230 – Touchstones

Art by David Wynne. Wanna buy the original? Drop him a line!

In which tragedy strikes; leisure suits are underappreciated; Jubilee is fundamentally opposed to feelings; that MCU joke would definitely have been hilarious; we have trouble accepting Beast as a 20-something; when Gambit and Rogue work, they work; Wolverine makes an unlikely agony aunt; Dr. Strange was the mentor Illyana Rasputin really needed; and What If: Magik is pretty much a perfect comic.

X-PLAINED:

  • The Human High Council
  • Many terrible things that have happened to the Rasputin family
  • Uncanny X-Men #303
  • X-Men #24
  • What If: Magik
  • A tonal disconnect
  • Leisure Suit Larry
  • A prospective movie marathon
  • Insecurity
  • Molecular Cohesion Unit
  • The death of Illyana Rasputin (and its aftermath)
  • Death in America
  • A dubious idea for a theme park
  • A reunion
  • Papa Gumbo’s Cajun Cookout
  • Illyana Rasputin and Dr. Strange
  • Navigating vs. erasing trauma
  • Why What If: Magik is absolutely amazing
  • How to cite X-Men volumes
  • Earth-242 (Earth on Fire)

NEXT EPISODE: The other X-Cutioner!


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33 comments

  1. ca_lazerdwarf says:

    This was one of the first X-men (as opposed to Excalibur) books I remember reading. I definitely didn’t know who Illyana was at the time. But it was still a pretty heavy book.

    And with the “sexy” art, that first image of Jean was memorable at the time, too. In a away entirely inappropriate for the rest of the book.

    Now that I think of it, it’s strange to see Jean and Jubilee hanging out in uniform in this situation.

  2. Devin says:

    Great ep! Definitely had feelings at the mentions of the Bamf doll :'(

    Anyway, time for an “Um, actually…” from a Disney nerd:

    Disney theoretically can have X-Men in theme parks and I’m pretty sure that once the merger goes through, they’ll already begin doing a soft intro of the X-Men into the theme parks via merchandise (similar to how, when relations with Sony were warming, we started getting Spider-Man vinylmations and ear hats well before any official word of him in Civil War). The issue is basically that they’re pretty strict about keeping everything “on brand” in the theme parks. In other words, aside from the occasional easter egg or merchandise, everything is MCU-related.

    That’s why we haven’t seen any X-Men yet. As far as the Universal thing goes, that only applies to theme parks on the east coast. This is why there’s the Iron Man ride in Hong Kong (and soon an Ant-Man/Wasp one), the Guardians ride in DCA, the (now dead) Avengers half marathon in Disneyland (which, however, could not mention Iron Man since you can’t mention Iron Man in races in the states unless you are the Iron Man race), the Avengers stage show in Paris, and character meet and greets in those parks.

    OH, but it gets weirder. Only certain characters were included (or certain families of characters), since it was made in the 90s and no one foresaw the current state of Marvel properties. So we will soon be getting a Guardians ride in Epcot and Dr. Strange can walk around Hollywood Studios and do magic tricks…but legally they cannot post times. I don’t know how that deal was made.

    WEIRDER STILL: this deal with Universal ONLY applies to theme parks (on teh east coast). So Disney World did have an Avengers monorail at one point…BUT it could not be on the line that goes over EPCOT, only the one that goes between hotels and Magic Kingdom.

    All of this is to say, if Disney wanted to, they literally could start work on a Days of Future Past hotel tomorrow.

    And while that may not seem the best idea, in the Star Wars one, you are living in a fascist totalitarian regime and the hotel could even involve you hiding from Bounty Hunters, so, um, yeah, it COULD work.

    I’ve already talked about how an X-Men ride could totally work in the comments to ep 168. Even a DoFP ride could work. I mean, think about it – from the Terminator 2 3D show to parts of the Great Movie ride to te Harry Potter rides (yay, let’s go to a school where one of the houses is named after a founder who advocated genocide!), these rides get strangely dark at times in their premises.

    Anyway, enough about me and Disney parks. A few other thoughts:

    The Magik What If? was awesome nad I’d totally buy a mini or even an ongoing based off of it. And yes, Williams’s Strange reminded me of Aaron’s…but also of Hub’s reading of Strange on Titan Up the Defense (it’s my go-to Strange voice in my head).

