It has been a hell of a January, mostly for reasons I can’t really go into here. I was going to spend this week getting caught up on the stuff that fell behind while I was putting out fires in the first half of the month; but then Miles and I both got sick; and we decided at the last minute to do a Secret Wars episode, which meant reading about twenty issues very fast; and apparently there’s something in DayQuil that really messes with the way my eyes track, which is making everything involving text and images–which is to say, everything–take about twice as long as it normally would.
All of which is to say: X-Men: Evolution recaps will begin next week. Thank you for your patience. I’m going back to bed.*
*JUST KIDDING! I’m going to go research, write, and record a voiceover thing; then send about a dozen e-mails and finish reading Secret Wars II. Sick days are for people with real jobs!
Rachel here! ICYMI, they’ve just announced the casting for the three new kids in X-Men: Apocalypse. Let’s take a look:
Sophie Turner as Jean Grey:
Sophie Turner is the only one of the three I’ve seen in anything, ever; and I could not be happier to see her step into Jean Grey’s bright yellow boots. Turner’s a fantastic actress, and Sansa Stark is basically the Jean Grey of Game of Thrones: completely awesome and chronically thrown under the bus by both canon and audience. (Incidentally: talk shit about Sansa stark in the comments, and we will cut you. Sansa rules.)
Alexandra Shipp as Storm:
Totally unfamiliar with Shipp, but she looks like a baby Storm, and she’s not Halle Berry, so that’s two points in her favor.
Tye Sheridan as Cyclops:
With the caveat that I’m no more familiar with this kid than I am with Shipp, can we take a moment to agree that the correct casting for teen Cyclops is and always will be Swing Kids-era Robert Sean Leonard?
Rachel here! As you may or may not know, Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men–the podcast, the videos, and everything we do here on the site–is entirely listener supported, via our kickass Patreon subscribers. And last night, while we weren’t looking, they unlocked one hell of a milestone goal:
Starting next week, I’ll be recapping and reviewing not one, not a dozen, but every single episode of animated high-school drama X-Men: Evolution.
It’s no secret that I lovethis show. I love it a lot. I love the awkward teenagers (and even more awkward early animation); the dubious fashion; the high-school angst; the godawful Season One finale. I love the way it starts terrible and then slowly and subtly gets awesome while you’re not paying attention. I love that there’s an episode where it stops being a superhero show and instead spends 22 minutes doing a straight-up homage to old-school girl-gang movies.
And I love seeing characters and premises I love reinvented and refiltered through very different sensibilities: what shifts and evolves, and what core themes persist through the changes. In a lot of ways, Evolution is the most daring adaptation of X-Men; certainly, it’s the one that moves furthest from any other incarnation of the series and team. Sometimes it succeeds brilliantly. Sometimes it fails spectacularly. But it never stops being fun.
If you want to watch along with me, you can find the full series on Marvel’s YouTube channel, starting here. I’ll be kicking off next week with Season 1, Episode 1: “Strategy X.”
Art by Sal Buscema and Karl Bollers, Marvel Holiday Special 1994 one-shot (1994)
HI, LISTENERS! Some of you have been asking us to write an X-Men holiday gift guide. We think it’s very thoughtful of you to consider purchasing gifts for fictional characters, and to help you out, we have created this handy last-minute guide! Click through for our picks for Beast, Shadowcat, and six more…
THE COMPLETE GUMBY
FOR: Beast. We already know Hank McCoy is a fan of Art Clokey’s weird green guy–in fact, back in his Defenders days, he used to collect and trade bootleg Gumby VHSs (seriously–it’s canon). Modern Beast has been having a rough time; give him an excuse to unwind with seven disks’ worth of psychedelic claymation, and maybe a plate of pot brownies.
(And now we’re imagining a stoner comedy starring Hank McCoy and Abigail Brand. MARVEL. CALL US.)
WHAT HE’D PREFER: Moral certitude.
BACKUP GIFT:Dr. Strange: A Separate Reality, by Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner, because you know Beast would be super into a comic about a buddy of his that two dudes literally wrote while wandering around Central Park tripping balls in the middle of the night.
RIP IT: HOW TO DECONSTRUCT AND RECONSTRUCT THE CLOTHES OF YOUR DREAMS, BY ELISSA MYRICH
FOR: Shadowcat. The X-Men’s most die-hard superfashionista can always use another tool in her arsenal–after all, you never know when you’ll find yourself hankering for a new costume with no Shi’ar tech in sight.
WHAT SHE’D PREFER: A canonical girlfriend.
BACKUP GIFT:The Complete Elfquest, vol. 1.
MAGNUM, P.I.’S SIGNATURE HAWAIIAN SHIRT
FOR: Sunspot. I mean, Bobby da Costa probably already owns one of these, or six, but you can really never have too many backup Magnum, P.I. shirts, right?
