Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

54 – Who You Gonna Call? (feat. Elle Collins)

Art by David Wynne. Prints and cards available until 5/3/2015 in the shop, or contact David for the original.
Art by David Wynne. Prints and cards available until 5/3/2015 in the shop, or contact David for the original.

In which the X-Men get their third ongoing series; Elle drops in to x-plain the Defenders; the band gets back together; rich people are not like the rest of us; Cyclops is in desperate need of some kind of intervention; and X-Factor is basically Ghostbusters.


  • Cameron Hodge
  • The fairly spectacular secret origins of X-Factor
  • The Champions
  • The New Defenders
  • The evolution of Hank McCoy
  • X-Factor #1
  • The death throes of Scott and Madelyne’s marriage
  • Rusty Collins
  • A really bad first date
  • The increasingly dubious life choices of Scott Summers
  • The worst job interview
  • Sushi-a-Go-Go
  • How not to have an intervention
  • X-Factor
  • The X-Terminators
  • The Phoenix Force on Earth-811 (and its relationship to Rachel Summers)

NEXT WEEK: The Beyonder ruins everything. Again.

You can find a companion index to the material mentioned in this episode on our blog!

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  1. Would X-Factor have been better if Madelyne Pryor had been a part of the original lineup? Like if Phoenix had not been found by Reed, and Warren had approached Scott and Madelyne with this idea of X-Factor, would we have had a better-functioning X-Factor with a more level-headed Cyclops and a Madelyne who was concerned with the safety enough of her mutant child to fight for it with high-tech weaponry (and possibly the latent Anodyne Powers)?

    – Gary

    1. Pretty sure, from what we’ve seen of her till now, Madelyne is completely against violence and just wants to settle down with their family and live a normal life away from the X-Men and mutant problems.

    2. I think that would have been cool. It would have taken some interesting turns to get her there but they couldn’t have been any worse than what happens here…

  2. One more thing, is Rachel Scott Summers’ biological daughter? For some reason, I thought it was hinted that Wolverine might be Rachel’s real father and that Scott had raised her thinking that she was his daughter. That’s why she had such an affinity with Wolverine.

    Was there any hint of this during this time? Or am I misremembering weird rumors that were circulating during this point in the 1980s. I was 12 and I absorbed both the rumors and the actual comics, so I’m just not sure if this was something valid.

    1. “Affinity”? It’s revealed in Uncanny #207 that there’s more antipathy between them then anything else.

  3. Pretty good podcast and pretty much my second one. It’s funny because I’ve got the essential X-factor vol 1 and PAD’s X-factor from 2008. Totally thinking of picking up the rest later.

    Also I’ve heard the back and forth about Scott and Maddie and personally, it is messed up what Editorial have Scott do but I do kinda get, in-universe why he did. The fact that the others were either oblivious to his kinda obvious breakdown is eyebrow raising but what you mentioned about Jean being so used to telepathy that she would be oblivious without it, I can buy.

    Can’t wait to listen to the rest of your podcasts and collecting more of these crazy mutants.

  4. (wasn’t asked for, but I can’t help it, as soon as you mentioned “Ghostbusters” the words just came out. Wish I’d read some of the series just so I could do the whole thing)

    When your marriage sucks…
    And it’s on the rocks?
    Who you gonna join?

    When a burning man’s
    Freakin’ on the docks..
    Who you gonna call?

    I ain’t ‘fraid of no mutants.
    I ain’t ‘fraid of no mutants.

    When Angel talks
    ‘Bout himself like this..
    Who’s he gonna join?

    When a mutant with powers
    Attacks your office.
    Who you gonna call?

  5. I really love Madeline Pryor and I’m Claremont continued to use her even after Scott left her. I’m in the run up to Inferno in my own reading and knowing a little bit about what happens to her is one of the major things holding me back from continuing. So my question is, has anybody ever tried to redeem Maddy? I’d love nothing more than to see her get to have some form of a happy ending.

