While their book continued to run only reprinted stories, the X-Men were at least involved in an ongoing storyline of sorts during the next twelve months experienced by the characters. Between a minor guest-starring role in a couple issues of Avengers and the Secret Empire saga in Captain America, members of the X-Men made only a few cameo appearances, but they were tied into a vague “missing mutants” scenario. Much of their role in this storyline, however, occurred behind the scenes and remains unrecorded. As such, it would make a fascinating Untold Tale of the Original Marvel Universe, in the “Ten Little Indians” psychological thriller mold.
During this time, the X-Men were frequently depicted wearing their original uniforms again, rather than the individual costumes introduced back in Uncanny X-Men #39. I believe this is merely an error in presentation, and, despite efforts to account for it in the dialogue and in later retcons, it does not reflect what was actually the case in the Marvel Universe. Such mistakes were not uncommon, particularly where the X-Men were concerned. For example, in Captain America #173, we see Cyclops blasting the ground with his eye beams and starting a raging fire. On the cover of that issue, his optic blast is shown to be melting a gun. However, we know for a fact that his eye beams generate force, not heat. In the preceding issue, Marvel Girl is shown to levitate both Captain America and the Falcon simultaneously from within a city all the way out to a rural area. I don’t think she was that powerful. Likewise, in #174, the Falcon receives a telepathic warning from Professor X, who then comments that the Falcon’s reception of the message marks him as a man with a paranormal mind. This is clearly ridiculous, since Professor X can project his thoughts into anybody’s mind with consummate ease. In fact, that’s his power. It requires no special qualities in the mind of the receiver. Also, in the Beast’s appearances in Captain America #173, 174, and 183, he is colored gray again rather than dark blue. Rather than trying to explain away these obvious gaffes, it is easier to just acknowledge that the comics themselves sometimes are an unreliable account of what transpired in the Marvel Universe.
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 here is the sixth installment of… The True History of the X-Men!
January 1966 – Magneto breaks into Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, knocks out the Angel, and steals back the costume he had given the young mutant in the Savage Land over a year ago. Magneto then defeats the X-Men in a surprise attack. During the battle, the unconscious Angel is kidnapped by agents of the Secret Empire. The Avengers arrive on the scene, and are nearly defeated by Magneto as well, but with Daredevil’s help, the heroes ultimately triumph and the villain is taken into custody. Professor Charles Xavier then realizes the Angel has disappeared, but they are unable to find any trace of him. About a week later, the Beast is ambushed in the Canadian woods by agents of the Secret Empire, and he too is taken prisoner. Soon, Professor X learns of the Beast’s disappearance as well.
February 1966 – Professor Xavier enlists the aid of FBI Special Agent Fred Duncan to locate his missing students. Bobby Drake celebrates his 18th birthday. Meanwhile, Mesmero is kidnapped by agents of the Secret Empire.
March 1966 – The Blob and Unus the Untouchable are both kidnapped by agents of the Secret Empire.
April 1966 – Jean Grey celebrates her 19th birthday. Professor Xavier and Agent Duncan contact S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jakuna Singh and Shanna O’Hara to tell them the mutant known as the Mandrill is at large in their area, as is a very powerful unidentified second mutant, and potentially they threaten all of Africa. In closing, Professor Xavier asks that they be kept informed of any unusual occurrences either Singh or O’Hara might encounter. Meanwhile, Mastermind, still recovering from his recent mental breakdown, is kidnapped by agents of the Secret Empire.
May 1966 – While Iceman is off searching for clues as to the disappearances of his teammates, Morbius escapes from the Professor’s laboratory. Cyclops offers to go after the vampire, but Professor X says it is more important that they focus on the problem of the missing mutants. Meanwhile, Alex Summers and Lorna Dane are both kidnapped by agents of the Secret Empire.
