Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

61 – Even Horses

Art by David Wynne. Prints and cards available until 6/21/2015 in the shop, or contact David for the original.
Art by David Wynne. Prints and cards available until 6/21/2015 in the shop, or contact David for the original.

In which the band gets back together; Dani faces down Death; Sam takes Lila home to meet his mom; revenge is a dish best left unserved; there is nothing sadder than Warlock confused by the concept of death; Kitty Pryde has a some opinions about identity politics; and X-Men has not been great with textual representations of neurodiversity.

NOTE: Given some of the material covered in this episode, we wanted to link a few resources below, for anyone who might need them:


  • The rotating members of the Guthrie family
  • New Mutants #41-45
  • One way to end a friendship
  • A respectable number of dubious decisions enacted over several issues
  • An epic showdown with an anthropomorphic personification
  • Additional Guthries
  • The Xavier Institute PTA
  • The worst Hellion (more) (again)
  • Legion (more) (again)
  • The second-saddest issue of New Mutants
  • The life and death of Larry Bodine
  • A somewhat bleak recurring continuity error
  • Depression and mental illness in X-canon
  • Care and storage of comic books
  • Autism in X-canon


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. Cannonball is probably my fave New Mutant, if I’m honest, up until he gets “promoted” to the X-Men in the 1990s (and even then, he has some great moments, like fighting Gladiator) For all that characters were not served too well in the 1990s, for a good long time he was kept pretty consistent and even allowed to evolve.

  2. I was tearing up in my car listening to this one. New Mutants #45 was such a pivotal issue for me as a teenager who was starting in the weeds of X-Force and reading backwards.

    I’ve also always thought that New Mutants #45 was a sort of inflection point after which it becomes more interesting to think about the mutant metaphor in terms of sexual orientation instead of race (to whatever extent it does or doesn’t work as a metaphor).

    1. I was a bit worried about this happening at my desk, listening just now. Heartbreaking.

      Thinking about the time this book came out, I remember sexual orientation becoming something that people were starting to talk about very differently, so it may be that when oppression or bigotry came up in work, the whole culture was starting to think about it in those terms, too, and that inflection came through.

      Certainly, the metaphor is broad and ill-defined enough that it works (and doesn’t quite work) in a whole lot of cases. But I think you’re right about the timing!

  3. I hadn’t realized from the podcast just how much Dani actively combined her heritage with her new role as Valkyrie. The as-mentioned page where she essentially invokes her Valkyrie powers against death by calling upon names from her people is really striking—not Hel or Odin. I love that it seems like she isn’t overwriting her background with new Norseness, it’s more like the Valkyrie role has just added to the overall mix of who she is, and yes, the way that she embraces and expresses her heritage, but not as a substitute. Not all stories have been great at keeping Dani’s whole self intact, even some more modern stories with her that I actually really like, but the ideas being set up here about identity and heritage are super-interesting.

    Also, the whole discussion of Warlock not understanding death made me think of Anya (Emma Caulfield) from Buffy, who had an amazing monologue/breakdown about not understanding death that will always emotionally wreck me. This seems to be the best version of it online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JuQ49_TBmI

    1. Not even touching that YouTube video. Every time I see that scene it makes me cry, when nothing else in that incredibly harrowing couple of episodes does.

      Oddly, I didn’t even consider it when Rachel and Miles were talking about the Warlock scene, but it’s a perfect example to pull up.

  4. Oh man, comparing Monet’s sisters to Station SLAYED ME. Had me giggling like an idiot in my cubicle at work today.

  5. So frustrating these issues aren’t on marvel unlimited. Love reading along with your podcast. Great episode though!

  6. How does Dani use her “show your greatest desire” power and NOT come up with “I want to marry Dani” at least 50% of the time? Also, Sam & Lila are the best couple ever.

    Once again, you guys are showing me just how deep and harsh the New Mutants was, and how much I loved it then and still love them now (#45 is one of my favorite comics ever)…and contrast that with conversations I keep having with my friends today about stuff that I find too “dark” or “tragic.” This arc was so, so definitive for how I thought and felt about this comic.

    1. These issues are very dark and deal with some really heavy things, but I think that, given that this is a book very much about young people very much in a situation wherein they’re directly affected by the generation above them, the overall message of these issues is “no one is tending the light at the end of the tunnel except for you. If you want better you have to be and do better.”

      That’s the other half that’s left off in comics today, I’ve found–the notion that even when things look bad and things are difficult that there is hope.

