Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

129 – They Don’t Allow Dragons in Here (The Cross-Time Caper, Part 1)

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 “Cross-Time Caper” is something of a misnomer; Excalibur is an awful lot of fun to summarize; none of us will ever live up to Oscar Wilde’s expectations; Captain Britain secretly derives his powers from genre; sometimes things turn out to be simple; Kitty Pryde is better at everything than you; manipulation and murder are the new flowers and candy; context may or may not ruin everything; Meggan gets a new outfit; Technet takes Brighton; and some universes are just too silly to survive.


  • Rick Jones, Sidekick Supreme
  • The Cross-Time Caper
  • Excalibur #12-15
  • Three love triangles
  • Jay’s mom’s late iguana
  • Captain Marshall, Lord Champion of the Realm
  • Prince William
  • Butch the ogre
  • Princess Kate
  • Fisticuffs
  • Instant air conditioning, Excalibur-style
  • Bagpipe Vader
  • An anticlimactic solution to a protracted problem
  • Sorcery 101
  • Several profoundly unethical ways to initiate a relationship
  • Arrested Excalibur
  • The Campsite Rule of relationships
  • The logistics and social history of tarring and feathering
  • A protracted parody
  • A very large number and several names for it
  • A theoretical team-up
  • Ultimate Hunger
  • An unidentified comic that is not Ultimate Hunger
  • Some less-than-ideal creative choices
  • A multiversal montage
  • Jamie Braddock (more) (again)
  • A duck
  • The unenviable fate of Doctor Crocodile
  • Pairing mutants with metal genres
  • Inconsistent flight safety measures

NEXT EPISODE: Killing the X-Men, with Charles Soule

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  1. Cross-Time Caper! Yes! I love the Cross-Time Caper. It’s one of my all-time favourite X-Men stories. These opening issues are especially delightful.

    William fighting Lockheed is amazing. Such fantastic comedy from Claremont and Davis. I think #12 might be one of my favourite comics ever.

    On the one hand, I agree that the Princess trying to murder her way into the Prince’s heart is wrong. On the other hand, it feels absolutely appropriate for that world. So I still like it.

    The Marvel Parody World is amazing. So over-the-top ridiculous. And so glorious.

    I would love a TechNet series.

  2. I’m going to “um, actually” the fact that Snapper Carr who is the JLAs Rick Jones appeared first. I was also delighted that my bus went past Frobisher Lane just as you mentioned Nigel!

    1. Regardless of who came first, clearly Snapper (aka Lucas) was the Rick Jones analog I think you guys were looking for. In addition to palling around with the JLA early on, then only appearing sporadically for 20 years, he wound up with teleportation powers and… well, stuff. I admit to not personally being familiar with much of his post-JLA history, so yay for wikipedia and wika.com.

  3. The Galactus storyline was from Mark Waid’s run on the Fantastic Four. Reed had figured out a way to separate the human Galen from the cosmic energy of the previous universe that had made him Galactus, and while the had human Galen around they wanted to show him how swell humanity is so Galen would feel really sad about eating people if he ever turned back into Galactus and maybe then he’d stop doing it.
    And Galactus was chucked into the Ultimate Universe in the same timestorm that happened at the end of Age of Ultron that brought Angela into the Marvel U proper. Galactus 616 merged with the sentient world-eater swarm called Gah-Luk-Tus(may be spelling that wrong) and with their hunger combined, tried to eat everything.
    I forget why that didn’t work – everything Ultimate post-Ultimatum is a blur to me.

    1. I want to say Ultimate Reed Richards stopped him, but I can’t quite remember how. It basically allowed him to come back as a pretend superhero (or, at least, have legitimacy in consultation with SHIELD) while still secretly being a villain.

      Actually, looking at it in more detail: Ultimate Hunger involved Rick Jones, appropriately enough, who was some kind of Silver Surfer/Nova type character. I think it was Cataclysm where Reed Richards the Maker ended up defeating Galactus.

  4. Miles,

    Very cool seeing you/giving you a fist bump at the Dark Horse booth on Friday morning. I made a point to look for you and, sure enough, there you were.

    You and Jay really do amazing work with the podcast. Hope you had a great time in NYC!

    -Andy S.

    1. Indeed. Nothing says slapstick situational comedy quite like Herb Alpert & his Tijuana Brass.

      It’s good to know that prima donna iguana is an actual thing and not just a tongue twister.

