279 – Giant-Size Special #8

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

In which Jay would absolutely fight Christmas; we welcome guest X-Perts Christina Strain and Chip Zdarsky; a gift arrives; we consider the relationship of Generation X to Generation X; it is really not okay to leave your discarded skins lying around; D.O.A. is inordinately delightful; Chamber is the punk Shadow; Gateway goes to school; the Generation X TV movie is very, very bad; telepathy is free; the grown-ups are all right; home sucks; freedom rocks; Mondo deserves better; Matt Frewer did most things first; Kevin McNulty has appeared in literally everything; and you remain our favorites, ever.

X-PLAINED:

  • Mutation, for some value of the term
  • Holidays and the observation thereof
  • December 9
  • Jay’s ideal Christmas
  • How Chris Bachalo’s name is pronounced (more) (again) (sorry)
  • Several promotions
  • Generation X
  • Generation X #1-4
  • Generation X
  • Husk (Paige Guthrie)
  • M (Monet St. Croix)
  • Skin (Angelo Espinosa)
  • Synch (Everett Thomas)
  • Chamber (Jonothon Starsmore)
  • The New Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters
  • Counting Genises
  • The housekeeping implications of body horror
  • The M retcon
  • Continuity in costume design
  • The Danger Grotto
  • Emplate (somewhat)
  • D.O.A.
  • Penance (not that one)
  • Scrabble burns
  • An alternate take on power duplication
  • Mondo ()
  • The return of Nanny and the Orphanmaker
  • Eliot ()
  • A tentative friendship
  • How the Age of Apocalypse comes to Generation X
  • A movie that never fails to disappoint
  • The vagaries of adaptation
  • The best on-screen Emma Frost
  • Gang emails of the 1990s
  • Refrax
  • Buff
  • William Castle
  • The comedic genealogy of Max Headroom
  • Hatley Castle
  • The 2019 Super Doctor Astronaut Peter Corbeau Awards for Excellence at X-Cellence

NEXT WEEK: Jay & Miles go on vacation!
NEXT EPISODE: Bishop goes solo!


Special thanks to Christina Strain, Douglas Wolk, and Chip Zdarsky; and–always–to Matt Hunter, David Wynne, Tea Fougner, Anna Sheffey, and all of our patrons and listeners!


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11 comments

  1. Dan says:

    Jay, if you have not watched it yet check out Rudolph’s Shiny New Year. It’s most likely where Community got the idea for the Christmas pterodactyl. It’s a later Rakin and Bass where they started to run out of ideas and I suspect maybe started doing a lot of drugs. Rudolph has to save the New Year with baby New Year, a caveman, A Knight and Ben Franklin.

  2. Dan says:

    As far as being Christian to celebrate Christmas. People were celebrating it for thousands of years under different names before the Church commandeered it. It’s okay to not celebrate too but Christians don’t really have any ownership of the Winter solstice celebration

    • Jay says:

      A few thoughts on this:
      1) You don’t get to tell other people what they do or don’t celebrate.
      2) You really, really don’t get to insist that Christmas celebrations are neutral to Jewish people who’ve grown up uncomfortably saturated in the insistence that Christian observance is culturally universal and religiously neutral.
      3) Whatever you call your seasonal celebrations, Christmas is a Christian holiday. That it’s treated as more universal at this point is less related to its antecedents than to the extent to which our culture centers and accommodates Christianity.
      4) Whether Christians have any original ownership of that celebration is historically important; but, again, history doesn’t mean those other celebrations haven’t been thoroughly subsumed into Christmas as it’s largely recognized and celebrated.

      • Dan says:

        Jay,

        I didn’t mean to offend. Your choice to celebrate what you want, when you want is your right and I did not mean to imply you should do otherwise. I understand your points on Christmas even if I disagree with some of it.

