Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

122 – Boom Boom Von Doom and the Ontology of Monsters

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 back-up stories of Atlantis Attacks are way better than the main event; the Serpent Society is hilarious; Longshot finds a rock; the S.U.R.F.E.R.S. are no Neutrinos; our volume of digressions is inversely proportional to our investment in this crossover; Jay overthinks sunglasses; and somehow we still aren’t entirely done with Inferno.


  • Leonard McKenzie
  • Princess Fen
  • Tiger Shark
  • A dubious crossover event and three splendid backup stories
  • The best thing in Marvel Puzzle Quest
  • Skateman
  • Atlantis Attacks
  • Uncanny X-Men Annual #13
  • New Mutants Annual #5
  • X-Factor Annual #4
  • Ghaur
  • Llyra
  • Homo mermanus
  • The Serpent Society
  • Boomslang
  • Why snakes don’t wear vests
  • The Maple Hill Farm books
  • The Horn of Doom (again)
  • Namorita
  • Impractical swimwear
  • Surf, or S.U.R.F.E.R.S., or whoever the hell they are
  • Zak and the Neutrinos
  • The trouble with mobile landmarks
  • A case of mistaken identity
  • The true meaning of something, probably
  • Ralph Macchio, but not that Ralph Macchio
  • Circumstances in which it is acceptable to throw a small child down an elevator shaft
  • The definitive Boom Boom
  • Eligible gentlemen of the Marvel Universe
  • Boom Boom Von Doom
  • A false dichotomy
  • Sally Pashkow
  • A really great outfit
  • Presidencies rated by X-Books
  • Best and worst moral inversions

NEXT WEEK: Mojo Mayhem!

ART CHALLENGE: Send your best Boom Boom romance stories, covers, and pin-ups to xplainthexmen(at)gmail.com by SEPTEMBER 15, with the subject line BOOM BOOM RULES.

NOTE: In this episode, Jay briefly confused two Marvel villain teams: the Serpent Society (snake-themed villains); and the Sons of the Serpent, also known as the Serpent Men (hate group). We would like to offer our apologies to the Serpent Society, who are ridiculous but not, as far as we know, racist.

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  1. Don’t worry, in its most recent incarnation as Serpent Solutions Inc, the Serpent Society was plenty racist. They used the Sons of the Serpent to abduct undocumented immigrants for medical experiments.

    Oh boy, MOJO Mayhem! Love that one shot…but Judgment War is never coming, is it? Jam every other day. (Exaggerated pout)

  2. The serpent society member with accounting powers would have to be called the Adder. I just had relisten to ten minutes of the podcast as i was too busy imagining Edmund Blackadder as a supervillain accountant in the marvel universe.

    1. Considering their modern incarnation as “Plausibly Deniable Outsourced Evil Services”, evil accounting is well within their wheelhouse.

  3. The Neutrinos are actually an entire alien race of rad people in the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle series – and I always thought they were a reference to something older, because the series does that a LOT, plus the Neutrinos seemed way too specifically weird to be anything but some sort of callback.

  4. Also, it’s important to mention that the Diamondback in this comic is unrelated to the Diamondback who was one of Luke Cage’s recurring villains, who appears to be the primary antagonist in the Netflix Luke Cage series.

    1. As the Serpent Societies Diamondback is perhaps best known for dating Captain America for a number of years, that’s probably a useful distinction to make early on! 🙂

    1. This reminded me of my theory that Girl Genius Earth is a universe where the X-Gene caused the Spark instead of mutants and Baron Klaus Wulfenbach is the genetic Forefather(s)* of Magneto. (LOOK AY HIS HAIR! HIS EYEBROWS! HIS SCOWL! HIS MODUS OPERONDI(sp?)!)

      *keeping in mind that Klaus and his brothers were blown to bits when they were young and his mother reconstructed them, Klaus being the only brother who’s head survived.

  5. Hate to “um, actually”, but New X-Men #114 came out in July 2001, which means that Morrison’s run in X-Men started during the George W. Bush administration, not the Clinton administration. So there is really nothing positive to say about the Clinton administration, X-Men-wise.