      When you speak of cheerleader Kitty, are we aluding to Girls Scholl from Heck. Nothing pissed her off more or made me laugh harder.
      And speaking of Kitty, did Miles catch the “Professor Xavier is a Jerk!” cosplay at NYCC? The use of speech bubble made me of course think of you guys.

      1. She also got turned into a cheerleader during Inferno when she got caught up in the “horror movie made real” scenario. she was likewise not impressed.

  5. Also, while listening to the beginning of this episode, it occurred to me what my problem is with this era. It feels like Claremont’s writing got a divorce, and Excalibur got all the whimsy and imagination while X-men got all the angst. Of the two, I prefer Excalibur, but having a decent balance of the angst with whimsy is far preferable.

  6. This episode made me want to drop re-reading Uncanny and start re-reading Excalibur.

    Also the Doc Croc issue was my first issue of Excalibur–it came in a four pack at the grocery store. IT WAS SO CONFUSING!! It also really negatively colored my attitude toward Excalibur for years after that.

  7. From my understanding of the history of Portland and the weekly news reports published by Marvel UK that I read at the time Portland was menaced by giant robots in the mid eighties, and as such even got a visit from Spider-man trying out his new duds that are totally not a space parasite at the point in time. So you may not have any Super hero’s any more but I am sure since you moved there you will have noticed every over 35 has PTSD.

    1. I’d forgotten Mount St Hilary was in Oregon! 🙂 (For those unfamiliar with it, that’s where the original, Gen1, Transformers spaceship crashed on Earth millions of years ago)

  8. Issue #14 is my first issue of Excalibur, and also my absolute favorite. (Funny how nostalgia works) I did skip issue 15 when it came out, because it didn’t look like there was much Excalibur in it, but I did enjoy it years later, when I read the complete run. I don’t think the Cross-Time caper ran on too long, it seems like what the book was building up to from the start. The only issue I had with the storyline was the fill-in artists. While they were all fine artists in their own rights, they never quite captured the imagination like Alan Davis did. As an aside, at the bottom of this page is a link to the plot for issue 14. Turns out Alan Davis came up with the idea, and it was, in fact, from an unused Captain Britain plot.

    1. That link is really, really cool. I think I know where I’m going to spend all my free time for the next couple of weeks.

  9. Artists hate drawing Spider-Man generally because of the web pattern. Alan Davis specifically disliked drawing the classic Captain Britain costume. Spider-UK would have made him tear his hair out, wouldn’t he?

    And DR. DINOSAUR ruined the prison cylinder of light for me.

  10. I have a chemist “um actually” . 10^23 is also the order of magnitude of a mole which is the unit commonly used to count atoms and molecules. Coincidence?

    I also want to say that this podcast is awesome and has helped me embrace messy continuity and sometimes its okay to be a little confused and just go with it. Thanks Jay and Miles.

    1. I also was reminded of Avogadro’s number, but thought that without the 6.23 (I’m rounding here…) multiplier, it probably *would* be a coincidence. But maybe not.

  11. The X-Men vol.2 issue you were referring to is cable #20, which is also one of my favorite X-Men issues of all time

  12. Without detracting from the appalingly inplications in the US, tarring and feathering has had a slightly different historical connotation in parts of the UK.

    It was definitely also used as a humiliation punishment but a somewhat less lethal variation “The blackening” was used before weddings in many parts of Scotland. The bride (and later the groom too) was blackened by being covered with whatever unfortunate domestic waste materials (But drawing the line at you know.. chamber pots etc) could be laid to hand, but usually involving treacle for the stickiness and then paraded through the town by their friends on the back of a cart/lorry whilst clanging pots and pans together. The idea was that it prepared the newlyweds for any humiliation they might face in later life, because no shame could be as great as that of the blackening itself. (Not exactly faultless logic, but that’s folklore for you)

    It was in decline by the 70’s and 80’s, but I know I can recall seeing it done once or twice in my childhood which is roughly that era.

      1. Though, in fairness, it was carried out by the American (well, dystopian future America, but still America) Rachel, so unless she pulled the mental image of a suitable local humiliation out of his head for context, it’s still a rather unfortunate choice.