    I totally had that board game and read 302 a lot. It was weird in that, as a kid, I KNEW it was important (the cover alone helped with that), but I did always feel much like I had gotten in at the very end of a long ride – but much like a good student, I kept reading it and knew I was reading something important. I think actually what i liked most about it was that it was one of the few ways to glimpse into the New Mutants as a kid, a series that felt ancient to me (even if it only ended a year or two before I got into comics).

    I was actually trying to think of what Jay meant by the “insert your own MCU joke here” but couldn’t really figure that out.

    I’ve been having that same thought about the Legacy Virus/is there a no-prize for how all the X-Men didn’t catch it – so thanks for that.

  3. Katrina Lehto says:

    This is my Rogue and Gambit. This is /my/ Gambit, too. There are so many writers who write him as a douchey creep. That always felt to me as people who don’t understand charm or flirting or romance – a lot like most 80s love ballads when you actually listen to the lyrics…. Augh, no, it is so horrible.

  4. shandrakor says:

    Comment that goes back a mere 134 episodes. Back in 94, there was a listener question about the Scott/Jean/Logan love triangle. I was with Miles on thinking the first hints were around Dark Phoenix (1980) and then more explicit in the Classic X-Men backup in 1986. Over the weekend, I happened to read Iron Fist #15 (1977), where Claremont wedged in the Logan point of the triangle pretty firmly.

    It’s a really unpleasant take on Wolverine–he’s lurking outside Jean’s apartment, cutting Scott out of a photograph, and calling Scott a gutless wimp, while Jean is “my woman.” I suspect part of the unpleasantness was in trying to draw parallels between Wolverine and Sabretooth, introduced the previous issue. Iron Fist notes that Wolverine fights like Sabretooth did, and while Sabretooth used Logan’s trademark “bub,” Logan mirrors it by calling Jean the gross Claremontian slur best associated with Sabretooth, “a frail.”

    Ugly and out of character, but the triangle was at least present in Claremont’s mind that far back.

    • Mike Murdock says:

      Yeah, I didn’t read Iron Fist contemporaneously with X-Men and I was shocked at how big a deal that crossover is for the X-Men. I also forgot about the Jean Grey roommate thing. It was one of those things dropped when Claremont left Iron Fist.

      Claremont is someone known so much for X-Men that it’s easy to forget all the other stuff he did and all the cross-continuity he did with it.

      • shandrakor says:

        I’ve been digging around for notable guest spots in the era that I missed the first time around. I was also startled to find that Jean’s origin story with Annie dying in her arms wasn’t invented for Inferno, but was buried in Bizarre Adventures #27. It’s particularly weird to have revealed this major childhood event for a character that was dead and under editorial mandate that she never be resurrected.

  5. Dan says:

    Such a sad issue, probably one of the first comics I ever felt choked up reading.

    Also love the quick What If? discussion. Huge fan of those books(they were the first comics I ever bought for myself). It sucks that Marvel seems to not be making What If? Vol 2 easy to get in a collected format anywhere.

  6. Icon_UK says:

    As her only living relative, and presumably in loco parentis, I have to agree that Xavier not consulting Piotr was entirely wrong (and it’s not like Charle’s couldn’t telepathically contact Piotr or even link him to Illyana so they could say goodbye. (and don’t get me started on “We don’t really know what this is, or how it works, but what the heck, let’s try it anyway” approach to medical tech)

    Also in agreement with Jay that the Legacy Virus contagion vector HAD to be narratively based, because we never saw anything like a logical progression otherwise. Did any actual X-Men EVER contract it? Because I sort of think that despite spending a lot of time amongst ingfected guest stars and villains, absolutely NONE of them getting it seems a little… convenient.

    Oh, and you didn’t get to the “fun” part that Illyana only contracted the Legacy virus because of future Mikhail travelling back to the past to try and innoculate teen Magik in 1998’s “New Mutants: Truth of Death” mini, and then she somehow retained the disease when she was de-aged, despite de-aged Illyana being a different little firl than the one Mikhail had met.

    I think I have to stop there or I have to start thinking like Steven Moffat to get my head round the multiple levels of time paradox.

    • ca_lazerdwarf says:

      Madrox got it while he was a core X-Factor member, or at least whichever dupe was assumed to be the main Madrox at the time did.

