Once Upon A Geek – Uncanny X-Men #235-238 (1988) and X-Men 97

ONCE UPON AN UNCANNY X-MEN     

Matt Ev and The Irredeemable Shag find their joy discussing classic UNCANNY X-MEN comics, favorite eras & members! Plus, they revisit Genosha with a deep dive into Uncanny X-Men #235-238 written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Marc Silvestri & Rick Leonardi! Finally, they share their love for the recent X-Men 97 animated series!

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15 responses to “Once Upon A Geek – Uncanny X-Men #235-238 (1988) and X-Men 97

  1. Shagg, you and Matt hit me at just the right time for this episode. I am on vacation and just returned from attending a Claremont panel on his X-Men. My first experience with the merry mutants was X-Men #104 in which Magneto returns to battle the new team for the first time. I was only 5 years old and the son of one of my dad’s co-workers brought that issue to my house and left it there. I loved it, even though I was a little confused as to how they were the Atom’s kids–you know, “Children of the Atom”.

    Anyway, thus began my 25 year odyssey with the X-Men and their assorted offshoots. I read the title more or less monthly until around 1987 or 1988 when our local newsstand closed and there was nowhere within an hour’s drive to get comics. I started again in the mid-90s before the Age of Apocalypse began and continued until Morrison took over as writer. I love his JLA, Batman, and especially Multiversity, but I did not like his take on the X-Men.

    Favorite stories include the Dark Phoenix Saga (of course), the X-Men battle Arcade, the Proteus story, the first meeting with Alpha Flight, and the Asgardian Wars. For my money, Chris Claremont and Art Adams were kind of a dream team. But truly, I find my greatest comic book joy in Claremont’s New Mutants run, the first 54 issues of so.

    Speaking of teams, my favorite iteration would feature both Kitty and Kurt. At the recent panel I mentioned earlier, the moderator mentioned depth of character as one of Claremont’s strengths on the book. Nightcrawler was such a fully realized person: German, devoutly Catholic, a fan of Errol Flynn and other swashbucklers, something of a ladies man, etc. He is the perfect example of a character with a physical appearance that might be seen as “inhuman” but who is perhaps the most humane person in the book.

    And Kitty was along those same lines: a young Jewish girl, a computer whiz, had a pet dragon, with distinct relationships with Piotr, Ororo, Wolverine, etc. It was almost as if the book centered on her for a good while. And I prefer the team at the X-mansion rather than the Outback, Krakoa, or anywhere else really. I guess I’m old fashioned that way.

    I tend to stay away from the mutant side of the Marvel Universe these days. The character assassination of Moira MacTaggert, Cyclops’ jerkery (“Tell (Franklin) when he’s ready … he has FAMILY on Krakoa waiting for him”; Sue Storm should have given him an invisible punch in the mouth for that!), the plot to install Nightcrawler as the pope and use exploding communion wafers to cause chaos, etc. It just makes me sad.

    My wife is determined to get me to give Gail Simone’s new take a chance and I like her work. We shall see. Nevertheless, thanks for reminding me that I can still find joy in Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

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  2. The “X-Men Forever” series sounds like Claremont doing the same thing that John Byrne did with “X-Men Elsewhen”, which I really enjoyed. They’re sketch comics that he posted on his website, but they’ve been collected in the “BYRNE VICTIMS” Facebook group, if anyone it interested.

    I read some X-Men when I was collecting, but my main series was X-Factor and the original group. The more into the superhero genre the concept is, the better I like it. When they go too far into “mutants are a standing for …” stuff, I tend to lose interest. Why, you ask? Because they’re in the same universe as other heroes who don’t get the same treatment. How does John Q. Public know that The Thing isn’t a mutant, for example? You can’t have a world where the particulars of someone’s genetics makes them an outcast but others, who might be the same way, are lauded as heroes. If the X-Men concept was in it’s own universe (like in the movies), then it works much better IMHO.

