X-Men (Vol. 1) 1964 Year In Review

Original artwork of the pin-up from X-Men #8

How Many Issues?

Six: X-Men #3-8, published bimonthly.

The X-Men were featured in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, Avengers #3, Fantastic Four #28, and Journey Into Mystery #109. Angel also guest-starred without the team in Tales of Suspense #49.

Creative Team:

Plotters: Stan Lee (#3-8), Jack Kirby (#3-8)

Scripter: Stan Lee (#3-8)

Penciller: Jack Kirby (#3-8)

Inkers: Paul Reinman (#3-5), Chic Stone (#6-8)

Was It Good?

If I was being completely objective, I’d say that these issues are, at best, mediocre. But I am definitely subjective, so I will instead say that these issues are silly and fun. They may not be good, but I am enjoying them anyway.

It helps that Jack Kirby has pencilled all the issues so far, and has used only two inkers. Consistent artwork is usually a plus. I didn’t like Reinman’s inks —- I think he drew in too many incorrect details —- but Stone’s looked pretty good. This isn’t Kirby’s best work, and I think it wouldn’t take much research to find that he was relying on his inkers to do much of the detail work on this title, but a hurried Kirby still packs a punch and can make a goofy plot more exciting.

One thing I didn’t like about this title was that the team graduated from high school at the end of X-Men #4. Even if you ignore the age and intelligence differences between the team members, it’s an odd choice to drop the “superhero school” premise so early. This just makes them more like every other superhero team —- even more so when Professor Xavier leaves the team in X-Men #7, and eliminates the teacher/student relationship in this title.

What About the Sub-Plots and Continuity?

It can be fun to track the minor story points throughout a year’s worth of comics to see what ideas were developed and which were quietly dropped.

  • The X-Men battled Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants four times in 1964, out of six issues. That’s a lot of evil mutants.
  • The X-Men celebrated their one-year anniversary as a team in X-Men #4. It’s not clear if this is one year since Jean joined the team and they were seen in public (in X-Men #1), or if it is one year since the team started to form. I’m inclined to think it’s the latter, since Marvel has aged in real-time in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man thus far in the Silver Age.
  • The X-Men all graduated from high school and as mutant “trainees” in X-Men #4; the official ceremony took place in X-Men #7.
  • The boys on the team all show interest in dating Jean —- even Iceman, who had been indifferent before. The most open with his flirting is Warren, and the quietest is Scott, who is secretly pining for her. Little does he realize that she is quietly crushing on him, too!
  • In a single panel, we see Professor Xavier have inappropriate romantic feelings for his teenage student, Jean Grey. This won’t be directly referenced again for another 30+ years.
  • Jean’s telekinetic powers are supposed to be limited to what she can physically lift (per X-Men #2), but she is able to carry Professor Xavier without strain in X-Men #7.
  • Speaking of developing powers, Iceman abandons his “snowman” appearance in X-Men #8, and adopts the classic “icy” look that he has used for the last several decades.
  • Professor Xavier’s telepathy still doesn’t function in a “classic” fashion; he is still displaying some random abilities. He is able to mentally project his consciousness around the globe; not to speak into someone’s mind, but to just walk around and explore. He can also use his mind to sense other mutants.
  • We have some early examples of Professor Xavier being a jerk. Not only does he mind-wipe the Blob (and a bunch of carnival workers), but he fakes a serious injury to teach his X-Men a lesson. Somehow, the lesson was not “don’t trust the Professor.”
  • The Blob turned down an offer to join the X-Men. He is the first, but certainly not the last mutant to do so.  It’s worth noting that Namor, Quicksilver, and teh Scarlet Witch are not explicitly offered spots on the team — but the Blob was.  That just seems bizarre.
  • We are beginning to see the burden of Scott’s powers. He first hints at it in X-Men #3, and he almost quits the team to find a cure to his mutation in X-Men #7.
  • Hank was able to build a device to increase and/or decrease mutant abilities (X-Men #8). No one appears to see this as an important invention, and no one suggests using it on Cyclops so he can live without his special glasses.
  • Professor X leaves the team in X-Men #7, and Cyclops is promoted to team leader.
  • Beast briefly quits the team in X-Men #8. This would seem to follow his admission that he prefers studying to superheroics (in X-Men #5), but he opted to become a professional wrestler instead of enrolling in college.
  • Angel also quit the team briefly in Tales of Suspense #49, but that was only because radiation temporarily turned him evil.
  • We don’t see the X-Men working directly with the FBI in 1964, but Jean Grey’s parents allude to a man in the government persuading them to enroll Jean in Xavier’s school. That means someone in the government (probably Agent Duncan) knows the location of the school and the identities of the X-Men.
  • The X-Men tried to rescue a mutant from an angry mob by driving away in Professor Xavier’s sedan. That seems like an easy way to blow your secret identities.
  • Professor X is not very good at concealing his identity. He allows Namor, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch to see him using his powers, and yet his identity is still unknown to Magneto and the superheroes of New York.
  • Hank is also bad at concealing his identity. Not only does he perform heroics —- and get identified as the Beast —- in his (unmasked) civilian clothes, but when he quits the X-Men, he performs as an unmasked wrestler named “The Beast”!
  • The X-Men are no longer beloved celebrities! When Beast helps save a child from an emergency, the crowd tries to attack him.
  • The first instance we see of mutants being hated and feared (without any explicit reason, so far) is when Toad participated in a televised track and field event (X-Men #5).
  • The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, in short bursts, uses better teamwork than the X-Men do.
  • Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, while members of the Brotherhood, are clearly not villains. They bicker with their teammates and do their best to not harm innocents.
  • Mastermind is developing into a manipulative scumbag. He basically threatened to force Scarlet Witch into becoming his love puppet in X-Men #7. I don’t know if this personality trait will remain prominent in the Silver Age, but it is definitely the groundwork for his character in the Dark Phoenix Saga.
  • Magneto is willing to leave members of his Brotherhood behind in battle at the slightest inconvenience. He also shows a willingness to seriously harm Quicksilver, if it means he can kill some X-Men. He also tries to pimp the Scarlet Witch to Namor, in exchange for an alliance. Magneto may not be the most loyal guy.
  • Magneto has the most unpredictable powers in the Marvel Universe to date. Aside from his magnetism powers (which, let’s be honest, are frequently hand-wavey), he has impressive mental powers. He can project an image of himself anywhere in the world and communicate through that image (X-Men #6). He can access the astral plane without the aid of a telepath, and he can confront Professor Xavier there despite not knowing Xavier’s name or appearance (X-Men #4). He was able to repair the mental tampering Xavier did to the Blob (X-Men #7). If a character did these things twenty years later, they would be considered a heavyweight psychic. For now, though, these are just some of the tricks up Magneto’s sleeve.
  • Magneto has an orbital space base, called Asteroid M. It was badly damaged in X-Men #5, but it seems to have survived.
  • It is acknowledged that Namor, the Sun-Mariner, is a mutant. Despite Xavier’s claim in 1963, this makes Namor the first/oldest mutant on record.
  • So far, mutants have been detected in one of two ways by the X-Men: either Professor Xavier senses them with his mind, or else Cerebro (a mutant-detecting machine) senses their brain waves. Only Cyclops and the Professor know Cerebro exists so far.
  • After leaving the X-Men, Professor Xavier goes to Europe to track down Lucifer. Who or what Lucifer is has not been explained.

 

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