The X-Men: The Strangest Heroes of All

by GregFahlgren

Looking at the long and stories history of comic books most popular team.

In the history of comic books, there have been dozens, maybe even hundreds, of heroes, villains, and teams that have captured the imagination of the readers around the world. Among the multitude of character there have been a select few that have stood above the rest, the lucky few that have transcended their genre, and become pop culture icons. Names like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Incredible Hulk, Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Joker, and so many more, these characters have inspired generations of story-tellers and fans alike, becoming household names even the most casual of fans.

But there is one team of heroes that is spoken with the highest of reverence, a team that not only has inspired legions of fans, but has also broken through more barriers within the superhero genre than any other. That team is the World’s Strangest Heroes, the X-Men.

The X-Men are easily the most recognizable superhero team in comic book history, and by far the most profitable. More than any other superhero team, they have forged new roads and new standards for their genre, growing in popularity with every passing year. There was a time where the X-Men WERE Marvel comics, one of the few titles that kept the company alive during its darkest periods. More than that, the members of the team have become household names, often by just becoming a member with NO prior history in Marvel’s Universe. Many have struck out on their own, formed new teams, created new stories, and earned legions of fans for themselves. But it all comes back to the X-Men, who are simply put the most popular superhero team ever created.

But, things were not always thus. The history of the X-Men is as storied and turbulent behind the scenes as it is on the page, a history that is a exciting story in and of itself. With that in mind, I invite you to come with me as I tell you about the X-Men, how they came to be, and why they are of the most important superhero team in comic book history.


The First Mutants

In 1963, Marvel’s creative team extraordinaire Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were on a roll, creating some of the most memorable and popular super heroes, villains, and in teams in the history of the industry, the crown jewel among them being Spider-Man. Given their success, Stan wanted to continue this trend and created a new team of heroes given the success of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. However, Stan was getting somewhat tired of having to think up origin stories to explain how said heroes got their powers every single time, and decided to take a somewhat easier direction by just calling these new heroes, the X-Men, mutants. He explained this decision in 2004, stating, "I couldn't have everybody bitten by a radioactive spider or exposed to a gamma ray explosion. And I took the cowardly way out. I said to myself, 'Why don't I just say they're mutants. They were born that way.’”

Thus, the X-Men were born, a group of teenage mutants discovering their superhuman powers, brought together but Professor Charles Xavier to combat the evil mutants that were threatening humanity. The five teens were put into a special school to learn how to use their new powers, a setting that has been central to the X-Men ever since. This idea came from Jack Kirby, who would explain the decision in 1987, stating, “The X-Men, I did the natural thing there. What would you do with mutants who were just plain boys and girls and certainly not dangerous? You school them. You develop their skills. So I gave them a teacher, Professor X. Of course, it was the natural thing to do, instead of disorienting or alienating people who were different from us, I made the X-Men part of the human race, which they were. Possibly, radiation, if it is beneficial, may create mutants that’ll save us instead of doing us harm. I felt that if we train the mutants our way, they’ll help us - and not only help us, but achieve a measure of growth in their own sense. And so, we could all live together."

These ideas became central to the X-Men throughout their history, Stan and Jack creating crafting these and other themes that continue to drive the X-Men’s stories to this day. From these early conceptions, the most popular super hero teams in history was born, though their early years were not as glorious and wonderful as many fans have come to believe.

Early Years

The Beginning

The first issue of Uncanny X-Men was released in September of 1963. Stan and Jack would write the first 19 isseus together, bringing together the team of young mutants and throwing them into the wild world of superheroes. Those stories introduced Angel, Cyclops, Iceman, Beast, and Marvel Girl to the world, as well as their mentor Professor X. It also introduced many of their most hated villains such as the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the Sentinels and their creator Bolivar Trask, Juggernaught, Blob, and most importantly, Magneto, who in the first issue became their greatest adversary. It should also be noted that it was during this time that Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were introduced to the Marvel Universe, though their status as enemies of the X-Men was short-lived. Another character that was introduced in the pages of Uncanny X-Men was Ka-Zar, his introduction story also establishing the hidden valley of the Savage Land in Antartica. The stories also established the idea of mutants in the world of Marvel, and the very beginnings of the X-Men’s constant fight to prove that mutants were not to be feared by the general populace.