  7. While the optimism and overall likability of its characters kept the tone of the book generally above the surface, I’m reminded of how inordinately sad NEW MUTANTS tended to be in its storytelling. Its heaviness was explored through familiar themes – Dani’s Demon Bear, Legion’s alienation through zero fault of his own, Warlock’s inherent goodness placing him at odds with his societal norms, Karma’s entire fucking history up to that point, etc. And we haven’t even scratched the surface of Illyana, who proves to be arguably the most tragic figure in all of North American comics. Now we’ve seen the team being brutally killed and casually resurrected, which a despondent new headmaster responds to by seemingly throwing in the towel and delivering everyone into the waiting arms of Emma Frost. (And not because he’s Magneto and therefore sucks, but because his charges were brutally killed and casually resurrected, so what the hell are you going to do?)

    And now adding salt to the wound, poor Larry Bodine.

    Not to get ahead of ourselves, but I always thought of Mutant Massacre as the point where the franchise turned a corner towards GrimDark (for better or worse). But revisiting the books chronologically, it’s really been more gradual than that. UNCANNY has been going angst for angst with its sister title since about #201. A lot of that comes down to Rachel being the focal point for a good stretch of issues, culminating in her uncomfortable exit, but let’s not overlook “Wounded Wolf.” Beautifully violent and relentlessly grim – and absolutely par for the course.

    Meanwhile, X-FACTOR. Not yet the glorious soap opera it would become under Louise Simonson, but those Layton issues aren’t exactly a walk in the park either despite their throwbacky aesthetic. The Scott/Madelyne stuff is deeply troubling, but even side dishes like Artie’s intro and Mike Nowlan’s altruistic self-destruction make for some bleak reads. To say nothing of the deeply cynical high concept of the damn series itself.

    Speaking of which, I’m downright shocked Claremont was permitted to so blatantly put the screws to X-Factor’s mutant-buster premise. It was already painting the original X-Men as complete morons well enough on its own, but here reads like an altogether different writer now going the extra mile to undermine the book less than a year into its run. Not that I’m complaining – Claremont taking the X-Factor ruse to its obvious, terrible conclusion resulted in an absolute all-timer. Even if giving voice to creative differences, he made sure it served the story (Claremont was ALWAYS a total pro in this regard). Fact is, somebody needed to drive a truck through the holes in that set-up. I’m just baffled that the brass let him do it.

    Through it all, the stories aren’t so relentlessly bleak that they’ve become distancing. Emotionally stirring and intellectually stimulating, it’s clear they still have something to say. They’re occasionally inelegant, sure, but well-meaning (not unlike Kitty’s irritating tendency to drop the n-bomb into her heartfelt speeches) at the same time. That’s probably my biggest takeaway from this era, now in its twilight.

    1. That’s really interesting – from listening to the podcast, I knew Claremont wasn’t on-side with X-Factor, but as a kid reading these comics, it just really didn’t occur to me that this was wrecking the X-Factor conceit.

      Instead, I read it as one of my earliest experiences of the Rashomon effect – something which I learned about almost entirely from Marvel comics at the time and now that I think about it that informed not just how I think of stories, but how I think of almost all human experience and interaction.

      From that perspective, it works pretty perfectly, especially in the context of how different creative teams and books with different approaches can work within a shared universe. Both versions of X-Factor are true. But in the pages of X-Factor, I could totally see how the whole “mutant hunter” thing, at that point in time, seemed like a good, if misguided, idea.

      1. Ha. I can completely relate to your ‘Roshomon’ experience. I first read early X-Factor, en masse, in the late ’90s. I would’ve been in my early teens at the time, too young to really think through the deeper implications of the premise beyond, “Oh so it was like a Ghostbusters rip-off.” Consensus within the online fan community circa 1998 would lead one to believe that this iteration of X-Factor was nothing short of a national tragedy. Just diabolical, unreadable, putrid garbage. Fourteen-year-old me thought those issues were basically OK and didn’t fully grasp what everyone seemed to find so off-putting. Reading them in isolation just didn’t provide the whole picture.

        Having read the concurrent issues of UNCANNY since then, I realize how the dueling ideologies come to the fore once Simonson takes over on X-Factor (and Claremont is, presumably, more willing to play ball). The teams adopt a mutual adversarial view towards one another — X-Factor thinking the X-Men as having fallen in league with Magneto and the X-Men believing their founding members are, well, the mutant hunters they’re selling themselves as to the public. Notwithstanding the contrivance that this could have been cleared up if ANYONE picked up the phone, it makes for an interesting read (contextually and metatextually). It’s not fundamental to comprehending the individual stories, but offers a richer experience that followers of either book exclusively miss out on (as I initially did).

