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Back to basics again for me today.

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012, is the start of Tumblr’s “Men Reading Women In Comics” project. Luckily for me, I am a (gay) man, and my pet fandom is X-Men, which over the years has given me many powerful, amazing female characters.

Whether they’re actual members of the team or one of its affiliates, allies who struck me as particularly cool, or superheroines from other groups who just formed strong ties to Marvel’s mutants, I just love seeing these ladies in the pages of an X-Book. Some of them will have lots of images to accompany the text, and others will just be short blurbs.

This will be a three-part post, with Part 1 covering #15-11, Part 2 containing #10-5, and my Top 5 X-Women in Part 3.

So enjoy!

15) Moira MacTaggert

Image courtesy of xmen-supreme.com

Moira is tough to pin down. She’s not a mutant, and not an X-Man, but her character and history is so indelibly tied with the X-Men that she might as well be. While largely known as Professor Xavier’s ex-girlfriend and a gifted geneticist-slash-plot device for patching up the X-Men and/or unlocking any science-related problems they stumble across, I like her because of her courage and strength, as much as her brains.

She doesn’t have any real powers, just her brains and her guts, and she’s plentiful in both, as evidenced from her very first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #96:

Moira decides the Hippocratic Oath doesn’t apply to omnicidal demons. Image courtesy of media.comicvine.com

Yeah, she started off as willing to mix it up with the bad guys just as readily as the X-Men themselves. She’d spend as much time with a pistol, rifle, or machine gun in her hands as in her laboratory.

Over time, she got less combative and more like a den mother, particularly in the pages of Excalibur, but I’ll always remember her as the woman able to both solve the X-Men’s tougher scientific quandaries and pull a gun on anything and everything that threatens her or the people she cares about.

The Hippocratic Oath should also not extend to abusive rapist ex-husbands.

Long story short, Moira is probably the X-Men’s best-known human ally, and certainly one of my favorite non-team-members of either gender they’ve ever had.

14) Monet St. Croix

She’s sexy and she knows it. Image courtesy of media.comicvine.com

M started off in the pages of Generation X, as a…quandary. The woman who appeared in the early books calling herself M was an imitation, her young sisters Nicole and Claudette merged into the likeness of their elder sibling after she was transformed into Penance. Yeah…

Convoluted backstory notwithstanding, I think M is an amazing character. All the blunt, brutal honesty, snobbery, and snark of Emma Frost combined with a set of superpowers that would too easily guarantee her a spot on the Mary Sue list. However, we’ve been lucky enough to get some top-notch writers handling her, who make her both a powerhouse and a flawed, but still sympathetic character.  Currently she’s X-Factor Investigations’ team snarker, having overcome her complex, troubled past to become one of the organization’s most popular, bluntly honest member, and thriving under the writing of Peter David.

13) Jubilee

Jubilee

Jubilation Lee’s signature design, courtesy of uncannyxmen.net

Anyone who’s watched the X-Men animated series in the 90s knows this girl. She was the smart-alecky teenage newcomer we were supposed to identify with. Her powers, and her wardrobe, were bright, flashy, and loud, her slang trendy and dated almost before it left her mouth.

In short, she was a microcosm of the 90s. So why do I love this character so much?

Probably because for all that she’s a bratty, smart-mouthed snot, there is a heart under the attitude, and a brain as well. In her time with Generation X, she grew into her own as a character, and I always liked her powers; she had real, genuine potential for growth and expansion in their use, unlike a lot of other energy-blasting types among the X-Men (I’m looking at you, Havok).

An alternate costume from a fan on DeviantArt. If you know the source, let me know so I can credit them!

That said, I can’t say I was completely displeased when, after M-Day, she became a vampire and faced a whole new set of challenges. The Wolverine & Jubilee limited series may have had something to do with this, since it showed that despite having a serious chip on her shoulder, she was definitely still the same person she always was, just with a new power set. I also really enjoyed her relationships with Gambit, X-23, and Wolverine during her guest appearance in X-23. So while I’d of course love to see her powers come back, if she stays as she is, I won’t cry too many tears. She’s still a valuable asset to any team she’s on. Just now, she’s the loudest, liveliest dead girl I know to boot.

Vampire Jubilee

Now if she’d just drop the damn jacket I’d be happy. Image courtesy of uncannyxmen.net

12) Rachel Summers-Grey

uncannyxmen.net again.

Out of all the characters in this portion of the program, Rachel (the second Phoenix and the third Marvel Girl) is probably the most quintessentially Claremontian. Her watchword started out as being ‘tough’…so tough that she was arguably the least feminine female character on the X-Books during her early tenure with the X-Men and her time with Excalibur.

Given her backstory…a victim of the original ‘Days of Future Past’ timeline where mutants were hunted nearly to extinction by Sentinels and most of the X-Men were slaughtered…it’s no surprise that she raised as many defenses as she did, or that she would fight so hard to keep it from coming true.

Rachel as Marvel Girl

Baby Phoenix? Yeah, no one calls her that twice.

Since taking the name Marvel Girl in 2004, she’s softened up considerably, adopting more feminine forms of dress and hairstyles, but she’s still plenty tough.

I wish the writers of Avengers Vs. X-Men (the latest CROSSOVER EVENT THAT WILL CHANGE THE MARVEL UNIVERSE FOREVER SERIOUSLY WE SWEAR) would remember Rachel’s ties to the Phoenix and use them better in the wake of this event, but as long as she continues to have a role in the books rather than be shuffled off to Limbo again, I won’t complain. Too much.

11) Danielle Moonstar

Mutant powers? Girl, please.

It would be so easy to write Dani Moonstar off as the token Native American on the X-Men. She certainly makes a bigger deal out of it than Forge, her closest male analogue, does.

But the great thing about her, IMO anyway, is that she managed to rise above being a token (at least in terms of her character), to be not only the leader of her own team, but one of the few examples after M-Day that there is life after mutant powers.

Don’t get me wrong; Moonstar’s powers, both as Psyche/Mirage and later when her codename was her surname, were awesome, and had some of the greatest potential I’ve ever seen in a field that, even by then, was starting to get old hat. Her psychic powers started off as a mix of emotion-based illusions and animal empathy, then went through many, many permutations until they finally became a kind of psychic Swiss army knife, where she could do anything that wasn’t the standard psychic tricks of ‘read minds, communicate psychically’.

