Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

301 – Can’t Beat the Real Thing

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

In which we enter our fourth century of podcasting with brand new theme music; we have both Wolverine questions and wolverine questions; it is extremely rough to be Bishop; the creator of Garfield may or may not live in a sewer on Earth-616; Rogue needs better coping mechanisms; bigotry is depressingly timeless; and everything is Onslaught now.


  • Joseph’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants
  • Our new theme music
  • X-Men Prime #1
  • A genuinely cool cover gimmick
  • What happened after the end of the world
  • Boundaries
  • War crimes vs. fashion crimes
  • Destruction of real landmarks in fiction
  • A mysterious assailant
  • Actual embodied chaos god Jim Davis and his Earth-616 namesake
  • Several memorable Garfield stories
  • Marrow (Sarah Rushman)
  • The secret origin of the Morlocks
  • A friendship we miss
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms
  • The perennially dubious journalistic ethics of Trish Tilby
  • Dennis
  • The death of Dennis
  • Flaws of the mutant metaphor (more) (again)
  • Several refugees from Earth-295
  • Mr. Summers and Mr. Summers
  • The secret origin of the Genoshan mutates
  • The Acolytes
  • The continuing relevance of the mutant metaphor (more) (again)
  • Cross-universe characterization

NEXT EPISODE: The fall of Avalon!

NOTE: The Garfield strips Jay mentions appeared in newspapers, on purpose, in October 1989.

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  1. An 80’s arcade game sounding cover of a 90’s cartoon theme coming out in 2020?

    Neat! 🙂

    The first Toby Maguire Spider-Man movie had a cinema trailer which came out just before 9-11 and which ended with a bad guys helicopter caught in a web between the Towers of the WTC, whoch was quickly withdrawn. The WTC itself was digitally removed from the movie and original home media release, but perhaps even more strangely was added back in for the BluRay release.

    It’s depressing and unsettling but as soon as the description of Dennis was given I googled to find out when Matthew Shepherd had been murdered to see if this was a direct reference, and realised, like Miles, that it wasn’t.

    I do agree that seeing more of the insidious structural racism/bigotry underlying society would be interesting and long overdue, though would a lot of those aspects be able to be fitted into the superhero concept?

    Most of the X-Men don’t live lives that would highlight such things.. So we don’t see them applying for bank loans, or dealing with the skewed list of requirements in the job advert and genuinely-unethical-but-they-rely-on-you-not-noticing questions in interviews. Or dealing with the landlord who won’t rent to “those people” and don’t even think of it as bigotry.

    (I think there was a story way back in the Vision and Scarlet Witch series in the 80s where they have to deal with neighbours who resent them being there, though that might have been a mix of pro-“human” bigotry and a genuine concern about former Avengers (and thus still active supervillain targets) living in a civilian neighbourhood.)

    And, nothing to do with the podcast, but the creator of the long, long, long running webcomic “Real Life Comics” has just come out as trans (She realised it a couple of years ago in the real world, and is now ready to move forward, in the public eye, so to speak) using a series of strips to outline her realisation and first-round processing of what it might mean. As a cis person I won’t comment on it directly, but I’ve read the stories of, and known, enough trans people to recognise several of the points raised which it handles, I feel, with elegance.


    1. Most of the X-Men don’t live lives that would highlight such things.. So we don’t see them applying for bank loans, or dealing with the skewed list of requirements in the job advert and genuinely-unethical-but-they-rely-on-you-not-noticing questions in interviews. Or dealing with the landlord who won’t rent to “those people” and don’t even think of it as bigotry.

      True, but that’s a creative choice. It’s not as if the idea of doing a superhero comic with a significant dimension of “What it is like to live a normal life in society under these circumstances?” is un-Marvel. That’s Spider-Man’s whole thing!

      And if I’m counting correctly, there were *ten* X-books being published at this point (XM, UXM, XF, the other XF, the XM that’s singular, C, W, E, GX, and XMU). So I think there was room for an X-book whose status quo explored what it was like to live as a mutant superhero in society and the more subtle ways that discrimination can express itself.

      Part of the problem here is that the X-Men have inherited from their Lee/Kirby origins (when, as I never tire of saying, they do not resemble a metaphor for any kind of marginalized majority, except very intermittently and even then in conflict with other things in the same story*) certain elements that signal not just privilege, but extreme privilege: they are a select group of people who live in a mansion, have unlimited financial resources, and their own private jet. I think these tend, probably unconsciously, to pull creators in a particular direction.

      Note how much of the stories that our hosts have covered in recent years portray the X-Men as inhabiting a world in which so much of the time they interact mainly with other mutants, and are set against backgrounds that emphasize luxury and financial excess: a central plotline has been about the Upstarts, who are definitely coded as the bored idle rich.

      *I used to think that the original Sentinels story was a clear case of the original UXM shifting towards what we think the X-Men are, but it really isn’t clear-cut at all, not least because the story is fairly explicit that Trask has a point and just takes it too far. There’s stuff in there that planted the seeds, but there’s other stuff that points in other directions. It’s really not until Roy Thomas that there’s a clear shift towards the idea that there is widespread ingrained prejudice towards mutants, and – although I need to do a thorough reread of early UXM to collect all the relevant material – I think there’s a very solid case for Steve Englehart as a more central part of this story than he is in the way that it is usually told.

