Category: Team

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

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

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

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


Jubilation Lee’s signature design, courtesy of

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

12) Rachel Summers-Grey 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!


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

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

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.

X-Men: The Mutants

One of the things I want to accomplish with this blog is to discuss the various characters within the X-Men universe as well.  As soon as I’ve compiled the various eras of X-Men into comprehensive blog posts, I’ll be turning my attention to spotlights on the mutants themselves and my opinions of all of them.

While I welcome comments on each and every blog post I make, this above all things is where I strongly encourage participation from you, my readers! Every character in the history of the X-Men, from the big names like Cyclops and Wolverine all the way down to Dr. Cecilia Reyes and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, have their fair share of fans and detractors.  Everyone’s opinion is welcome, and I will strongly advocate discussion within the threads regarding the characters you love and hate. The only enemy here is apathy…as long as you can stay civil toward your fellow posters, I welcome every opinion of every character under the sun!
In fact, I think we’ll start with this very post. I want everyone to answer me three questions:

1) Who is/are your favorite mutants in the X-Men franchise?

2) Who is your LEAST favorite?

3) Why them?

Post as long or as short a comment as you like.

Remember, I welcome interaction and discussion from everyone! (Just stay civil, ‘kay? Thanks! ^_^)

The reason I started this blog is because I am a huge X-Men nerd, and have been for 17 years now. So over the next few days I’m going to try and compress the franchise itself, as seen through my eyes, into a nutshell. After that, I’ll move on to individual characters.

The X-Men started in 1963 as a way for Stan Lee to get out of writing origin stories. He’d done Spider-Man, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four by now, and was starting to wonder how many gamma bombs, freak space accidents or radioactive spider bites he could use before people called him on it. So he came up with the answer: “They were born this way!”

Cue the term “Mutants.” Because mutations actually existed in nature, it was logical  for Stan to come up with the idea that humans could mutate, their bodies changing in weird and wonderful ways to give them superpowers.

With the origin set, he created the first six mutants: Professor X, Cyclops, the Beast, Iceman, Angel, and Marvel Girl. However, the company at the time didn’t like the term “The Mutants” as a title to a comic book. Their rationale was, “Who’s gonna know what a mutant is?” So Stan, in his infinite wisdom, changed the title to name it after Professor X, and called them “X-Men” (in the 60s he could get away with saying “For X-Tra Power!”, though most of us think that’s funny as hell nowadays).

Jack Kirby's classic blue-and-gold costumes. Who's the artist? If you know, I'd like to!

The characters came next, with obvious Fantastic Four influences. Iceman was a Human Torch with the dial set to ‘cold,’ so he was the smart-alecky youngest member. The Angel was the rich, handsome one, and at the time was the only character who could fly, so he fulfilled a unique niche in the group as it existed then.  The Beast started off as a Thing without rocks, speaking with the same “tough kid from Yancy Street” twist to his speech, but that changed quickly into being well-spoken and verbose, hardly ever using one syllable where five or ten would do, and thus became 1/2 of two “Reed Richards” archetypes…the intellectual. Cyclops was the social half of the archetype; at the same time as he was the leader, he was also the awkward, nerdy one who would be off by himself while the rest of the team went and had fun. And finally came Marvel Girl, the pretty redhead who could move things with her mind, and already came off as a lot stronger-willed than the Fantastic Four’s Invisible Girl. (I’m going to go into the individual characters themselves in future blogs)

The original X-Men were pretty standard superhero fare…fighting Evil Mutants as a counter-revolutionary force while working their best to coexist with normal humanity…from their private, upstate-New-York mansion-cum-academy. Yeeeah…Though to be fair, in the early days the team had plenty of nights on the town and periods where they were out-and-about. It read like a combination of superhero story and college book.

There were some additions and subtractions over the years under various writers. Mimic went down in history as the first case of “Marty Stu” in X-Men history (to my mind anyway), Havok and Lorna Dane (the future Polaris) signed up, Beast took off, and the pre-Mystique shapeshifter Changeling went from bad to good and died impersonating Professor X, becoming the first mutant to ever give his life for Xavier’s dream, even if he wasn’t an official X-Man.

Havok and Polaris by Darryl Banks

The book was entertaining for its time, and some creative teams, like Neal Adams and Roy Thomas, really stood out, but it never achieved quite the level of popularity as Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four at the time. A subsequent team book, The Avengers, was much better-received thanks to the use of many pre-existing characters, such as Hulk, Thor, and Captain America. However, there was a cult following for the book even then, which kept the book just above water, even if only in reprinted stories, long enough for the 1970s to hit…

…More on that next time.


Probably the era I have the least experience with. I’ve read maybe a dozen stories from the time. And while it’s awesome to see the building blocks of what would later become supremely important character traits, especially in Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Professor X, I have to say this era largely struck me as “by-the-book.” Though it did have some compelling stuff, like the first Sentinels story, the various backstories of the X-Men themselves, and the whole “is-Lorna-isn’t-Lorna Magneto’s daughter?” thing, a goodly portion of it seemed to be strictly formula. That said, it was a solid formula that worked, and there was even a bit of envelope-pushing here and there.

Even despite my relative inexperience with the era, I celebrate the fact that it happened, and that the groundwork was laid for what would become a worldwide phenomenon. This was the age that inspired some of the finest comic creators in the world, and if not for this shaky start, the book would never have found the footing it had that would cause such an explosion in later years.

Next time, I’ll tackle the 1970s, and the creative teams that turned the book into something to be noticed.
Thanks for reading!