Stan left the book after issue #19, handing over writing duties to Roy Thomas, who went on to create future X-Man Banshee and introduced new costumes for the team. Thomas wouldn’t stay for long, a series of writers coming after him as the books sales began to drop. Writer Arnold Drake tried to help this situation by introducing two new characters, Havok (Cyclops’s younger brother), and Polaris (later revealed to be Magneto’s daughter). These efforts did not do much to push the needle, and the book’s sales continued to drop, sending the X-Men towards cancellation. However, it was then that Marvel made a very interesting decision.

You see, the world of comics is much like television. Sales drive the business, and if a book’s sales are not enough for it to carry its weight, then the book is cancelled, much like a TV show being pulled for bad ratings. Given the poor sales, Uncanny X-Men by all rights should have been cancelled outright. However, after issue #66, Marvel kept the book on the shelf despite not producing any new stories. I asked Marvel editor Tom Breevort why this decision was made, and he explained to, “After the series was cancelled, sales figures came in for the last few issues, which showed an uptick–enough for (Marvel’s publisher) Martin Goodman to bring it back as a reprint title. Marvel then had a full line of reprints, so it just fit into that, and didn’t have to sell all that well to make money, given that there were no A & E costs.”

This decision turned out to be a good one, as it kept the X-Men out there until such time as Marvel could find someone to continue the legacy. And when they did, the future of Marvel history was changed forever.

The Claremonth Era

Giant Size Return

By 1975, the X-Men were pretty well out of publication with new stories being produced. The reprints kept the book somewhat alive, but there seemed to be little hope that the team would make a comeback. Hope arrived however in the form of writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum, who penned a single issue entitled Giant-Size X-Men #1. This single, oversized comic book introduced a new team of mutants to join the original X-Men. Including characters from all over the world, it was by far the most diverse book of its time, bringing in the character Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Sunfire, and Thunderbird to join Cyclops in a dangerous mission to save his teammates. The issue, which was meant to be a quarterly book originally, was a massive success, and Marvel capitalized on it. Hiring writer Chris Claremont, Uncanny X-Men was back on the shelves with stories, and what happened next was one of the most historic runs in comic book history.

Claremont’s run established the X-Men as outsiders in the world of Marvel, their mutations the source of prejudice and hatred from the general population. This theme would become central to the X-Men for the next forty years, and is still prevalent today. Claremont explored this theme more completely than anyone had ever tried to, using the X-Men to address the hate-filled strife that plagues society, specifically the ludicrous idea of hating people for being born as they are. Such an environment created the perfect place for Claremont’s stories, introducing such villains as William Stryker, Cameron Hodge and Stephen Lang, humans that hated mutants with a passion, and would do everything they could to destroy them. He also brought forward such villains as Mr Sinister, the Hellfire Club, Apocalypse and Mystique, who would all become staples of the X-Men’s rogue gallery. In addition, hee further explored Magneto’s complicated relationship with Professor X, gave us the first stories with the Shi’ar and Starjammers, and created the love triangle between Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine. He also introduced dozens of new characters to the team, including X-Men mainstays Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Jubilee, Rachel Grey, Gambit, Dazzler, Longshot, and Magick among others. To compensate for this growing cast, Claremont would also create several offshoot teams, including X-Factor and the New Mutants, allowing for several crossovers with the X-Books themselves, something that was nearly unheard of at the time in comics.

Claremont’s run saw probably the greatest string of stories ever written for a team or character, many of which are considered classics of the genre and have been adapted in film and television. The Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past, God Love Man Kills, The Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants, Inferno, The Muir Island Saga, all these stories and more were among the greatest comic book stories ever written, a testament to Claremont’s talent. At one point, Magneto, the X-Men’s long time arch nemesis, would join them, becoming the Headmaster of the Xavier School and teaching the New Mutants, this action helping mold Magnus into the single greatest grey character in comic book history.

