In a Nutshell
When the X-Men are captured, Professor X recruits a new team of mutants from around the world to rescue them.
Writer: Len Wein
Co-plotter: Chris Claremont (uncredited)
Artist: Dave Cockum, Peter Iro (co-inks, uncredited)
Letterer: John Constanza
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Len Wein
After the the X-Men are captured by the living island Krakoa, Professor X travels the globe, recruiting new mutants to help rescue them. In Germany, he saves the demonic-looking Kurt Wagner from a lynch mob, who joins the X-Men as Nightcrawler. In Canada, he convinces Wolverine to leave Department H and join him. He visits former ally Banshee at the Grand Ol' Opry and recruits him. In Kenya, he convinces the weather-manipulating Ororo, who is being worshiped as a goddess, to come to America with him as Storm. In Japan, he asks Sunfire to come out of retirement. In Russia, he convinces the armored Piotr Rasputin to leave his family and the collective farm and join the X-Men as Colossus. Finally, in Arizona, he asks the hot-headed Apache John Proudstar to join him as Thunderbird. At the X-Mansion, the new X-Men gather and meet Cyclops, who managed to escape from Krakoa and fills them in on the situation.
The new X-Men arrive at Krakoa and search the island in pairs, each group encountering various threats along the way. Coming together, the new X-Men discover and free the old X-Men, at which point Krakoa attacks more violently. With Xavier's telepathic help, the X-Men devise a strategy and by augmenting Lorna's magentic powers, manage to defeat Krakoa and cast it into space. Returning home, Angel wonders, "what are we going to do with thirteen X-Men?"
Firsts and Other Notables
This issue is the first appearance of Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner), Storm (Ororo), Colossus (Piotr "Peter" Rasputin) and Thunderbird (John Proudstar), as well as Colossus' younger sister Illyana (who goes unnamed), and to a lesser extent, his parents. It marks the beginning of the "New X-Men" era and the subsequent rise in popularity of the characters to the point where they will become a line-wide sales and multimedia juggernaut.
Though his contributions to this issue's plots go uncredited and he'll only provide dialogue for the next two issues (working off Len Wein's plot), this issue marks the beginning of Chris Claremont's unprecedented run on X-Men, a run which will continue uninterrupted for sixteen years.
Wolverine makes his second appearance, after his debut in Incredible Hulk #180-181.
Some comic book historians also mark this issue as, if not the end of the Silver Age of Comics, the beginning of the Bronze Age, though the demarcations and even the designations of the comic book "ages" beyond the Gold and Silver Ages remains a hotly debated subject.
To a much, much lesser extent, it is also the first appearance of Krakoa, the island that walks like a man (sort of).
The original comic book reprints the backup features detailing Cyclops', Iceman's and Marvel Girl's powers; most reprintings of this issue leave those backups out.
On a personal note, I own an original copy of this issue, which I received as a gift years ago from Dr. Bitz. It is the crown jewel of my comic book collection, and remains one of the greatest gifts I've ever received.
A Work in Progress
New mutants Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Thunderbird, as well as Wolverine, former antagonist/ally Banshee and former antagonist Sunfire are all considered to have joined the X-Men with this issue.
Though they were last seen wearing their old school uniforms, the original X-Men are wearing their unique graduation uniforms in this issue.
Professor X mentions that the new X-Men's costumes are made of unstable molecules, a creation of the Fantastic Four's Mr. Fantastic, which is Marvel's default answer to questions like "why doesn't the Human Torch's costume burst into flames when he does?" or "how come the Invisible Woman's clothes turn invisible too?". This is their first mention in X-Men.
Beast's absence is noted as the original X-Men depart for Krakoa. Since last we saw him, he joined the Avengers in Avengers #137.
The X-Men are now traveling via a specially-designed strato-jet.
This issue has been heavily, heavily retconned, with the events of dozens of issues crammed in and around its pages. I'll spare you the majority of the details, much of which deals with the new X-Men's reactions to their new surrounding and some lame business about Wolverine being programmed to kill Xavier, though it is worth noting that according to current continuity, the team of X-Men recruited in this issue are actually the third group of mutants sent to Krakoa. According to Ed Brubaker's 2006 miniseries X-Men: Deadly Genesis, after the original X-Men are captured by Krakoa and Xavier loses mental contact with Marvel Girl, he sends a group students that had been training with Moira MacTaggert (including Vulcan, the unknown-to-them brother of Cyclops and Havok) to Krakoa. They manage to free Cyclops (a retcon of this issue's stated explanation for his escape, which is that Krakoa let him escape to draw more mutants to it) but are then seemingly-killed. After Cyclops arrives back at the mansion, Xavier wipes his memory of the second team (claiming its to spare him the grief of having seen them killed) and goes about recruiting Nightcrawler, Wolverine, et al, many of whom are older and more experienced than the last group and thus, Xavier hopes, more likely to survive their encounter with Krakoa. Needless to say, the events of this story do not represent Professor X's finest hour...
