What do the X-Men mean in the historical context of our world? The team was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, comic book legends who crafted soldiers, gods, teenagers, monsters, adventurers and placed them into the role of heroes. Each and every one of them, was grounded in our reality. The solider came onto scene at the time of Nazi Germany’s dark reign, the teenager had to deal with every day human struggles, the monster was an analogy for our emotions and how sometimes we just wanna let loose and give into the anger, while the adventurers were a family. Even the god at first was forced to inhabit the form of a human named, Donald Blake.
Then we have the X-Men. The symbol of the discriminated minority, came around at the time of the Civil Rights movement in America. Professor X and Magneto were inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. They were a team who represented the real world for what it was and to some this was the reason why we loved the X-Men, this is why we loved Marvel Comics. The book debuted in very domestically divided political times where writing such comics brought potential of risk. Finding fiction and reality to be inseparable. This is why I always loved the team so much, representing who we are as humanity. But lately we have seen a different version of the team. Going back to Professor X and Magneto, what made them so accurate was the two sides of the same coin. Both believed in good, but only Charles Xavier was trying to get there by peace. Magneto is the symbol of the dark side of humanity, thinking you’re doing the right thing, yet deep inside acting no different from the ones causing you harm.
Later in the team’s years some of the bad guys became heroes/anti-heroes, including Magneto, and the good guys became villains/outlaws like Cyclops and Emma Frost (not gonna discuss whether those were the right executions). What X-Men always did well was showcase the light, dark and the in between of us. The team was a reflection of the times. Yet can we say that today?
Recently the X-Men comic book lines had a huge relaunch dubbed, Resurrexion. It was supposed to be the return to glory after the team’s rocky 2010s. On paper it sounded great, then it came out and the title to bring about this new change forward was supposed to be X-Men: Gold. Reading this felt like reading the old comics from the Silver Age, so what was the problem? I was reading a comic almost exactly like the one from the Silver Age. X-Men have to come together, form a team with a new leader, protect the world, rival the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and face every day discrimination. With this I came to a conlusion: The X-Men have failed to reflect our real world.
Planet Earth and its inhabitants are very flawed, marginalization still exists, but it would be a lie to ignore the progress we have made. Civil rights movement, legalizing gay marriage, recognizing the victims of our history, our pop culture celebrating stories about minorities, bringing on a new light to the average eye. We have so many more miles to walk, believe me, but as humans we made accomplishments. However in X-Men everything stays the same, the world as equally hates the mutants. The team saves the world, they get hate. Non-mutants save the world and look like mutants? They don’t get hate. What gives? The latest Lemire run stated it has gotten worse. Now they both fear and hate them. Makes no sense logic wise and art direction wise. That is what’s so sad about the Uncanny group. It’s losing its meaning. It no longer represents America or the world as it is, only continues to try to walk a familar path. X-Men need to start to change with the times or else they will no longer be the X-Men, only a mere reflection of what once made them so special.
An amazing YouTuber named kaptainkristian in his video about Calvin & Hobbes called, Art Before Commerce explains what makes art so meaningful, especially one that remains relevant throughout time. He compared Calvin and Hobbes to some other comic strips. They often rely on the same punchline, for example every Garfield strip relied on a fat, grumpy cat and that was it. That was supposed to the entire joke. It becomes formulaic and lazy. It turns into a gag.
Is this what we want? We want the messages to turn into overdone shticks? The X-Men are lost in a loop of big event comics, explosions, pow, pow, and temporary death of its characters. It has become commerce over Art. It tries to always play off of the things that made the group so popular, yet maybe it’s time to course correct. We can’t expect the same messages to hold the same amount of impact like they once used to. Saying we should be equal no longer takes guts. Why are these characters pretending like it does? We also don’t wanna stray too far away from what makes these characters so cool. All is not lost. We’ve seen comics like Marvel Two-In-One where the themes of the Fantastic Four can be explored differently, yet consistently. The heroes were created at a time when all of America wouldn’t tolerate the messages found in the book like they would today. It was a risk. I ask Marvel Comics to stop trying to look like they’re bringing back the “Legacy”, instead actually bring it back in a way which isn’t so bound to its usual appearance. Then we will await the X-Men, be the X-Men.
Hopefully you guys enjoyed the post. Similar happened with the movie counterpart. Interesting a new one is coming out this year called Dark Phoenix where the X-Men are actually supposed to be adored by the public after saving the world so many damn times! Can you believe it? The X-Men movies are becoming more true to the team than the comics themselves? I am super excited for the movie, when before I could care less. Thankfully we got the Grand Design to at least remind us what they still mean in comics. Peace!