Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

152 – Ghosts of Future Present

Art by David Wynne. Contact David to purchase the original!

In which Franklin Richards makes everything more complicated; Reed Richards is a terrible parent; Days of Future Present is a surprisingly good ghost story; Valeria Richards is awesome (but does not appear in this crossover); everyone’s got hounds these days; Banshee is your sad cyborg dad; Phoenix has a lot of feelings; and X-Factor once again manages to up the ante for child endangerment.


  • Nightcrawler’s brief clerical career
  • Days of Future Present
  • Annuals, in general
  • Some extraordinarily specific Namor headcanon
  • Fantastic Four Annual #23
  • New Mutants Annual #6
  • X-Factor Annual #5
  • Uncanny X-Men Annual #14
  • Franklin Richards
  • Several statuses quo
  • The reproductive potential of Doombots
  • Ms. Marvel (Sharon Ventura)
  • Ahab
  • A Code Red Time Emergency
  • One of Jay’s dream pitches
  • Your sad cyborg dad
  • The worst tea party
  • One hell of a kiss
  • Robocop vs. Terminator

NEXT EPISODE: Excalibur gets eclectic!

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  1. What Days of Future’s Present reminds me most of is the BBC Tradition of having annual (and original) Christmas Ghost Stories every year. In these Ghost Stories, they’re almost always modern and usually has some sort of sci-fi element that creates the “haunting” (like a house that has haunting whispers because stone can be embued, like a hard drive, with emotional memories). With Claremont’s influence, this really feels like he’s pulling from that tradition of a “Sci-Fi Ghost Story.”

    1. I love this quote because it feels like it sums up these issues: In an interview in 1995 Lawrence Gordon Clark stated that the stories “focus on suggestion. The aim, they say, is to chill rather than shock. Partly because television is not best suited to carrying off big-screen pyrotechnics, but mainly because they want to keep faith with the notion of a ghost story in its literary rather than cinematic tradition.”[13] Helen Wheatley notes that the best adaptations maintain the stories’ “sense of decorum and restraint, … withholding the full revelation of the supernatural until the very last moment, and centring on the suggestion of a ghostly presence rather than the horror of visceral excess and abjection.”[14]

      1. Ooh, that’s a terrific description. I’ve been saying for years that my favorite horror is built around dread–that the stuff that scares you the most is what you never really see–but this is a much more graceful way to put it!

    2. Thanks for posting this! I was just about to ask Jay and smiles for ghost story recommendations. Which I think I’ll do anyway because I’m curious. And because I love good ghost stories full of melancholy and loss.

      Jay and Miles, you mentioned how good ghost stories are sad before they’re scary both here and way back in the “Ghosts” storyline. Could you share the names of a few of your favorite ghost stories?

      Back on topic, this story reminds me of an old Are You Afraid of the Dark episode—especially that part where Adult!Franklin didn’t realize he was a ghost. I remember the Midnight Society used that trope a few times.

      1. A+ “smiles” for “Miles.” What’s the typo equivalent of a Freudian slip? =D

        I have a lot of feelings about Jacob’s Ladder.

  2. Clearly this crossover needed more Wolverine. To fight a villain named Ahab, Logan’s vast knowledge of the law of the sea would have been of tremendous advantage. They would have been done and won this storyline in just one annual.

    Still, the finale was Art Adams, so maybe dragging this out wasn’t such a bad thing.

  3. Not necessarily pertinent to this episode, but in the spirit of ultra powerful mutant spawn of Comic characters, will you guys ever cover the show “Legion”? Whether it be on the video reviews or an episode on here I’d really love to hear/see you opinions on the show? P.S. I came on to your show about a year and a half ago and finally caught up! Thanks so much for your x-pertise!

  4. In my alternate reality I would claim the “Code Red Time Emergency” for a band that plays in multiple 20th century genres — 1930s Irish Traditional, 1940s swing, 1950s Broadway, 1950s bebop, 1960s folk rock, etc. With covers and original time-travel themed songs / tunes.

    1. In that alternate reality (or, heck, in this one) I would buy tickets to all of your band’s shows. Genre-hopping musical adventures across time and space are pretty much my jam.

