Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

37 – Giant-Size Special #1

Art by David Wynne. Prints available until 1/15 in the shop, or contact David for the original.
Art by David Wynne. Prints available until 1/15 in the shop, or contact David for the original.

In which we launch our first-ever giant-size special; God Loves, Man Kills is the definitive X-Men story; Bobby makes his R&MXtXM on-air debut; we repopulate the world with X-writers; Rachel is really excited about x-plaining X-Cutioner’s Song; Miles takes a strong stance on Wolverine’s mask; we award some awards; and it’s all your fault.



  • God Loves, Man Kills (Marvel Graphic Novel #5)
  • William Stryker
  • An inappropriate analogy
  • Keeping it interesting
  • Favorite episodes
  • Bridging the fan/critic divide
  • Our ongoing obsession with bit characters
  • The challenge of keeping Charles Xavier relevant
  • X-Planation Curation
  • Several stories we’re really looking forward to covering
  • X-Writers on a desert island
  • Internet fights
  • Favorite stories vs. best stories
  • Stupid hats of the Marvel Universe
  • Dr. Doom as Tim Gunn
  • Havok vs. ceiling fans
  • Educational standards of the Marvel Universe
  • The First Annual Super Doctor Astronaut Peter Corbeau Awards for Excellence in X-Cellence

NEXT WEEK: Rachel and Chris Sims X-Plain Arcade

CORRECTION: In this episode, Rachel claims that there is only one Super Doctor Astronaut Peter Corbeau in the Marvel Multiverse. This is patently untrue. There are numerous versions of Super Doctor Astronaut Peter Corbeau in the Marvel Multiverse, who may or may not be able to combine Voltron-style into a giant Corbeau Singularity.

You can find a visual companion to this episode on our blog!

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Buy prints of this week’s illustration at our shop, or contact David Wynne for the original!


  1. Ooh lists! For my top five all time favorite X-writers, I’d have to go with (besides Simonson and Claremont) Peter David, Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost (for New X-men) and Tony Bedard (for Exiles).

    For most important, I’d again throw in Simonson and Claremont, and add in Bendis, Fraction, and Morrison. IMHO Bendis made it in before his ongoing run even started, just on the strength of House of M and Avengers vs. X-men. For me, the mega-arc that started with the Decimation and ended with the repopulation of the mutants is as crucial to the X-men’s history as Claremont anf Simonson’s work in the 80’s. Bendis gets credit for the two bookends, and Fraction gets the credit for drawing the noose progressively tighter around mutantkind’s necks, first with Utopia, and then with Second Coming (which, btw is also on my top three x-stories along with Dark Phoenix and Age of Apocalypse). Morrison I include almost grudgingly, because I’ve always felt like the importance of his run has been conflated with its quality, and so has gotten incredibly overrated.

    1. I am, of course, not going to sit at my computer and attempt to tell you your opinion is wrong. I will say that I believe the entire Decimation->AvX arc only served three results and none of them positive.
      1. It proved to me that The Scarlet Witch is the source and well spring of all continuity stupidity in the marvel universe.
      2. It served as a lovely character assassination of most of the Avengers.
      3. and most importantly, it proved that the X-Men WON in their fight for mutant rights.

      Scarlet Witch, when you put it down, is a reality altering mutant with little to no actual control of her power. We know that on several occasions her lack of control has directly resulted in very strange things. However, I would say that a lot of the other weirdness can be attributed to her as well. Including every time Magneto comes back from the dead with a greatly divergent personality because what she wants in an ideal father has changed that day.

      The character assassination of the Avengers is what I refer to as AvX. This is a story where the Avengers act from a point of inexcusable ignorance and sneak attack the X-Men under the premise that the X-Men, who have no less than 3 direct phoenix allies and the entire shiar library available to them, do not know how to handle the phoenix force. The only thing I can think of is that this massive mischaracterization of characters and personalities is a direct result of Scarlet Witch wanting to make herself seem like a hero while undoing her massive screw up.

      “The X-Men won”, if you read the entries leading up to House of M, “Mutant culture” was taking off. It was no longer “acceptable” or “cool” to hate on mutants. Much like every socially stigmatized group in America, the major force of acceptance was coming from their cultural additions. It was really just a matter of time at this point, the ball was rolling down hill rather than being pushed up hill (if Real World history was any indication). Then, out of nowhere, mutants are reduced and depowered to extinction and hate-mongering Terrorism comes flying out from every crevice and rock on a scale rarely seen. The reason for this is never actually given (Once, again, I vote Scarlet Witch).

