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The X-Men #1 (1963, September)

July 29, 2012

I’ve read most X-Men comics. So I’ve decided, for my own amusement, to start reviewing them, from the start. Starting, naturally enough, with The X-Men #1, with a cover date of September 1963. Written by Stan Lee, and drawn by Jack Kirby, with inks by Paul Reinman, colours uncredited, and letters by Sam Rosen. With Jean Grey being completely useless on the cover.

X-Men #1 cover

I like to think Jean’s trying to distract Magneto with Go-Go Dancing.

It starts with the four X-Men (Cyclops, Angel, Beast, Iceman) answering Professor X’s psychic summons. And right off the bat, three things stand out to me. One: Is that chair Xavier’s in the only furniture in that entire room? Seems like a bit of a waste. Two: Iceman is sliding down an ice pole, but from where, exactly? Three: While everyone else has a cool entrance, Cyclops just sorta . . . walks over. Poor Cyclops. First time we see him, and he’s already the group’s loser.

The X-Men #1

Poor Cyclops.

Moving on, we’ve got some training, Iceman’s whiny, and Cyclops is an uptight dick. Ah, here’s Jean Grey, with her power of teleportation. Wait, what?

The X-Men #1

Nice “teleportation.” You’re a credit to your gender, Jean.

Well, it starts with “tele-“, at any rate. Still, while she may not know what her power’s called, it’s a pretty handy one. It made her Marvel’s first female superhero with useful powers, since Invisible Woman hadn’t yet developed force fields, and the Wasp could only shrink. Marvel Girl could actually do something other than watch and get captured. Jean’s also actually pretty spunky in this first issue. When Beast gives her a kiss on the cheek, she responds with this:

The X-Men #1

She’s spunky! I like her!

This is another example of her differing from Marvel’s other women of the time. Not only is she able to take care of herself, but she’s also willing to do it. Right from the start, she’s a bit of a firecracker. I actually really like Jean when she has an attitude. Because it’s easy to forget that she does have an attitude. She can be very dramatic.

Anyway, after she shows off her teleportation telekinesis, we meet Magneto, an EEEEEEVIIILLL mutant. After he messes up a few rocket launches, he attacks Cape Citadel, and easily takes it over. So easily, in fact, that he has no choice but to strut.

The X-Men #1

“You can tell by the way I use my walk, I’m a ladies’ man, no time to talk.”

Then the X-Men show up and beat him. Hurrah. Angel is completely useless – all he accomplishes is getting chased by missiles. Angel being useless ends up being kind of a pattern. In this issue, he gets chased by missiles, and then trapped by some stray metal. It’s even funnier because, early in the issue, he shows immense confidence, and he then proves just how undeserved it is.

The X-Men #1

Angel, your whole existence is a mistake.

The writing is typical of Stan Lee – very wordy, explaining what we can already see in the panel. It’s not enough to show Marvel Girl levitating a small missile out over the water, we need a caption box telling us that’s what’s happening. It’s not as bad as in a lot of Lee’s books, though. Kirby, of course, was always a consistent artist. This issue doesn’t provide him much opportunity to go into his insanely detailed sci-fi stuff, which is a plus, as far as I’m concerned. I’m going to commit comic book heresy and admit that I hate Kirby’s sci-fi-styled art. This book was much more down-to-Earth, and better for it.

There’s not a whole lot to say about this issue, really. I could talk about how insane Xavier would have to be to think bringing in a bunch of teenagers to fight against supervillains is a good idea. Because, seriously, that’s pretty messed up. But it was the ’60s. Endangering teenagers was required back then, much like how women had to be useless. The mutant discrimination angle wasn’t present here. Neither was Beast’s loquaciousness. Actually, Beast came off as kind of a creep in this issue. Cyclops hadn’t started angsting constantly about his cursed, mutant, energy-blasting eyes.

This issue is meant to introduce the characters, and it does that. They’re not developed yet, but it’s only the first issue. We still get the starts of some of their personalities. Bobby feels inferior because of his age, Scott is a tight-ass, Warren’s charming, Hank is fun, and Jean is strong-willed. They’re the same group of friends most people have. They just happen to have awesome powers, too.

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3 Comments
  1. What a cool concept for a blog.
    “But it was the ’60s. Endangering teenagers was required back then, much like how women had to be useless.” – Hilarious!

    • Thanks. I’m glad you like it it. And yeah, ’60s comics suffer from some serious values dissonance today.

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