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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

X-amining X-Men #24

The Plague of...the Locust!"
September 1966

Editing by Stan (Busy Bee) Lee
Script by Roy (Book Worm) Thomas
Art by Werner (Worker Ant) Roth
Inking by Dick (Doodle Bug) Ayers
Lettering by Sam (Pussy Cat) Rosen

Plot: Jean's parents have pulled her from Xavier's school and enrolled her in Metro University. However, she won't be leaving the X-Men FOREVER (as teased last issue), as she still plans to work with the team as Marvel Girl on weekends. She packs her things and says her goodbyes, and a sorrowful Scott and Warren drive her to Metro University. Once there, she is quickly befriended by Ted Roberts. Meanwhile, the Locust sets a group of enlarged mutant grasshoppers to devour a cornfield. When word of the mysterious attack reaches Xavier, he sends the X-Men, sans Marvel Girl, to investigate. They tussle with the enormous grasshoppers, but the Locust keeps his distance as he's not ready to face the X-Men. The X-Men manage to capture one of the mutant grasshoppers for study.

A few days later, Jean is having coffee with Ted when she notices Dr. Hopper on campus. Ted tells her he is a former teacher at the school who now works for a chemical company, and who has all kinds of crazy ideas about insects. Dr. Hopper proceeds to make some adjustments to his Locust equipment in his lab at Ryan Chemicals. The next morning, the X-Men are studying the mutant grasshopper when Jean arrives. They fill her in on the situation and she tells them about Dr. Hopper, making Xavier suspect a connection between Dr. Hopper and the Locust. He visits Ryan Chemicals and discovers a map he suspects shows the location of the Locust's next attack.

The X-Men are waiting when the Locust arrives at the site of his next attack. The Locust escapes only when he unleashes several dozen gigantic wasps on the X-Men. The insects are brought under control with the help of the National Guard, and the X-Men track the Locust to his mobile lab. Outside the lab, the Locust sees a bearded hermit dressed in 19th century clothes approaching. The Hermit proceeds to draw the Locust into a philosophical debate regarding the merits of his attacks, but the Locust is annoyed and flies away to where the X-Men are waiting for him. They fight once more, with the Locust setting a pair of enlarged beetles on the team. Marvel Girl realizes he is controlling the insects via the antennae on his helmet, and she telekinetically disables them. The Locust flees to his mobile lab but the beetles follow him and end up destroying the lab and themselves by tumbling into the ocean. Angel manages to save the Locust, who sees the error of his ways and leaves to surrender himself to the authorities. The hermit is revealed to once again be Professor X, walking through the use of his leg braces.

Firsts and Other Notables: The issue is the first appearance of the Locust, a minor villain even by the standards of "X-Men" at the time. He wears a bug suit and has discovered a way to mutate insects (he makes them bigger). I can't honestly think of another story he's ever appeared in, but I imagine he's made at least ONE other appearance somewhere, at some point.

With this issue, Marvel Girl leaves Xavier's school, though not the X-Men. She'll continue to be a part of the book, as will her new school, Metro University (Johnny "Human Torch" Storm also attended Metro University at this time, in the "Fantastic Four" comic).

The overly-friendly Ted Roberts, another minor and overlooked Silver Age supporting character, debuts as well. He'll hang around throughout Jean's time at Metro.

A Work in Progress: The X-Men are back to flying around in their helicopter, though it apparently comes equipped with a portable Cerebro unit.

Ah, the Silver Age: Jean receives, as a going-away present, a set of books on telekinesis as well as a corsage. Boy, the male X-Men really outdid themselves there. A corsage? Yeesh...

Johnny Storm and Wyatt Wingfoot "don't" appear in one panel.

If you guessed that the recently dismissed and seemingly mad entomologist named Dr. HOPPER who talks like a super-villain is secretly the Locust, well, then, you're smarter than the authorities in this story. To her credit, Marvel Girl figures it out pretty quickly based on his voice and beard.

Marvel Girl defeats the Locust by telekinetically tying his antennae in a knot.

Professor X once again uses his leg braces to walk, and also dresses up like a 19th Century hermit, for some reason, in order to enter into a philosophical debate with the Locust. A debate which, to be fair, does show the Locust the error of his ways.

Once again, the X-Men allow the villain to walk off into the sunset, taking him at his word that he learned his lesson, and feeling no need to hold him in anyway accountable for the plague of giant, mutated insects he unleashed on several farmers' crops.

Build up your Vocabulary with Beast: Approbation
\ˌa-prə-ˈbā-shən\ Noun. a: an act of approving formally or officially b: commendation, praise.

As in "with Jean absent, there's no one to heap approbation upon his peerless performance."

Young Love: On the first page, both Angel and Cyclops bemoan Marvel Girl's departure.

Later, when the three are driving to Metro University, Warren worries that Jean may be attracted to the Human Torch because he too can fly, Jean wishes Scott would show more emotion about her departure and wonders why he can't see that she'll miss him more than anyone and Scott once thinks he can't declare his feelings for Jean because of his power, in a panel positively crammed with angst-y thought bubbles.

