Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

74 – This Dumb Rumpus

Art by David Wynne. Prints and cards available until 9/20/2015 at the shop, or contact David to purchase the original.
Art by David Wynne. Prints and cards available until 9/20/2015 at the shop, or contact David to purchase the original.


In which Franklin Richards is definitely a normal human meat child; Thing’s code-name is delightfully ambiguous; your kids are probably robot sailors; it’s always a Doombot; Rachel accidentally identifies with Reed Richards; all dramatic roads lead to Latveria; and superheroes are terrible at conflict resolution.



  • Franklin Richards
  • Rachel & Miles at Rose City Comic Con
  • Rachel & Miles X-Plain the X-Men LIVE
  • Fantastic Four Versus the X-Men #1-4
  • The best hugs in the biz
  • The Fantastic Four
  • Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards)
  • Invisible Woman (Susan Richards)
  • Human Torch (Johnny Storm)
  • Thing (Ben Grimm)
  • The Fantasticast
  • Special dreams (but not that kind)
  • Alicia Masters (sort of)
  • Dubiously informative cover art
  • The doomed frenemyship of Reed Richards and Victor von Doom
  • Varyingly competent parenting
  • An awful lot of incidental nudity
  • Ethics of super-science
  • Robot sailors
  • Latveriandroids
  • Agency
  • Dubious conflict-resolution skills
  • Human Torch costume logistics
  • Dr. Doom’s history with Magneto
  • Relative roles and themes of Marvel teams

NEXT WEEK: X-Factor still hasn’t really gotten the hang of doors.

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


  1. What do you think about Storm’s new costume in Extraordinary X-Men? For me I think it is a step back from the latest Kris Anka design which beautifully blended Storm’s majestic presence and her more rebel times. As far as I have seen of the new design it seems pretty bland and loses much of the personality that the Anka design had. I would add the same for the Magik and Jean redesigns, but Storm is the one I feel strongest about.

  2. I’m currently reading and loving Hickman’s 2011-ish “Fantastic Four” run. The first arc (“Solve Everything”) is a wonderful character study on Reed. I definitely recommend it to anyone who relates to the obsessive aspects of his personality.

  3. [SPOILERS BELOW! (of the post-Secret Wars 2015 variety) -Miles]

    Not related to the episode, but in current X-news, it looks like the preview for Extraordinary X-Men confirms the worst: http://ign.com/articles/2015/09/11/extraordinary-x-mens-first-big-villain-is-mister-sinister


    “The Terrigen Mists aren’t just killing us… they’ve sterilized us as well. This is all there is, Jean. This is all there’ll ever be…”

    So, it’s M-Day again, except slightly slower, and with sterilisation involved for some reason.

    1. Eh, I give it a year before full universe Retcon after the Beyonder mysteriously emerges from a bathroom that’s contained in another dimension, flushes all reality down the toilet, and replaces it with one where everyone has jerry curls only slightly less impressive than his.

      Or we get a tie-in from the ending of Spider-Verse.

  4. I actually read Sue’s “whoever wrote that diary couldn’t reach out to our son this way” line of thinking less as as detective work as to the diary’s origins and more as her saying “Maybe Reed wrote that, and maybe he didn’t, but either way I’m not going to hate him for it because the man he is today could never be like that.”

  5. As near as I can recall, the rationale for Human Torch flying was that since hot air rises, a dude on fire can get his Superman on, which . . .takes certain liberties with science, one might say.

    1. I remember Bill Willinham’s 80’s superhero series, The Elementals, had a fire powered member called Morningstar. Willingham addressed readers who asked “why can’t she fly” by saying something like “just because fire may be lighter than air doesn’t mean the object burning is. When have you ever seen a burning log float out of a fireplace?”

      1. It’s so weird that the cliche has been around so long that’s taken on faith at this point–if you have anything even close to heat-related powers in comics (Firestar, being a living microwave oven, benefits from this clause at well) eventually you will be able to fly the hell through the air.

        Morningstar’s probably one of a handful of exceptions.

        1. In fairness to Firestar, her powers were altered for the comics for some reason. In the cartoon she was created for she was “just” a sort of She-Human-Torch, with flight and fire powers.

