72 – Thrown Under the Plot Bus

Art by David Wynne. Prints and cards available until 9/6/2015 at the shop, or contact David to purchase the original.

Art by David Wynne. Prints and cards available until 9/6/2015 at the shop, or contact David to purchase the original.

 

In which Dazzler is not a team player; Longshot is the Zonker Harris of the X-Men; Juggernaut is That Guy; Rachel and Miles channel Statler and Waldorf; and Alex Summers is seriously never, ever going to finish grad school.

X-PLAINED:

  • Mutant X
  • The only well-adjusted Scott Summers in the Multiverse
  • The Goblin Entity
  • Uncanny X-Men #217-219
  • The evolution of the X-Men’s lineup
  • Standards for a good twist
  • Doonesbury
  • Several Dungeons & Dragons analogies
  • A dubious literary allusion
  • Flying jeeps
  • CrimeBros
  • The fundamental tragedy of Longshot
  • Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and several homages thereto
  • Geordie and Rupert
  • Havok (more) (again)
  • Car-wreck sex
  • An unfortunate end to a camping trip
  • The Plot Bus
  • Several ways to stat Rogue up as a D&D character
  • Narrative-friendly power sets

Special thanks to:

  • The wonderful Adam Warrock, for letting us sample his song “Teamwork” in this episode! You can listen to the full track here, and find more of Adam’s work at adamwarrock.com.
  • Harrison Barber for his X-Pert D&D advice (not to mention nearly fifteen years of tolerating our nonsense at the gaming table)!

NEXT WEEK: X-Men: Evolution with Robert N. Skir!


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52 comments

  1. Iaconcityrocker says:

    I’m pretty sure that the bald Scottish guy Dazzler meets up with is meant to Sean Connery.

    Roughly contemporary pic:
    https://a248.e.akamai.net/f/248/1/1/media4.popsugar-assets.com/files/2013/11/20/092/n/3019466/2275109af2a54cec_71545070XxHdEY.xxxlarge_2x/i/Sean-Connery-1989.jpg

  2. LAndrew says:

    For all that I can find nostalgia in curious backwaters of continuity, I have no nostalgia for “Mutant X.” That was . . .not good.

    Aw, Polaris. I always feel sorry for her, because I think she’s a cool character in general, but it’s ages before she ever gets a decent story where she doesn’t show up and immediately get mind controlled or go crazy (thanks heaps, Chuck Austen) I’m racking my brain trying to find a time before Peter David’s X-FACTOR run where she has any agency of her own in any story.

  3. pawpaw5771 says:

    Only tangentially related to this episode — the wildfire smoke basically blanketed large chunks of Western Canada this entire past week after the episode recording.

  4. Kyle says:

    I suddenly want to go back and re-read MUTANT X. Havoc has been one of my favourite characters since I started reading comics with Peter David’s X-FACTOR run, and I was really excited that he was basically going to get his own corner of the multiverse as his private playground.

    I remember the first 12 issue arc being not terrible and having some interesting concepts — I also really liked that the universe where Havoc was one of the premiere heroes was a lot more peaceful and had less mutant prejudice — but it quickly went off the rails following that story’s conclusion. Perhaps not coincidentally, the book had originally only been pitched as a 12 issue mini-series, and it’s initial sales were good enough for the editors to push Howard Mackie to expand it into an on-going.

    Also, the Juggernaut may be a jerk, but he’s great at being a jerk. Has there been a cold open I’m forgetting explaining his powers?

  5. Seth says:

    A couple minor points/questions –

    Do you think Polaris has somehow lined her hair with metal? Otherwise how exactly does Malice change her hair after the big reveal of the Marauder fight?

    Based on a couple cameo appearences (ie Rick Redfern and Joanie Caucus in Days of Future Past, as well as a lot of other drop ins) the Doonsbury characters exist in the Marvel Universe. So how many are actually mutants themselves? I seem to recall Mike Doonsbury making one of his summer daydreams come true…which sounds a lot like Franklin Richards level reality warping to me.

  6. Bradley says:

    So I’m curious about the view of gender identity in the Dazzler/Juggernaut situation. I think you’re right 90% of the time on this. But I read this Juggernaut thing really differently.

    I saw it as Juggernaut saying, the next person you randomly attack for no reason might kill you, especially if you insist on picking fights way outside your weight class. Condescending? totally. Paternalistic? definitely. But he’s also not wrong. Had she done that with Sabertooth, the Beyonder, or any one of a dozen other hardcore villains, she’d be a corpse. Especially if he’s a fan of the music, I can totally see him saying that.