Later, Jean wishes she had fallen in love with Warren instead of Scott.

Human/Mutant Relations: In light of their recent troubles with the authorities, the X-Men are reluctant to be spotted at the scene of Lucifer's first attack by the army.

The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops: Remember a few issues back when Scott decided to leave the X-Men in order to find a cure for his optic blast, only to get sidetracked by Blob and Unus? Yeah, neither does Roy Thomas, who has Scott once again considering leaving the X-Men to pursue a normal life with no mention of his last failed attempt.

For Sale: Never be bullied again!

Teebore's Take: Needless to say, what with Jean's "departure", this issue is filled to the brim with teen angst and feelings of unrequited love. Holy crap, this issue is just packed with thought bubbles wishing somebody would just love somebody else, and wondering why nobody loves anyone. Seriously. The first three pages are basically nothing but that, and it stays the focus of the issue. The Locust is a gimmicky and forgettable villain, even by Silver Age standards, though the story seems to realize this, pointing out how insane and odd he is (even more than the usual villain). As such, it almost works, though the issue does struggle under the weight of its angst. I found I enjoyed it a bit more by reading all of the Locust's dialogue in the voice of the Monarch from "Venture Bros."


  1. "making Xavier suspect a connection between Dr. Hopper and the Locust." Hahaha!

    That creepy Ted. Look at the poor girl - her words say "thanks" but her face says "I find you distasteful." She seems too fancy to say more.

    I love vintage ads! (I don't know how to do links yet)

    Speaking of giant bugs, have you heard about these?

    I never read comics but I like these posts. I did have a crush on the cartoon Batman, though.

  2. I think you and some friends should take the dialog (and internal monologues) from this issue and turn it into an old-time radio show. When someone reads from the thought bubbles you could have that cool echo-y sound effect that indicates that someone is "thinking". All the angst makes terrific dramatic fodder. Plus, I'd love to hear Teebore's rendition of the Locust in the style of Monarch.

    I'm only half-kidding about this.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Yeah! I think Kate's idea is awesome! You'll need to set up a little sound effects room too, though.

  5. We'd also need to find an organist, so that we could have that dramatic, swelling music going into commercial and whenever anyone says something SHOCKING.

    Joan: Ted also struck me as creepy, so you'll be as surprised as I was to discover that he won't become a super-villain (though he won't fully escape the super-villain sphere of influence).

    The vintage ads are one of my favorite things in these old comics. There's one, which appears in almost every issue, that I haven't posted yet telling kids to sell "Grit" magazine. I would love to see an actual copy of it someday. I can only imagine it's not nearly as cool as the ads suggest.

    As for that hornet, I don't know what's more disturbing: it's size, or the fact that it's venom is designed to attract more hornets after it stings you. I call that cheating.

  6. Part me feels like a villain controlling a horde of giant sized insects could work. It's a bit campy, but aren't all comic book villains to some extent? Although the insect gimmick has probably been done to death.

    Also, if we were to perform a radio show we'd need sponsorship. But not Nike or Coca-Cola, it'd have be something like Choco-puffs.

    The ad would have to be something like:
    "Are your kids lounging about? Having trouble with their school work? Sleeping during class?
    "Well, Choco-puffs contains the sugar needed to give your kids enough energy for the entire day. And it tastes great too!
    "But if you catch your wife eating some, just make her clean the house twice tomorrow. [With a hardy chuckle] You wouldn't want her getting fat!"

  7. Ha! That commercial is awesome. I wouldn't be surprised if something very similar was on the radio back in the 40s.

    Yeah, the big insect gimmick has been done to death, but it can work.

    Part of the problem in this issue is that they try to have it both ways: the story makes fun of the villain, but at the same time, tries to take him seriously. It's not over-the-top enough to be campy, yet it's too over-the-top to be taken seriously (even amongst the other stories of this era).

  8. We should do a new series of posts: commercials from yesteryear, in which we extoll the virtues of sugar and cigarettes to kids and help husbands keep their wives in line...

  9. Umm, i've seen video footage of that hornet. No Thanks- they're super aggressive, can spray venom, and make audible aggressive clicking sounds.

    But seriously, the radio show and that commercial idea is hilarious

    And are you sure Ted isn't some sort of rapist in disguise?


  10. I wouldn't begrudge anyone for thinking so, but near as I can tell, he's actually not. Which is truly surprising.

  11. Ted's not a "rapist", unless you count date rape...which didn't exist in the 60's.

  12. @Teebore - Yeah, I wouldn't trust Dead Eyes Ted as far as I could throw him. We shall have to keep an eye on that weirdo. I wonder what "grit" magazine was?

    @Anonymous - I saw that show, too! They have two guard hornets that hang out in front of the nest and they spray venom into your eyes! They aim for the eyes! Dear God - why?! Oh man and that footage in slow motion of them decimating that sweet little bee hive. Those bees were very brave :( and then they were very dead.

    @Dr.Bitz - "Ted's not a "rapist", unless you count date rape...which didn't exist in the 60's."


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