      • Mark says:

        So Madrox died of both Legacy virus AND M-Pox? Bizarre.

        Agreed on the ridiculously inappropriate choice to let Illyana die without consulting Piotr. No doctor would go along with that, and it bothered me even way back when (even more so than everybody hanging out in full costume, or Colossus apparently spending the entire flight from Dallas in his steel form. This issue made me angry at Lobdell, not sad for the characters.)

        It’s clearly done for the scene of Colossus arriving too late to say goodbye — but the writer clearly didn’t want to give up the other scene of debating whether to keep Illyana alive in a vegetative state. Both are valid, dramatic medical scenes, but they’re mutually exclusive unless you want your characters to seem incomprehensibly cruel.

        • Voord 99 says:

          Bingo. It’s clearly a contrivance for the sake of the Colossus scene. It’s also a contrivance for the sake of having the adults have a moral debate for Jubilee to ignore and give the doll to Illyana instead. But it’s a terrible contrivance, one that assumes that the reader is not going to think about the implications of the situation on any level beyond “Isn’t it sad?”

          It comes on top of the fact that the situation itself described in self-contradictory ways. We are told that the Shi’ar machine will keep Illyana in a “coma.” And then Kitty describes it in terms that (reading charitably – she’s vague, but her moral point only makes sense if it’s more than a coma) refer at least to a permanent vegetative state and possibly to brain death.

          Bluntly, all this suggests to me that Lobdell is writing without *any* precise idea of what is going on, and certainly doesn’t care enough about his story to find out what words like “coma” mean.

          So that’s two counts on which Lobdell cannot be bothered to think through the implications of what he is writing, and Harras can’t be bothered to call him on it.

          At which point, I’m afraid, I am not able to be charitable enough to agree with our hosts that not being explicit what happens to Illyana is subtlety. I think it’s very possible that the creators of this comic simply forgot about it.

  7. Jen Wolff says:

    I copied that Rogue/Gambit cover several times growing up. I stand by that ship.

  8. Ray says:

    I think the Exiles visited the earth on fire once.

    Btw sexy Cyclops broke me down. Lol

  9. Zamboni-Whisperer says:

    I also adore sexy Cyclops. XD

  10. Nelson Hernandez says:

    Hi guys! Speaking on ART, who do you think (contemporaneously of course) would have been a better fit on the story ART-wise? I’m curious.

  11. Nelson Hernandez says:

    Also… I’m a little confused as to why Kitty continues to be referenced as 15-16 yrs old. I think its been exemplified by her relationship with Pete Wisdom and by how she was portrayed at the end of issue #302 that she’d been finally “aged up.” Jubilee and the rest of the Gen-X kids by this point were the new 14-17 year olds. I was reading these comics off the rack at the time and really felt that Kitty was not being portrayed as an adult. 18 at the very least. More and more by this point Kitty was being portrayed as a Woman. Granted, Warren Ellis stated that he wasn’t sure how old Kitty was supposed to be, but in other appearances it seemed to be the consensus that Kitty was no longer the 15-16 year old. That was now Jubilee’s role! Soon after this Age of Apocalypse would begin and Kitty and Colossus were not only married but also leading Gen-X. This to me further exemplifies that Kitty was no longer a kid but one of the Grown-ups.

    • Icon_UK says:

      At this point, Pete Wisdom’s introduction was still several years away so Kitty could still be read as sort of sixteen unless she was in the same scene a Jubilee, who had be noticeably younger than Kitty to make their contrast work.

      • Nelson Hernandez says:

        ah yeah, my chronology is out of whack… Gen-X and Warren Ellis were still a few years out. dang. I guess that goes to show that memory is not completely reliable! But, I go back to that final shot of Kitty at the end of Uncanny #302 where she shows up at the mansion doorstep: It really seemed intentional that Kitty was now portrayed an adult. This to me was meant to contrast Jubilee as the teen, a role Kitty once had. That image has always left that impression on me of Kitty finally being aged up.

        • Devin says:

          Yeah, until listening to Jay and Miles, I always assumed that at some point in Excalibur Kitty had turned 18 and that, in the 90s, she was somewhere between 18 and early 20s, with her being at least 23 or so by Whedons run. Whenever I hear them refer to Kitty as 16, it’s very much like Beast being 29…like, probably true but goes against how I read the character.