Claremont’s run had numerous artists, the most prominent of which was John Byrne who became co-plotter on the book. After Byrne left the book, both Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee got their starts, Lee ending up staying on the book for quite a while and building much of his reputation while there.

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. Due to disputes with Bob Harrass and Jim Lee, Claremont left Marvel, his final action penning a story in which the X-Men and X-Factor would reunite and form a new X-Men team and move back to New York. Despite his abrupt departure, Claremont’s run on the X-Men was one of the single most defining runs on any character in the history of the comic book medium. Claremont made the X-Men a top tier team and franchise, introduced literally dozens of characters that are still prominent today, and penned some of the most memorable stories in comic book history. Claremont’s time on X-Men was truly the Golden Age for the mutant team, a feat that may never be duplicated.

Into The 90s

A New Age

After Claremont left the X-Books, writer Scott Lobdell was hired to take over. Eventually joined by artist Fabian Nicieza, Lobdell’s run had some serious ups and downs, having a tough act to follow you can’t really blame him. Despite that, some of his stories are still widely considered among the best in X-Men history. Lobdell would split the X-Men into two teams, allowing him to tell multiple storylines without overcrowding the book. Early in his run he debuted the villain Stryfe, and finally explain his and Cable’s connection to Cyclops and Jean Grey He also brought back Magneto, and created a group of new followers for the villain, the Acolytes.

Such important stories under Lobdell’s run were X-Cutioner’s Song, Fatal Attractions, Bloodties, The Phalanx Covenant (which would lead to the formation of splinter team Generation X), and most famously, Age of Apocalypse, one of the biggest and most revered X-Men stories in history. He would also pen the Onslaught Saga with Mark Waid, one of the most controversial stories in the history of the comic book medium, before leaving the book for a short time. Notable incidents of these stories were the removable of Wolverine’s skeleton by Magneto, Cable revealed to be the son of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor, Xavier mind-wiping Magneto, the character Bishop joining the team, the creation of Onslaught from a dark corner of Xavier’s mind, and the forming of the X-Force team.

Lobdell’s replacement was Steven T. Seagle, but he was replaced quickly thereafter by Alan Davis. Davis’s run would further explore Lobdell’s themes, writing such stories as The Twelve, which saw the return of Apocalypse. These stories kept the X-Men going at the darkest time in comic book history, and were one of the few books for Marvel at the time that was turning a profit. Claremont would make a quick return, before Lobdell would come back in 2001 to pen Eve of Destruction, which would conclude the Genosha story arc, the climax of which would see Magneto killed by Wolverine in the finale. This would set the stage for the reigns to be handed over to the legendary Grant Morrison, who would go take the X-Men in a completely different direction.

New X-Men

Into the New Millennium

By the new millennium, Marvel was in trouble. There is a much larger story about those dark times that I won’t go into detail about, but short version is that the comic book industry was dying, and Marvel was getting the worst of it. Things were so bad for the company that there was serious consideration to sell the X-Men to another publisher, the X-Books one of the few properties that Marvel had left that was turning a profit. Thankfully, Joe Queseda would come in and take over as Editor-In-Chief, and set to work bringing in new talent to help revitalize the company.

One of those talents was legendary writer Grant Morrison, who had just finished up an incredible run at DC with JLA. Morrison was given the task of taking over the X-Men, penning a new series entitled New X-Men to revitalize the team and bring them into the new millennium. Grant’s run rewrote the status quo for the team, changing the course of the X-Men like never before. Most notably of these changes was former enemy Emma Frost joining the team, and beginning an affair with Cyclops, effectively ending his marriage to Jean Grey (fans were NOT happy about that one). The series also introduced the character Cassandra Nova, who would go on to become one of the X-Men’s most dangerous enemies.

