Why Does Zach Like Those

So Much?
Zach Dotsey
English 101 Section 30
12 December, 1996
Third and Final Draft
When many people hear about the X-Men, they think of a silly kids 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 characters experiences and their personality. They must
also keep track of continuity, making sure they dont 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 hes 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 Scotts 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-Mens 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 worlds 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 such as Superman, Batman,
Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, and The Avengers. The early stories were basically about
a supergroup that went around facing super bad guys and some prejudice now and then.
After sixty-odd issues, X-Men started just reprinting old stories. This went on for about
thirty issues when the book was going to be canceled. The X-Men were saved by the
creative team of Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, and Terry Austin with Giant Sized X-Men
#1.

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Giant Sized X-Men #1 introduced an all-new, all-different X-Men. This boasted
in a new team of mutants. The new team of X-Men was multi-racial and multi-national,
whereas the original team was a bunch of white American kids. It was also a very radical
team, considering the time period (the late seventies). Since the book was scheduled to be
canceled, the creators decided to be a little bit radical in their approach to this dying comic
book.
The person who took over field command was Storm, an African native. Think of
that, a black woman leading a superhero comic book team, a role she usurped from a
young white male (Cyclops). It was quite a change from the norm. There was also a
young Russian, Colossus, during a time when Russians were taboo in America.
The others in the team were Wolverine, a Canadian, whose violent nature was very
different from the boy scout types like Superman. There were also Sunfire from Japan,
Banshee from Ireland, Nightcrawler (no, he is not a worm) from Germany, and
Thunderbird, an Apache Indian. One thing that made this group of X-Men stand out was
that on the first mission for the new team, issue #95, they killed off Thunderbird, an
extremely new and radical thing. About 40 issues later they killed off one of the large
mainstay characters, Jean Grey, who was a founding member. Of course, as I explained
earlier, she came back a few years later, but it was a really big thing at the time.
That X-Men team went on many adventures, saved galaxies and all reality, and
built up a huge supporting cast, paving the way for spin-off books. A current list of
X-Men books includes the following titles; Uncanny X-Men, X-Men, X-Factor, X-Force
(originally New Mutants), Excalibur, Generation X, X-Man, Wolverine, Cable, and
Deadpool, not to mention a lot of four issue limited series titles.


So, you may be asking, where does all the social stuff come in? Well, it started
coming into play early on, with the first group of X-Men. People began to realize what it
could mean to have people being born with great super powers. They began to feel afraid
and obsolete. One man, Dr. Bolivar Trask, played on these fears and built giant robots to
capture and control mutants. I believe this was around issue #15. They were called
Sentinels and have been a recurring problem for they X-Men. This parallels to the United
States government taking action against other groups of people they did not understand,
such as the Indians forced onto reservations, or the blacks that were oppressed with laws
until very recently.

Another government action was the Mutant Registration Act, which required
mutants to check in with the government to the government could keep tabs on them.

One storyline dealing with racism is called Days of Future Past (which I recently
bought for a total of $21, one issue is even autographed by the artist). This story
illustrates a consequence of racism out of control. In it, the Sentinels are programmed to
protect humans from all mutants. The Sentinels figure that the best way to do that is by
taking over the humans. In the end, all the heroes are dead and the Sentinels prepare to
launch an attack on the rest of the world to save it from the mutant menace just as Europe
is about to launch nuclear missiles at the conquered North America to keep the Sentinels
away. The world is a nightmare where people are killed or shipped to concentration
camps for being born a little differently from most others, when racism wins out over
reason.

Another template of a society gone mad with racism is shown in the island country
of Genosha. At one time Genosha was a thriving country, one of the most popular tourist
attractions in the world. It seemed perfect, everyone seemed happy. But things are not
always as they seem. Genosha was secretly taken care of by mutates, mutants who were
made to be subordinate through mindwiping techniques. The whole country, even the
transportation systems like the railroads, were run off mutate energy. All the low jobs
were given to the mutates, who didnt even have mind enough to speak in protest.
Eventually the X-Men helped to free the mutates, but, after failing to live peacefully
together, a civil war broke out, leaving the once prosperous nation in ruins.

The normal humans are not the only people guilty of racism in X-Men. The
first villain ever fought by the X-Men was Magneto, a mutant who sought to rule over the
mutants and crush humanity for being inferior. After being defeated time and again and
even switching sides once, Magneto decided to gather up mutants and live off of Earth
and away from humans on an orbital space station called Avalon. It was eventually blown
up and Magneto lost his memory then joined the X-Men again.

Magneto mirrors many things tried by minorities in America. His attempts to fight
back are like the Black Panthers and some Indian tribes. His separationist views are like
some of what Malcolm X thought. Then there is the inevitable attempt to fit in, which
seems to work as a temporary, surface fix.

