Thursday

OMU: X-Men -- Year Four

Due to the fact that their title had been effectively cancelled—running only reprinted material—the activities of the X-Men during the next twelve months of the characters’ lives remain essentially unrecorded. It is unlikely that they spent the whole time sitting around the kitchen table drinking coffee, so the entire year is basically one big Untold Tale of the Original Marvel Universe! Since the characters did make a number of guest appearances in other titles, and one of them, the Beast, was given a brief solo run in a “try-out” series, we can construct a rough framework of the context in which these unknown adventures occurred. Some things we do know: Iceman returns to the fold after striking out on his own; Lorna Dane is a member of the team for about the first seven or eight months of the year; Magneto is out of commission for most of this period; and Hank, Scott, Warren, and Jean finally all graduate for real. Beyond that, readers are free to invent their own tales, for the Original Marvel Universe is a closed system, and such made-up stories therefore carry no more nor less weight than anything cooked up by people like Chris Claremont and John Byrne. The only sin is violating established continuity (or common sense), and even the pros are frequently guilty of that.

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.


Onward with the fifth installment of… The True History of the X-Men!


January 1965 – Professor Xavier travels to Hoover Dam to join Reed Richards, as well as General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross and his staff, to initiate their project to cure the Hulk. Sure enough, the Hulk is lured into their trap and subjected to tremendous amounts of electricity, which renders him unconscious. However, as they are moving the Hulk to a stasis chamber where they will be able to study him, the green-skinned brute suddenly vanishes into thin air. Both Professor Xavier and Reed Richards are baffled, and neither is able to find any trace of the Hulk anywhere on earth. Frustrated, General Ross orders the project suspended indefinitely.

Meanwhile, Magneto has escaped from his specially-prepared prison and kidnaps Black Bolt, drawing the mutant master of magnetism into conflict with the royal family of the Inhumans. Magneto’s powers, which have been slowly affecting his brain for years, have now driven him almost completely insane. At the climax of the battle, Magneto is caught in a tremendous explosion and is nearly killed. It will be many months before he recovers.

February 1965 – In New York City, Bobby Drake celebrates his 17th birthday. He continues to pursue a career as a solo crime-fighter, although this means delaying finishing his junior year at Xavier’s. He begins to find his solo act to be lonely and dispiriting.

March 1965 – After spending what would normally be “Spring Break” with his parents on Long Island, Bobby decides to return to Xavier’s school and finish his education. The X-Men are happy to have him back, and he and Lorna decide they can just be friends.

April 1965 – Jean Grey celebrates her 18th birthday.

June 1965 – Scott Summers, Warren Worthington III, and Jean Grey all finally receive their high school diplomas from Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Hank McCoy also graduates, having earned a B.S. in genetics. Hank is eager to begin his career as a researcher at the Brand Corporation, a job which Professor Xavier helped secure for him. Hank says goodbye to his teammates and drives away. Bobby starts an intensive summer school program to make up for the time he spent in NYC. After a couple weeks of vacation, Hank reports to his new job at Brand’s Genetic Research Subdivision complex on Long Island, where he is assigned a laboratory and an assistant, a beautiful young blonde named Linda Donaldson. He also meets a more senior scientist, the temperamental Dr. Carl Maddicks.

July 1965 – After working closely together for a few weeks, a romance develops between Hank and Linda Donaldson. Sadly, her eagerness to get close to him is merely a function of her role as a spy for the subversive organization called the Secret Empire. Blissfully unaware, Hank throws himself headlong into his work, trying to isolate the hormone that triggers human mutations.

August 1965 – Professor Xavier becomes concerned about the dangerous potential of Alex Summers’ mutant power, and so he asks Lorna Dane to visit Alex in New Mexico to persuade him to return to the X-Men. On her way out to the remote house where Alex is staying, Lorna is accosted by a motorcycle gang. However, she causes them all to wipe out with her magnetic powers. Frightened, Lorna flees into the desert and eventually finds Alex. The Hulk suddenly drops out of the sky, however, believing her to be his lost love Jarella. The Hulk is angered when he realizes he is mistaken, and Alex must use the power of Havok to rescue Lorna. Afterwards, Alex convinces Lorna to leave the X-Men and stay with him in New Mexico. Their long-simmering romance finally comes to a head and they become lovers.

October 1965 – At the Brand Corporation, Hank McCoy succeeds in isolating the mutation-triggering hormone, but learns that spies intend to steal it that night. Panicking, Hank ingests the hormone extract and is suddenly transformed into a gray-furred ape-like creature with fangs. He goes on a rampage, attacking the Brand Corporation personnel, and nearly kills the treacherous Dr. Maddicks before regaining his senses. Later that night, he receives a telepathic communiqué from Professor X and Marvel Girl, but he angrily rebuffs them. That night, he crafts a disguise that will allow him to pass as Hank McCoy, but he realizes he has been permanently transformed into a new kind of Beast.

