The X-Men #1
November 22, 2010
The strangest superheroes of all! ...And by strangest, I mean arrestable.
(Open on Linkara trying to fix a gold item; he sighs)
Linkara: (sarcastically) Hey, I got an idea: why don't we just make it gold? This thing probably never works...
(He then looks up to see that he's on camera; he is startled)
Linkara: Oh! Uh, you should probably just ignore this. Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. And welcome once again to Secret Origins Month!
("Secret Origins Month" title is shown; cut to a shot of the X-Men)
Linkara (v/o): Now it's time to talk about the origins of a super team. I decided to go the X-Men instead of the Fantastic Four, because the X-Men have appeared a couple of times already on the show, so those of you less familiar with comic characters should hopefully get a better idea of who I'm talking about with these people.
(Cut to a shot of Stan Lee)
Linkara (v/o): The X-Men were once again the product of the mind of Stan Lee, this time working with Jack Kirby on the premise.
(Cut to a montage of shots of X-Men comics)
Linkara (v/o): When conceived, they were basically just another super team book, though in this case, Lee once again attached the idea of them being young people that the audience could identify with. This time, their mutations were a way for them to feel isolated from others; i.e., alienated because they were different. Another reason why he came up with the X-Men was because, well, Lee was running out of ideas for how superheroes got their powers. Let's face it, radiation may be a method of gaining superpowers, but there are only so many excuses one could have about why someone was standing next to reactors. As such, Lee was happy that he could just use the mutation angle as the explanation for superpowers. So, there you have it: the X-Men came about because Stan Lee was lazy. Mind you, from a scientific perspective, this kind of thing doesn't even resemble anything plausible, but hey, this is the same guy who gave us Nightcat. Originally, Stan Lee actually wanted to call the book "The Mutants", or according to Wikipedia, "The Merry Mutants". Fortunately, Marvel's publisher Mark Goodman put the kibosh on that, since the name doesn't exactly have staying power and no one would understand it from just glancing at it. Well, the guy might have been wrong about Spider-Man, but at least he knows names. Instead, Lee went with "X-Men", because they had something extra about them.
Linkara: You know, with Stan Lee, you really sometimes can't tell when he's kidding or when he's dead serious. And really, you don't want to know. Point is, let's dig into the first story of the Merry Mutants, "The X-Men #1".
(Opening titles play; title card has the theme for X-Men: The Animated Series playing over it; cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Unlike in the last few origins stories, "X-Men" started off with its own title and a full story. Our cover today is crowded but well-placed. There are four taglines on this thing, but they're all positioned so they don't interrupt the action.
Text: The strangest super-heroes of all!
Linkara: I mean, yellow and black uniforms? Who wears that?
Text: In the sensational Fantastic Four style!
Linkara: In that there are more than four heroes, and they were born with their powers instead of gaining them by accident, and really, they have nothing to do with the Fantastic Four.
Linkara (v/o): I love how all of this is put together. We have four superheroes attacking Magneto – well, five, but Jean Grey is just wobbling back there on the uneven ground – who is drawn in a way so that he looks like he's got devil horns and is painted red. The Beast is swinging down from... somewhere. Cyclops is blasting Magneto with his laser eyes, though how Magneto is stopping them is another matter for scientists to debate over. Angel is carrying what looks like a bazooka – and doing a poor job of it, since he looks like he's going to topple over. And finally, there's Iceman.
(Cut to a clip of Top Gun)
Iceman (Val Kilmer): (to Maverick) You can be my wingman any time.
(Back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): ...who is throwing snowballs. Yes, the strangest superheroes of all. Some fight crime with advanced technology, some with laser eyes, and then some throw snowballs at their foe.
Linkara: For those keeping score, I once again have a reprint. (holds it up) This time, "Marvel Masterworks Presents the X-Men Vol. 1". It collects the first ten issues of the book... aaaand I don't know if it's in print anymore, since I got this one from the used book section of the store.
Linkara (v/o): We open to Professor Xavier at his school.
Narrator: In the main study of an exclusive private school in New York's Westchester County, a strange silent man sits motionless, brooding...alone with his indescribable thoughts...
Linkara: (looking up; thinking) I wonder if I used jello as a toothpaste, I could turn my teeth green...
Narrator: Finally, his meditation comes to an end! Then, while he remains completely motionless, a sharp, commanding THOUGHT rings out, echoing through the great halls of the building!
