, so there's no way to know if he mentioned Silvestri as he tends to do in outright homages, but I see it as a basic concept that's been used by various artists.

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  34. @Matt: // Steve Englehart, I'm pretty sure, is the one who said she manipulates probabilities. Byrne was just going with what was established. ... He hated Englehart's explanation of Wanda's powers, but he went with that as the established way they work. //

    As you later say, Matt, I'm pretty sure that what Byrne added was his interpretation that by altering probabilities she was altering history to arrive at a new outcome. The gun thing you mentioned is how Hank explains it to Wanda in the flashback panels Teebore excerpted above with Hank being surprised that the "before" image has been retroactively altered to match the "after" image once Wanda used her power on the rod.

    Now speaking of Wanda using her power on the rod...

    @Mela: // I didn't read Wanda as giving him a hand job; I read it as her clawing up his junk, probably due to the "hurting" line. That sounds pretty evil & painful. //

    Yeah. I think on their own the panels could be interpreted to mean that Simon is humiliated by Wanda pleasuring him under duress, in front of the others, when he's powerless to stop not only her actions but his reaction to them; USAgent's dialogue, though, and the fact that as Teebore says we later get a wide shot where Simon's pants are still on, point to her doing outright physical harm.

    Now, USAgent's balloons are clearly lettered by someone other than Bill Oakley based on the surrounding dialogue, so it may be that whatever Byrne had intended there reinforced the suggestion in his original panels of Wanda going down on Simon — perhaps instead of "How could you hurt him like that?" USAgent's outrage was more vague, on the order of "How could you do that to him?" or just "You're sick!!!" with some off-color but Code-safe misogynistic remarks if I remember Walker's personality right.

    @Mike: // Given that the options are either rape, mutilation, or both, I can't understand how it was allowed. //

    Same here. Len Kaminski's comments in that Cronin piece Teebore linked to suggest that nobody saw the pages until they came into the office ready to publish, but despite what he says there Byrne wasn't adding in word balloons on computer yet, so not only was Paul Ryan inking the pages rather than Byrne himself but they'd have been sent to Oakley for lettering. Although Byrne may have written as he penciled, a full script would've had to go to Oakley and a copy should've gone to the offices at that time even if the pages themselves were shipped directly from contributor to contributor.

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  35. @Teemu: So you've accepted the Crimson Cosmos:) When you check out the Ruby's first appearance in the temple it looks like Kirby intended Cyttorak to be a planet, the crimson bands being its rings.

    @Blam: With Byrne suggesting Wanda was warping time, the next logical step for alternate realities had to be the following. To the best of my knowledge, matter can’t be transferred from one space-time plenum to another in violation of the conservation laws of physics. Psychic influences can go, yes. Visions, temptations, inspirations, that sort of thing. The uncertainty principle allows them. But not an actual object. If you want to take it from its proper universe to your own, you have to replace it with an identical amount of matter, whose configuration has to be fairly similar to preserve momentum (so an identical "changeling" must be left in its place). This would have been a more fun way to apply travel between alternate realities in the MU, thereby forcing writers to not use the idea willy-nilly but force more intelligent stories. Much better than Gru's rule that travel into the past can't be on the same timeline.

    As for the truth of what she did to Simon, it’s clear she took the Blackadder route and turned his rod into a turnip;)

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  36. Nathan: So you've accepted the Crimson Cosmos:)

    Well, it is again one of those "coincidences" that Cyttorak just would choose for his champion the half-brother of Scott's father-figure, who is also a well-known bully. "Say uncle!" indeed. Cyttorak is an asshole. So yeah, maybe he did slip a piece of gem to young Nathan too for his sinister android after all. And ruby quartz to anyone who bothers to come ask.

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  37. @Teemu: Yep there are no coincidences in the MU, at least if the writers are switched on properly (which most aren't;)

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  38. @Anonymous: Teebore, Byrne DID come up with the altering reality idea- it's first introduced in issue 56, forgotten about after this story and brought back by Bendis.

    @Anonymous: Teebore, Byrne DID come up with the altering reality idea- it's first introduced in issue 56, forgotten about after this story and brought back by Bendis.

    I realize now I was merging Englehart and Byrne's contributions into one. So, as I understand it, originally it was "bad luck", then Englehart made it "alter probability" then Byrne was like, "well, I need that to make more sense, so it's altering probability by retroactively warping reality". Which Bendis did indeed run with years later.

