Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

110 – Lights, Camera, Apocalypse!

Art by David Wynne. Prints and cards available at the shop, or contact David to purchase the original.
Art by David Wynne. Prints and cards available at the shop, or contact David to purchase the original.

In which the X-Men cinematic universe is a really mixed bag; Kang the Conqueror ruins everything; everyone wants a Sphinx hovercraft; Elle was right; and we bring you up to speed on all things En Sabah Nur–just in time for X-Men: Apocalypse!


  • How Chamber got his torso back (and then lost it again)(twice)
  • Several ways to count X-Men movies
  • X-Men
  • X2: X-Men United
  • X-Men: The Last Stand
  • X-Men: First Class
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Adaptation anxiety
  • Distillation vs. dilution
  • Apocalypse (En Sabah Nur)
  • Rise of Apocalypse #1-4
  • Akkaba
  • Dubious survival tips
  • Fantastic Four #19
  • Doctor Strange #53
  • Ozymandias
  • Various horsemen of Apocalypse
  • Age of Apocalypse (Earth-295)
  • The Twelve
  • Cinematic X-costumes
  • Cast Party

NEXT WEEK: Excalibur joins Inferno!

CORRECTION: In this episode, Jay states that Kieran Shiach explained Kang in the Secret Convergence on Infinite Podcasts. It was, in fact, the amazing Paul O’Brien. Mea culpa.

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  1. It will never not blow my mind that we almost missed out on Apocalypse for THE GODDAMN OWL. That is so insane.

    I actually read that Rise of Apocalypse series when it came out, and I actually enjoyed it at the time. I was 11. I do still think it was pretty decent. I actually liked Sue Storm showing up. It’s not really explained in the story, and I hadn’t read the Fantastic Four story where they went back in time, but her being there is just a cool little bit of world-building. Also, YES SQUIRREL GIRL SHOULD GO BACK TO THAT STORY. Yes yes yes. (Though, fun note: The Avengers West Coast also went back to that story!)

    Also, I kinda like Kang. He’s ridiculous, but that’s his charm. It’s fun.

    The story of Hulk becoming a Horseman wasn’t a particularly good story, but the way he broke the programming was really cool. I really dug that.

    Ah, Age of Apocalypse. I was 10 when it came out, and I only read a few issues at that time, but I loved it. Having read it in full since then, I really do love it.

    The Twelve sucked, but the climax was definitely solid.

    The last actual Apocalypse story was in Milligan’s run, right? Soon after M-Day. It wasn’t a good story. The last GOOD Apocalypse story was arguably Age of Apocalypse. He’s a character who’s peaked, and has become less interesting with every subsequent appearance since then. A shame, really.

    1. ‘The last actual Apocalypse story was in Milligan’s run, right?’

      Yes and no. Yes, after Milligan’s Blood of Apocalypse the stories revolved around looking for an heir, so it was clones and Archangel (Uncanny X-Force) and Clan Akkaba’s genetic breeding program (where it was revealed both Chamber and Blink are descendants of Apocalypse, in New Excalibur and some mini-series I can’t recall respectively, I think). Around the same time I think Ozymandias impersonated Apocalypse for some reason or other?

      But also, no. When X-Force went to the future to look for Cable and Hope, they ended up in the Messiah War crossover, with a guest appearance by Apocalypse. It was the real Apocalypse, but it was a doomed future, so perhaps it doesn’t count. Though at the time the x-line was all going about how ‘there’s only two possible futures fo mutantkind’ – a weird concept introduced in Messiah Complex and then forgotten.

      1. Why does the idea that Apocalypse would have descendants squick me out so much? Him having sex seems so improbable. If he seemed like he’d take consent into account at all I’d say it would be humorous.

        Not Blink. Seriously. No. Why?

        1. …I started explaining how I thought he got it on with whomever back when he was a ripped, oiled barbarian warrior-king in ancient Egypt, when he was probably quite a catch.

          But then I remembered Genocide, who’s his son and is maybe in his late teens/early 20s now, so there goes that theory.

          Anyway, to be quite honest I find the whole Bene Gesserit rip-off the Akkaba did to be more unsettling on some level.

          By the way, does anybody remember what I’m writing about? There was a miniseries, or maybe a story arc somewhere, set in late 19th/very early 20th century with a teleporting guy who was paired with a certain ‘miss Ferguson’ by Akkaba (hence the ‘Blink is a descendant of Apocalypse’ bit), and a fire-breathing guy named Starsmore who was Chamber’s great-great-grandfather or something like that…

          I know I read that, but where? And what was it about, actually? I honestly can’t remember anything else.

