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In the late 1970s, Stan Lee was less and less involved in the day-to-day managing of Marvel Comics. He would ultimately move to California in 1980 to devote his time solely to adapting Marvel Comics into other media. With Lee's presence on the actual books lessening, Marvel began to do a sort of ceremonial introduction at the start of each issue to make it seem like Lee was still a part of the company (since even back then, Lee was one of the most famous names in comics). It would give a basic description of the comic book and end with Stan Lee presenting it. For the X-Men, after noting the individual team member names, it stated "Children of the atom, students of Charles Xavier, MUTANTS — feared and hated by the world they have sworn to protect. These are the strangest heroes of all! Stan Lee presents: the Uncanny X-Men!"
That's really the X-Men in a nutshell — feared and hated by the world they have sworn to protect. They are the strangest heroes of them all. However, a funny thing happened along the way. For the first decade of their existence (the series debuted in 1963), the X-Men were very much not only outcasts within the Marvel Universe, but they were outcasts to comic book readers as well. X-Men was one of Marvel's lowest-selling ongoing titles, and in the early 1970s, the series was canceled. A few months later, it was revived as a reprint-only series, spotlighting Lee and Kirby's original '60s stories. Yes, amazingly enough, the X-Men were actually canceled after less than a decade of existence!
Then, in 1975, a book called Giant-Size X-Men #1 came out that changed everything. A brand-new team of X-Men made their first appearance, and while even then the book was not a big seller right away (it was practically the end of the decade before the book even sold well enough to be released on a monthly basis), the book was slowly gaining in sales. Then, sure enough, the strangest heroes of them all ended up becoming the most popular heroes of them all.
Beginning in the 1980s, the X-Men were not only the most popular comic book series that there was, but it wasn't even close. X-Men sold twice as many copies as any other Marvel Comics title during most of the '80s. The only other titles that rivaled it in sales were the inevitable spinoffs from the X-Men series, like New Mutants and X-Factor. What began as a comic book series eventually became practically its own imprint at Marvel Comics.
During the '90s, when comic book sales were exploding, the popularity of the X-Men grew to new heights, complete with a hit animated television series, a best-selling action figure series, and a series of popular video games.
In 2000, Fox's X-Men was the first major Marvel superhero film to be released, and it was a hit. It paved the way for all the other superhero films to follow, eventually leading to Marvel forming their own film studio to make their own movies. However, in that regard, the X-Men almost became a victim of their own success. Once Marvel began to produce their own films, the fact that they did not own the movie rights to the X-Men made it a difficult situation for Marvel. They could push a comic book series which they did not own all of the rights for or a series in which they did own all of the respective rights (specifically the Avengers). Thus, by the end of the decade, the Avengers were ascendant and the X-Men found themselves eclipsed.
Nowadays, Marvel has recommitted itself to their XMen comic book line and we're in the midst of a second wave of X-Men films, following a 2011 reboot of the film franchise. X-Men film spinoffs are starting to become more popular, with 2016's Deadpool being one of the biggest film hits of the year. This looks like it will lead to more and more X-Men-related films from Fox, with New Mutants and Deadpool 2 both on the horizon.
In this book, we'll look at the comic book characters and creators that are most responsible for the X-Men becoming pop culture institutions, and we will examine the ups and downs along the way of how the X-Men went from being canceled in 1970 to eventually starring in the highest-selling single comic book issue in comic book history just 21 years later.CHAPTER 2
When you look to the most important people involved in the success of a particular piece of popular culture, you are almost always going to be looking at the people who were the creators of the character and/or series. When you look to the history of Spider-Man, for instance, the most important people involved with the character are his two creators, Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. However, in the case of the X-Men, it is someone who did not come aboard the series until it had been around for over a decade. Writer Chris Claremont is the main reason that the X-Men became as popular as they have been in history.
Claremont began working at Marvel Comics in the late 1960s as an intern while he was still in college. Amazingly enough, it was during this point that he had his first connection with the X-Men, as Claremont was credited with a plot assist on X-Men #59 (Claremont gave writer Roy Thomas an idea for the ending of the issue) and after graduating college in 1972, Roy Thomas gave Claremont some writing gigs. By 1974, Claremont was writing one-off issues of a number of Marvel titles, as well as being the regular writer on the horror/war comic book, War is Hell. When the All-New, All-Different X-Men debuted in 1975's Giant-Size X-Men #1, writer Len Wein (who had recently worked with Claremont on Giant-Size Fantastic Four #4) could not continue on the series when it became an ongoing series, so Claremont scripted over Wein's plots for X-Men #94–95 and then took over the series as the sole writer with X-Men #96.