          Making her a microwave generator was something the comics thought would (I assume) differentiate her from Johnny, though as she still had his powers it never made much sense (or was used to maybe differentiate her powers, so that her beams wouldn’t be able to heat metal, but could kill any human in the room)

          1. At first, yeah, but then you have writers who just see “fire” in her name and go from there.

            It’s the risk you take with characters in a shared universe. Their histories become a game of “telephone.”

  6. So I never read this limited series back in the day, and I was surprised how much it had to do with Kitty’s condition post Mutant Massacre. When she showed up in Uncanny again and then Excalibur, I never figured there was much to her recovery other than “and then she got better”. To see how close she was to checking out, either through circumstance or choice, was pretty disconcerting.

    I also wonder about the timing of this miniseries. I couldn’t find anything definitive online, but it’s interesting to mee that John Byrne finished his FF run in October of ’86, and this series landed almost immediately thereafter. I wonder if friction from putting this crossover together was a contributing factor in Byrne’s decision to leave Marvel?

    All in all, this was a pretty enjoyable read. The whole “did he or didn’t he?” with regards to authorship of Reed’s journal seemed like it played out a bit too long, but that’s hardly a major quibble.

    Really looking forward to the live episode and meet-up around RCCC next weekend!

  7. I remember reading this when it came out and having a very strong “waitaminute!” reaction to the comment to Doom about the good that could be done with his healing machine for the rest of the world. For the next decades of comic reading, a small part of me would always whisper, when a new tech came out to save the day, “and they kept it for themselves and millions paid the price.” I think that’s one reason I loved Ellis’ Planetary so much – (spoiler) – it specifically demonizes that behavior and uses the four as a stand in for that trend across all of comics. Great episode and thanks for the trip in the way back machine.

    1. James Asmus’ goofy take on Valiant’s Quantum and Woody addresses this as well. Basically, there’s a cabal of scientists led by a still-alive Thomas Edison. They ruthlessly acquire advanced tech, then deliberately keep it off the market until they can release it for their own profit.

  8. Nice to see you covering this. If memory serves, the artist used his own son as a reference to draw Franklin. I think it was in an issue of Marvel Age magazine.

    You briefly mentioned the Chuck Austin Juggernaut- am I the only person who enjoyed Cain coming to the school and having a talk with Charles about their “issues”? I have always found Juggy to be so one dimensional that to have them talk and come to some terms about their relationship was a nice change. Gave Cain some depth after all these years. No one has ever quite explained to me his obsession with Black Tom though.

    1. For me, Austen’s handling of Juggernaut (and Northstar) are high points of his run. I think it’s easy to forget amid storylines like The Draco and She Lies With Angels that Austen did some things pretty damned well.

      1. Thanks Miles! Must agree. His Nightcrawler origin was total crap. Certainly a time with storylines that went up and down with quality.

  9. If you want to read more FF, I think Mark Waid’s run on FF is the best. It just has so much love for the characters, while also exploring Reed’s darker side.

  10. New listener here in Phoenix, AZ. Thank you for taking on the challenge of explaining the X-men and all of their related hijinx! Keep up the great work! Love both of your radio voices. I do not envy you with what the future holds. There are going to be a ton of minis and series that are going to have to be covered and interwoven.

    I started reading the X-men with Uncanny #107 in 1977. I picked it up at a Thrifty Drug Store for 30 cents, because the title had a call back to the Star Trek intro. I was immediately hooked.

    If you are interested in reading more Fantastic Four, the John Byrne run is actually pretty good. It is a good call back to the Kirby era. He had a nice multi-year run and introduced a lot of new elements into the series.

  11. There is an in-canon reason for Reed going from zero emotional depth to a loving father unexpectedly. In the comics they eventually explained it away as Reed being able to increase his own intellect by stretching his brain to increase the number of folds. The downside to this is that it has an equal negative reaction to the emotional segments of his brain. So the smarter Reed makes himself, the colder and more logical he gets with other people, and in order to show love to his own family he has to let himself become dumber.

  12. Wouldn’t Power Pack still be children if Franklin Richards were controlling things? Or did he get bored with them at some point?