WHAT HE’D PREFER: To actually be Magnum, P.I.
BACKUP GIFT: A signed pinup of Tom Selleck.
THE REQUISITE UGLY HOLIDAY SWEATER
FOR: Cyclops. Left to his own devices, Scott Summers basically dresses like a six-year-old and has a long tradition of happily sporting really, really horrible sweaters; so you know he’ll at least get some use from it. (Plus, if he hates it, he’ll probably be too polite to say anything.)
WHAT HE’D PREFER: A world in which he’s functionally irrelevant.
BACKUP GIFT: Socks.
ERROL FLYNN FILM COLLECTION
FOR: Nightcrawler. Kurt Wagner is a huge Errol Flynn fan, to the point of modifying his image inducer to reproduce the visage of the classic swashbuckler; so he’s sure to enjoy a boxed set of Flynn’s most famous films.
WHAT HE’D PREFER: A soul.
BACKUP GIFT: A collection of John Donne sonnets.
LOCAS: THE MAGGIE AND HOPIE STORIES, BY JAIME HERNANDEZ
FOR: Magik. I have no actual narrative justification for this. I just think Magik would really dig some Love & Rockets.
WHAT SHE’D PREFER: Nothing your fragile mortal mind can grasp, kid.
BACKUP GIFT: A iPod preloaded with pop-culture nostalgia podcasts. For someone who runs with the unusually pop-savvy New Mutants, Illyana has spent relatively little of her life with any kind of media access.
CLASSIC X-MEN PVC SET
FOR: Iceman. Bobby Drake is all about original-five nostalgia, and he’s kind of a goofball, so he would probably enjoy the hell out of this X-Men PVC set, featuring the original team, Professor X, and Magneto (and one of the better Iceman sculpts out there).
WHAT HE’D PREFER: For Professor X to still be alive and everyone to be friends again.
BACKUP GIFT: An Elsa tiara.
ALL SEVEN SEASONS OF DESIGNING WOMEN
FOR: Rogue. Look, Rogue does not need another pair of fancy gloves. What Rogue needs is seven seasons of the most badass, progressive, Bechdel-test-acing Southern-lady sitcom of all time.
WHAT SHE’D PREFER: A three-day bender with Julia Sugarbaker, and maybe conscious control over her powers.
In Episode 34, we answered a question from a listener looking for textual evidence that Nightcrawler isn’t homophobic (we pointed them to Amazing X-Men #13, in which Nightcrawler and Northstar explicitly address that question). But Rachel also responded to the question from a somewhat different angle–and at considerably more length–on Tumblr; and we want to reproduce that answer here, as well, because it covers some ground we feel pretty strongly about:
Miles and I addressed the textual evidence—which lands firmly on your side, by the way—in Episode 34, but I’d also like to take a moment to talk to your friend directly:
Dear Anonymous’s Friend,
You seem like someone who works hard to consider the cultural context and ethical implications of the media you consume. That’s really cool, and it’s something I try very hard to both practice—as a podcaster, as a critic, and as a consumer—and to encourage in our audience.
Here’s the thing, though, AF—this is not black-and-white, it never has been, and it never will be. It’s not a rigid objective rubric. It’s a deeply personaljudgment call. And when you attack your friend because they like a fictional character you find personally problematic, you are being an asshole.
AF, it is absolutely okay for your friend to find enjoyment, value, and points of personal identification in things that don’t perfectly mesh with their identity or personal beliefs. To tell anyone that they’re not allowed to have those things because fictional entities in which they find meaning don’t measure up on a rigid real-world rubric is—as far as I’m concerned—incredibly uncool.
I also want to address another point that your concerns about Nightcrawler bring up—about members of marginalized groups searching for points of identification in mass media. I don’t know anything about you, but your friend mentioned that they’re queer, and I know from experience that when you’re reading from a position anywhere on the margins—say, as a sexual minority—one of the first skills you learn is to identify with fictional characters who aren’t like you and sometimes even profoundly conflict with your personal identity and values. You learn to do this because when you are coming from that position, if you strike from the list every character who doesn’t precisely reflect your values and identity, you are denying yourself the overwhelming majority of the options available.
And having those footholds, those points of affection and identification and fandom—that matters. It matters so much. Cyclops and I don’t have a ton in common superficially—in canon, he’s portrayed as a straight male-presenting person who grew up in an orphanage and shoots force beams out of his eyes; and I’m a queer female-presenting person who grew up with two (very cool) parents and no superpowers whatsoever. Cyclops is also often a total jerk a lot of the time; and especially in the Silver Age, he says and does somecompletely fucked up shit, including some things that are unambiguously sexist or racist.