The most important plot line of Morrison’s run was that of the mysterious Xorn, a new member of the X-Men with a shrouded background. Throughout his run there were hints dropped constantly as to who Xorn really was, eventually being revealed to by Magneto, who then mass murdered hundreds of New Yorkers and killed Jean Grey. He was in turn killed by Wolverine, but the damage was done, and the X-Men would never be the same again.

However, his run was not without controversy. The reveal of Magneto as Xorn was masterful, but the editors of the X-Books liked the character and didn’t want Morrison to go through with the reveal. Even after it happened, they wanted to change it, having new X-Men writer Chuck Austin create another Xorn character, and establish that the previous was his brother and only impersonating Magneto. Morrison to this day objects to this decision, wanting Magneto to remain a true villain, but with the work of Claremont and later Lobdell of making Magnus a grey character, the editors at Marvel didn’t want Magneto to go down a path he can’t walk back from. Controversial yes, but it ultimately led to Magnus’s return at a later date, and even becoming an ally to the team over time.

Controversial and revolutionary, Morrison’s run changed the X-Men irrevocably, and despite the retcons that were performed after his departure, his influence on the X-Men is still felt today.

Astonishing X-Men

The Wonder of Whedon

Following Morrison’s run, new writers were brought into the fold to follow up on what New X-Men had built. One of the most prominent writers is TV writer extraordinaire Joss Whedon, who was a massive fan of Morrison’s work.  Hired to continue that work, he was paired with artist John Cassaday and together they created a memorable run that is still talked about today.

Astonishing X-Men is noted as being kept separate for the larger crossover events in Marvel of that time, Whedon himself never being a big fan of such stories. However, Whdeon and Cassady did write some very important storylines for the X-Men. Notable occurrences were the return of Colossus four years after his death, the creation of Danger, and explored in depth the history of Professor Xavier and the numerous manipulative actions he took behind the scenes since the X-Men’s forming. He also re-established the Hellfire Club as a major adversary, using Emma Frost as a double agent between the two. The most noteworthy of Whedon’s stories however was the of the “death” of Kitty Pryde as she sacrificed herself to save the world from destruction. Though later saved by Magneto, this storyline is one of the most talked about X-stories of that time period.

Whedon would leave the X-Men in 2007, and Astonishing was handed off to Warren Ellis. Whedon and Cassaday’s run however is still considered a major part of the X-Men’s history of that decade, and a worthy follow up to Morrison’s groundbreaking run.


Decimation and a New Hope

While Whedon continued Morrison’s work over at Astonishing, Chris Claremont made his return to Uncanny X-Men, writing a series of stories as the X-Men’s world was thrown into chaos. His most famous of these stories was Death of the Greys, which saw the murder of Rachel Grey’s family at the hands of the Shi’ar. Claremont would not stay long on the book, but his return was a welcome event to X-Fans everywhere.

Then, House of M happened, and looking back, it may have been the most important storyline in X-Men history since The Dark Phoenix Saga. Marvel Editor in Chief Joe Queseda felt that there were too many mutants in the world of Marvel at that time, and the number needed to be cut down a bit. So, Brian Bendis (who was writing Avengers at the time), penned the House of M event comic, where the Scarlet Witch would create a world where everyone’s deepest wishes came true. Unfortunately, it all goes sideways, and in a fit of rage and insanity, Scarlet Witch declares, “No More Mutants.” This action decimated the mutant population, depowering thousands if not millions of their number.

In the wake of this event, Decimation was written to show the aftermath by Ed Brubaker. Soon thereafter, Matt Fraction was put on as co-plotter on the book, and would pen the majority of Uncanny X-Men for the next few years. This time for the X-Men was among the bleakest in their history, the mutants now truly at risk of extinction, their enemies circling like vultures. Then, hope came in the form of the first mutant child born after M-Day, a child that would become the focus of the famed Messiah Trilogy. This child, Hope Summers, would become the mutant savior, her arrival heralding a rebirth for the mutant race. During the conclusion to this trilogy, Second Coming, Nightcrawler was killed saving Hope from Nimrod, a loss keenly felt by every X-Man.