    2. For the cartoon spin-off based on your band (If New Kids on the Block and MC Hammer can, why not you?), you’d actually be able to time travel to the time period of the genre you’re playing, and would in fact HAVE to play to time travel. 🙂

  5. So time travel and splinter timelines in X-Men always confuse me since they seem to play fast and loose with rules and narrative stakes. Is ALL time travel resultant in splinter universes or just some? In other words, is there 616a (Universe wherein Legion never caused AoA, that we just happen to not follow), Earth 295, and then 616? (Granted, I knew SW makes this a moot point). If the former is not the case, how come stopping AoA caused a fractioning of the universe, whereas creating it merely reworte 616 into 295?

    1. I have a headcanon about how time travel works: However it damned well wants.

      It was, I believe, Mark Gruenwald who tried to establish as canon that time travel results in splintering into other timelines. And it’s a cool idea in theory. But from a storytelling perspective? It’s a TERRIBLE idea. Because it sucks out all narrative tension. “Oh no! Kang is trying to change the past!” “So? It will have no effect on us at all, so why should we care?” “Good point. Let’s go get bagels.” It makes time travel stories pointless, because the reader knows that they literally CAN’T change anything.

      Some writers found ways to write around that. So this dude’s time machine had functionality that did allow him to make changes. At which point, the “rule” once again becomes pointless, because there’s no reason why all time travelers wouldn’t use similar technology. And, of course, there have been writers that just plain ignored the rule anyway (as they should have, because telling a good story is more important than following a bad rule).

      So the headcanon I came up with is that, normally, time travel results in a splinter timeline. But sometimes, it changes time. And there’s no real way to predict what it’ll do in any given instance.

      1. This is sort of why I liked the time travel on “Lost.” They explicitly couldn’t change anything in the season they were stuck in the past. It always happened that way. Even when they tried to stop the hatch from being finished, it turned into the explosion that caused it to be covered in concrete in the earlier seasons.

        I’m pretty much burnt out on new Marvel time travel events. Probably why I’ve never warmed to the time-displaced O5.

  6. Ahab being Everyone makes me want to write a parody of MOJO Nixon’s “Elvis is Everywhere.” Sadly someone better than me would have to do it

  7. For those who want to read this story (and don’t mind black and white), Essential X-Factor 4 has the entire thing for an affordable price.

    1. It has even more recently been collected in the FANTASTIC FOUR: INTO THE TIME STREAM , which is part of Marvel’s Epic line. It is pretty great collection, which brings together Walter Simonson’s FF run.

      1. I can’t recommend the Epic version over the Essential enough! I own this version. The color reproduction is outstanding. Plus sites like Amazon and Tales of Wonder usually have these heavily discounted over LCS (although still support your LCS. Seriously do it).

    2. Thanks! I’m probably going to get some of those essentials when I get to MU gaps in my Jay-and-Miles-inspired readathon (also including Simonson’s Thor for the heck of it).

      1. I can pretty much guarantee that by about the second issue (at most) of Simonson’s Thor run it won’t be “for the heck of it” but more “Why the hell didn’t I read this masterpiece YEARS ago?!”

      2. The Essentials were great to fill in gaps in X-Factor. They’re still not ideal because they’re black and white, but the cost made them worth it (with the exception of the volume that covers Judgment War. That turned out to be surprisingly pricey, so I just bought the issues).

        As for Thor, Simonson’s run should be on Marvel Unlimited, which, imo, is a better way to cover things if it’s available.

    3. This is great; I had forgotten about these. This story is also in the Days of Future Past hardcover (not the softcover).

      I have these in issues, which was expensive. I saw the X-Factor issue in a dollar-bin at a convention and though why not? Found he FF and New Mutants issues for $2 and $3. But then the X-Men issue was $50! I eventually found a copy for $25, and it’s not in the best shape (a lot of ink bleed).

      But they include the backup stories and the pinups, which is fun. I’m happy with my purchase, and I do love me some 90s X-Men, so I also bought Kings of Pain and Shattershot (all for less than $3 per issue). I know Jay and Miles said these weren’t good, but I like the X-books from this period, and as most people don’t, reviews are not always helpful.