    2. They threw away an opportunity to give some focus to less-overt bigotry with the status quo change to “X-Force”. When the team first moved into the abandoned Murderworld base in issue #40, they were talking about how being so close to New York City would give them an opportunity to lead more normal lives: getting regular day jobs, or going to college. But as of this one-shot their base has been blown up and they’re going to be sequestered back in the Xavier mansion.

  2. All I remember from the Starman movie is the female lead having to explain human bodily functions to the alien. A lot like Spider-man teaching the Beyonder to poop in Secret Wars 2.

  3. I think you might of missed a trick there or forgot to mention it with the whole systemic racism as a applied to mutants. When it comes down to it the system and the public hasn’t known about them long enough to have it be anything like other kinds of racism. If anything they could show the beginnings of how those things happen and things like happen to black people in america wouldn’t work the same just from how anyone from any social group could be a mutant. Obviously some of that would transfer over and get applied to them but it would be a totally different kettle of fish. Things like the difference between Womens rights, black women’s rights and Trans women’s rights. They connect and it’s very complicated but they should definitely explore it of course.

  4. I organized panel for Rose City CC 2018 and ‘19 about animal themed super-heroes and how they compare to the animal inspirations. I will put out the call to my fellow panelists to see if they’d be interested.

  5. Hey Guys,

    Long time listener, first time commenting.

    Heard Miles had never played X-Men Legends, and I had to hop on and tell you about why you should stop everything and play one of the greatest games ever.

    First things out of the way, I don’t play a lot of video games, for the most part, I only play games that have X-Men, Spider-Man, Marvel, or Batman in them.

    Second, my nostalgia googles are on, as X-Men Legends came to 11 year old me.

    Third the graphics are crap, the cut scenes are outdated, the uniforms are based off the Ultimate Universe X-Men, and its feels very low budget.

    However, none of that matter because X-Men Legends is the greatest X-Men video of all time.

    The game has an A+ voice cast from Steve Blum as Wolverine, Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Grey DeLisle-Griffin as Mystique, and Cree Summer as Magma. All the characters sound like they should.

    The story is an A+. It feels like an 4 part story line of X-Men The Animated series. You get to start the game as the X-Men come to save the POV character Alison Crestmere who will become the X-Man known as Magma. Alison is caught in the middle of a plot by the Brotherhood of Mutants to overthrow the world government and Anti-mutant War General, William Kincaid from unleashing his Sentinel program on the world, and it’s up to the X-Men to find a peaceful solution that doesn’t end up in destruction of everything and everyone. Also starring the Morlocks, The Acolytes, and The Shadow King.

    The playable roster is A+. Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey, Iceman, Rogue, Beast, Nightcrawler, Jubilee, Gambit, Magma, Colossus, Emma Frost, Professor X,and Psylocke. Before playing the game I recommend finding online guides on how to spam each character into a one man or woman wrecking ball. Each characters stats can be manipulated to turn each X-Man into a powerhouse. In the podcast Miles mentioned wanting to play a great Jean Grey game, this game is for him, dump a bunch of points into her telekinesis and telepathic scream, KO a bunch of acolyte soldiers, and throw them around like rag dolls. My favorite thing to do is take my team of four consisting of Jean, Emma, Rogue, Jubilee or Psylocke and take down enemies with the leading ladies.

    Finally, the X-Men Lore, A+. As Magma you get to enter the world of the X-Men, explore the X-Mansion, play an X-Men trivia games, train in the danger room, and get to know each X-Men’s backstory through playable flashback, and dialogue.

    The writers put a lot of love into X-Men Legends, it may not be A+ gaming but it’s A+ storytelling. Kind of like a great X-Men comic with a bad artist, but a great inker, writer, and colorist.

    Anyway, I can’t wait until Miles plays the game, and we get to listen about on Hawktalk! X-Legends 2 and Marvel Ultimate Alliance are good follow ups!

    1. Okay, you’ve convinced me! Now I just need to track it down and see whether my component-to-HDMI adapter works with one of the consoles it was on.

  6. – When I was a kid, my local library, had the Garfield’s 9 Lives book. It was horrifying and confusing for me in ways I was way too young for.

    – Yeah it bugs me how bigotry always portrayed super overt, both in the X-Men and so often in media in general. Obviously that exists, but I think the lack of more subtle or nuanced forms of bigotry, and bigtory that comes from NICE people, good people, and not just unpleasant douchebags, is damaging. It’s damaging because it implicity promotes the lie there’s just two kinds of people, the mean unpleasant assholes who are consciously bigots, and extreme ones at that, who actively hate another group and want them gone/dead/etc, and the nice kind people who don’t have a single problematic thought in their heads. This is a very dangerous lie, because it allows us not to question ourselves. We KNOW we’re not mean, hateful, consciously bigoted people, ergo we never consider our subconscious thoughts and actions born from privilege. It’s why so many people get super defensive at being told something they said was racist/sexist/etc, because they associate that purely with the 2D evil you see in media. It’s a comforting lie because oh gosh we could never be like THOSE people, and thus we never have to examine ourselves.

