The History of the X-Men: GIANT SIZE | Seminal Moments: Part 1

TOM BREVOORT: The open secret
about X-Men in the 1960s is that it was a failure. It was one of the last
original creations of that original blossoming
period of the 1960s. They were intended to be
like another Fantastic Four. You have to put it in context. The X-Men was never an A
category series, anymore than Iron Man was. Stan and Jack did the
opening few issues, and then handed it off to
other writers, other creators. TOM BREVOORT: For
most of the ’60s, it was the lousiest-selling
Marvel title– or close to it. In 1969, it was canceled. The last bunch of
issues of X-Men, which were done by Roy
Thomas and Neal Adams, got a little
attention, and there was a little uptick in sales. CHRIS CLAREMONT: The
irony was that Roy Thomas and Neal Adams’ run
on the X-Men was groundbreaking in its own way. It’s just that the
tracking network was so primitive that Marvel
didn’t realize they had a hit on their hands
until eight months after the first issue came out. And by then, Neal had gone back
to DC, so too little, too late. So the decision was made. Let’s bring X-Men
back as a reprint. We’ll just reprint the old
stories, and if it sells, that’s good enough. So that’s what X-Men was
for about five or six years between 1970 and 1975. The characters still existed in
and around the Marvel universe, and the series
certainly had its fans. Fans of the day would
ask Roy or Stan– or whomever– about when are you
going to bring back the X-Men? It wasn’t like there
was a huge wellspring, but there was a
dedicated following. Marvel’s president, moving
into the mid-’70s, was a fellow by the name of Al Landau. And Al Landau got
into the business by being the person
who had licensed Marvel comics to be sold in
international properties. One of the things
that occurred to him is if we had a book that
had characters in it from all of these different
places around the globe, maybe that one would
sell really well and it would make
a lot more money. There was a meeting, and I
believe it was Roy who said, well, maybe we do that and we
can do that with the X-Men. I could take one or two
of the original X-Men, and we can have all these other
X-Men from around the world, and that’ll be the thing. And so that was the
starting point for what became Giant-Size X-Men 1. CHRIS CLAREMONT:
Stan didn’t pitch. I mean, he was the boss. So for him to pitch something
is when should we do it? Now. How do we do it? The best you can. And he and Roy talked about
it, then Roy, I think, turned to Len. TOM BREVOORT: Len Wein was a
very famous comic book writer and editor and worked both
at Marvel and other companies throughout the late 1960s, all
the way up through the 2000s. And Len has the
distinction of being the creator of that
time period who came up with the most stuff. For Marvel, the big
ones, obviously, are Wolverine and the All
New, All Different X-Men. But up to about
the mid-2000s, he had about the best
batting average of anybody in terms of coming up
with stuff in comics that would then be translated
into film and television. Dave Cockrum was one of the
preeminent young artists of the 1970s. He was, in the ’70s, the
cutting-edge of superhero and costume design. Of all the people that
would design new superheroes or redesign old superheroes, he
was at the forefront of that. And his looked the most modern. CHRIS CLAREMONT: With Dave, you
had reams and reams of paper. I mean, he did, I think, 35 or
40 design pieces for Phoenix– different costume designs,
different costume colors. Taking the cape off one
design, putting it on another, combining them in
different ways. He would juggle the figure until
he found the visual iconography that worked. When you have access to an
artist as creatively gifted as Dave Cockrum, you want
to utilize that palette to the best extent. Roy tasked Len and Dave
with creating the X-Men. He and Len sat down and
went over all this stuff, and he just had, like, books
full of designs and characters and stuff he’d come up with. And they pooled together the
characters that became the All New, All Different X-Men. CHRIS CLAREMONT: He was the
best there is at what he did– which was tell stories, create
characters, create universes. Without Dave, the visual
concept of the X-Men would be non-existent. The premise was how do we
introduce the new team? The one rubric that Stan
established for the team was he wanted it to be international. The idea was to bring as much
diversity in form and reality as possible. Out of that discussion,
you have an indigenous American, a Russian, a German– who doesn’t look human at all. TOM BREVOORT: Nightcrawler went
through a couple of iterations. Dave came up with him one night
while he was in the service. They were out somewhere,
and there was some shelling going on or something. It was a dangerous night, and he
sat in this foxhole or wherever and came up with a
superhero character. CHRIS CLAREMONT:
Storm was originally two different characters,
which Dave folded together and created Ororo. Then you had Colossus. TOM BREVOORT: Here’s
a superhero who’s a good guy, a hero on the
team, and a Russian citizen. CHRIS CLAREMONT: Utilizing
Colossus as a member of the team in 1974– how would we play it in terms
of the United States’ relation to the Soviet Union? TOM BREVOORT: It’s
a much wider array of backgrounds and
personality types than you tended to
have in any comics. Now these guys are the X-Men,
not the guys that you know. There was no warning,
really, whatsoever. It’s not like there was an issue
before that that could say– next issue, the new X-Men! And they hated it. They hated it! And you can actually see
it even in the letters that they printed. There was a real hardcore
bunch of X-Men fans that wanted X-Men back. CHRIS CLAREMONT: We got letters
upon letters from readers. Why have you taken the
previous team away? How could you turn the X-Men
into this cheap advertising? TOM BREVOORT: And
pretty much, they were told, you’re going
to get the X-Men back, except all the guys that
you love are gone now, and it’s all these new weirdos. In the office, we were all
looking at it and saying, this is bloody brilliant. TOM BREVOORT: And
it took a while for that sentiment to
shift, and for the new team to catch on with the older fans. It always had a popularity
with the readers that came to it in the ’70s. CHRIS CLAREMONT: The
audience reaction pre-publication is entirely
different from the reaction post-publication. But we knew from, certainly,
the reader reaction– from the mail that we would get– that we had a hit. The question was, how could
we exploit it to the best and most positive extent? TOM BREVOORT: In those days,
Chris had come on staff as an assistant editor. CHRIS CLAREMONT: I was working
on a college internship. Marvel was nothing
like it is today. TOM BREVOORT: Chris
was just hanging around in the offices at whatever
point where Len and Dave Cockrum were coming
up with the plot for Giant-Size X-Men number 1. And as it’s told,
Chris is the one who suggested to them how they
get rid of the menace in that– Krakoa– this huge island
that turns out to be a singular entity that’s alive. Len kept trying to
shut the door in my face, and I kept slipping in anyway. And Len, at the same time,
decided it was time to move on. And for the chance to
work with Dave Cockrum, I basically threw him to the
floor and said, I want it. And Len said yes. It really wasn’t until
Chris started writing the book regularly and started
to dig into it that the underlying
metaphors started to really come to the fore. The actual mutant experience as
metaphor for human experience– that really became the stock
and trade of the X-Men, and the real strength
of what Chris and his various
collaborators did didn’t really develop
fully and become an integrated core
part of that series until they were working
on it regularly. CHRIS CLAREMONT: Len
planted the first seeds. The key element here was
that I got a hold of it from that very first issue. Even though X-Men 94 was
substantially Len’s plot, 95 was mine. 96, for better or worse,
was a necessary fill-in. By the time Dave and I
got our story underway– which was sort of 97, but
definitely 98 to 100– we pretty much knew
what we wanted to do and the direction
we wanted to go, and that was where I think
we all started dancing down the road to what
the X-Men evolved into over the next 16 years. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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