Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

5 – The Retcon That Walks Like a Man

In which the Bronze Age begins; Dave Cockrum is your god now; the band gets together; Sunfire joins the team; cultural sensitivity is not Marvel’s strong suit; Sunfire quits the team; it sucks to be Cyclops; Professor X crosses a moral event horizon; Sunfire joins the team; Ed Brubaker channels Thomas Hardy; you are probably a Summers brother; and Sunfire quits the team.


  • Bamf-Voltron Nightcrawler
  • Giant-Size X-Men #1
  • The worst hat of the Marvel Universe
  • The Mostly-New, Mostly-Different X-Men
  • A business-casual angry mob
  • The limits of creative good intentions
  • Tractor punching on the Ust-Ordynski Collective
  • The correct spelling of “fine”
  • Canada
  • Sunfire’s utter disdain for everything, including you
  • Krakoa: The Island That Walks Like a Man!
  • Characteristics of good X-fights
  • Yet another miracle of magnetism
  • X-Men: Deadly Genesis
  • Summers Family Continuity (Introductory)
  • More hats
  • The Muir-MacTaggert Research Facility
  • Summers Family Continuity (Intermediate)
  • The Charles Xavier Scale of Supervillainy
  • Relative immunity
  • Wolverine’s ubiquity


  • What would you do with thirteen X-Men?
  • Help us find all-ages-friendly Marvel Girl stories!

You can find a visual companion to the episode – and links to recommended reading – on our blog.

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  1. What do you do with 13 X-Men? Same thing you do with one, only longer! *wink wink nudge nudge*

  2. As I recall during Fox’s TV show (the phoenix saga specifically) Black Tom and Banshee were also immune to each others powers because they were brothers. I do not know if that carried over into the comics.

    1. Yes it did. I was going to mention that in Uncanny #102-103 Black Tom and Banshee had to fight with swords because their powers cancel each other out.

      1. Good catch–thanks for the reference! I think I may have missed that detail while distracted by elves. Leprechauns. Whatever the hell the little dudes in Cassidy Keep are.

  3. What do you do with 13 X-Men? Well, if you’re Chris Claremont you can form a baseball team.

  4. Magneto (who made some valid points) tends to exercise his power and declare his aims in an open fashion. The irony is that it’s Xavier who might understandably provoke the greater fear in humans, for who knows what he might do to you in secret–and who can say that he hasn’t already done it?

    Wolverine is a badass and has a good heart, but I think he has other qualities that have endeared him to readers. He was a somewhat unconventional-looking hero–short, hirsute, them sideburns and that haircut. Although he’d had a lot of life experiences and was not at all unsophisticated, he liked simple pleasures–beer, smokes. There was a regular fellow, working Joe aspect about him. Despite his reputation for wildness, he seemed to have a hard-earned wisdom about his life and his existence in a hostile world. Maybe it’s a wisdom ultimately superior to Xavier’s.

    Has there been an X-Men story that contemplated the merits of the “solution” that Storm found to her existence before Xavier recruited her? It was sort of the inverse of the superstitious mob pursuing Kurt–use human superstition in a more benign way, and set yourself up to be regarded as a goddess instead of a demon. One could easily show how this could work not only in quote-unquote Africa; the developed world has no shortage of religious sects led by charismatic figures, credited with miracles.

    Of course, it’s arguably not a solution at all (but is it better than constant violence?) yet it would be interesting to turn the “God Loves, Man Kills” idea on its head, either by mutants successfully concealing their nature behind a religious front, or even getting some humans to think of mutants as blessed, rather than cursed by God.

    There’s a kind of precedent for this in real life–people who’ve claimed psychic powers are sometimes condemned by religious authorities, but they will often counter that they received their “powers” from God, even quoting scripture back at ya in the best Rev. Stryker fashion. It might be a particularly interesting story for Kurt, who, as Dracula once found to his chagrin, really does believe.

    1. Fair points on Wolverine – the blue-collar, down-to-earth feel of Logan makes him pretty inherently likable when he’s written well, which he definitely was for the first many years of his existence before overexposure started to cause problems. And with Wolverine running the school these days, that wisdom is being both demonstrated and tested, which has been fun to watch.

      In answer to your question: the closest analogue I can think of offhand is what happens in the Avengers vs. X-Men event from a few years back. The Phoenix force is split between Cyclops, Magik, Namor, Emma Frost, and Colossus and basically turns them all into demigods. They create a pretty convincing utopia (not to be confused with capital-U Utopia; that’s different) out of pretty much the whole planet before the Avengers and Wolverine attack them and everything goes to shit. That story is plenty flawed, but it was cool to see just how awesome benevolent and hugely powerful mutants could make the world, even if only briefly. There weren’t really religious implications, but you could easily read between the lines and assume that many humans saw them as divine.

  5. What do you do with 13 X-Men? Make each the seed for a new X-team: X-Men Blue, X-Men Gold, X-Factor, X-force, X-Caliber, X-Statix, X-Patriots, eX-iles, X-girlfriends, X-avier Security Enforcers, X-ecutioners, EthniX Caricatures and so on – and make more mutants.

  6. Oh, also, I really appreciate Rachel’s dedication to pointing out all the ways Xavier is a dick. Because he is a dick. He really, really is.

