X-Men

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X-Men
Cover to Uncanny X-Men #505
Pictured, left to right: Dazzler (above), Nightcrawler (below), Emma Frost, Cyclops, Pixie (above), Wolverine (below), and Colossus
Art by Terry Dodson
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance The X-Men #1 (September 10, 1963)
Created by
In-story information
Base(s)
Member(s)
Roster
See:List of X-Men members

The X-Men are a fictional team of superheroes that appears in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The X-Men were created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, and were first published in 1963. They are among Marvel Comics' most popular and lucrative intellectual properties, appearing in numerous books, television shows, films, and video games.

The X-Men are "mutants": humans born with superhuman abilities. They fight to keep the peace between normal humans and mutants in a world where anti-mutant bigotry is widespread.

Publication history[edit]

The X-Men #1 (Sept. 1963). Written by Stan Lee with art by Jack Kirby.

In early 1963, with the success of Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy, as well as the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and the Fantastic Four, creator Stan Lee devised the series title after Marvel publisher Martin Goodman turned down the initial name, "The Mutants", stating that readers would not know what a "mutant" was.[1] Within the Marvel Universe, the X-Men are widely regarded to have been named after Professor Xavier himself. Xavier however claims that the name "X-Men" was never chosen to be a self-tribute.[2] The name is also linked to the "X-Gene," an unknown gene that causes the mutant evolution.[citation needed] The original explanation for the name, as provided by Xavier, is that mutants "possess an extra power... one which ordinary humans do not!! That is why I call my students... X-Men, for EX-tra power!".[3]

1960s[edit]

Early X-Men issues introduced the team's archenemy Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants featuring Mastermind, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Toad. The comic focused on a common human theme of good versus evil and later included storylines and themes about prejudice and racism, all of which have persisted throughout the series in one form or another. The evil side in the fight was shown in human form and under some sympathetic beginnings via Magneto, a character who was later revealed to have survived Nazi concentration camps only to pursue a hatred for normal humanity. His key followers, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, were Roma (gypsies). Only one new member of the X-Men was added, Mimic/Calvin Rankin,[4] but soon left due to his temporary loss of power.[5]

The title lagged in sales behind Marvel's other comic franchises. In 1969, writer Roy Thomas and illustrator Neal Adams rejuvenated the comic book and gave regular roles to two recently introduced characters: Havok/Alex Summers (who had been introduced by Roy Thomas before Adams began work on the comic) and Lorna Dane, later called Polaris (created by Arnold Drake and Jim Steranko). However, these later X-Men issues failed to attract sales and Marvel stopped producing new stories with issue #66, later reprinting a number of the older comics as issues #67–93.[6]

1970s[edit]

In Giant-Size X-Men #1 (1975), writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum introduced a new team that then starred in a revival of The X-Men, beginning with issue #94. This new team, however, differed greatly from the original. Unlike in the early issues of the original series, the new team was not made up of teenagers and they also had a more diverse background. Each was from a different country with varying cultural and philosophical beliefs, and all were already well-versed in using their mutant powers, several being experienced in combat. The "all-new, all-different X-Men"[7] were led by Cyclops from the original team and consisted of the newly created Colossus (from the Soviet Union), Nightcrawler (from West Germany), Storm (from Kenya), and Thunderbird (a Native American from the Apache nation), along with three previously introduced characters, Banshee (from Ireland), Sunfire (from Japan), and Wolverine (from Canada), who eventually became the breakout character on the team and, in terms of comic sales and appearances, the most popular X-Men character. A revamped Jean Grey soon rejoined the X-Men as the popular Phoenix; Angel, Beast, Havok, and Polaris also made significant guest appearances.