Then she was depowered. And for most characters in the X-Men universe (see: Jubilee), losing your mutant power is the next worst thing to a death sentence, at least as far as being in the books goes. Instead, Dani taught young superhumans at the Intitiative for a while, and then went back to being in charge of the New Mutants, who had by now become their own team of X-Men, shouting down or smacking down anyone who dared tell her that she couldn’t.

To this day, she is one of the strongest characters in the X-Men universe, and the spearhead (so to speak) of her own book. I can’t help but wish she’d get her powers back, at least a little, if only because I’d like to see how they juxtapose with her new, tougher, go-getter attitude. But with or without them, she’s still a force to be reckoned with.

~*~

And that’s it for right now, as I’m officially late for work. Later today or perhaps tomorrow, I’ll post up part two, with pop stars, demon sorceresses, and doctors with serious chips on their shoulder.

Happy reading!

Welcome to a new feature on triplenerdscore called “Under A Rock.”

Basically, here’s where I sharpen my writing skills by summarizing a piece of popular geek media I enjoy/enjoyed that I think everyone knows about, or should. I’ll try and give a spoiler-free analysis.

Since this started out as an X-Men blog, and my X-Men posts remain the most popular, I’ll use my first segment to discuss how I got my start with Marvel’s mutants and talk about X-Men: The Animated Series today.

X-Men: The Animated Series logo courtesy of wikipedia

Comic book cartoons have a very polarizing tendency…that is to say, they can either be very good or very bad, with few middle-of-the-road exceptions.

For anyone who grew up in the early 1990s, X-Men: The Animated Series (simply X-Men or X:TAS for short) was one of the best. Even though modern audiences are more likely to be turned off by the over-the-top voice acting and hit-and-miss animation, for its time it was celebrated as one of the most complex, mature, and story-driven cartoons of the day, and is still ranked highly in the annals of animated TV shows.

The premise is an adaptation Marvel Comics’ franchise of the same name. The titular X-Men are mutants, people born with unique abilities and/or physical characteristics that manifest at puberty and set them apart from the rest of the world. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of mutants across the globe, with new ones popping up every day, and the general public’s reaction to them is…perhaps understandably…mixed.

The X-Men themselves, we mostly see through the eyes of a young girl named Jubilee, who has just discovered that she herself is a mutant, with the power to generate explosive energy from her hands.

The cast consists of the weather-controlling Storm; the flying, super-strong power-absorber Rogue; Gambit, who turns objects into grenades; Cyclops, who fires beams of energy from his eyes; blue-furred, acrobatic, poetic genius Beast; shapeshifting wisecracker Morph; psychic, telekinetic den-mother Jean Grey; Professor Xavier, telepathic founder of the X-Men; and feral, adamantium-clawed Wolverine, the most wildly popular character in the comics and show.

Although this was largely an action show, and as such devoted a good chunk of time every episode to comic-book-style fight scenes with impressive visuals and memorable feats, the real strength of the show lay in its character interactions, and the pains it took to juggle and develop a sizable cast. Some characters fell through the cracks over the course of the show…Gambit all but disappeared after about the third season or so, and Jean Grey only got one truly memorable storyline of note…but by and large, the cast remained an ensemble, though Wolverine, being the most popular character, appeared in every episode. The dynamics of how the team related to each other were strong, and relatively complex for a children’s show of the time; viewers were treated to Rogue and Gambit’s tumultuous love affair, Wolverine and Cyclops competing for the affections of Jean Grey (and in later seasons, hints of a mutual attraction between Wolverine and Storm), and the long-standing friendship and rivalry between Professor Xavier and Magneto, the show’s primary antagonist, though he was portrayed in a much more sympathetic light here than in the comics that were being printed at the time, to the point where it was heavily implied that he would become an X-Man himself in the series finale.

Characters who had been X-Men in the comics guest-starred frequently, among them the time-traveling Bishop and Cable, original X-Men alumni Iceman and Archangel, and fan favorites like Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Banshee. Other groups, like the government-funded X-Factor, also made appearances. Each story arc was tied to the rest of the series as a whole, but the individual story arcs, which could span anything from one episode to four or five, but mostly rested in the two- or three-part zone, could usually be followed in and of themselves. The only exception was a sub-plot in the second season where Professor X and Magneto found themselves in the Savage Land without their mutant powers, which began as a side-plot in the season opener and continued all the way through the second-season finale.

The show mostly had its own storyline, separate from the comics, but certain plots were adapted and lifted directly from the comics, such as Chris Claremont’s classic “Dark Phoenix Saga,” where Jean Grey attains nearly godlike power but is corrupted as a result of it. In stories like this, details were changed to make it suitable for a younger viewing audience, but the spirit and essence of the comics’ stories were largely kept intact.

I personally loved this series, and recommend it to anyone with children between the ages of 6 and 14. It gives lessons in prejudice and tolerance without being overly preachy, and is simple enough for children to understand while still retaining the interest of a slightly older audience with complex, intricate storylines.

If there are flaws in this series, they lie in the technical production aspects. The animation is choppy, though an argument could be made that the creators were trying to make it look like a moving comic book, and the dialogue may sound corny to today’s audiences, particularly Wolverine’s gruffly growled catchphrases or the long, dramatic invocations Storm utters when she calls upon her weather powers (something she does not have to do in the comics).

Despite these shortcomings, X-Men: The Animated Series is a solid show, and one that is enjoyable at almost any age. I strongly recommend it to any parent looking to give their child quality entertainment, and isn’t averse to action shows. Though I warn you, the theme song WILL get stuck in your head.

And there you have it! My summary of X-Men: The Animated Series for anyone who’s been living Under A Rock.

You can find these reviews at sharetv.org before I post them here. Just look for reviews by ‘ingonyama’ to see if I’ve finished it yet.

Next/soon-ish, I’ll take a look at what I consider to be the best anime ever to come out of the West:

Avatar: The Last Airbender (The Legend of Aang for UK audiences)

OK, clearly I have no sense of how long an update’s going to take. Apologies for this latest delay.

On the bright side, we’re finally here: My Top 5 6 5 Animated Movies Of All Time! (OK, so it actually turned out to be a Top 6 because I forgot about an old favorite.)

Technically I suppose that makes this a Top 16, but since I’m too lazy to go back and renumber everything I’ve listed thus far, I’m just putting the new one up as tied for #3 with my original pick.
Here goes!

