The Shelf Is Half Full

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Archive for the tag “X-Men”

The 30 Sexiest Comic Heroines – #10-1

It’s been a long, fun and interesting journey to get to the end, and I feel pretty confidant about these final choices. However, the list went through a few changes and edits while I was putting it together and I figured it’s only appropriate to recognize some of the honorable mentions who almost made this list.

Some came down to personal preference, like Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat. While she’s definitely got her fans, I’ve never really enjoyed the character or understood her appeal. For similar reasons, Power Girl was not really considered either.

A couple of notable omissions are anti-heroes like Emma Frost, Harley Quinn and Catwoman. All certainly have their appeal, but I’ve chosen to save them for another take on this list where we look at the sexy side of villainy. This list is more about acknowledging heroic women with strong moral ideals, and those characters just didn’t seem to fit the overall theme.

And then there’s a few who just didn’t make the cut because I only had thirty spots. Some notable ones include the Huntress, Renee Montoya as The Question, Flash’s love interests Iris West and Patty Spivot, Rachel Summers, Dazzler and Mary Marvel.

Carol Danvers

#10. Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel)

Whether she’s going by Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel, the alien-enhanced U.S. airforce captain is one of the most powerful and capable women in the Marvel universe. But don’t blame yourself if you haven’t heard of her; Carol’s gone through some serious down times; she’s been an alcoholic and was even put in a coma for years when the then Brotherhood member Rogue absorbed all of her powers. But she’s also been a valued member and even leader of the Avengers, and has been starring in some of the better comics Marvel has been publishing in recent years. And in a few years she’ll be coming to the big screen as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

From a personality standpoint, I tend to describe Carol as a cross between two DC heroes: Wonder Woman and Hal Jordan. She’s a warrior, a leader and a negotiator, but she’s also an adventurer and an explorer. And a bit of a dork. She’s a devoted Star Wars fan and even has a dog named “Chewie”. But perhaps the blonde bombshell’s most admirable trait is that the character has overcome so much adversity to be better than ever. Perseverance under pressure is always cool, and trust me; people want a significant other who is inspirational on some level.

Sue Storm

#9. Sue Storm (The Invisible Woman)

When compiling this list, Susan Storm was a name that came to mind a little late in the game, but once I thought about her she quickly ascended the ranks. I am a huge Fantastic Four fan and have a deep love for all of the characters, and Sue is pretty near the top of that list. More commonly known as the Invisible Woman, Sue is known both for her signature ability to vanish from sight as well as her energy shields that arguably make her the most dangerous member of the Fantastic Four. But while the FF are adventurers, scientists and superheroes, they are above all else, family. And Sue is really the glue that holds it all together.

It’s said that you can best judge the character of the person you’re dating by how they treat the people around them. If that’s the case, Sue is one of the best catches in comics. She is the older sister that both cares for Johnny and makes sure that his ego doesn’t get out of line. Even without their romantic interest, Susan is a grounding force for Reed Richards, reminding him that there are more important things than science and work. Ben Grimm can count her perhaps his best emotional support; she has helped keep from falling into despair. Sue is a woman whose presence strengthens everyone around her and makes them better than they may be. Hard not to fall for someone like that.

Jean

8. Jean Grey (Marvel Girl/Phoenix)

Jean Grey was probably modeled off of Sue Storm and serves a similar function for her team. But I think Jean stands out a little bit more and is a better, more interesting character, so she narrowly edges out Sue. Throughout her history, Jean has been many things. Marvel Girl was a quiet introvert, Phoenix was a more outgoing and passionate person, Dark Phoenix was an extremely powerful megalomaniac with a dominatrix thing going… Pardon me, I seem to have lost my train of thought there for a moment. My point is that the appeal of Jean is sort of a mix between the “girl next door” archetype and the “danger is sexy” trope I’ve brought up a couple of times. On one hand she’s this incredibly nice, loving person who will do anything to help other people. On the other hand there’s a monster inside of her that can be incredibly damaging when it gets loose.

That mix of elements is probably what most defines Jean. Whatever you’re attracted to, it’s likely you can find at least some of it in the character of Jean Grey. And while that is great, it is a bit of a double-edged sword for the purposes of this list. Her personality is harder to nail down and thus it’s harder to analyze what exactly makes her so appealing. But then, there’s a lot of appeal in that too; she’s got layers, so she’ll always be interesting. If perhaps fatally so.

Black Canary

#7. Dinah Laurel Lance (Black Canary)

Ah, Black Canary. Crime-fighting martial arts expert, flirty and witty girlfriend of Green Arrow, brilliant and capable leader of the Birds of Prey, wearer of fishnet leggings, owner of an excellent singing voice… what’s not to love? For those not familiar with the comic version of Black Canary (or any of her excellent animated counterparts), Dinah is kind of a softer version of Black Widow. And no, I don’t mean more vulnerable, I just mean that she doesn’t have the colorful past history that Romanoff has. So she’s got a lot of the appeal of a dangerous, knowledgeable woman who’s on top of things, but doesn’t come with so much baggage. That makes her a little less intimidating.

Another key aspect of Canary is that while she is completely viable as a solo character, she has some key relationships that really flesh out her character. She’s the sometimes girlfriend, sometimes wife of Green Arrow, and while they have their issues they are an excellent example of a couple that respects each other’s abilities and support one another. So she’s got a pretty good history of being a loyal, supportive and loving partner. Definitely a plus. She’s also a big sister of sorts to Barbara Gordon and Huntress, her Birds of Prey teammates. She’s helps keep Helena’s dark side in check, and helps keep Barbara optimistic during some of the toughest times of her life. So, take everything awesome about Sue Storm and everything awesome about Black Widow and you get Dinah Lance.

Lois

#6. Lois Lane

As probably the first significant female character in comic books, Lois Lane has a very long history and not all of it is good. She started as a constant damsel in distress for Superman adventures; some could argue that falling through the sky to be saved by Superman was her defining trait. Fortunately, Lois Lane has evolved into a much more fleshed out character. She’s smart and extremely quick-witted, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, and perhaps most importantly, she’s just as relentless about pursuing truth and justice as Superman. Lois is the kind of reporter who doesn’t care what feathers she ruffles or what personal danger she puts herself through; where there is crime and corruption, she will be there to shine a light on it.

Lois is arguably intended to be the “feminine ideal” in the same way Superman is for men. She’s independent, intelligent, confident and passionate. She’s got respect for herself and expects everyone else to respect her in turn. Her moral center is what drives her work and she is always trying to help other people. One could argue that this is an impossible standard. But much like Superman, I think Lois Lane is a pretty good role model for anyone. She fights for what she wants and does it for the right reasons and without compromising her integrity or her self respect.

Wonder Woman

#5. Diana of Themyscira (Wonder Woman)

If you’re read more than a few of my columns, you’re probably well aware of my undying love for Wonder Woman. Diana is my favorite superhero, but I don’t think she outranks the other four women ahead of her. The iconic prototype for female superheroes, Diana combines the physical strength and martial skill of male heroes like Superman and Batman, and adds a more feminine touch to it. Wonder Woman’s primary traits are her unconditional love and her honesty. Diana cares about everyone, fights for everyone, and tries to make life better for as many people as possible. She is also extremely honest and expects the same out of others, and isn’t afraid to use force (and a magic lasso) to get it.