The revived series was illustrated by Cockrum, and later by John Byrne, and written by Chris Claremont. Claremont became the series' longest-running contributor.[8] The run met with critical acclaim and produced such early storylines as the death of Thunderbird, the return of the Sentinels and the emergence of Phoenix, the saga of the Starjammers and the fight for control of the M'Kraan Crystal, the resurrection of Garokk the Petrified Man, the introduction of Alpha Flight[9] and the Proteus saga. Other characters introduced during this time include Amanda Sefton, Multiple Man, Mystique, and Moira MacTaggert with her genetic research facility on Muir Island.

1980s[edit]

The 1980s began with the comic's best-known story arc, the Dark Phoenix Saga, which saw Phoenix manipulated by the illusionist Mastermind and becoming corrupted with an overwhelming lust for power and destruction as the evil Dark Phoenix. Other important storylines included Days of Future Past, the saga of Deathbird and the Brood, the discovery of the Morlocks, the invasion of the Dire Wraiths and The Trial of Magneto, as well as X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, the partial inspiration for the 2003 movie X2: X-Men United.[10]

By the early 1980s, X-Men was Marvel's top-selling comic title. Its sales were such that distributors and retailers began using an "X-Men index", rating each comic book publication by how many orders it garnered compared to that month's issue of X-Men.[11] The growing popularity of Uncanny X-Men and the rise of comic book specialty stores led to the introduction of a number of ongoing spin-off series nicknamed "X-Books." The first of these was The New Mutants, soon followed by Alpha Flight, X-Factor, Excalibur, and a solo Wolverine title. When Claremont conceived a story arc, the Mutant Massacre, which was too long to run in the monthly X-Men, editor Louise Simonson decided to have it overlap into several X-Books. The story was a major financial success,[12] and when the later Fall of the Mutants was similarly successful, the marketing department declared that the X-Men lineup would hold such crossovers annually.[13]

Throughout the decade, Uncanny X-Men was written solely by Chris Claremont, and illustrated for long runs by John Byrne, Dave Cockrum, Paul Smith, John Romita, Jr., and Marc Silvestri. Additions to the X-Men during this time were Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat, Dazzler, Forge, Longshot, Psylocke, Rogue, Rachel Summers/Phoenix, and Jubilee. In a controversial move, Professor X relocated to outer space to be with Lilandra, Majestrix of the Shi'ar Empire, in 1986. Magneto then joined the X-Men in Xavier's place and became the director of the New Mutants. This period also included the emergence of the Hellfire Club, the arrival of the mysterious Madelyne Pryor, and the villains Apocalypse, Mister Sinister, Mojo, and Sabretooth.

1990s[edit]

The multiple, interlocking covers of X-Men, vol. 2 #1 (1991). Art by Jim Lee.

In 1991, Marvel revised the entire lineup of X-Books, centered on the launch of a second X-Men series, simply titled X-Men. With the return of Xavier and the original X-Men to the team, the roster was split into two strike forces: Cyclops' "Blue Team" (chronicled in X-Men) and Storm's "Gold Team" (in Uncanny X-Men).

Its first issues were written by longstanding X-Men writer Chris Claremont and drawn and co-plotted by Jim Lee. Retailers pre-ordered over 8.1 million copies of issue #1, generating and selling nearly $7 million (though retailers probably sold closer to 3 million copies[14] ), making it the best-selling comic book of all-time, according to Guinness Book of World Records, which presented honors to Claremont at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con.[15][16][17]

Another new X-book released at the time was X-Force, featuring the characters from The New Mutants, led by Cable; it was written by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza. Internal friction soon split the X-books' creative teams. In a controversial move, X-Men editor Bob Harras sided with Lee (and Uncanny X-Men artist Whilce Portacio) over Claremont in a dispute over plotting. Claremont left after only three issues of X-Men, ending his 16-year run as X-Men writer.[18] Marvel replaced Claremont briefly with John Byrne, who scripted both books for a few issues. Byrne was then replaced by Nicieza and Scott Lobdell, who would take over the majority of writing duties for the X-Men until Lee's own departure months later when he and several other popular artists (including former X-title artists Liefeld, Portacio, and Marc Silvestri) would leave Marvel to form Image Comics. Jim Lee's X-Men designs would be the basis for much of the X-Men animated series and action figure line as well as several Capcom video games.