~*~

5) The Nightmare Before Christmas. When this movie first came out, a 12-year-old me was highly skeptical. I’d seen Batman and Beetlejuice and liked them OK, but I wasn’t really keen on seeing Tim Burton do an honest-to-God kid’s movie.

I’m pleased to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong. I think almost everyone’s seen this movie, and I make it an annual Halloween tradition. The characters are flawed, but engaging and likable, the stop-motion is the finest I’ve ever seen, and the songs, by Tim Burton’s go-to-guy Danny Elfman, are up there with some of the best music Disney has to offer. It’s a really well-told story with a fascinating mythology. I love the idea of the Holiday Worlds, and how they seem to be microcosms of the public consciousness’s perception of these holidays. (so does that mean St. Patrick’s Day Town is full of drunk leprechauns, green beer, and rainbows? DISCUSS :p)

I don’t know what else to say about this movie. Chances are you’ve already seen it. If you haven’t, do yourself a favor and watch it next Halloween or Christmastime. :D

4) The Iron Giant. This is a fairly recent discovery for me, as I had only heard of it in passing when it first came out and didn’t actually try and find out more until much, much later. Of course now I’m kicking myself for not having discovered this gem earlier.

This is the most down-to-Earth animated movie I’ve ever seen. Despite being about a giant robot from space, this one was a great look at a period of American history I think we’d just as soon forget ever existed: the Cold War. The wonder of the Giant is offset by the fear of the period, and it makes for some wonderful building tension.

A lot of the real appeal, IMHO, is the characters themselves, and how fleshed-out and real they all feel. The relationships are intriguing and well-played out, and some of the most compelling stuff comes from these relationships…the villain covering the kid protagonist’s mouth with chloroform was one of the most chilling things I’ve ever seen in an animated movie, a medium where kids are usually pretty safe. Besides the villain (which is kind of the point), I cannot think of a single character I disliked or was annoyed by. And Vin Diesel’s performance as the voice of the Giant has to be heard to be believed. The few lines he gets are loaded.

This is kind of a cult classic compared to a lot of the movies on my list, particularly my Disney and Pixar entries, but I strongly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

3) The Lion King and The Flight Of Dragons. This tie exists for a very good reason, as these are two sides of a coin to my way of thinking.
I’ll talk about the more famous one first. Lion King is one of those movies everyone has seen, and everyone’s got an opinion on it. Part Bambi, part Hamlet, part Macbeth, with a shot or two lifted from a 1965 anime series (though they have little in common besides those couple of shots and a few coincidences listed on the site), it was basically Disney using the same idea they had in Bambi, to tell a story from the perspective of the animal kingdom as opposed to people, or anthropomorphic animals like in their Mickey/Donald/Goofy shorts (or their adaptation of Robin Hood).

Everything about the production design on this movie was researched exhaustively, and it really does show, from the lushness of the scenery to the way every character moves, keeping true to their species while still conveying emotion. It’s not as hardcore-realistic as Watership Down, but in some ways I prefer the Disney animation…the characters are much more relatable and the emotional impact much harder hitting when you see the human element behind these acting animals. It wasn’t afraid to portray serious things Disney had previously shied away from, like death, depression, guilt, depravity, and madness, and it did it all without talking down or pulling many punches.

Critics pan the story for being derivative, but I’d argue that the blending of the disparate elements of the different stories was what made Lion King work so well. The writers took elements from all sorts of well-known stories and blended them together to craft Lion King into a unique  story all its own, that feels like the others and yet separate from them. Plus, the other stories don’t have the happiest of endings (except some versions of Kimba), so Lion King is the one to watch if you don’t want to come away depressed.

Talking about the story-blending leads me to The Flight Of Dragons. This is one a lot fewer people have heard of, which I think is a shame, as it’s one of the best high-fantasy animated movies on the market.

For the plot of Flight of Dragons, Rankin & Bass amalgamated two books…Peter Dickinson’s art book by the same name on how dragons could theoretically exist, complete with explanations for how they flew and breathed fire, and Gordon R. Dickson’s “The Dragon And The George,” the first book in his Dragon Knight series of novels. Most of the plot and characters are from the latter book, simply replacing the main character with an animated avatar of Peter Dickinson, but the explanations given for dragon biology are right out of Dickinson’s own book.

Visually, I find this one as beautiful as Lion King, in its own way. For a movie made in 1982, it’s impressive, every inch hand-drawn in Rankin & Bass’s inimitable style. The effects in particular stand out, between the hand-drawn curls of cloud-shaped fire and the surreal imagery that surrounds the climax.

The voice-acting is impressive, with Harry Morgan, James Gregory, John Ritter, Victor Buono, and James Earl Jones all giving great performances. Best of all, unlike The Last Unicorn, this one isn’t a musical, which means no embarrassing singing performances to distract from the quality of the cast.  The only song, “Flight Of Dragons” is performed by Don McLean, and for my money, I prefer it over “American Pie” any day.

But again, the selling point with this movie is the story. The high-adventure fantastic quest is here in all its glory, with unexpected allies, deadly perils, an evil wizard, a damsel in distress, and the fate of the world at stake. It’s by turns adult and dark, and playful and humorous, with enough of both to keep from getting either too adult or too kiddy, although I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to very young children. But the underlying plot, of science versus magic, is where this movie really shines. Without giving away too much, it’s hard for a self-proclaimed witch like me to see myself making the same choice Dickinson does at the end of the film.

These two movies are good examples of storytellers at work. The originality of both works may be in question, but they revisit classic archetypes in such a way that gives a fresh spin on their respective tales. While chances are you’ve already seen Lion King, I recommend Flight of Dragons to everyone who likes fantasy, good animation, or both.

2)  The Secret of NIMH. Another 1982 entry, this movie was Don Bluth’s first feature-length film.

I love a lot of Don Bluth’s work. Even though I complained about the original American Tail when I listed Fievel Goes West as #15, the only reason for my pathos is because I really got to care about him, and thus drawn into the movie. All Dogs Go To Heaven, Titan A.E, Anastasia, and The Land Before Time all sucked me in because of the quality of their storytelling and the sense of wonder I felt during each movie that contrasted with the heavy emotional impact all these films carried (yes, even Anastasia. I’m a sucker for the Disney formula done right, even if it’s not by Disney).