  13. Great episode! I wanted to note a few things I found particularly interesting:

    1- Interesting coincidence that 1989 featured a royal wedding of Will and Kate 🙂

    2- “Superheroes are generally hell on infrastructure.” My wife and I were watching Spectacular Spider-Man one Saturday morning (you know, like grownups do) and in that episode, Spider-Man defeated the Rhino by drawing him away from a crowded area, but smashing parked cars as he runs by (you don’t know that those cars are empty, Spidey!) and then forcing Rhino into the sewers and ripping apart steam pipes (because Rhino couldn’t sweat in the suit). And we were all “Spidey! People need to go into the sewers and fix those pipes!” My wife agrees with J. Jonah Jameson now.

    3- The speed at which Excalibur changes universes in issue 15 made me wonder if they hoped the next leap…would be the leap home.

  14. Another Great Episode.

    Folks have already mentioned Snapper Carr, so no need to elucidate further on that point.

    One thing I did want to mention was that Claremont and Davis were sneaking in all sorts of references. One example is JoyBoy saying ‘Vootie!’, which may sound like just a made-up word, but it’s actually a multi-level in-joke, afaik. One of the first successful indie comics of the big 80s Black-and-White Boom (and the subsequent bust) was Steve Rude’s Nexus. In Nexus, one of the characters regularly only spoke using one word: “Vootie!” (Groot wasn’t the first character to do it, of course). It was generally accepted as an analog of ‘cool’ or ‘groovy’.

    Further, “Vootie!” itself was a reference to a furry animal zine in the late 1970s in which a bunch of comics got their start, the most notable (and/or infamous) being Omaha the Cat Dancer. I also just discovered that the character Mezz from Nexus was actually based on a Chicago Jazz musician and that their favorite phrase “Klackdoveedsteen” was actually the name of a Charlie Parker song. It’s almost certain that Claremont and Adams intentionally used Vootie that way…I know when we saw it in the comics when they were new, we certainly assumed it.

    1. And I’m now going to ‘Ummm, actually…’ myself. Apparently the fanzine Vootie itself borrowed the term from Mad Magazine in the 1950s, which used that in a parody bit for the Today Show. Vootie may have been taking from scat Jazz singing (‘reet a vootie’). There used to be a monkey mascot on the Today Show named J. Fred Muggs and Mad used him in the parody where instead of saying the achor’s catchphrase of ‘Peace’ at the end of the show, he said ‘Vootie’. When they made the fanzine, they parodied the parody, changing him from a news anchor to a Star Trek fan (but still a chimp, as this was a furry comic zine).

      Wow, that’s a deeper dive on a single word joke than I was expecting to do. Yeesh.

      1. Thanks for the followup. I knew “Vootie” had appeared in Mad, but couldn’t bring to mind where. How I was able to forget J. Floyd Gluggs is beyond me.

  15. I also echo the confusion about numbering systems.

    It used to be, back in the days of my youth, that in the UK a billion was “a million million”, not “a thousand million”… based on the logic that we didn’t actually _need_ a new word for 1,000,000,000 because we had two perfectly functional words that could be combined, as 1,000,0000,0000 WAS “a thousand million”, but when you get higher than that, you have to use “a million million” which is confusing, so you get a new word at that point.

    Likewise a trillion was 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 or “a million, million, milllion” because you could use “a thousand billion” and “a million billion” for the ones in between.

    Please don’t ask about our quadrillions and quintillions as I might wear out the 0 key on my keyboard.

    Switching things over so that you got a new word every new “,000” probably did simplify things a lot, but remember that we ARE British, and our pre-decical currency was the sort of thing that it takes Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett combined to mock effectively;

    “NOTE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE AND AMERICANS: Two farthings = One Ha’penny. Two ha’pennies = One Penny. Three pennies = A Thrupenny Bit. Two Thrupences = A Sixpence. Two Sixpences = One Shilling, or Bob. Two Bob = A Florin. One Florin and One Sixpence = Half a Crown. Four Half Crowns = Ten Bob Note. Two Ten Bob Notes = One Pound (or 240 pennies). One Pound and One Shilling = One Guinea.
    The British resisted decimalized currency for a long time because they thought it was too complicated.”

    From “Good Omens” (And I sort of remember that coinage system because we only went decimal in 1971)

    1. This is why I prefer scientific notation. 1,000,000,000? Is that one billion? One thousand million? One milliard? I can simplify it by saying 10^9 (ten to the nine).

      I’m Canadian, where we use short-form (10^9 = billion; 10^12 = trillion), but went to French school, where they taught long-form (10^9 = milliard, 10^12 = billion).