    On another note, a friend lent me the trades for the Grant Morrison run and, being a good friend, I read them all. I’m sorry, Matt, but I thought the whole thing was garbage. Too many “what a twist!” moments that weren’t set-up at all coupled with character assignation of some of the players.

  3. I figured it’s ok to talk about this because it’s x-men has any one seen those alternate cover marvel is putting of like Minnie Mouse as dazzle or Donald Duck as cyclops and Daisy as gene grey and is any going to buy the new what if ? What if Donald Duck had the powers of Wolverine ? From what I’ve read Mickey is hawk eye and goofy is the hulk . In the comic . Also favorite x-man is morph .

  4. Despite not being too bothered about The X-Men, I enjoyed this. I have that Annual with the Neal Adams stories that Matt mentioned and I also bought The Mighty World Of Marvel with the crappy colour printing. Days Of Future Past is still my favourite X-Men story.

    I read X-Men from Paul Smith’s run through to the Australia stuff but by that point I was done and checked out. Tried Morrison’s stuff and couldn’t get on board with it and although I liked the Whedon run, even Ed Brubaker couldn’t get me back on the train full time.

    Guess I had my X-Men phase.

    Still, I enjoyed the discussion a lot which is a testament to the quality of the show.

    Thanks

  5. Despite not being too bothered about The X-Men, I enjoyed this. I have that Annual with the Neal Adams stories that Matt mentioned and I also bought The Mighty World Of Marvel with the crappy colour printing. Days Of Future Past is still my favourite X-Men story.

    I read X-Men from Paul Smith’s run through to the Australia stuff but by that point I was done and checked out. Tried Morrison’s stuff and couldn’t get on board with it and although I liked the Whedon run, even Ed Brubaker couldn’t get me back on the train full time.

    Guess I had my X-Men phase.

    Still, I enjoyed the discussion a lot which is a testament to the quality of the show.

    Thanks

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  6. I read X-Men regularly from #99 through #200, the Trial of Magneto was enough to put me off for a while. That costume! I’ve popped back many times over the years and sometimes stayed for a good while. I’m also of the thought that good X-Men is mansion-based X-Men – a small cast of mutants and new mutants in a house, learning stuff, playing baseball and chilling in Salem Centre (the best X-Men in the last 20 years was the Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo series, Wolverine and the X-Men). As the X-Men’s lives became more tangled with the rest of the Marvel Universe, the series began to lose its charm. Also, too many spin-offs, New Mutants and Excalibur were enough. The first disenchantment I felt with Claremont’s X-Men was when he aged up Illyana, I hated that. Little kid becomes sexy demon girl. Creepy, and not in a spooky way. (I suppose we should be glad Amalgam never had Illyana merged with DC’s Arisia to become Magick Lantern…)

    Also, Rogue threw Carol Danvers off the Golden Gate Bridge, to her probable death, and was just accepted because she needed help with her powers – would she have seemed so repentful to Prof X if not desperate?

    I never went through a Wolverine phase, Shag, first he was a jerk, then he was a killer, then Claremont tried to convince us that he was honourable. See also Magneto, whose mass murders suddenly were OK cos we learned he’d lived through the Holocaust. Nope, I don’t buy it.

    I’ve tried watching the new X-Men 97 cartoon but can’t get over the voices – especially Rogue, she sounds like a 95-year-old Southern witch.

    I never bothered with Classic X-Men as I’d been reading for so long, I didn’t know they had extra panels and different dialogue… I do not approve, you’re not getting what you’re being told you’re getting i.e. the original stories. Does anyone have examples of the type of things that were changed? Foreshadowing? Covering up continuity errors?

    I didn’t like X-Men Forever much, it was Claremont at his worse (see also X-Treme X-Men) but I did really enjoy Byrne’s The Hidden Years.

    Despite the classic Lifedeath, I wasn’t keen on powerless Storm, and hated that she had became hard-faced and stabby

    I went off Cyclops the minute he fell for a double of Jean, what an idiot, and when he left her and the baby to go back to real Jean there was no turning back, and later he had an affair with Emma Frost… What a ratbag. That brought us to Sinister and Apocalypse, two of the worst villains in any medium.

