Tuesday

OMU: X-Men -- Year Three

While many of Marvel’s other titles were really starting to take off, the beleaguered X-Men continued to falter. The book suffered numerous changes in creative personnel, and perhaps inevitably, it often wandered rather far afield of its basic premise. Instead of meeting and/or battling interesting new mutants, the team too often tangled with non-mutant menaces from the backwaters of the Marvel Universe, such as Merlin/Warlock/Maha Yogi, Tyrannus, Blastaar, and Frankenstein’s Monster. The revolving door in the artistic department didn’t help matters any, and even the management’s hopes of kick-starting the franchise by offering it to hot new artist Jim Steranko were dashed when he quit after two issues. The X-Men’s fortunes began to improve dramatically when Roy Thomas returned to work with fan-favorite artist Neal Adams, ably abetted by star inker Tom Palmer. Unfortunately, the writing was already on the wall, and, citing consistently low sales, Marvel cancelled the book. Things did not look at all promising for the future of Marvel’s merry band of mutants.

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, we continue with the fourth installment of… The True History of the X-Men!


January 1964 – Early in the month, the X-Men are attacked by a sorcerer calling himself the Warlock, who had previously fought Thor. After his defeat, the X-Men are startled when they hear HYDRA’s worldwide broadcast of their ransom demands. Professor X assures the team the proper authorities have the situation well in hand. A few weeks later, the X-Men must battle Ted Roberts’ brother Ralph, a former Stark Industries engineer who has invented his own high-tech suit of armor and is calling himself Cobalt Man. During the battle, Ted realizes that Marvel Girl is really his classmate Jean Grey.

February 1964 – After celebrating Bobby Drake’s 16th birthday, Scott Summers and Jean Grey finally reveal their feelings for each other. They take their first tentative steps toward having a romantic relationship. Then, the X-Men must battle the Juggernaut after he escapes from a cell in the school’s basement where Professor X has spent the last eight months trying to telepathically rehabilitate him. While the X-Men are busy stopping the Juggernaut’s rampage, with some assistance from Doctor Strange, Charles Xavier is kidnapped by agents of Factor Three.

March 1964 – While the X-Men work to repair CEREBRO in order to search for the Professor, Ted Roberts calls Jean to ask for the X-Men’s help finding his kidnapped brother. They discover he was abducted by Tyrannus as part of his subterranean war with the Mole Man. The team rescues Ralph Roberts and returns to the surface.

April 1964 – In Europe, Banshee finally locates Factor Three’s headquarters, but a misunderstood warning causes the X-Men to get into a fight with Spider-Man. Meanwhile, Marvel Girl is able to pinpoint Banshee’s location through a device Professor X had given him, and the team is soon on their way to Europe. However, the X-Men are captured by their enemies and are shocked to discover that Factor Three consists of their old foes the Vanisher, the Blob, Mastermind, and Unus the Untouchable, as well as a new evil mutant called the Changeling. After an epic, globe-spanning battle, the X-Men defeat the forces of Factor Three and reveal its leader to be an alien attempting to conquer the earth. Freeing Professor X and Banshee, the team returns to Westchester, where Marvel Girl once again presents them with new, individualized costumes. Jean then celebrates her 17th birthday. A couple weeks later, the X-Men tangle with an android version of Frankenstein’s Monster.

May 1964 – The X-Men battle a subterranean menace calling himself “Grotesk,” but at the conclusion of the battle, Professor X is apparently killed. The X-Men are stunned and wracked with grief. After the Professor’s funeral, the X-Men attack Magneto at his island base in the Atlantic Ocean, but they lose the fight and are imprisoned. The Angel escapes and brings the Avengers to the rescue. The teams join forces and Magneto is defeated, but he is lost at sea. Returning home, the team is visited by Xavier’s old colleague, FBI Special Agent Fred Duncan, who officially disbands the X-Men. While trying to figure out what to do next, the Beast and Iceman have a rematch with the Warlock, now calling himself the Maha Yogi, in Greenwich Village.

June 1964 – Scott and Jean decide to spend the summer in New York City, where Jean gets work as a photographer’s model and Scott gets a job at a radio station. Warren Worthington III is also hanging around New York, where he and Agent Duncan solve the murder of Warren’s father. Meanwhile, Hank McCoy and Bobby Drake move out to San Francisco.

July 1964 – In San Francisco, Hank and Bobby meet a green-haired girl named Lorna Dane, and subsequently discover a plot by a mutant calling himself Mesmero to tap the power of the world’s many mutants with latent powers, such as Lorna. They are soon rejoined by Scott, Jean, and Warren, and the X-Men go into battle with Mesmero and Magneto (really a robot built by the Machinesmith). Lorna’s mutant powers are released, which are similar to Magneto’s. Cyclops infiltrates the villains’ headquarters disguised as “Erik the Red,” and this gives the X-Men the advantage they need to defeat their foes. The X-Men then take Lorna back to San Francisco.

August 1964 – The X-Men return to Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, and soon must battle Blastaar, who materializes in their headquarters. After getting nearly electrocuted, Blastaar’s comatose body is taken to the installation in upstate New York that will eventually be known as Project: PEGASUS, thanks to the intervention of Special Agent Duncan.

September 1964 – The X-Men attend the chaotic wedding of Janet Van Dyne and Henry Pym. Later, at the school, the team listens helplessly as an unidentified villain broadcasts a threat to blackout the entire nation if his demands are not met. Then, the X-Men meet Scott’s younger brother, Alex Summers, who is suddenly kidnapped by a villain calling himself the Living Pharaoh. Channeling Alex’s cosmic ray powers allows the Pharaoh to transform himself into a giant called the Living Monolith. He is no sooner defeated than the X-Men are captured by Sentinels, under the control of Larry Trask, son of the late Bolivar Trask, who wants revenge for his father’s death last year. The Sentinels manage to capture a number of mutants before the X-Men finally defeat them. Cyclops tricks the logic-bound robots into flying into the sun. Trask has given Alex a special costume that allows him to control his devastating mutant power, and also gives him the code-name Havok.