The 1990s saw an even greater number of X-books with numerous ongoing series and miniseries running concurrently. X-book crossovers continued to run annually, with "The X-Tinction Agenda" in 1990, "The Muir Island Saga" in 1991, "X-Cutioner's Song" in 1992, "Fatal Attractions" in 1993, "Phalanx Covenant" in 1994, "Legion Quest"/"Age of Apocalypse" in 1995, "Onslaught" in 1996, and "Operation: Zero Tolerance" in 1997. Though the frequent crossovers were criticized by fans as well as editorial and creative staff for being artificially regular, disruptive to the direction of the individual series, and having far less lasting impact than promised, they continued to be financially successful.[13] There were many new popular additions to the X-Men including Cable, Bishop, and Gambit—who became one of the most popular X-Men (rivaling even Wolverine in size of fanbase), but many of the later additions to the team came and went (Joseph, Maggott, Marrow, Cecilia Reyes, and a new Thunderbird). Xavier's New Mutants grew up and became X-Force, and the next generation of students began with Generation X, featuring Jubilee and other teenage mutants led and schooled by Banshee and former villainess Emma Frost at her Massachusetts Academy. In 1998, Excalibur and X-Factor ended and the latter was replaced with Mutant X, starring Havok stranded in a parallel universe. Marvel launched a number of solo series, including Deadpool, Cable, Bishop, X-Man, and Gambit, but few of the series would survive the decade.

2000s[edit]

In 2000, Claremont returned to Marvel and was put back on the primary X-Men titles during the Revolution event. He was later removed from the two flagship titles in 2001 and created his spin-off series, X-Treme X-Men. X-Men had its title changed to New X-Men and writer Grant Morrison took over. The book is often referred to as the Morrison-era, due to the drastic changes he made, beginning with "E Is For Extinction," where a new villain, Cassandra Nova, destroys Genosha, killing sixteen million mutants. Morrison also brought reformed ex-villain Emma Frost into the primary X-Men team, and opened the doors of the school by having Xavier "out" himself to the public about being a mutant. The bright spandex costumes that had become iconic over the previous decades were replaced by black leather street clothes reminiscent of the uniforms of the X-Men films. Morrison also introduced Xorn, who would figure prominently in the climax of his run. Ultimate X-Men set in Marvel's revised imprint was also launched. While Chuck Austen began his controversial run on Uncanny X-Men.

Several short-lived spin-offs and miniseries started featuring several X-Men in solo series, such as Emma Frost, Gambit, Mystique, Nightcrawler, and Rogue. Another series, Exiles, started at the same time and concluded in December 2007 which led to New Exiles in January 2008 written by Claremont. Cable and Deadpool's books were merged into one book, Cable & Deadpool. Following Morrison's departure, a third core X-Men title, Astonishing X-Men was launched which was written by Joss Whedon. New X-Men: Academy X was also launched focusing on the lives of the new young mutants at the Institute. This period included the resurrections of Colossus and Psylocke, a new death for Jean Grey, who later returned temporarily in the X-Men: Phoenix - Endsong, as well as Emma Frost becoming the new headmistress of the Institute. The Institute formerly ran as a school, until the depowering of 98% of the mutant population served as a safe haven to mutants who are still powered.

