Conspicuously Inconspicuous X-Men (Revisited)

It’s no secret that I love the X-Men, and because of that love, I contributed an article to this site two years ago that concerned the decline of the X-Men’s presence in the Marvel Universe. When I wrote that article, I tried to find positivity within the X-Men’s treatment, because much of what I had read on the internet was quite negative (because the internet is usually so joyous and happy). I didn’t fault any of those writers for their pessimistic views, however, because it was obvious that film rights dictated what happened to characters both in and out of Marvel Comics. Although the X-Men were treated quite poorly in 2015, and the majority of the previous decade, they had been my favorite fictional characters since the early 90s, so I held onto the hope that film rights wouldn’t cause X-Men comics to get cancelled. For years now, I have tried to keep a positive attitude in all aspects of my daily life, so I wanted to extend that positivity to other X-Men fans through my article. Over the course of the next year, however, it became increasingly difficult for me to remain hopeful for the X-Men’s plight.

But I don’t WANNA grow up to be a vampire! (Art by Richard Bennett)
But I don’t WANNA grow up to be a vampire! (Art by Richard Bennett)

Not satisfied with just pushing the Inhumans to the forefront of comics and bringing them into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as potential substitutes for the X-Men, writers made the terrigen mist, the stuff that grants Inhumans their powers, deadly to mutants. While that was very scary, the X-Men survived “M-Day,” so surely they could survive some mist (of course, not if Stephen King has anything to do with it). It was roughly around this time that Marvel went through a “non-reboot,” and once this “All-New, All-Different Marvel” makeover finished, the X-Men were left with a paltry 6 titles, only 5 of which occurred in mainstream continuity. Perhaps the reduction of X-Men comics would grant X-writers new focus, so over the next few months, I remained relatively happy with the then-current X-Men comics. However, in July 2016, the outlook for mutants seemed bleak, and I could no longer remain positive.

Solicitations for “Marvel Now! 2.0” showed plenty of brand new and continuing comics, but all sources revealed something conspicuously missing – X-Men books. While I certainly read other titles, X-Men comics are the ones that I care about the most, and they were nowhere to be found. Almost the entirety of mutant representation in solicitations amounted to young Cyclops as a member of the Champions, and Storm in a Black Panther title. This was the last straw; there was too much evidence for me to ignore, and I finally believed that the X-Men were getting cancelled in the same way and for similar reasons as the Fantastic Four comics (there was no silver lining in this Galactus cloud).

The film, X-Men: Apocalypse, was, for good reason, received poorly, the terrigen mist sterilized and killed mutants, and Marvel planned to bring the Inhumans into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. All of this information led me to believe that a conspiracy to cancel all X-Men comics was coming to fruition. For a few days after the announcement of “Marvel Now! 2.0,” I had a very negative view of the X-Men’s future both in and out of Marvel Comics. Everything that I felt went against the premise of my X-Men article – that mutants would be fine regardless of film rights.

But she used to have such good fashion sense! (Art by Leinil Francis Yu)
But she used to have such good fashion sense! (Art by Leinil Francis Yu)

Even though Marvel editors assured fans that the X-Men were going to be fine after “2.0” was solicited, I didn’t believe them. Marvel staff members lied every time they claimed that film rights didn’t dictate how characters were treated, so surely they were lying about this too (Marvel staff would do well in politics). While the evidence of a mass X-Men cancellation was circumstantial, the announcement of “Inhumans vs. X-Men” did not assuage my fears. I assumed that the Inhumans would win the battle, and mutants would either move off-planet permanently, die, or fade into obscurity. Before “Inhumans vs. X-Men” even began, however, Marvel announced “RessurXion,” which would launch a plethora of new X-Men titles.

When “RessurXion” was announced, the joy and relief that I felt eclipsed the anger that I wanted to feel. After some thought, I realized that this was an incredible marketing strategy by Marvel. The company reduced the amount of X-Men comics to very few, excluded them from further solicitations, sterilized and killed some of them, and then forced them to fight their MCU counterparts. Then, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, readers were granted plenty of new X-Men comics. Certainly, I’m not the only fan who was fearful for the X-Men’s future, and although I am not happy that I allowed myself to worry to the degree that I did, I am nonetheless happy that there are currently many X-titles (even if they aren’t all amazing or extraordinary).

Just because there are now nearly a dozen X-Men comics, however, doesn’t mean that the X-Men are treated any better outside of comic books. The upcoming video game, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite, noticeably lacks any X-Men despite mutants’ presence in every previous iteration of the game. Producer of Infinite, Michael Evans, reasoned that fans may not even remember X-Men characters. Considering the X-Men are still present in comics, movies, and television, that is an absolutely idiotic and asinine rationalization. However, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite’s roster clearly reflects the roster of the MCU, so because of film rights, the X-Men and their fans are once again neglected (we’re used to being hated and feared).

Even though X-Men: Apocalypse was heavily criticized, FOX is currently filming yet another sequel, X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Simon Kinberg, co-writer of the dismal X-men: The Last Stand, will make his directorial debut with Dark Phoenix. Myself, and many other fans, are nervous about the quality of this movie. A single film’s poor performance, however, will not diminish the X-Men’s fan base, nor does it mean that there aren’t more positive ventures on the horizon for mutants.

I say she looks smart and trustworthy. (Aubrey Plaza in Legion)
I say she looks smart and trustworthy. (Aubrey Plaza in Legion)

Deadpool was a very enjoyable film, and even though there is a different director, I’m confident that fans will be treated to a satisfying sequel. Logan was an absolutely exceptional and incredibly emotional film with amazing performances by everyone involved. While there has been nearly no progress on Gambit, and New Mutants is still months away from release, I remain cautiously optimistic for both films. Legion, while somewhat of a departure from the source material, was a fantastic show, and I’m trying very hard to be hopeful for Gifted (because I don’t think it’s a gift that can be returned).

Two years ago, I believed that the X-Men were going to be just fine regardless of Marvel’s neglect. Although I failed to maintain that attitude for a little while, I still believe it is true. The X-Men have endured bad writers and artists, an editor-in-chief who wanted them depowered, a 5-year cancellation, maligned movies, and plenty of controversy, but they continue to yield some of the most interesting stories and characters in comics (make Jubilee vol. 2 happen, dammit).

Both good and bad will happen to mutants in the future, but for now, I’ll continue to enjoy a multitude of X-Men comics and hope for successful X-Men films and shows. Mutants have an extremely passionate and loyal fan base, and such a strong foundation within Marvel Comics, that they will certainly survive cinematic missteps or videogame exclusion. Although I don’t know exactly what will happen to the X-Men next year or even next month, I know that the X-Men will still be there, and the next time they experience difficulties, I’ll try harder to remember that they will persevere in spite of their (mis)treatment.

Jonathan Fugger

Jonathan loves comic books and he loves coffee. Jonathan’s mother gave him his first taste of coffee at the tender age of 3 and it was love at first sip. He now needs to wheel around an IV drip of caffeine at all times or else he turns into a dark, monstrous creature that feeds on despair and makes babies cry. The local village-folk have kept him locked away ever since the “decaf catastrophe of ‘06.” When allowed out of his dungeon, he writes various articles for Geekade, including the monthly column, “Welcome to the D-List,” and records the "Mutant Musings" podcast with his geek-tastic girlfriend, Patti.

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