    4. Essential X-Factor #4 unfortunately doesn’t reprint the annual back-up stories besides the one from the X-Factor Annual. So if you want to read the Wolverine back-up together with the rest of DOFPresent, you’re better off with Essential X-Men #10.

      (This also means that anyone buying both lines of Essentials, like me, has their later volumes containing about half duplicated content, because of the crossover-heavy nature of the late 80s and early 90s. Still worth it.)

  8. You could make a headcanon case that Iceman and Human Torch, sensing something familiar in the other, both overcompensated with bro-ness to cover up their own deeply closeted homosexuality/bisexuality.

    1. Bobby Drake covered up his homosexuality very well, to the point where you’d hardly have noticed he was gay until a couple of years ago (hem, hem), but if Johnny Storm ever thought he was fooling anyone into thinking he was anything other than a card-carrying, three-drink minimum, bi guy well, that’s adorable, but come ON. 😉

  9. Based on her appearance (the hair) and powers (she could fly) I never thought Blue was Kurt and Amanda’s child (Since Kurt and Amanda weren’t in a relationship at this point it wouldn’t be an obvious connection) but rather Kurt and Meggan’s (as an extension of the ongoing “flirting, with undercurrents” between them in Excalibur)

  10. Re: The Maker: I wanted to say that his helmet helps reshape his head so it’s much larger than normal. It increases the size of his brain, thus making him smarter. It is worth noting that this contradicts earlier Ultimate Fantastic Four, which established that his body doesn’t really work like a normal body anymore (e.g. he doesn’t have any organs).

  11. So, returning to the concept of Count_Zero Contextualizes X-Men Through Anime, the description of the tale of woe that the New Mutants annual went through reminds me somewhat of the beginning of Animation Runner Kuromi – where the main character ends up being not only the courier for the animation cells, but something of a de-facto production assistant on the show after her previous boss ended up in the hospital prior to her start date due to suffering a catastrophic ulcer that may-or-may-not have killed him.

  12. Now I want to commission some art of Next Level Relationship Stryfe. Stryfe trying to fit through doors with furniture as he moves into his girlfriend’s place, getting down on one knee with a ring but the spikes keep knocking it out of his hand…

  13. Given your description of this as a ghost story, I’m a little surprised you didn’t reference wither of the two backup stories by Peter David in these annuals which ARE ghost stories, one metaphorical, one literal.

    “Tribute the First” in X-Factor annual is Jean Grey visiting the grave of the Phoenix/Jean, and coming to terms with the multiple lives inside her, whilst talking to a little old Jewish lady two tells her about her life, and the many people she has been in her life, all of whom live inside her still, and SHE is the one who chooses which she is.

    And “Tribute the Second” in the New Mutants Annual, which is a ghost story, told from the POV of the ghost, in this case Doug Ramsey’s, as he comes to term with himself being dead and his friends moving on with their lives without him. Lots of nice tropes inverted (Ghosts can’t hear people any more than people can hear ghosts. People no longer feeling the lost of their loved ones as much as they did being down to the departed spirit being at rest with itself and so on)

    I have to say I think the two of them are amongst the best stories PAD has written (and “Tribute the Third”, the Mystique and Destiny one from the “Kings of Pain” annual event is also really good)

    1. Well, crud, that’s embarrassing. A slightly pointed message on my tumblr this morning along the lines of “Did you LISTEN to the episode??” made me realise that for a couple of moments when I thought I had put the episode on pause whilst I answered a phone call, I hadn’t and you DID mention the “Tribute the..” stories.

      Humble and grovelling apologies for thinking you’d have deliberately overlooked a Doug Ramsey story.

      Please feel free to delete these posts if they spoil anything for anyone.

      1. Funny. This just made me realise I also didn’t get to finish the episode and then forgot about it. Well now I have something to listen to!

