Guest contributor Gene Selassie kicks off a new feature as he re-reads the entire run of The Avengers from the beginning! Welcome to “An Avengers Retrospective“.
“The First of a Star-Studded Series of Book-Length Super-Epics featuring some of Earth’s Greatest Super Heroes” was splashed on the opening page of Avengers issue number one, which was released in September of 1963. A friend’s father owned the book and I was enamored by it when he showed us. Ten-year-old Gene was awestruck. At the time, I had only been reading Iron Man regularly. Due to the numerous Avengers guest appearances throughout the years, the door was cracked open for me to explore that team book. My first Avengers issue was purchased at the Big Top Flea Market in Tampa. The oldest issue that the vendor had for sale was issue #189, which was written by Steven Grant and Roger Stern and drawn by John Byrne. This was the issue that alluded to Falcon getting a spot on the Avengers due to Affirmative Action. Hawkeye being the one to lose his spot to Sam Wilson, well, to say that it didn’t sit well with him would be an understatement. Forthwith, Clint Barton started out on my shit list. However, staying with the book and subsequent spinoffs, I gained respect for Barton, who went on to become tied with Iron Man as my favorite Avenger.
In due time, after scouring back issue bins at comic book stores, several other Avengers became personal favorites: the star-spangled Avenger, Steve Rogers aka Captain America; the energy wielding former Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau aka Photon; scientist supreme, Hank Pym aka Ant-Man; protector of the universe, Wendell Vaughn aka Quasar; one of the first Avengers to have to balance super-heroing with being a single mother, Julia Carpenter aka Spider Woman II; another hero having to balance avenging and attending college, Miguel Santos aka Living Lightning. I could keep going all day long.
Many of my comic reading friends consider me to be the biggest Avengers fan of all time. While I’d be enamored to claim that title, I have many gaps or lapses in my run. Therefore, I decided to rectify this by doing a deep dive. Setting out to read every single issue of The Avengers may be easier in the age of Marvel Unlimited, comiXology, and Marvel Masterworks, but that doesn’t guarantee the availability of every single issue. The fun will be in tracking them down.
I will be doing a biweekly column, highlighting my progress and my findings. It is my hope that, through this journey, I can explore the peaks and valleys of the franchise and relay my unrequited love for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
There are six new releases on comiXology today from Marvel and Harlequin. Marvel delivers classic stories from Daredevil, Wolverine, and Punisher vs. Bullseye. Check them all out now or the individual releases below.
Battle For Love
Written by Stephanie Howard Art by Hiroko Miura Purchase
When Shiona is reunited with her stepbrother, Jake, his scornful gaze brings back the pain of the past. Her mother had married into Jake’s family, and Shiona had always secretly been in love with him. But he still blames her for his brother’s death. Jake’s cold attitude toward Shiona shatters her, but his engagement brings forth an unexpected turn of events!
Daredevil: Marvel Knights Collection Vol. 1
Written by David Mack, Jimmy Palmiotti, Joe Quesada, Kevin Smith Art by Rob Haynes, Joe Quesada, Dave Ross Cover by Joe Quesada Purchase
Collects Daredevil (1998) #1-15.
Claiming her infant is humanity’s savior, a teenager entrusts her baby to Matt Murdock. Plus: The femme fatale called Echo sets her sights on Daredevil.
Marvel Comics Presents Wolverine Vol. 2
Written by Chris Claremont, Erik Larsen, Marv Wolfman Art by John Buscema, Klaus Janson, Erik Larsen, Joe Rubinstein Cover by John Byrne Purchase
Collects material from Marvel Comics Presents #39-50.
Like things as clear as black and white? You’re in luck — but Wolverine isn’t, as the mysterious Black Shadow/White Shadow uses his energy powers to double-team everyone’s favorite feral fighter! Then, Wolverine wanders into a costumed kidnapping scheme run by an old classmate of the web-slinger known as Spider-Man! And find out just how connected Wolverine is as we meet another mysterious marvel from his past!
Marvel Comics Presents Wolverine Vol. 3
Written by Michael Higgins, Rob Liefeld, Fabian Nicieza Art by Dan Day, Chris Ivy, Rob Liefeld Dave Ross, Joe Rubinstein Cover by Dale Keown Purchase
Collects material from Marvel Comics Presents #51-61.
A murderous mutant is loose, forcing Wolverine to face a feral former teammate whose descent into death could be his own! Plus: the clawed Canadian gets another rematch with the Incredible Hulk! Featuring the return of a long-forgotten X-Man!
Marvel Comics Presents Wolverine Vol. 4
Written by Howard Mackie, Dwight Zimmerman Art by Harry Candelario, Paul Ryan, Mark Texeira Cover by Rob Liefeld Purchase
Collects material from Marvel Comics Presents #62-71.
The mayhem-loving mutant faces occult intrigue against Abdul Alhazred, while fallout from the Acts of Vengeance brings him face to facelessness with the ninjas of Deathwatch! Wolverine does it again, and he does it the best! Guest-starring Ghost Rider!
Punisher vs. Bullseye
Written by Daniel Way Art by Steve Dillon Cover by Mike Deodato Jr. Purchase
Collects Punisher vs Bullseye #1-5.
Alphonse Patrillo’s a rare breed: a mob boss who looked down the barrel of the Punisher’s rifle and lived to tell about it. Ever since that day, he’s taken pains – great pains – to stay under the Punisher’s radar while he schemed his revenge. Now, Uncle Fonzie has got a plan: He’s going to fight fire with fire. Who do you hire to take out a relentless psychopath like the Punisher? An even more relentless psychopath. And this guy, well, let’s just say he never misses.
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ComiXology has a nice mix of new, old, and manga in today’s digital comics releases on the platform. There’s a total of nine new digital comics available now for purchase. You can get them all right now or check out the individual issues below.
Batman: The Adventures Continue (2020-) #13
Written by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini Pencils Ty Templeton Inks Ty Templeton Colored by Monica Kubina Cover by Becky Cloonan Purchase
The Joker turns to a familiar face as he looks to take down the Red Hood. Can Batman track down his former partner before the Clown Prince of Crime strikes, or is this just what Jason wants?
