Since the alphabet is the building block of our language, the Powet Alphabet is the building block of what makes us geeks.


When Timely comics became Marvel during the 1960s, creator Stan Lee, along with creators such as Jack Kirby and Steve Dtiko, helped the company create a new breed of superheroes. In the process, they introduced the world to Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and other soon-to-be household names. What made these guys so special was that unlike the characters created by their distinguished competition, it was easy to relate to these guys. For decades, fans read about people like Superman and Wonder Woman who had near-godlike power and an almost mythic stature. Even Batman, despite not having any powers, was the pinnacle of human achievement. With Marvel however, people read stories about people who had superpowers but had to deal with hang-ups and issues like we do. When they weren’t exploring the Negative Zone or fighting Doctor Doom, The Fantastic Four bickered and quarreled with each other like any other semi-functional family. In between battles with Kang the Conqueror and the Masters of Evil, the Avengers played cards, pulled pranks on each other, went shopping, and hung out as if they were a fraternity or club rather than a superhero group. Peter Parker, a.k.a Spiderman, was a normal teenager like anyone else (save for his superpowers of course), so he had to deal with grades, girls, and bullies as often as he had to deal with symbiotes, idiots with fishbowls for heads, and psychopaths flying on gliders. By the way, this is not to imply anything negative about DC, because there isn’t anyone who hasn’t grown up with Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne. Besides, DC themselves would adopt this real world approach to its heroes, with storylines about Green Arrow’s sidekick having a drug addiction and the Jason Todd Robin confronting an abusive husband.

Marvel comics also frequently dealt with social issues as well. Spiderman was all about responsibility and power, Captain America examined what it meant to be a patriot in modern day America, and Iron Man even tackled alcoholism. One comic book in particular captured the mood of the period like no other. It was called X-men, and its premise about a sub-race of humanity fighting for their very right to exist resonated perfectly with the struggles that the African American community had to face at the time. Over the next few decades, the X-men’s popularity would increase to staggering proportions, making it one of the best selling comics world wide, and spinning off into a franchise of movies, TV shows, video games, and toys.

X-men depicted the lives and struggles of mutants. Mutants were just like normal humans, except for a genetic mutation caused by what is known as the X-factor gene. When their genetic abnormality manifests itself (usually in the mutant’s teen years), they gain a special power. Some mutants also experience changes in their physical appearance. While some are able to hide and conceal their mutations, others aren’t so lucky, being given a hideous-monster like appearance or even becoming crippled by their power. It’s because of their mutant gifts, their destructive potential, and for many their freakish appearance that normal humans despise and fear them, making them outcasts. The X-men are a group of these outcasts, who use their unique gifts in order to defend humanity. The group was bought together by Professor Charles Xavier, who had a dream of peaceful coexistence between mutant and human. To this end, he established a school where mutants can train in the use of their power. This school also acts as the headquarters of the X-men, who defend humanity against mutant threats.

magnetoIn the early days of the X-men, the main mutant threat was a terrorist group called the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. They were led by a man known as Magneto, who was a survivor of the holocaust and a former friend of Charles Xavier. They worked together during the Korean war and were good friends until their views on human mutant relations drove them apart. While Xavier wanted peaceful coexistence between human and mutant, Magneto believed that mutants were the next step upwards in the evolutionary chain and since humanity won’t accept them, then it is their rightful place to dominate humanity. It is often said that the best villains are villains because they believe that their misdeeds are somehow justified. If that is true, then Magneto could very well possibly be the greatest comic book villain in history. Here was a man who was forced to endure the worst of what humanity had to offer and wanted to assert his dominance not out of sheer evil, but because he believed it to be what’s best for his people. He still remained sympathetic to his rival, standing alongside him whenever they had a mutual interest, and even took over as the headmaster of Xavier’s school for a time when Xavier was critically injured.