But you know what? He’s still my favorite character, because there are things really fundamental to who I am and how I experience the world that I find reflected in Cyclops and almost nowhere else in fiction. Because having him available to me as a metaphor helps me parse shit that I otherwise do not have the tools to handle. Because I am never, ever going to find a paper mirror that reflects all of the complicated, faceted aspects of my identity and experiences—and guess what? no human being is—so I find and cobble together points of identification where I can.
Ultimately, though, that’s secondary to my main point. You do not get to decide what other people are allowed to like. Independent of action, liking things—or disliking them—is not itself an ethically charged act. What you are doing here does not serve a greater good. It does not speak to ethical consumption of fiction, or ethical anything. It’s just petty and cruel.
Look, AF, it’s okay if Nightcrawler’s Catholicism is a deal-breaker for you, personally. That is just fine. You are absolutely not obliged to like everything your friend likes, and you shouldn’t have to answer to their preferences or personal rubrics for the fiction they consume any more than they should have to answer to yours. But part of being a friend is recognizing that you are not the same person. Of the fictional characters and real people in this scenario, there’s only one trying to impose rigid dogma aggressively enough to do harm—and it’s not Nightcrawler.
(Also, your understanding of both Nightcrawler’s historical portrayal in X-Menand the relationship between Catholic dogma and the politics and personal views of individual Catholics is just spectacularly off-base.)
They’ll block your optic blasts AND give you +4 to Inscrutable Coolness!
A question we get pretty frequently is “Where did Rachel get those red sunglasses?” The answer–almost universally–is “Which ones?”
I own a lot of red sunglasses–in fact, for a long time, all the sunglasses I owned were red. It’s part homage, part aesthetic preference (red sunglasses are cool, okay?), and part security blanket: Cyclops is a character I identify pretty closely with for a lot of reasons, and the sunglasses have become a pretty central touchstone for that metaphor. (Plus, everyone needs at least one ridiculous visual affectation, right?)
Suffice to say: I’ve gotten really good at hunting down red sunglasses. And this week, I’m going to teach you my secrets.
No, seriously. I own a lot of red sunglasses.
Fair warning: This is gonna get involved. In fact, it’s gonna get involved enough that I decided pretty early on to break it into three parts. Part one will cover the movie versions of Cyclops’s shades. Part two will be a general hunting guide–where and how to search for what you’re after, brands, options, and some personal favorites. And in part three, I’ll point you to real-world matches for specific pairs from the comics. (If you’ve got any requests on that front, drop ’em in the comments here, and I’ll see what I can do!)
I’m starting with the movies because they’re the most precise of the bunch in terms of brands and details (to a point, anyway, but we’ll get into that shortly). With one exception, they’re also the highest-ticket items by a wide margin. Most of the sunglasses you’ll see in the later installments of this guide will hover around or under $20; but these can pretty easily run you upwards of $500, depending on the level of precision and customization you’re after.
Click through for the red lenses of the silver screen! (Includes a very minor spoilers for X-Men: Days of Future Past.)
Elle Collins and I spend a lot of time talking about X-Men and the Marvel Universe, but this week, we did it on the record! R&MXtXM tends to be really continuity-crunchy and microfocused; being a guest on Into It was a really different (and really fun) chance to take a more macro look at comics and characters I love, starting with X-Men and ultimately sprawling into most of the Marvel Universe (with bonus Heathers, terrifying Franklin Richards, and more).
The 2008 live-action Speed Racer movie is one of my favorite movies of all time. I’ve seen it easily a dozen times, and I still think it should have won every single possible award, including the ones for which it doesn’t technically qualify and a special new award made specifically to recognize Emile Hirsch’s perfect delivery of the perfect line “Inspector Detector suspected foul play.”
Consider: Comics Cyclops is basically cosplaying Racer X at this point. Scott Porter, who played pre-Racer X Rex Racer in the 2008 film, voiced Cyclops in both the X-Men anime and the Marvel Heroes MMO; and Racer X’s movie costume is pretty much exactly Cyclops’s old X-Factor uniform, down to the color scheme.
I realize that that these things totally fail to resolve into anything resembling a respectable conspiracy theory. But I still feel vaguely that there should be something there, if only because finding a way to neatly streamline my pop-culture obsessions would probably save a lot of time and action-figure shelf space.
We also want to take a moment to note that making a good movie does not give Bryan Singer a pass for allegedly raping children. Whether that affects your decision to see Days of Future Past is your call—we’re not advising one way or the other—but either way, we hope you’ll join us in making a donation to RAINN.
This week, writer Greg Rucka will be joining us to talk about the Starjammers and his new Cyclops ongoing series! If you have questions for us or for Greg, stick ’em in the comments below or our Tumblr askbox, or tweet ’em to @RaeBeta with the hashtag #xplainthexmen!