Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

Graeme X-Plains It All

Rachel here!

TRUE FACT: Graeme McMillan is a veritable saint.

When Graeme and Elle volunteered to guest-host Episode 69, we put out a call for questions, figuring they’d pick one or two to answer on the podcast; which they did.

What we did not figure on was what happened a day later: Graeme e-mailed us a document with answers to every single one of the questions you sent in, from continuity conundrums to comics recommendations–13 in total, exhaustively researched and fully formatted.



Click through below for the full Q&A.

Hello, gentle listeners to X-Plain The X-Men! I’m Graeme McMillan, one of your guest hosts for this week’s episode, so I’m really hopeful that you are gentle listeners, at least; it’s pretty daunting filling the bright-yellow x-boots of Rachel and Miles, even for a week. So daunting, in fact, that I ended up feeling guilty that Elle and I only tackled two of the many questions we received, which led to me deciding to go back to the comments on the Guestsplain post and… well, try to answer all the unanswered ones. Brave? Foolhardy? I have no idea, but for those wanting to get some As for their Qs, look no further.

Quintessential Defenestration asks: Avengers/Defenders/Whatnot Beast seems to be (in my limited reading as well as my podcast-listening) a cool dude, a Deadhead, a far-out funky guy that smiles, jokes, goofs, and capers. He was *fun.* Modern Beast seems much more Spock-ish. I couldn’t imagine applying “fun” to our current Hank McCoy. When did this personality/character shift occur? Is there any canonical reason for it?”

Being someone who skipped the majority of 1990s X-Men on the basis that it was terrible (Note: this opinion is purely my own and almost certainly not shared by my esteemed hosts. Nonetheless.), I’m going to claim ignorance on this one, but will note that the comic that brought me back to X-Men, Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, felt like it brought “Unnecessary Angst” as Hank’s true secondary mutation. I feel like it really started him down a road of being far too grim for his own good.

Matthew asks: I can’t remember, but I remember hearing/reading that back then, there was a bunch of gay subtext around the beast. Do you think that’s true, or is my memory lying to me?

The other commenters covered the Morrison “Hey, I’m gay/Only joking” fake-reveal, but I will say that I think there’s a lot of stuff in the Amazing Adventures run that could be read as subtext for coming out — which makes the subsequent “Beast is definitely a ladies man, oh boy, is he!” stuff in Avengers particularly interesting. Overcompensation on behalf of other creators, perhaps…?

Cate asks (And I’ve shortened this somewhat, sorry Cate): I know Professor X’s questionable mentoring practices had a really bad effect on Cyclops, but I think they might also be partly why Beast has made so many ethically dubious science-related choices. The original five X-Men spent most of their teenage years in the care of a man who did a lot of things that were absolutely not okay but weren’t intentionally malicious. From what I know about Professor X, he seems like the kind of character who’d think: (1) “I’m a good person, so obviously if I do something I think is right, it’s always going to be the right thing to do,” (2) “I’m very intelligent, so any idea I have is going to be a smart idea,” and (3) “Therefore, all of my ideas are both very smart and the right thing to do, so why would I need to consider the ethics of what I’m doing or the possible consequences of my actions?” Thoughts?

I’m not as convinced as Rachel (or Elle!) that Professor X is quite as bad as people think — I think it’s all to do with who’s writing him, and the post-Claremont Professor X was far more of a dick than before, for example. He was retconned into being a jerk, basically. So, I’m not sure I agree with that part of your argument, but even so — I think that Beast’s own ethically dubious choices are more of a recent development than anything else, and born out of a more general distrust in Marvel comics for scientists and geniuses than anything Xavier-related. It’s not just Beast that values science over ethics; it’s seemingly every single Marvel genius these days. I’m not quite sure why that is, but I don’t like it; I like my Hank McCoy very conscious of his ethics, thanks very much.

John Bruce asks: When and how did the relationship between Beast and Abigail Brand start? What’s the state of it these days?

It got started back in Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men run, which is also where Brand first appeared. She was pretty upfront towards the end of that run that she was into Hank, although they weren’t shown as a couple until later. These days, both Hank and Abigail are dead because of the events of Secret Wars, so, you know. Sorry for the downer.

PawPaw5771 asks: It’s been mentioned in the podcast that a key dynamic in the Silver Age X-Men was the friendship of Bobby and Hank. After the series cancellation, why do you think writers didn’t attempt to split them off into a book or series like The Champions together? Or have Warren join The Avengers as another deep pocketed financier who could try and out womanize Tony Stark? Or buy AIM, like Sunspot? It seems counter intuitive that this rock solid friendship would just get jettisoned for so many years until X-Factor brought it back.