      1. I will totally get behind Marrow. She’s rad any day of the week.

        (To tangent slightly – aside from the challenge of dancing around actual politics, that question was hard in that we had to drastically overgeneralize. All of those eras had both good things and bad, and as someone who likes liking things, labeling an era as overall negative was challenging. Still, it was such a strange and interesting question that we had to go for it!)

        1. I feel like the Nixon period (1968-74) has to be a strong contender for the worst X-Men presidency. You get the tail end of the Silver Age, then the book just goes into reruns until its revival in 1975 under Ford.

            1. Nixon does seem like the perfect solution to this problem.

              …is a thing I never thought I’d say.

        2. Without getting too much into politics here, but there there’s a potential good literary journal article or fanzine article about the popular perceptions of particular “eras” of superhero comics, for both Marvel and DC, and how those eras map to particular presidents (and how they’re perceived).

          (People reading this who are going to be taking a “Comics as Literature” class in an upcoming term, feel free to use this for a paper.)

      2. I also feel a little sad every time an X-fan bemoans the “dark” nineties. Of course all art is subjective, there’s no such thing as good or bad but thinking makes it so, etc. But the 90s, for all their flaws, are my favorite era of X-Men. While the plots were far from the franchise’s strongest, there are just so many character beats I love. The number of titles was ridiculous and clearly mercantile, but I loved the diverse spread of teams carrying out the dream in their own ways and places, with their own wacky soap operas. It was the ultimate era of X-Men as a big, weird, wonderful found family.

        There are certainly a number of (x?) factors affecting my reading. Timing (I was 11-12 in 1992), the fact that I’d only read a handful of the 80s stories beforehand, the fact that I’m a writing guy so the horrible excesses of 90s art bothered me less (though more so as I’ve gotten older and more educated in my feminism), and my own particular favorite characters and ships.

        But Marrow rocks, and Cecilia Reyes, and I will unironically champion Maggot. (Though I’d appreciate hearing an African fan’s take on his power. It seems like a fascinating adaptation to environment, but I’ve never been sure if there may be racist sterotype issues there.) And then there’s all of Generation X, and…..

        Meanwhile, Morrison’s run, a favorite of many, doesn’t work for me at all, as it replaces the found family theme I show up for with a whole lot of alienation.

        Teal deers and mileage variant covers, I guess?

        1. I’m nervous about covering the 90s, but also kind of excited. I’m around your age, but I think reading the 80s comics at the same time as the 90s ones were coming out was part of why I had trouble with some of the 90s stuff. That wasn’t necessarily the 90s comics’ fault, mind you – I had the 80s books in one uninterrupted run, and I think they really benefited from that in a way that books I was reading month-to-month couldn’t. And, to clarify, there was a whole lot I loved about the early (post-Image-exodus) 90s all the way up through Age of Apocalypse.

          Being able to read the 90s books as one larger work and in context of their past and future, though? I’m actually super psyched about that, especially given that I’m much more inclined to try to find the positive in everything I read these days. So, this I promise to you, John Derrick: I’m going to do my damnedest to have my mind as open as possible to all of the ridiculous, glorious, excesses of the 90s X-family.

          1. Good deal, and thank you sir! I know there are definitely parts of the 90s you love, and how positively you approach most material generally. But hey, if you ever, like, need someone to advocate for the X-books of that era, I’m here. (And by here, pretty sure I mean “in line right behind Brett White.”)

  6. It’s been years since I read them, but I remember the AA annuals had these ridiculous “history of Atlantis” segments that were gloriously ridiculous. As I recall one of them explained that Atlantis sank during a war when the Atlanteans used a dragon shaped cannon that fired magma drawn from below the island. I’ve always loved that for some reason.

    On the sunglasses I’ve always assumed they were Scott’s. Maybe when they were going through the ruins after Inferno picking stuff up Rogue, Longshot or Dazzler saw a spare set of Cyclops’ glasses and thought they’d look cool. Or Havok kept a pair to remember his brother or something.

    On Puzzle Quest I kind of love the weird teams you end up with as you pick up random characters. I got a level 40 Bullseye during the intro missions, so he’s been doing most of the fighting against Osborne and HAMMER…despite being a dark Avenger himself.

    1. I was enjoying coming up with implausible pretexts for the teams I ended up with until the sheer joy of throwing people at other people distracted me from pretty much every other aspect of the game.