    1. ** Spoiler alert for those who haven’t read nineties X-Men **

      I believe she was resurrected and presented as an ally to both Nate Grey and Cable sometime in the nineties. She was still entangled with villains like Selene and the Hellfire Club, but it seemed like she was slowly going to work toward redemption for the sake of her now grownup son. It was during the James Robinson run of “Cable” and early issues of “X-Man”.

      Unfortunately, when the books became part of the “Counter X” line, Madelyne was retconed into, uh, something else and went back to full villainy. Still, I like the story that the former “X-Man” and especially “Cable” issues were building towards at the time… if you don’t mind the end being usurped by another, largely uninterested creative team.

    2. No. No one has ever really tried to redeem her. There have been some attempts at building things but they’ve all generally been abandoned.


      In the most recent run on X-men, Madelyne was in fact, brought back again by the Evil Sisterhood (or whatever they were calling it). It has a great moment when Storm leading the X-men shows up and a number of the villainesses are “OMG! X-MEN!” And Madelyne’s response is essentially, “Whatever.” Also, Storm sees her and says “I’m not here for you.” Madelyne looks around and her compatriots, nods to herself and essentially says, “Right then. I’m out.” We haven’t seen her since then AFAIK.

  6. I think I’ve got to mostly agree with Claremont about Scott. Indeed, I’ve always wondered if the incredibly stupid “let’s fight in the Danger Room to see who the X-men’s leader should be!” scene in #201 was just basically Claremont flipping the bird at Shooter, essentially “I can’t be bothered to figure out a graceful way for you to ruin Scott.” I don’t think he was irredeemable, mind you, but I’m not sure he ever actually was properly redeemed. (Then again, I didn’t read X-men much during the 90s, so I might have missed it.)

    While I do think that over the next few years I liked X-Factor more than the Uncanny X-men of the time, I don’t think either book was a patch on the previous hundred issues of Uncanny. And much of that seems to be (at least, based on my memory, I don’t think I’ve bothered to read any of these issues in the last 25 years) was based on the ridiculous decision to make the two teams not talk to each other.

  7. Really liked the “setting the stage” podcast this time–it’s such a bewildering time full of all sorts of heavy-lifting to make the original 5 X-Men get back together and . . .well, we’ll work out the “why” later, apparently.

    Looking forward to the beginning of the series proper and that encountering one of my favourite team of third-string bad guys, the Alliance of Evil.

  8. Something that I’ve been wanting to ask about….

    Do you guys have any favorite bits of (for lack of a better term) “Almost Canon”? Things that had been planned, but were nixed by editorial or by circumstance?

    To give a concrete example, and to cite my own favorite, I think that it’s pretty broadly known that originally Chris Claremont planned for DESTINY to be Nightcrawler’s mother…and his father was a shapeshifted Mystique. It’s so much better an idea than that Azazel nonsense, of which we will speak no further.

    Or there’s the whole “Mr. Sinister is an old man trapped in the body of an eternal eleven-year-old boy” thing, which again evolved into something VERY different when it saw print.

  9. Thanks for bringing in Elle to talk about the history of Beast, Angel, and Iceman on the defenders. It’s really cool to hear about what our favorite characters are up to when they’re not part of the X-men.

  10. Feels like I keep saying ‘fascinating’ over and over when I comment on here, but it just feels like the most appropriate word!

    Love hearing about all the little backroom details and politics of the Marvel bullpen; I’m so used to modern day comics where you have a constantly shifting conga line of many different writers doing a couple issues and arcs here and there for the most part, that Claremont’s seventeen years and general strong control and influence over X-Men as a whole really is a helluva thing to hear and think about.

    Like, perhaps I’m naive or unaware of a lot of things in the industry, but the thought of a scenario where they had to do a very careful late night letdown with Claremont to keep him from quitting over the Jean retcon and Cyclops characterization, and all the pushing back and forth over plot points he wanted like characters aging/changing/leaving, it’s just so hard to imagine that happening these days!

