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Thursday, February 26, 2009

X-amining X-Men #3

"Beware of the Blob!" 
January 1964 

Writer: Stan Lee 
Penciller: Jack Kirby 
Inker: Paul Reinmen 

Professor X detects a new mutant presence and sends the X-Men to recruit the mutant. At a nearby carnival they discover the Blob, an immovable, invulnerable sideshow attraction. The Blob returns to the X-Mansion with the X-Men, but ultimately refuses to join the team. Before Professor X can wipe his memory of all the X-Men's secrets they just told him, he flees, and returns leading the carnival in an attack on the X-Men. While the X-Men battle the carnies, Professor X creates an "intensifier" device needed to wipe the Blob's memory. Once he succeeds, he wipes the memories of the Blob and the carnies, leaving them none the wiser about the X-Men. 

Firsts and Other Notables
The Blob makes his first appearance in X-Men #3. A largely invulnerable mutant with some measure of super-strength and the ability to become immovable by any force outside of his own volition, he's introduced here as a headline act, though he ultimately goes on to become a stalwart partner/henchman of other villains (most notably as part of Mystique's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants/Freedom Force). He will return to the series in short order. 

Beast is shown to be quite intelligent for the first time, and he comments at one point on the irony of being called "Beast" despite it. 

This is also the first time Cyclops is referred to as Scott Summers (as opposed to "Slim", as in X-Men #1). X-Men #3 is also the first time he laments the "awesome power" of his optic blast, and how it prevents him from having a normal life. Get used to it; it becomes a bit of a thing with him.

Professor X detects the presence of the Blob on his own ie without the mutant-detecting computer Cerebro, which has yet to appear. As is often the case with Cerebro, it's unclear what led him to detect the adult Blob who has presumably using his powers in the carnival for some time now (maybe it's when the carnival came to town). His detection is also inexact, as the X-Men spend the first few moments rushing in various directions as Xavier tries to pinpoint Blob's location. 

A Work in Progress
Whereas the professor had no problems affecting the Vanisher's mind last issue, this issue he must build a Kirbytech "intensifier" gizmo to successfully wipe the Blob's memory of the X-Men's secrets (the hang-up seems to be one of volume; he presumably needs the device to wipe the memory of Blob and all the carnies at one time).  

Ah, the Silver Age
Well, the X-Men fight carnies. You don't see that too often nowadays. I particularly enjoy the menagerie of circus animals that get involved in the fighting, including Beast going toe-to-toe with that staple of the Silver Age, the gorilla, while a giraffe kicks things off by stealing Iceman's ice cream. 

Upon learning of a possible new mutant, Angel expresses his desire that the mutant be as hot as Marvel Girl. Stay classy, Warren.

"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!"
It's not just Professor X in this one, the X-Men as a whole are pretty much assholes. When Cyclops meets the Blob, he invites him back to the mansion and adds that "the X-Men don't take 'no' for an answer!" Really? They don't? Ever? When the Blob asks him to scram, Cyclops calls him fat and blasts him for it.
After running through some tests back at the mansion the Blob declines an invitation to join the the X-Men. While Professor X is so flabbergasted that he never conceived the notion that a mutant might say "no" to him, the team attacks him. So the Blob flees, and decides to come back with his carny buddies to even the score. I dunno, but I think the X-Men had it coming.

Look at it this way: The X-Men meet the Blob. They ask him to come back to their mansion. He says no. They say "thank you for your time, enjoy your life with in the carnival" and go home. Or maybe they stay and play some games and have a fun day at the carnival. I dunno. Either way, things turn out much better for them by simply taking "no" for an answer. 

Young Love
Cyclops's growing feelings for Jean are acknowledged, but of course, he can't act on them because of his terrible power. All the male X-Men fight for the opportunity to escort Jean in the search for the Blob, including Iceman (who was indifferent to her presence in the first issue). She chooses to go with Cyclops, but Angel makes off with her regardless. This issue also contains the infamous moment in which Professor Xavier declares his love for Jean (seriously, it's a Jean lovefest for two or three pages). They can't be together, according to Xavier, because he is "the leader of the X-Men and confined to this wheelchair." Not because he is her older teacher and she his teenaged student.
Yeah Chuck, the WHEELCHAIR is why you can't profess your love...