Since Claremont took over the series so early in the run, he was able to have a greater deal of control over the characterizations of the heroes in the series than most writers do when taking over a series. Therefore, in general terms, what we think of when we think of the characterizations of the All-New, All-Different X-Men are what Claremont came up with during his time on the series. Claremont is well known for his willingness to give his artists a say in how the series goes, and since X-Men artist Dave Cockrum was already on the series when Claremont took over the book, Cockrum had a lot of say in what happened in the book.
When Cockrum was unable to keep up with the deadlines on the series (even when the series was only released once every two months), he left the book and was replaced by artist John Byrne, who had worked with Claremont already on both Iron Fist and Marvel Team-Up. Claremont soon began to include Byrne in the plotting of the series and the two creators (along with inker Terry Austin) soon went on a hot streak of classic stories, culminating with the back-to-back successes of "The Dark Phoenix Saga" and "Days of Future Past." Byrne, though, chafed under the writing arrangement, since Claremont, as the scripter on the book, often had final say over what would actually make it into the comic book, despite Byrne doing the bulk of the plotting in the later issues.
With the book now a hit, Cockrum returned as the regular artist and the book continued its rise to the top of the charts, which was solidified when Cockrum left for a second time and was replaced by an up-and-coming artist by the name of Paul Smith. Smith only stayed on the book for a year, but by the time he left, Uncanny X-Men was solidly Marvel's number one seller.
What people loved the most about Claremont's work was the way that he mixed deeply personal characterizations with striking melodramatic story lines. Essentially, Claremont used the classic soap opera approach — a never-ending serialized story complete with a large cast who all had interesting personalities. Claremont's stories were as complex as his characters and it really paved the way in the 1980s for other comic book series to tell similarly modern and mature superhero stories. There is no Marv Wolfman and George Perez New Teen Titans or Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen Legion of Super-Heroes if not for Chris Claremont's X-Men run.
After Paul Smith left the series, John Romita Jr. stayed on the book for three years. Romita Jr. was followed by Marc Silvestri (the series had become so popular that they often shipped two issues a month, making it too much for a single artist to draw, so Silvestri was joined by Rick Leonardi as an alternate artist). In 1990, Claremont was joined by a new artist, Jim Lee.
Lee was a superstar artist at a time when superstar artists were selling more comic books than ever, as a speculator's market had led to a gigantic boom in comic book sales. Claremont began to co-plot the series with Lee, just like he had done with Cockrum and Byrne, but soon it became clear that Lee and Claremont had different ideas of where to take the X-Men. Ultimately, X-Men editor Bob Harras chose Jim Lee over Claremont and Claremont's final issue of his original X-Men run came in the third issue of a newly launched second X-Men series. Seventeen years later, Claremont was no longer the regular writer of the X-Men.
In 2000, Claremont had been working in an editorial position at Marvel when he was lured back to the X-Men to take over both Uncanny X-Men and X-Men. The return proved to be a disappointment and Claremont was off of both books within a year. Marvel then launched a third X-Men series, X-Treme X-Men, and gave that to Claremont. When that series ended, Claremont returned one last time to write Uncanny X-Men #444–474. Marvel has Claremont under a unique exclusive contract where they pay him whether he writes something or not. He has done a handful of X-Men-related series in the last decade, including a series called X-Men Forever that was based on the notion of "What if Claremont had never left the X-Men in 1991?" and most recently, a 2014 Nightcrawler series that lasted less than a year.
Whether he ever writes another X-Men issue again, Chris Claremont has forever changed the history of the X-Men in comic books and in the films based on his epic run on the series.CHAPTER 3
One of the things that people often forget about Wolverine is that it was not like he was pulled out of the scrap heap when he was made a part of the X-Men in Giant-Size X-Men #1 in 1975. His debut appearance a year earlier in Incredible Hulk #181 (by Len Wein, Herb Trimpe, and Jack Abel — with a costume designed by Marvel's art director, John Romita Sr.) was well received at the time. It was very likely that Wolverine would have ended up in some comic book series if he had not ended up as part of the X-Men. Marvel tended to be very good at eventually using good characters like Wolverine. That said, it was still very impressive to see Wolverine go from being "Oh, that guy is kind of interesting" to Marvel's most popular character.