        We should just all agree to celebrate December 9th with blanket forts and Community marathons

  3. 90sRF says:

    What I heard the deal with Monet was was that she was ALWAYS meant to have been the twin sisters merged, hence the climbing trees and going catatonic. The retcon was there being a real Monet; what I heard is that originally, there was never going to have been a real Monet. Which was also why Penance wasn’t originally going to be the real Monet, but a Yugoslavian girl named Yvette; Monet later has Yvette as a middle name and Yugoslovian citizenship among her MANY passports, possibly as a nod to this.

    Of course, the idea there was never a real Monet doesn’t add up given her first appearance with her governess Colonel Gayle, but maybe there was meant to be some other weird comic book explanation there, like she telepathically made everyone believe that “Monet” had always existed. In any case, I do really like Gen X era Monet, and her dynamic with Emma.

    Another bizarre St. Croix family thing: Cartier appears here first as a white guy. He will later appear as a black man. And then he’s going to be white at another point again. This isn’t even bringing in Louis St. Croix into the equation, who is often confused with Cartier.

    I like Mondo a lot, he’s so chill. Poor dude, it’s all downhill from here.

    Notice how Cordelia is close in age to teen Emma in her 2005 backstory but still a teenager in Gen X? Comics, man.

    The Elliot story always makes me so sad :C

    I like Buff, I feel like there’s a lot to explore around cultural expectations of how women’s bodies are “supposed” to be, and how much physical smallness and weaknesses are prized as beautiful and feminine, and the effect that can have on a teen girl, but of course that doesn’t happen beyond a very surface-level “ew she’s gross and ashamed” thing”

    I CRACKED UP AT THE SEXY SHINOBI SHAW VOICE BIT

    AAAAH I LOST IT AT HAVEN’S AWARD! THE RECOGNITION SHE DESERVES! YOU’RE RIGHT AND YOU SHOULD SAY IT!

    Wow that song was…IMPRESSIVE.

  4. Voord 99 says:

    Scattered thoughts:-

    -Our hosts made some great observations about how this book is made us of an interesting blend of different tones. I think that might be key to why Generation X is so much more readable than U/XM are at the moment — it’s much less monotonous. There’s a lot of the same tone, and when there are variations, they tend to be the exact same variations.

    Plus, there’s a definite sense of pulling out all the stops — of trying extra hard to make this a book where the reader will want to pick up the next issue. In particular, it’s genuinely refreshing from a 2019 perspective to see the confidence with which Lobdell and Bachalo are trying to establish new characters as interesting in their own right, each capable of being somebody’s favorite.

    Obviously, Gen X is very much following the New Mutants’ recipe (take 3 cups backgrounds-from-different-parts-of-the-world, add 2 tbsp strong and distinct personalities, mix thoroughly and then put in the oven at Gas Mark Danger).

    But it’s *not* quite the New Mutants model. The New Mutants were the readers’ vicarious friends – they loved one another, and we loved them. Went back to check to see if I’d forgotten something about the early issues of New Mutants, and no: the first page of NM #1, revealingly, is the rest of the young cast looking on with smiles while Stevie Hunter washes Xian’s hair. They are best friends from the beginning. In contrast, these young people in Generation X are just that little bit more realistically standoffish — not so inclined to be devoted to one another overnight.

    Quite surprised by how taken I am with all of the young characters, especially Angelo. I understand that he now falls into the category of “killed off and has stayed dead,” and so far I have to say that’s a shame. Right now, in fact, I’d say that this is the only thing in this period of the X-books whose erasure in the next century I may end up finding regrettable — something that might count for me as a nugget of lost gold. These young people had potential for better long-term treatment than they seem, generally speaking, to have received. More so than the rather tired main X-cast had at this time, really, at least for me.

    -Jubilee calls Paige a “hayseed.” Is this comic from the 1990s or the 1890s?

    -OK, so our hosts and their guest gave Jeremy Ratchford a hard time for the accent, and fair enough. But consider what Scott Lobdell thinks Sean should sound like. There is a brief moment where Lobdell makes Sean use “ye” correctly. But it’s all a cruel trick — then Lobdell goes back to getting it wrong. And after that Sean goes all Scottish. And at one point seems to be from the Ozarks?