  7. I quite agree with Rachel that Prof X’s behaviour in Deadly Genesis is consistent with how he was characterized in the Silver Age, and would like to add that it adequately bridges the character nuances he displays in the Silver Age and the Bronze Age respectively. What I mean by this is as follows: Silver Age Prof X would do things like mindwipe villains, fake the loss of his powers, fake his own death, etc. etc., then as of the All-New All-Different team, you start to see a slightly different characterization. He suddenlt says things like ‘I’m reluctant to use my telepathy to misdirect large mobs [when Wolverine asks him to do so after the shuttle crash around #100]’, ‘I’m reluctant to snoop around other people’s heads unless it’s absolutely necessary’, it’s like: hey! When did Charlie get this new set of morals? I like to think that, retroactively, the secrets revealed in Deadly Genesis, and his utter failure to keep these four teenage X-Men safe, are what made him reconsider what he had been doing all those years prior with the original X-Men. And that might also be why most of the All-New X-Men were older than 20 (Peter and Kurt were only later revealed to have been teens, Kurt celebrates his 21st in UXM: Annual 4, Peter is established as 18 a couple issues later), and why Prof X was always reluctant to send Kitty on missions.

  8. So… when can we get a “Wolverine: Your Angry Murder Uncle” t-shirt? Because I would merrily buy one of those to go along with my “Magneto Made Some Valid Points” shirt.

    And for me, it’s the combination of the vast number of historical options and the semi-blank slate that makes Wolvie so compelling. It’s one of the reasons I dislike Wolverine: Origin so much (I’m talking here about the comic, but feel free to apply this to the movie, too). I think he’s much more interesting, in a lot of ways, the less we know about him. Or, maybe more accurately, the less he knows about himself. And speaking of the Origins movie, the one thing I really found compelling about it was that title sequence of Logan and Sabretooth fighting their way through history. That’s the movie I’d like to watch, personally, not that fiasco they cobbled together and released into the wild.

  9. I think the bone of contention between you guys about professor X derives from the fact that (if I got you right) Miles was initially exposed to the Xmen through the 90’s cartoon while Rachel has been reading the comics. I think the first impression that we get from a character is the one that sticks with us the most. If you started reading the Xmen in the silver or the current age then you will probably dislike them and see him as a manipulative dick, arguably a villain. While if you saw this character at first in the animated series or in the 70’s till late 90’s (I’m excluding the movies because that’s like a seperate universe) then you’ll probably see him as “the real Xavier”, and all the other “manipulative mean” versions – as bad retcons and poor uncharacteristic portraits.

    Me, I’m with Miles in this. I too had first seen Xavier through the cartoon, which he was like his idealistic wise and caring father figure, a pacifist which his compassion doesn’t seem to have limits (even when a more aggressive stance in actually needed). 70’s-90’s Xavier was just like that in the comics (which is only logical, since the cartoon was built on this era). Actually, 90’s Xavier is even more so then the 70’s one (who can be still strict and – as Kitty said – sometimes a jerk). Scott Lobdel, through all his faults, wrote some of the most endearing Xavier stories which showed him as a character with weaknesses and self-doubt like any human being, but as overall a really good and caring person who strives to do the right thing (and not, like, in “the better good” style of right thing), never even remotely close to the manipulative asshole which we knew afterwards.

    That’s why I see the portrail of 70’s-90’s Xavier as the right retcone to the silver age one. I see the Claremont era as the definitve description for most things Xmen. To make a point: I think none of us see Magento’s silver age portail as a valid portrail of the character.

    This is why “deadly genesis” is by far one of my most hated retcone ever made. On so many levels too (more then “just” Xavier – the whole idea of Vulcan, as the Summers disfunctional family really needed another member. Also: poor writing, so many things out of character and straigt out taking a big dump on the Xmen history), which I daresay – gives a solid fight to the infamous Jean Grey retcone, which says something…

  10. The Giant-Size Man-Thing line made me look up the cover, and I noticed the cover’s title: “The Glob Strikes Again!”, and I’m convinced that someone at Marvel was just trying to see how much they could get past the Comics Code Authority.

  11. While it’s true that Silver Age Professor X at one point faked not having powers and even faked his own death, I think wiping a person’s mind so they don’t remember their own brother is a whole other level of reprehensible, especially if it’s someone he pretty much views as a son. Charles could have instead dulled the extreme emotions Scott was going through or slowly have reintroduced the memory back into Scott’s mind over time, but he didn’t, and I don’t feel that’s consistent with the character– Silver Age included. Furthermore, while both actions are morally questionable, mindwiping supervillains isn’t the same as mindwiping your students.

  12. Re: Family members being immune to each other’s powers. There’s an House of M tie-in where Captain Britain is immune to an alternate reality Psylocke’s powers. Having never heard of the Siege Perilous and assuming Psylocke was adopted, this made me very confused.

    1. That’s not consistent though. We’ve also seen Betsy use her telepathy to flat out kill an alt-reality Brian in the old Captain Britain series. (As he was a psycpath who enjoyed travelling to alt-Earths to rape and kill alt-Betsy’s he was no loss to the multiverse). And I can’t imagine Betsy would be immune to Brian’s super-strength.

      1. The whole family members being immune to each other’s powers tends to be very inconsistent in general. Havok and Cyclops as brothers are almost always shown to be immune to each other’s powers while neither is immune to Vulcan’s powers. And same applies to Banshee and his cousin, Black Tom (not sure about Banshee’s daughter, Siryn, though?) but usually telepaths and reality warpers can use their powers even on their close relatives. Like how Scarlet Witch can affect Magneto, Polaris and Quicksilver with her powers or how Mikhail Rasputin’s powers work on his siblings and Jamie Braddock’s powers work on Psylocke & Captain Britain. And Jean doesn’t seem to have trouble reading Cable’s mind even though he is basically genetically her son/nephew and Xavier could use his powers on his own son but then Emma Frost’s sisters are immune to her powers and vice versa. There is no consistency to it whatsoever.

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