Help me become an X-men comic book geek!
October 19, 2006 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Any X-Men experts hereabouts? What would you recommend as a starting point for someone who enjoyed the movies and the animated series from the early 90s and now would like to go back and actually read the original comic books? Are there any omnibus-type volumes that would help bring a new reader up to speed?
posted by John Smallberries to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Well, the movies are retelling the story of the "new" X-Men, which started with issue 94, so I'd just start there.
posted by nicwolff at 6:19 PM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Well, it started with Giant-Size X-Men #1, but that's collected in that same volume.</nerd>
posted by nicwolff at 6:20 PM on October 19, 2006

For $40, you can't go wrong with the 40 Years of the X-Men

As far as WHERE to start... I'm sure there will be others that can offer you a good idea.
posted by hatsix at 6:21 PM on October 19, 2006

The X-Men languished for about the first decade or so of their existence and it wasn't until Chris Claremont came along to shake things up that the series went from being cancelled to becoming the darling of superhero comics.

I am not really a huge X-Men fan, but these two are considered the definitive storylines that get trotted out when it comes to make this sort of list:Both of these are collected (in full) in the omnibus-like Essential X-Men collections. Those are cheap, but they are printed on newsprint and are in black and white. Almost any comic shop on the planet should have at least a few of these for you to get a look at.

Personally, it's only Grant Morrison's work on X-Men that has ever excited me: he took the old "mutants protect those that hate them the most" angle and cranked verything up to 11, creating new characters and energizing the series in a way that had not been seen since the above stories. The shadow of Claremont hung long over the books and it was only by letting a drug-fueled Scotsman take over that the detritus was kicked to the curb. Joss "Buffy" Whedon sort-of followed him with a new ongoing entitled Astonishing X-Men that has been collected a number of ways. Personally, I think it lacks much in the way of creative spark, even if John Cassaday is an artist of the highest order.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 6:30 PM on October 19, 2006

For a good overall review, I enjoyed the ever living hell out of X-Men Mythos . Paul Jenkins and Paolo Rivera are trying to bridge the movie and the history of the X-Men together. I also enjoyed Hulk Mythos, but not as much. Plus, I don't care if makes me a girl, it's super pretty.
posted by nadawi at 6:30 PM on October 19, 2006

ack! Make that Mythos: X-Men. I am losing nerd cred all over the place.
posted by nadawi at 6:31 PM on October 19, 2006

Best answer: The Essentials series may be what you're looking for: black and white, cheap, and 500+ per book. Looking over the Amazon pages, I notice that the naming of the volumes can be a bit confusing, though.

If you wanted to start at the beginning, the reading order would go thusly:

Essential Uncanny X-Men, Vol.1 collects issues #1-24 of the original series by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, which began in 1963, and is followed chronologically by Essential Classic X-Men, Vol.2 collecting #25-53 and The Avengers #53. If I were you, I would download these issues before buying them, you may find them really dated and trite, and they aren't really needed to enjoy or understand the later issues.

Essential X-Men, Vol.1, collecting Giant-Size X-Men #1 and X-Men #94-119, is where the modern X-Men really began. Writer Chris Claremont's 16-year run on the X-Men started with issue #94, and much of the plots, backstories and relationships in the films and cartoons can be credited to him.

The rest of the Essential X-Men Volumes (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) follow along without any dumb adjective changes, though there has been some trouble with continuity and omissions.

On preview: Damn, there were zero responses here when I started writing this monstrosity.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:57 PM on October 19, 2006

As as side note, I highly recommend Chris Claremont's New Mutants, from about Issue#17 to 50.

The X-men comics were great from about #180 to #217. After that, Claremont's writing dropped and it just dragged on.

There's an old Graphic Novel titled "God Saves, Man Kills" which is good.

Also note that the movies are a bit different from the comics, mostly in the details, but the "feel" is the same.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:02 PM on October 19, 2006

Days of Future Past, mentioned above, influences the following X-Men storyline(s) in so many, many ways. The Phoenix saga gets all the glory. Days of Future Past is the real low-level driver.
posted by frogan at 7:28 PM on October 19, 2006

I second the graphic novel approach. Read "God Loves, Man Kills" and the original "Days of Futures Past" plotlines if you can find them.

I believe the Mutant Massacre has been collected as a graphic, too. Ask at a comic book store. This was one of the earlier, more successful crossover schemes.