  16. Really minor point I wanted to make defending the “Cross Time Caper’s” titling. I think in this case they’re making the point that the travel is more like crossing a street at a crosswalk. You’ve moved from one side of the street to the other, but your orientation along the length of the road itself hasn’t changed.

    So the multiversal dimensions are all stacked adjacent to each other, but time itself continues to flow in a single direction throughout them (though as we see in some dimensions, the speed of time changes at least in relation to 616). So by moving crosstime, they move from one dimension to the next, without traveling through time.

    1. There’s also the fact that these other dimensions and realities might reasonably be called alternate timelines. The divergent points aren’t necessarily clear (and may have been millions of years prior), but from my understanding of the infinite multiverse of pre-Secret Wars Marvel, these can be considered timelines that branched from each other over time.

  17. I love vampire Kitty trying to bite Allistair and having to be told to stop by Rachel.

    These early parts of the Cross Time Caper were great. Towards the end it seemed to falter, and the fill-in issues bothered me that I couldn’t properly fit them in to continuity.

    I stopped reading the book a few issues after the Caper finished, so the Cross Time Caper really IS Excalibur to me (I picked it up again in the mid-90s but it just wasn’t the same)

  18. This is also another case where I think reading it in TPB length form in one go might alter one’s perceptions of it significantly.

    It’s whimsical and fun and Alan Davis will never not be magnificent, but when that’s all you get for a solid YEAR of comic purchasing, your average reader does maybe start to wish for them to actually do something of… consequence. Hi-jinx are all well and good, and they do it superbly, but a deal of it feels like wheel-spinning)

    The first issue says it’s going to be a nine issue arc, it ends up being twelve, without actually achieving anything at the end of it aside from some happily silly memories (and an alt-Doug Ramsey cameo, so y’know, not a complete waste I grant you).

    I wasn’t aware of the abandoned plot with Jamie Braddock plot, but is does explain a lot, and the fact that the one dramatic subplot actually ends up coming to nothing for years, doesn’t help one’s gradual progression through the issues.

    Still, looking back at it now I can enjoy the sugar-rush format you are going through it in, so thank you!

  19. First off: There are people who don’t like the Cross-Time Caper?

    Second off: I assume that you at one point in time took the various covers of the John Byrne Handbook of the Marvel Universe and laid them out in sequence? I mean, that’s kind of a rhetorical question – of course you did (it also works with the Handbook’s Book of the Dead).

    Third off: Yes, I recall learning about what tar and feathering really meant in terms of capital punishment (first prompted by an episode in HBO’s Carnivale)…

  20. I think Lockheed has only ever been antagonistic to Pete Wisdom, right? I don’t think Lockheed ever did anything to Colossus. I am not at all caught up with the Peter Quill relationship so I have no idea about that. I just interpreted Lockheed being mean to Pete Wisdom as him not approving of Pete Wisdom, and rightly so, because Pete Wisdom sucks.

    1. Yes, Lockheed is very protective of Kitty in general terms, but I think Pete is the only one of her romantic interests he’s taken exception to (Certainly Piotr, Doug, Illyana and Rachel seem to have been left… un-dragoned) 🙂

  21. If we read Kitty with her subtext, then the Queen’s mind-warping could be read as magical gay conversion therapy. Alternately, since Kitty is the only Jewish character in the book, it could be read as a forced religious conversion to the established church of the kingdom.

    I’m glad both of these dark readings didn’t occur to me when I was 11 and it was originally published.

  22. For ease of reference (and spelling), can someone please put the pairing of metal subgenres and recommended artists in the comments section? I would be interested in following those up further. Thanks.

    1. Sure!

      Melodic death metal: Dark Tranquility
      Symphonic metal: Nigthwish, Epica
      Gothic metal: Type O Negative
      Power metal: Blind Guardian, Hammerfall
      Prog metal: Dream Theater, Opeth

      1. Thanks so much! The little bit I sampled of Hammerfall was pretty good.

        I love the Metroid Metal project. Does anyone know of any metal band that has a similar sound?

        More relevant to the episode, this is the most fun way to experience Excalibur and Technet.

  23. Totally agree with the band recommendations. Opeth!!!

    Re: Jay’s complaints about various allegedly problematic costumes/tropes/etc in the “Meanwhile” scenes. How do you know that’s not how things really are in Thai particular reality? You’re just narrow-mindedly applying the standards of Earth-1218. 😛

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