    -Weird from a 2019 perspective to see how much Sean is the “adult lead” of the book, with Emma relegated to a supporting role. It’ll be interesting to see how that reverses over time, as she becomes one of *the* most consistently prominent X-characters, and he fades into the background into safely-killable-off territory by the early 2000s.

    -Synch is the “portrait of synchronicity”? Umm, what does that, umm, mean, exactly?

    -Jonothon’s design works really well when Bachalo draws him. But I wonder if there’s a touch of what people always say about Warlock — that it’s a great design when drawn by the artist who designed it, but other people have a hard time making it look right.

    -Thanks to the podcast, I rewatched the Generation X TV movie for the first time since its original broadcast. (Seeing the 2000 X-Men movie is one of the things that led me to pick up superhero comics again. Oddly enough, seeing Generation X four years earlier hadn’t done that.).

    I had forgotten just how bad it was. But there is one element of it that’s better than I had remembered, the sequence with Jubilee’s mother and the government official – all the stuff about the irrelevance of due process, what Jubilee did technically qualifying as “mutant terrorism” and putting her in camp being allegedly in her own interests. It’s like an intrusion from a much better show.

    As it is, it feels as if someone was not comfortable going there, and wanted to sell somebody else on this being a more goofy, campy, “comic-booky” thing, in which the characters would face OTT villains like Tresh every week. See also the bit about Jubilee being trained to “fight crime.” There’s a definite sense here that someone knows what show based on a comic is, and it’s about someone who puts on a costume and stops other colorful people who commit crimes with gimmicks. Not that this is the worst thing about it, obviously, but it’s something that marks it as a product of its era.

    -One has the sense with the whitewashing of Jubilee that they were literally counting the nonwhite characters, and stopped at the point where it would mean that over half the students weren’t white.

    -Saw X-Men: Dark Phoenix on a transatlantic flight just before Christmas, and I don’t know that it deserves the award even for trying.

  5. Porthos Fitz'Shiar Empress says:

    Hope you all had a very relaxing holiday!
    Love hearing how much you all love Bachalo’s art; if I had to do the “gun to the head” test of favorite comic artist, Bachalo would be my pick, and yet he seems to get overlooked, but if one were to read the “Return to the Age of Apocalypse” and see how a story that awful gets saved! by Bachalo’s fAnTaStIc aNd SwEeT art, specifically his AoA Silver Samurai, we would all hail Bachalo as the Phil Hartman of comic artists

  6. Icon_UK says:

    Long ramble coming, so be warned.

    I think Generation X was the first title where I felt that I was too old for it, which is an absolutely fine thing for it to be I hasten to clarify, I was in my twenties when this came out and these things should be, if you’ll pardon the pun, generational. It shouldn’t be being written for me, or I shouldn’t be the primary market at any rate.

    I really wanted to like it (and it was hard to avoid the deluge of promotional material), but could never quite “get” it the way I had with the New Mutants, or even Excalibur.

    I LIKED these kids individually, and there are character beats and interactions throughout I really like, but as a team they seemed a bit less than the sum of their parts.

    I loved that these were not all “pretty” mutants, some were kids who xouldn’t be able to casually walk down the street like the New Mutants (or most X-Men) could and didn’t have, say Kurt’s self confidence. That felt new, and long overdue.

    I had (and have) absolutely loved Chris Bacchalo’s art in other works, but I never “felt” it with Gen X, or rather I didn’t feel the style suited the story being told. I also felt that he changed a good deal about the powers of the kids to make them more visually interesting for him, which is fine, but we’d already been introduced to these kids in the Phalanx Covenant, so it rankled. (I mean, Bill Sienkiewicz had sort of changed what the New Mutants powers looked like, but he kept the abilities the same.)

    As a result, a lot of the story felt like style over substance to me.