Women love her because she’s a symbol that women can have strength and skill, and that they deserve equal respect. Men love her because even though she is representative of female strength, she is an equalist; men and women should be respected equally. She’s physically stunning and imposing, but also emotionally vulnerable. She’s supportive and caring but also has high standards. She’s fierce and competitive and driven but also gentle and kind and wise. By whatever measure one wants to measure beauty, Wonder Woman is going to knock it out of the park.

Zatanna

4. Zatanna Zatara

Many women who have made this list are physically imposing and a lot of the appeal is that they are stronger than the man or woman who is crushing on the character. Strength is largely attractive because we equate it with security, and safety is conducive to intimacy which paves the way for sexual fireworks. But there’s the opposite end of that too, and Zatanna’s a perfect example. DC’s most famous magician is generally depicted as petite and not the best hand to hand fighter. Her sex appeal isn’t in her physical power; Zatanna’s more the kind of person one describes as “cute” or “adorable”. Which I totally go for. See Gordon, Barbara. She’s outgoing, flirtatious, unpredictable and likes to create her own fun. Without being too stereotypical, I’d have to imagine that many comic book fans like me tend to be more on the introverted side and creatures of habit. If opposites attract, it’s no surprise so many of us love Zatanna.

But the cool thing about Zatanna is that her magical powers make her both one of the best escape artists and potentially one of the most powerful heroes in the DC Universe. She has unbelievable magic power at her disposal and has used it to help save the world numerous times. But if left to her own devices she’d rather use her gifts to put on a show and entertain others. She is a performer, the center of attention who manages to do so without being arrogant or annoying.

Starfire

#3. Koriand’r (Starfire)

Starfire is sadly a name that is synonymous with controversy. Many artists have made her the poster child for stripperiffic, impractical costumes that make her a sex object. Sadly, some writers have also found it acceptable to strip away her personality as much as her clothes, making her something that is less of an actual character and more of a pin-up model. These are all valid arguments, but sadly it has taken away from a very simple fact; when written with some actual care, Koriand’r is one of the most fun, likable, and yes, genuinely sexy characters in comics. After all, she’s a Marv Wolfman creation and Marv simply doesn’t create bad characters, especially when they are one of the main characters of a long running and beloved comic book series like The New Teen Titans.

So for those who may only know Starfire for being the subject of some incredibly poor writing and shameless artwork, let me explain what it is that makes us love Kori. First, it’s important to understand that she is very much a counterpart to fellow Teen Titan member Raven. Raven is an introverted pacifist who keeps her emotions bottled up. Starfire is an extremely curious and outgoing person who loves life and tries to squeeze as much out of every day as possible. For those who read Red Hood and the Outlaws and took issue with her having sex with two guys really quickly, there’s nothing wrong with that. Women are people, not things; they deserve sexual autonomy and Kori has always had that. She’s not going to wait around for a boy she likes to make a move; she’ll take the first step because life is too short to wait. What is out of character was the lack of emotion involved; Kori is all emotion; joy and anger and sadness, all felt intensely and coming across transparently. That’s what readers love about Kori, and that’s why she’s so high on this list.

Rogue

#2. Anna Marie (Rogue)

An often repeated phrase in this series has been “danger is exciting, and thus danger is sexy”. Rogue may be that truth to the absolute extreme; her mutation causes her to drain the life force, powers and memories of anyone who comes in contact with her skin. Super deadly. Even worse? Rogue couldn’t control it for the longest time; so she literally could not have sex ever without killing someone. That’s way beyond forbidden fruit there. On its own, it may have kept Rogue from ever being considered attractive by some. But when you take that power and mix it with a feisty, flirty powerhouse with a Southern accent, you have perhaps the most sexually frustrating character in comics. And one of the most common fan crushes in the industry.

Heck, for many of us, seeing and hearing Rogue on the 1990’s X-Men cartoon was the spark that made us realize that we actually did want to have a girlfriend. It also made us feel incredibly bad for Rogue and her main love interest, Gambit. These two always seemed to be made for each other, enjoying each other’s company and obviously caring for each other even they were butting heads. But Rogue’s mutation made it impossible to even kiss for more than a moment. Rogue raises a lot of questions for readers; would we be able to be a committed lover to someone if sexual contact was out of the question. For many, Rogue was worth it. So she went from being this incredibly source of sexual frustration to helping us realize there are more important things.

Storm

#1. Ororo Munroe (Storm)

Trying to pick the top woman for this list was very difficult, but ultimate I feel confident in putting Storm at the top of this list. Ororo has consistently been a major part of the X-Men for a long time and has maintained a high level of popularity from her initial appearances and all the way to today. Other than Wonder Woman, she’s probably the most well known female superhero to the general public. And she has many of the same traits that Diana has. She’s got power, both physically (she’s usually depicted as six feet tall and very well muscled) and because of her ability to control the weather. But she’s also a gentle, loving soul who is very much a pacifist and a nurturer. Somehow she manages to come across as both wise beyond her years and able to enjoy life with reckless abandon.

Ororo’s definitely got some of the exotic appeal to her, and not just because she’s one of the few truly iconic black female characters in comics. The white hair and blue eyes would stand out even if she were a real person. Many of her earlier appearances put her in the position of a stranger in a strange land, someone who isn’t used to Western customs or ideals. Though it isn’t as drastic as say, Kitty Pryde, Storm has still shown considerable growth. She started as a young, almost naive woman who felt out of place to a woman who felt at home with the X-Men and was soon capable of leading them. Ororo has many aspects that could appeal to someone, whether they want someone who is strong and steady, emotionally vulnerable, wise or curious, mature or young at heart. And unlike some characters, Ororo’s personality seems to blend perfectly into one definite character, as opposed to various interpretations that don’t always match up.

The 30 Sexiest Comic Heroines – #30-21

If this is your first time reading an article from “The Shelf is Half Full” and you are expecting a post full of cheesecake drawings that amounts to click bait, this isn’t what you’ll find here. I sincerely hope that isn’t disappointing. This list is more of a psychological look at why comic book readers develop a sexual attraction to fictional characters. And while some of you may be thinking that the answer is obvious, it really isn’t. Because thinking that it’s just a sexy drawing that attracts us to a character ignores an obvious fact of comic books.

Any artist of decent skill can draw any character as being physically attractive.

And many of them do, sadly in a way that can come across as being exploitative. There are artists like Gillen Land who is known for tracing pornography to draw his characters, particularly women. But I’d like to think that most artists, writers and comic book fans would rather have their women stand out as being fully realized characters with attractive personalities that transcend artwork. Because ultimately, a sexy drawing is just that; a drawing. And no self-respecting comic reader develops a fan crush just because of a sexy drawing.

Well… okay. Sometimes it helps. But this is about the reasons we invest emotionally in female characters and find ourselves falling in love with them. So, with that clarification out of the way, let’s get this completely subjective and in no way definitive list of the Sexiest Comic Heroines (from Marvel and DC anyway) started.

And yeah, for those wondering if there’s going to be a list of Sexiest Guys in comics? Wait until August.

Wasp

#30. Janet Van Dyne (The Wasp)

Janet Van Dyne was introduced to comics as the girlfriend of Hank Pym, a.k.a. Ant-Man, and possesses similar powers. Namely she shrinks to a small size. But since she’s named “Wasp” she also flies using specialized wings and fires bio-electric energy bolts (“stingers”). Outgoing, energetic and with a love of adventure and “super heroing”, Janet’s personality could best be described as “pixie like”. This plays off of Hank’s introverted, quieter personality quite well, and when they are actually functioning Ant-Man and Wasp are one of my favorite couples in comic books. Sadly, Janet has also been the victim of Hank’s anger problems and his physical abuse. Which, believe it or not, does actually make her more appealing to readers; people feel compelled to save victims of abuse, and if you don’t believe me, look at Harley Quinn.