          • Voord 99 says:

            I think the problem here arises from (a) the fact that she hasn’t yet been portrayed definitively as older than about 17 at most in Excalibur, and (b) that Jubilee describes her as a “teen” and someone who is “old,” “what, sixteen or seventeen” in UXM #303.

            Which is not how the art is portraying Kitty, and maybe not the story: Kitty is treated as an equal partner in the debate over the poorly-defined Shi’ar machine in a way that people don’t generally treat teenagers and haven’t historically treated Kitty. Admittedly, the argument is cut off, so we don’t know how it developed, and it’s consistent with Kitty’s personality that she would intervene as an adult, irrespective of how others might react.

            But comics characters’ ages are funny, and I think this comic is assuming that, at least from Jubilee’s perspective, Kitty is as old as Sam Guthrie is being portrayed in X-Force, which is to say as “having grown up,” vaguely adult but only just. I think it would be better if it didn’t also say that she was 16-17, but I think that’s what they were trying to go for. As I commented earlier, I think this is a comic that doesn’t take account of the fact that Kitty has had a continuous existence, and so depiction, in Excalibur.

            There’s another question: how old is Jubilee? Because apparently she thinks that 16 would make Kitty *much* older than her. That suggests that Jubilee is no older than, what, 13 or 14 herself?

            • Devin says:

              Fair points.

              I’ll say mainly part of my Kitty reasoning comes from where she is now: running a school. Like, at youngest, I’d say she’s 25. I mean, yeah, her life has been weird, but there’s an emotional maturity needed for that, and it’s still probably 15 years younger than what I would say would be “running a school” age. And she was also teaching by Whedons run (so again, at least 22, partially because you just need physical age difference from kids in those settings).

              PLUS the fact that she definitely was an adult in AoA.

              All of this is to say, Kitty’s timeline cannot really accommodate all writers, so mentally, I personally see about 10- 15 years have passed between Dark Phoenix Saga and now (I read the O5 and all new teams as 35-40, physically aging slower due to mutant stuff). But again, that’s just me.

              • Voord 99 says:

                Oh, I meant her age in UXM #303. I would agree that current Kitty is a good deal older. I think the Bendis-era “Professor Kitty” was presumably in her mid-twenties at the earliest, for instance.

                Characters can have sudden age jumps. Franklin Richards was maybe 4-5 for at least 25 years, but when Valeria came along to be his younger sister, he jumped suddenly acquired 3-5 years of aging.

                For that matter, Valeria herself seemed to go from being a tiny baby to being five or so overnight. Reed and Sue are perhaps happy to have skipped the terrible twos. Reed probably has a machine of some sort.

    • Jeff C says:

      Nelson — Marvel time is roughly 4-5 years our (real life) time to one year of theirs. So yes, Kitty, introduced as almost 14 in 1980 would be about 16 in 1993 comics. Along the same lines, she didn’t start college until early 2000s in the comics. This holds true across the line. Franklin Richards, born in 1968, was only about 6 during Onslaught. Peter Parker graduated High school in 1965, college in 1978 and was in grad school much of the ’80s. Additionally, in the ’90s, events from the ’70s (such as Peter being cloned) were referred to as happening “5 years ago” (20 years our time divided by 4 gives you 5 years their time). So there’s precedent.

      I’m actually glad this is brought up because Nicieza in several issues around this time refers to Beast as 30, which is too OLD. Recall that Beast is only about a year older than Spider-Man (with the O5 X-Men, Spider-Man, Human Torch and Crystal being the original teens of the Marvel U). If Beast, the oldest original X-Man was 18 in X-Men #1 (Bobby, the youngest, is explicitly 16 in those issues) then Beast would be *roughly* 26 in 1993 comics. But then again as great a writer as Nicieza was at this time, he did get a few things wrong (IE the Kwannon body switch because he forgot to read Uncanny 255) My head cannon to justify is Beast is saying he’s almost 30 in the same way I round up my age IRL … I was “almost 35” as soon as I turned 32, haha.

  12. Icon_UK says:

    Not helped by Claremont’s rather irritating decision to de-age Kitty when he wrote her after the Ellis run in Excalibur.