      So ultimately, in my mind, the only thing that was gained by the entire Decimation-AvX storyline was a return to default, a way of undoing any and all progress that X-Men had accomplished in their pursuit of Charles Xaviers dream and their mission statement. I love me some Bendis, not going to even bother lying, but that entire mega-arc is just a huge excuse to retcon Mutant progress.

      1. The stories from the 198 era were vastly more entertaining than almost everything since the end of Claremont’s run, so I’m going to go ahead and say it was worth it.

        The X-men didn’t know how to handle the Phoenix Force. AvX showed that pretty clearly. All of the Phoenix Five went Dark Phoenix to varying degrees. The only person who didn’t go Dark Phoenix was Hope, but that was only after she’d been trained in K’un Lun by the Avengers. The X-men “won” basically by accident, essentially despite the failure of literally all of their plans.

        1. I just went wiki hunting.
          Turns out, as far as I can tell the only time a Phoenix has gone “Dark” was due to an incomplete or interrupted Hosting.
          Phoenix was not hosted by Jean Grey when Dark Phoenix came about. Phoenix was hosting Jean since her body was at the bottom of Jamaica Bay the whole time.
          After that Rachel, Hope, and Fongji (the Kun’lun Phoenix host) were all in control of Phoenix. The only time it goes out of whack is when something gets in the way and screws with things like when a “sliver” is broken off.

          Which is exactly what Tony Stark did.

          Here’s the way I read the events in AvX.

          Avengers get military about things they know nothing about, attempt to kidnap a child known as “The Mutant Messiah” who shows a predisposition for Phoenix Energy synnergy.
          They are told by the closest thing to an expert on earth that this is all fine and will work out. They don’t believe them for no good reason, even though at this point Hope has gone straight up Phoenix on at least two seperate occasions.
          So Tony Stark builds a weapon to prevent the Phoenix from reaching it’s intended Host/Avatar. It goes horribly wrong (most likely due to Hank Pym being involved) and splits and damages the Phoenix force resulting in 5 imperfect and unintentional Phoenix hostings (remember, that’s the origin of Dark Phoenix, imperfect or mucked up hostings)
          Now there is a theory that Hope needed training in Kun’lun and the scarlet witch to actually reign in the phoenix, but I really don’t buy that. Hope Summers was ALREADY a Phoenix Avatar before any of this happened. She had channeled the power on her own even while the actual firebird was reforming itself. The Phoenix itself referred to her as its “child”. The results were always going to turn out the same way all the Avengers did was make it dangerously convoluted.
          But why would the Phoenix want to restart the mutant genome? Because Mutants are a Cosmic level consideration. Remember the Celestials? When “no more mutants” happened, they showed up and tried to wipe out all human life on the planet, because without mutants on the table the entire race was not worth allowing to continue, and the celestials would elevate a new race instead once they removed us.
          Which brings me to another Avengers factoid, somehow the Avengers had NO IDEA about the celestials dictate. Because if they knew that mutants are required to avoid extinction, they might have been a bit more proactive on finding a way to reverse “No More Mutants”. They are so in the dark it’s scary! Which I, of course, blame on the Scarlet Witch since I blame her everytime Avengers act in weird and bizzare ways for no apparent reason.
          Yeah, the Scarlet Witch, who managed to inject herself into the conclusion even though the Phoenix appears to have been planning on doing it anyway. Who also started all this mess and who at the end manages to “redeem” herself.

          The X-men plan was to let a prepared Hope Summers connect with the Phoenix and restart the mutant race. Not sure what part of that failed, seems to me that it succeeded in spite of the Avengers trying to derail it at every opportunity. In other words “Cyclops was right”.

          Unless I’m missing something, If I need to go back and re-read it let me know what I missed. Thanks!

          1. The X-men, Cyclops in particular, HAD the Phoenix. Hope offered to take it of their hands, and Cyclops specifically said no. In order for to get the Phoenix she had to take it from Cyclops by force, which she wouldn’t have been able to do without both her training in K’un Lun and borrowing Wanda’s power.