    I’m all for no-limits feminism, and there’s a lot that really troubles me about some of the sexist coding in comics. But this struck me as a small dog picking a fight with a big dog, and the big one telling him to knock it off. Rather than a “womens should know their place” thing.

    • Bradley says:

      Actually, I shouldn’t have said no reason. As you’re correct nearly taking people out with cars is horrible, still. The rest stands.

      • Sam Williams says:

        The whole thing would read as less condescending and sexist if he wasn’t calling her things like “doll” and “frail” the whole time. Incidentally, was there a time in human history when people actually referred to women as “frail”? I’ve literally never heard that time used outside of a Claremont comic.

        • Sam Williams says:

          That last sentence should read “that term,” not “that time.” Word Press really needs an edit button.

        • Bradley says:

          Touche’ Sam. “Frail” is pretty bad. But I think condescending is definitely supposed to be the point here. While I don’t think sexism is appropriate, from a villain like Juggernaut it’s at least not a surprise. Nor portrayed as something to be emulated.

          • Sam Williams says:

            Yes and no. Rachel and Miles do mention in the podcast that it’s possible that Claremont was aware of the ickiness and the audience was supposed to be turned off by Juggernaut’s sexism. That’s a pretty charitable reading though, given the fact that Wolverine, for one, also uses the same condescending pet names for women quite frequently. And while you and I as adults can certainly find plenty of other ways in which Wolverine should not be emulated, he’s clearly a heroic character and someone children are meant to look up to. Obviously, using those pet names is meant to be a tough-guy shorthand that calls back to Bogart and other classic film leads, but it’s pretty behind the times in the ’80s. As feminist as Claremont seems to be in other places, I’m really surprised that none of the females in his life ever called Wolverine out for his condescension.

    • Matt says:

      Yeah, this moment gave me pause too. I mean, we’re talking about what Claremont intended Juggernaut to express. I think he was trying to show Juggernaut as A) confused that Dazzler, who is a pop singer as far as he knows, is trying to fight him – and B) conflicted because this is someone who he really likes and has positive feelings for and she’s fighting him. He doesn’t want to hurt her.

      Juggernaut just wants her to stop, and to not be involved in this world. Reading sexism out of it needs us to assume that Claremont intended this scene to show Juggernaut as a sexist. Why would he suddenly do that? He certainly hasn’t been portrayed that way up till now. Or we have to assume that Claremont himself is being sexist by writing “normal” dialogue which reflects his internalized misogyny. The gender politics of the X-men up to this point don’t give me much confidence in this theory.

      I can easily imagine Juggernaut behaving roughly the same way if he had come up against a male celebrity mutant part time superhero of whom he was a big fan.

      • jpw says:

        I can easily imagine Juggernaut behaving roughly the same way if he had come up against a male celebrity mutant part time superhero of whom he was a big fan.

        Yeah, I agree with this sentiment. I can picture him saying the same thing after beating the shit out of Josh Guthrie.

  7. Andrew says:

    So you guys are getting pretty close to Fall of the Mutants, eh? You’ve covered up to Uncanny X-Men 219 (Fall of the Mutants Omnibus starts at 220), New Mutants up to 54 (Fall starts at 55), and X-Factor up to 15 (Fall starts at 18). Obviously this event is huge, so I’m curious as to how you plan to cover it. Thanks!

    • LAndrew says:

      Especially as it’s less “one big story” and more “three stories united thematically.”

      . . .I also want them to cover the DAREDEVIL issues somewhere in there, because the notion that DAREDEVIL of all books, had crossovers for this and Inferno is just. . .awesome.

      • TheAmazingEmu says:

        The fact that Daredevil had crossovers is pretty self-explanatory – Ann Nocenti was writing Daredevil at the time. However, she did a really good job at making the stories tangential. They weren’t necessary to understand the X-Men world, but the backdrop usually did a good job of making the Daredevil story richer. Daredevil 252 (Ground Zero) is a very good example in a very Nocenti-an way.

        • LAndrew says:

          I know the background of them and the Nocenti/Claremont relationship and they’re loose, tangential relationship, but they’re still wonderful comics.

          Really enjoyable little surrealistic digressions and really go in some fun directions. Inessential, sure. But Nocenti gets a lot out of DD fighting a vacuum and a truck-eating dentist.

  8. ray says:

    Thank you for making me care for Havok. I’v always seen him as rather blend character before hearing this episode.
    Also, I would vote for this era’s Psylocke any day of the weak instead of the later sexified Psylocke.

  9. justin says:

    Magneto should NOT needle Wanda about having grandkids, as that might lead to her rewriting all of reality again.