But I really do believe Bluth’s first offering was his best. No one told him what he could and couldn’t do, so The Secret of NIMH was pure creativity, without any influence from a studio telling him what not to put in there, and a backlash against the cheapness of animated productions of the time…and it shows. The production values here are off the charts, with dazzling special effects, fluid, seamless animation that still holds up today, and a team of writers and artists who would go on to produce legendary works in the years to come (including Brenda Chapman, Vera Lanpher, and Bruce Timm, all before they rose to fame for other projects).

The story is probably the most unconventional hero’s quest ever, following a widowed mother of four as she sets out on a journey to save her family. While the rats of NIMH have a highly compelling backstory and mythology all their own, it’s Mrs. Brisby’s quiet determination sells this movie. Mrs. Brisby (changed from Frisby in the novel to avoid lawsuits from the makers of the Frisbee toy) is intrepid and brave, but a different kind of brave than the normal action hero. She spends most of the movie either meekly diffident to others or terrified out of her wits, but still ventures forth and seeks out the help she needs, whether from a curmudgeonly professorial mouse (voiced by Arthur Malet), an inept crow (Dom DeLuise, in the first of many roles he would play for Bluth’s films) an all-knowing Owl (the late John Carradine, father of the late David Carradine and an old-time acting legend in his own right), or a clan of ostracized, super-smart rats (Peter Strauss, Derek Jacobi, and Paul Shenar, among others). She’s a Mama Bear on a level with Molly Weasley, if not in quite the same way. However, for all that she’s not an Action Mom, the sense that she would go to the ends of the Earth and back for her children is still there.

The movie isn’t quite perfect, even though it’s amazing…the ending is immensely gratifying on an emotional level, but doesn’t make a lot of sense in the context of a movie that had previously been (mostly) grounded in reality. However, I like a little magic in my movies, and when the payoff is as richly rewarding and relieving as that one was, I call a little suspension of disbelief a fair trade. So I can let that slide and give Secret of NIMH a well-earned spot as my second-favorite animated movie of all time.

1) Beauty And The Beast. There are very, very few movies I’m willing to call “perfect.” Even in some of my all-time favorite cartoons, there’s a flaw in the writing, or the animation isn’t quite up to today’s standards, or something about it just isn’t quite there.

I’m happy to say that I found a movie I consider perfect in Beauty And The Beast. The songs are beautiful, memorable, and fun at varying turns. My favorite is Angela Lansbury’s touching, maternal rendition of the title theme. The animation is flowing and seamless and holds up beautifully, even more than 20 years after the fact. And the story?

Well, let’s just say I sat down and went over this story with a fine-toothed comb, looking for even the slightest little thing to complain about. And not a single thing came to mind. I can’t find anything wrong with this movie. Even things that, on the surface, seem to not make much sense, actually hold up under closer scrutiny. And that takes real talent, especially for a fairy tale.

The characters are similarly wonderful. Belle and the Beast are my two favorite Disney characters. Belle is understanding, sweet, kind, and patient, but she’s no one’s fool and anything but a doormat; she will push back if she’s pushed too far. The Beast’s character arc is an awesome redemption story about the changing power of caring for others, and climbing out of the depths of one’s own depression at the same time. Gaston is a brilliant villain in that he’s mostly a harmless, spoiled buffoon, but his motives and methods get darker and darker as he continually fails to get his way. And the household objects, Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, and the rest, are the best kind of Disney supporting character; they’re quirky, charming, and funny, but still contribute to the plot and its resolution in important ways.

Caring about all these characters as much as I do makes the ending that much sweeter. If it had only been the Beast’s human form at stake, the eventual transformation might have struck me as overdone. But with his life in the balance, along with the human forms of all the household staff and the original form of the castle itself, the reward was just right.

I don’t know what else to say; I thought I’d have more. Suffice it to say that this is my all-time favorite animated movie, and one of my favorite movies of all time, period.

~*~

Thanks for reading my Top 15 Animated Movies of all time. :) Feel free to post a comment below if you have anything to say about my choices, whether you agree or disagree. I’m always up for a discussion!

To recap:

15) An American Tail: Fievel Goes West

14) Up

13) The Phantom Tollbooth

12) Cinderella III: A Twist In Time

11) The Hunchback Of Notre Dame

10) The Prince Of Egypt

9) Watership Down

8) WALL•E

7) Sleeping Beauty

6)Tangled

5) The Nightmare Before Christmas

4) The Iron Giant

3) The Lion King and The Flight Of Dragons (tied)

2) The Secret Of NIMH

1) Beauty And The Beast

Runners-up will be posted in a few days’ time (assuming I don’t lose track of time again). Those will be the movies that I like, even love, but not quite enough to put them in my Top 15 16 15.

Keep an eye out, and thanks again for joining me! :D

Delay over! Also, some edits.

Hey guys!

So, the delay on my Top 15 Animated Films list is finally ended. The movie I was going to add came AT LAST…and while it’s still a wonderful film, I don’t think it necessarily made the cut as I thought it would. So it’s going on the runners-up list. ^_^

Also, those of you who’ve been paying attention may have noticed an edit to my list.  That’s because after careful consideration, I decided that regardless of the nostalgia factor, He-Man And She-Ra: The Secret Of The Sword really doesn’t belong on my Top 15. So it’s being brought down to the Honorable Mentions category as well. I know, I’m a fickle jerk. :p

Anyway, my Top 5  list is coming very soon now. Probably within the next 24 hours. Keep an eye out!

Delay

So, I had to do a little creative re-tweaking of my Top 5 Favorite Animated Movies Of All Time, because I forgot all about one that I could literally not get enough of as a kid.

Regrettably, it’s also the animated feature that has been most horribly tainted by awful sequels, but that shouldn’t detract from the amazingness that was the first movie. (Yeah, I’m pretty sure everyone knows what I’m talking about now.)

So, I was all set to review it and stick it on my list, when I realized…I DON’T ACTUALLY HAVE THIS MOVIE. O_O

Naturally I’ve ordered it off Amazon, and so it should be here in a matter of days, at which point I’ll be able to finish out this list and move on to Western-animated series, and then to my favorite anime.

Here’s the list so far:

15) An American Tail: Fievel Goes West
14) Up
13) The Phantom Tollbooth
12) Cinderella III: A Twist In Time
11) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
10) The Prince of Egypt
9) Watership Down
8) WALL-E
7) Sleeping Beauty
6) Tangled
5)
4)
3)
2)
1)

I welcome critique and debate, so please don’t be shy about your comments!