  14. Namor was present throughout nearly half of the Atlantis Attacks annuals (well… 5 out of 14 ain’t bad…) as the mysterious-guy-in-red-armour. He just didn’t appear in any of the “X” team ones. He was creeping on Spider-Man, Cloak & Dagger, the Fantastic Four, and the Avengers and surreptitiously helping them out. (Though if he brought himself to climax shouting “Imperious Rex” afterward is not shown on panel…)

      1. lol! Different red armour from Eric the Red. And it appeared to be effective because any character who actually spotted him wondered who “that guy” was. In fact the narrator captions boxes even made “Who is this mysterious guy?” type comments to the reader.

  15. Regarding the reading order, I just wanted to chime in to say that I read this in release order (Parts 1,2,3,4), and not the intended order (1,3,2,4). I figured that, even though the first page of X-Factor says “This takes place after the New Mutants annual”, I wanted to experience it as it was actually released.

    It still works, because at a glance it looks like much of X-Factor and New Mutants (except the end of X-Factor, when the New Mutants show up) happens simultaneously. You can interpret it that Franklin (being as insanely powerful as he is) is both at Ship and the Xavier school at the same time. The New Mutants story apparently resolves first, and the heroes from that book find what he’s doing at Ship shortly thereafter.

    If you read it like that, it just comes across as “to learn more about what he New Mutants have been up to, be sure to read X”, same as almost any other story where a team appears in another team’s book.

    It isn’t perfect, but all I’m saying is you can read this story in the order depicted on the covers without any difficulty.

  16. First: Jay, your Irish accent was amazing.

    This is an odd story, and has some issues, but it is pretty good, and has some fun stuff in it.

    Given all the red herrings about who Ahab is, the eventual reveal of who he really is was, um, kinda anti-climatic. “Is he Cable? Is he Logan? Oh, no, he’s just Some Guy.”

    1. Does it count as a red herring when none of the writers actually had a clue who Cable was themselves at the time?

      I suspect that by the time the reveal came no one really cared any more because Ahab was, after this already confusing beginning, never really that interesting. He was already the “just SomeGuy” of the X-villains.

    2. If only it was Cable or Logan. I’d love to see the story, probably written by Peter David, where it’s explained where he got the accent.

  17. Apparently nobody but me cares about this. Again no visual content for this. Stop promising it, if your not going to have it. I’m going to call you out every time Jay. You have done this before.

    1. As Jay has noted that they’re in the middle of sorting out a cross country move, I think the rest of us are prepared to accept that things change at short notice at such times and that there’s no need to be rude about it.

    2. Let me explain something to you, kiddo:

      Listening to the podcast–even supporting the podcast on Patreon–does not entitle you to show up here and be an asshole. Patreon is a means of supporting ongoing or serial creative work. It does not indenture the creators of that work to you–and if that’s something you find difficult or offensive, you may want to reconsider where you’re choosing to put your money.

      Meanwhile, last warning: if you’re going to be shitty, do it somewhere else. It’s a big Internet. I’m sure you can find a more obliging forum somewhere.

  18. Woo-hoo! Uncanny X-Men Annual #14 was my absolute first X-Men comic and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the “Days of Future Present” episode. I think a mix of the Art Adam’s work, the totally bonkers “WTF is going on?” story with basically zero context for my eight year old brain, and Wolverine’s brief recap of X-Men history helped sell me on the X-Men. The next weekend I swapped some Spider-Man comics (my only MARVEL book at the time I had more that 1 or 2 issues of) for Uncanny #275 and the Classic X-Men reprints of their first fight with Arcade. The great art, the crazy stories about epic space battles, time travel and Superhero standard goofy super villain antics with this deep, layered jigsaw puzzle of mythology that would take me over a decade to piece together made X-MEN my life-long pop culture obsession.

    This is one reason this show is something I look forward to every week, reliving my childhood quest to figure out just what is going on with these fantastic people and their incoherent world of imagination run wild blended with the unique and brilliant humor and detailed research of Jay and Miles. With this episode, I can now jump on board at the time when my eyes were first opened to the uncanny rapture, and the journey takes on an even more personal feeling. Thanks for your dedication and sharing your talents and love of the X-MEN! I know I am far from alone in my appreciation.