In 2007, the Messiah Complex crossover saw the destruction of the Xavier Institute and the disbanding of the X-Men. It spun the new volumes of X-Force, following the team led by Wolverine, and Cable, following Cable's attempts at protecting Hope Summers. X-Men was renamed into X-Men: Legacy which focused on Professor X, Rogue and Gambit. Under Cyclops' leadership, the X-Men later reformed in Uncanny X-Men #500, with their new base located in San Francisco.[19] Uncanny X-Men returned to its roots as the flagship title for the X-Franchise and served as the umbrella under which the various X-Books co-exist. In 2009, Messiah War written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost served as the second part in the trilogy that began with Messiah Complex was released. Utopia written by Matt Fraction, was a crossover of Dark Avengers and Uncanny X-Men that served as a part of the Dark Reign storyline. A new New Mutants volume written by Zeb Wells, which featured the more prominent members of the original team reunited was launched. Magneto joined the X-Men during the Nation X storyline to the dismay of other members of the X-Men, such as Beast, who left the team.[20] Magneto began to work with Namor to transform Utopia into a homeland for both mutants and Atlanteans.[21] After the conclusion of Utopia, Rogue became the main character of X-Men: Legacy.

Notable additions to the X-Men have been Emma Frost, Husk, Northstar, Armor, Pixie and Warpath. While former villains such as Juggernaut, Lady Mastermind, Mystique, and Sabretooth became members of the X-Men. Other notable story arcs of this decade are "E Is For Extinction" (2001), "Planet X," "Here Comes Tomorrow," "Gifted" (2004), "House of M" (2005), Deadly Genesis (2005–2006), "Endangered Species" (2007), "Divided We Stand" (2008), "Manifest Destiny" (2008–2009), X-Infernus, and "Necrosha" (2009). The X-Men were also involved in the "Secret Invasion" storyline.

2010s[edit]

In 2010, "Second Coming" continued the plot threads on "Messiah Complex" and "House of M", while in 2012, "Avengers vs. X-Men" served as a closure to story lines such as "House of M" and "Decimation". It also ended with the death of Professor X and reappearance of new mutants.[22][23] The aftermath of the "X-Men: Schism" (2011) led to the fallout between Wolverine and Cyclops. Featured in a new series titled Wolverine and the X-Men, Wolverine rebuilt the original X-Mansion and named it as Jean Grey School for Higher Learning.

As part of the Marvel NOW! relaunch in 2012, many of the X-Men titles were canceled and relaunched, including X-Force, X-Factor, X-Men: Legacy, X-Men, and Uncanny X-Men. The relaunched Uncanny X-Men features Cyclops, his team, and the new mutants, taking up residency in the Weapon X facility, which they have rebuilt into a school and named as the New Charles Xavier School for Mutants. New flagship titles such as Amazing X-Men, Uncanny Avengers and All New X-Men were launched. Uncanny Avengers featured a team of Avengers and X-Men members while All-New X-Men featured the original five X-Men members being brought to the present day. In 2013, for the 50th anniversary of the X-Men franchise, "Battle of the Atom" was published which involved members of both X-Men schools try to decide what to do about the time-displaced original X-Men.

Notable additions to the X-Men have been X-23, Hope Summers, X-Man and Blink. Other notable story arcs of this decade are "Curse of the Mutants" (2010-2011), "Age of X" and "Regenesis" (2011).

World of the X-Men[edit]

The X-Men exist in the Marvel Universe with other characters portrayed in Marvel Comics series. As such, it is unsurprising that they often meet characters from other series, and the global nature of the mutant concept means the scale of stories can be highly varied.

The X-Men fight everything ranging from mutant thieves to galactic threats. Historically, the X-Men have been based in the Xavier Institute, near Salem Center, in north-east Westchester County, NY, and are often depicted as a family. The X-Mansion is often depicted with three floors and two underground levels. To the outside world, it had acted as a higher learning institute until the 2000s, when Xavier was publicly exposed as a mutant at which point it became a full mutant boarding school. Xavier funds a corporation aimed at reaching mutants worldwide, though it ceased to exist following the "Decimation."

The X-Men benefit greatly from state-of-the-art technology. For example, Xavier is depicted tracking down mutants with a device called Cerebro which amplifies his powers; the X-Men train within the Danger Room, first depicted as a room full of weapons and booby traps, now as generating holographic simulations; and the X-Men travel in their widely recognized and iconic Blackbird jet.