    • Porthos Fitz-Shi'ar Empress says:

      Rachel & Miles did a cold open about the recent/likely temporary retcon of how Wanda and ‘Silver are not Magneto’s kids because of (Fox vs Disney for movie rights) and it was so absurd that when I played their riff for my husband (a Spider-Man exclusive fan, mostly) he laughed so hard he nearly suffocated, then told me all my efforts to get him into X-Men were now futile. There goes half a year of effort…

  10. TheAmazingEmu says:

    This episode reminded me of Havok’s “How about Alex” speech (where he advocated rejecting all labels instead of being called a mutant). While it was certainly problematic, I thought it felt like something he would say. The character here is someone who isn’t necessarily hateful of his powers (like Rogue), but is someone who wants to reject all the responsibility that goes with them. His goal is normalcy. So, as long as you don’t read into the speech an editorial belief that it’s the correct thought, I thought it was a good addition to that issue.

    • Dr. Doom says:

      You know, the “M-word” speech always struck me as something Alex would say, too. Not just because of his personality, either. He is a good-looking, white, cis-gender male who expects to be treated as an individual – not a member (or representative) of a “group.” Someone like that has been raised to believe that they, as an individual, are ONLY an individual. Then throw in Alex’s individual psychology (as you mention, “normalcy” being his big goal). Then throw in his leading an Avengers team, the (nominal) point of which was to show mutant-human cooperation (and specifically to show how mutants were heroes just like the Avengers) and I agree that it’s a natural thing for him to say. Like you say, so long as you don’t read it as the editorial position (which didn’t occur to me on my first read of it, honestly), it reads as a very reasonable thing for someone with Alex’s particular background, personality, and experiences to say.

      • Icon_UK says:

        When you consider that Rick Remender’s (who wrote the “How about Alex” speech) comment on the reaction to Havok’s speech was to tweet;

        “Heads up– If Havok’s position in UA #5 really upset you, it’s time to drown yourself hobo piss. Seriously, do it. It’s the only solution.”

        I think any attempt at subtley is out the window. (The tweet was later deleted, but too many sites picked up on it for it to be ignored)

        See also the later issue where Rogue objects to Havok’s comments and instead of a potentially interesting debate, it become a sequence of Wanda telling Rogue she’s wrong, without offering any proper justification. Of course, the fact that Alex CAN pass as a blond white guy (And Rogue and Wanda are both human norm too) gives a very” off” feel to the whole thing.

        • Rachel says:

          Kitty’s rebuttal in either Uncanny or All-New–I don’t recall which off the top of my head–remains the gold standard for on-page smackdowns as far as I’m concerned.

          • Icon_UK says:

            Amen to that!

          • Porthos Fitz-Shi'ar Empress says:

            It is interesting to watch the different writers provide commentary via the mouths of their respective current characters to “smack down” commentary from other writers in a shared universe with which they disagree. Reminds me of those “heroes texting” memes only more… fulfilling and relevant and, even, less cringe worthy? Maybe? But when it comes to them bickering/commenting in real-life social media shit gets awkward.

            • Porthos Fitz-Shi'ar Empress says:

              Oh, and in light of this sort of thing, I really find it interesting that in the pre-Inferno New Mutants issues where they riff with the Hellions they proudly accept being called “the Muties” by Emma’s students.

        • TheAmazingEmu says:

          Well, I’m not arguing that the guy handles criticism well, just that it’s something that fits what Alex Summers would say. Maybe I’m too charitable towards Mr. Remender, but I’m fine with the speech existing for exploring his character (and the whole idea of mutants “passing” and how that affects mutant politics). And, as pointed out below, it set up Kitty Pryde’s rebuttal, which is also very much in character (except that she actually managed to make a point without resorting to racial slurs this time!).

  11. TheSam says:

    I could be wrong, but I thought that there might have been some notice somewhere that places “X-men versus Avengers” miniseries in the first trip to New York that Havok took.

  12. Sol says:

    I hated these issues when they came out. Of course, it’s been three decades, and I’ve never wanted to reread them, so I can’t say in hindsight if it would have been better rereading with later context. But at this point:

    1) My favorite X-men are all off the team. (Though hey, this arc was actually coming out the same time as Excalibur started, meaning that I could read about many of those favorites somewhere else!)

    2) The characters replacing them are all characters I have no connection to whatsoever. With the possible exception of Dazzler’s origin story back in the Byrne days, I’d never read any comic with these characters in it before they showed up in X-men around this time. (It does seem surprising to me that I hadn’t read anything with Havok in it… does he maybe show up at Scott’s wedding or something?) (How cool would it have been if a couple of the New Mutants had graduated up to the X-men instead?)