Linkara: (thinking) Has anyone seen the TV remote? I fell asleep, and now it's not here.
Linkara (v/o): Prof. X calls the X-Men to him to announce that class is in session. Four X-Men all appear and loudly announce that they're there. Strangest of all is Iceman, who apparently swings down on a pole of ice... that appears from absolutely nowhere. Was he just in the room this whole time and he's just spinning around on it for kicks? Speaking of kicks, if the rest of his body is ice and snow, why the hell is he wearing boots?
Cyclops: C'mon, Angel, let's tilt the Professor's chair back and make him more comfortable!
Angel: With pleasure, Cyclops, old man! We want the Professor comfortable while he puts us through our paces!
Linkara: Wow! I can't even begin to quantify how creepy this panel is.
Linkara (v/o): I mean, what, they're attending on the immensely powerful psychic without him even asking? I mean, tilting his chair back and adjusting his blanket? Maybe the X-Men aren't so much a superhero team as much as assisted living attendants. Iceman wants to show Beast a new trick with his frosting power, which basically consists of putting snow on his arms. Really useful there, Iceman; your future career as a flocking gun is assured. Beast is pissed about it, but Angel stops them before they can get into a fight.
Angel: Hold it, lads! No fighting during class, remember?
Linkara: (as Angel) Severely irritating your classmates is fine, though.
Linkara (v/o): By the way, was Prof. X just sitting in a completely empty room, except for the chair? I only ask because the room always looks empty no matter what angle we see it from, and he suddenly commands them to start their lessons... and a big computer console and other equipment just appear out of nowhere!
Prof. X: (thinking) Allow me to congratulate all of you! You are receiving my thoughts perfectly! Soon, there will be no need for me to speak aloud to you at all!
Linkara: (as Prof. X; thinking) My telepathy will ensure that none of you has a moment's privacy!
Linkara (v/o): Beast begins his training.
Prof. X: (thinking) Excellent! Now spin around! Faster! Faster!
Linkara: (as Prof. X; thinking and shaking up his fist) Faster, damn you, FASTER!
Prof. X: (thinking) Pretend an enemy is shooting at you! You must make yourself an impossible target!
Linkara: (trying to aim his magic gun) Damn, a big, blurry, spinning thing! I can't hope to hit that!
Linkara (v/o): So, after Beast finishes his routine, it's Angel's turn.
Prof. X: (thinking) Now, be sharp... today we test your wing reflex! You dare not make a mistake!
Linkara: Geez, no wonder they pamper Prof. X. Who knows what kind of screwed-up stuff he does if they piss him off!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, he actually means that Angel needs to fly around a flame jet, crushers, spinning blades, and a sound concussion! Are these all in this tiny little room? And why the hell is he testing stuff this dangerous on them?! I mean, yes, they are superheroes and all, but maybe you ought to make them a little less lethal!
Linkara: (as a member of the school's Board of Directors) Ah, Professor Xavier, I'm glad you could join us once again. (looks at a piece of paper) We've been looking at these expense reports... (as Prof. X) Look, I can explain the wheel of death and the chompers. I felt that my students needed more encouragement to do their homework! (as board member) ...Actually, we were going to ask you about the vending machines and the nutrition of your students... Spinning wheel of death, you say? (as Prof. X) Umm... Er... Ooh... (looks away, feeling embarrassed)
Linkara (v/o): Iceman wants to know when he'll get his chance to brave the chompers and the other tests, but the Professor instead tells him to go along and play like a good little kid. Iceman decides to imitate a snowman, because that's a surefire way to show that you're mature enough to have flame jets fired in your face. After a little test of his reflexes by throwing a bowling ball at him, Cyclops is left.
Prof. X: (thinking) Assume The Beast and Iceman are your enemies! Put them out of action, without causing serious injury!
Linkara (v/o): Cyclops proceeds to BLAST Beast so hard that he becomes embedded in the wall, and his skin fried!
(Cut to a clip of Salute Your Shorts)
Bobby Budnick (Danny Cooksey): You are roasted...
Eddie "Donkeylips" Gelfen (Michael Bower): ...toasted...
Bobby and Eddie: (in unison) ...and burnt to a crisp!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Iceman shields himself in a big ice cube. Naturally, Cyclops just shoots through it. Xavier tells them to start beating up Cyclops for a few minutes... Such a wise and noble teacher... before finally telling them to cut it out.