The first step toward superstardom for Wolverine came when Wein added him to the cast of the All-New, All-Different X-Men in Giant-Size X-Men #1. The X-Men were all from different parts of the world and the Canadian Wolverine fit right in to the theme. The cover for the issue turned out to be a major change in Wolverine's history. Gil Kane, one of the industry's most popular artists, had become a sort of go-to cover artist for Marvel in the mid-1970s. He drew the cover for Giant-Size X-Men #1, changing Wolverine's mask on the cover, giving him a straight cowl instead of the original Romita mask that had little whiskers on it. Dave Cockrum liked the change so much that he went through the issue and redrew all of the pages to make the mask fit the cover.
Wolverine was not an automatic star in the series. Cockrum and Claremont even talked about writing the character out of the book, as neither creator had a great handle on the feisty mutant who seemed like he might stab you at any moment. At one point, Cockrum and Claremont planned to reveal that Wolverine was actually not a mutant, but rather a mutated Wolverine created by the High Evolutionary (Cockrum caused a lot of confusion over the years when he mistakenly referred to that idea as something he worked with Wein on, when it really wasn't until after Wein left the book). They quickly dropped that idea.
When John Byrne joined the series, that's when things changed for Wolverine. Byrne was a Canadian, as well, and he took a shine to his countryman and made a point to make Wolverine more and more of a central figure in the series. One of the things Byrne did was to play up the fact that Wolverine was a dangerous guy who was not against killing if the need arose. This was a guy who was covered in unbreakable adamantium metal and had sharp claws burst out of his forearms, after all. Byrne also gave Wolverine a cool new costume soon before leaving the X-Men, a brown and tan costume that Wolverine wore for the rest of the 1980s.
The next big step for Wolverine was when he got his own miniseries, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Frank Miller and Joe Rubinstein. Miller and Claremont plotted the series together and they came up with the idea of making Wolverine basically a samurai. Miller famously used ninjas a lot in his Daredevil work and shockingly enough, Wolverine fought a lot of ninjas in his miniseries. The miniseries was a massive success and within a few years, Wolverine graduated to his own ongoing series. He was the first member of the All-New, All-Different X-Men to achieve such an honor.
Wolverine became so popular that the comic book boom of the 1990s also saw a boom in Wolverine appearances in other comic book series. Besides appearing regularly in X-Men and his own solo series, Wolverine also was the regular lead feature in the anthology series, Marvel Comics Presents, and guest starred in pretty much every Marvel comic book ever published. Wolverine literally guest starred in at least one non-X-related comic book every month from January 1991 through December 1993.
After he became a movie star with Hugh Jackman's portrayal in 2000's X-Men, Wolverine only became even more prolific in that decade, as he joined the Avengers in 2005's relaunch of the New Avengers. He did so while still being a member of the X-Men and appearing in all three then-current XMen series. Things were so crazy that there was even a Wolverine story that made fun of Wolverine's schedule by showing how he was spending each day of the week with a different superhero team.
While he has traditionally been a loner, Wolverine eventually took on a greater leadership role when he broke from Cyclops in an X-Men story line called "Schism," where Wolverine decided that the X-Men needed to get back to teaching young mutants and not just training them to become soldiers. He reopened Xavier's School for Mutants and renamed it the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, becoming the headmaster of the school.
Tragically, after being attacked by an alien virus, Wolverine's famous healing factor, which allowed him to recover from any number of attacks (and stay alive despite being born in the 19 century), was eliminated. In 2014, Marvel published "Death of Wolverine" by Charles Soule and Steve McNiven, which saw Wolverine get captured by one of the scientists who worked on the Weapon X project that gave Wolverine his adamantium skeleton. The scientist was trying to replicate the experiment on others, but needed Wolverine's healing power for it to work. Wolverine, of course, did not have it any more. He then killed the scientist and freed the other subjects, but not before the scientist encased Wolverine in molten adamantium, killing him.