    1. He still hangs around with Alex, and I no longer have any idea how old Katie and Jack might be supposed to be, or where they might have been seen in the last fifteen years outside of the charming Gurihiru miniseries.

  13. This miniseries gives a good preview of the take on the Fanstastic Four characters and themes that Claremont will revisit when he writes their series post Heroes Reborn. That run has some nay-sayers, and there are a few of his well worn tropes, but it was an enjoyable take. He had the F4 interact with parts of the Marvel Universe that were typically only in the X-verse (Genosha, Omniworld) which had purists complain that he was trying to make the book Excalibur or X-Four. He had planned to bring in Kitty as a nanny for Franklin, revisiting their friendship from the miniseries, but the X-Office said no I believe.

  14. The little girl was a robot? I forgot that I guess. I thought about her for years wondering if she was, like, Layla Miller or something. Have they ever touched on that, or was it just Doom testing Magneto? (i.e.- get his backstory, where on his morally grey scale is he these days, would he mess up a little girl, etc.)

  15. A thing that has always bugged me about Rogue: I feel like her powers would lead to a lot more conflict resolution and eventual friendship than they do, and also a lot less of her falling for anyone’s bullshit.

    She absorbs Ben’s brain. Even if she forgets all the details & his memories all the time, she’s gonna remember that he’s a Really Good Dude, right? Wouldn’t you think that in later encounters, even if they’re at odds, she would think, “Wait, I know this guy is a Really Good Dude, so if we’re on opposite sides something’s going on that we can probably talk out.” I mean it’s an extension of what Rachel says in this episode — that these teams should realize by now that they aren’t enemies AT ALL — but those conflicts are even harder to swallow in the context of stuff like Rogue’s powers.

    …unless she absorbs someone’s personality and thinks, “Yep. Douchebag. Never trusting that guy.”

    I dunno. Admittedly, I’m speaking from a standpoint of being really tired of superheroes fighting superheroes, but still. That has always bugged me.

  16. I actually like The Thing a whole lot more than the rest of the FF particularly because he is so radically different than the rest of him. I feel like he is the personification of what was going on at the time the FF was debuted and was this very proud and genuine person who comes home permanently changed and traumatized, permanently alienated from the rest of humanity because of what he experienced. Where The Hulk is brute and strength all rolled into one muscle bound monster, The Thing is just this victim of unfortunate circumstance who still cares deeply about the ones he loves and actively tries to help his friends and home neighborhood with his new form.

    That difference is another reason why the rivalry between The Hulk and The Thing has always been so powerful to me. The Thing knows he could be just like The Hulk and let his anger and grief control him, he just refuses to lose the last bit of humanity he has left.

    Also, if you haven’t read it, Franklin Richards is a total sweet heart in the original Spider-Girl run. I’m a grown ass man and I was totally having a high school “Mayday likes Franklin” geek out moment while reading that series.

  17. Whilst the written “Fwiday” thing is a bit much, I don’t see Franklin’s manipulative wheedling at Doom and Reed to be a sign that he’s faking childhood, more that he’s using the manipulative wheedling that just about any small child can be good at if there’s something they want. He’ playing his “cute moppet” card to the max, and it works.

  18. You know, I’m a children’s librarian and there have been pleeeennty of times I’ve been faced with a child who has been bursting with cuteness and thought to myself “this kid is absolutely trying to play me”. I might have been in this job too long.

    1. Never underestimate the self awareness of a small child. They are usually manipulative little id’s wrapped up in a protective layer of cuteness.

  19. This is a great era for the FF. I have a massive hardcover omnibus that collects the first 50-odd issues of Byrne’s run, along with some issues from The Thing. It’s truly excellent and I think Rachel would like the psychologies and motivations of the characters and Miles would love the cosmic space opera that it takes place in. The issues collected in the omnibus come prior to this miniseries but they are very good. They are not as good as Claremont’s X-Men issues in my opinion but come very close in terms of scope and emotional weight. In fact, I would straight up mail this to you gang if you wanted it

  20. Normal Human Meat Child would have also been an appropriate title for this episode. Excellent work on this one, I def giggled a bunch.

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