Another group who struck back out of fear was the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants,
lead by Magneto, then Mystique, and now Havok. Mystiques Brotherhood was even
more militant in some ways than Magneto was. They attempted an assassination of a
presidential candidate which, if successful, would have set the Days of Future Past
storyline into actuality. They were as much, if not even more like the Indians and Black
Panthers than Magneto (until they became a government sanctioned group in return for
full pardons). Havoks group is too new to assess right now.
Social organizations have also been involved in the racial issues, as they often were
long ago. There have been two prime examples of this. One was a story called God
Loves, Man Kills, where the preacher tells his clergy that mutants, having strange powers,
are all hellspawn and condones hunting them down and killing them to keep the threat
away and to put a little chlorine in the gene pool. This is like the Ku Klux Klan or a racist
church one may hear about in movies or television shows. The other example is also a
church but it shows a school of more open thought. In this church, the preacher
recognizes that some of these mutants use their powers to help others and they should not
be prejudged. The X-Men are even compared to angels in this story. This shows the
organizations, such as churches, that are open to people, no matter who they are.
As said earlier, the X-Men dont revolve only around prejudice, but they battle
other social injustices as well. One is the fear inspired by the Legacy Virus. This is a
disease that attacks a mutants genetic structure and eats it away, much like the AIDS
virus attacks and destroys a persons immune system. The X-Men have already lost some
close friends to this disease. At first it was thought that only mutants could get the virus,
like it was once thought that only homosexuals or drug users could get AIDS. Then a
friend of the X-Men, genetic researcher Moira MacTaggert, a normal human, contracted
the disease and panic spread like wild fire. Now all of the sudden every Tom, Dick, and
Harry is afraid of catching that Mutie disease. For a while, as I remember, people
thought one could catch AIDS by being near an infected person. That is how people see
the Legacy Virus: get near a mutant and youll catch that non-curable disease they all
have.


Another issue the mighty mutants have confronted is abortion. Is it right to
prevent a life if it is known that the baby will have what is essentially a birth defect? In
one storyline in X-Factor a doctor discovers a way to tell if a fetus will be a mutant or not.
This information can be passed along to the parents who can decide if they want a mutant
baby or not. In the end, Wolfsbane, a conservative Scottish Catholic lass, destroys all the
research information the doctor has, preventing mutant abortions.

Currently, anti-mutant hysteria is at an all time high. An ultra-powerful
combination of Professor X and Magneto took control of an army of Sentinels and
programmed them to round up super-powered people and destroy New York City. This
amalgamated being, called Onslaught, decided he would get rid of all normal people and
then decided to just kill everybody. To destroy him, Earths popular heroes, the Fantastic
Four and the Avengers, sacrificed themselves. Most people view it in this way: a mutant
killed all of their favorite heroes so mutants are all evil.
It also did not help the mutant cause that a popular anti-mutant presidential
candidate was killed on live television by an as-of-now unknown mutant. No, mutants are
not riding high on Americas popularity list.
The X-Men are popular outside comic books also. There is a cartoon and a comic
spin off of the cartoon, since it is geared towards younger people. As Philip always points
out, there is an X-Men ravioli out there. Clothing, shoes, video games, toys, dolls, Pez
dispensers, shoestrings, you name it, the X-Men are likely to have it.


So why do I like the X-Men so much? It is a combination of a lot of things. Great
stories, characters you can get attached to, beautiful art, a different perspective
(everybody loves Superman, but nobody loves mutants), and social relevance. What else
could make a better escapists world? Not only all that, but they are everywhere you turn.


And now, a few of the
Professor Xavier, founder of the X-Men, telepath
Magneto, first enemy of the X-Men, one-time leader, now a team mate, ability to
manipulate magnetic fields
Cyclops, first and leader of the X-Man, Phoenixs husband, fires uncontrollable optic
beams
Phoenix, Cyclops wife, founding X-Man, telekinesis (can move objects with thoughts)
and telepathy
Beast, founding X-Man, super strong and intelligent, hand-like feet
Archangel, founding X-Man, originally had feathered wings, but they were ripped off and
later replaced
Iceman, founding X-Man, can turn into ice and manipulate nearby temperature
Storm, leader of second team of X-Men, manipulates weather
Wolverine, most well-known X-Man, has bone claws and the ability to heal extremely fast,
had indestructible metal laced bones and claws until Magneto sucked them out of him
Nightcrawler, now leads Excalibur, ability to teleport
Colossus, now with Excalibur, body transforms into an organic steel, also super strong
Jubilee, now with Generation X, formerly Wolverines sidekick, ability to produce
fireworks
Cable, son of Cyclops and a clone of Phoenix, leads X-Force, telepathy and telekinesis
There are many, many other mutants, but these are a few pretty important ones.


Freak. Flatscan. Deadend. Genejoke. Mutie. Words. Powerful words
meant to distance… to demean… to destroy the havens of self respect we each
carry and nurture within us. Seeing past their differences, humans and mutants
share a common, unbreakable bond. Underneath all the words… we are related.
We are all family.


-Professor Charles Francis Xavier, Uncanny X-Men #294
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