Hi again everyone! :D

Yesterday I started my Top 15 Animated Movies countdown. Today continues that trend, with movies #10 through 6.

As I said last time, feel free to leave a comment below if you agree, disagree, or just want to add a list of your own. :) I’m more than happy to discuss any of these wonderful films with you in greater detail!

Without further ado, let’s jump into it!

~*~

10) The Prince of Egypt. I should make it clear, without inciting too much religious debate: I am not a Christian. As a result, going into this movie, I was afraid it was going to be as sermonistic as the Greatest Adventure cartoon series, or worse, like Cecil B. DeMille’s epically preachy magnum opus, The Ten Commandments.

Imagine, then, my delight when it turned out to be not only not preachy, but a character-driven story instead, more about the adopted Moses and his relationship with his two families…the one he was born into and the one he was raised by…than about the “mission from God.” Even the parts of the movie where Moses deals with his god are done well, by making them touching and powerful on a personal level and making God feel like a loving, protective figure, rather than the all-powerful authority he was depicted as in Commandments.

The movie is epic, in every sense of the word. It has an absolutely wonderful score by Hans Zimmer, with songs by Stephen Schwartz that don’t ruin the tone of the movie in the slightest. It’s got an all-star list of voice-actors (including Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Jeff Goldblum, Sandra Bullock, and Patrick Stewart in a role that took me by complete surprise), and some inspired animation with fascinating style choices, including a surreal dream sequence told entirely in moving hieroglyphics.

The story, despite being an animated musical, handles things in an extremely serious manner, keeping the dignity of the original story well and truly intact while giving the characters a dimension of personal relatability that was originally not even present in the source material. Moses and Rameses really feel like brothers, conflicted by their respective roles versus their affection for each other, and Tzipporah, Moses’ wife, is much expanded and fleshed out into a beautifully defiant, strong, supportive character.

This is by far my favorite DreamWorks movie ever. In the days before Shrek gave them a comedic niche, the studio really did their best to be as good as Disney at the “animated epic” game, and this was one of the films that I feel succeeded beautifully. Whether you believe in Christianity or not (and I don’t), I strongly recommend giving this movie a look. I think there’s something in it for people of every faith to take away. :)

9) Watership Down. Everyone knows this as “that cute bunny rabbit movie that is NOT FOR KIDS!!!” I, on the other hand, saw this when I was seven and fell in love with it.

The big thing this movie has going for it is the story. It’s adult, complex, and at the same time speaks to something pretty universal; the desire for a better life. I like a lot of movies like this, but this is the first one I ever saw.

For such a dark, serious movie, it does have its fair share of laughs…mostly inspired by Keehar the seabird. But I love this movie specifically because it doesn’t pull its punches or talk down to the audience…characters fight, bleed, and die, sometimes horribly, and the movie treats it as part of life. At the same time, though, I appreciate that it doesn’t do a lot for shock value, though there are some scenes that are more graphic and disturbing than others. But the life-or-death stakes are well-sold nonetheless, and the movie sells that these characters are really in danger, which makes it that much more of a relief when they come out of danger again.

It’s an emotional roller-coaster, but one that I strongly recommend for anyone who can handle it. It’s violent and can get disturbing at times, but it’s also extremely touching and heartfelt at other times, and stands IMO alongside the best of the Don Bluth movies. If I ever had children (an unlikely possibility), I’d share this movie with them. :)

8) WALL•E. This movie is one of the most innovative things I feel Western Animation has ever produced.

As I mentioned in my Up entry at #14, Pixar is a pretty hit-and-miss studio for me. I suppose the reason is the films they push the hardest are usually the ones I care about the least (i.e. Cars, Finding Nemo, etc.) Not that these films are bad, they just don’t leave much of an impression.

That said, I believe WALL-E is their best film, if only because it’s a million contradictory things at once. It’s simple, but profound. It’s fluffy, but fraught with implications. It’s cute and funny, but heart-wrenching and nightmarish. It’s a charming, romantic comedy of errors; it’s a foreboding look into what the future could be like.

Regardless of what you think of the story and its implications, the animation is absolutely top-notch. I was even hesitant to put this in an “animated movies” list at first, because only the humans on the Axiom look animated. Everything else…the robots, the ships, the world…looks realistic enough to reach out and touch. But it was all done with a computer, so it counts. WALL-E really challenged what CGI is capable of, IMO. The titular trash compactor is capable of emoting in simple, touching ways I never could have imagined, as are many of the other robots.

WALL-E was the biggest animated success of its era, and with good reason; aside from being on the absolute cutting-edge of animation technology, Pixar proved that they could take morals like environmentalism and personal responsibility and rework them in ways that made you aware without smacking you in the face. I’d say “go see it!” but chances are, you already have. :)

7) Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. What WALL-E is to innovation in animation, Sleeping Beauty is to traditionalism: an exemplar. Everything in this film looks lush, elegant, and artistic, with a stylization and tapestry-like scope that gives it a look unlike any other movie ever made.

The story is a fairy-tale in the truest sense, and the action is amazing, especially for a movie with such a simple premise. People have complained about the characters of Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip, that they’re not terribly well fleshed-out or interesting. I’d make the counter-argument that they’re not the focuses of the Disney version’s story; that instead the story’s about the three good fairies and their evil arch-nemesis, which makes this one really ahead of its time. The fairies are like three different kinds of grandmothers: Flora the take-charge matriarch, Fauna the sweet-natured diplomat, and Merriweather the fiesty unconventional. (I loved Merriweather best out of all of them) And Maleficent is one of the most magnificent villains in all Disney, regardless of gender. A big part of this is the animation, again, but it’s also in Eleanor Audley’s amazing vocal performance.

The songs are touching and beautifully sung (it helped that they got a classical opera singer for Briar Rose), and the score was adapted from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Ballet. I love Tchaikovsky, so this is a no-brainer for me.

This was the first Disney movie I ever saw, and to this day remains one of my favorites that I can go back to and see over and over again. :)

6) Tangled. I could go on about the amazing CG, the awesome songs, or the excellent blend between comedic and dramatic moments. They’re all worthy of copious amounts of praise.