His young female clone, Laura Kinney, has taken over as the All-New Wolverine, but recently, the original Wolverine has made a comeback.CHAPTER 4
The Original Five
Naturally, if there were never any X-Men to begin with, then the X-Men could never have become a pop culture phenomenon, but it's still surprising to see how little respect the original five X-Men get when it comes to the history of the X-Men. It's almost as if X-Men history began in 1975 with Giant-Size X-Men #1, while obviously there already had been an X-Men team going back to 1963.
When the X-Men debuted in 1963, the first issue saw Professor Charles Xavier welcome a new female student to join his four male students. Naturally, the four boys were falling over themselves to impress the new girl, who turned out to be Jean Grey, a beautiful red-headed teen girl who took on the code name of Marvel Girl. The established members of the team were Scott Summers (Cyclops, the group leader), Warren Worthington III (The Angel), Hank McCoy (The Beast), and Bobby Drake (Iceman), who was the youngest of the group.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die"
Copyright © 2018 Brian Cronin.
Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 The X-Men 1
2 Chris Claremont 3
3 Wolverine 7
4 The Original Five 10
5 Stan Lee 13
6 Jack Kirby 17
7 All-New, All-Different X-Men 19
8 Dave Cockrum 22
9 Len Wein 25
10 John Byrne 27
11 Must Read: "The Dark Phoenix Saga" 31
12 Roy Thomas 34
13 Professor X 37
14 Magneto 38
15 Original X-Men Film Trilogy 43
16 Mutants as a Metaphor for Prejudice 47
17 Hugh Jackman 49
18 Bob Harras 52
19 Jim Lee 55
20 X-Men: The Animated Series 58
21 Phoenix 62
22 Cyclops 65
23 Fabian Nicieza/Scott Lobdell 67
24 Must Read: "Days of Future Past" 70
25 X-Men Reboot Film Series 73
26 Kitty Pryde 77
27 Storm 80
28 Rogue 82
29 Must Read: "God Loves, Man Kills" 85
30 Grant Morrison 88
31 Gambit 91
32 Nightcrawler 93
33 X-Men Action Figures 96
34 Colossus 98
35 New Mutants 101
36 Joss Whedon/John Cassaday 104
37 Apocalypse 107
37 The X-Over 109
39 Deadpool 112
40 The Original X-Factor 115
41 Sabretooth 119
42 Beast 121
43 Must Read: "Age of Apocalypse" 124
44 The Danger Room 127
45 Cable 129
46 Psylocke 133
47 X-Force 135
48 X-Men Redemption 138
49 The Byrne/Claremont Feud 141
50 Mister Sinister 144
51 Rob Liefeld 146
52 Emma Frost 149
53 Must Read: "Wolverine" 151
54 X-23 155
55 Neal Adams 157
56 X-Men Video Games 161
57 Paul Smith 163
58 The Death of Thunderbird 166
59 Wolverine's Healing Factor 169
60 Must Read: "E Is for Extinction" 171
61 Claremontisms 175
62 Death Is Not the End 177
63 Wolverine's Adamantium Claws 180
64 X-Men Time Travel 182
65 Jim Shooter and the X-Men 185
66 Legion the TV Show 189
67 Wolverine's False Memories 191
68 Plot Danglers 194
69 Must Read: "Weapon X" 196
70 Mystique 199
71 M-Day 202
72 The Kubert Brothers 205
73 Attend a Comic Book Convention 207
74 Utopia 210
75 Weapon X 213
76 Arthur Adams 216
77 J Must Read: "To Have and Have Not" 219
78 Excalibur 222
79 Schism 225
80 Visit Uncannyxmen.net 227
81 Generation X 231
82 Marc Silvestri 233
83 Avengers vs. X-Men 236
84 Ultimate X-Men 239
85 Iceman 242
86 Madrox and the Second X-Factor Team 245
87 Must Read: "Old Man Logan" 247
88 Angel/Archangel 250
89 X-Statix 252
90 Shi'ar Empire 255
91 All-New X-Men 258
92 John Romita Jr 261
93 Listen to Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men 264
94 Joe Madureira 267
95 Northstar 269
96 Inbumans vs. X-Men 273
97 Chuck Austen 275
98 Must Read: "Gifted" 278
99 X-Men Licensing 280
100 Visit the X-Mansion 283