Beyond that... I really just recommend you get "caught up" via Wikipedia. My own opinion of the X-Men is that it became basically worthless after about the third or fourth major crossover plotline, and has only gotten tolerable again with the (very enjoyable) Whedon series.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 7:33 PM on October 19, 2006

Best answer: I've been reading the X-Men for 30 years now (oh, lordy). Based on your question, I wouldn't recommend starting at the beginning. The original X-Men debuted in 1963, and were never a success. Those early stories are standard, uninspired superhero stuff, with no hint of what was to come. Their adventures ceased in the early sevenites.

You should probably begin, as Alvy suggests with the revitalized "new" team, which debuted in 1975. At this point, new characters were added, some old characters retired, and things changed. The biggest change was the introduction of writer Chris Claremont. It's his work that is really responsible for the phenomenon the team has become. And once artist John Byrne joined him a year or so later, X-Men became one of the best comic mags on the market. This is a great place to start.

If you don't mind black-and-white reprints, pick up the volumes Alvy suggests. If you'd like color, pick up the Marvel Masterworks editions, or the recent X-Men Omnibus, which collects most of the best of the new X-Men run. (This "best" lasts until approximately issue #142.) Unlike Brandon above, I don't think X-Men was particulary good after, say, #180 -- it just continued to slide further and further downhill.

I really don't think picking up individual graphic novels is a good idea. I'm not sure "Days of Futures Past", as great as it is, will read well unless you're familiar with the history that comes before. (It's made even better if you know more about the Marvel mythos.) Also, the Dark Phoenix saga is great, but it loses some impact if you don't understand why you should care about these characters.

Another option you might consider is picking up the "Ultimate X-Men". This is a sort of alternate continuity version of the team, and sort of starts mid-story. Though I haven't read much beyond the first couple issues (which I didn't care for), people I trust tell me it gets quite good, and that it's very much in the style and tone of the films. Ultimate X-Men is collected in both paperback and harbound volumes.

Don't dawdle, Buckaroo!
posted by jdroth at 7:52 PM on October 19, 2006

I really dug the X-Men/New Mutants crossover in the Asgardian Wars trade paperback back in the day.
posted by willpie at 8:18 PM on October 19, 2006

depending on where you stand on copyright infringement there are several torrents floating around with the first 446 issues of the uncanny x-men
posted by phil at 8:47 PM on October 19, 2006

I've been picking up the Marvel Essential books (and the equivalent Showcase collections). These are very nice since, being black-and-white collections on inexpensive newsprint, they're aren't especially collectable, but instead are very readable. Jam one in your backpack and carry it with you; lots of reading enjoyment at a low price.
posted by SPrintF at 9:17 PM on October 19, 2006

I'll disagree with beaucoupkevinn and suggest that you start with the relatively new Astonishing X-Men. It's not as well written as some of the New X-Men issues but it's a very accessible way to get into the X-Men universe and it doesn't rehash anything from the movies.

The first two trade paperbacks will take you through issue 12 and any comic shop will be able to hook you up with issues 13-17. Conversely you could wait for the third trade, which will be out in a few months, or just look for a bit torrent download of the complete run.
posted by aladfar at 9:45 PM on October 19, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for some great starting points, folks. I could have "best answer"ed more than two, but I'd feel goofy doing so. I do have some idea - at least a distorted one - of some of the storylines mentioned through seeing the animated series, but I understand they took a lot of liberties with details.

BTW, not to piggyback a question on my own question, but just how big a nerd am I if I have a crush on the cartoon version of Rogue?
posted by John Smallberries at 10:12 PM on October 19, 2006

Well, huge, but understandable. People have crushes on Playboy models too, so don't feel so bad about the cartoon thing.
posted by converge at 2:23 AM on October 20, 2006

but just how big a nerd am I if I have a crush on the cartoon version of Rogue?

Just to warn you, the very early appearances of Rogue in the comics are quite different than her later appearances, which the cartoon and movies were representing. In comics-world, Rogue started out a bad guy who permanently absorbed a certain superheroine's powers - that's how she got to be super strong and be able to fly (which she can in the cartoon and the comics, but not yet in the movies). In her early appearances, she kicks some X-Men ass, but later comes crawling to Xavier for help with her powers.

It's sort of similar to how Wolverine's original powers were not the adamantium skeleton and claws, but rather super-healing, which allowed his body to tolerate the process that gave him the skeleton/claws. Only he had it done to him against his will, unlike Rogue, who stole the powers. (She did it under prodding from her bad mutant foster mama, but still. And wait til you find out who that was...)
posted by Asparagirl at 3:19 PM on October 20, 2006

To hell with Rogue, now I have a crush on the AskMe version of Asparagirl.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:53 PM on October 20, 2006

posted by Asparagirl at 4:23 PM on October 27, 2006

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