    2. I’d throw in Roy Thomas, since he was not only the best writer of Silver Age X-Men but his short run with Neal Adams is still one of the best X-Men runs. It may not have saved the book from cancellation but by making it into a more serious book and making the characters act more grown-up, it set the style for what Claremont would eventually do.

  2. You’ve got no idea how much I am looking forward to the 90s. And Apocalypse, I think he gave me a permanent trauma in the 90s cartoon (him and Venom)

  3. Bendis is a good writer (he’s certainly better than, say, Geoff Johns, to whom he’s frequently compared) but his stuff seems to move at a glacial pace. Obviously, it works for a lot of people, but a lot of the time it’s just too slow for me. It’s the classic line about Ultimate Spider-Man (which, make no mistake, is great, and has been consistently great for more than 100 issues), that it took Bendis and Bagley about five issues to tell the same story Lee and Ditko were able to tell in 10 pages.

    The most underrated X-writer is probably Fabian Nicieza, but my estimation of him is probably distorted by my love of the original New Warriors.

    1. I really wish I *got* Bendis. The people who like him seem to love him. And based on interviews, he seems like a total mensch. But his writing has always left me cold, and I’ve tried so many times (my final attempt was with the first couple trades of “All New X-Men”).

      1. Bendis has a gift for naturalistic dialogue – which most monthly comic writers, including great ones, do not – and tends to work well with artists, or at least get good art for his books. He’s also one of those writers who is really good at bridging the divide between corporate superhero books and independent style. Plus Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil and Alias made him Marvel’s star writer of the ’00s.

        But much like Claremont (a writer he does not resemble in any other way) he has a lot of tricks that he repeats over and over again, and it can get wearying. And he also has a habit of taking characters and making them whatever he wants them to be for the sake of the plot (most infamously with the Scarlet Witch, who in House of M has completely different powers, motivations and even a different backstory than she had before). He’s a reliable pro, but I don’t think he’s been exciting in a while.

        The funny thing about the Geoff Johns comparison is that Johns is a very different writer with different strengths and weaknesses – Bendis doesn’t have much interest in continuity, Johns is a total continuity nerd who is at his best when he writes about characters with a strong historic legacy (JSA, Wally West). Bendis is at his best when he can more or less start fresh, whether it’s the rebooted Spider-Man or time-traveling original X-Men.

  4. With Magneto, I’m not sure if Morrison didn’t do his research so much as that he deliberately ignored it. There were a number of people who didn’t like Claremont’s retcon of Magneto into a Holocaust survivor and noble anti-hero, and preferred the ranting supervillain Magneto who existed before X-Men # 150. Morrison was clearly one of them, so he not only ignores Claremont’s version, he takes some not-so-subtle shots at it by literally making Magneto into Hitler with death camps. I took it as Morrison’s middle finger to a take on the character he didn’t like.

    1. Re: Morrison’s Magneto…

      I believe the explanation for Magneto’s mustache-twirling turn is that he was under the influence of Kick/Sublime, and so he wasn’t really in control of himself when he set up those human death camps. It’s been a while though, so I don’t remember if that was Morrison’s idea or if that was a retcon by later author. Either way, I think it’s pretty poor writing. Some bad artwork aside, I love Morrison’s run up to and including Murder at the Mansion, but everything after that aggravates the hell out of me.

    2. I’m surprised at the number of readers who took Morrison’s portrayal of Magneto at face value. I’ve always taken it as more of a reflection of Sublime’s influence through the Kick drug than a straight representation of Magneto. As such, I’ve always really liked the idea that Sublime, a parasite that opposes evolution in all its forms, would de-evolve Magneto from the fantastic character we all love back to his one-dimensional beginnings in the Silver Age.

      It plays well into the central theme in Morrison’s run that the X-Men’s (or anyone’s) tolerance is a crucial product of evolution, just on an ideological level rather than a genetic one. If you liked Morrison’s run overall, but got annoyed at his portrayal of Magneto, I invite you to revisit the run with this notion in mind. It might take away that bad taste so many readers seem to have been left with.

