Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

319 – Giant-Size Special #9 (feat. Vita Ayala, Tini Howard, & Leah Williams)

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

In which Jay and Miles receive a mysterious missive and are visited by three of our favorite X-writers; Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix is a pleasant surprise; Nathaniel Essex is the most dramatic man in the Marvel Universe; the sewers of Victorian London were a happenin’ place; Apocalypse isn’t even French; Beast is the flip-side of Sinister; community is for everyone; the Internet is (kind of) Krakoa; and death is fixable, but trauma might take a little more work.

X-PLAINED:

  • A quotation
  • Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix #1-4
  • A closed loop
  • Time travel with Scott Summers and Jean Grey
  • Mister Sinister (Nathaniel Essex)
  • A somewhat excessive visual aid
  • Beards
  • Cootie Tremble
  • The cultural context of sideshows
  • The first Marauders and/or Nasty Boys
  • Victorian Apocalypse
  • Strained allegories
  • Sanctity
  • Apocalypse vs. the Hellfire Club
  • Oscar the Somewhat Less Nasty Boy
  • Varyingly anachronistic costuming
  • The secret origin of ruby quartz
  • A very vague objective
  • A makeover
  • A closed time loop
  • Actual Cat Wizard Jonathan Hickman
  • Something Jay is not in fact going to pitch to Marvel
  • Creative dynamics and processes in the current X-line
  • Revolutionary joy
  • What’s cooler than one sword
  • The Sixth Annual Super Doctor Astronaut Peter Corbeau Awards for Excellence at X-Cellence

NEXT WEEK: Jay & Miles take a break

NEXT EPISODE: Excalibur gets several Peters and a wolf!


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9 comments

  1. Is there an agreed HTML format for blushing? Because “Gosh!”, did I turn pink when I heard the name check. I had no idea how prolific I’d been…

    At any rate, how kind of you both, thank you. 🙂

  2. I love time loops. If anyone has the time or inclination, I highly recommend the show Dark on Netflix if you like time loops as well. It’s a German TV show that is three seasons long, it made my brain hurt at times (in a good way).

  3. Congratulations to this years winners, including the esteemed Icon_UK whose comments I have enjoyed reading even though they left me feeling more than a little uneducated at times.

    It was fun to hear the X-Architects talk about their experiences and almost made this feel like the Episode 300 we would have gotten if not for Covid. I almost wish it could have gone on a little bit longer.

    Marauders and Excalibur have been almost tied for my favorite of the current X-Books so it’s good to know I’m not alone in that love.

    I cannot wait to see what’s coming up this year.

    In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your break and I look forward to the convoluted mess that’s going to be Onslaught. While it might have been terrible as a storyline I have a feeling it’s going to make for a great podcast!

  4. Oh my god, a time long foretold has arrived! (Seriously, I have been waiting for you two to cover this miniseries since just about the entire lifetime of the podcast thus far, and have particularly had the draft of the story I’m about to tell sitting in my Evernote for over five years.)

    So, I went to college at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Toward the end of the school year, Masque (the drama club) has “New Voices,” a festival of short plays that are not only acted, but also written by “members of the WPI community” (so not just students, but also alumni, faculty, etc.) Most of the plays are the sort of self-indulgent twaddle you’d expect from college students, but this story is about one very special play:

    New Voices 16, 1998, the end of my junior year, there was a play called “The Origin of Our Species.” I saw it with a group of enough friends that we had most of a row of seats to ourselves, and as much as we tried to be respectful of the actors and fellow audience members, we just could not help ourselves from laughing uproariously the whole time. The plot was this weird mix of Victorian London, mad science, and an ancient evil awoken from his slumber in the sewers. The cast did their best, but to do so they had to go for over-the-top melodrama that made the whole thing comedic in a way that I’m pretty sure was not intended.

    Some time not long after the end of the festival, I was hanging out, late at night, at the apartment of some friends who had a couple of terminals set up so anyone who visited could check their email. (Keep in mind, this was 1998; smartphones didn’t exist yet.) Much to our surprise, we all received a campus-wide email from the author of that play, in which he confessed to plagiarizing it. Apparently he’d submitted the play but then had an attack of conscience when it was selected for the festival, confessed to the people in charge, and was told that the show must go on, but that there would be consequences.