Champions Classic Vol. 1
Written by Chris Claremont, Tony Isabella, Bill Mantlo Art by John Byrne, Vince Colletta, Bob Hall, Don Heck, George Tuska Cover by Gil Kane Purchase
Collects Champions #1-11.
Okay, a god, a demon, a spy and two mutants walk into… resulting in some of the strangest scenarios of the ’70s! It’s gods vs. heroes in the City of Angels! With mad scientists, Russian super-spies, and guest-stars from Marvel’s western and horror eras! Plus: the secrets of the Black Widow! Featuring Hawkeye!
Champions Classic Vol. 2
Written by John Byrne, Bill Mantlo, Jim Shooter Art by John Byrne, Bob Hall, George Tuska Cover by Ernie Chan Purchase
Collects Champions (1975) #12-17, Iron Man Annual #4, Avengers #163, Super-Villain Team-Up #14 and Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #17-18.
Demon-gods, alien monsters and killer bees – it only goes to show that Angel, Iceman, Hercules, Black Widow and Ghost Rider did more before #17 than some teams get done by #50! The short-lived super-team squeezed multiple mayhem into mere months of masked marvelry! Featuring the Stranger and the Stilt-Man! Magneto and MODOK! The world reign of Doctor Doom! The Sentinels and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants! Guest-starring Spider-Man and the Avengers! Plus: destined for the pages of Punisher War Journal…Rampage!
Marvel Romance Redux: Another Kind Of Love
Written by Kyle J Baker, Peter David, Paul Di Filippo, Robert Loren Fleming, Keith Giffen, Roger Langridge, Joe R. Lansdale, Mike Leib, John Lustig, Jimmy Palmiotti, Jeff Parker, Kristen Sinclair, Fred Van Lente Art by Sol Brodsky, John Buscema, Gene Colan, Vinnie Colletta, Dick Giordano, Don Heck, Jack Kirby, John Romita Jr. Cover by Frank Cho Purchase
Collects Marvel Romance Redux: But He Said He Loved Me!, I Should Have Been A Blonde, Love Is A Four-Letter Word, Restraining Orders Are For Other Girls And Guys & Dolls.
Continuing the noble pursuit of taking funny old pictures and putting funny words on top of them! We’ve asked some of the funniest writers in comics today to look at the romance comics of yesteryear and put in some new dialogue that’ll make us laugh! Unfortunately, the funniest writers were busy, so we had to settle on these guys. Hey, you get what you pay for.
One Night With The Rebel Billionaire
Written by Trish Wylie Art by Nayuna Sakurano Purchase
Roane can’t help but feel excited as she discovers a naked man on the beach, his body chiseled like a statue’s. Under the silver moonlight, he catches her staring and teases her with a sinful and sexy smile. The next morning, she discovers that the mysterious man is Adam, a childhood friend who disappeared years ago. Roane’s nostalgic feelings of love for him soon come rushing back. But her sweet fantasy is destroyed when she discovers the real reason Adam has returned.
A Place Of Storms
Written by Sara Craven Art by Miyuki Yamaguchi Purchase
“You must marry me, Andrea.” How could she feel anything but despair over this man’s proposal? Andrea was visiting Blaise at his imposing castle to convince him to break off his impulsive engagement to her cousin. But he managed to convince Andrea to be his bride in exchange. She tries to hate the cruel castle master who forced her into this contract marriage, but she begins to discover the pure heart behind his rough exterior…
Ultimate Annuals Vol. 1
Written by, Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, Brian K. Vaughan Art by Mark Brooks, Steve Dillon, Jae Lee, Tom Raney Cover by Bryan Hitch Purchase
Collects Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual #1, Ultimate X-Men Annual #1, Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #1 And The Ultimates Annual #1.
The Ultimate Inhumans debut, two lives are forever changed, Ultimate Juggernaut returns, and everyone guest-stars in the first-ever Ultimate Annuals! In ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #1, it’s the first appearance of the Ultimate Inhumans! From a hidden race, she came to steal the heart of the FF’s youngest member: the beautiful elemental called Crystal! In ULTIMATE X-MEN ANNUAL #1, Juggernaut makes a play for the Gem of Cyttorak, the jewel that will make him truly unstoppable. Only two small things stand in his way: Rogue and Gambit, the new prince and princess of thieves! In ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1, Spidey goes toe-to-toe with some old foes – and winds up with a new girlfriend! Who is she? Let’s just say she has a familiar face. And in THE ULTIMATES ANNUAL #1, if you thought the Ultimates were the only team S.H.I.E.L.D. was creating – you were wrong! Get ready for the next wave of super-soldiers designed to protect America’s vital interests. But is this all Director Nick Fury is up to, or is there much more to this ultra-clandestine program? And can even S.H.I.E.L.D. keep all these super-people under control?
Ultimate Annuals Vol. 2
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Carey, Charlie Huston, Robert Kirkman Art by Mark Brooks, Mike Deodato Jr., Stuart Immonen, Frazer Irving, Salvador Larroca, Ryan Sook, Leinil Francis Yu Cover by, Mike Deodato Jr Purchase
Collects Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual #2, Ultimate X-Men Annual #2, Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #2 And The Ultimates Annual #2.