    1. And almost forgot – that powerset that Claremont came up with for Jean’s sister, that’s essentially Hope Summers’ schtick in current continuity, isn’t it?

  11. Make a Tom Collins with drambuie in place of gin. Boom, a Rusty Collins. For extra credit, light it on fire.

  12. Rachel and Miles!!! How to begin…?
    About two months ago I happened upon your show on via Dr Internet’s YouTube. I listened to this episode while cookin’ up my breakfast and I was immediately hooked. I LOVE the X-Men. I turned into an X-fan thanks to the ’90’s animated series that you two seems to dislike so much (but come on, look how influential that show was). What’s funny is, I only started reading X-Men because I was reading Marvel’s Gargoyles comic (based on the Disney animated series), I got a subscription, they cancelled the comic, they changed my subscription to Generation X, which was my seed to the X-Universe. Now I’m 35 and still reading and collecting (mostly trades though). Okay, I have so many things I want to say to you two.
    1) You are absolutely wonderful. Miles, thank you for getting Rachel into comics.
    2) I got through 50+ episodes in less than two months in between study sessions. Thats insane, right?
    3) We could argue forever, but I do not like Bill Sienkiewicz’s artwork. Sorry, but wasn’t my style. And I just can’t stand Chris Bachalo’s work either (although I have fond memories of his Generation X days). In hindsight it’s not the best, but I was obsessed with Joe Madureira. But really, the best of the X-artists have been Paul Smith, Jim Lee (I’ll forgive his Psyloche unitard), Frank Quitely, and Stuart Immomen (has he ever done bad work?).
    4) That fact that you breezed through the Silver-age of the X-Men was great. Influential? Maybe. But we all knew we wanted to get to the meat of the X-Men and that started with Giant Sized #1. So, thank you.
    5) I really fell in love with the X-Men when they started releasing the Essentials line (the black & white trades on cheap paper). It was there that I got to know who Storm and Kitty Pryde really were and how much they mattered and why they mattered to other fans. You both have done a great job showcasing their enduring qualities. Colossus on the other hand, I has never appealed to me.
    6) I never cared for the New Mutants until now. You’ve really opened my eyes to these characters. I only knew them through the lens of Sam Guthrie when he joined up with the official team in the 90’s and some of Claremont’s mediocre run on X-treme X-Men. I can’t wait to get those books some day (time and money folks).
    7) I took your suggestion and picked up the Illyana and Storm series. AWESOME. Illyana is both truly scary and powerful. The modern-day X-Men rarely recognize how powerful she is (teleportation can be uniquely destructive, as AoA Nightcrawler showed and her magic is ambiguous), even though she seems very Dark Phoenix powerful. Am I wrong? I’m sure some Wiki could tell me that, but I’d rather have her get her own miniseries.
    8) Any comments on Bobby Drake’s newly developed sexuality? As a gay dude, it makes sense and is great to see this somewhat underdeveloped character get something to explain this. I’m all for retcons that help further a story.
    9) Speaking of which, I love Bendis. Honestly, expect for the big Marvel crossovers, I have loved nearly all of his work (even his early days writing for Spawn). He has transitioned the X-Men into a new era with some great developments. If anything, its the impending Secret Wars that is the only problem. I think it’s slowing and decreasing his work to where it could be. Why the “hate”?
    10) Alright, I have a question for you both and I think you may have been asked this already, but I’ll ask again. I know a lot of people have quite a bit of hate for 90’s X-books for various reasons (Onslaught, Zero Tolerance, Joseph, Maggot, Dark Beast, the return of Eric the Red/Magneto), but when you get to mid to late 90’s, do you have any positive memories of those books? Or do you think you’ll gloss over them like you did with the Silver-age?

    Thanks so much for the weekly nerd-gift that is your show. I can’t wait for the next episode…Mutant Massacre?

    1. In response to my 8 & 9 up above, I read your article on Bobby and some of the praise from Bendis in there. 😉 Amazing work and uncanny astuteness.

    2. I love comments like this! They capture how fun it is to revisit these stories thanks to the podcast, as well as how fun it is to binge on the podcast.