malcolmDoes any of this sound familiar to you? One man envisioned equality between human and mutant, while the other envisioned the domination of the mutant race over mankind, a goal he was willing to carry out by any means necessary. Xavier and Magneto were similar to the two top civil rights crusaders, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. While MLK sought unity between all races, Malcolm X wanted to insure the safety and prosperity of the African American people by any means necessary. While Malcolm X would not hijack submarines or take over Cape Canaveral (and neither him nor MLK would train paramilitary strikeforces composed primarily of teenagers), he often stressed how important it was for the black man and the black woman to defend themselves. Further parallels to race can be seen with the Hellfire Club, a group of aristocrat mutants that would be introduced several years later. While the Hellfire Club is an organization of the rich and powerful, its inner circle is made up of rich and powerful mutants who have their own agendas, similar to the black community’s rich elite of entertainers, athletes, and other professionals’ tendencies to assume that their social status puts them above their fellow African Americans. All too often however, they receive grim reminders that their financial status makes them no less a mutant than any member of the X-men or bortherhood, just as one’s multi-million dollar sports contract, law degree, or record deal does not make an African American any less black than someone who resides in a housing project. A perfect example of this was a storyline in which several members of the group were slaughtered by sentinels, giant robots whose development was assisted by Sebastian Shaw, who ironically was a mutant himself and head of the inner circle.

GiantsizexmenEnough about race though. In the early days of the comic, the X-men had several exciting adventures, and even teamed up with heroes such as the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man. However, the X-men weren’t doing so well saleswise. Rather than cancel the title outright, the next several issues of the comic after 66 were dedicated to reprints of earlier stories. (In late 1999 and early 2000, writer John Bryne explored what happened to the X-men during this period in the series X-men: The Hidden Years.) In the 70s, Marvel attempted to revive the comic, with new creators, a new cast of characters, and a new direction with Giant Size X-Men. The driving force behind this new direction was the team of writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum. They introduced a new multicultural team of mutants, spanning from all over the globe. This team had been recruited to rescue the original lineup which had gone MIA during a mission. They included Colossus, a Russian strongman who, despite his power to turn into living steel, was a gentle man who was devoted to his family and even took up art. There was also Banshee, an Irishman who had previously met the X-men as a mind-controlled villain. He had ties to a former romantic interest of Xavier’s and his mutant power was a loud sonic scream. Also joining the team was Nightcrawler. Despite his demonic appearance, he was actually a devout Christian and at one time a priest. Storm was another member of this new group. An African whose weather control power was so profound, that she was worshiped as a goddess by the people of Kenya. The Japanese Sunfire, whose flame power was perfectly suited to his hotheaded nature, ended up leaving after a few short missions. Then there was the ill-fated Native American Thunderbird, who was killed off in the very next issue, by b-list Marvel villain Count Nefaria. His death showed both the X-Men and the readers how high the stakes were for the group. The final member of this new lineup was Wolverine, whose first appearance was in an issue of the Incredible Hulk. Few realized it at the time, but this short tempered man with a yellow and black costume and silver claws in his arm would go on to become one of Marvel’s most popular and recognizable characters. Later on, the X-men were joined by Jewish teen Kitty Pryde and former rival Rogue. Rogue was an especially conflicted character. Her power causes her to absorb the memories and powers of whomever she touched. While any mutant’s power can be an issue to deal with, her power was especially a curse, as she is unable to have an intimate relationship with anyone. When this power first manifested, she left her then boyfriend Cody in a coma. Villain Mystique adopted her as her daughter, and she was manipulated into joining her version of the brotherhood, even beating the Avengers single handed. After a battle with the hero Ms. Marvel left her powers and personality almost permanently merged with her own psyche, Rogue sought out the X-men’s help.

darkpheonixIssue 93, which followed Giant Size X-men, was the start of an epic 16-year run for Chris Claremont. his stories redefined the X-men, and introduced many story norms that they are associated with. The X-men interacted with alien races such as the Brood and Shi’ar, encountered strange and dangerous new enemies, and even fought against Dracula. In one memorable storyline, X-woman Jean Grey merged with the essence of creation and traveled the stars before her apparent death during the Dark Phoenix Saga. Another storyline showed readers a nightmarish alternate future where the Sentinel robots took over the world, with the robots not only killing most of the X-men, but many of Marvel’s non-mutant heroes as well. Another storyline saw the massacre of an entire underground community of mutants ordered by a mysteriously unseen enemy of the X-men. There was also the classic graphic novel God Loves Man Kills, in which the X-men unite with Magneto against William Stryker, a reverend who believes that mutants are the spawn of Satan. Claremont’s run would end in 1991. However, he would still contribute to the book at times, such as parts of 2005’s House of M crossover and the subsequent Decimation storyarc. His current ongoing series, X-men Forever, depicts an alternate continuity with the X-men as he would have written them had his run not end. This series features such surprising plot twists as Cyclops having an elementary-school age son, Colossus being romantically involved with marvel heroine Black Widow, and the death of Wolverine at the hands of….Storm.