The Ultimate Annuals return with life-altering events! In ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #2, something strange has happened at Nursery Two, the Baxter Building’s Think Tank counterpart in Oregon. It’s disappeared, seemingly swallowed up by the earth itself! And if you think that heralds the return of the macabre Mole Man, go to the head of the class! In ULTIMATE X-MEN ANNUAL #2, Dazzler – Alison Blaire, former X-Man – has awakened from her coma only to discover her life is in deadly peril! And even her former fellow X-Men may be powerless to save her as a betrayal within the ranks has left them shell-shocked. In ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #2, Punisher and Daredevil return! While Foggy Nelson offers Spidey some legal advice, Police Captain Jean DeWolfe gives him some other advice – on how to take down the Ultimate Kangaroo! Will Peter Parker be able to navigate his way through this all-action moral maze, or will Punisher just shoot him instead? And in THE ULTIMATES ANNUAL #2, as the Ultimates clear the wreckage from the recent attack on the United States, a monstrous evil from the past rises from the ashes to launch an attack when America is at her weakest. And with the ranks of the Ultimates severely depleted, all that stands in the path of the long-thought-dead bio-fanatic Arnim Zola is the indomitable Sentinel of Liberty, Captain America, and Sam Wilson, the high-flying Falcon
Under The Brazilian Sun
Written by Catherine George Art by Moe Fujisaki Purchase
Catherine came to Portugal from England to inspect a painting. Roberto de Sousa, the man who requested her services, coldly dismisses her when he sees she’s a woman. Catherine’s determined to prove her worth to this former race car driver. But Roberto continues to avoid her, plagued by insecurities caused by the huge scar on his face from an accident. Yet his wild black curls and sexy gaze make Catherine feel as though her body is going to boil over. Scar and all, he is just too beautiful…
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There’s seven new digital comics available for you right now! ComiXology has you covered with new comics from Marvel, Harlequin, and Seven Seas. See them all now or check out the individual issues below!
Ghost Rider Team-Up
Written by Tom DeFalco, Michael Fleisher, Steven Grant, Bill Mantlo, Jim Shooter Art by Pat Broderick, Bob Hall, Don Perlin, Frank Robbins, Ron Wilson Cover by Bob Budiansky Purchase
Collects Marvel Team-Up #91, Marvel Two-In-One #80, Marvel Premiere #28, Avengers #214, And Ghost Rider (1973) #27 And #50.
The Spirit of Vengeance rides roughshod over Spider-Man, the Thing and the rest of the Marvel Universe! The Spider, the Ghost and the soul-stealer who hates them both – who will survive the Carnival of Fear? The Thing vs. the Ghost Rider in Death Race! Ghost Rider, Man-Thing, Morbius and Werewolf by Night – the Legion of Monsters – join forces for the most spine-tingling team-up of all in the mysterious Marvel manner! Hawkeye, the Two-Gun Kid and the Ghost Rider take on the menacing might of the Manticore! Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers, embark on their most dangerous mission yet: capture the Ghost Rider! Plus: the Ghost Rider’s strangest adventure ever – featuring the Night Rider, Marvel’s first Ghost Rider!
Written by Carly Phillips Art by Yuki Kuriya Purchase
Catherine runs a catering business, and when she’s catering a big party for the famous Montgomery family, she feels a burning gaze on her. The man looking at her is Logan Montgomery, a successful attorney who’s a shoo-in to be the next mayor. Catherine has been wrongfully shamed by high society in the past, so she’s sworn she’ll never get involved with anyone from that world. However, she can’t fight the feelings she has for this man. She has no idea the dramatic change her life is about to go through after meeting Logan and his family.
Meguru might be impossibly cute, but he’s not the only androgynous model around! Enter Sasame, another beautiful boy at Meguru’s talent agency. The world is in for some serious gender nonconforming magic when the two cross paths!
Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do
Written by Kevin Smith Art by Terry Dodson Cover by Terry Dodson Purchase
Collects Spider-Man/Black Cat: Evil That Men Do #1-6.
The mysterious disappearance of an old friend brings Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat, to New York in search of answers – and a certain web-slinging ex-lover of hers is following the same trail. How long will it take before they do some…catching up?
Stan Lee Meets
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Paul Jenkins, Stan Lee, Jeph Loeb, Roy Thomas, Joss Whedon Art by Mark Bagley, Mark Buckingham, Olivier Coipel, Alan Davis, Michael Gaydos, Scott Kolins, Salvador Larroca, Ed McGuinness, Lee Weeks, Mike Wieringo Cover by Olivier Coipel Purchase
Collects Stan Lee Meets Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Dr. Doom, The Thing And Silver Surfer.
Celebrating the 65th anniversary of Stan Lee’s employment at Marvel Comics! In five astounding tales written by “The Man” himself, Stan meets his web-slinging creation, journeys to Greenwich Village to catch up with his old pal Doctor Strange, is abducted to Latveria by the sinister Doctor Doom, makes the mistake of bicycling past Yancy Street and surfs the stars with a certain silver-skinned space-farer! Plus: best-selling writers and artists pay homage to Stan’s life and career in five thrilling stories.
Wolverine Classic Vol. 4
Written by Archie Goodwin Art by John Byrne Cover by John Byrne Purchase
Collects Wolverine (1988) #17-23.
Enemies like Roughouse are hard to find, as Wolverine learns all too well when his favorite Asgardian sparring partner gets abducted into a dictator’s experiment! But the trail leads the mutant marvel to more menace than he expected in the form of a Nazi cyborg, an amphibious evildoer and a giant germ of the gods! Featuring the X-Men, the Avengers and Daredevil!
Wolverine Classic Vol. 5
Written by Peter David, Jo Duffy Art by John Buscema, Gene Colan, Bill Jaaska, Klaus Janson, Barry Kitson Cover by Jim Lee Purchase
Collects Wolverine (1988) #24-30.
He’s the best there is at what he does…but what if he doesn’t remember how to do it? Investigation of an eerie agenda leaves Wolverine without even his altered memories, but could the loss of his old life be his only hope for peace? Plus, secrets of Wolverine’s past are revealed in Madripoor, Japan and an adventure in baby-sitting that hints at a stranger Wolverine origin than any seen before! Guest-starring the New Mutants!
This site contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from these sites. Making purchases through these links helps support the site.
I’ve heard for so many years how great John Byrne’s Superman work was. He took over post-Crisis and redefined the character for the (then) modern age. Not an easy book to collect, with various out-of-print volumes. DC Comics has finally released a hardcover collecting the first part of Byrne’s work in Superman: The Man Of Steel Vol. 1. I hold his X-Men, Fantastic Four and even his Alpha Flight stuff in pretty high regard. I’m not a huge Superman fan or DC fan. Would I feel the same way with Supes?