    (An all-campus email is not something you could just do — it required the specific assistance of the Unix sysadmins — which strongly suggests that this was part of a campus disciplinary action. Unfortunately, the email went out late enough that none of them were online to do the knob-twiddling apparently necessary to turn it off, in the meantime of which anyone could reply-all, and so we had an end-of-year campus-wide email flame war.)

    This all happened a lot of years ago, so my memory’s fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t state what he plagiarized from in his confession. Fast forward a couple of years, though, and a friend of mine stumbled across a copy of “The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix,” and realized that holy shit, the origin of Mister Sinister stuff, minus any interactions with the Cyclops and Phoenix parts of the storyline, was totally what that kid ripped off. (Apocalypse was renamed “Strife;” Nathaniel Essex became “Judas Collins,” until the end when his dying wife says he’s “Diabolical,” which becomes his new name.) Having since gotten a copy and read it myself, yeah, I can totally confirm.

  5. As for the actual podcast OTHER than the ego boost, which I’m still glowing slightly over.

    Mr Sinister being Victorian by origin seems almost TOO obvious a choice. Go back just a little bit further and make him Regency, because if EVER there was a dandy supervillain who’d look at Beau Brummell and take it as a personal challenge, it’d be Sinster.

    The interview (melee? 🙂 ) was a delight as our self-proclaimed “Feral Bisexuals” (Great name for a band) were clearly having an utter blast with the whole thing and it showed.

    “X of Swords” was utterly, bizarrely, gloriously random.

    It wasn’t so much the “Swords!” being shouted as the OTHER comment that piqued my interest “Large wife! Large wife! Large wife!” which was, of course, Kid Cable’s description of the new “Mrs Ramsey” (or he’s “Mr the Blood Moon”, or they’re “The Ramsey-Blood Moons” or “Blood Moon-Ramsey’s”)

    I confess that that definitely wasn’t what I expected from X of Swords, but I DO want to see what it means for Doug and Warlock because, no offence to Bei, but she’s going to have to go some to be a better match for Doug “disaster pansexual” Ramsey (I have no idea what term would be appropriate for a human male who has shown many romantic feelings towards human woman, but has far more intimate relationships with an alien whose definition of gender is “Z, where Z is a variable” and a sentient, male-(ish) landmass) than Warlock.

    I was perhaps a little surprised at Warlock’s complete quiescence throughout the event, and especially the marriage, I mean, was he technically INCLUDED in the vows? I suspect we will see more about this in the months to come and I am curious indeed.

    For the awards…

    Well, I am sorely tempted to make a topical comment about our having PLENTY of Sentinel butts assholes in the Houses of Parliament already, but it seems like too easy a target somehow.

    And again, thanks to you chaps for keeping going through the many and varied challenges of 2020 and whatever the hell it is 2021 is starting with.

  6. Amazing ep! I really wanna go now and read that mini series!

    Personally, I may have given “best team book” to Marauders or X-Factor, but I totally hear you both that it’s a great (and TOUGH if you can’t afford EVERYTHING) time to be an X-Fan. It’s wonderful that suddenly best X-book/writer/artist, etc. is such a lively debate. And it was great hearing the three of them pull back the curtain and assure us that the X-Office is apparently as magical and lovely as we’d all hope.

    Also, I’m definitely one of your podcast, if not children, then nephews. (Due to format/style, etc., we’re probably closest to being the podcast child of TUTD, but I got into them via you two, and you’ve referred to them as your sibling podcast, so thus, you’re our Podcast Uncle!)

    I have already begun using Jay’s explanation of side shows to explain when I decide to check Twitter (even after deleting may ccount for my mental health). It’s something I know is bad for my senses/humours/etc., but sometimes you crave that unpleasant shock.

  7. There’s a lot to enjoy in this New Year’s gift. I want to highlight Jay’s conscientious commitment to inclusion. Someone close to me died this year, which is a perfectly ordinary thing, but I felt touched by your thoughtfulness.
    That combined with the comics reviewed brought the Darwin Song Project to mind, a cycle of songs about the life and work of Charles Darwin by a group of folkies. You can find it on youtube. I especially recommend ‘We’re all leaving’ sung by Karine Polwart, concerning Annie’s death.

  8. If Jay ever remembers what terrible Victorian-set miniseries it was with which he was confusing The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, I’m ghoulishly curious as to what it was.