The next night, the Beast battles Iron Man, and is tricked by Mastermind into believing he has killed the Golden Avenger. Unable to think straight, the Beast then falls in with Mastermind and his two associates, the Blob and Unus the Untouchable. With the Beast’s help, they steal a large diamond from a Manhattan townhouse, but later Hank’s mind clears and he defeats the three criminals, leaving Mastermind suffering from a mental breakdown. Later, Hank finds Iron Man and learns that he is still very much alive. Then, he returns to Brand and tries to explain away his disappearances to security chief Captain Robert “Buzz” Baxter.

Meanwhile, the X-Men team up with Spider-Man to battle Morbius, the Living Vampire. Professor X again tries to contact Hank, but, intent on finding a way to reverse his transformation, he tells the Professor that he is unavailable. Morbius is defeated and imprisoned in Professor Xavier’s lab, so that a cure for his vampire-like condition may be found.

The Beast then fights Quasimodo when the villainous android breaks into the Brand Corporation complex. Injured in the battle, Hank stumbles into the arms of Captain Baxter’s red-haired wife, Patsy. Unexpectedly, the Beast’s fur suddenly changes from gray to bluish-black, as his body adjusts to the artificially-induced mutation. After he comes to, Hank confides in Patsy, and she is sympathetic. However, she extracts a promise from him to make her a super-heroine in exchange for keeping his secret. With little choice, Hank agrees. Later, the Beast is attacked by a creature called the Griffin, who is in the employ of the Secret Empire. Their battle is interrupted by the Angel, who has come to see what has happened to Hank. Warren provides an alibi for Hank with the people at Brand, which Patsy Baxter happily corroborates. Later, the Beast and the Angel defeat the Griffin.

After Warren leaves, Hank is surprised by Vera Cantor, who has been searching for him. She desperately needs his expertise in mutations, and he agrees to go with her to Canada. Unfortunately, when Hank requests a week off, he is fired for excessive absenteeism. After giving in to a temper tantrum, Hank storms out of Brand. He and Vera get on the road immediately. On the way to Québec, however, their car breaks down just outside Rutland, Vermont. It is Halloween, and the city’s annual Halloween Parade is underway. During the festivities, Hank is drawn into battle with the Juggernaut. The Beast is able to defeat him, though, and finally the Juggernaut is drawn back into the other dimension from which he emerged. The next morning, Hank and Vera buy a car from a local farmer and continue on their way north.

November 1965 – Hank and Vera finally arrive at their destination, a remote cabin in the Canadian woods, where they find Calvin Rankin, the Mimic, who is now Vera’s boyfriend. Hank learns that Rankin’s mutant powers have gone haywire, and threaten to absorb the life force of everyone on earth. The Hulk is drawn into their plans, but in the end, Rankin decides to sacrifice his life rather than pose a danger to the human race. The Hulk goes on his way, and Hank tries to comfort the distraught Vera.

December 1965 – With no job to return to, Hank stays in the remote cabin, where he celebrates his 22nd birthday alone. He is reevaluating his life in light of his transformation, and whether it is worth the trouble to continue trying to disguise himself as a normal man. He is tormented by the fact that, unless he can reverse his transformation, he cannot continue his love affair with Linda Donaldson.


Notes:

January 1965 – Professor X joins Reed Richards and General Ross in their attempt to cure the Hulk in Avengers #88. The Hulk’s sudden disappearance is due to his being kidnapped by the insectoid creature Psyklop. Magneto’s battle with the Inhumans is shown in Amazing Adventures #9–10. The degenerative effects of Magneto’s powers on his own brain were explored specifically in later issues of various X-Men titles, but it is clearly evidenced in this story, in which he is portrayed as very nearly a gibbering lunatic.

June 1965 – Jean Grey apparently transferred back to Xavier’s for her senior year, after spending the previous academic year at the school in Manhattan, since the whole storyline, and Ted Roberts with it, was dropped, never to be mentioned again. Hank’s job at the Brand Corporation, and the various people he met there, were all part of his series of solo stories in Amazing Adventures #11–16.

August 1965 – The Hulk’s battle with Havok is presented in Hulk #150. Presumably, Lorna Dane has been a member of the X-Men for the last ten months, learning to control her magnetic powers. It is unclear whether she has yet adopted the code-name “Polaris,” which was thought up years later.

October 1965 – All of the Beast’s solo stories in Amazing Adventures take place in the span of a single month. The mutation-triggering chemical that Hank McCoy discovers is basically the same thing that the Inhumans call terrigen. Patsy Baxter is soon revealed to be none other than Marvel’s “girl comics” star Patsy Walker, who has married Buzz Baxter, her sweetheart in those stories. She would later become a member of the Defenders as the acrobatic Hellcat. Reportedly, comics like Patsy Walker and Patsy & Hedy exist in both the real world and the Marvel Universe; only in the latter, they’re based on real people. Patsy makes a deal with the Beast in a flashback in Avengers #144. Hank loses his job in a flashback in Avengers #140. Meanwhile, the X-Men, appearing only in street clothes, join Spider-Man to battle Morbius in Marvel Team-Up #4. The Beast remains unaware of all the other weirdness going on in Rutland on Halloween night.

November 1965 – The Beast witnesses the sad fate of the Mimic in Hulk #161. Despite retcons to the contrary, Calvin Rankin really did die at this point in the Original Marvel Universe.





No comments:

Post a Comment