The story is one we’re all familiar with: A scientist on a doomed planet sends his only son across the universe to an alien planet in an attempt to save his life and to spare him from his home world’s destruction. Upon crash-landing on Earth, he’s found by your typical Earth couple who adopt him and raise him as their own and in doing so, he discovers his amazing abilities and decides to use those to help do the right thing and save others. From there, tales with Braniac, Darkseid, the Phantom Stranger and others round out the volume.
John Byrne’s Superman work ends up being pretty stellar to someone like me, who gets to read it for the first time so many decades later. For one, I feel that for one who doesn’t love the decompression of storytelling that everyone has embraced, the pacing is quite enjoyable. The Man Of Steel mini-series would take well over a year by the new standard if done today. I felt like Byrne understood the characters. He wrote a truly amazing Superman and put him through the ringer, so to speak. And in saying that, Superman comes off truly relevant to the world he exists in. Art-wise, I have always enjoyed John Byrne’s pencils/art and so I knew what I was getting into with this. I knew that part would not disappoint.
Any problems? Mostly that I’m not a huge Superman fan. It feels odd to like this as much as I do. I’m sure a more traveled Superman/DC Comics fan could pick this apart but from what I know, this is one of the most sought-after comic book runs to get collected again. For me, it’s great to know that something that I’ve heard be so enjoyable actually held up over time, at least for me. This first volume maintains its look by having the art being done by Byrne and by Jerry Ordway in some spots. Terry Austin is one of the inkers involved with this and he’s probably the best inker Byrne worked with. The Adventures Of Superman issues are written by Marv Wolfman and also included. It’s great to see the other books of this era included.
Superman: The Man Of Steel Vol. 1 ends up collecting Byrne’s Man Of Steel mini-series, Superman 1-4, Adventures Of Superman 424-428, and Action Comics 584 through 587. Some extras included are some Who’s Who ‘87 entries. It has a cover price of $49.99 and feels totally worth the price. Also, if DC Comics had released this a few years ago, it would most-likely just have a plain hardcover design underneath the dust jacket. This collection has a very nice art-on-book cover under the DJ. DC Comics has started to put some real quality on the collected editions that get released. If you are a Supes fan, this is one for you.
Story: John Byrne, Marv Wolfman, Jerry Ordway Art: John Byrne, Jerry Ordway Ink: Dick Giordano, Terry Austin, Jerry Ordway, Mike Machlan, Karl Kesel Color: Tom Ziuko Letterer: John Costanza, Albert DeGuzman Story: 8.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: A definite read
Classic X-Men were reprints of the original X-Men comics… with new material!? These collections collect that new material with some depth as to the history of it all.
X-Men Classic: The Complete Collection Vol. 2 collects Classic X-Men #24-44 and material from Marvel Fanfare #60.
Story: Chris Claremont, Ann Nocenti, Tom Orzechowski, Daryl Edelman, Fabian Nicieza, John Byrne Art: John Bolton, June Brigman, Mark Bright, Rick Leonardi, Kyle Baker, Jim Lee, Jim Fern, Mike Collins, Kieron Dwyer, Dave Ross, John Byrne Ink: John Bolton, Ro Richardson, Josef Rubinstein, Bob McLeod, Kyle Baker, Hilary Barta, Terry Austin, Ricardo Villamonte Color: Glynis Oliver, John Bolton, Christie Scheele, Petra Scotese, Mike Rockwitz, Gregory Wright, Bob Sharen Letterer: Tom Orzechowski, Joe Rosen, Jim Novak, Bill Oakley, Michael Heisler, Lois Buhalis, John Costanza, Diana Albers
Get your copy in comic shops now and on book shops on December 10! To find a comic shop near you, visit http://www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.
Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site
(W) Craig Yoe (A) John Severin, John Romita, Wally Wood (CA) Steve Ditko In Shops: Nov 13, 2019 SRP: $34.99
An incredible artbook showcasing some of the greatest comic artists of all time! Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Jim Steranko, Don Heck, John Byrne, Barry Windsor-Smith, John Severin, Wally Wood, John Romita, and many more! As part of the tremendous fun of Silver Age comics, artists created pin-ups of the most popular Marvel heroes and villains! Now the greatest of those works of art are gathered for the first time in a beautiful large-format hardback book! Included are rare examples of original art of The Thing, Spider-Man, and Dr. Strange.
True believers, thrill to pulsating pinups of Spidey, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, The Avengers, Nick Fury, Daredevil, Millie the Model (!), and the ever lovin’ blue-eyed Thing-and many marvelous more!
more than 40 years, John Byrne has been one of the most popular artists in
comics. His legendary run on X-Men
with collaborator Chris Claremont stands as one of the most influential of all
time. Now, IDW Publishing is proud to present the massive (360 pages!) John Byrne Artist Select Fantastic Four collection.
This beautiful book is part of the Marvel
Artist Select series which collects iconic issues by beloved Marvel
oversized, limited edition hardcover celebrates John Byrne’s time on Fantastic Four, with a carefully chosen
selection of the creator’s most impactful issues. Each book in this 999-copy,
limited-edition run is presented in a beautiful slipcase, is individually
numbered, and is signed by John Byrne. This deluxe hardcover features a
collection of stories which will only be available in this limited edition
hardcover. Highlights in this collection include Fantastic Four #’s 236, 238, 240, 242, 243, 244, 252, and more!
true crown jewel in any John Byrne collection!