          1. That story line is from the mini series Apocalypse VS Dracula. Which had great covers for each comic and was so weird but strangely awesome seeing Apocalypse fight vampires with his little rag tag team.

            1. You’re absolutely right! I completely forgot that I read that! And that was Frank Tieri, which I guess explains why he restored Chamber the way he did after M-Day, when Marvel gave him an issue or two of New Excalibur to fill…

      2. Ah, right, I forgot about that Messiah War crossover. It was pretty OK. It was arguably more a Stryfe story than an Apocalypse story, but the two do tend to be closely connected.

        Actually, that reminds me: Stryfe is another character who peaked long ago. His best story was X-Cutioner’s Song, and ever since then, he’s kept popping up every now and then, and he’s almost always boring when he does. And after being such a big threat in that story, every appearance since then has made him less threatening.

        Just the problem with villains, I suppose. The Law of Diminishing Returns means that it’s difficult for a villain to maintain a consistent level of menace. Every loss hurts their credibility.

        1. It’s even worse with what I call ‘Terminato-type’ villains. You know, they won’t ever stop, there’s no way the hero can defeat them, there is no hope… until the hero wins. And it’s great! Because the guy was almost invincible, which is what makes the hero ever so cool for finding a way to beat him. The fight is legendary.

          And then the bad guy comes back and no matter what he does, he will never top that first appearance, that first fight.

          In the comic books this is how I describe Doomsday’s biggest issue – DC will never top ‘Death of Superman’, so whatever else they do with the character will be always in the shadow of that story.

          On the Marvel side this is why bringing back Morlun after his first appearance was a mistake. And they keep doing that. Not very often, but often enough.

          I mean, once you get eaten by the Panther God there’s nothing you can do to restore your vilain cred…

  2. jay and miles without giving the game away did you squee as hard as i did at the after credits sequence?

    1. I’m not either of them, but I certainly did. Not the direction I was expecting, but I won’t complain too much. 🙂

    2. I’m in India for work and caught the movie. I swore audibly to more people than I’d have liked.

  3. Hi Jay and Miles,

    Darwin’s death in Xmen First Class really bothered me, too. What the hell happened to “adapt to survive”? I kept hoping Darwin had merged with Havok’s energy and would emerge at the last second from one of his blasts to save the team. Matthew Vaughn is in many ways a compelling and adept filmmaker, but he (and close compatriot Guy Ritchie) are largely uninterested in people of color as subject matter and also tend to treat female characters primarily as sex objects. I think every woman in First Class was either naked or in lingerie at least once, including Moira MacTaggert. Vaughn is pure “lad” (english version of a “bro”), albeit a very gifted one. Despite Vaughn’s limitations, he was talented enough to come up with the brilliant ’60s reboot ( an era he and Ritchie seem fascinated with). He did much more to revive the franchise than Singer or Kinberg, who can’t break their addiction to the Xavier/Magneto/Wolverine triumvirate.

    I keep hoping that Fox will shake up the creative brain trust with the Wachowski’s or John Logan of Penny Dreadful, the show runners of Orphan Black or even Justin Lin. Anyone comfortable with genre and diversity.

    1. Gary, she actually told this story in a backup in X-Factor Forever, a 5 issue miniseries that continued her run. It was published in or after 2010. I think he was born in prehistoric times and came across Celestial technology, but my memory may be a bit faulty.

  4. Considering the meaning of En Sabah Nur, as per usual when it comes to X-Men comics trying to write in any other langage than english, there’s a bit of a mistranlastion there.
    See En or ان is an arabic conjuction that really makes no sense here. It is mostly used in combination with other words to form different conjunctions or prepostitions.
    As for Sabah Nur, there’s two possible meanings. Either they put the words in the wrong order and actually meant Nur Al-Sabah (نور الصباح), which would in fact be the correct translation for the Morning Light. Or you could see it as Sabah Al-Nur (صباح النور), which is a traditional greeting best translated by good morning.

    As for Apocalypse, while I generally like the character, his appearances have also led to some very problematic representations of North African people. I remember reading the Twelve storyline and being very bothered to see that followers of Apocalypse where somehow mostly white men in ancient Egyptian cosplays. The moment which bugged me most though was when Cyclops found himself in Morocco during the Search for Cyclops. One female character was dressed in one of these awful garb associated with Arabian Nights, with the mid rift and basically just a bra on top. As a moroccan woman, I can assure you we don’t dress like that. And no woman would go out like that either. Just to remind people that when you want to represent a foreign culture, checking it out first is a good idea.

