12 December, 1996
When many people hear about the X-Men, they think of a silly kid's comic book, but that is not so. X-Men, actually most comic books in general, are a unique blend of two classic art forms; drawings, sometimes even paintings, and storytelling. A comic artist must be able to convey the right mood and feeling for his or her art. They must also be able to fluidly tell a story and fit it all in the allotted number of pages. The stories often probe deep into the human psyche, questioning what is right and what is wrong or showing human frailty. That is not all. In a series like the X-Men, where there are at least a few hundred characters, past and present, leading and supporting, even dead and alive, the writer must keep track of a character's experiences and their personality. They must also keep track of continuity, making sure they don't contradict past events. This last rule is only loosely followed sometimes.
All in all, a long, ongoing story can be like a soap opera. My favorite example of this is "The Summers Family," Which goes a little something like this: There are two brothers, Scott and Alex Summers, who were orphaned as children when they were pushed from a plane being attacked by an advanced alien race. Their mother died but their father went on to become a space pirate.
Later, Scott falls in love with Jean Grey, who becomes an omnipotent primal force, the Phoenix, who commits suicide to save the universe from herself. Meanwhile, a bad guy has made a clone of Jean named Maddie, who marries Scott. They have a baby, Nathan. Jean returns from the dead, not actually having been the Phoenix, but actually a body template. Scott leaves his family and joins a team of super heroes with Jean and some other old friends.
Well, Maddie becomes a bad guy and apparently dies. Later, the baby, Nate, is infected by another bad guy with an incurable virus, so he's sent 2000 years into the future where he grows up then comes back to help fight the good fight. Nate was brought into the future by a group of people pulled together by his "older sister."
His older sister is Rachel, who was born in an alternate timeline where almost all the good guys were dead. Her parents were Scott and the real Jean. She came back to prevent her time from ever happening and ended up about 2000 years in the future because a friend was stuck traveling about in the time stream.
Meanwhile Alex feels that he cannot live up to Scott's standards so he constantly tries to escape his shadow. He gets brainwashed into being a bad guy, recovers to lead a group of good guys, and gets brainwashed again.
Great family history, no? Oh yes, there may be another brother around somewhere.
The X-Men are all mutants, Homo Sapien Superior, the next evolutionary step for human beings, a minority group of people with a genetic quirk, an "X- Factor" that grants them extraordinary powers. Some are blessings, like the ability to control the weather or to fly. Some are curses, such as the ability to blast uncontrollably strong beams of force from the eyes. Blessed or cursed, mutants are a group of people who are feared for their differences. Some mutants strike back against humanity in a harmful manner. One group who attacks regular humans is the Acolytes, formerly lead by the X-Men's oldest enemy, Magneto. They have attacked hospitals and orphanages just to "cleanse the genepool." Some strive to bridge the gap between mutant and human. These are the X-Men, a group of mutants, formed by Professor Charles Xavier, the world's strongest telepath, "sworn to protect a world that fears and hates them." The X-Men comics are not just about prejudice either. They tackle many social issues, such as abortion and AIDS.
The original team of X-Men consisted of five teen-agers and Xavier (Professor X). These were not as popular as other titles of the times...