HC • FC • $150.00 • 360 pages • 9” x 13” • ISBN: 978-1-68405-467-1
(W) Chris Claremont, John Byrne (A/CA) John Byrne Rated T In Shops: Jul 24, 2019 SRP: $4.99
Jean Grey makes the ultimate sacrifice in the heartbreaking climax of the unforgettable Dark Phoenix Saga! Summoned by the alien Shi’ar to answer for the cosmic crimes of the Phoenix, Jean Grey must stand trial – by combat! The X-Men and the Shi’ar Imperial Guard do battle on the moon to decide Jean’s fate! But can she keep her dark side under control? Or will the Dark Phoenix rise against her friends? One of the greatest love stories in all of comics – Jean Grey and Scott Summers – ends in tragedy in an issue that shocked X-Men fans and sent ripples through the entire comics industry! It’s one of the all-time great Marvel comic books, boldly re-presented in its original form, ads and all! Reprinting X-MEN (1963) #137.
After laying the groundwork for several issues, we’re finally ready to do a deep dive on Chris Claremont’s first unadulterated statement on the mutant metaphor, the legendaryDays of Future Past:
The story came at a key, interstitial moment for Chris Claremont and John Byrne: they’d just pulled off a three-year, reputation-making story with the Dark Phoenix Saga, and the big question was whether that epic had exhausted all dramatic potential in the series. They fired back with a two-part story so powerful that X-Men creators and fans alike have been obsessing about it ever since (which, as I’ll argue later, has become part of the problem with X-Men).
Days of Future Past is a good example of the peculiar (and volatile) alchemy that was the John Byrne /Chris Claremont partnership. According to Jason Powell, John Byrne was the driving force behind bringing the Sentinels back as the primary and existential antagonists and the central time-travel hook was his unwitting homage to the Doctor Who serial “Day of the Daleks.” However, as I’ll argue in this essay, a lot of the political and interpersonal story that the sci-fi stuff is wrapped around feels much more like Chris Claremont’s work, especially when it comes to the decision to center the story on Kitty Pryde.
This decision was key to making the broader transition from Dark Phoenix Saga to the rest of the Claremont run, because it comes only two issues after she’d joined the X-Men. Firstly, because her newcomer status perfectly positions her as the audience surrogate for the new, post-Jean Grey status quo, and secondly, because as the lone teenager on the All-New team, she makes for the better contrast with her no-nonsense veteran future self than anyone else. (This is somewhere where the 2014 film falls short, giving us a not-particularly-emphatic transition of Hugh Jackman going from one gradient of grizzled Wolverine to another.)
We can see the
crucial clarity that Kitty provides in three panels, as she suddenly shifts from
her initial fear of Nightcrawler’s appearance to her later warm and fuzzy
feelings; similarly, the change from the uncertain, halting (“uh-huh”) speech
patterns of Teenage Kitty to the matter-of-fact mission-briefing style of her
adult self is immediately obvious.
How Is This Day Different All From Other Days
Another reason why Days of Future Past needs to be a Kitty Pryde is that (similarly to what he did with Magneto) Claremont made it into an inherently Jewish story. From the letters attached to clothing indicating which castes are allowed to “breed” in the Sentinels’ America, to the rows of identical graves near the gates of the “South Bronx Internment Center,” the visual and rhetorical signifiers of this particular post-apocalyptic scenario are uniformly that of the Holocaust:
In addition to the
captions drawing meaning from Byrne’s discreet Hs and Ms on people’s jackets,
we see Claremont’s sensibilities in Kate’s carefully-hidden thoughts – our
first window into the Anti-Sentinel Resistance’s ideology. The similarity
between Kate’s “we can try to ensure this nightmare never happens, never even
begins” and the mantra of “never again” that became the definitive response to
the Shoah is unmistakable.
We can also see Claremont’s influence in what he did with the time travel plot, allowing him to show how the X-Men’s characters could be wildly different in the far future of 2013. As I’ve talked about elsewhere, one of Chris Claremont’s enduring frustrations with the comics industry was the eternal status quo of serial IP:
But because the conceit of the story is that 33 years have passed, Claremont can show Colossus as a retired farmer (who can be married to Kitty Pryde without it being creepy) who’s given up the superhero life, can show us generational change with a grown-up Franklin Richards in an adult relationship with Rachel Summers (making her debut appearance) , and most of all can show us Magneto as Charles Xavier. Several issues before he was to do his major retcon on Erik Lensherr’s backstory, and fifty issues before he was to put Magneto on trial, Claremont shows us a Magneto who – transformed by pain – now fights to ensure that both “humanity” and “mutankind” can survive to see the “day after tomorrow.” (Incidentally, we know this to be Claremont’s contribution because Byrne hated what he called “noble Magneto.”)
The ultimate example of thumbing one’s nose at the eternal status quo is the permanent death of characters, and one of the things that gave Days of Future Past its impact in 1981 is that the What If? nature of Byrne’s time-travel dystopia allowed for the shocking deaths of X-Men mainstays like Wolverine and Storm without damaging the X-book’s long-term brand:
At the same time, I think there’s more to these shocking deaths than the car-crash voyeuristic appeal of a “bad future” timeline, again due to Claremont’s spin on the story that we discussed above. The specificity of the apocalypse lends a specificity to the resistance fighting against it, and thus the Anti-Sentinel Resistance can’t help but take on some of the aspects of WWII resistance movements, which means also being influenced by the tropes of the cinema de résistance – films like Casablanca, Cross of Lorraine, This Land is Mine, Is Paris Burning?, andArmy of Shadows. In this genre (influenced as it was by escape and heist films), the plucky Resistance fighters are generally outnumbered and outgunned, their best-laid plans are often undone by bad luck, and their ultimate victory is often the existential triumph of refusing to give in and collaborate.
Now that we’ve fully
explored the inspirations and implications of Byrne and Claremont’s dystopian
future, we need to dig into the “present day” events that are supposed to set
the apocalypse in motion and how Claremont wraps all of these events in an analysis
of 1980s politics.