Fortunately, Wasp doesn’t need to be rescued. Somewhat surprisingly for a character intended only to be a sidekick/love interest, Janet Van Dyne has arguably become a more important player in the Marvel Universe than her ex-husband. She’s consistently been a member of the Avengers and has served as their leader on more than one occasion. These days, she is semi-retired and mostly works as a promoter for the team. Plucky, outgoing and tougher than she looks, Janet is the dream girl for quite a few comic readers.

Polaris

#29. Lorna Dane (Polaris)

I’ve got to be honest here; the green hair does it for me. I mean, there are other things to like about Lorna Dane, but the green hair is one of the smartest character design decisions ever in my opinion. She has a truly distinct physical trait that identifies her character. And no, Abigail Brand doesn’t pull it off as well. Anyway, Polaris is the daughter of X-Men villain Magneto (sometimes anyway, depending on the writer) and possesses similar magnetic abilities. She was actually the second woman to join the X-Men and has a long history as the lover of Alex Summers, alias Havok. For a long time they were one of the few couples that managed to retire happily from the superhero business.

I think the simple dynamic of being the daughter of a mutant terrorist is something that makes Lorna an interesting character. She is, generally speaking, a sweet and gentle person and initially hates that Magneto is her father. However, as she gets older and experiences more trauma, like the mutant massacre, she begins to appreciate his view of things a bit more and often serves as a devil’s advocate to the X-Men. Though she’s occasionally been the same kind of bitter supervillain that her father is, I think she’s most recognizable as a selfless hero. And let’s face it; there’s something incredibly tantalizing about the idea of dating the daughter of one of the most powerful villains in the Marvel universe.

Silver

#28. Silver St. Cloud

This list isn’t entirely made of superheroes; many of the most famous women in comics have never put on a costume and battled villains. But that doesn’t make them less interesting, and it certainly doesn’t disqualify them from this list. After all, serving as the emotional support for other characters is just as noble, and arguably more thankless. So the first of those characters to make this list is more of a sentimental favorite of mine; Silver St. Cloud. Silver was one of Bruce Wayne’s more serious girlfriends, appearing in several issues during the Bronze Age of comics and actually cracking through Bruce’s armor a bit to form a serious relationship. One of the more interesting things about her is that she is the first woman that Bruce is explicitly shown to have been in a physical relationship with. While some of that is indicative of the time as the comics code was loosening, I like to think that from a canon perspective Bruce was genuinely in love with Silver.

But I think what I admire most about Silver is that she’s not a clueless idiot. She immediately suspects that her boyfriend is hiding something. She’s even essential to solving a case where Hugo Strange tries to impersonate Bruce; she’s so in tune with who Bruce is as a person that she knows it isn’t him and calls Dick Grayson to inform him. And the first time she sees Batman up close, she immediately recognizes him. Despite being in love with him, she knows she can’t deal with the stress of worrying about his life every night and calls off the relationship. This has always stood out to me as a rare case where Batman was in a serious emotional relationship and may have lost his best shot at happiness because of his career as a vigilante. That hits hard and has always made Silver St. Cloud a personal favorite.

Carol Ferris

#27. Carol Ferris (Star Sapphire)

Carol Ferris is the owner of Ferris Aircraft, where future Green Lantern Hal Jordan works as a pilot. And despite the fact that she’s Hal’s boss, she’s also his primary love interest. And yes, that dynamic is one of the reasons Carol is on this list. The idea of seducing your powerful, gorgeous boss is a fantasy for a lot of people; it’s scandalous and therefore incredibly hot. It also puts a lot of natural tension between the two; they are clearly attracted to each other and even get along well. Hal brings a sense of fun and adventure to Carol’s life while she grounds him and holds him accountable for his reckless and insensitive behavior. They are a couple that’s easy to root for and the drama of if they will ever actually commit to each other instead of letting their jobs get in the way provides a lot of drama.

However, one of the biggest marks in Carol’s favor is that she isn’t just another pedestrian girlfriend for the male character to save. Carol has a dual identity as Star Sapphire, a character that was initially an enemy of Green Lantern’s who possessed Carol, using Carol’s love for Hal to power her own ring. Again, more tension, and that’s always a good thing. Later on, Carol has more control of her Star Sapphire persona and becomes a hero in her own right, helping to save the universe on a handful of occasions and even saving Hal’s life a couple of times. Whatever her role, Carol is always a woman in power, and that is exactly what Hal needs in his life. And since Hal is a character that many, many comic book readers relate to, it’s not surprising that Carol has landed a spot on this list.

Amanda Waller

#26. Amanda Waller

Yes, there are some shallow people who will claim that Amanda Waller doesn’t belong anywhere near this list because she is a middle-aged woman of size. Fortunately for those people, DC decided to remake Waller as a younger, thinner character who at least as Waller’s personality. So consider that version for this list if you prefer. As for me, and I imagine most fans of Waller, we prefer her the way she was originally portrayed; large and in charge. Waller is a government agent who primarily works on defending the United States from metahumans, both the villains and the heroes alike. Though she is often written as the antagonist of her books, Waller always has the best interests of people at heart. This makes her one of the most realistic, least idealized, most human characters in comics. And that is why she is so freaking awesome.

Amanda Waller is a woman in power and she has no problem exerting her authority. She is smart and capable and will not let anybody push her around, and guess what; that’s super attractive. Even though she has her fair share of enemies and can be a downright scumbag of a human being at times, she’s always doing it with the best of intentions. She’s a character that readers love to hate, and in some cases, just love. Let me put it this way; there’s a reason DC redesigned her to fit more… um… accepted standards of beauty. It’s because plenty of people were already in love with her to begin with.

Raven

#25. Raven

Marv Wolfman is one of the best character writers in comic books; he works extremely well with large casts, excelling at making several different and distinct characters as possible. So it really shouldn’t be surprising that several members of the Teen Titans make their way on this list. Wolfman was never shy about embracing the sexuality of his characters; after all, his characters were teenagers and marketed towards teenagers and there were a lot of hormones going around. But he was always tasteful, and the male characters were given just as much sex appeal as the gals. But this list is about women, and Raven is the first to show up on this list. And she may be the best example of the psychology of sexual attraction in comics.

See, Raven is an introverted, quiet, damaged character who doesn’t open up about her self or her past very much. This makes her mysterious and makes the reader compelled to find out more about her. Thanks to the strong friendships she forges with her teammates, Raven eventually starts to open up a bit. She never becomes an extrovert; that’s not her nature. But she becomes receptive to friendship and emotion and gives it back in kind, even eventually finding romance with her teammate Garfield Logan, a similarly damaged young man who hides his pain by playing the fool. Raven is a character that lures the reader in, rarely showing vulnerability and forcing us to get to know her to see how beautiful she is. And Raven is one of the best examples of the quiet type who feels emotions strongly but doesn’t show them; and yes, there are plenty of people who find women like this incredibly attractive.