But the thing that puts this one so high up on my list is the main story, and Rapunzel’s character arc in particular. She’s just such an amazing character. I love that she starts off in such oppressive circumstances but doesn’t let them get to her. I love that she’s brave enough to go with Flynn Rider on her adventures, that her dream and idealism is strong enough to win practically anyone over to her cause, and that in the end she stands up to the villain.

Her arc is a metaphor for the best possible outcome of someone in an abusive relationship. It’s a message of empowerment to everyone who’s ever been in a relationship like that, and I found it to be deeply personally validating.

The rest of the story is amazing as well; Flynn Rider is a fun character with a sensitive, compelling side, the villain manages to be both fun and monstrous on a par with the great villains of the past, and the side characters are vastly entertaining. Even the token “funny sidekick” animals in this are awesome! (Especially the horse!) But the part of the movie that really sold me is Rapunzel herself, and her story arc.

The Nostalgia Critic said he didn’t care for the main characters’ voices. He felt Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi were just themselves behind a microphone. I respectfully disagree, at least in Moore’s case. I used to be a fan of her music, around about the time her style changed from bubblegum pop into her own sound. In Tangled, I feel Rapunzel’s really got her own voice, with character and charm unique and distinct from Mandy Moore, and that’s one of the hallmarks of a well-acted character.

All in all, I feel Tangled is a truly worthy addition to the Disney canon, and a great new direction for Disney to take their efforts.

~*~

We’re coming up on the home stretch, guys and girls! Tomorrow, my Top 5 Favorite Animated Movies Of All Time!

Honorable mentions, and there are a lot of them, will get their own entry sometime later in the week, with brief blurbs about why I like them and why they didn’t make it.

Till then! :D

Hey all! Triplenerdscore is back, refocused, and hopefully here to stay!

You’ll notice I chose to get away from the X-Men for a while. If you’re wondering, the simple fact is that I have many nerdy interests, of which X-Men is only one. There are many other fandoms I embrace, and many other things I enjoy, and I originally intended this blog to be a soapbox for me to talk about all of them.

For example: I love cartoons.

I am completely unashamed of this fact. In fact, it can be argued that they made me who I am, as I wouldn’t be as much a nerd as I am at all if not for the fact that I watched X-MEN: The Animated Series and its DC counterpart, Batman, as a kid.

So in a multi-part journal inspired by the enterprising folks at ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com, I’m going to share my all-time favorite animated movies and TV series. A special segment will be given over to anime as well, because even though I don’t have 15 favorite anime, the ones I like are, IMO, worthy of mention.

Tonight I’m going to start sharing the feature-length animated movies I love the most, and a (hopefully brief) rundown as to why.

Why Top 15? “Because I like to go five steps beyond.” *LOL* OK, that was only funny to me. But seriously, if I had to choose only ten, I’d be doing some great movies a serious disservice. As it is I feel I’m leaving out some very good ones.

Note that these are personal favorites, not necessarily a mark on the quality of said pictures. I’ll explain my more questionable choices in greater detail, which means some may be longer than others. :)

So here we go! My Top 15 favorite animated feature-length films, numbers 15 to 11!

~*~

15) An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. People are probably going to be surprised that I like this one better than the first. But I’m going to defend myself by saying that even though I love Don Bluth, I feel that the original American Tail had a few flaws…like the fact that every five minutes, it seemed, Fievel and his family would pass right by each other while the audience screamed in frustration. In this, during the time that Fievel is lost, he’s really lost, and it feels much stronger as a result. I also like the songs here a lot more: “Dreams to Dream” and “The Girl You Left Behind” are fantastic, and got a lot less airplay than “Somewhere Out There.”

But let’s judge the film on its own merits, not just compare it to the last one. To me, it feels like an adventure film, first and foremost. I love that. Again, I think the songs are excellent, and a couple of them make sense to be in the movie (still not sure about “Way Out West,” but then I’ll give that one a pass, since it was basically this film’s “There Are No Cats In America.” And “Rawhide” just has no excuse at all…) I like that it wasn’t a social metaphor for life at the turn of the last century; it let the story stand out on its own more. The animation is brilliant and smooth, the colors and landscape lush and vivid, and the voice acting top-notch. My favorites are, of course, Dom DeLuise as Dom DeLuise…I mean Tiger…Amy Irving as Miss Kitty, and John Cleese’s epically cultured Cat R. Waul. I admit, the story’s a little weak, but in the long run, I think it’s more for the sake of fun than anything else. All in all it’s a fun romp with some good characters, great animation, and just an excellent time-waster.

Wow…if they’re all this long I might end up killing the word count before I’m halfway done!

14) Up. Pixar has always been kind of a ‘meh, they’re OK’ studio for me, with three exceptions: WALL-E (my number 8 pick), Toy Story 3, and Up.

Up is pure innovation from start to finish. This is one movie that really shows what computer animation is capable of when fueled by human imagination. Most of Pixar’s work has been like this, but Up had a couple of edges over the pack: namely, the two main characters were human, which made them more relatable to me than cars, fish, or robots. They were also unlikely heroes…the overachieving junior scout and a widowed seventy-something. Of course, adorable talking dogs and giant Dr. Seuss birds show up, but the story’s really about Carl and Russell at its heart.

The other thing I loved about this movie is its heart. For all the wild, weird, and wonderful visuals I was treated to, the emotional core of this movie never got forgotten. Themes of love, loss, friendship, parenthood, and hero-worship are all explored without taking away from the sense of wonder and adventure a movie like this should contain. It’s one of the best adventure films I’ve ever seen, and I certainly recommend it as a fresh take on the idea of a “family” film.

13) The Phantom Tollbooth. This is another controversial favorite, but must of the controversy I get is from fans of the book who insist that I pick it up and read it instead.

And I would, if I didn’t have such fond memories of this film.

It’s basically The Wizard Of Oz with a “learning is fun!” Aesop attached. A boy named Milo, bored out of his mind, gets a giant box dropped in his living room, which converts into a turnpike tollbooth that whirls him away to the Kingdom of Wisdom, where he journeys through a pseudo-satirical wonderland, including the feuding kingdoms of words and numbers, the abode of a Doctor of Dissonance, and even the pedestal where a legendary conductor orchestrates the sky itself.