October 1964 – Alex is injured in the battle and is taken to Dr. Karl Lykos, a former associate of Professor Xavier’s. He, too, has superhuman powers, and exposure to Alex transforms him into the pterodactyl-like monster Sauron. After a battle with the X-Men over Manhattan, Sauron travels to Antarctica, where Lykos, after becoming human again, tries to commit suicide by throwing himself into a crevasse. The X-Men follow him down, and wind up back in the Savage Land. There, they discover the real Magneto, who has created a group of powerful mutates from the primitive Swamp Men. With a little help from Ka-Zar, the X-Men defeat Magneto, who is buried under the rubble of his destroyed fortress. Then, on their way home, the X-Men fight the Japanese mutant called Sunfire, both in New York City and Washington, DC.

Finally, the exhausted X-Men return to Westchester, where Alex and Lorna are waiting. The teammates are shocked to discover that Charles Xavier is very much alive. His apparent death was an unfortunate development in an elaborate ruse made possible by the terminally-ill shape-shifter called the Changeling, who wanted a chance to make up for his evil deeds. The Professor needed to prepare for a battle with the approaching Z’Nox invasion force. His gambit is successful, and the aliens are driven off. However, the Professor collapses from mental exhaustion, and while the X-Men are seeking an experimental treatment from Bruce Banner, they fight with the Hulk in Las Vegas. Their mission is successful, however, and Xavier makes a full recovery. Not long after, Bobby becomes jealous that Lorna prefers Alex, and they get into a fight. Alex moves to New Mexico to start college, and Bobby takes a leave of absence and goes to stay in New York City. Shortly, Iceman and Spider-Man get involved in the election shenanigans in the race between Franklin “Foggy” Nelson and Sam Bullit for District Attorney of New York. Bullit is corrupt, and when the two heroes expose him, he drops out of the race.

November 1964 – On Election Day, Republican candidate Morris N. Richardson defeats incumbent Lyndon Johnson in the presidential election, riding a wave of anti-mutant rhetoric. Sensing the mood of the country is turning especially ugly, Professor X decides the team should keep a low profile until it blows over. Later, Xavier is contacted by Reed Richards, who enlists his aid in a project designed to capture and cure the Hulk.

December 1964 – While the X-Men help Lorna learn to use her powers safely, Charles Xavier works with Tony Stark and Reed Richards in designing the devices that will shock the Hulk into unconsciousness and then free Bruce Banner from his monstrous alter-ego. The project is set up at Hoover Dam on the Nevada-Arizona border, under the supervision of General T.E. “Thunderbolt” Ross of the United States Air Force. Meanwhile, Magneto joins forces with the Sub-Mariner and launches an attack on the Fantastic Four. However, after betraying Namor, Magneto is defeated and taken into custody. Later, Hank McCoy celebrates his 21st birthday.

Notes:

January 1964 – We pick up the X-Men’s adventures in Uncanny X-Men #30 and following. The team makes a cameo appearance in the S.H.I.E.L.D. story in Strange Tales #156.

February 1964 – Bobby Drake’s birthday is established in Uncanny X-Men #32. Although the story claims it is Bobby’s 18th birthday, in fact the X-Men proved to be somewhat younger than at first thought. Scott and Jean’s heart-to-heart talk, begun in this issue, is continued in flashback in Uncanny X-Men #138.

April 1964 – Jean Grey’s birthday is shown in the non-canonical X-Men Unlimited #42 (April 2003).

May 1964 – The conclusion of the X-Men / Avengers team-up against Magneto is presented in Avengers #53.

June 1964 – The obscure tale of the Angel solving his father’s murder is featured in back-up stories in Ka-Zar Quarterly #2–3 and Marvel Tales #30.

September 1964 – The wedding of Yellowjacket and the Wasp is shown in Avengers #60. The unidentified villain is Egghead, and his broadcast is heard by various superheroes, including the X-Men, in Sub-Mariner #14.

October 1964 – To repel the Z’Nox invasion fleet, Professor X generates a telepathic field of such power that he inadvertently makes mental contact with the alien princess Lilandra of the Shi’ar Empire, who is on the run from her despotic brother Emperor D’Ken, as revealed in Uncanny X-Men #107 and the back-up story in Classic X-Men #14. The X-Men’s battle with the Hulk is seen in Uncanny X-Men #66, after which the book contained only reprinted material for several years. Despite this semi-cancellation, however, members of the team continued to make guest-appearances in other titles during this period. Iceman’s fight with Havok over who gets to be Lorna’s boyfriend appears in a flashback in Hulk #150. His subsequent team-up with Spider-Man occurs in Amazing Spider-Man #92. Since Sam Bullit is still campaigning, it must be more than two days before the election, which was held on November 3, 1964—therefore, the story must be set in late October, not early November.

November 1964 – For the full story on Morris N. Richardson, see OMU: POTUS -- Part Three.

December 1964 – The project to cure the Hulk undertaken by Reed Richards, Tony Stark, and Charles Xavier is revealed in Avengers #88. Magneto’s battle with the Sub-Mariner and the Fantastic Four is chronicled in Fantastic Four #102–104. As previously stated, the Beast’s birthday is established in the non-canonical X-Men: The Hidden Years #22 (September 2001).


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