    The stupidest thing ever in the X-Men was when they moved the story ahead six months and that six months period Nightcrawler become a Catholic priest. Six months! He’d not ever have time to get through the pre-application phase

    I couldn’t stand the Australian period for all the daft elements that Shag mentioned And that clunky Psylocke (stupid name) armour that was a ridiculous choice for the Australian outback, she must’ve been roasting. It reminded me of Iron Maiden from Wally Wood’s Thunder Agents. As a spy turned fashion model, Betsy Braddock should have had something a lot more slinky and stylish.

    Dark Knight Returns-style TV recaps – not actually invented by Frank Miller – are the most boring thing in comics! They kill any story dead.

    You are right Shag, when Jean came back – an idea that derailed the X-Men for ever- it was in both Avengers (#263) and Fantastic Four (#286), both cover dated January 1986. .

    Hey Shag, it’s not just Matt who knows all the musical references, the second that kid was named in Avengers Annual 10 I started singing All Around My Hat and Gaudete, big hits when I was a kid.

    I hate the Krakoa business with all my heart. Bring on Gail Simone!

    1. The extra pages and scenes were partially added in the Classic X-Men reprints to help fill out the page count–comics had fewer pages at the dawn of the All-New All-Different X-Men era. But they did all of the above– fixed continuity errors and foreshadowed later events. One example is Nightcrawler teleporting into NORAD blind despite later stories saying he can’t teleport to places he’s never seen. They “fix” it by adding a scene where Banshee uses his sonic scream as a sonar and gives Kurt coordinates to teleport to. Another example is introducing the Hellfire Club earlier than the Dark Phoenix saga. They don’t do a full-on reveal, but they make it clear someone is pulling the strings of Jason Wyngarde. They also explain where Moses Magnum’s powers came from and how he survived falling into an abyss in his previous appearance– Apocalypse rescued him and gave him the powers we see him exhibiting in the X-Men’s stint in Japan.

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      1. That’s brilliant, thanks Ladybug. I wonder why they didn’t them in the back-ups rather than as part of the main reprint… I’d assumed that was what the John Bolton strips were for.

        1. Oh goodness, just read the first three Classic X-Men on Marvel Unlimited, I love to… but little changes like Moira’s weird added reference to the Scots Guards in #3 are very odd!

  7. Really enjoyed listening to this episode! Matt Ev is a great co-host and his knowledge of X-lore is impressive, as is yours, Shagg.
    -You guys were speculating if any of the other X-Men besides Maddie knew Jean was still alive. One other X-Man did: Wolverine. He catches her scent at the start of the “Old Soldiers” story in UXM 215-216, and it freaks him out to the extent he knocks Storm out and takes off into the woods in a feral state. Bizarrely, Storm doesn’t ask him what the heck that was all about, and Wolverine keeps it to himself. Once Storm finds out Wolvie knew this and didn’t tell her, to say she is angry is an understatement! And of course, the X-Men reunite with Jean during Inferno.
    -I’m with you guys on it straining credibility that Genosha’s abuse of mutants (not to mention the existence of the huge mutant population there) escaping the notice of Professor X and Magneto. Of course, we have to accept that Professor X and Cerebro didn’t detect or just ignored a TON of mutants. At the beginning of the Dark Phoenix saga, Cerebro detects Dazzler and Kitty Pryde, but that seems to the last time they get alerted to a new mutant and go investigate. As the 1980s went on, gobs and gobs of new mutants keep getting introduced and we just kind of have to go with it.
    -Jenny Ransome didn’t get mind-wiped. She was freed before that part of the process was done to her. She appears in later stories, always at Philip’s side, and uses the super-strength powers she gained in the mutate process. Not sure what happened to the two of them over time and the Genosha concept was overdone and beaten into the ground.
    -I’m with you not really caring for the concept of “human Sentinels”. DC did the exact same thing with the OMACs (A very strange repurposing of an offbeat concept by Jack Kirby). Liked X-Men ’97 and thought it was a well made show, by the way.
    -Shagg is a fan of the Hawkeye TV show! I knew I liked Shagg. That is by far my favorite of the Disney+ Marvel series. Good grounded story, and the introduction of Kate Bishop was great and Hailee Steinfeld did a wonderful job playing her. If there’s one thing I don’t like about the last 4-5 years of the MCU, it’s that they are not following up on these new characters quickly enough. Phase 1 gave us Iron Man, Thor, Cap, etc. in very short order and then teamed them up in the Avengers. This phase seems to be taking its sweet time. New characters like Shang-Chi and Kate Bishop are just languishing. And we should’ve gotten an Anthony Mackie as Captain America movie a LOT sooner than we are getting it…