  5. I love the breakdown revew of God Loves, Man Kills. Eespecially the foreshadowing of a stronger independent Cyclops willing to kill X if that was what is needed. Here you see the begining of the crack in the relationship between X and the main X-men, where he is the one doubting the dream annd they are the ones holding it up. I also love how Kurt is the one singled out by Stryker as an example of how twisted mutants are, when at his core he is the most honorable and kind of the team. It could easily been Wolverine at his most animalistic, claws popped, and covered in blood in that spotlight. However, Logan at his core is exactly what Stryker is preaching against

  6. In your discussion of GLMK, you wondered out loud how the political aspects of the story played with readers at the time it was published. Speaking as a certified old guy who was about 25 years old at the time: You got most of it right except that the real-life model for Stryker was probably less Billy Graham than Jerry Falwell. Graham was seen as a religious figure who cultivated relationships with political figures (particularly Richard Nixon) but didn’t really try to influence policy, whereas Falwell had a strong conservative policy agenda and built a political apparatus (most importantly, the Moral Majority) to support conservative causes and politicians. He was also one of the conservative white evangelicals you referred to who opposed the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 70s. Falwell was at the height of his power and celebrity in the early years of the Reagan administration.

    1. I was going to write that about Falwell!!! You beat me to it!

      (For an excellent book on “Falwell culture,” read The Book of Jerry Falwell. It’s excellent.)

      Falwell was also an expert at manipulating the religiosity of his followers to support causes outside of what had been considered the sphere of religion by the majority of Americans in the 1950s. Politics and religion were like oil and water in mid-20th-century America – there wasn’t really much overlap. Falwell and others of the televangelical era used them as twin clubs to go about achieving their own ends.

  7. Firstly, I’d like to say I really appreciate the work you guys are doing on the podcast – it really has me waiting for Monday morning to listen to on the bus to work. Moreover, I live in a non-English speaking country with a very small body of comic book readers – so your podcast serves as substitute for all the X-Men talks I don’t have anyone to have with right now.
    Secondly, your talk about dealing with the Morrison run makes me giddy, although it’s still years from now. As someone who has strong negative emotions for the entire Morrison run due to the Magneto stuff, and knowing where you stand about this character – I’m looking forward to hear how you’re going to deal with it. It’s a good run and I love Beak (but mostly from his eXiles days and what follows), but everything with Xron and Magneto near the end of the run just taints the entire thing (for me, it’s still a good run and historically important).
    Thank you (and folk supporting on Patreon) for making this giant-size special – made me feel good about the upcoming week.

  8. Another great episode to finish off an amazing year! Been listening since number 11, the all-questions episode and deliberating commenting ever since…but those lurking ways run deep. But before I let another episode pass by I wanted to make a couple thank yous.

    Thank you for the reading suggestion in the Wolverine miniseries episode of Dr. McNinja. I have now read it in its completeness and it was delightful. (According to one of the alt texts Rachel used to edit this? Could you be more awesome?)

    Thanks for the encouragement to try again on New Mutants and Excaliber, which I had initially rejected as too silly. The Demon Bear arc was amazing and I nearly didn’t get there.

    Thanks for being generally awesome and brightening up a really long walk to my Monday morning class last semester. There’s at least one neighborhood of people who probably think I’m crazy because of the excessive smiling and occasionally mouthing along to the opening segment. This online space is wonderful and friendly and I have no idea how you did it.

    Thanks for the warning, several months too late, that one shouldn’t attempt to read all the X-men comics. I would add that it is especially poor judgment to attempt this over three months and that 16,000 pages of comics in that timespan will render you unlivable to close friends and family.

    Here’s to another great year! (P.S. Miles is totally right. Those ear on Logan’s mask are ridiculous. The best part of the hackity-slashy black ops X-Force was the toned-down ears that thing.)

    1. I’d nominate Cyclops’ own Jim Lee era headsock, but it looks more like Scott wanted to fit in with everyone else so he made his cowl into a headsock.

      Probably Jean’s headsock, but that looks like the least-worst part of her flesh-colored outfit…

      1. I don’t know, Cyclops may be the only person who can get away with the headsock. That visor needs to be secured properly and that full cowl has got to be annoying as all get out after a while, right?

        I mean if I was wearing that cowl every day I’d have my head shaved just to keep it from pissing me off constantly.

    2. Headsocks are not hats. They’re overdeveloped headbands. Head gaiters.

      …We’re probably going to have to get a milliner to consult on this at some point, aren’t we?

  9. I was genuinely surprised that you didn’t name one of the interview episodes as your favorite(s). To me, it always sounds like those are the ones on which you’re having the most fun. The NYCC special, both Rucka appearances, and the Busiek episode are all among MY favorite episodes; I was pretty shocked you didn’t say the same. On the other hand, maybe you were mentally excluding those particular episodes because they were so different – but they deserved the shout-out, too!