Breaking with the conventions of Marvel’s sliding timeline, X-Men #141 starts with a very specific date: Kitty Pryde walks into the Danger Room on “Friday, October 31st 1980…the final Friday in one of the closest, hardest-fought presidential elections in recent memory.” For once, Claremont’s purple prose is not exaggerating: in the real-world presidential election of 1980, October opinion polls stood on a knife-edge with Reagan and Carter trading leads, often divided by as few as three or four points, with third-party candidate still holding onto a potentially decisive 8-9% of the vote. This choice of date isn’t a coincidence, because as Kate Pryde will outline to the stunned X-Men, presidential politics will play a central role in creating this apocalypse:
First, the revelation that the dystopia will be caused by a presidential assassination immediately placed in the world of 1970s “paranoid” conspiracy thrillers like The Parallax View andThree Days of the Condor, themselves a reaction to the world-shaking political assassinations of the mid-to-late 60s as well as the more general increase in distrust in government that accompanied the Watergate scandal. And given how often these thrillers combined fears of assassination and conspiracy with fears of nuclear devastation – think Day of the Dolphin, The Odessa File, Twilight’s Last Gleaming, and The China Syndrome – here the link between the mutant metaphor and nuclear threat is particularly appropriate.
Second, for the first time we have a partisan political edge for the often-amorphous “anti-mutant hysteria.” Here, Claremont directly criticizes the (often hard-left) political terrorism of the 1970s, arguing that it backfires, creating a groundswell of fear and hatred that sweeps reactionaries into office. By trying to eliminate the threat posed by Senator Kelly in 1980, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants only ensures that “a rabid anti-mutant candidate” is swept into office. This demagogue’s campaign slogan – “it’s 1984! Do you know what your children are?” – is a clever riff on the 1970s/1980s public service announcement campaign that sought to scare parents about the threat of juvenile delinquency with the question “It’s 10 PM. Do you know where your children are,” suggesting a parallel between moral panics.
Third, we see from these panels why the X-Men are such a crucial part of the Marvel Universe, and why arguments that they should be kept separate always fall flat for me. I’ve discussed elsewhere why the disparate treatment of mutants and other super-powered beings is actually a rich vein of storytelling ideas about model minorities vs. threatening Others, and why origin stories that emphasize random chance or super-tech produce very different social-psychological responses than those that emphasize powers acquired at birth. But here we see a new angle: Days of Future Past reminds us that as waves of hatred against one minority are allowed to grow ever higher, eventually the surge will swamp over conceptual boundaries to include all who are not in the in-group. Here, we see anti-mutant hatred expanding to encompass first outcasts and marginal types like Spider-Man, the Hulk (although how much more the Federal government could pursue the Hulk is unclear), and Ghost Rider (I’m genuinely quite puzzled how the government would even go about eliminating such a blatantly supernatural entity), but then to include “model minorities” like the Fantastic Four and the Avengers who are initially loved by the public and treated as auxiliaries of the state, and then finally national sovereigns like Doctor Doom of Latveria and Black Panther of Wakanda. (The cynical part of my mind suggests that it was only after the Sentinels went after these last two that the nuclear powers of Earth-811 stopped and took notice.)
Fourth and finally,
given when these comics were written and published, we really can’t separate
out the fear of a demagogue president who could start a crisis that ends with
nuclear war from the fear of Ronald Reagan as someone whose aggressive policies
towards the USSR might end in the missiles flying that existed in liberal circles
that lasted up until the Reykjavik Summit in 1986. Hence why Days of Future
Past is so concerned with the character of presidential candidates whether
we’re talking about the or the unnamed firebrand from 1984 or Senator Robert
Is Senator Kelly a Good Man?
Speaking of which, let’s
talk about the character of Senator Robert Kelly. In what might be something
of a surprise for those of you who are primarily familiar with Senator Kelly
from Bruce Davidson’s oleaginous performance in the 2000 film, much of the plot
of Days of Future Past turns on the question as to whether or not Senator Kelly
– clearly taking on the role of Ser Reginald Styles from “Day of the Daleks” –
is a good person.
two-issues, we get testimony to the affirmative: despite having every reason to
hate the registration system that he inspired, Kate Pryde describes him as “a decent man” with “legitimate concerns about
the increasing numbers of super-powered mutants;” Charles Xavier describes him
as “scared” rather than bigoted; even the Blob, who’s literally there to
assassinate him, calls Kelly “either the bravest man I ever seen or the
However, the broader context makes me question this informed attribute. After all, this isn’t the first time that X-Men readers have met the honorable gentlemen from the Acela Corridor – the first time we meet Senator Kelly is at the Hellfire Club, where he was a special guest of Sebastian Shaw. Given that Kelly was running for president at the time, it strikes me as very familiarly reckless to spend all of his time hanging out at an upscale sex club:
Kelly’s association with the Hellfire isn’t a one-off, but part of a longer pattern of behavior: not only does he return to the club in X-Men #246-7, but it turns out that Kelly’s wife Sharon is an ex-Hellfire Club waitress, which fact somehow completely escaped the national press corps during a presidential election and suggests a truly baffling campaign of Shaw’s to influence every aspect of his life. (And no, Kelly isn’t any more liberated about his wife being a former sex-worker than the IRL news media was about a certain Coloradan Senator’s open marriage.)
professional ethics are similarly questionable. Despite the fact that the
ending of #142 establishes that Kelly serves on a committee with a national
security portfolio, Kelly is the frequent guest of Sebastian Shaw, noted arms
manufacturer with extensive contracts with the Pentagon. And while Kelly might
not consider Shaw’s invites to be either an undeclared in-kind donation or some
unauthorized lobbying, it’s pretty clear from the text that Sebastian Shaw
Ethics aside, Kelly’s political ideology is way more troubling:
Kelly’s opening statement starts out as standard boilerplate establishment language – “we are gathered here to address an issue of critical national and international importance” – but then in the second panel veers straight into the insecurity-laden rhetoric of Bolivar Trask, which raises some questions about his objectivity. On a political side note, I’m utterly astonished that any campaign manager worth his salt would allow a presidential candidate to spend the last Friday before an election holding Congressional hearings, no matter how well-televised they may be. No wonder Kelly doesn’t win the election.