    My journey with the X-Men began by reading other people’s comics when I was a kid. I think I first spotted Wolverine in house ads. I couldn’t help but be intrigued by him. No other superhero had a mask like that, and he had knives coming out of his hands! What was he all about? Then I saw the house ad for Classic X-Men, which was the awesome cover for CXM #1 by Art Adams. For a kid who only knew about Spider-Man from a few comics and the Electric Company, and the DC characters from the Super Friends cartoons, the X-Men looked VERY WEIRD. Like no other super heroes looked! But in a great, cool, way! There was guy made all of metal, a guy who looked like a demon, a lady with green hair, a guy made of ice, a guy all in black with a weird headress and white concentric circles on his chest, a guy with wings, a guy with a weird set of goggles, and that guy with the knives on his hands again!

    My dad was reading some of these same comics we were borrowing from friends, and decided he’d start picking up Uncanny X-Men, starting with issue 212, the immediate aftermath of the Mutant Massacre crossover! We had no idea what was going on but it was all so interesting. Chris Claremont’s writing seemed at a higher level than other comics at the time, with deep characterizations and descriptions. And what a point to jump on the train…the X-Men would soon leave their mansion HQ, Kitty and Kurt were leaving the team. We were just starting and the status quo was being completely rearranged! Naturally to get the whole picture of what was going on, my dad also started buying X-Factor and New Mutants, as well as Classic X-Men, and launched a back issue hunt. We eventually got the entire Claremont X-Men run in some form or fashion and I still have that whole set to this day. While I used my allowance money to buy Spidey, Avengers, and Cap, my dad continued to get the X-titles. And of course, we read each other’s comics. It was “our” collection. And I can’t say enough (and I took it for granted at the time), what a special opportunity that was to learn about the X-Men and their history by simultaneously reading “current” issues month by month, while also filling in the blanks of the “past” through the reprints and the back issues. As a result, I can honestly say I like the Cockrum/Byrne team, the Smith/JRJR team, and the Silvestri teams ALL the best. 🙂

    Why did we like the X-Men so much? I think the themes of mutants being persecuted outcasts was a potent one. They were outlaws on the run, fighting for a better world inhabited by a lot of people who really didn’t like them, were afraid of them, and in some cases would gladly jail them or kill them. Just a really interesting premise and quite the eye-opener for my then-grade school age self. X-Men taught me a lot about racism and prejudice.

    There is also no denying the X-Men are just plain COOL. Storm, Cyclops, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Kitty, etc. are just cool characters. Cool names, cool powers, cool costumes, cool attitudes. I’ve always been befuddled by the desires of different comics creators to bring back the O5 X-Men. I consider the O5 to be uber-bland compared to the second wave of characters, and I think it was a huge mistake to fold the O5 back into the X-Men. Sorry, but Iceman, Angel, and Beast pale as characters in comparison to those who came after. They were much better off as Avengers, Defenders, Champions, or occasional guest stars. The All-New All Different characters (and some of the others they added later, like Kitty and Rogue) were made into three-dimensional people by Claremont, who brought a level of craft to the writing that few other comic writers matched, especially back then. These weren’t just Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus. They were also Logan, Ororo, Kurt, and Peter. To me, they never got any better than a small “family” of fully realized individuals living in the Westchester mansion, playing baseball games, and practicing in the danger room.