Abigail Arcane

#24. Abigail Arcane

Alan Moore’s The Saga of Swamp Thing is one of the first comic books I’ve ever loved, and Abigail Arcane has always been a favorite of mine. What is it with white hair? Anyway, in those comics she’s young and quick to show compassion and love, and has a very “girl next door” kind of feel to her. Granted, it comes with a sick twist because her closest living relative is one of the most horrible monsters in comics, Anton Arcane. Who once took over Abbey’s husband’s body… and I’ll live the rest up to your imagination. Again, Abigail is a victim, and an innocent one; she inspires our protective instincts. We want to comfort her and tell her that everything is going to be okay, even though we know it never really will be. While I’m not advocating an increase in sexually abused characters in media, I won’t deny that it does create immediate sympathy. As long as the character remains compelling beyond that initial sympathy, it is likely to form a strong emotional bond for the reader.

And Abigail is pretty awesome. I’ve always had tremendous respect for her because she falls in love with Swamp Thing and doesn’t care that he is well… Swamp Thing. He’s a plant. She doesn’t care that he looks like a monster or that she’ll never have a true sexual relationship with him (psychedelic plant sex aside), or that some people will judge her. She’s truly in love with the kind, gentle soul that Swamp Thing is. And it’s hard not to love a character that doesn’t hesitate to fall in love with a man who isn’t even a man. Then she comes back in Scott Snyder’s run on Swampy as an older, more grizzled woman and becomes even hotter. I especially loved how Scott made her hesitant to fall for Alec since the Swamp Thing she fell in love with was a plant with Alec’s memories. There’s loyalty there that is admirable and when she finally realizes that Alec is the the Swamp Thing she knows and loves, it makes her decision to fall in love again all the more powerful.

Mera

#23. Queen Mera

Continuing the trend of extremely loyal people who have gone through a lot of crap by sticking with their loved one, we now have Aquaman’s wife Mera. The redhead queen of Atlantis is a superhero in her own right, possessing the same strength and durability that Arthur has in addition to specialized combat training and hydrokinesis; the ability to control water. This makes Mera one of the few examples of a superhero’s significant other who is able to fight alongside that superhero. Mera is awesome and I love having her as Aquaman’s partner. And there’s plenty of appeal in a fierce fighter who commands respect and doesn’t put up with anyone’s crap. Not even Arthur’s.

Arthur and Mera have been through a lot together; they have lost children, Arthur has died and come back from the dead, Mera has succumbed to madness and served as an enemy to Arthur from time to time. It’s an exaggerated scale, but they are an example of a couple who have gone through real problems and yet still care for each other. They always come back to each other because they love each other and want to be together. It’s love through adversity, and without getting too sentimental, it’s hard not to admire them for that. For everything she adds to Aquaman comics and for how awesome she is in her own right, Mera was an easy choice to make this list.

Scarlet Witch

#22. Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch)

Well, the joke’s got to be made; Magneto must have some good genes, because all of his children are ridiculously attractive. Similar to her sister Lorna, Wanda has the immediate benefit of being the daughter of a ridiculously powerful super villain who you do not want to cross. And like Lorna, Wanda’s chaos magic makes her plenty dangerous on her own; I’d honestly rather cross an angry Magneto. Who doesn’t love a good challenge though? Danger is exciting; danger is sexy. However, Wanda has a considerable edge on her sister because she’s been developed a great deal more, and thus feels like more of a complete character than just a sexy archetype.

Wanda actually started as a somewhat reluctant villain, working as part of the Brotherhood of Mutants under her father’s leadership. Along with her twin brother Pietro, she quickly left that life behind and joined The Avengers, beginning a much more distinguished career as a hero than a villain. She does sometimes wonder if she should side with her father, but usually sticks to her principles… when she’s not going crazy anyway. And like Abigail Arcane, she gets major points for being unafraid to fall in love with Vision, an android that most people wouldn’t consider truly human. Including her brother. Wanda has gone through a lot of problems but still maintains a level of popularity; I think most of us see the good in her and hope it wins out. Combining many of the attributes that got Raven, Abigail, and Polaris on this list, she manages to edge them all out.

Oracle

#21. Barbara Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle)

Barbara Gordon may be my single biggest fan crush. She’s got all the traits I find most appealing in women. For one, she’s super intelligent and always relies on her brain to solve her problems. She’s kind of a nerd, always stuck in a computer and alternating between extremely shy and awkwardly funny. And she’s tough and resilient; even a bullet that rendered her paralyzed couldn’t keep the former Batgirl down. She recreated herself as Oracle, communications expert and information broker for the Bat-family, the Birds of Prey and even the Justice League of America. And she’s someone who is very ruled by her emotions. When she’s happy, she’s joyful, when she’s angry she’s furious, and when she’s sad she isn’t afraid to cry. She is both strong and vulnerable and I like that a great deal.

Babs, for me, is a perfect example of why this subject is worth writing about. While fictional characters are obviously not real, a good writer can make a character feel real. A good character has a distinct personality, strengths and weaknesses, goals and fears, and meaningful relationships. Fan crushes on comic book characters can actually be a good thing; they help us to identify the important traits that we value in a partner. I fell in love with Barbara because of her intelligence, her ability to overcome obstacles, her loyalty to her friends and family, and her emotional vulnerability. She isn’t a stereotypical bombshell, but she’s pretty and she has a ton of character. And that’s what I want out of any real life partner.

Superhero Spotlight – Wolverine

Since the X-Men debuted in September of 1963, literally dozens of mutants have joined the team for at least some length of time. Naturally, some are going to be more popular than others; everyone knows who Storm and Cyclops, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any casual fan who knows who Maggot is. Don’t look him up, his mutation really isn’t pretty. However, there is one member of the X-Men who has definitely broken out from the pack, it’s the man with adamantium claws. He’s the best there is at what he does, and what he does isn’t very nice.

Wolverine

Wolverine

Wolverine was created by writer Len Wein and artist John Romita, Sr. at the suggestion of then editor-in-chief for Marvel Roy Thomas. It may be a surprise that one of the most popular superheroes of all time actually debuted as an antagonist for another hero: Hulk. Debuting in the final panel of The Incredible Hulk #180 and making his full debut an issue later, the man we would come to call Logan was a mutant with enhanced senses and metal claws. Working for the Canadian government, he fights the Hulk to a stalemate and somehow survives his ridiculous original mask to become part of the “all new, all different” X-Men team that debuts in Giant-Size X-Men #1. Wolverine was now a part of the X-Men, and rest is history.

#181

Logan stood out from his fellow X-Men in several ways. First and foremost was his age; physically in his forties, Wolverine is in actuality much older that that, born in the nineteenth century. While most of the X-Men were young adults with little formal training, Logan was a grown man with a ton of combat training and a willingness to kill those who deserved to be stabbed with his claws. Wolverine was also a victim of experimentation; his ability to heal at an extremely accelerated rate allowed him to survive the process where the virtually indestructible metal known as adamantium was bonded to his skeleton. This process made Wolverine an even more deadly killing machine, and also cost him most of his long-term memory.

The Wolverine

The Beast and The Samurai

The character of Wolverine is a man at odds with dual natures. On one hand, he is essentially a good man, a noble warrior who wishes to protect the innocent. Logan has trained as both a ninja and a samurai, and his body is a lethal weapon even without the metal bones (or the claws). He wants to be a good man, a protector, but this puts him at odds with another aspect of his mutation. In addition to his animal like senses, Wolverine occasionally falls victim to a berserker rage in the heat of battle, This anger has caused Logan to take several lives that he wishes that he hadn’t, and is something he always struggles to control.