At least the witness list hasn’t been stacked with partisans of Kelly’s position, because the ludicrously well-educated duo of Charles Xavier and Moira McTaggart are the main experts due to give testimony – which makes me curious as to which senators invited them. I particularly like this scene because it lets us see real political differences between members of the X-family: showing that he’s learned absolutely nothing from the last time he was kidnapped on live tv, Charles puts an inordinate faith in the power of reason and persuasion. By contrast, Moira channels both Claremont’s Holocaust-inspired opposition to state-sponsored classification and monitoring of minority groups and one of the most famous of (first openly gay elected official) Harvey Milk’s speeches.
Kelly gives the game away when he busts out his favorite Cro-Magnon/Neanderthal analogy, complete with an elaboration that situates his fear that there is no “place for ordinary men and women” in a world of superheroes – otherwise not that different from J. Jonah Jameson’s more targeted ressentiment – with a Madison Grant-esque fear of racial replacement, similarly founded on bad anthropology. Even his consistency that non-mutants like “Doctor Doom…the Fantastic Four [and] the Avengers” are also threats to the hegemony of baseline humans seems far less admirable, because we see the same list of names on the headstones at the South Bronx Mutant Internment Camp and in Kate’s description of the Sentinels’ future genocide.
Given the implications of Kelly’s beliefs, it becomes a little hard to buy his whole “just asking questions,” “this totally isn’t a witch hunt” schtick. I would argue eagle-eyed X-Men readers have good reason to question Kelly’s good faith, because this hearing is not the first time that Kelly has thought about “the mutant question.” As I mentioned above, Kelly just so happened to be hanging out at the Hellfire Club when the X-Men raided the place, and thus bought the party line:
Thus, well before
any mutant hearings or attacks by radical mutant terrorists (more on this in a
second), Kelly had already decided on the Sentinels as a solution to what he
saw as the rampant criminality of “super-powered mutants” that conventional and
Constitution-bound police forces “aren’t equipped to fight.” Note that the
nameless NYPD captain’s mention of the Fantastic Four and the Avengers in this
context suggests that Kelly’s inclusion of them in his testimony is perhaps due
to the fact that these groups are neither “completely” nor “unquestionably
under Federal government control.”
In the context of
the dystopian scenario posited by Byrne and Claremont, it turns out that the supposed
moderate option was the same agenda as that of the demagogue, just dressed up
in fancier language. (This is not the first or last time that no-win scenarios
will show up in Days of Future Past.)
So why don’t we see
“Moira Was Right” T-shirts in the X-fandom?
The Revolutionary Mystique
But enough like the victim, let’s talk about the assassin, Mystique. Her inclusion in this story – indeed, Days of Future Past is Raven Darkholme’s first appearance as an X-villain – is clearly Claremont’s influence. Despite being a mutant from the jump, Mystique was originally a Ms. Marvel villain co-created by Claremont and Dave Cockrum. Mystique is a perfect fit for the paranoid thriller style, both because her mutant abilities mean that she could be anyone and anywhere, and because she’s already infiltrated the highest reaches of the military-industrial complex:
One of the confusing elements of Days of Future Past is that Mystique recreates the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, complete with its initial peculiar name, despite not having any connection to Magneto or any discussion of what her inspiration for the group’s name was. It feels as if Claremont missed a trick here by not having Mystique’s group be the first Mutant Liberation Front, which would be more evocative of similar groups from the 1970s, create some distinction between this and the first Brotherhood (which it has no overlap with). On the other hand, the fact that she kept the original name, and the self-marginalizing perspective it implies, does suggest that Mystique may be more of a fan of Magneto’s early work than his more sophisticated later years.
This becomes especially clear when Mystique and the Brotherhood arrive at the Capitol: in a scene that demonstrates that, often, hardliners on opposite sides are de facto allies because their mutual provocations lead to complementary radicalization, Mystique and the Brotherhood are in total agreement with Kelly’s eugenic philosophy, just with a different emphasis. Because they see themselves as the “first Cro-Magnon” to his “last Neanderthal,” they see it as less an existential threat as a prophecy of historical dialectic:
Costumes and super-powers aside, Mystique’s approach here isn’t that different from the Red Brigades of the 1970s, whose kidnappings (and occasional assassinations) of political figures were carried out with a keen eye towards mass media through the granting of interviews with journalists and the issuing of manifestos and other communiques to be published in the world press. Here, Mystique’s plan is quite simple:
Unusually for the Claremont era, the climax of Days of Future Past is a straight-up superhero fight between a team of “good mutants” and a team of “bad mutants,” with the X-Men in the position of having to once again fight for “a world that hates and fears them,” which is much more of a Silver Age paradigm. Where we see more of a Claremontian influence is around the margins of the wrasslin:
To begin with, we
see Claremont’s fascination with fully-lived-in minor characters and the power
of the news-media in the fact that he drops in a reporter to react to the
In addition, the broader themes of post-Watergate political paranoia continues
in the fact that the first reaction of bystanders to the bombing of the U.S
Capitol – which was bombed by the Weather Underground in 1971 – is a false-flag
operation by the White House.
But the biggest influence of all is that while Wolverine and Colossus team up to see-saw the Blob into Avalanche, Nightcrawler has a doppleganger fight with his mother, and Storm rains on Pyro’s parade, it’s Kitty Pryde who actually saves the day:
It wouldn’t be a Claremont issue if the climactic showdown of Days of Future
Past wasn’t 90% political debate about whether political terrorism is
ultimately self-defeating and only 10% action. (Another sign that this part of
the story was Claremont’s rather than Byrne’s is that the latter hated what he
called the “semi-incestuous lesbian kiss.”)
The Dystopian Trap
Unfortunately for Kate Pryde, it turns out that however personally brave (and/or bloodthirsty) he might be, it turns out Senator Kelly is both a committed ideologue (as we discussed above) and wildly ungrateful for her saving his life:
While I’ll get to
the broader implications in a second, I did want to note some important
elements of the content of this epilogue:
Firstly, Senator Kelly’s politics remain as baffling as ever: one month after an election he presumably lost despite the rallying effect you’d think would come from surviving an assassination attempt related to your number one issue four days before the election, Senator Kelly is working hand-in-glove with someone who would have been his presumable rival.