    2. I like pairing 3* Cyclops with Captain America. Their powers actually compliment each other nicely. That and Iron Fist. Iron Fist works well with almost anybody.

      1. My favorite thing about MPQ is 3* Cyclops’ “Mutant Revolutionary” power. The animation that accompanies it puts Scott in one of those “looking over my shoulder so you can see both my ass and my chest at the same time” positions so endemic to female comics characters. I appreciate the subversion.

        1. And Classic Cyclops’ Uncanny Strategy move is the same pose, with a costume swap. “My Uncanny Strategy is to work what my x-gene gave me.”

          My favorite team is Scarlet Witch and a decently leveled Professor X, with someone with a red and black power to round the team out. Xavier’s Master Plan deals damage whenever you makes a match 5, and Scarlet Witch’s Arcane Incantation creates 5 adjacent pink tiles when it goes off, so you can do a lot of damage pretty fast.

    3. As a Summers fan (Scott in particular) the thought that Alex had hung onto a pair of his brother’s old ruby quartz made sense to me too. Part of why I loved seeing those on Jubes after that. I can just imagine her trying to justify why old people glasses looked good on her, ya know, should she ever find out where they came from.
      Tho theory is further helped by the fact that Jubillee’s mash up costume contained bits from every outback team member except Havok, right?

  7. *SQUEAK* Haven’t listened yet but very excited to hear JaM talk about S.U.R.F.!!! So obscure…love…too much…Atlantean mutants…why aren’t there more?!! Cant take it *passes out*

  8. The Serpent Society are probably my FAVOURITE villain group, the silliness is definitely one part, but the other is because they are a combination trade union and social club for villains, made up of mercenaries rather than psycho’s who are fairly amoral, but actually like each other as friends. More depth than most villains ever get that’s for sure.

    I don’t know if you folks were being ironic, but there IS a member of the team who is an accountant. Sidewinder, the founder of the Society was a Roxxon accountant before they gave him his powers, and it’s his financial savvy that makes the Society profitable.

    Boomslange is, weirdly a South African snake, so he seemingly uses the name only because he throws boomerangs, and you might as well use a name that starts with the same four letters…. I guess.

    1. Oooh! I got my name check, YAY! 🙂

      Whilst I don’t THINK Colossus would ever fastball special Cypher, I imagine he might have had the odd little fantasy about it when he was worried he would lose Kitty to Doug… and Doug might have had the odd little concern when introduced to the X-Men, and realised that the 6’+, built like a tank, Russian guy who Kitty had the hots for was able to turn into a 7’+, built like an ACTUAL tank, Russian guy made out of solid steel and be a little unsutre how he might deal with competition.

      And AIM were also a lot of fun in the Quasar series in the early 90’s, where they basically decided to call it quits as a terrorist organisation (realising that they weren’t terribly good at it), but instead to become the go-to supplier of mad-science tech and tech-support to any other supervillain organisation that wanted to hire them. Essentially, they became the Nerd Herd for supervillains, with salespeople and conferences and the like! 🙂

  9. I’m strangely excited for MCP. Generally really uneven story telling from what I remember. Lots of people got their starts on the book.

        1. Havok’s series was good from what I remember, and gave him a chance to develop (a bit). I think Scarlet from the Meltdown series was mentioned in the series too, wasn’t she?

    1. It was, briefly! But Castle Sexy Dracula just rolls off the tongue better, and our other housemate Anna is more vampire than cephalopod.

  10. My favorite thing about Colossus in Marvel Puzzle Quest is that the character you throw uses one of their powers for free when they hit the enemy, and that can get just as ridiculous as the character combinations.

    Sometimes it’s perfectly logical, like Wolverine landing and using Berserker Rage. Other setups get you things like Beast slamming into the enemy and then in the confusion cooking up an experimental mutagenic chemical in his lab; She Hulk following up the throw attack with a devastating legal settlement; or — my pick for the coup de grace of absurdity — Spider-Gwen using the Fastball Special the set up a bitchin’ drum solo.

  11. That Boom-Boom backup story is basically everything.

    Somewhere we got a world where she was Marvel’s Ambush Bug and went around breaking 4th walls everywhere.