  19. Man, it was good to see this episode pop up on my feed. I’d been waiting to see how you guys would cover it, and if it was liked at all. I’d read it about a year back during my own read through the Claremont era of X-Men (and a little more – turns out the sheer narrative derailment of AoA is what blocked me from going further).

    I honestly didn’t even think of it as a ghost story in the traditional sense, but it really comes off as a damned good one. It really feels like the best kind of crossover, one where a few writers and artists got together and said “hey, what if this impossibly cool thing happened?”
    Sure, it makes little sense… but it’s like a dream story. It doesn’t need to, so long as it steamrolls through with the power of rule of cool.

    Also, serious props for John Bogdanove delivering a complete heart-rending soul-crushing page of Scott losing Nathan Christopher to the whims of Franklin Richards. It really didn’t help that my son had just been born at the time, and the thought of losing him still has me waking up in cold sweats at night. The lack of dialogue, the way the art shows Scott just… falling to pieces as a human being, it’s almost perfect. It’s one of the few pages I’d love to have the original art for.

    Keep up the great work, guys.

  20. You’ve officially reached the point in history at which my X-Mean & comic book fandom began. I bought this issue off a spinner rack in a drug store when I was 10 or 11. I was enthralled by the art and confounded by the story. Much of my early comics fandom involved digging around back issue bins to try to untie and comprehend what I’d read in Uncanny X-Men Annual 14 (Yes, my very first comic was the LAST issue to the Future-Past, multi-book sequel event). Despite the vertical cliff of density in terms of what I couldn’t understand, it just spurned me on to know more. 🙂

    1. I was in the exact same boat! That Annual was my first X-Men comic, and the crazy “…the hell is going on?” feeling of the story mixed with the fantastic art inspired me to learn more as well.

      Also, probably why Rachel Grey-Summers is one of my favorite X-characters, but most likely because having a female lead that was so powerful and complex was NOT at all a thing I had been exposed to before (I was only 8). The X-Men was and is so captivating because it bucks the typical trends of genre literature and stories; there are women and other often marginalized groups given the spotlight in the type of story one tends/tended to only find hetero white guys headlining. I did not fully, consciously, grasp this element of the X-Men until much later, but I believe what made these random issues people who would become X-fans so fascinating and other books lacking that element you just can’t put your finger on when you first become aware of it is that, as in the real world, a vast tapestry of humanity is represented, shown being heroic, villainous, and, well, human.

  21. I didn’t have many comics as a kid, but I did have X-Factor Days of Future Present. I’ve always been confused because when Franklin takes away baby Christopher/Nathan, he calls him “Christopher Nathan Charles Summers.” For years, I thought that was his real name, but is mostly called “Nathan Christopher Charles Summers,” so what is going on here? Please help!

    1. Scott & Jean always called him Christopher (in X-Factor written by Louise Simonson). Madelyne called him Nathan (in The Uncanny X-Men written by Chris Claremont). Later writers went with Chris Claremont’s version of his name as official.

      1. I know lots of people that go by their middle name, but they still have a set order of first name, middle name, last name. With Christopher/Nathan there is an inconsistency with how his names are order, not simply what he’s called. So what’s on his birth certificate?

        1. This is assumption only but… Madelyne may have had Nathan placed first on his birth certificate without Scott knowing? Because in X-Factor he was pretty consistent with the order of his son’s names. But when Louise Simonson’s run on X-Factor ended and other writers took over the characters, they went with Madelyne/Chris Claremont’s order of his names, with Nathan first.

  22. Having recently re-read his first appearance and a bunch of silver age stuff, I can confirm Banshee’s love of NYC as shown in this story. In his very first appearance he keeps wandering off to the shops for art and tobacco — as one does. (Still eagerly awaiting Jay and Miles to revisit the silver age stuff more in depth some day — there are a few gems).

    By-the-by, for an X-Men story that barely contains the X-Men, this one is tops. It’s far and away the best of the 1990 annual micro-mini series they did that year.

  23. Oh, god.
    I just went back and read this.
    Which was great. Only…
    This was the point at which I discovered, to some horror, that I can no longer read Claremontian narration, or even dialogue, without hearing it in Jay’s voice.

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