June 1966 – Bobby Drake receives his high school diploma and graduates from Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Then, feeling rather shorthanded, Professor X, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl travel to New Mexico to enlist the aid of Havok and Polaris, only to discover their abduction. While there, the trio find themselves called upon to defeat the Juggernaut after his battle with the Hulk. Meanwhile, while on another scouting mission, Iceman is kidnapped by agents of the Secret Empire.
September 1966 – Agent Duncan is murdered by the Secret Empire when his investigation of the “missing mutants” phenomenon brings him too close to the truth.
October 1966 – While investigating Fred Duncan’s murder, Professor X finally discovers a connection between the mutant abductions and a PAC known as the Committee to Regain America’s Principles, which is a front for the subversive organization called the Secret Empire. The X-Men begin investigating the Committee.
November 1966 – The Committee to Regain America’s Principles is engaged in a media campaign to discredit Captain America and to promote the armored gladiator called Moonstone as a true hero for the American people. The X-Men’s investigation leads them to join forces with Captain America and the Falcon to bring down the Secret Empire. In the subversive organization’s secret underground base, located somewhere in the American southwest, the heroes finally discover the nine missing mutants, all hooked up to a sinister machine that is siphoning off the peculiar mutant energies within their bodies. Unfortunately, before they can effect a rescue, the heroes are laid low by the Secret Empire’s energy weapon called an “atomic annihilator.” However, they are revived shortly afterward by Gabe Jones and Peggy Carter, two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who have infiltrated the organization and made sure the weapon’s rays were not lethal.
While Professor X stays with the X-Men’s aircraft, Cyclops and Marvel Girl join the two secret agents, Captain America, and the Falcon in stowing away on the flying saucer with which the Secret Empire intends to conquer America. Once the saucer has landed on the White House lawn, the heroes attack the Empire’s personnel and defeat them. Outside, Captain America tackles the Secret Empire’s leader, known as Number One. Then, after defeating Moonstone, Cap chases Number One into the White House. Moments later, Marvel Girl receives a psychic flash from Captain America, who has just unmasked Number One and discovered him to be none other than President Morris N. Richardson himself. His secret revealed, President Richardson pulls out a gun and shoots himself in the head. Cap is devastated, and Marvel Girl feels sick to her stomach. The government is able to cover it up, however, and Vice President William Miller, cleared of any connection to the Secret Empire, is sworn in as President. Only Captain America, Marvel Girl, Cyclops, Professor X, and various S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel know the truth behind the conspiracy. Warren, Hank, Bobby, Alex, and Lorna remember little of their period of captivity.
December 1966 – Having realized that they need to learn to better control their powers, Alex and Lorna agree to return to Xavier’s school and join the X-Men. Warren must begin physical therapy to recover from his ten months of confinement. Hank is devastated by the revelation that his beloved Linda Donaldson was an agent of the Secret Empire, and so he elects to strike out on his own again, to rebuild his life as a furry blue Beast. Later, he celebrates his 23rd birthday.
January 1966 – The X-Men team up with the Avengers to battle Magneto once again in Avengers #110–111. The abductions of the Angel and the Beast are shown in flashback in Captain America #174.
April 1966 – Professor X makes a cameo appearance in Shanna the She-Devil #5. The unidentified second mutant turns out to be Nekra, which Xavier was presumably informed of later.
May 1966 – Morbius escapes the Professor’s lab in the flashback presented in Adventure Into Fear #20.
June 1966 – Professor X, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl put the kibosh on the Juggernaut in Hulk #172. Their discovery of the kidnapping of Alex and Lorna is shown in flashback in Captain America #173. Iceman’s disappearance is mentioned in the same issue.
September 1966 – The death of Special Agent Duncan was never detailed in any canonical story, but he disappeared after his cameo in Shanna the She-Devil #5. Thus, it makes perfect sense to have his death be tied in to the Secret Empire storyline.
November 1966 – The X-Men guest-star in the Secret Empire saga in Captain America #172–175. For the full story on President Morris N. Richardson, see OMU: POTUS -- Part Three.
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