Well, Defenders brought it back, technically; Warren, Hank and Bobby all re-teamed there around #123 of the series and stayed together until the book was cancelled a couple years later. But I think that the Amazing Adventures run as Gerry Conway originally intended had to feature Hank as a solo character — despite what Englehart did with the series almost immediately, Conway was clearly going for a horror vibe, which doesn’t work when you have the monster’s best friend playing a supporting role and fighting the villains with him. As to why Bobby wasn’t brought into the Avengers at the same time as Hank, it really might be as simple as him not seeming to fit in — Bobby’s defining characteristic in the early days was simply that he was the young, goofy impetuous one, and the Avengers of the 1970s wasn’t really the place for that kind of character long-term. (Sorry, Bobby.)

Porthos Fitz-Shi’ar Empress asks: Beast query: What’s the deal with Edna and Norton McCoy (Mrs. & Mr. Beast’s parents)? I remember reading in one of the profiles for Beast (I think an old Official Handbook to the MU) that at some point in the Silver Age Professor X altered the memories of Hank’s parents so that they didn’t know he was a mutant, and/or that he never existed. Does the (usually) jovial Beast just go along with this absolute separation from a family that no longer knows he is their son without ever mentioning the situation again? Has this ever been addressed or changed in the comics?

Elle addresses this very question when she talks about the Marvel Team-Up issue that’s her favorite Beast story. Short version: Edna and Norton know all about Hank.

Alex V asks: In most of the alternate timelines where the X-Men have children, Jean, Scott, Emma, Storm and Wolverine almost always have children. Beast usually doesn’t. Who would you think he’d have a child with, and if he/she/they was/were a mutant what kind of mutation would you give them?

Oddly enough, I really don’t see Hank as a dad, for some reason. An uncle, sure, but a dad…? I really have trouble with that, and I don’t know why. That said, if Hank was to end up romantically pairing off with another of the X-Men, I hereby declare it to be Frenzy for no other reason than I think he’d appreciate the interpersonal conflict.

John asks: I went back and read Morrison’s New Xmen run years after it happened. Was there any lead up to Beast’s cat-like secondary mutation? It seems like it was just, “Yeah that happened when no one was watching.”

Chris Claremont was watching.

Asimov_Fangirl asks: I always wondered, has Beast ever created a company or earn money for his inventions/discoveries? I know he worked some time in he Brand Corporation, but I find strange that he never create a independent laboratory considering his intelligence and that he could get foundings from his rich friends like Tony Stark, Emma and Warren.

To the best of my knowledge, Hank never set up a company to earn money from his work, but let’s be clear: this is a man whose response to somebody threatening to do something with his secret, untested formula is to drink it. Logical thinking is clearly not always his strength, despite the big words he loves to use, depending on who’s writing him.

LAndrew asks: Did they ever draw a line under the Black Beast dragged in from Age of Apocalypse?

After a fashion, yeah; he ended up (spoilers!) dying in the most recent Uncanny X-Men run, as the result of some appropriately illogical Hank McCoy-esque behavior. (It’s in #22, if you want to go check.)

Tumblr User CreepingMonsterism asks: The Beast was the first person to jump between the X-Men and the Avengers which makes this question vaguely relevant–what Avenger who hasn’t historically been on an X-team would be the best X-Man, and vice versa?

Storm was on the Avengers for so short a time that it really doesn’t count, so I’m nominating her to actually be an Avenger for awhile. Back-up choice: Colossus. I’d love to see Colossus on an Avengers team. As for vicing and versing? Hrm, that’s a bit tougher. America Chavez from Young Avengers is probably a mutant, right? I’d like her to sign on for a bit. If you’re looking for one of the classic Avengers, let’s just grab Thor, especially if it’s the Thor from Walt Simonson’s run. (I 100% agree with Miles’ adoration of that particular era.)

Kelvin asks: I know I’ve mentioned this before, but am I the only one who thinks the creature at the end of Prisoner of Love is Emplate? That was one of my favorite Beast stories.

I’ve never read it, so I’m happy to say, yes! That’s definitely Emplate. Definitely.

Porthos Fitz-Shi’ar Empress asks again: Has Trish Tilby shown up again since her break up with Beast (due to a tabloid calling bestiality, ironically enough, three times) in the Morrison run? If she dated Hank as an ape-man but simply could not handle him as a, uh, cat-person… did she just get dropped or is she still out there reporting?

She’s still out there, when writers remember she exists; she showed up in one of Bendis’ Mighty Avengers issues, at least. I like to think that when the world realized how much of a problem she had with cats, she eventually ended up working on some pro-dog TV show for Animal Planet or the Marvel Universe equivalent. “Look Who’s Barking with Trish Tilby!” That’s a show that someone would watch, right? Or maybe that’s just me.


  1. Thanks for answering my question, Graeme! (You went above and beyond here)

    I didn’t think they drew a line under Dark Best so recently–thought for sure they sloughed him off around the turn of the century.