Logan is a loner both by the nature of his personality and the fact that his anger makes him a danger to those closest to him at times. Not to mention people like Sabretooth and Silver Samurai who are always trying to kill him. Logan tends to discourage people from making friends with him, but once he considers someone a friend he is an incredibly loyal one. When he first joined the X-Men his gruff, cynical and sometimes violent nature put him at odds with many of the team, but he gradually comes to accept them as his family and has formed several close relationships. He has served as a father figure to Kitty Pryde, Jubilee, and his clone (and eventual successor) X-23. This trait even made it into the movie adaptations where he serves as a protective father figure to Rogue.

Best There Is

The Best There Is

Chances are that is somebody only knows one member of the X-Men, it’s Wolverine. He was the ensemble dark horse of the Claremont era and starred in both a mini-series and a separate ongoing series before the 1990’s. By the time I was first getting into superheroes as a kid Wolverine was literally everywhere; along with Spider-Man and Batman he was definitely the superhero that everyone thought was cool. Logan’s status as something of anti-hero who wasn’t afraid to kill made him stand out and it inspired a new kind of comic book hero. Though one can argue the merits of having so many anti-heroes, it’s impossible to argue the impact Logan has had on the comic book business.

Despite being a relative newcomer to comics with just forty years of publication, Wolverine has already cemented himself as one of the most popular and enduring icons of the industry. In fact, one could make the argument that Wolverine is responsible for bringing superheroes to the point of mainstream acceptance they enjoy today. Hugh Jackman’s take on the character was the centerpiece of the X-Men movies and were it not for their success I would argue that we would not be enjoying Avengers movies today. He’s the favorite of many and certainly a favorite of mine.

Superhero Spotlight – Jean Grey

With the commercial and critical success of such superheroes as The Fantastic Four, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Avengers, Stan Lee found himself in need of still more superheroes to meet the increased demand of the buyers. Once he developed the concept of mutants, people who were simply born different who developed extraordinary powers in their teenage years, Lee developed five young heroes who would become the first X-Men, debuting in the pages of The X-Men #1 in September of 1963. They were all taught by Professor Charles Xavier to control their powers and to defend humanity from mutant terrorists such as Magneto. Those five were Scott Summers (Cyclops), Bobby Drake (Iceman), Henry McCoy (Beast), Warren Worthington III (Angel) and today’s spotlight character..

Jean Grey

Jean Grey

From Marvel Girl to Phoenix

Jean Grey was one of Professor Xavier’s first students, even before the X-Men were formed. Jean’s telepathic powers (the ability to read minds, in layman’s terms) first emerged when her childhood friend Annie was killed in a car accident. Her mind connected with her friend and she felt the fear and pain Annie suffered in her death, leaving Jean traumatized. Being the most powerful telepath in the world, Xavier created psychic barriers in Jean’s mind to keep her telepathy under control. Jean and Xavier developed a close bond when she became a charter X-Men member (now using her telekinetic powers), and was trusted even more so that Scott. In her initial experiences Jean was introverted and shy, but grew to care deeply for her teammates, especially Scott, who would be the love of her life.

Being created in the 1960’s, Jean suffered from what many fans call “Smurfette Syndrome”: being the only female character in a sea of male characters. Like Sue Storm before her, Jean was treated more like a princess than a warrior in her early stories. Thankfully, Chris Claremont saw the potential in Jean Grey’s telekinetic and telepathic abilities; when the X-Men were relaunched in the 1970’s, Jean had gone from being the “weakest” of the X-Men to being their most powerful weapon. Using all of her telekinetic powers, she saved her teammates from death by creating shields around a spacecraft as it entered the atmosphere; the strain should have killed her, but instead unlocked her true power as she arose as The Phoenix.

Phoenix

The Dark Phoenix Saga

With her increased powers, Jean also began to break out of her shell. She became more forward in her relationship with Scott, and was much more aggressive against threats than she had been before. This would take a dark turn as her mind was manipulated by the mutant illusionist known as Jason Wyngarde, a.k.a. Mastermind. Phoenix became Dark Phoenix, the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, a secret society of mutants that Mastermind was working with. The X-Men’s most beloved ally had become their greatest enemy; the Phoenix Force was a cosmic entity whose rage destroyed an entire planet of sentient beings, and was only stopped when it’s vessel, Jean was killed. The Dark Phoenix Saga is arguably the X-Men’s most legendary story and Jean was the centerpiece, forever establishing her place in comic book history as a tragic hero and victim of a godlike entity’s power.

Okay, so technically this all got retconned to the Phoenix Force sensing that Jean was dying and taking her form while Jean recovered from her injuries. This starts an entirely too convoluted series of events where Jean finally heals from her injuries and comes back to the land of the living, the idea being to distance Jean from the Phoenix so as not to confuse readers… by confusing them more. But that wasn’t Claremont’s original intention; Phoenix was written to be Jean with the Phoenix’s influence, not the other way around, and I prefer that as my personal “head canon”.

Jim Lee

Rebirth, Death, and Time Travel

Anyway, the important thing in all of this is that Jean Grey came back to life and was a superhero again. She initially teamed up with her original X-Men teammates in X-Factor before eventually returning to the X-Men. This is how Jean Grey was when I first started paying attention to the X-Men in the 1990’s. That costume just has not aged well… but in abstract terms, this is how I remember the X-Men and thus how I tend to think of Jean Grey. Married to Scott Summers, capable X-Men veteran with awesome psychic powers, kind and gentle soul who serves as the team mom for the X-Men. I loved this Jean and still do. And I’ll never forgive Grant Morrison for killing her off.

But thankfully, good characters have a way of coming back. But rather than do another cheap resurrection, Brian Michael Bendis had a rather clever idea of how to reintroduce her to the Marvel Universe. After the events of Avengers vs. X-Men positioned Scott Summers as at best an anti-hero and at worse a justified villain, Henry McCoy decided to travel in time to when Scott and the other X-Men were still innocent; that is to say, when they were teenagers who hadn’t even encountered Sentinels yet. They traveled through time, Jean Grey’s telepathy kicked in, and now there’s a sixteen year old Jean Grey roaming around the Marvel Universe knowing the entire messy history of the woman she would have grown up to be. Heavy stuff… and the basis for my favorite interpretation of the character yet.

Marvel Girl

Endless Possibilities

I’m ashamed to say it took me a while to start reading All-New X-Men because I just assumed that the time displaced original X-Men was going to be a short-lived gimmick, not a viable new creative direction that would last for several years. Once I decided to give it a chance after several recommendations, I promptly tried to kick myself. Unsuccessfully so, but I tried. These comics are awesome, and after living in a world where Scott is a villain, Jean is dead and Warren’s lost his mind and is basically an entirely different character, it was incredibly satisfying to see these characters be good guys again. Not to mention young teenagers that make mistakes, sometimes huge mistakes.

Jean is clearly positioned as the star of this comic, carrying a lot of anger and resentment over the negative things that have happened to the older Jean and looking to change it. She quickly establishes herself as the leader of the original X-Men and this is a pretty refreshing take to be honest. I adore this Jean, I love how she takes the best qualities of the original character (and some alternate versions) but also has her own identity, and I look forward to seeing more of how her character develops. Everything seems unpredictable, in a good way; and maybe, just maybe this Jean will be able to have a happy life that doesn’t get ruined by the Phoenix. She deserves it.

