I’ve talked before about the first box of comics I ever got and my fascination with a reprint of part of the Phoenix Saga. One of the few things that book had that most comics don’t have any more, is a moment, in the issue, to see the team together.
This issue had such a team shot.
As awesome as I thought the X-Men were in that comic book, I can’t say I was in love with the franchise at that point. It wasn’t until October of 1992 that I came to truly embrace the X-Men for all they were worth.
Fun note: I would watch the commercials showcasing Gambit and Jubilee and say, “Those aren’t X-Men. Where’s Banshee?”
I didn’t know how much the X-Men had exploded into comics and the collective unconscious. I just knew, thanks to that show, that there was a lot I didn’t know about the X-Men.
With its cohesive storytelling–the first cartoon series to dare have one episode always lead in to the next–I couldn’t help being drawn into the world Marvel’s mutants portrayed. One episode, they might be taking on the Friends of Humanity, the next, they could be fighting Magneto, and the episode after that, Magneto might be helping the X-Men and Cable foil some insidious time travel plot.
I was engrossed. I had to have more, even when the show was on. I bought toys, drew pictures, and eventually, started buying comics on a semi-regular basis.
Fun fact: My first big crossover was The Phalanx Covenant, which was actually three stories of different X-Men divisions fighting the alien Phalanx. By that point, Cable was my favorite comic book character and he got to save all the first-string X-Men in the last act.
I came to see the underlying message of tolerance with the X-Men, while also embracing the notion of how cosmic X-Men stories could get. Today, X-Men fighting Avengers might seem like an uphill battle for the mutants, but when I came to comics, most people agreed the X-Men would mop the floor with the Avengers–or anyone else.
When I hit college, I found a pair of X-Men fans on the same floor as me: Two girls who loved comics, X-Men, and especially Gambit. They didn’t read DC, Dark Horse, or even “mainstream” Marvel. They read X-Men.
Men, women, boys, and girls, they were reading X-Men. It was impossible to avoid and it only got bigger when X-Men hit theaters in 2000. Every conspiracy, every relationship, it was all there, waiting to pool together in some new form that would make movie audiences drool the way the cartoon audience did.
It didn’t happen, not really.
X-Men opened a ton of doors for superheroes in all media, but weren’t really invited in. Ultimately, someone decided to oppress them, like many minorities are oppressed. The reality matched the comics too well, even though legions of fans lie in wait, ready to embrace the X-Men once again.
I, for one, will always have a warm place in my heart for Cyclops, Phoenix, Wolverine, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Psylocke, and Beast, among others. They are my heroes and they showed me a much bigger world than the one I already knew.