  2. I think Professor X’s jerkiness is partly a product of the way he acted in the Silver Age. I don’t think anyone really intended him to be a jerk or unethical, but you constantly see him do things like fake losing his powers to “test” his X-Men, wipe people’s memories, and express a crush on Jean.

    Add in the ethical dubiousness of pretending he’s not a mutant, and setting up his own private superpowered army, well, there’s a lot there for people to draw on when they want to see him as a douche. Some of these things may not have seemed so bad at the time, others (like faking his death) were retcons, but it all adds up to a picture of a man who habitually lies to everyone around him and abuses his powers.

    Reed Richards is a bit similar in that Lee and Kirby probably just thought of him as a funny absent-minded professor type, but the way they portrayed him makes him seem far more insensitive and unethical than they probably intended, which subsequent writers have jumped on.

  3. Yes, much like Reed Richards, Professor X was a paternalistic ’60s archetypical hero. It was a “simpler” time. His behavior is certainly contemptible in hindsight. Except, unlike others of that mold, it hasn’t been handwaved or softly rectonned by way of the compressed/rolling timeline. Instead, contemporary writers have really doubled down and decided to make somethin’ of it. Not only playing up what he actually did, but inventing brand new transgressions to sully his reputation (such as it is).

    Not that any of this revisionist history is much of a leap, mind you. Xavier’s character was questionable at best even during the Claremont era – as Rachel & Miles are documenting so well. Like Graeme, I’m not fond of it, but I can’t fault it as totally incongruent.

    Y’know, I think the writer who had the best handle on Charles was Scott Lobdell by far. A run that was hit-and-miss to say the least, but his is the Xavier I grew up with and my preferred depiction. He was like the cool, capable, and compassionate, super smart, ultra-liberal grandfather (who you either had or wished you did). For that reason, I’ve always had a hard time toeing the “Professor Xavier is a dick!” line. I just couldn’t accept that as the same man giving the speech in Central Park at the start of “X-Cutioner’s Song.” (Which I’m going out on a limb in hoping against hope still holds up/was actually any good in the first place – it’s been ages since I’ve read it.)

    Point being: the mythology has largely pointed to Xavier as being this saintly, inspirational figure. Lobdell’s was the only version that actually supported it in the canon. I dare say that, in my youth, I actually looked up to this particular Charles Xavier. So, mission accomplished ’90s X-office!

  4. Also: Beast’s jovial, bouncy nature saw a gradual decline throughout X-Factor straight on into the ’90s and today. The physical (and mental) changes wrought on Hank in relatively short order comprised most of the attention given to the character in X-Factor. Outside of his romance with Trish, there just wasn’t a lot done in terms of actual character development. He was generally good-natured under Nicieza and Lobdell, but like everyone, fell victim to the Sledgehammer of Angst from time to time. The Legacy Virus was not particularly kind to him. Many bouts of obsessive isolation and disillusion dealing with the subplot that would not die. (In practice, this seemed like a convenient excuse to occasionally take Beast out of play. When the X-office shuffled him off to limbo circa 1998, Kurt Busiek made a valiant attempt to bring Beast back into the Avengers fold. I wish he had succeeded.)

    Then Morrison. Definitely started Hank on the path of becoming the self-righteous ass he is today. He was mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, but not yet an insufferable prick. His forceful convictions still came across as sympathetic, even if it felt like something personality-wise had gotten lost along the way.

    Angel joining the Avengers back in the day alongside Hank would’ve been inspired. It’s a shame that he and Bobby were sidelined so long. The end of Champions to the start of New Defenders is kind of a long period for them to have just a smattering of appearances.

  5. Oh yeah. I keep forgetting almost everyone we know and love is dead right now.

    Thanks for answering my question!

    1. I don’t know if it’s the Abigail Brand, but a Abigail Brand is alive if not exactly well in Siege by Kieron Gillen! And the last issue had a lot of her thinking about Hank and missing him.

  6. There’s a universe where Beast has kids with Cecilia Reyes, which I think is the most adorable thing ever. Because you know those kids grow up to cure every disease on Earth or something.

  7. Hello! I’m late to the party, I know. Thought Graeme’s views on Moira were interesting, as she was almost written by a Scot! Grant Morrison included her in his initial pitch for New X-Men, but was unaware that she was just killed off just months prior. She was replaced, appropriately enough, by Beast, who was not in the initial pitch! Given that Graeme didn’t seem to be a big fan of Morrison’s Beast (although personally, I think most of the damage to his character was done by the 90s), I wonder what he would have thought about Morrison’s Moira.

    (Bonus round! Emma Frost was also a late addition to Morrison’s New X-Men. She was brought in and given a secondary mutation to replace Colossus, who’s death had also flown under Morrison’s radar.)

  8. Infinite thanks for answering my questions! Also, “Look Who’s Barking with Trish Tilby!” needs to be a thing.

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