    3) These issues are just a random jumble of things. Different art (mostly dodgy) every issue. Plot that revolves around arbitrary crap happening. I mean, two issues in a row things are set off by our “heroes” being nearly run over / run off the road completely by accident?!

    4) Twice in two issues we have the gimmick of “I recognize this from my time reading the X-men’s files.” Right…

    5) The issues are driven by the stars acting stupidly. Dazzler taking on Juggernaut by himself, when he wasn’t obviously doing something dangerous? That’s freaking insane. Then there’s pretty much everything Havok does. Also…

    6) Wiping Havok’s mind of his knowledge of meeting the X-men is COMPLETELY INSANE and UNETHICAL. I mean, beyond the fundamental questions about wiping someone’s mind in any circumstances, isn’t the knowledge that someone has been targeting X-men and related mutants literally a matter of life and death for Havok? There’s every reason to think that he and Lorna will be targets of the Marauders, and of course as this issue reveals they actually ARE targets.

    7) Stepping back slightly: given that (some of) the Marauders are on the loose still, how does Plan Omega make any sense whatsoever? Shouldn’t the X-men be informing every mutant / ally on their rolodex of exactly what has happened, offering shelter, and at a minimum providing a way to quickly get in touch in case of Marauder attack? What does running and hiding achieve besides giving the Marauders a free shot at nearly every supporting character?

    8) Finally, the Brood on Earth is not a subplot you can forget about for a year! So at the end of #218 Alex knows it’s vital to contact the X-men about the Brood. At the beginning of #219 he’s visited the X-men and had his mind erased. Why didn’t he just call them? If if Alex somehow forgot to tell the X-men why he came to visit them, why didn’t Betsy at least notice it in his mind when she was heavily editing it? This is a potential extinction event for the human race, two of the heroes know about it and realize how serious it is, yet it is completely dropped without a word.

    Honestly, I’ve always assumed this represented some sort of editorial interference in plotting. Something like “Sorry Chris, you’ve got to drop everything instantly and start a crossover next month!”

    • ray says:

      Every word is written in stone…

    • Sol says:

      Whoops, got confused about the timeline. This was still a year before Excalibur, so my favorite X-men were all completely sidelined rather than appearing elsewhere.

    • TheSam says:

      I think Plan Omega’s intent was that the X-men could stop reacting to everything and begin to go after their enemies. Unfortunately, it was never really stated that way and we won’t see it implemented until the Australia period, with some mixed results (I think about half of those issues were the X-men reacting to some situation).

      • Sol says:

        When you put it like that it sounds like a good idea, but what they actually do is leave as large as possible a target for those enemies to attack and force them to react yet again. (Or just hang their friends out to dry, as they did with Havok and Polaris.)

  13. Icon_UK says:

    A good episode that actually seems to tie these issues together than the issues themselves ever did.

    Coming out of the Massacre into this prolonged dirge of an arc (if it can be called that) was the start of the issues where I started to lose interest, not only because that was a VERY stupid thing to ignore, but because the main X-Team as they’d lost Kitty and Kurt and the increased focus on Wolverine didn’t interest me that much. (The casual ignoring of the space shark didn’t help as it was just too BIG a thing to ignore lightly)

    Whilst technically Betsy MIGHT be Captain Britain’s little sister (which you mention at least twice), it’d be more accurate to say she’s his TWIN sister, I’m not even sure who the older of the two actually is, nor by how many minutes, but someone else might I’m sure.

    Oh and the “Let’s kill him” bit again?? I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, Psylocke is frighteningly keen to kill people since her introduction, generally a little too kill-happy for my tastes, or at least for someone else not to pull her up on it.

    The Third Doctor was employed as “Scientific Advisor” to UNIT whilst stuck on Earth and was officially under the Brigadiers command, though the Doctor cheerfully ignored him when it suited him, but respected him immensely, and the Doctor has never officially resigned his position.

    When the much loved actor who played the Brigadier died in 2011, the series producer and showrunner Steven Moffatt said in his tribute “… out of all the people the Doctor has met, in all of space and time, Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was the only one who was ever his boss.”

    And in a later episode, the then current Scientific Advisor, the Brigadiers daughter Kate, says of the 12th Doctor; “Welcome to the only planet in the universe where we get to say this: He’s on the payroll.”

    Sorry, I’ve been a Doctor Who nerd a LOT longer than I’ve been an X-Men nerd. I’ll try to get it out of my system before your Excalibur coverage starts.

    I’d alwasy assumed Malice either had slight telekinetic powers, was a MAD Jem fan, or there were metal threads mixed through her hair… or possibly all three!