Fictional places[edit]

The X-Men introduced several fictional locations which are regarded as important within the shared universe in which Marvel Comics characters exist:

  • Asteroid M, an asteroid made by Magneto, a mutant utopia and training facility off of the Earth's surface.
  • Genosha, an island near Madagascar and a longtime apartheid regime against mutants. Given control by the U.N. to Magneto until the E Is for Extinction story.
  • Madripoor, an island in South East Asia, near Singapore. Its location is shown to be in the southern portion of the Strait of Malacca, south west of Singapore.
  • Muir Island, a remote island off the coast of Scotland. This is primarily known in the X-Men universe as the home of Moira MacTaggert's laboratory.
  • Mutant Town (also known as District X), an area in Alphabet City, Manhattan, populated largely by mutants and beset by poverty and crime.
  • Savage Land, a preserved location in Antarctica which is home to a number of extinct species, most notably dinosaurs.
  • Utopia, Cyclops had Asteroid M raised from the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the San Francisco as a response to the rise of anti-mutant sentiment to form a new Mutant Nation. It was abandoned after the events of Avengers vs. X-Men.

Other versions[edit]

  • Age of Apocalypse – In a world where Professor Xavier is killed before he can form the X-Men, Magneto leads the X-Men in a dystopian world ruled by Apocalypse. Created and reverted via time travel.
  • Days of Future PastSentinels have either killed or placed into concentration camps almost all mutants. Prevented by the time-traveling Kate Pryde (the adult Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat).
  • House of M – Reality is altered by Scarlet Witch, with her father Magneto as the world's ruler. 2005's crossover event, it concludes with a reversion to the normal Marvel Universe, albeit with most mutants depowered.
  • Marvel 1602 – Mutants are known as the "Witchbreed" in this alternate reality set during the time of The Inquisition. Carlos Javier creates a "school for the children of gentlefolk" to serve as a safe haven and training ground.
  • Marvel 2099 – Set in a dystopian world with new characters looking to the original X-Men as history, becoming X-Men 2099 and X-Nation 2099.
  • Mutant X – Set in a world where Scott Summers was captured along with his parents by the Shi'ar and only Alex escaped, allowing him to be the eventual leader of this Universe's X-Factor ("The Six"). The Mutant X universe reimagines Mr. Fantastic, Nick Fury, and Professor X as villains and Doctor Doom and Apocalypse as heroes.
  • Ultimate X-Men – Set in the reimagined Ultimate Marvel universe.
  • X-Men Forever – An alternate continuity diverging from X-Men, vol. 2 #3, continuing as though writer Chris Claremont had never left writing the series.[24]
  • X-Men Noir – Set in the 1930s, with the X-Men as a mysterious criminal gang and the Brotherhood as a secret society of corrupt cops.
  • X-Men: The End – A possible ending to the X-Men's early 2005 status quo.

Reflecting social issues[edit]

The conflict between mutants and normal humans is often compared to real-world conflicts experienced by minority groups in America such as African Americans, Jews, atheists, Communists, the LGBT community, etc.[25][26] It has been remarked that attitudes towards mutants do not make sense in the context of the Marvel Universe, since non-mutants with similar powers are rarely regarded with fear; X-Men editor Ann Nocenti remarked that "I think that's literary, really - because there is no difference between Colossus and the Torch. If a guy comes into my office in flames, or a guy comes into my office and turns to steel, I'm going to have the same reaction. It doesn't really matter that I know their origins. [...] as a book, The X-Men has always represented something different - their powers arrive at puberty, making them analogous to the changes you go through at adolescence - whether they're special, or out of control, or setting you apart - the misfit identity theme."[27] Also on an individual level, a number of X-Men serve a metaphorical function as their powers illustrate points about the nature of the outsider.

"The X-Men are hated, feared and despised collectively by humanity for no other reason than that they are mutants. So what we have here, intended or not, is a book that is about racism, bigotry and prejudice."