It seems that even Stan Lee recognized the inappropriateness of this, as Xavier's feeling for Jean were only ever brought up in this way twice more: once by Chris Claremont in the 70s when Jean was hospitalized and believed to be dying shortly after her emergence as Phoenix and decades later as part of Onslaught's origin in the 90s (Xavier's romantic and inappropriate feelings for Jean were part of the repressed bundle of emotions that became Onslaught). 

Teebore's Take
This is the X-Men's first truly goofy Silver Age story and I like it a whole lot more now than I remember liking it when I first read it via an X-Men: The Early Years reprint back in the day. In addition to the great X-Men-on-carny action at the end, there's a hilarious sequence at the beginning as the X-Men are searching for the new mutant Professor X discovered. One by one they see things they believe must be caused by mutant powers only to have them debunked, including someone on the sidewalk lighting paper on fire for some reason (he's actually using a magnifying glass in his hand) and someone at a carnival game who is shooting over his shoulder with unerring accuracy (turns out the shifty carnies have the game rigged and the shooter is in on it). Plus the term "rube" is tossed out generously throughout the story. 

Of course, the X-Men themselves don't fare too well in the story. In addition to being dicks to Blob for no good reason, they more or less get their butts handed to them by the carnies (and their menagerie) before Professor X steps in to save the day. Which means once again, the villain of the piece is defeated by having his mind manipulated by Xavier's telepathic power, rather than by anything the X-Men actually do, which is more or less the same resolution as in the previous issue. But those concerns aside, this is the first issue of the series to really capture the freewheeling vibe of Silver Age Marvel comics, the first one, despite the flaws and inconsistencies of a new book still finding itself, to be fun to read.  

Next Issue
Magneto returns, and he's brought some (evil) friends along, in X-Men #4!


  1. I gotta say, i'm enjoying these examinations - keep 'em coming.


  2. Good to hear!

    I have a blast writing them, so I'll keep 'em coming until I run out of X-Men issues, but it's good to know SOMEONE is reading and enjoying them. The lack of comments had fearing no one was reading them. :)

  3. don't worry - i read everything - just been too busy lately for comments.


  4. oh yeah, i second that- i love reading these!

  5. I'm finally getting around to reading these as well, which I do right after finishing the X-amined issue on

    I've noticed a lot of classic marvel characters started out as "dicks". Perhaps Stan Lee has a warped sense of virtue.

    Keep the X-aminations coming, my friend. All the way through your dvd-rom if possible!

  6. That's the plan! If I get ambitious, I may even branch out and do similar post on the Avengers and/or Spider-man.

    Stan Lee certainly has a warped sense of SOMETHING.

  7. This is fun. I got here from Cracked. I'm not feeling all too inspired to write anything but I just want to let you folks know that I enjoyed this. Regards.

  8. @Daniel: Thanks! Glad you like it.

  9. Having just recently discovered this series of blog posts, I was inspired to begin my own daily re-read of the X-books. So I'll be reading one X-amination a day - I just wanted to let you know! I'm having a blast - thanks for putting these out there! - Steve

  10. @Steve: I'm having a blast - thanks for putting these out there!

    Thanks for reading! Glad you're enjoying them.

  11. I've been reading X-Men since issue 182, when I was eight or so, and promptly devoured all the back issues, then followed the team forward until the early '90s when it all stopped making sense. These reviews are spot-on, and though I'm late to the party, I'm going to read them all and make a comment or two, if I may.

  12. @Joe: These reviews are spot-on, and though I'm late to the party, I'm going to read them all and make a comment or two, if I may.

    Absolutely. Thanks, and welcome to the party!


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