  12. Now that I’ve listened to the episode:

    1) No mention of Undertow’s outfit? Odd. So I’ll just put you guys down as loving it?
    2) I totally thought/hoped that it was the same Ralph Macchio too!

    3) My head canon for why there aren’t more Atlantean mutants is that Namor has them imprisoned or killed because he wants to be the only one. It makes him feel extra special. The ones related to him get a pass, because they take or given names similar to his. Occasionally one or two slip through the cracks, but they are unremarkable so he lets them live….for now.

    1. What, your standard wardrobe doesn’t involve very high pants, nipple-obscuring suspenders, and matching bracers and boots?

      …have I been doing fashion wrong?

      1. Oh don’t get me wrong, Undertow’s get up is the suspender obscured tits. Really though if you take away the suspenders his costume is passable. Not great or even good but passable. Oh the difference unnecessary suspenders make.

  13. Ah, yes, Atlantis Attacks. I found that one even worse and more of a mess than Evolutionary War, which is really saying something.

    The Serpent Society is fantastic. I really do love them. They are such great characters, and they’re always fun when they show up. And I do like that X-Men Annual story, too. It is a fun story, with virtually no connection to the larger Atlantis Attacks story.

    The New Mutants story is pretty meh. SURF is bland. And Liefeld. Liefeeeeld. Ugh.

    The X-Factor story is another meh one. Some good Beast stuff, but not a great story.

    The X-Factor Inferno back-up is great, though. It’s good, goofy fun. And yeah, Ewing’s New Avengers is fantastic. The X-Factor Magneto/Doom story is . . . kind of an interesting idea? But the story didn’t really work for me.

    The Boom-Boom story is wonderful. Really fun. Baroness Boom-Boom Von Doom!

    The Jubilee story is good. I love Jubilee. Your Detective Jubilee idea sounds like The Best Thing Ever.

    Would Happy Cyclops from Mutant X count as a moral inversion?

    1. Oh, about Doom’s injury: He built a machine to reach the afterlife so he could find his mother in Mephisto’s realm. In fact, he would challenge Mephisto on a specific day every year to try to win his mother’s soul’s freedom. Eventually, he got Dr. Strange to help him get to Hell, where he freed his mother’s soul by being so absolutely despicable that she rejected him. Which is both sad and awesome.

      Basically, Doom out-eviled Hell.

  14. I’ve never found the Serpent Society funny, but then, I’m a Defenders fan. Their racist rhetoric is uncannily similar to some of the things we’re hearing in this US election cycle, and they’re uncomfortable and extremely punchable villains at best, to me.

    1. You might be thinking of the Sons of the Serpent. They’re the white supremacist group. The Serpent Society is just a snake-themed supervillain union. And awesome.

        1. OH THAT MAKES SO MUCH MORE SENSE. But like wtf that makes the continuing existence of the Serpent Society even odder.

  15. I also hate to “um, actually” but I’m pretty sure Namorita’s name is pronounced “Na-MORE-it-a” and not “Na-mor-EET-a,” with the emphasis on the “mor.”

    That Doom/Magneto story was part of the whole Claremont/Byrne feud. Byrne was among the writers and editors very much against Claremont’s Magneto redemption (I believe Shooter was pro-redemption but Macchio, Gruenwald, DeFalco and Stern were opposed to it but I may be mistaken on the breakdown).

    But Magneto’s origin here in the X-Factor annual was originally presented by Claremont in “Classic X-Men” I think #12 or 13, where Mags nobly attempts to save his daughter. And the story is Byrne was having none of that since a) Magneto was the X-Men’s big bad and b) Byrne was one of the ones who came up with the “Magneto was a bad husband to Magda” angle back in the ’70s Avengers issues and c) since Stan and Roy had written Magneto as an unhinged monster in the ’60 and ’70, it was gospel. And since Byrne, as current writer of both “Avengers” and “Avengers West Coast” was about to use Magneto in the evil arch enemy cabal, this story (and the story he illustrated in “New Mutants”) were used to try to undo the redemption.

    Of course, Claremont undid BYRNE’S story a few months later in “Uncanny” 253, when he has Magneto tell Moira his return to villainy is an act. So basically Mags was part of a tug-of-war of animosity between Byrne and Claremont. Personally, I prefer Claremont’s Magneto.