This film is a Chuck Jones work, and IMO it’s on a par with his best Looney Tunes work. His characters are engaging and individual; there’s endearing ones like Milo, Tock the watch-dog, and Faintly Macabre (the Not-So-Wicked Which), but there’s also surreal ones like Officer Short-Shrift and the Spelling Bee, beautiful ones in the Princesses of Rhyme & Reason, and even downright frightening figures like the Terrible Trivium and the Gelatinous Giant. As I understand it, these were all illustrated in the book, but Jones lent his special touch and made these designs his own. And Mel Blanc and Thurl Ravenscroft, among others, make this a strong voice cast, especially for a 1969 movie. Even Butch Patrick, who was primarily a live-action child actor at the time, delivers a good vocal performance as Milo during the cartoon segment.

All in all, if you haven’t read the book, you’re more likely to enjoy this movie. But even if you have, give this a shot. It’s not a perfect adaptation, but it’s still pretty solid and one of the movies I remember fondly to this day.

12) Cinderella III: A Twist In Time. Let’s be honest, most direct-to-video Disney sequels suck. They’re either rehashings of the original stories with the kids of the original characters, or ‘hero of first movie finds love interest.’

Cinderella III was neither of these. After the abysmal bore that was Cinderella II, I was extremely dubious about this sequel. I mean, where can you go with a story that originally didn’t really even have much in the way of a conflict?

I was happily proven wrong. The animation is TV quality, but it’s on the upper end of TV quality, which was a relief compared to comparatively dismal early efforts, like The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride or Aladdin: The Return Of Jafar. The voices, while they don’t match up perfectly with the originals, are a few of my favorite voice actors and really give solid performances. Actual effort in a Disney sequel is hard to come by, IMO, but this one pulls it off.

The story, without giving too much away, really takes one of the most victimized of Disney’s princesses and brings her up to the level of the heroines of Disney’s Renaissance. She’s still no Belle or Mulan, but she’s no longer relegated to the same weak-willed pile as Snow White or Aurora. The Prince is well-characterized too…and there’s really no contest, he was originally the weakest Prince. He was voiceless arm-candy in the first movie, and while he still doesn’t get a name this time, he gets good lines and action scenes, and a chance to live up to the “Prince Charming” archetype. I don’t think Disney’s ever been as self-aware in a project (that wasn’t outright satire) as they were in this movie. By far the most compelling story arc, though, belongs to Anastasia, one of the stepsisters. I was really taken aback by what they did with this character, and found myself delighted to sympathize with her in a way I never thought possible.
The movie has its flaws, I’ll be honest, but I didn’t find them horrible. They didn’t ruin the movie for me. The hardest thing to get through, ironically enough, was the song in the first five minutes. I’ll admit, it was pretty bad. But once you get past that, the movie really kicks off and gets compelling fast. This is the only DTV movie to make my list, but I think it deserves its spot.

11) Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In 1996, Disney needed a colossal hit to recover from the critical and commercial disappointment that was Pocahontas. They releaseda musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s famous satirical tragedy about a misshapen bell-ringer and his love for a Gypsy woman.

Yeah. I can see why it didn’t do too well at the box office.

But fortunately, history seems to have vindicated this movie somewhat…it’s one of the darkest, most adult, most honest-to-God dramatic endeavors in Disney’s animated canon to date.

The main characters, Quasimodo, Phoebus, and Esmerelda, are likable and well-designed. Disney made Quasimodo Ugly Cute, of course, but I feel it was really the voice actor, Amadeus’s Tom Hulce, who sold him as an endearing character. Esmerelda and Phoebus are more of a blend between the animation and the actors…and it says something that when I listen to them talk, I don’t hear Demi Moore and Kevin Kline behind a microphone, which is more than I can say for a lot of other, less well-done celebrity voice actors (this is why Dreamworks’ Sinbad movie isn’t on this list, even though I enjoy it.)

But the real highlights of this movie are two things: the villain, Judge Claude Frollo, and the musical score. The music is epic and sweeping in all the appropriate moments, tender and touching in the right places, and that amazing Latin choir makes everything feel freaking huge. And Frollo himself is easily the most despicable villain in a Disney movie, and one of the worst monsters in animated movies in general. His screwed-up mentality and the power he wields to make others’ lives miserable are arguably more menacing than the black magic wielded by some of Disney’s other greats. He’s scary because he’s believable; the film explores his motivations and gives him complexity, but never lets you forget the fact that he does truly horrible things with these motivations as excuses. Plus, he gets perhaps the most epic villain song in the history of Disney, rivalled perhaps only by “The Plagues” from Prince of Egypt (a movie also on my list which I’ll get to later).

All in all, I have very few problems with this movie, except for one: Those damned singing gargoyles. Actually, I don’t even find two of them that bad…but Jason Alexander’s Hugo came extremely close to ruining this movie for me. To this day, I still have to skip “A Guy Like You” so I can watch the movie all the way through. Fortunately, they contribute next to nothing relevant to the plot, so they’re relatively easy to ignore.

~*~

So that’s #15-11 of my Top 15 Animated Movies. Next time, we’ll look at #10-6, and save the best for last with #5 to my #1 Favorite Animated Movie Of All Time.

Hope you enjoyed this, and continue to enjoy my work! Feel free to leave a comment below if you agree, disagree, or just want to say hi. :)

I haven’t forgotten.

Just been really, really busy lately.

And I don’t have the research materials at hand to keep writing the X-Men part of the blog.

Yet.

I have a plan for this…it’s just really long term.

So keep an eye out, OK? ^_^

After Doctor Who, anyway.

Not to rub it into the hardcore Jesus-freaks’ faces that “LOL UR STIL STUK HEAR W/US SINRS U LOZRS HA-HA”, but to celebrate what should hopefully be a big step forward in religious tolerance.

Because I hope, I really do, that the people who were expecting to take the Express Elevator To Happyland will learn from what happened. It’s 2011; religions are more varied than ever. Just because you disagree with someone about whose God did what when (even…dare I say especially? if you don’t believe in a God at all), that doesn’t make you Automatically Right and them Automatically Wrong.

Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, pagan, atheist, agnostic, Breathairian, whatever you call yourself…no matter how superior you feel, on Sunday morning you’re still going to wake up (depending where you are, some of you already have) still having to share the same planet with the rest of us.

So please…let’s try to get along a little better in the future?

The reason I started this blog is because I am a huge X-Men nerd, and have been for 17 years now. This is my continuing (if greatly delayed) attempt to try and compress the franchise itself, as seen through my eyes, into a nutshell.