    Like you, I absolutely had a Wolverine phase. I had a huge poster of Wolverine drawn by Art Adams in my room. Let’s face it, in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, we all thought he was the awesomest and a total wish fulfillment character! Now that he’s overexposed and in 95 different comics a month I’ve lost interest. But I still have my old comics (I LOVE the Claremont/Miller limited series) where he was still fresh and mysterious, someone we learned about in drips and bits over years. He has never been cooler than he was then.

    At this point I’ve pretty much lost interest in X-Men. We stopped collecting when I went to college, and I had to spend money on other things. I’ve read some of the newer comics on Marvel Unlimited. Some I’ve liked, some, less so. And I honestly find the Krakoa era incomprehensible. I’ve tried, I really have. I mostly chalk it up to it moving on. It appeals to lots of other people, and not me, and that’s OK. I can still read my old X-Men comics, and remember the days when my dad and I would pick up the latest comics at our local LCS, or hit the spinner rack at the Waldenbooks, or visit the comic shelves in the back right-hand corner of the Stars and Stripes bookstore on the Katterbach military base in Germany. Special memories, and the X-Men, and my dad and mine’s shared fandom of them, are a central part of those memories.

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  8. So the whole Punchout thing mystified me. The Internet only ever calls her Punchout, I wondered if all the sites were retconned. Opened my long boxes… she’s Punchout in the original comics, and I don’t detect a lettering difference. So I can’t explain the digital anomaly!

    1. Curious. I was reading from the original issue, not digital. There’s clearly different lettering on ‘Punchout’, which suggests a last-minute change.

  9. Terrific show, Shag and Matt. I wasn’t into the X-Men during that Genosha storyline, so I will definitely check out the origin of the underboob.
    I loved X-Men ’97! One of the best MCU projects including movies and television. Episode five was brilliant. It instantly reminded me of a season five episode of Game of Thrones called “Hardhome.” Both were intriguing, dialogue-driven episodes until the last quarter of the show where everything goes to hell. The chaos and terror builds so well until the quiet end leaving you breathless and emotionally drained. Just an amazing episode. It even made me like Gambit, which I thought was impossible.

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  10. This was a really great episode, and you and Matt rekindled my love for X-Men. So much so, that I think a Claremont re-read is in order (I don’t think I have read these books since they came out) just to experience it again as an adult. And that’s funny to me, because at first, I assumed that I might tune this episode out, these issues are towards the end of my run with X-Men, and to me, it all started to look and read the same when we got to Inferno. But hearing you both talk about these four issues really got to me.

    There are so many smaller stories woven into the bigger tapestry of Claremont’s X-Men run. You could get these little two, four, five-issue arcs and it never felt like it made the book disjointed. It just kind of packed on top of what was already there. Looking back, i can think of a few storylines that I remember fondly. For some reason my mind keeps going to issue #190 & #191 where Kulan Gath turned Manhattan into some kind of Conan style world where only Spider-Man knew what was happening and everyone else was turned into barbarians and sorcerers. Just one example of how wild a arc could be, and yet somehow it still worked in the fabric of the book as a whole.

    The X-Men during this run really was able to explore a lot of different genres that other books simply couldn’t compete with. It was romance, mystery, action, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and a family drama. It was a kung fu movie, a civil rights allegory, an anti-apartheid protest, and, sometimes, even an odd couple style comedy. It was sexy and felt a bit more grown up than your regular Marvel title back then. When I was younger, and I read titles like Captain America, The Hulk, or Fantastic Four, I was reading a comic book of good guys and bad guys. When you read the X-Men, it was like a superhero soap opera where the lines were a bit muddier between who was right and who was wrong.

    Thanks so much for doing this episode and spending as much time on it as you did, even if this barely scratched the surface of what Claremont’s X-Men was back in its heyday. Can’t wait to hear you revisit it and focus on another little run.

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