In the late 70s and early 80s, Marvel began to release several spin-off books based on the world of the X-men. A Wolverine limited series showcased the title character being the best he is at what he does, while laying the groundwork for an ongoing series featuring the character. New Mutants introduced readers to the next generation of mutant heroes, young mutants dealing with real life and teenage issues along with villains, in the spirit of the original X-men. Later on, after many writer, artist, and cast changes, the book was rechristened X-force. This new book, spearheaded by future Image writer/artist Rob Liefield, centered around the enigmatic Cable’s mission to take down the terrorist Mutant Liberation Front. Speaking of the five originals, member Jean Grey was resurrected (well actually retconned into not being dead to begin with in a particularly complicated storyline) so that they could star in the book X-factor. They posed as mutant hunters while secretly rescuing them and providing shelter. This book introduced a person one of the X-men’s greatest villains: En Sabah Nur, a.k.a. Apocalypse. This immortal mutant’s survival of the fittest philosophy drove his villainy, transforming various mutants into his horsemen. Among these mutants included many of the X-men’s number. Angel became the horseman of death before shaking his programming. However, the physical mutations would remain years later. The role of death was also briefly filed by the morlock Caliban who sought to avenge his fellow morlocks, and even Wolverine.


In the early 90s, Jim Lee was the artist behind all new X-men book, which ran alongside the long standing Uncanny X-men. The costume designs that were depicted in the book were significant, because they were the character designs that were adopted for Fox’s X-men animated series. Because of that classic Saturday morning cartoon show, the X-men became more popular than ever, and Jim Lee’s costume designs were the X-men’s most recognizable look. Capcom and Sega had even adopted them for their blockbuster X-men video games.

aoaIn the mid 90s, Marvel once again turned the world of the X-men upside down. A four-month event entitled “The Age of Apocalypse” depicted a nightmarish alternate timeline in which Xavier was killed before he was able to form the X-men, and the villain Apocalypse took over the world. Things were turned upside down. Mutants who would be allies were villains, and the X-men’s (who in this reality were led by Magneto) ranks included people who would be enemies in the regular timeline. The storyline showed just how much Xavier meant to the world of the X-men.

xmenmovieWhen the movie was released to theaters in 2000, that helped to influence the direction of the X-men comics even more. The comic’s brightly colored costumes would not translate to the big screen, so director Brian Singer introduced military-style black leather costumes. The popularity of the movie led many writers to adapt parts of it to the comics, such as Toad’s new sleek look and Mystique’s scaly skin texture. Even if many of the changes were only temporarily, they made the translation to the comic pages quite well. A few months after the movie hit the screens, Marvel introduced the comic Ultimate X-men, a comic which was part of Marvel’s Ultimate comics line. The Ultimate line was geared towards new readers, and it’s mission was to provide readers with a fresh take on Marvel’s characters. There was already an Ultimate Spider-Man book, and a revamped version of the Avengers, retitled the Ultimates was on its way. The Ultimate iteration of the X-men showed Professor Xavier taking a more proactive approach to mutant affairs, and had featured surprises such as Wolverine originally being a member of Magneto’s Brotherhood, Colossus being gay, and a Nick Fury who was a dead ringer for Samuel L Jackson.

newxmenMeanwhile in the mainstream books, writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quietly took over the adjective-less X-men book in the summer of 2001, and renaming it New X-men. While his run didn’t last as long as Claremont’s had, it left just as large of an impression on readers. Morrison explored the idea of mutants being an entire subculture of humanity better than any other writer before him. His run also featured some of the most shocking moments in X-men history, such as the death of Jean Grey, the slaughter of nearly the entire populace of Genosha by sentinels, and a gruesome rampage in New York carried out by Magneto (who was revealed to be an impostor in a post-Morrison storyline that in this writer’s opinion was hugely convoluted). Shortly after Morrison and Quietly, Buffy and Angel creator Joss Whedon left his own unique stamp on the X-Universe with Astonishing X-men, a third ongoing X-men series. Though it had been hampered by a slow release schedule, Astonishing’s storylines played a huge role in shaping the X-men franchise for years to come. In particular, his opening storyarc about a ‘cure’ for mutant powers served as inspiration for the plot of the third X-men film.

astonishingToday, X-men remains one of the biggest and most popular comics created by any publisher. With its huge cast of diverse characters, epic storylines, and the explosive action, X-men stands in a class of its own.