Blogging TBS: The Uncanny X-Men


I tell you these days, it almost feels cliche to cite the X-Men as an influence. But what can I say? I don't think I'd have much of a memoir, without them. If it's true, it's true. I mentioned in one of my other posts that absence of religion in my house caused me to search for god-like figures in other places. The X-Men seemed cut right out of what you'd expect from Greek mythology, but with a twist--they were like us. I think in some respect all kids feel alienated. I just knew it was my destiny to be living out in Columbia or Randallstown, going to a school where every day I wasn't thinking about how to not catch a bad one. I just knew there'd been some horrible mix-up. And I just knew I was possessed with something that the wider world wasn't recognizing. Later I discovered what that was--a huge ego.But in those days, when I was trapped in a victim narrative, the X-Men were an allegory for my life--or at least how I wished my life was.

Here it was--It's not because of jacked-up fade, my NBA kicks (Next time Buy Adidas), my ashy knees or big lips that I got teased. It's because I can walk through walls, because my bones don't break, and eyes shoot that sort of darts that punch through steel. Later, as I got older, and became conscious, I developed a more mature interpretation and came to see the X-Men, and all mutants, as like a stand-in for West Baltimore, the South Bronx, and North Philly. In other words, the X-Men repped for anyone in the grand scheme who was under pressure.

That was on a personal level--on a "literary influence" level, I just loved how each X-Men were all originals--you had all these conflicting motives and personalities who were basically forced together as a family. Wolverine is a star these days, so the less said about him the better. But Rogue, with all her great powers, having to deal with split personalities, and having stolen Ms. Marvel's life. Shadowcat as this precocious kid in a grown-up world. Colossus as this brawler with the soul of an artist.

And my favorite, my absolute favorite, was Storm. I guess you could take issue with her straight hair, and blue eyes, but I didn't see any of that as a kid. What I saw was the sort of incredible depiction of a black woman that you simply didn't see in the the 80s, anywhere. When I started reading the Uncanny X-Men, she'd lost her powers, but was still the head of the group. So she had to deal with basically being the weakest member, and yet the leader. Plus she had that bad-ass silver mohawk. How could not love that.

The cover above is from the first issue of the Mutant Massacre, one of Chris Claremont's best stories, I think. You can read about it here. More significant to me, though, is that that group on the front will always be the classic line-up. They were all so much more beautiful and complicated than the originals.