The Top Twelve – Superhero Movies

This list is just my own person favorites and not intended to be a scientific or definitive list. I don’t expect my opinions to be shared by everyone, but at least that should make this a refreshing read, right?

X2

#12. X2: X-Men United (2003)

Not enough credit is given to Bryan Singer’s X-Men films these days. I think the poor quality of X-Men 3 (2006) and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) as well as the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made people forget that before X-Men released to positive reviews in 2000, superhero movies were pretty much a joke. The Batman franchise was dead and buried thanks to Batman and Robin (1998) and the most successful comic book franchise was Blade. Anyway, the first film was good but the second one was even better. Wolverine’s origins were explored, the tension between humans and mutants took center stage, Nightcrawler was a worthy addition to the cast, and everyone from Mystique to Pyro got meaningful character development. Twelve years later this film still stands as one of the best ensemble superhero movies and arguably the blueprint for The Avengers movies.

Superman

#11. Superman (1978)

The first modern superhero film is still one of the best. The movie told us that we would believe a man would fly, and thanks to the cutting edge special effects, it’s still easy to believe Superman can fly almost four decades later. But more importantly, thanks to Christopher Reeve we believed that Superman could act; his portrayal of the Man of Steel was so different from his portrayal as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent that it was easy to believe nobody could make the connection. To me this is the standard for everything that was to come; it’s also so much better than Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013) that it isn’t even funny.

Spidey

#10. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Yesterday I wrote about how awesome Doctor Octopus was in this film and how the movie raised the bar for action in the genre. But there is plenty more to love about Sam Raimi’s second Spider-Man movie. The characters are older and more complex. Peter feels more of the toll that being Spider-Man takes on his personal life, which is probably the most important dynamic of the character in the comics. Harry Osborn really comes into his own in this film as well. While the franchise took a nose dive after this, this is still a high point and I feel is the film that should be most closely modeled when Marvel brings Peter Parker into their cinematic universe.

Ultron

#9. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

The most recent addition to this list, Age of Ultron is a worthy follow up to the most successful superhero movie of all time and another hit in Marvel’s recent flurry of creative successes. The all-star casts returns and by this point could play the characters in their sleep. Jeremy Renner’s increased role as Hawkeye arguably makes him the breakout star of the movie, but everyone has their moments. The Maximoff Twins worked better than I could have hoped and the Vision ended up as one of the best parts of the movie instead of the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ultron was also a strong antagonist who entertained me in ways I didn’t expect. While not as good as the first one, it’s still a great time at the movies.

Logan

#8. The Wolverine (2013)

Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine for about fifteen years at this point, but for my money, it’s this film where he gave his greatest performance as the character. I love this movie because it is a great character study and a solid action film and doesn’t try to be more than that. I also enjoy the film for helping wipe away the bad memory of Logan’s first solo film, and for not trying to insult me for being a comic book fan like other movies from 2013. If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet I highly recommend it.

CA.0417.ironman

#7. Iron Man (2008)

I remember going to the theaters to see this movie and not having overly high expectations. As difficult as it may be to imagine now, Tony Stark was hardly a pop culture icon. I knew of him mostly because I played War of the Gems on Super Nintendo. By the time the movie was over I was in love with Iron Man and even more in love with Robert Downey, Jr. Turns out I wasn’t the only one; this movie helped launch Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and made Robert a high profile star once again. And it still holds up as one of the most fun comic movies out there, and is far better than its sequels.

Lights

#6. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

I remember when Marvel announced that they were doing this movie shortly after the release of The Avengers and thinking that they may have gone in over their heads a bit. Sure, Iron Man and Thor weren’t exactly cultural icons but the Guardians of the Galaxy were obscure even by comic book standards. I expected this to bomb hard, but that is why Kevin Feige is a millionaire and I am writing about his movies. Guardians of the Galaxy was irreverent, innovative and glorious entertainment, introducing audiences to a slew of new characters that almost all comic book fans have come to adore. Including myself. This movie is fantastic and arguably the best launch of a franchise ever.

Batman

#5. Batman Begins (2005)

Then again, this is a pretty good argument too. While I have gained a certain appreciation for the 1989 Tim Burton film Batman, especially Michael Keaton’s performance as the caped crusader, I have to say that on the whole those movies fell flat for me. And let’s not even talk about the Joel Schumacher films. But Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the character in movies was the breath of fresh air that the character needed, the most serious dramatic film based on a comic book to date. This told the origin and training of Batman so well that I don’t think it ever needs to be addressed again.

Future

#4. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

It was a long and bumpy road, but the third Bryan Singer directed X-Men film was more than worth the wait. Featuring a story that was loosely based on one of the best stories in the X-Men’s history, this film brings together the cast of the original series with the younger cast from X-Men: First Class (2011) to stellar results. In many ways this is my favorite comic book movie, because it felt like a reward for sticking with the series even after it burned me as a viewer more than a couple of times. Unfortunately, being a movie that runs on time travel, there are some serious logic problems that sometimes distract from the experience, but other than the film is a blast. Especially when Pietro is involved.

Avengers

#3. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

Here’s a bright idea; take a World War II soldier, a Norse God, Frankenstein’s monster, a female James Bond, a male Katniss Everdeen, and a man in a flying robot suit and make a movie. This should have been a disaster, but Marvel’s careful world building mixed with talented actors mixed with Joss Whedon’s writing and directing somehow formed the perfect mixture for what may be the best comic book movie ever. It’s a miracle that this film works as well as it does. Which is spectacularly. I think I saw this movie around five times in theaters and was never bored, and I still like to throw it in when I have nothing better to do. One of the best popcorn flicks ever put together.

Joker

#2. The Dark Knight (2008)

Batman Begins was a great… beginning, but it turned out to be a mere appetizer for the most critically acclaimed film based on a comic book ever. The Dark Knight is more of a serious crime thriller than escapist popcorn fun, though it does have its moments. However, this was one of the first movies to take the heroes and villains seriously and show that they actually can be symbols with greater meaning. Even if it did beat those points into the ground. Still, it’s got a ton of great performances and an Oscar-winning Heath Ledger as The Joker, one of the all time great antagonists in cinema; not just comic book movies, but movies in general. It’s a remarkable piece of film making, and it just happens to involve a guy in a bat mask.

Scuffle

#1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

If one takes the comic book escapism of The Avengers and blends it with the real world seriousness of The Dark Knight, you get the conspiracy thriller action film called Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I was a huge fan of the first Captain America film but the sequel was an improvement in every single way. Chris Evans is brilliant as Steve Rogers, there’s a strong supporting cast and a genuinely compelling plot. The action scenes are gorgeously choreographed and feature a lot of practical stunt work, and the film even brings in political concepts from the real world to discuss them. It’s my favorite comic book movie and I think it’ll be a while before anything challenges it.

Some Thoughts On The “New” Wolverine

One of the many ways Marvel Comics grabbed readers attention in 2014 was killing off one of their two most popular superheroes: the X-Man known as Wolverine. The man most readers know as Logan (no matter what name they tried to give him retroactively) was a breakout character from the Uncanny X-Men book series and soon became the face of Marvel’s most popular franchise. Only Spider-Man has been able to maintain a similar level of popularity for longer, so this was definitely a risky move for Marvel.