Prof. X: (thinking) And now I shall return to normal speech communication!
Linkara: Dear Lord, Xavier, you were weird in the '60s!
Prof. X: (speaking) You may be interested to learn that at this very moment I sense a taxi approaching our main gate! Within that vehicle is a new pupil...a most attractive young lady!
Cyclops: (as he and the others look out the window) You're right, sir! Wow! She's a real living doll!
Angel: A redhead! Look at that face...and the rest of her!
Linkara: (laughs uproariously) This is one seriously screwed-up school!
Linkara (v/o): Turns out the new student is Jean Grey.
Jean: What kind of school is this, sir? I have a right to know!
Prof. X: I think you already suspect, Miss Grey! You see, I can read your thoughts quite clearly... and I know all about your unusual "talent"!
Linkara: (irritably) Does the concept of privacy even begin to enter your bald, oversized head, you weirdo?!
Linkara (v/o): Prof. X introduces her to the only four other students in the entire school – Yes, I'm serious. – and vice-versa.
Prof. X: This is Miss Jean Grey! She will be known as Marvel Girl!
Linkara: (as Prof. X) And no, she doesn't get a choice in the matter.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, yeah, and it turns out Cyclops' real name isn't Scott Summers, but Slim Summers. Oh, yeah, and everybody is acting like a horny jackrabbit around her. Jean Grey demonstrates her powers by telekinetically moving a chair and a book around.
Jean: Now, I must admit it's a pleasure to be able to practice teleportation openly, without fear of being discovered!
Linkara: Wait, she can teleport, too?
Jean: By the power of thought, I am able to move objects at will!
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, I guess in the '60s, given the etymology of the word, teleportation and telekinesis would be the same thing, but that's still really stupid. Prof. Xavier explains the premise of the series, that mutants are mistrusted by normal humans... Really? Why? ...and he established the school to benefit all of mankind. Xavier leaves to let them all get acquainted, which is naturally the signal for Beast to start pawing her. Jean uses her "teleportation" to spin around and toss him onto a couch. Despite saying he was going to leave, Xavier is still around and exposits that further about how there are evil mutants who want to dominate the world! Conveniently, we then switch to Magneto making a nefarious scheme to, well, dominate the world. Some sort of rocket is being launched, and Magneto, in a show of power, uses his powerful mastery of magnetism to cause the rocket to lose altitude and drop into the sea. We get a brief scene of a newspaper reporting the incident: "SIXTH TOP SECRET LAUNCHING FAILS AT SEA!"
Linkara: If it's top secret, then how does the newspaper know about it?
Linkara (v/o): Magneto, continuing to use his powers, takes control of machine guns and tanks to terrorize military bases.
Soldier: RUN! The tank is moving by itself!
Linkara: (as soldier) Oh, God, it's Killdozer all over again!
Soldier: General! Look! Above us...in the sky!
Linkara: (as soldier) It's Superman, sir! He'll save us!... Oh... He's busy terrorizing lobbyists... Never mind, sir.
Linkara (v/o): Magneto takes control of the dust particles in the air, which I guess are metal now, and forms them into a message to the base, ordering their surrender. I especially love how he signed his name in cursive like that, like he was writing a letter or something.
Soldier: Magneto? Who...What is Magneto??
Linkara: (as General (Patton, no doubt)) I don't know, soldier, but he's got damn fine penmanship.
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, Magneto shows up at the base, and of course, everyone tries to shoot him, but the guns don't work, and he just walks through the men.
Magneto: Now I'll merely alter my magnetic waves from positive to negative, so that they will repel anything that comes within range!
(Cut to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching This Island Earth)
Mike Nelson: And if your hands were metal, that would mean something.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Meanwhile, back at the Institute of Maiming and Leering, Jean Grey is putting on her Marvel Girl costume. Naturally, the men were spying on her and making perverted remarks. Prof. X calls them in to alert them of Magneto's attack on the base.
Prof. X: A crisis has occurred at Cape Citadel which leads me to believe the first of the evil mutants has made his appearance! This will be your baptism of fire!
Linkara: (dumbfounded) Wait, what?!
Prof. X: This will be your baptism of fire!
Linkara: Okay, admittedly, upon doing some research, the phrase refers to a soldier's first experience in battle, but was this in the brochure?! "Xavier's School for the Gifted! Let them experience a baptism of fire"?!?
Linkara (v/o): The X-Men suit up and head out in a jet.