    1. There are so many things wrong about Apocalypse’s name and origin. Another being that ancient Egyptians did not speak Arabic. And yeah everything you mentioned was quite problematic. Like really cringe worthy too.

      1. Yes well, X-Men writers have taken liberties with history on many occasions. Remember Robert the Bruce?
        I think the official in-comics explanation is that it’s supposed to be an ancient Egypptian dialect and not Arabic.
        Personnaly, the way modern times are represented have always felt more important. But I can see why someone would be annoyed when they stray so far away from history.

  5. I never read the series where Apocalypse was taken in by the Sand Stormers. For every comics Apocalypse makes from this moment forward, I will always imagine DaRude’s Sandstorm playing in the background as Apocalypse’s theme music. Canon.

  6. Hi Guys,

    FYI – X-men 3 predates X-men Gifted by Joss Whedon and John Cassidy by 3 years. Thanks.


    1. It looks like Astonishing X-Men volume 3 #6 (the end of Gifted) came out in December, 2004 and X-Men: The Last Stand came out in May, 2006.

      That said, that does seem like a pretty small amount of lead time given how long it takes to get movies from script to release, so maybe the relationship wasn’t as causal as I’d thought.

      1. The Last Stand has some very clear Gifted references. It’s not an adaptation by a long shot, but there are some pieces that really couldn’t be from anywhere else.

        1. The fact the character of Kavita Rao, who was only introduced in Gifted, shows up in X3, is sort of the giveaway to me.

          1. Wikipedia says that Kinberg was hired to write a script in August 2004. Since comics come out, what, about two months before their cover date, Gifted would have already started, and been finished by the time he really got going.

            The script writing process as described in the Wikipedia article, by the way, looks entirely horrendous.

        2. I always figured using elements from a very recent story (that was penned by a popular creator who no doubt brought in an additional audience) was a method used to split the difference between the admittedly lacklustre take on a very classic storyline, providing a touchstone for both old and new fans. Unfortunately, it pleased neither. Considering how long before release a film is in production, it could be that Whedon had just submitted his 1st draft, or maybe even a treatment for the first arc of Astonishing and the screenwriters were adapting elements from it from a very early stage of production.

  7. Sitting in the theater for the beginning of X2, I had to remind myself to breathe watching Nightcrawler’s attack.

  8. Apologies if this posts more than once (website crashed when I clicked “post”, and there’s no Imzy thread yet).

    I had a question and would be grateful for some guidance. When discussing First Class and Days of Future Past, you mentioned inaccurate/improper/problematic/offensive/etc. gender portrayal. Thinking back, I’m not sure what you’re referring to. All I can think of is sexism in the workplace, portrayed in a way that was, in my view, consistent with how women were treated back then (e.g. threatening Moira to go back to the typing pool; men saying women shouldn’t be in the CIA, etc.)

    I’d love to learn more about this issue, so I can be more critical when I see these or other movies in the future.

    The other thing I wanted to bring up was Wolverine vs Kitty as the protagonist of Days of Future Past. I agree that Wolverine shouldn’t have been the one who went back in time, but I also don’t think Kitty should have either. Why? Because they chose to portray the future X-Men as being in the extremely close future. Kitty is what, thirty? In around 2020? Sending her to her own body in 1973 would not have worked. My preferred approach: a new character, where you can cast an older person in the future parts, and a younger one in the 1973 parts. Maybe this could’ve been Bishop (especially as a nod to fans of X-Men The Animated Series, which used Bishop for their DoFP story). Old Man Bishop for the future (needn’t be that old; his power is not unlike Sebastian Shaw, which would keep him fairly young) and a 20-year-old for the past. Thoughts?

  9. Jay, you’re abillity of pinpointing complicated subjects that could be discussed for days into one condensed precise long sentence is what I see as the peak of your xpert (or expert on general) abilities.

  10. For the love of God, can Miles please talk in Gambit’s voice for now on? I will do anything for you.

  11. So, apparently, according to the Marvel Wiki, Fantastic Four #19 is also visited in West Coast Avengers #22, by Steve Englehart.

    I think the Avengers Forever issue where, instead of telling a story, Busiek just decides to do a whole issue trying to reconcile all of the random shit about Kang’s life, includes a fairly extensive flashback to this stuff. This, iirc, is right after the Avengers Forever issue where, instead of telling a story, Busiek just decides to do a whole issue where he tries to retcon a bunch of shitty 90s Avengers continuity to be the result of manipulations by Immortus.