  14. lastplaneout says:

    Marvel has a pretty spotty history with scientist characters, but sometimes they really hit something dead-on. Havok and Polaris as PhD students who only want to be left alone to do their research, but instead have to constantly deal with real-world crises and being possessed, is such a perfect plot set-up for me. I wish it had been explored further (or revisited in a Drs. Havok and Polaris Secret Wars miniseries).

    • Icon_UK says:

      Unfortunately, it would probably have had to be scrapped because Doctor Polaris is a long established DC character! 🙂

    • Icon_UK says:

      But “Doctor Havok” is an awesome name! Or maybe just “Doc Havok” as a Doc Savage pastiche style character…

      Now I want to read these stories!!

  15. Ricochet Rita says:

    Miles, I’m another submissive fan of Longshot and I loved what you did in “Of mullets and miracles”. Too bad that I find hard to understand completely your podcasts, but I think you were talking about Longshot’s underlying melancholy (in spite of his playful and joyful nature), which is something I appreciate as much as the bittersweet tone of his former series. Could you explain just a bit what’s your opinion about that?

  16. Christian says:

    Oh, man. We are now up to where I started collecting X-books on my own, instead of borrowing from a friend. – the Havok issue was the first one I bought for myself, and it made a halfway decent jumping-on point. This, X-Factor 17 and whatever issue of Classic X-Men came out that month (think it was the reprint of 99) were where I started, and ran straight through until the 90s happened to the entire line.

  17. Porthos Fitz-Shi'ar Empress says:

    I didn’t get to these issues until I was far down the rabbit hole of X-Men addiction; actually I think I got them as reprints of “Sabertooth Classic” in the ’90s… ick… but getting to my point, the bit about Psylocke suggesting they just outright murder Alex always struck me as the most important bit for this period. Her transformation in “Acts of Vengeance” just seems to be a natural progression over the post “Massacre” era that her battle with Creed hinted at, but truly came to the fore, with this arc.

    I have also noticed her brother, Brian, was a bit of an epic, hard drinkin’ fist full o’ assholes around this time in Excalibur. Toss in Jamie and we have an extremely interesting dynamic of a family of mostly heroes that is still, generally, a bunch of jerks. Their interactions with the Summers clan has depths that have shamefully not yet been explored.

  18. Porthos Fitz-Shi'ar Empress says:

    …and sorry to keep commenting but this is totally an amazing piece of David Wynne’s art and just listened to his spots on Fantasticast. Fuckin’ love that dude and thank you all for introducing me to his work

  19. Ben says:

    Just realized I put this in the as mentioned in thread by accident. Powers that be, feel free to delete that! (Sorry.)

    Psylocke’s suggestion that Havok needs to be KILLED is pretty bonkers. (Havok is an auxiliary X-Man and she presents basically no good reason for killing him!) Despite that, it seems to indicate an interesting mandate for the character that Claremont never totally got around to fleshing out: that despite those prissy pink pajamas she’s meant to be ruthlessly pragmatic and actually kind of SHADY. We’ll see this expressed again again from time to time — like when she mentally pushes the team through the Siege Perilous against their wills– but it never quite develops into a real story. (This, to me, is related to but separate from the more often explored but somewhat less interesting notion that she longs to be more physically imposing.)

    The dark turn the book seems to be taking at this point is actually pretty exciting on an issue by issue basis. It’s too bad that it 1) ends up amounting to not all that much and 2) makes hardly any sense if you think about it too hard.

  20. Todd says:

    I think Juggernaut’s skull-cap first appeared in Marvel Team-Up #150, which was also the last issue of that run of the series. The story has Juggy giving Black Tom the Crystal Gym of Cyttorak and Tom not appreciating becoming all big and juggernauty. It’s set while Rachel was still on the team as just Rachel, not Phoenix. Haven’t read it in ages, and sadly it’s not available on Marvel Unlimited.

    http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Marvel_Team-Up_Vol_1_150

  21. Manolis Vamvounis says:

    The Juggernaut secondary skull-cap actually made its first appearance in Marvel Team-Up #150 (which happens to be my first exposure to an X-Men story ever! woot). It’s actually quite ingenious. Since his helmet is the one thing protecting him from those pesky telepaths and EVERY battle with the X-Men essentially boils down to everyone trying to get his helmet off so that a telepath can knock him down, why not provide an added level of protection, with a second, even more tightly fitted helmet underneath the first one? 🙂

    If you havent read this MTU story, you should, I think it also bleeds into the main book continuity at some point. In this story Rogue absorbs Juggernaut’s powers turning into JuggerRogue, which I distinctly remember getting referenced later on.

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