Starting in September 1986 Marvel began publishing Classic X-Men (later retitled X-Men Classic) which reprinted the new X-Men stories starting with Giant Size X-Men #1. The first 27 issues featured some additional pages of story written by Chris Claremont and the first 44 issues featured backup stories written by Claremont (and in some cases Ann Nocenti) with gorgeous art by John Bolton. I will not be covering those backup stories in detail here, partially because this blog series has always, a few notations aside (such as the above), approached the chronology of X-Men from a publishing perspective rather than from a character continuity one (this is also why I skipped John Byrne's Hidden Years series during the Hiatus Years) but mainly because comics blogger Jason Powell (an author whose work you'll see cited here on occasion) covered them already during his recently-concluded Claremont retrospective with far more insight and passion than I could hope to achieve. You can find his issue-by-issue analysis of Claremont's X-Men run, including the Classic X-Men backup stories, here. By no means should this be considered a slight on those back up stories, as they are quite good, and I highly recommend them (the first 25 are handily available in two X-Men: Vignettes paperback collections).
I will, however, mention a tidbit or interesting note from a corresponding Classic X-Men backup story from time to time. The backup following the reprint of this issue in Classic X-Men #1, for example, mainly involves the interactions of the new team with the old team, in which Iceman makes something of an ass of himself and we see the first spark of attraction between Wolverine and Marvel Girl, which pisses Angel off to no end (apparently Angel's determined that she can have only one jilted would-be paramour, and that slot is taken).
That 70s Comic
Though not too big a deal is made of it, it's worth noting and bearing in mind that Colossus is a Russian joining an American super hero team at a time when the Cold War was alive and well.
Krakoa, the "island that walks like a man", is one of those kooky concepts that doesn't seem too outrageous until you realize how ridiculous the idea of a mutant island is.
Just to prove this is still X-Men, Havok and Iceman are still bickering over Lorna...
The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops
Cyclops, who briefly lost his power while escaping Krakoa, is typically overwrought when his optic blast returns.
The first Hostess Fruit Pie ad (well, the first that we've seen; there were probably some in the reprint issues)!
|Click to embiggen|
Also, this is the first time we've seen those little one sentence ads for other comics at the bottom of the page:
Roy Thomas on bringing the X-Men back:
“Stan and I had a meeting with Al Landau [Marvel’s then-president]…Al suggested Marvel do a goup of foreign superheroes…characters from the countries in which Marvel sold a lot of comics. Stan and I liked the idea. It was my idea to do that group with the X-Men… I said, ‘look, the group we should do as the international team is the X-Men. Take a couple of the original members, like Cyclops, and have them go looking around the world gathering up mutants from other counties. I remember Al saying that if we did the book and just broke even in this country, we’d still make money overseas…But nobody had in mind that the new X-Men was going to be this breakthrough, revolutionary concept that would become so huge."
DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p33
Len Wein on bringing the X-Men back:
“Bringing the X-Men back ‘was something that that had been bandied about for several years…There were always discussions and offhand comments made around the [Mavel] offices about reviving the X-Men as an international group, like the Blackhawks.”
Lamken, Brian Saner. "The Phoenix Effect: 25 Years of the All New Uncanny X-Men." Comicology Fall 2000: 26.
Len Wein on writing X-Men
“I never intended to write it…Once I got involved with the creation of team, I liked the characters, but by that point I was editor-in-chief … and there weren’t enough hours in the day.”
Lamken, Brian Saner. "The Phoenix Effect: 25 Years of the All New Uncanny X-Men." Comicology Fall 2000: 27.
Chris Claremont’s involvement in Giant Size X-Men #1
“Most of the story had already been mapped out, with the existing X-Men…trapped at the mercy of Krakoa, only Cyclops having escaped to lead a new, untested assemblage into battle to save his comrades. What didn’t exist yet, said Claremont, was ‘a way to get rid of Krakoa,’ which he supplied."
Lamken, Brian Saner. "The Phoenix Effect: 25 Years of the All New Uncanny X-Men." Comicology Fall 2000: 28.
On the surface, the lead story in Giant Size X-Men #1 itself is typical fare for its time. Krakoa is very much a remnant of the goofier Silver Age which comic books were already leaving behind, and the structure of the issue is standard (though it does benefit from the extra pages): Professor X gathers a team, the team goes into battle, the team pairs off into duos to better highlight the new characters, before everyone comes together and unites to defeat the villain. The thing that sets this story apart from what's come before is the new characters, especially the fact that even in their brief interactions, they already bicker with one another far more than the relatively easy going original X-Men ever did. But still, taken out of context, this is an issue whose story in no way feels out of place amongst Marvel's other offerings from 1975.
That said, without a doubt this is the single most important issue of X-Men published since the first issue back in 1963. More new characters are introduced in this one issue than in any previous issue besides the first. And if the story itself is very much of its time, the impact of this issue will be timeless. Giant Size X-Men #1 opens a door through which Chris Claremont enters and, along with a host of uber-talented partners, proceeds to craft a 16 year epic in which the X-Men rise to the height of comic book sales, spread out into multimedia adventures and firmly embed themselves in the pop culture zeitgeist. That these character have been featured in numerous cartoons, countless action figures, trading cards and four (and counting) big budget X-Men movies, that the X-Men are even appearing in comic books today, that you're even reading these words because the X-Men were around to strike the fancy of a pre-teen boy standing in Shinders on his birthday many years ago can all be traced back to this issue.
"Second Genesis" is an apt title for the story; the X-Men will make the most of their new beginning.