Just before that however, the X-Men moved their home base (the remains of Asteroid M) out to international waters, further establishing their outsider status from the rest of Marvel. The follow-up story Necrosha would see the resurrection of a number of mutants, helping refill their population and allow for the return of a number of heroes and villains. Fraction would also bring back Magneto in Nation X, which would also see Magnus save Kitty Pryde from space after the events in Astonishing X-Men. Soon after, Cyclop’s secret death squad X-Force would be revealed, causing Beast to leave the X-Men in disgust, starting a series of events that would lead to a schism within the team.

Matt Fraction would leave the book in 2011, ending another era for the X-Men. A lot of writers penned the various books during this period, but it should noted that although it was a dark time for the mutant team, it also featured some of the most emotionally charged storylines in the team’s history, and set the stage for what was coming next.


X-Men Divided

After the fallout of the Messiah Trilogy, Utopia, and other stories of that time period, the X-Men were attacked by the vampire clans in the story Curse of the Mutants. During this storyline, Jubilee was bitten and turned into a vampire, in turn biting Wolverine before the book’s climax. It is revealed that Cylcops had turned off Logan’s healing factor so he could turn it back on during the final battle to give them an edge. The only problem with this is that Logan didn’t know, and had started to distrust the increasingly hard line Cyclops.

This all lead to the book Schism by Jason Aaron, as Wolverine and Cyclops continued to conflict over the tactics the X-Men’s long time leader was employing. It all came to a head on Utopia during a Sentinel attack, the two finally coming to blows. Though they did come to their sense just long enough to fight off the Sentinels, it was clear that the two men could no longer work together. Wolverine left Utopia to return to the X-Mansion, intent on rebuilding the school that Xavier had created while Cyclops stayed on Utopia to continue to build the mutant nation.

This split the X-Men into two distinct groups. Emma Frost, Magick, Colossus, Magneto, and Namor stayed with Cyclops on Utopia. Storm, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Gambit, Rachel Grey, and Psylocke, and Beast went with Logan, founding the Jean Grey Academy on the sight of the old X-Mansion, returning the X-Men to their roots. Beast would join them as well, rounding out the school’s faculty along with a number of former Xavier Graduates. Hope Summers, probably the most important mutant in the world at that moment, decided to stay with Cyclops to continue her training and lead the team Generation Hope.

Thus, there were two main X-Books in publication, Jason Aaron writing Wolverine and the X-Men, while Keiron Gillen would take over Uncanny, Marvel relaunching the book with a new number 1. Both teams would continue their fight for mutant rights, old enemies like Mr Sinister and the Hellfire Club coming out of the woodwork to make their lives difficult.

Jason Aaron’s run with Wolverine and the X-Men was an important one for the X-Men as he (along with Gillen) redefined the franchise. Aaron’s book in particular rekindled the relationship between Storm and Wolverine, and gave Ororo back her famous mohawk, and resetting the status quo for a number of the characters. Gillian’s book focused on Cyclops’s training of Hope Summers, the mutant messiah inching ever closer to her destiny, which was revealed that she was to be the next host for the Phoenix.

It was this plot point that would lead the X-Men into conflict with the Avengers, and resulted in one of the biggest comic book events in history, Avengers vs X-Men. This storyline, in which the Phoenix would return to possess Cyclops, Magick, Emma Frost, Namor, and Colossus to create the Phoenix Five, saw the Avengers and the X-Men enter into full-scale war, with the Phoenix slowly corrupting its hosts. The finale to this tale saw Cyclops completely taken over by the entity, becoming Dark Phoenix and murdering Professor Xavier. Cyclops was defeated by Hope and Scarlet Witch, the former possessed by the Phoenix force at the conclusion of the battle. Together, Wanda and Hope combined their cosmic powers to say, “More Mutants”, repopulating the Earth with new mutants around the globe and undoing the events of House of M. Next, they declared, “No More Phoenix”, destroying the entity, at least for awhile.