      Next episode is Uncanny 202-205 by the sounds of it. Mutant Massacre might be covered after the next 10 episodes are done. With three ongoings, there’s a ton happening – there’s Beyonder shenanigans in New Mutants, an X-Factor moppet and furless Hank to introduce, Nimrod induced heart attacks, and more to get to first! 🙂

    3. Concerning #8- The fan reaction was both expected and disturbing to me on the “All-New” Iceman sexuality development. Long, long, loooong before this I both assumed Iceman was in the closet and have always told my husband if he was an X-Man/Superhero it would be Iceman. So, due to my personal experiences don’t view it so much as a retcon as I do a writer calling out established character behaviors and having them reflect real life parallels.

  13. Another point in favor of how the shitty goes both ways with Scott and Madeline, don’t forget she enters into a romantic relationship with his brother, Alex, as well as becoming BFFS with the X-Men (ya know, the folks she didn’t want Scott to associate with so much).

  14. Coming to this episode and the one before it months after they aired, I know, but they’re really good. One of the reasons why they’re really good is that they, and all the episodes leading up to them, help question Claremont’s claim that editorial mandate unfairly biffed his plans for Cyclops to totally phase out, and that he had this vision that got unfairly thwarted

    No way, on both counts. Whether or not Claremont is misremembering, or this really was editorial interference, Scott’s pulling away from Madelyne makes for a far, far more interesting story, precisely because it’s sad. The death of Phoenix on the moon is sad fantastic. Scott getting together with a woman who looks just like Jean and going off into the sunset? It’s also sad and fantastic, and it’s hard to believe that Claremont wasn’t installing not just a kill switch for Madelyne and their relationship, but also a really interesting commentary on Scott.

    Scott’s problem is not, finally, that his lady loves keep dying. Like you guys keep pointing out, it’s that he’s trying to go back again to when he was happiest. He can’t not be in the X-Men, with his original family, and try to perform for/protect his surrogate dad, Charles. But then he can’t even be fulfilled with a woman who was literally a nearly identical second chance for outside happiness, complete with a beautiful baby boy because she’s outside of the life in which he first fell in love with her/Jean! So as much as Claremont’s stated goal was to keep things moving, changing up the status quo, he was also writing about Scott’s difficulty at changing at all, in contrast to, say, Storm, Magneto, even Wolverine. In fact, I think he’s really clever in depicting the difference between Ororo and Scott, in a way that we’ve since seen in Peggy and Don from Mad Men. Storm can, must, will change and grow to survive, becoming ever more badass, simultaneously down-to-earth and royal. Scott could not change, if that change took him away from the work/role that defined him. Scott goes to X-Factor not wholly because of Jean, but because his relationship with Madelyne had taken him away from the thing that makes him Cyclops — leading a team. And what better place to relive and recreate glory than the original five? This is where the status quo-resetting of comics becomes really interesting and existential: Scott cannot change, and it actually makes him richer and more realistic because of it.

    What’s therefore interesting about Claremont/Simonson’s departure, is that after that moment Scott and his happiness do start to deepen. He and Jean marry. He gets the father moments with Charles that we’d been waiting for. There’s even sweetness with Cable, related to their getting to raise him as Slim and Red, which I, as a kid Christopher in the 90s, loved. But this is also in character, because it’s also a period, the 90s, in which Scott is on top of his game as a leader, mostly. Unless I’m misremembering, it’s only when he get taken over by Apocalypse — hoo, boy — that the personal relationships, with Jean, crumble. And he continues to be in character when he builds himself back up with Emma before and after Jean’s death. Emma loves him for his devotion to the cause, and the students. Again, that’s his work, which becomes more and more obsessive as he takes more weight on after M Day.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say it: I think that Scott Summers, in addition to the awesomeness that are the concussive eyebeams and his relationships being the nexus of the continuity blackhole that is X-Men, is one of the most realistic characters in the Marvel universe. And that’s why I love him.

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