Jean/Marvel Girl: You mean the Professor is guiding this plane from the ground... by thought impulses?! It's unbelievable!
Linkara (v/o): Yes, yes, it is. His powers do not work like that. Anyway, the X-Men arrive and offer their services to the military trying to break in. Cyclops negotiates with the General to give his team fifteen minutes to head in and stop Magneto. Iceman breezes past some soldiers, half-freezing them to death, Beast plays leapfrog on a soldier, and Marvel Girl telekinetically shoves soldiers aside so she can get in.
Linkara: Maybe if Prof. X taught classes on how to not be complete assholes instead of flying through the wheel of death, mutant-human relations would be a lot better.
Linkara (v/o): Cyclops uses his laser eyes to get through Magneto's magnetic shield.
Cyclops: I'm getting through! That's what was needed...a natural counterforce to batter the unnatural magnetic field!
Linkara (v/o): I'll just pretend that that was in some ways scientific and just move on.
Cyclops: And now, I'll switch to MAXIMUM POWER!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, could it be? Why, yes! We are experiencing... (the following words pop up...) POWERHOUSE EXCITEMENT! Anyway, yeah, they get through the field, though Cyclops knocked himself out with the full force of his blasts. Magneto releases five interceptor missiles that he says will track them by body heat. Why exactly they track their body heat and not anyone else's, or how he thinks that they all won't go for the same target is left up to our imagination, I guess. Angel manages to dodge the missiles, and Iceman uses his powers to ice up the missiles and drop them to the ground. I still think this would cause them to explode, but what do I know? Angel tries going right for Magneto, but he uses every metallic object in the area to slow him down. Cyclops blasts through the debris, and Magneto sends a flaming tanker of rocket fuel at them. Now, I want to critique this, but I got mixed responses on Twitter when I asked about it. Most people said the tanker would indeed explode, but it was varying opinions about what was actually causing the explosion and how long it would take for it to explode. So once again, a classic comic manages to get away with this. However, I still say Iceman probably could have put out the flames instead of what they do to protect themselves, which is to wrap themselves in a nice, big snow-and-ice shield from the explosion.
Linkara: Well, at least they won't be hot when they incinerate! (beat) Wait...
Linkara (v/o): Magneto thinks they're dead, but the X-Men quickly emerge from underground, Cyclops having apparently created a tunnel for them with his energy beams. Yeah, we'll just pretend that he had enough time to do that before everything exploded, or that the tunnel would protect them somehow. Magneto flies away and creates a magnetic force field to keep them back. They eventually breach it, but Magneto's long gone by the time they do. The X-Men return to the military and tell them that the base is theirs again. The General thanks Cyclops and tells him that the name of the X-Men will be revered for what they have done. Yeah, I'm sure the X-Men will never face prejudice for their actions and activities. And so, our comic ends with the giant floating head of Professor Xavier in the clouds congratulating them on a job well done. Yeah, lots of stuff blew up, the villain got away, and many people are probably dead, but hey, could have been worse. This comic astounds me. The stuff with Magneto is actually really good superhero action, fighting the bad guy, etc., etc. The stuff at the mansion with the X-Men training or being creepy, however, is just awful and disturbing. Let us never speak of it again, except as call-back jokes in future reviews.
Linkara: (holds up index finger) Oh, you want some more added creepiness to the whole thing? In a later issue, Professor Xavier admits to himself that he's as much of a horny idiot as the students, but he knows the wheelchair thing is a complete turn-off for Jean Grey.
Prof. X: (thinking) As though I could help worrying about the one I love! But I can never tell her! I have no right! Not while I'm the leader of the X-Men, and confined to this wheelchair!
Linkara: (as Prof. X, holding X-Men comic) And like so many problems, the solution is smoking. (sighs; normal) Geez, I don't think I can take another week of origin stories after (holds up comic) this one. (waves dismissively) Screw this! Next week, we're reviewing "Brute Force"! (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll to the theme for the X-Men cartoon series)
I know there wasn't much of an "origin" for this one, buuuut hey, first appearances of Jean Grey and Magneto. That has to count for something.
So ends Secret Origins Month! Everyone seemed to really like it, so we'll probably do it again next year!
(Stinger: Linkara is seen working on his device again; he looks up)
Linkara: Hmm? What's that? You wanted to know my secret origins for this month? Well... maybe some other time. (resumes his work)