    @Matt: Just tell me where they came from and what they do, and leave it at that. Cyclops is a mutant who fires concussive beams from his eyes. That's all anyone needs to know about his power.

    I have a love/hate relationship with that kind of stuff. The surly teen in me, the one who was desperate for comics to be taken seriously, enjoys that stuff because it injects realism into the narrative, and I still enjoy it as a way to shut up smart asses who like to say things like "why doesn't Spider-Man spit out webbing every time he punches someone?"

    One the other hand, the adult in me does think they can sometimes detract from the overall fun of superheroes, and even as a kid, it seemed like "alternate dimension" was the go-to explanation for every physics-straining power usage, to the point of laughability.

    "Where does Ant-Man's mass go?"
    "Alternate dimension."
    "How does Nightcrawler teleport?"
    "Alternate dimension.
    "How does - "
    "ALTERNATE DIMENSION!"

    @wwk5d: So technically, Cyclops' mutant power isn't his optic beams per se, it's his ability to open a portal to a different dimension with his eyes, and a side effect is that the optic beams are funneled through his eyes via the portal.

    Technically, his power is that he stores solar energy and expresses that energy as a concussive force through his eyes, after which the resultant reactive force from whatever his blast hits is shunted into a parallel dimension. :)

    @Mela: Tangentially related - add me to the list of folks who thought Byrne's FF was largely just a big pastiche of Kirby/Lee, even though I do appreciate him revamping She-Hulk into the character she is now.

    FWIW Byrne counts himself in your camp; he's said he'd never return to the FF because he was just trying to honor Lee/Kirby but everyone raved so much about it and thought he did so much more, that he could never return and meet those expectations.

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  39. @Teebore: The old editions of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and books like "The Physics of Superheroes," while wonderfully entertaining and education are all wrong as they do not effectively explain all the things that superheroes do (e.g. they do not explain the Human Torch's organs can survive nova heat, how he can fly to the bottom of the sea while still on fire, how he can create doubles of himself that follow people, etc. Further, when they do try explanation that are far too complicated. Stan and Jack provided the "go to" Occam's Razor early on, just one physical principle called "unstable molecules".

    The "unstable molecules" theory was written by Fantastic Four scholar, Chris Tolworthy, for the OFFICIAL Handbook of the Invincible Universe. Read that and you'll realise why no further explanation is required:)

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  40. @Mike: The one Byrne-based explanation I like is Superman's powers being psionic in nature. It's a neat way of tying his abilities together without getting too convoluted.

    Yeah, I've always been partial to that one too. Seems a neat and efficient way to tie everything together.

    @Teemu: Did he do this on the actual title or otherhow officially, or is it extrapolated from FF #250 where Reed notices that the very poorly masqueraded Shi'ar equivalent has his powers work this way?

    Officially. For the most part, in "Man of Steel", the six issue miniseries that relaunched Superman post-Crisis, but some of the details also came out during Byrne's subsequent run on the Superman titles.

    @Blam: Unless that's from Byrne's own mouth, I would disagree.

    I have not heard Byrne cop to that. It could just be that my point of reference for "villain holding out his hand, heroes dangling from his fingers" covers is UXM #243 and I assumed Byrne was homaging it. But as you say, he didn't credit it as such, and usually does, so probably not.

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  41. If you remember way back during Uncanny #140 Byrne, rather haughtily, reflects on how Chris Claremont "would not let go" of the Dark Phoenix Saga (even though it happened only three issues ago at point). Yet who's the one dredging up the decaying corpse of the Phoenix storyline! While that was also a story of a powerful woman corrupted into a dangerous "bad girl," Jean's eventually exonerated, this story still haunts continued portrayals of the Scarlet Witch.

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  42. It occurs to me that John Byrne has a recurring motif with the old "power-up the female character and then show she can't handle it" trope through his work. Hence Jean Grey becomes Dark Phoenix, Wanda goes Darker Than Scarlet here, and Susan Richards becomes Malice in Fantastic Four.

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  43. A recurring misogynist motif, to be sure. It's this approach to female characters by Marvel that is the reason that DC has more distinct, stronger females. Had Wonder Woman been a Marvel character she would have gone crazy because that is sadly a Marvel trope. Magneto drags her down and makes her an inheritor rather than the self-made heroine she should be. She works much better as an ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances.

    I think 616 Wanda is pretty much broken, the comics division only uses cynically her to cash in on the MCU. All hope rests on MCU Wanda who has the potential to be the Wanda we always wanted and surpass her source in every way.

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