Well, maybe not in Marvel’s book, since they seem to view anything outside of their cinematic universe as disposable, but that is a rant for another time. Regarding Logan’s death, the event sold a ton of comics for Marvel in 2014, but most comic book fans were expecting Logan to make a return to our comic stands in a matter of months. For those who don’t read comics, death and rebirth are so common that is generally regarded as both a joke and a cheap cash grab when it is as promoted as heavily as Marvel promoted the death of Wolverine.

Wolverine

While I do consider The Death of Wolverine to be a cheap cash grab from Marvel, I will at least give them credit; so far, Logan’s death is not a joke. They seem committed to keeping him dead for a good long while, which I don’t think is supremely intelligent, but I at least Marvel’s dedication to trying to make death mean something. For those of us who were expecting Logan to be back on our shelves, Marvel finally did something to silence us today by announcing a new Wolverine: X-23.

X-23, or Laura Kinney, is a female clone of Wolverine created to be a living weapon; her last name comes from her mother Sarah Kinney, a scientist who raised her. She is initially planned as a way for the Weapon X scientists to either kill Logan or capture him for further study, but X-23 ends up liking Logan and the X-Men a lot more than the people who created her. Laura actually debuted outside of comics in the X-Men: Evolution cartoon series, but the idea proved popular enough to bring her to comics. Now she has taken a huge step into cementing her own legacy by embracing the legacy of her father and becoming the new Wolverine.

Laura

And perhaps surprisingly, I find this to be a pretty easy pill to swallow. Laura’s been around long enough that she’s an established part of the X-Men’s history. She’s an interesting character in her own right, battling low self esteem and difficulty understanding social behavior because she was basically raised in a lab. She’s a clone, so she’s not exactly human (or mutant as the case may be), which makes her even more of an outsider in a group of outsiders. So, I already like Laura. And if somebody is going to take up Logan’s mantle, I find her to be the most appropriate choice.

She’s got his powers and she’s got his DNA. Now she has his codename and his costume. It’s relatively new territory for Marvel, but it’s not unprecedented in comic books. Barry Allen and Hal Jordan were not the first Flash and Green Lantern in comics, but they are far better known than Jay Garrick and Alan Scott. Now, I’m not saying that Laura is going to become more popular than Logan; considering Wolverine’s popularity that seems virtually impossible. But perhaps she can live up to it. Looking at more recent examples from DC, Wally West and Tim Drake were both more than capable of filling the shoes of Barry Allen and Dick Grayson. They took up iconic mantles, but became popular in their own right and put their own stamps of the legacies of Flash and Robin. Laura now has a chance to do the same for Wolverine.

Weapons X

Another thing I have to comment on is that I feel this is probably the best example of Marvel’s recent experimentation with their most famous characters. Marvel has recently done some pretty heavy tinkering. Jane Foster took possession of Mjolnir and became the new “Thor”, while Steve Rogers’ longtime friend and crimefighting partner Sam Wilson went from being The Falcon to being the new Captain America. I wasn’t a huge fan of Jane Foster as Thor but felt Sam’s transition into the role was fairly logical and provided an opportunity for Marvel to spotlight one of their more underrated characters. Laura’s transition from X-23 to Wolverine works better than either of those two though; I daresay that this is best major shift of a character since Bucky Barnes became Captain America after Steve Rogers’ apparent death after Civil War.

Obviously we will have to see how things play out, but at this point, I’m excited. And considering the major changes to the world of X-Men that are coming when Marvel reboots their comic book universe in two months, it’s nice to have something to be excited about. For those who have enjoyed Laura up to this point, I think it’s nice for us to see her get a larger role and we will look forward to seeing how she handles embracing her father’s mantle. For those who may not know X-23, don’t worry; I have a feeling you’ll enjoy the new Wolverine soon enough. Short of bringing Logan back, this is the best creative direction Marvel could do for Wolverine’s legacy.

X-23

Graphic Novel Review – The Uncanny X-Men, Vol. 1 & 2

The X-Men were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963 as part of a campaign to meet the increasing demand for superhero comics after the success of The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. This new superhero team was made up of “mutants”, young men and women who were born genetically different and gifted (or cursed) with extraordinary powers. Stan Lee was simply trying to find a new origin for superpowers after bombarding readers with radiation in FF, Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk. Having his characters simply be born with their powers was kind of a cheat, but it was what Stan Lee did with this idea that made it genius.

Lee decided that normal humans would fear and in many cases hate these mutants, which allowed the book to become a commentary on various forms of prejudice. And while the first run didn’t exactly strike a chord with audiences, it laid the foundation for one of the most successful comic book series of all time when writer Len Wein and Dave Cockrum were tasked with revitalizing the franchise in the mid 1970’s. Chris Claremont would shortly replace Len Wein and became the most influential writer in the history of the team with a seventeen year run on the new “Uncanny” X-Men.

Masterworks

Volume One: Giant-Size X-Men #1 and The X-Men #94-100

I have already gone into great deal about the main members of the “New X-Men” in my very first post, so I won’t get too much into the powers of Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus or Cyclops. What is important here is that the original X-Men team is trapped on the living island Krakoa and Professor Xavier hires a new, international team of mutants to rescue his first students. In addition to those main new recruits, there was John Proudstar, a warrior of the Apache with impressive physical strength, and two of the X-Men’s old enemies: Sunfire and Banshee. Shiro Yashida channeled solar energy through his body and left the team after the first mission, but Sean Cassidy stayed on the team as a way to make up for his time as a criminal.

The second story features the new X-Men team going up against Count Nefaria in issues #94-95 and is somewhat clunky as new writer Claremont is working with Len Wein’s script for the second Giant-Size X-Men that never materialized. It is notable because of Thunderbird’s heroic sacrifice at the end of the mission, as a brand new character was killed off. The departure of Sunfire and death of Thunderbird were done in part because the writers felt that the characters had too much in common with Wolverine when it came to personality and didn’t want the team being so abrasive as a whole. In the end, I’d say they kept the right grumpy mutant around.

Thunderbird’s death is also one of the most important events in the life of Scott Summers; #96 deals with Scott’s grief at the loss of his teammate, the responsibility he feels for his death, and his determination to never fail again. I feel this is critical reading for anyone who thinks Scott is just a pouty boy scout; he’s that way for a reason. The fact that he’s put up against his brother Alex Summers in the next issue doesn’t help much.

Ninety Eight

The book really hits its creative stride around issue #98 when the Sentinels return. The mutant-hunting robots were one of the classic villains of the original run, but their look was greatly improved on in this issue. The team’s personalities are well established at this point and Jean Grey is brought back into the fold to help Scott be less miserable. The Sentinels take half the team into space while the others eventually follow them on a rescue mission. I won’t spoil any of the little details here but there’s definitely some fun moments and this is the first story since Giant-Size X-Men that feels like a true epic.

And the reentry into earth leads to one of the most defining moments in X-Men history as Jean Grey uses the full extent of her telepathic powers to protect her teammates from the radiation as they enter the earth’s atmosphere. Of course, if you only buy this one volume, this issue is an enormous cliffhanger as we don’t know the fate until the next issue. But it is definitely worthy of being the hundredth issue.