    I know a lot of people, male and female, HATE that Boom Boom story because it reduces her to “ho-hum I’m nothing without a boyfriend.” Also it is kind of creepy that she’s more sexualized than normal … I think writers forget she was 14. Clearly Niceiza forgets how young she is later on in “X-Force.”

    Serpent Society…. oh man Jay and Miles, you HAVE to get on-board the Serpent Society train. If you’ve never read the first 5 years of Gruenwald’s “Captain America,” go find it now. Between Gru’s Cap and Stern’s Avengers — and yes, Claremont’s Magneto — the ’80s showed yes, villains could have personalities too. The Serpents under Gru came across as real people with distinct personalities, not just generic villains like in this annual.

    The worst thing about Atlantis Attacks as a story, by the way, is the later issues after the 7 brides are established. The Avengers and FF keep saying “who’s this black woman with white hair and weather powers? It clearly can’t be Storm because she died in Dallas.” Like in three issues, when it’s clearly Storm, they comment on who could this Storm-looking woman be? It’s sort of charmingly ridiculous.

    1. I’ve been looking forward to getting to UXM #253, yeah – those authorial clashes fascinate me. I hadn’t realized just how committed Byrne was to Magneto as a villain – I’ll have to read up more on that in the meantime!

    2. Not doubting there’s precedent, but on the, admittedly few, occasions I’ve heard the name mentioned aloud by fans, it’s always been as Nay-mor-EET-a; like senorita, or margarita.

      Now you mention it, I can imagine Namor’s mammoth ego insisting that it be Nay-MORE-it-a, but is there a story which mentions this (Genuine curiosity here, not snarking)

  16. Uh… Namor does appear in Atlantis Attacks in Iron Man Annual #10, Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #9, Avengers Annual #18, Web of Spider-Man Annual #5, and Fantastic Four Annual #22. Mostly as the mysterious guy in red armour.

        1. A strange crossover to celebrate Namor’s 50th publishing anniversary. Kill him off in the first couple of issues, hide him from the rest of the issues until he shows up as a cameo at the end.

  17. I too very much want an “I’m not Phoenix” shirt–maybe two (long and shot sleeved) to cover all the seasons. Come to that, I’d also like a baseball 3/4 sleeve (purple with red sleeves) with “Magneto made some valid points”.

    1. Sorry. Meant “short” not “shot”. My keyboard keys are failing, and the replacement hasn’t arrived yet.

  18. Possible no-prize explanation for the Cyclops shades: Scott never came to the outback base, but Maddie lived there. I don’t recall if she would have had any of her own clothes/luggage when rescued from the Marauders or after, but there’s a certain poignance in the idea of her keeping a pair of his glasses close, even after he left.

    1. Either her or Alex, or possibly even Ororo. Not sure which is the saddest.

      Also possible: The X-Men Emergency First Aid Kit includes a spare pair, just in case.

  19. The first use of ‘homo mermanus’ I know of is in the Fantastic Four Annual #1. Bill Everett may have used it earlier, but we’d need sub-scholar with a greater depth of knowledge…Anyhow, Namor says it in a short presentation on the history of Atlantis that he gives to the UN disguised as the eminent Professor G W Falton. When Reed Richards insists total war is the only possible path, Namor does the only reasonable thing and strips to his trunks in the chamber!
    I really enjoy your championing of Bogdanoves art. Over the years he seemed to get a lot of unjustified negative mail, not as jaw-dropping to me as the criticism Walt Simonson would get, but still, good to see the love.

  20. RE: Colossus Fastball-Specialing Fastball-Special-Inappropriate Characters

    Is Katie Power available in Marvel Puzzle Quest?

    1. Sadly, no. For the last while, the only added characters have been film or tv counterparts, so it’s been new versions of the most common characters. I don’t blame them for chasing synergy, but it gets a bit old.

      1. Ah, well. It will have to remain a dream. A beautiful, ridiculous, unfulfilled dream of hucking a strawberry blonde, pigtailed 5-year old at Shuma Gorath.

  21. This was a really fun episode, but the main reason I wanted to comment 2-years-too-late is to express my delight at the commenters saying nice things about Maggott, Marrow and Gruenwald’s Serpent Society.

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