        Way down the road, we’d see similar interplay between Grant Morrison’s innovative New X-Men and Claremont’s, umm, very Claremontian X-Treme Men. I think he really thrived on that sort of healthy creative conflict.

    2. By the time this issue came out, Louise Simonson was on her 4th or 5th issue of X-Factor (depending on how much you want to look at her first issue being hers since she came on in the middle of the Alliance of Evil and Apocalypse story). She had started to bring up questions about the premise herself (I’m going to date this back to Trish Tilby’s debut, and Mystique sends her information about X-Factor in the issue of that series that came out the same month as New Mutants #45).

      The special anniversary covers make it easy to line up the issues for that month. Otherwise, I couldn’t tell you which issues were released the same month.

      I don’t know how relevant it would be, but this is also nearing the end of Jim Shooter’s tenure as Editor-in-Chief (the Marvel wikia lists New Mutants #58 as DeFalco’s first issue as EIC). I’m not sure how much he was paying attention to the books at this point, though from his own blog, he mentioned that he tended to exercise less oversight on writers like Claremont.

      1. You are absolutely right – although Rachel & Miles haven’t quite gotten there yet, X-Factor was now up to issue 10! I guess I was thinking this was concurrent to the just-wrapped Layton run since that’s where we left off a couple shows ago.

        Excellent and fun resource for determining original publication dates, which I used to confirm: http://www.dcindexes.com/features/newsstand.php?type=cover&month=11&year=1986&publisher=marvel&sort=alpha&checklist=null

        Though it was in the thick of the Mutant Massacre, Wheezie had definitely begun exploiting the cracks in X-Factor’s cover by then. Prevailing wisdom suggested it was not much longer for this world and I’m sure Simonson was all for it since it would only support and make the end game she was building to that much stronger.

        Now that you mention it, I’m wondering too about the extent of Shooter’s involvement. Simonson and Ann Nocenti both regarded Claremont as a writer who required “very little editing.” And even at his most dogmatic, Shooter rarely interjected himself in Claremont’s work the way he did across the rest of the line. By his own reckoning, he was very hands-off on the creative side by the end of his tenure. It was probably beneath his notice (especially since the writers of the books in question weren’t at each others’ throats).

  8. I was just reading the New Mutants/Journey into Mystery Exiled crossover, and Doug totally uses his powers for baking. Apparently he can replicate any recipe he’s tasted, since baking is a “language.”

    1. Darn, you beat me to that baking reference! 🙂 (Which is where I sort of threw my hands up at this interpretation of Doug’s powers, as cooking is NOT a means of communication IMHO)

      Of course, the fact that Mr and Mrs Ramsey never knew Doug was a mutant would add a certain complexity to the PTA meeting, with the other parents either rolling their eyes at the carefully crafted stories Doug had spun to cover up the weirdness, or using codewords themselves so as not to mess things up for Doug.

  9. Thanks for another great episode.

    Dani just seems like such a cool character. The discussion of her being a Valkyrie is really fascinating. On the one hand, it does take a minority character and make her part of the dominant culture. On the other hand, I really like characters who combine things they’ve learned from their family’s culture with other ideas and identities that they’ve become part of themselves, since no one is a clone of their parents. It’s an experience I can relate to. Plus, looked at from a certain angle, it’s a way of being inclusive to say that anyone can be a Valkyrie; you don’t have to be one particular race. I definitely agree with James Leask’s point about there needing to be more representation, because not every person who is indigenous (or part of any particular minority group) will have the same experience or relate to the same character.

    Regarding representations of mental illness and autism in books, I really wish these were better represented. I tend to use stories to deal with things in real life, and it means so much to find a story that resonates.

  10. This may be my favorite episode so far. I sooo relate with Sam. The scene between Sam and his Ma really hit home. Totally with you on the whole “this makes me homesick for Appalachia” thing. Also, the two of you attempting Appalachian accent? Snicker… I love you both, but… snicker. <3

    1. We weren’t–that’s why it sounds so bad. We were just reading the dialogue phonetically, as-written, in our normal voices.

      I mean, seriously, darlin’–you taught us better than that.