Uncanny X-Men writer Chris Claremont, 1981
  • Anti-Semitism: Explicitly referenced in recent decades is the comparison between anti-mutant sentiment and anti-Semitism. Magneto, a Holocaust survivor, sees the situation of mutants as similar to those of Jews in Nazi Germany.[29][35] At one point he even utters the words "never again" in a 1992 episode of the X-Men animated series. The mutant slave labor camps on the island of Genosha, in which numbers were burned into mutant's foreheads, show much in common with Nazi concentration camps,[35][36][37] as do the internment camps of the classic "Days of Future Past" storyline.[38] In the third X-Men film, when asked by Callisto: "If you're so proud of being a mutant, then where's your mark?" Magneto shows his concentration camp tattoo, while mentioning that he will never let another needle touch his skin. In the prequel film X-Men: First Class, a fourteen-year-old Magneto suffers Nazi human experimentation during his time in the camps and witnesses his mother's death by gunshot.
  • LGBT themes: Some commentators have noted the similarities between the struggles of mutants and the LGBT community, noting the onset of special powers around puberty and the parallels between being closeted and the mutants' concealment of their powers.[42] In the comics series, gay and bisexual characters include Anole, Bling!, Destiny, Karma, Mystique, Psylocke, Courier, Northstar (whose marriage was depicted in the comics in 2012), Graymalkin, Rictor, Shatterstar and the Ultimate version of Colossus. In the film X2, Bobby Drake's mother asks him, "Have you ever tried not being a mutant?" after revealing that he is a mutant. Transgender issues also come up with shapechangers like Mystique, Copycat, and Courier who can change gender at will. It has been said that the comic books and the X-Men animated series delved into the AIDS epidemic with a long-running plot line about the Legacy Virus, a seemingly incurable disease thought at first to attack only mutants (similar to the AIDS virus which at first was spread through the gay community).[43]
  • Religion: Religion is an integral part of several X-Men storylines. It is presented as both a positive and negative force, sometimes in the same story. The comics explore religious fundamentalism through the person of William Stryker and his Purifiers, an anti-mutant group that emerged in the 1982 graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills. The Purifiers believe that mutants are not human beings but children of the devil, and have attempted to exterminate them several times, most recently in the "Childhood's End" storyline. By contrast, religion is also central to the lives of several X-Men, such as Nightcrawler, a devout Catholic, and Dust, a devout Sunni Muslim who wears an Islamic niqāb.[40]
  • Subculture: In some cases, the mutants of the X-Men universe sought to create a subculture of the typical mutant society portrayed. The Morlocks, though mutants like those attending Xavier's school, hide away from society within the tunnels of New York. These Morlock tunnels serve as the backdrop for several X-Men stories, most notably The Mutant Massacre crossover. This band of mutants illustrates another dimension to the comic, that of a group that further needs to isolate itself because society won't accept it.[45][46] In Grant Morrison’s stories of the early 2000s, mutants are portrayed as a distinct subculture with "mutant bands," mutant use of code-names as their primary form of self-identity (rather than their given birth names), and a popular mutant fashion designer who created outfits tailored to mutant physiology. The series District X takes place in an area of New York City called "Mutant Town."[34] These instances can also serve as analogies for the way that minority groups establish subcultures and neighborhoods of their own that distinguish them from the broader general culture. Director Bryan Singer has remarked that the X-Men franchise has served as a metaphor for acceptance of all people for their special and unique gifts. The mutant condition that is often kept secret from the world can be analogous to feelings of difference and fear usually developed in everyone during adolescence.[citation needed]

Cultural impact[edit]

The insecurity and anxieties in Marvel's early 1960s comic books such as The Fantastic Four, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, and X-Men ushered in a new type of superhero, very different from the certain and all-powerful superheroes before them, and changed the public's perception of superheroes.[47]

In other media[edit]

Main article: X-Men in other media

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]