    – I think the reason Xavier reacts like he does despite this having happened so much before is because the writers don’t assume that readers have read everything so far like you guys. I think they’re aiming the emotional punch at new readers, for whom this isn’t just a repeat.

    – So…uh…did you notice that after Frenzy became good, her skin got light and her hair got straight, and she got shorter and drawn more femme? I, uh, did not like that.

    1. “New” readers? I’m confused. That’s crazy talk! There are no new readers of superhero comics.

      But seriously, I think you’re right – this was clearly intended to be a jumping-on point for the X-curious, and something of a mission statement for the post-AoA era.

      I think there might also be another way in which, although our hosts’ point is a very good one, this maybe wasn’t the right issue for it.

      The theme of this narrative, which I think is the main one that carries the “mission statement” aspect of all this, is the question of whether or not this is going to be a better world than the Age of Apocalypse. If you take mass genocide and ethnic cleansing on the one hand, and you balance these acts with things like subtle microaggressions and failures of intersectionality that cause programs to marginalize further the populations they are theoretically supposed to help — well, I think there’s a non-trivial chance that the reader will respond with, “I can see the problem, but it’s minor in comparison to the other things.” There’s a risk that you will damage the point that you are trying to make.

      So X-Men Prime might not have been the place for nuanced exploration of structural and systemic issues, and might have needed something shocking and brutal that, while it was not on the same scale as the horrors of AoA, was on an individual level just as bad, and was more shocking than the killings in AoA by (a) being less cartoonish and trivialized and (b) confronting the reader more with the specific material reality of the killing.

      (Not to mention (c) being perpetrated by people like the reader, which I think has a particular effect coming after an event in which “normal humans” – largely default white Americans – were presented comfortingly as the victims.)

      That being said, as I say in my comment to Icon_UK above, there were ten X-books at the time. And there’s no particular shortage of them now, either.

  7. So I feel like the closest we get to more systemic/less “I HATE MUTANTS” bigotry in the comics is when Avengers tone-police X-Men. Particularly like the moment that Cap compares Magneto to Hitler for wanting to essentially make sure his people don’t get massacred but not being super nice about it.

    That being said, my friend and I in college spent A LOT of time talking about what mutant stereotypes/microaggressions would be, based on our own experiences as a black man and gay man, respectively. At some point, we got into the idea that there are ones that didn’t appear in the comics like “Mutants love roast beef sandwiches”, but thinking based off the comics, some probably are:

    “You’re a mutant, so combat must come really easily to you.”
    “Oh my god. Mutants are so hot. They all have perfectly toned bodies. I’d totally date a mutant.”
    Definitely Halloween costumes based off the Omega-Gang inspiring picture
    “You’re so lucky that you’re so powerful but don’t like, you know, look too mutanty.”
    “i just think it’s really unfair that those portals exclude humans. It’s like, c’mon, we let mutants walk through our doorways.”
    An assumption that all mutants are related and/or have confusing family trees
    “Um, excuse me, I can’t be an anti-mutant bigot. I saw Dazzler on tour last year.”

    Anyway, looking forward to you two covering the hot mess that is Onslaught.

    As for Marrow…not my cup of tea. I’ve reread ahead in anticipation of your coverage and thought I’d like her more this go around (and the design IS cool)…but she’s still too 90s “stabby-stab-gore-gore-RAGE-stab” for me.

  8. Booo, go back to the original X-Men theme song please.

    Art was awful in X-Men Prime.

    Yeah, isn’t it so strange other hasn’t being like a killer triple A title acts Men game by now? A Mass Effect caliber-level game.

  9. A little middle America trivia for ya, Belle Fourche is pronounced BELL FOOSH like a true comic book onomatopoeia and bills itself as the geographic center of the nation. (supposedly?) Just FYI.

  10. Miles’ recollection of hitting a breaking point with Havok’s heel turn sounded quite familiar. I was 14 when this issue came out, and though I’d loved the Age of Apocalypse, I hit a similar frustration point and also quit reading X-comics soon after. For me, that point was Mr. Sinister showing up and verbally vagueposting about Gambit, leading Rogue to question their relationship.

    When I went back and reread these comics as an adult, I got the nuance in Rogue having absorbed Gambit’s memories in that pre-M’kraan kiss along with his own self-hatred. At 14, all I could see was a great relationship between two heroes scuttled for the sake of soap opera, and Rogue suddenly putting more stock in a bad guy’s intimations than her own understanding of her friend, teammate, and kinda sorta boyfriend.

    I was glad when I finally finished out reading the X-Men of the 90s, especially as Joe Kelly and Steven Seagle’s joint run has become one of my all time favorites. But I think there’s also a natural point in that transition between youthful and teen reading when you look at ongoing fictional narratives and become much more suspicious of the ways character arcs get bent to keep the drama churning.

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