    Ellis had written her as someone aged about 20 or 21, so well over the age of consent for a relationship with Wisdom (any other considerations about their suitability as a couple to one side), but Claremont then decided to write her as being 16 or 17 again which, whilst not illegal in the UK (Where the age of consent is 16) makes their relationship look extra dodgy from a US POV.

    • Voord 99 says:

      It occurs to me that there is a very good argument for Beast being 29. Going back to the original X-Men, Scott seemed to be the oldest. So if Hank is 29, then Scott is probably exactly 30. And that is incredibly right and as it should be. Scott was 30 when he was 17.

      But in general, I think the thing to remember with the default “adult” superheroes (your Batmen, Wonder Women, or Captains America) is that their actual age is “grown-up” or “the same age as Mom and Dad.” This is why they can be *physically* in their 20s — they are at their peak level of fitness* — but also somehow older than that, in their thirties or even their forties, because when you’re a child that’s all less salient than “not a kid, but not as old as Grandad either.” This is, notoriously, why Frank Miller’s midlife crisis caused him to write The Dark Knight Returns.

      *A while ago, because of a discussion in the comments to House to Astonish, I set out to try to use various wikis to figure out what it would be like to try to cram all the ups and downs of Matt Murdock’s legal career into what has to be a short period of a very few years, as if he were a real working lawyer. He does really extreme acrobatics with normal human biology, so he really can’t be that old — male gymnasts usually retire at about 25. But that’s about when he would have gotten his JD. So I think you’re being really generous if you pack his entire legal career into five years. It’s probably more like three.

      In which time Murdock has been disbarred — twice, quit multiple jobs, moved his career to San Francisco and then thought better of it — twice, and more. Who is going to hire someone with this resume? I don’t care how brilliant he was in law school. He is obviously flakey and utterly unreliable. You are not going to let this walking disaster area anywhere near a responsible position (say, in the District Attorney’s office). And look, Mayor Fisk, I know you have some brilliant Machiavellian scheme. But do you have any idea what the media will do to you if *this* is who you choose as deputy mayor?

      • Jeff C says:

        Scott is younger than Hank, that’s been established canon since nearly the beginning. In X-Men #1 Hank is 18. Scott, Jean and Warren are 17. Bobby is 16. Contemporaneously, Peter Parker and Johnny Storm are also 16/17 (Johnny and Jean start college at the same time in 1966 comics). Crystal is introduced shortly thereafter as 16 as well.

        Later stories also establish Storm is roughly a year older than most of the O5 X-Men. And additionally, Claremont (when he was writing Marvel Team-Up) establishes that Captain Britain is the same age as Spider-Man … which means his twin Psylocke is also the same age as the O5 (which makes her crush on 15-year-old Doug Ramsey a tad creepier in retrospect).

        (Is it too obvious I spent a lot of time thinking about Marvel Time over the last 30 years I’ve been reading comics? Hahah)

  13. ariwl1 says:

    X-Men 303 was the issue that made me an X-Men comics fan (having been hooked by the Saturday morning cartoon). I’ll admit that even as a little kid the art always struck me as weird even though I was too young to really articulate why. I remember being really confused as why Xavier and Moira (who I saw as the two doctors) were wearing skin tight body suits while tending to a patient.

    But the rest of the issue is pure somber gold. Remains in my top 10 single issues of X-Men today. And Jean’s comforting speech to Jubilee at the end: years later when my grandpa passed and I couldn’t attend the funeral, I took Jean’s entire speech verbatim and emailed it to be read at the service. I’m told people liked it.

  14. Voord 99 says:

    Warning: if you find UXM #303 beautiful and moving, you may not want to read this.

    OK, so as came up a couple of weeks ago, I’m the heartless bastard among the listeners who not only doesn’t cry at UXM #303, but actually finds it offensively lazy and cynical.

    Not in every respect: as a character study of Jubilee, that is of the maturation of a shallow teenager in the face of her first experience of mortality, I like it quite a bit. (It’s a little awkward that Wolverine 72 —which appeared in the very same month! — was about the fact that Jubilee has already had a traumatic experience with mortality in the form of the death of her parents, but that’s not a strike against UXM #303 per se.)