In the fallout of this event, the Avengers founded the Unity Squad, bringing in Havok and Rogue from the X-Men to bring the two teams closer together in the book Uncanny Avengers. Cyclops however was now a criminal, and locked away while the rest of the Phoenix Five were scattered to the wind. Wolverine’s X-Men returned home to continue Xavier’s dream, but as one era of the X-Men was ending, another was just getting started.

All New

Past, Present, and Future

In the wake of Avengers vs X-Men, comic book legend Brian Bendis was set to take over for Uncanny X-Men, as well as start a new book entitled All New X-Men. In All New, Brian’s focus would be on the general state of the X-Men, the recent years rocking them to their core. None were more hurt by all this than Beast, who remembers the time when he and the other original team members were graduating as friends so many years ago, hopeful about a future that had turned so horribly bleak. With that thought in mind, he travels back in time, and brings the original five X-Men to the present, to show his teammates how far they had fallen.

This single action created a domino effect, the original X-Men deciding to stay in the present, not wanting to go back to the past if their destiny was to die or become something they hated. To this end, Kitty Pryde would become their teacher, the students nicknaming her Professor K, and begin learning to use and control their powers in the same manner that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had depicted when the X-Men had first burst onto the scene.

Over in Uncanny, Cyclops and his team would found the New Xavier School in the old Weapon X facility, gathering students to continue Xavier’s dream in his own way. All the while, he and his team had to dodge the Avengers and SHIELD as they were now wanted fugitives for causing the war with the Avengers and Cyclops in particular for the death of Xavier. This lead to several encounters between the two X-Men groups, but thankfully, none of them ended in violence.

Bendis would redefine the X-Men during this time, taking them through several encounters with old enemies and new alike, creating a new status quo for both sides. After the storyline Battle of the Atom, during which it was discovered that the original X-Men could not be sent back to the past, Kitty Pryde would leave the Jean Grey School to join Cyclops after serious disagreements with Storm and Wolverine over what to do about the time-displaced teenagers. With the schism between the X-Men ever widening, Kitty’s team would also have several adventures with the Guardians of the Galaxy, even leading to a major confrontation with the Shi’ar.

It was also during this time that Jason Aaron would end his run on Wolverine and the X-Men, but would continue his work with the first arc of Amazing X-Men, that would see the return of Nightcrawler. Shortly thereafter, Bendis would pen The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier, revealing that Mystique and Xavier had been married for some time, and even had a child together. The will stated that the school was to be left to Cyclops and Storm, but Scott, realizing that he was no longer worthy of Xavier’s dream, leaves the school to Storm and leaves the X-Men behind, at least for the moment. In the aftermath, the New Xavier School was closed, and its students were brought to the X-Mansion, finally ending the schism. Just after, Charles Soule would pen Death of Wolverine, Logan dying after his healing factor was lost. Beast would then leave the team at the end of Brian’s run, the others questioning his recent decisions that had thrown their world into such chaos, and Beast unwilling to admit his wrong-doings. Despite all this though, the schism was finally over, and united once more, the X-Men were able to move on to their next chapter.

All New and All DIfferent

The Future of Mutantkind

After Secret Wars, the X-Men, much like the rest of Marvel, were in for some major changes. The major storyline coming out of Secret Wars was that in the wake of the release of the Terrigen Mists during the Infinity and Inhumanity events, mutants began getting deathly ill. It was discovered that the Mists to be lethal to mutants, creating the deadly M-Pox virus. After leaving the X-Men, Beast joined the Inhumans to find a cure, depicted in Uncanny Inhumans, though the title is not truly considered an X-Book. The other big piece of news is that Cyclops (the older version), attempted an all-out assault on the Inhumans in response to the M-Pox virus, and was killed for his efforts.