    But I have to agree with our hosts that The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix was great. Honestly, I think that when I’m done reading along with the podcast through the period in which I wasn’t reading X-books, this will probably rank for me as best X-book of the ‘90s. (This and Alan Davis’s Excalibur are the only things so far that I think I am ever likely to want to reread, and since I’m not sure that Davis’s Excalibur really counts as an X-book,while this clearly does, I think this wins.)

    What I liked about it is that it took a character that really hasn’t been working for me, Mister Sinister, and came up with something to do with him that sold me on him, completely. This is my favorite Mister Sinister, now and probably forever.

    To be clear, I think Claremont’s original idea, a child’s idea of someone scary, was very compelling (and had creepy, if rather Claremontesque, possibilities that never really had anything done with them). But post-Claremont ‘90s Sinister is a round peg being hammered into a square hole — there’s simply nothing worthwhile about this character in the grimglumstickuptheirahem X-books of this era. They’re neither weird enough for Claremont’s Sinister nor relaxed enough for later jokey Sinister.

    Until now. What I really like about what Milligan does here is that, as our hosts point out, he takes the relatively little that anyone has bothered to establish about Mister Sinister, puts it together, and comes up with something that’s not just a good character, but a great character.

    And here I’m going to disagree with Icon_UK above: this particular character *has* to be Victorian, and also English [sic], for essentially all the reasons that Jay alluded to in the podcast about the revolutionary effect of Darwinian evolution as an idea.

    (Otherwise, fine, you could locate the origins of dandyish modern Sinister in the Regency, but there’s no reason why that should involve making him British at all. Plenty of other nations and periods to choose from. Hell, if one were following that line of thought, I’d go with Renaissance Italy and riff on Castiglione: Sinister as someone who’s really committed to self-fashioning.)

    This is about Victorian England [again, sic], in ways that are very specific. In particular, I think it’s about the headyingly disillusioning and disenchanting effects of modernity in ways that really do work best in the Victorian era. Put it in the Regency, and Ussher’s calculation of the age of the world is still a rational approach based on the available evidence (which is what it was in its original 17th-century context); put it in the 20th century, and someone who thinks that way is a creationist nut. You have to be poised at the moment of change between the two for this story to work.

    This is true even when it fudges the details, I think. I definitely didn’t pick up on everything that Miles mentioned about the wrong details in the Victoria scene (wouldn’t mind reading the discussion to which he referred, if he’d be interested in posting the citation), because I’m not really into minutiae about the royal family.

    But one is really obvious: you’re clearly meant to suppose that Gladstone is Prime Minister, and probably meant to suppose that this conversation is connected to Home Rule in some way. Wrong for 1859, granted. But there’s a point to the anachronism: it’s there to create a situation in which you can play off Gladstone against Apocalypse as attitudes to how to manage conflict.

    (And any comic that can make one write a sentence containing the phrase “play off Gladstone against Apocalypse” is surely a wonderful comic.)

    I’ll quibble with our hosts about a couple of things. First, my heart sank at the thought of making this all about Beast, and I don’t think it would be better than the existing comic. Because I think it’s fairly clear that this is *not* saying that Sinister is Scott Summers who had a bad day, but the opposite. The point is that Scott and Essex are very different people (with intertwined lives), and similar events had different effects on the two, because who you are determines how you react to external change.

    More accurately, though, it’s not saying that Scott is Sinister who had a bad day. This miniseries may be called The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, but I think it’s not really disputable that Essex/Sinister is the protagonist, and Scott (and Jean) are secondary characters who serve to illuminate Sinister and say things about him, and not the other way around.

    For this reason, it doesn’t bother me that the match between what happened to Scott and what happened to Essex is not very exact (although it would have been better if this had appeared before Scott knew that his son grew up to be an older gentleman with very impressive musculature for a man of his age). I can tolerate that sort of fudging for the same reason that I tolerate the fudging of British political history — it’s doing something worthwhile.

    Finally, because Essex/Sinister is the main character, I think you absolutely *have* to have that final scene with him. I think this might be a place where our hosts are (not unreasonably) looking at this in terms of a stream of X-events and not as its own self-contained story. But it does also have to work as its own story, and a story in which the main character disappeared entirely saying something about Buckingham Palace at the point when Sinister does would fall flat.

    As it is, I think this is something quite rare in ‘90s X-Men, and not all that common in X-Men of any period: a story which you could give to someone who knows little about the X-Men and is not invested in them, and they could still make some sense of it and get something out of it as a reading experience, and if it were the right person, they might well ask you what was the next X-book that you would recommend to them.

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