    But I really have a problem with the treatment of Illyana. Back when our hosts covered Lobdell’s The Last Morlock Story, I commented that the story was based on exploiting the reader’s affection for continuity: that Lobdell’s failure to characterize the Morlocks personalities came across as a lazy assumption that the mere fact of them being Morlocks was enough. It’s a type of storytelling that I can best describe as having a parasitic relationship with the past of the book: it will exploit it, but it won’t ever give anything of its own to enrich it.

    Lobdell does something very similar here with Illyana. She is at best a “too pure for this world” sentimental idealization of a an angelic child. (Note incidentally the Christianizing imagery: the way Illyana assumes a prayer posture, or her hair unrealistically spreads out to form a halo.)

    For me, this is horribly flat and generic, and hamhandedly *obvious* —Illyana’s death doesn’t make me sad, because I can’t for a moment view her as anything other than a crude attempt to make me sad. It’s hard for me to avoid feeling that Harras and Lobdell have cynically selected Illyana to die because she combines being a character who has some hold on the reader’s affections because of the past, with being disposable. So, as with the Morlocks, Lobdell can’t be bothered to add anything of his own beyond her being a perfect child who didn’t deserve to die because she was so perfect.

    I have other problems (some of which I’ve mentioned above), but this is the key reason why this doesn’t move me.

  15. wyrm201 says:

    I concur with Miles’ opinion that this is a moving story regardless or prior familiarity with the characters. We have now reached the point where I started reading the comics (regularly) and I remember reading, and being moved by, this story with no knowledge of who Illyana was. For some reason, the bit I remembered most was Jubilee asking Jean why Kitty and Illyana had such a bond. I didn’t read New Mutants or Excalibur until this podcast!

  16. David M says:

    The whole ‘we came into this world alone..’ bit came up a few episodes ago in a Wolverine story and I let it go, but here it is again. I don’t see how something which misunderstands the basic biology of the situation for the vast number of people gets trotted out as if it’s profound. Lots of us struggle with feelings of isolation and would find the fight slightly easier without this tired, trite cliché ever being repeated again. Grr and grr, apparently.

  17. ggggrrrrrrrrrrrrreat EP / Thank u’s 😀

  18. Jeff C says:

    OK, volume numbers … this is one of the few things I can “um actually” (although I hope this comes across not super know-it-all-ish)…

    A few years ago Marvel established (in handy graphics you can still find online) just how they base their legacy/overall series numbering. And currently they also started printing the legacy (LGY) number on covers below the current volume/ issue number. So if you want to tell what counts as “X-Men” vs “Uncanny X-Men” …

    The new (2018) Uncanny X-Men #1 was printed with LGY #620 on it’s cover. Which means Marvel counts as Uncanny’s overall numbering:

    X-Men v1 1-141
    Uncanny X-Men v1 142-544
    Uncanny X-Men v2 1-20 (these are considered LGY 545-564)
    Uncanny X-Men v3 1-35 (LGY 565-599)
    Uncanny X-Men v1 600
    Uncanny X-Men v4 1-19 (LGY 601-619)
    Uncanny X-Men v5 1-present (and as I mentioned above they printed the LGY 620 on issue 1 and have continued in-sequence since)

    So: Marvel HAS included slight name changes in oveall numbering(for example: Thor’s LGY numbering includes Thor, Thor: God of Thunder and Mighty Thor; Amazing Spider-Man includes Superior Spider-Man) but Uncanny’s LGY numbering for whatever reason doesn’t include X-Men Gold, Blue or Red, which were published during a gap in Uncanny volumes (one assumes X-Men Blue count’s toward All-New X-Men’s LGY numbers since it continues directly)

    For the record, although these titles are on hiatus:

    Adjectiveless X-Men’s overall numbering would contain:
    X-Men v2 1-113
    New X-Men v1 114-156
    X-Men v2 157-207
    X-Men v3 1-41
    X-Men v4 1-26

    X-Factor:
    X-Factor v1 1-149
    X-Factor v3 1-50 (they did not count volume 2, an unrelated miniseries)
    X-Factor v1 200-262

    I could go on and on but you get the idea 🙂

    I have to say this: I know legacy/overall series numbering can be divisive but I like them. I like that I can consider Uncanny to still be in the 600s even if the current volume is at issue 6 or 7. I feel like I’m not losing all that history that way.

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