Secondly, President Silhouette’s politics aren’t much better: despite arguing that Kelly’s proposal is “dangerous…unconstitutional, even criminal,” the President nevertheless decides to continue the same approach as a “covert” initiative outside of Congressional and judicial oversight, which seems substantially more unconstitutional and criminal than Kelly’s proposal, which presumably called for some form of authorizing legislation. (This is a topic I’ll get into in more detail when the People’s History of the Marvel Universe covers the various Registration Acts…)
Thirdly, we are introduced to Henry Peter Gyrich, future antagonist to both the X-Men and the Avengers. I find Gyrich endlessly fascinating, because I can’t think of that many real-life figures who spawned not one, but two, stand-ins. It’s almost like H.R Haldeman did something to really inspire antipathy in people of a certain generation.
Finally, it’s important to note that the main reason why Kate’s intervention “didn’t work” (more on this in a second) is because the Anti-Sentinel Resistance was so focused on the role of the Brotherhood and Senator Kelly that they didn’t see the more insidious threat of the quisling Hellfire Club.
So let’s talk about the Twilight Zone-style stinger ending – that, contrary to the previous page’s narration that Kate’s actions collapsed the Earth-811 timeline, and thus “reality twists inside out,” Kate’s intervention and the 2013 X-Men’s sacrifices have not halted the threat of the Sentinels. It is unarguable that the impact of this ending was a major reason why Days of Future Past was such an enduring success.
And that’s the
problem: over the last almost-forty years, X-creators and fans alike have been
so profoundly influenced by this story that we’ve become incapable of imagining
a future for the X-Men that isn’t a dystopia. Part of this has to do with
comics’ unfortunate tendency to repetition: since the original, we’ve had Days
of Future Present, Days of Future Yet to Come, Wolverine: Days of
Future Past, and Secret Wars: Years of Future Past, all of which
explicitly continue, elaborate on, or reboot the Earth-811 continuity. (I would
also argue that Age of Apocalypse and its successors are profoundly
influenced by DOFP as well, since they also involve time travel,
assassinations, dystopian futures, Sentinels, and nuclear threat.)
I would argue that this kind of enforced nihilism is creatively deadening in any case, but it becomes especially problematic for a comic book which doubles as a metaphor about oppressed minorities. The implicit argument is that there is no hope for the future, no possibility of either eliminating dismantling either cultural bigotry or systematic discrimination, no potential for progress either in reformist or revolutionary fashion, and given how often these dystopias involve worlds in which mutant hegemony is the oppressive force, that trying to change things only makes them worse.
If D.C can give us the Legion of Super-Heroes or the New Gods, it is not beyond the capacity of Marvel to imagine a future that doesn’t fall into the dystopic trap. While I understand that as action-oriented dramas, the superhero genre requires conflict, but there is a middle ground between utopia and dystopia. Here, the protean nature of the metaphor can be our guide: when in the history of the world has the success of a social movement or the liberation of a people from oppression not seen backlash, the rise of new issues, or the formation of new group identities?
 Yes, I know I said during
an earlier PHOMU that the Hellfire Club was his first statement on the
mutant metaphor, but to be fair the Hellfire Club was introduced as part of a
story that’s really more about space opera and cosmic weirdness, so I feel Days
of Future Past qualifies as the first story that is about the
metaphor above all else.
 Jason Powell, Best There Is At
What He Does, loc. 1242.
 While I didn’t want to let it overshadow the overall argument of the essay, I can’t let it pass without note that Days of Future Past eerily predicts many of the core plot elements of Terminator – genocidal robots, time-travel, apocalyptic scenarios, nuclear war, and so on – although unlike the celebrated legal case between Harlan Ellison and James Cameron, this is likely a case of parallel evolution.
 It’s really unclear in the main X-Men
continuity what Senator Kelly’s party affiliation and state are. Only in X-Men:
Noir is he described as a Republican, but the political context of
2009-2010 was very different from that of 1980-1981 and there’s really no signs
of that in the original text. As for what state he represents, all I can say is
that he seems to spend an awful lot of time in New York City (which is fairly
standard for the Marvel Universe), which suggests he’s a Senator from somewhere
on the Eastern Seaboard.
 As a public service to my readers,
I reached out to my friend and colleague Dante Atkins to ask him whether Kelly’s
relationship with Shaw would violate Senate
ethics rules. On the face of it, having Shaw guest Kelly at his incredibly
exclusive club would generally be considered a gift worth more than $50, which
could trigger all kinds of problems (not just with Senate Ethics, but
potentially the FEC and the Public Integrity Section of the Department of
Justice) if Kelly didn’t declare it on his forms, especially since Shaw
definitely lobbies him on Project Wideawake. (More on that later.)
Unfortunately, the fact that Shaw and Kelly are longstanding friends probably
means that this would fall under the “personal friendship exemption,” unless
someone could “prove that Shaw is offering this to Kelly not out of personal
friendship, but because he is a sitting Senator, and would not do so if he
weren’t.” Just goes to show that whether in Earth-616 or our world, Congressional
ethics rules are in dire need of reform.
 By contrast, John McCain
suspending his campaign in late September 2008 was way more reasonable, both in
terms of distance from the election and the importance of the issue.
 One of the ironies of Mystique’s
radical positioning in Days of Future Past is that she’s going to spend
far, far more of her career as an agent both willing and unwilling of the human
state than she ever did as a mutant revolutionary.
 Granted in this case, the reporter
is a fictional
one from Doonesbury, but you get the sense that this scene was
something of an inspiration for his inclusion of the very real journalists Neal
Conan and Manoli Wetherell of NPR in Fall of the Mutants.
 It is possible that President Silhouette is termed out and thus a political ally of Kelly’s, but that seems somewhat unlikely since Project Wideawake is clearly a personal initiative of his, and the clandestine scheme continues into the next administration (i.e, for at least 40 more issues).
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