One O One

Volume Two: The X-Men #101-110

When the X-Men reenter earth and Jean Grey rises as The Phoenix, I feel that the growing pains are officially over and the unmitigated awesomeness of the Claremont era starts to begin in full force. The new team is put up against more old foes; The Juggernaut returns to team up with Black Tom Cassidy in #102-103, and while the X-Men narrowly defeat those villains they pretty much have to run with their tails between their legs when they come face to face with Magneto in #104. The fact that almost every victory is by the skin of their teeth adds a lot of tension to these books. There’s a sense of genuine peril that I feel a lot of comics lack, so the action consequently feels more urgent and thrilling.

Another important aspect of the Claremont era also starts to take shape here. Jean Grey’s telekinetic powers weren’t exactly the most dangerous in the world when Stan Lee created her in 1963 and she was usually written as the weakest member of the team. Claremont’s power upgrade allowed Jean to be the most powerful member, and with the second most powerful member of the team being Ororo Munroe, women were suddenly becoming just as important and cool as the men. This would set a precedent for many strong female characters that would join the team, who had fully fleshed-out personalities and could hold their own in a fight.

Magneto

While introducing the new audience to classic foes like Magneto, Juggernaut and the Sentinels was all well and good, Chris Claremont and his artists (Dave Cockrum and later John Byrne in this volume) would not have brought the franchise without new ideas. Volume Two’s biggest story is a space opera, throwing the X-Men on an intergalactic adventure and debuting the Shi’ar Empire and the extremely colorful Imperial Guard of the Shi’ar. This four-issue epic story is probably the height of Dave Cockrum’s run on the series, but when the art switches to John Byrne in #108 there’s a definite increase in quality. Byrne’s ability to draw memorable facial expressions is truly impressive and helps this Volume immensely.

While there are some growing pains in these early volumes of X-Men, there is so much energy and heart put into the characters and the story that the volumes are easy to recommend in spite of some notable flaws. There’s also a level of excitement in seeing so much of what would make the X-Men franchise what it is in relative infancy. In my book, these are must own and must read collections.

The X-Men: Marvel’s Most Relevant Comic Book

Superhero comics have maintained at least some level of popularity since the late 1930’s where DC’s first truly iconic characters showed up on the scene: Superman (first appearing in Action Comics #1 in 1938) and Batman (debuting in Detective Comics #27). At their core, superhero comics are morality tales where a force of good challenges a force of evil and defends innocent bystanders. Over time, the two major comic publishing companies (Marvel and DC) were able to create expansive universes with a wide variety of characters, creating something that would appeal to everyone.

By the time I was growing up in the 1990’s, Marvel was firmly established as the most popular brand of superheroes, largely riding the wave of one franchise’s popularity: the X-Men. 1991’s X-Men #1 (written by Chris Claremont and with art by Jim Lee) was the highest selling comic book of all time. And while some of that can be attributed to the four variant covers that combined into one enormous picture and even more credit goes to speculation that any comic with “#1” on the cover would be worth millions some day, the X-Men were definitely the most popular comic book franchise at this point.

X-Men

This particular comic was far from the first X-Men comic ever printed. The first X-Men #1 first saw print in 1963 and was written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. That first issue only had five X-Men and put them against their first and most enduring nemesis, Magneto. The X-Men were introduced to the audience as “mutants”, people who were simply born different from other human beings and gifted with special powers. Bobby Drake could create freeze the air around him and mold it into a variety of shapes, becoming known as Iceman. The winged Warren Worthington III become known as Angel, Hank McCoy’s enormous hands and feet led to him being called The Beast, and Jean Grey (then known as Marvel Girl) was gifted with telekineses (the ability to move objects with her mind) and limited telepathy (the ability to use her mind to speak to and affect the minds of others). These powers sometimes came at a cost; while Scott Summers’ ability to release a beam of solar energy from his eyes was an impressive weapon, it also prevented him from safely opening his eyes. A special visor was created to contain the beam and gave him a one-eyed appearance that would led to the codename Cyclops.

These five young mutants were trained by a powerful telepath named Professor Charles Xavier, a man in a wheelchair with a dream to unite humans and mutants together peacefully. The book established that many humans feared and even hated mutants, partially because of their powers but also because it is human nature to fear what we do not understand. The fact that mutant terrorists like Magneto, the self-styled Master of Magnetism, were more than willing to fight back did little to help matters. The X-Men were put together to defend the world from mutants who would harm it, and to protect innocent mutants from those who would do them harm.

First Issue

All five of the original X-Men would still be fighting Magneto almost three decades later on the above cover, though they’d all gone through some pretty drastic changes and were joined by another five characters that had joined the team in the meantime. The original series lasted 66 issues before declining sales led to the series becoming a series of reprints. The series would be revitalized in 1975 when writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum introduced a new team of X-Men with an international flavor. Kurt Wagner was from Germany, and had a devilish appearance and the ability to teleport in a puff of smoke. Russian-born Piotr Rasputin could turn his already impressive frame into living metal, and Ororo Munroe’s ability to control the weather had made a goddess to a tribe of native Kenyans. Along with these three (codenamed Nightcrawler, Colossus and Storm respectively), Len added one of his previous creations: Wolverine. The mutant with metal claws, enhanced sense and an ability to recover from wounds at an abnormal rate would go on to become the most popular X-Men of them all.

Giant Size

The book was renamed The Uncanny X-Men and once writer Chris Claremont joined the creative team, the book became synonymous with dynamic characters, epic storytelling and innovative ideas that helped to change the course of comic book history. By the end of the 1980’s, what had been a book that nearly faded into obscurity had become one of the top sellers industry and had spawned several tie-in comics. In order to meet the demand, a new series called simply X-Men was created in 1991, leading to that historic number of sales I referred to earlier.

Now that I’ve finished that brief history lesson, I want to talk about why this article refers to the X-Men as “Marvel’s Most Relevant Comic Book”. This isn’t because other Marvel books aren’t popular or have good writing and good artwork. I say this because X-Men is a series with several key moral themes that most comics weren’t willing to try writing about at the time.

The X-Men acknowledged that being different from the people around you has a dark side. Some people do not like those who are different, and they will persecute and bully and even kill because of these differences. Bear in mind that these ideas were front and center in this comic that was being published and marketed to children in the 1960’s. This was an era where people of different races, cultures and gender identities were starting to vocally announce that they were not going to stand idly by and allow the government and the people around them to treat them unfairly. Bigotry was a way of life, and this comic proposed that it was morally wrong to be prejudiced against others.

X-Men is a book that celebrates the diversity of humanity. The X-Men come from many different parts of the world, including countries that Americans do not have the best history with. Some are male, some are female. They have different skin colors, different religions, different ethnic backgrounds, different sexualities. And they work together for the greater good and learn to embrace the differences in each other.

This is a powerful and positive message that had a profound impact on me growing up. I was a fan of the 1990’s X-Men cartoon that played on Fox Kids, and it didn’t take a genius to figure out that the bigotry toward mutants was an allegory for real life persecution. The X-Men reinforced to me the idea that we are all people. We all deserve to be treated with respect, we all have something worth saying and we all should treat each other with kindness. It taught me to view women as equals, to be color blind and to embrace people with new ideas and from cultures other than mine.

The X-Men had a profoundly positive impact on my life and helped to shape my values.

And they were also my introduction to the world of superheroes, a spark that years later would become one of the most important aspects of my life. I would not be writing this blog today if it weren’t for the X-Men. And thanks to them, I’ll be writing plenty more blogs in the future.

Welcome to “The Shelf is Half Full”.

Group Shot

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