  11. Another great episode, covering my favourite issue – which I have to be honest I was inexplicably dreading, because while the core Secret Wars 2 book was pretty rubbish, reading the tie-ins in context at the time as a kid was pretty great, which has made some of the last few eps quite… awkward. 😀

    But you liked the death of the New Mutants issues, which I was also stupidly worrying about, so I should have had faith.

    There’s a Generation Hope issue (#9) that has so much in common with New Mutants #45 thematically/structurally that I asked Kieron Gillen online whether it was a deliberate homage to the earlier comic, and he hadn’t actually read it! So maybe it’s one of those archetypal narrative points along the road that’s inevitable, when a sensitive writer is dealing with outsider teens finding their way in the world.

  12. How old do you think Pat is intended to be? When I originally read the issue when it came out, I thought he was Dani’s age. If he’s legally buying beer (and okay, he may have bought it illegally), then he’s probably a good 4-6 years older than her.

  13. Ah, yeah. The kids I grew up with. What loved most about this era of New Mutants is how Moira basically conned Chuck into taking on Xian by threatening to turn her over to Magneto or Emma. Charles concedes, but then promptly turns them over to Magneto anyway who then gives them to Emma…

    1. Also, pondering something you said a while ago.

      If the Hellions are power analogous to the New Mutants, and Empath is the absolute worst, who is he the analog for? Rhane, because it’s emotion-based? Or Karma, because it’s control-based? Your thoughts?

      1. Powers and outlook-wise, I would have said Dani.

        Dani had a great deal of difficulty controlling her ability to project images which terrify others (and if others can see those images, often humiliating the target too) but that inspired her to work on controlling them and even becoming a hero.

        Empath, on the other hand, has a completely controlled power to terrify AND humiliate (amongst other emotions), positively revels in the power over others this gives him and has no interest in being anything other than, if you’ll pardon the term, a complete and utter dick to the entire universe.

        1. Yeah, no, Dani, that’s what I meant when I said emotion based. Not Rhane. Darn auto-correct. 😉

          Makes sense, your explanation. Thanks. Something to think about. I guess I was figuring maybe Roulette was Dani’s analog because she summoned images too.

            1. Yes, yes I did. Darnit. What kind of fanboy do I look like when I can’t get the New Mutants OR the Hellions names right? The auto-correct thing was a joke (of course) but in my defense I did but those comics a LOOOONG time ago. It’s not much of a defense, since I just heard R&M talk about them a few weeks ago, but a feeble defense is better than none…

  14. Whilst the flashback to Kitty’s speech at Larry’s speech is often referenced, I’ve never thought of it as relating to Doug’s funeral (Which Kitty wasn’t able to attend, as Excalibur #2 or #2 makes clear), I always see it as writers overestimating how much of a relationship she and Larry had. He’s listed more than a few times in lists of one she was involved with, rather than a rather brief one time meeting.

    On the one hand it remains one of the most powerful pieces of writing I can recall in years, it’s beautiful and visceral and raw and that’s awesome, but it has two major flaws that spoil the moment for me;

    1) Kitty outs Larry as a mutant to the school body when it is DEFINITELY not her perogative to do so at least without talking to his parents, which I suppose she might have done. (Though it’s worth nothing that Professor X casually outed Doug as a mutant to the X-Men and New Mutants, but never told Doug or had any intent of telling him, so she’s just carrying on the tradition) In doing so some of the kids who called X-Factor on Larry might even be able to justify things to themselves “Well, he was a stinking mutie after all, who cares if they off themselves” sort of a thing (not a pleasant thought, but a human one) and

    2) Kitty turns it into a speech that is just too much about _herself_. Whilst using her experience as a frame of reference for the problems Larry faced is reasonable, I just can’t see that ending a eulogy for Larry Bodine with a speech about how she is Katherine Pryde really works. At a rally or something, yes, at the memorial service for a kid who committed suicide, not so much. YMMV of course.

  15. Chiming in late here, but in terms of characters dealing with depression in X-Canon, I think Peter David’s second run on X-Factor (the one launching out of the Madrox mini) has a couple of instances, albeit ones that are linked to superpowers and supernatural events;
    Rictor and Monet. Mileage may vary as to just how directly they deal with depression as opposed to ‘basic trauma due to being a superhero’, but I feel like their segments in the Therapy issue directly tie into depression.

  16. I may be mis-remembering that dreadful storyline, but wasn’t Xaos (Uncanny #360-#364 and Adjectiveless #80-#84) supposed to be autistic? Then again, I think all of those new characters might have turned out to be robots or something, anyway….

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