The writing for Uncanny was handed over to Cutler Bunn, who had just wrapped up a phenomenal run with Magneto. He brings Magnus with him, forming a team including Psylocke, Sabretooth, Mystique, M, and Archangel to defend mutants at all costs, as is typical of Magneto and continues Bendis’s work with Uncanny being the renegade book of the X-Line. Dennis Hopeless was hired to write All-New X-Men, which would deal with the fallout of Cylcops’s death as well as the continuing adventures of the time-displaced X-Men. A third book, entitled Extraordinary X-Men, would be penned by Jeff Lemire, and would see Storm lead the X-Men to create a new home called X-Haven to protect them from the Terrigen Mists. The book would also see Old Man Logan, who was also starring in his own solo book by Lemire, join the team at Jean Grey’s insistence. Finally, Tom Taylor would pen All-New Wolverine, starring X-23 taking over her father’s mantle. All these books are leading to conflict between the X-Men and the Inhumans in the coming months, the effects of the M-Pox virus spreading across mutant-kind. Before that however, a new event entitled Apocalypse Wars is on the horizon, setting the X-Men against a new form of one of their greatest enemies.

With such talented creative teams in place, the future for the X-Men has never been brighter, and with the brave new world that is All-New All-Different Marvel, they are forging ahead as strong as ever, adding to their incredible legacy.


The Greatest Team in Comic Book History

It’s difficult to fully describe what impact the X-Men have had on comic books. They started out as a C or B level team whose book was cancelled, and after they were brought back they went on to become one of the biggest licensed properties in the history of the comic book industry. For years, decades even, they were the most diverse team in comic books, where characters from all walks of life could be found, and where the social issues plaguing the world could be discussed openly and without censure. The X-Men were the ultimate allegory for prejudice, the hatred of the mutant race used to show how foolish judging another person for what they really is. Other books have tried to do this, but none have succeeded more than the X-Men.

But why are they so popular? To me, it’s their very nature that attracts people to the mutant team. They’re outsiders, never quite fit in, always separate from the rest of the Marvel Universe, and even when involved in major events they stood on their own. That’s what makes them special. They’re the other guys, the ones that stand outside the rest of the world, with their own stories and their own challenges.

Even the X-Men’s publication history makes them outsiders, the book cancelled and almost abandoned, brought back in the strangest of ways. There was a time when the X-Men WERE Marvel Comics, the most profitable book they had, spawning multiple offshoots that only added to their status. There were times when the X-Books were among the only properties Marvel owned that were making a profit, keeping the company alive at its lowest points. Even in film, the X-Movies (with a little help from Blade) revitalized the super hero genre in Hollywood, movies without which we wouldn’t have the plethora of superfilms that we have today.

Personally, the X-Men were my first comic book love. The animated series was my favourite show growing up, the books in recent years helping me deal with personal issues I had been having, and the movies still ranking among my favourite of the super hero genre. They were the losers, the outcasts, the weird kids that no one liked. In short, they were just like me. They made me feel like I wasn’t alone, that being strange was not a failing, and that I should revel in my uniqueness. To this day, they are my favourites, the characters and stories never ceasing to enthral me. The X-Men will always hold a special place in my heart, and more than that, have taken up a fair bit of my soul as well, their determination to continue to fight in the face of overwhelming adversity, to do the right thing even if people hate you for it, to rise about that hate and be an example, those qualities are ones that I have taken upon myself, and make me strive to be a better person.

In short, the X-Men are the greatest super hero team in history, the best of what comic books has to offer, and the greatest collection of heroes the world has ever seen. May they continue to tell us stories, teach us things, and be awesome for many, many years to come.

Updated: 05/09/2016, GregFahlgren
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Guest on 09/13/2016

This is an incredible post lol! I particularly liked reading about the Chris Claremont era of X-men - it was during the peak of my comic book-loving youth. I probably liked DC more than Marvel - but that's only because of Superman, my favorite hero. In all other ways, Marvel was superior.

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