After I get done with this, whenever it is, I’ll move on to individual characters.

~*~

The 1970s were a momentous decade for the X-Men franchise. So I’m going to split this chapter of their history into three parts: the formation of the new team, the Phoenix saga, and the World Tour, which culminated with the Proteus fight in 1979.

By 1970, the X-Men as a series was viewed to have run its course. New issues stopped coming out, and the series, while continuing its numbered run, started reprinting old stories. The only X-Man to have a life beyond the team was the Beast, who got a radical makeover and became a star of his own stories, printed in the book Amazing Adventures.

Image from kryptoknightcomics. The Cookie Monster dye job came later.


Apart from him though, the rest of the team seemed doomed to relative obscurity.

Finally, when the book was on the verge of cancellation, writer Roy Thomas suggested to the Powers That Were that an international team of X-Men would be a way to revitalize the book. Writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum were called to collaborate on a new set of characters, the first of which was created by Wein and artist Herb Trimpe for an issue of The Incredible Hulk:

The Hulk fighting some Canadian guy. He'll never catch on!

After the debut of this one-off character, Wein and Cockrum collaborated to bring in four other new X-Men: a Siberian farmer who could turn into steel, a Kenyan goddess with power over the weather, a Native American hothead with super-strength and toughness, and a German teleporter with a demonic appearance. Cockrum was especially proud of that last new addition, as he’d wanted to get him into a Legion of Super-Heroes spinoff team called The Outsiders beforehand.

Once a pair of sometimes allies-sometimes-enemies of the original X-Men were added to the ranks, all that was left was to choose a leader. The natural go-to-guy in this case was Cyclops, who’d grown from shy, closed-off teenage nerd to full-grown, capable leader over the course of the original team’s tenure.

New Team, Same Great Genes. Image courtesy of matador-bd.com.

Once the characters were in place, all that was left was to tell the story. That story was Giant-Sized X-Men #1, and when it was released in 1975, it was the first step in a whole new direction for the X-Men name.

Though they got off to a rough start, the new X-Men acquitted themselves singularly well alongside the old, fighting against “The Island Who Walks Like A Man!”. In particular, Storm and Lorna Dane (before she took on the name of Polaris), working in tandem to sever the gravimetric lines of force around the island, were already demonstrating the earliest signs of what would later become a recurring theme throughout the books…that of women who could contribute to the team as much as any male member.

However, as amazing as the combined forces of the original and new X-Men were, their alliance was not to last. Within the first couple of pages of X-Men #94, the new team’s debut in the mainstream books, every member of the original X-Men, including Lorna and Havok, had packed up and taken off, leaving Cyclops and Professor Xavier alone to deal with training the new recruits…not in the use of their powers, as with the original team, but in working together as a team. The friction in this transition was intense, and in some ways could be held responsible for the death of Thunderbird at the end of the New X-Men’s very first mission.

Writing duties were passed on as well…following the first story arc, Len Wein passed the writer’s torch on to Chris Claremont, at the time the writer of Marvel’s second-tier title Iron Fist. Claremont rose to the challenge enthusiastically, working with Cockrum to develop plots and twists that would take the characters in brand new directions while honing a new, soap-operatic approach to the psyches and motivations of the characters.

After only four issues, which included the sacrifice of Thunderbird, a fight with a demon, and the brainwashing of Havok and Lorna Dane (now finally getting the code name Polaris) by a hostile alien agent, the X-Men had been viewed as redeemed in the eyes of Marvel.

With the freedom they enjoyed as the creative team of a relatively obscure series, Claremont and Cockrum took the team to a place that was both familiar and brand-new…fighting Sentinels on a space station. Jean Grey guest-starred in this saga, more powerful and confident than she’d ever been before, and fans old and new were already hungry for more.

The icing on the cake, and one of the most historic events in the franchise, came with the book’s 100th issue, which featured an epic battle between the New X-Men and robotic facsimiles of the old. However, the real clincher was the book’s cliffhanger:

Jean Grey flies a shuttle through a solar flare. Image courtesy of stevedoescomics.blogspot.com

To a new reader unaware of future developments, this must have been nail-biting. Not even a year after the death of Thunderbird proved that the new writers weren’t shy about killing off their team, one of the original X-Men was being set up to make the ultimate sacrifice for her friends and the man she loved. These four panels set up a plot that would take years to culminate and leave an indelible mark on the book, for better or worse.

More on that next time…

MY VIEWS (part 1):

I’m not shy about expressing my love for Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum. These are some of the earliest issues it’s been my pleasure to read, and where, to me, the journey of the X-Men really begins.

I admit to a degree of disappointment at every old member of the team leaving when the new ones came along, but I can understand why it had to happen. No writer, especially a comics writer, wants to handle too many characters at once in a book that has to be released on any kind of schedule, and the new characters offered C&C the chance to form brand-new dynamics, rather than focus on old ones. Still, I wonder what the team would have been like had, say, Havok and Polaris stuck around, or Iceman. By contrast, Jean Grey was featured so often in the early issues she might as well not even have left…though Claremont wrote her much stronger and more self-confident than she had ever been before, which was an important clue that he had plans in store for her.

The All-New, All-Different team are some of my favorite X-Men in existence. Storm is my favorite X-Man, ever, and Nightcrawler remains a charmingly unique character to this day. Colossus is endearing in his gentility and intimidating in his strength, and back during this period, Wolverine was the gruff, sarcastic guy with a hidden heart of gold, much more so than he became later. Even Banshee took some levels in coolness; Thomas and Roth’s original depiction of the character as a walking stereotype of “Oireland” still held some influence, but he was also depicted as experienced, competent, and one of the team’s best players. I’d almost argue that he was Cyclops’ first second-in-command, before Storm had her turn in the spotlight.

I like that most of the team’s redundancies, like Sunfire and Thunderbird, were dealt with right away. Wolverine was hotheaded enough for everyone else there, and Sunfire served the X-Men better IMHO as a recurring guest star than an actual member. While there have been some interesting alternate-universe interpretations of John Proudstar, the original version isn’t all that riveting.

Next installment, I’m going to talk about the Phoenix saga, the Shi’Ar Empire, and how a Canadian artist named John Byrne helped turn the book from a cult classic into a phenomenon in the making.

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