    Like Paige’s powers; shifting from random metamorphosis (which I think was the original intent) to her new-material skin, which is an interesting ability, just nothing like we’d seen with her before.

    Her managing to peel off skin under a layer of clothing always just… irked me from a logistics standpoint (though I understand the alternative would have been entirely inappropriate), and just leaving her skins lying like that? Mama Guthrie raised you _better_ than that Paige. (They could have just said that they would eventually dissolve)

    Chamber’s incredibly vague powerset. As Miles said “Those are just words!”. If I’m expected to invest in a character, I like to have some idea of what their abilities and limitations are. Such a vague description means that he can literally pull any ability out of his ass (possibly literally) and it just makes it sound like Scott Lobdell had no idea what he can do either and is just covering himself.

    Angelo’s power seems… borderline to say the least. IIRC the promotional material said his power is that he has three feet of extra skin which he can control to some extent, but it’s no more durable than human skin, and his skeleton is as rigid as a normal human, which means he basically has stretchy fingers and a face he has to focus on to keep looking the same. This seems a minimal powerset for someone in the sort of line of fire X-kids get into. If they were going to explore someone who didn’t want to be a hero, or who realised that it wasn’t for them, it might have been an interesting way to go.

    I suspect I’m just too pedantic to dismiss such things as easily as other’s can, lucky buggers.

    When Gateway introduces “Penance” as Penance, I did wonder if it was supposed to be less her name, but his description of what she was to him. As in, he brought her here because HE had to do penance for something and they just got the wrong end of the stick.

    I agree on the exceptionally, and offputtingly, manipulative nature of the story about the kid who turned out not to be a mutant. (It also means Nanny is a lot less competent than we’d been led to believe in terms of mis-identifying someone as a mutant)

    However, having said all that I look forward to seeing the title through fresher eyes, and seeing what I missed.

    As for the movie, I remember being sent a copy by a friend in the US, and it was… certainly something. I remember them playing a very “hip” TCG at the end which was complete gibberish to me, so Scrabble was probably the way to go.

    The other thing that stick with me for no reason I can work out is that the music on the dream-scape scene where Skin is stalked by Matt Frewer was different in the US and UK releases. (which I managed to see I can’t remember how)

    Sean’s accent is a glorious mess, though my touchstone for such things remains Michael Fassbender’s Magneto in “First Class”: He starts out with a German accent that quietly starts slipping into quite broad Irish at random intervals as the movie progresses. (I believe Mr Fassbender has both accents as his natural ones, but I don’t think Magneto was supposed to swing backwards and forwards between them)

    • Voord 99 says:

      I hasten to clarify, I was in my twenties when this came out and these things should be, if you’ll pardon the pun, generational. It shouldn’t be being written for me, or I shouldn’t be the primary market at any rate.

      Historically, we’re in transition to the stage at which twentysomething became too *young* to be the primary market for any superhero comic. 🙂

      More seriously, you raise an interesting point. I think you’re right that Generation X is trying to be New Mutants for a different decade and appeal to people who are, if anything, a little younger than its characters.

      But we’re at the end of 1994. At this point, as the wave of speculators had flooded out, that was — or rather should have been (Marvel’s acquisition of Heroes World happened while these issues were coming out…)— something that revealed the contours of the much smaller audience of long-time readers and collectors who were left behind. People who were, in fact, your age. A problem with doing New Mutants for the ‘90s is that Claremont wasn’t writing in the ‘90s. To be producing a superhero comic as 1994 becomes 1995 is, from a commercial perspective, to be in a very different business from producing a superhero comic in 1983.

      Obviously, Generation X falls into a general pattern of launching new titles as a short-term gimmick, so in that sense it’s very characteristic of its period. But the specifics of the title that they tried to launch are maybe a little anachronistic. I’m wondering if that plays in some way into how easy these characters were to sideline (and in some cases, pretty much erase) once the ‘90s were gone.

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