Monday

OMU: X-Men -- Year One

When Stan Lee & Jack Kirby introduced the X-Men in the first issue of their own title, the team of young superheroes was distinguished in two main ways. First, they came by their powers naturally, being born as mutants, rather than gaining them later through exposure to radiation, magic, technology, or what have you. Second, the creators opted to skip over the usual origin story and get right down to business. The issue begins with the fifth and final member of the team arriving to join the rest of the group, but how they all came together in the first place was left for later. Much later, as it turned out. Eventually, most of the characters’ origins were explored in a series of back-up stories which supplemented the primary narrative.

Otherwise, the book got off to a mundane start, and the team was seen as rather derivative of the Fantastic Four model. Plus, the team’s arch-nemesis, Magneto, turned up again and again in the first year or so, giving the book a somewhat repetitive feel. Stan’s scripting was uneven, Jack’s pencils were uninspired, and the inking of Paul Reinman and Chic Stone left much to be desired. Who could have guessed that this modest effort would eventually develop into Marvel’s flagship title and eclipse the popularity of all the rest of the company’s heroes?

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


And now, on with the second installment of… The True History of the X-Men!


March 1962 – Charles Xavier travels to Washington, DC and meets with FBI Special Agent Amos “Fred” Duncan. He and Duncan make a deal to help each other track down potentially dangerous mutants. One such mutant, Jack Winters, bullies Scott Summers, who has run away from the Nebraska orphanage to New York City, into being his partner in crime. Xavier rescues Scott, and Winters perishes in the fight. Xavier and Scott return to Salem Center, where 16-year-old Scott Summers becomes Cyclops.

Meanwhile, Magnus, who has been working as a Nazi hunter for the American and Israeli intelligence services, turns on his handlers when they murder his girlfriend Isabelle. He determines there is no hope for mutantkind unless they conquer the world for themselves.

April 1962 – While Xavier trains Cyclops in the use of his powers, young Warren Worthington III sprouts wings at his private school. A fire in the dormitory prompts Warren to disguise himself as an angel to rescue his classmates.

May 1962 – While on a date, Bobby Drake and his girlfriend are attacked by some local hoodlums, prompting Bobby to lash out with his mutant powers. A mob attacks his home and drags him off to jail. A report in the next day’s newspaper draws the attention of Charles Xavier. Cyclops goes to Long Island, but gets into a fight with Bobby after busting him out of prison. The mob is about to lynch the two boys when Xavier, realizing things have gotten out of hand, uses his powers to erase the memories of the incident from the townspeople. Bobby Drake becomes Iceman at the age of 14.

June 1962 – Charles Xavier creates Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, based in his home at 1407 Greymalkin Lane, Salem Center, New York.

July 1962 – Warren Worthington III is spending his summer in New York City fighting crime as the costumed superhero “The Avenging Angel.” Cyclops and Iceman go to NYC and persuade him to join the X-Men. Warren transfers to the new school and becomes the Angel at age 16. Meanwhile, The Fantastic Four discover the mysterious Blue Area of the moon.

August 1962 – Professor X trains Cyclops, Iceman, and Angel in the use of their powers. He perfects the mutant-detecting computer CEREBRO.

September 1962 – College freshman Hank McCoy is kidnapped by a criminal calling himself the Conquistador, who is holding Hank’s parents hostage to force him to assist in a major robbery. Hank complies, but when the Conquistador refuses to keep his part of the bargain, Hank attacks. The McCoys are rescued by the X-Men and the Conquistador perishes during the battle. 18-year-old Hank McCoy joins the X-Men as the Beast. Shortly thereafter, Jean Grey transfers to the school as well and becomes the 15-year-old Marvel Girl.

October 1962 – Magnus, now calling himself “Magneto,” launches his first attack against homo sapiens in the name of homo superior—mutants. He captures the U.S. military base at Cape Canaveral, home of America’s most advanced weaponry. Professor X sends the X-Men on their first public mission. They manage to drive Magneto from the base, but he escapes. Shortly afterward, the Vanisher steals vital defense plans from the U.S. government. The X-Men travel to Washington, DC, where Professor X neutralizes the Vanisher’s powers. The X-Men are hailed as heroes. The Vanisher is turned over to a government research program headed by Dr. Steven Lang.

November 1962 – The X-Men meet Iron Man when an accident over Stark Industries causes the Angel to become unhinged. After he returns to normal, the X-Men battle the Blob. Later, Iceman meets the Human Torch and they battle Captain Barracuda. Meanwhile, Magneto gathers his Mutant Brotherhood.

December 1962 – Professor X and Magneto confront each other on the astral plane after Magneto conquers the Latin American republic of Santo Marco. The X-Men travel to Central America and battle the so-called “Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.” Quicksilver prevents Magneto from detonating a nuclear bomb, and the X-Men return home. However, Magneto soon kidnaps the Angel and takes him to Asteroid M. The X-Men rescue the Angel and Asteroid M is utterly destroyed. Then, the Mad Thinker and the Puppet Master goad the X-Men into battling the Fantastic Four. The villains escape, but the two teams part on friendly terms. Hank celebrates his 19th birthday. Later, the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants both fight the Sub-Mariner.


Notes:

March 1962 – Xavier’s meeting with Agent Duncan and his subsequent recruitment of Cyclops was chronicled in the back-up stories in Uncanny X-Men #38–42. Magneto’s early career as a Nazi hunter is shown in Classic X-Men #19.

April 1962 – Warren’s fateful choice to don a costume and rescue his classmates was presented in the second story in Uncanny X-Men #54.

May 1962 – Iceman’s origin was shown in the back-up stories in Uncanny X-Men #44–46.

July 1962 – Warren’s early career as the Avenging Angel was revealed in the second stories in Uncanny X-Men #55–56. The Fantastic Four’s discovery of the Blue Area of the moon, which would gain tragic significance for the X-Men years later, was shown in Fantastic Four #13.

September 1962 – The backstory of the Beast was detailed in Uncanny X-Men #50–53, fleshing out the flashbacks presented in Uncanny X-Men #15. The often-neglected Marvel Girl, who didn’t get a storyline in the first “Origins of the X-Men” series, had to wait until the black & white magazine Bizarre Adventures #27 (July 1981) for her early years to see print. She joins the team in Uncanny X-Men #1. Although it seems like she arrives in the morning and they all go off to battle Magneto in the afternoon, I believe the events were condensed for dramatic effect.

October 1962 – The X-Men begin their confrontations with the world’s evil mutants in Uncanny X-Men #1 and following. Magneto’s target is called “Cape Citadel” in the original story, then later referred to simply as “the Cape” in Captain Marvel, and finally revealed as Cape Canaveral (or Cape Kennedy) in Ms. Marvel. Steven Lang is seen examining the Vanisher in a flashback in Uncanny X-Men #100. The Vanisher is experimented on for about six months until his memory is inadvertently restored and he makes his escape.

November 1962 – Iron Man encounters the merry mutants in their first crossover appearance, presented in Tales of Suspense #49. Iceman guest-stars in the Human Torch story in Strange Tales #120.

December 1962 – The Fantastic Four take the X-Men’s measure in Fantastic Four #28. The Beast’s birthday is shown in X-Men: The Hidden Years #22. Although John Byrne’s ill-considered series is distinctly non-canonical, I am willing to occasionally accept pieces of biographical information such as this. The X-Men and Magneto both first meet the Sub-Mariner in Uncanny X-Men #6.


Previous Issue: Uncanny X-Men -- Prelude



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