    1. Not much on the Immortus issue, but I LOVE “Reflections of the Conqueror”.

      Many people bag on Avengers Forever being a continuity patch. To which I can only respond “Sure. But it’s an amazingly well done continuity patch.”

      1. If you’re going to get anyone to try and make sense of decades of retcons, patches, confusions, genuine mistakes and outright WTF?-ery, and manage it within as close to a smooth narrative as possible, then Kurt Busiek is the only sane choice.

  12. I feel better when other people reference “The Twelve” because that means I didn’t hallucinate it in the throes of a high fever.

    Because wow, that was a total mess.

  13. I have to say I really disagree over the X-films being impenetrable or convoluted.

    Honestly, X-Men: Apocalypse does have baggage but only in so far as it’s the third instalment in a trilogy. Return of the Jedi or Return of the King were not accessible if you walked in cold it’s true, but that’s the nature of sequels. If you are confused that the third instalment in a movie series has lost you that’s not really the film’s fault, nor the filmmakers.

    Thanks to Days of Future Past the consequent X-Men movies have no baggage to them at all in regards to the older ones. A new fan seeing X-Men: Apocalypse might not know that the team were taken to the same facility featured in X-Men 2. But they don’t need to. The film works with o without that context.

    To understand the overwhelming majority of X-Men: Apocalypse and even X-Men: Days of Future Past you just need to have seen X-Men: First Class. You might not know who Storm is in DoFP but you don’t need to. You just need to know she’s a future X-Man with weather powers. Arguably the same thing is true with Wolverine, who was in First Class lest we forget. That being said Wolverine and Storm are so iconic I don’t think anybody is alive who DOESN’T know who they are.

    Honestly both DoFP and Apocalypse don’t REQUIRE anyone to have seen X-Men from 2000 or the consequent films to get their heads around them. So there is no baggage from those earlier movies to be had.

    At the same time, the retcon that was played in DoFP is also far from convoluted. There is a dark future. They went back in time and averted it. the adventures of McAvoy and Fassbender take place after DoFP in the new timeline.

    It’s honestly not that hard to figure out for new audiences. New audiences who have grown very fond of timey whimey stories courtesy of Doctor Who in recent years and are more than likely familiar with the time travel mechanics of the Terminator and Back to the Future films.

    In fact Days of Future Past is pretty much a mashup between Terminator and Back to the Future in terms of how it’s time travel mechanics work on a narrative level.

    There is one future, someone goes back in time to change it. Simple.

    I just don’t see where you guys are coming from in terms of the X-Men movies being inaccessible or too convoluted for audiences.

    Basically all they need do is watch First Class, Days of Future Past and Apocalypse and they are good to go.

  14. I like to refer to it as “loaf position” when cats sit with their legs under them and look like a loaf of bread. Some cats are more loaf-like when they do this than others. My cat is a bit too big and fluffy, but my parents’ cat does an A+ loaf. And no, I don’t know if it is actually officially the title, but it so fits. And then, when you think about it, they were Sphinx in loaf position – flying Sphinx-loaves as it were.

  15. Professor Elemental refers to his style as “Chap-Hop”. Its still a 2 artist genre, just him and Mr. B. the Gentleman Rhymer. Of the 2, Elemental seems much more likely to go for the Edwardian power suit.

  16. Curious to know, Jay and Miles – do you have any X-Men dream casting choices? (Providing, of course, your choices would be different from Elle’s!)

    Actually, fellow commenters, would love to hear a few of your casting choices, too – just wrote an X-Men fan cast on my own blog and had a blast. (Didn’t read Elle’s Cast Party until after I’d done mine, though – definitely a few “dang-wish-I’d-thought-of-that” moments when I did read hers!)

    If anyone is interested, here are my choices: http://bit.ly/25eTDts (pt. 1) and http://bit.ly/1UfSxYZ (pt. 2).

  17. Do we even know what the modern day status quo of the X-Movie Universe should look like? As I recall, Days of Future Past undid pretty much everything we’d seen up to that point (except First Class, I guess). Deadpool is the only movie since DOFP to be set in the present day. For all we know, Colossus and Teenage Megasonic Warhead or whatever could be part of the status quo in modern day X-Movie Universe.

  18. My least favorite part of X3 (and my God there were some bad ones) was the final confrontation between Pyro and Iceman. If a blast of flame and a blast of ice were to clash like that, the ice would vaporize instantly.

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