      1. Indeed. It also probably depends on what aspect you’re looking at for your favorites.

        My favorite summary episode easily is the Phoenix Saga, though the New Mutants’ Demon Bear saga takes a close second. But favorite episodes overall easily has to go to the interview episodes.
        Not because we get to cover material in an amusing fashion (though that does happen when Rucka comes back), but because we get to see some awesome insider knowledge that is often not heard – or get an insisder’s angle on it. Like with Busiek and the Phoenix Retcon, or Rucka and his revelation on Claremont’s plans for a Wolverine/Kitty relationship.

        Also, ew.

  10. Wow, Bobby is a really superlative interviewer. I kind of want him to start (yet another) show where he just goes around and interviews people who host podcasts in episodes of those podcasts, because when the audience already knows the people and their work you can go straight for these awesome deep-cut questions.

    1. Leia Weathington’s Happy Go Lucky Podcast seems to be evolving into an incredibly long running interview of Leia by Bobby. Most episodes are just Leia (and a guest, if there is one that week) answering Bobby’s questions about whatever topic comes up. It’s a pretty fascinating listen actually.

  11. I got about five minutes into this episode and felt like I had to stop, obtain the book, and reread it. (Yesterday it was $3.99 on Comixology, which has to be one of the best deals I’ve ever gotten there.) Only then did I switch to listening again, and I’ve just stopped because the interviews just started and I wanted to comment on this book while it was fresh in my mind. (Forgive me if this stuff is covered later in the podcast!)

    So, one of my main themes going over the old X-books while following this podcast is how HUGE an influence the artists have on the story. Comparing the Neal Adams pages done for this book to the actual book really highlights this — Neal’s art is fantastic, but it’s a completely different story, a different sort of story, even.

    Anderson’s work here is phenomenal. When I first read the book back in the mid-80s, I didn’t like it. Today, I do still think it might have done better with a really good inker finishing it. (And damn, I hate Kitty’s costume, but that’s not Anderson’s fault.) But Anderson’s storytelling and design here are near perfect. I love how dense it is (bet it averages more than 9 panels per page), and how well he does faces and real world things.

    Ack, I want to keep on raving about how good it is, but I really need to accomplish things today…

  12. The thing that always got me about GLMK is that Srtyker’s argument (if I’m remembering correctly from 30 years ago) is that mutants aren’t in the Bible, so they’re bad. Well being a nerdy young boy with no social life at the time I found that a strong case could be made that they ARE, and they are all evil. End times blah blah will be as it was in the days of Noah blah blah half fallen Angel (lower case fallen angels) super beings biblical scholars call nephalim. Made me kinda home for super beings the closer we get to the apocalypse (lower case apocalypse)… Not that I set out to find facts that support the Purifiers’ argument or anything.

  13. I heard you speak of a sequel, but that must have come at a time when A.) the small town I live in had no comic shop, B.) I was a starving college student, or C.) All of the above. I will have to search that out. Not that I was purposely avoiding X-Treme X-Men or anything, but… OK, yeah, maybe a little I was… But as usual you have piqued my interest. Thanks.

  14. My own hope for what happens when Xavier does inevitably return one day: Bring Me Xavier’s Brain!

    Also, there was something significant I wanted to address/ask about re: this episode – but foolish me I let the fact that I was flying across the continent in a dark plane keep me from writing down whatever the heck it was and now I’ve forgotten. Guess I’ll have to re-listen to the whole thing!

  15. There are at least two other alternate reality Peter Corbeaus- one in Age of Apocalypse (helps Gambit’s team find the Shi’ar galaxy in their respective first issue) and the “What If?” where the “Giant-Sized” 2nd team of X-Men never formed because he was too awesome to need more super heroes.

  16. Anyone can make a utopia for a generation? Really Cyclops? Really?

    I don’t think it is that easy. Maybe in the Marvel Universe. But if it was really that easy I want to get that utopia started right now.

  17. Getting a purple cape is difficult, dude. I mean, not now, in the age of the interwebs and all, but in 1982? That took work; you had to know people, pull strings.

    Love this graphic novel. Up there with Dark Phoenix, Days of Future Past, and the Morrison run as X-Men’s absolute best.

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