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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Marvel Reboot Designer's Notes: The X-Men, Xavier Institute, and Mutants in General

     Children of the atom.  Mutants in the mainstream and Ultimate Marvel Universe are generally hated and feared, thanks in part to extremely loud bigots like Gyrich and Senator Robert Kelly, but also thanks to the actions of mutants like Magneto and - many insist - the X-Men themselves.  This has been especially exacerbated in recent years by Cyclops's Face-Heel Turn (Scott killed Xavier during the "Avengers/X-Men War", and Magneto has even told Scott, "You're sounding more like me than me."  When Magneto says you've gone around the bend, something's wrong.)  Plus, the X-titles tend to be rather anvilicious in their anti-prejudice outlook; while Claremont's 15-year run on Uncanny X-Men played it straight, acknowledging that the hate and fear came from a loud vocal minority, later writers and editors have decided to hammer the anvils home.
     All this is basically why I stopped reading the X-Men sometime around the Age of Apocalypse crossover in the mid-'90s.  The few times I've looked at the books since, I've found them mostly alien to me.  I decided I wanted something different yet recognizable for the X-Men.  One person claimed "the X-Men are a secret paramilitary organization with an agenda and very restricted enlistment requirements".
      Several times in the comics, the Xavier Institute has gone public as a school for mutants.  Many writers have decided to use these times to give the Institute highly forgettable students, many of whom don't last very long because of either editorial fiat, the writers not knowing what to do with them, or the readers writing in with "kill this joke off now, please!" - or a combination of all of the above!
     On top of all that, the X-Men rosters have become incredibly large and unwieldy, despite the writers focusing on a select few; the rest of the cast seems to bounce in and out, and multiple X-books have the same main characters.  (And let's not get into the annual shake-ups from editorially mandated "nothing will ever be the same" "make this darker and edgier than ever" crossovers. SO tired of them; none of the regular titles can complete a story without a mandated crossover interrupting and upsetting it.)
     So, for the Reboot X-Men, I've decided to go back to basics: The original five X-Men: Cyclops, Iceman, Angel, Beast, and Marvel Girl, in uniforms reminiscent of the ones they wore in the first run of X-Factor.  However, I've made several changes, detailed below:
  • The X-Men are not attending the Xavier Institute; they are graduates of the Institute, attending Empire State University as freshmen.  Professor Xavier is a trusted ally of the team who they turn to for guidance and assistance, but he does not give the team orders or missions.
  • Their membership roster is not limited to mutants; in addition to original first recruit Mimic, the X-Men are friends with Spider-Man and have offered him membership (he's remaining a reserve member), and Angel's girlfriend, Candy Southern, has adopted an identity-concealing outfit when assisting the team, though she hasn't taken a superheroic moniker as yet, to the point where the team's enemies and the public have begun to treat her unnamed costumed identity as a member of the team.
  • The Xavier Institute itself has gone public as a school for superhumans (not just for mutants). The Institute has about a hundred students or so, most of whom live on campus.  While the majority of the students are mutants, this is due to demographics, not a conscious effort; there are more mutants than there are legacy superhumans and new non-mutants who desire training in their abilities.
  • The X-Men will be operating in public as a superhero team, not in secret.  They will work with the authorities, and since two members - Angel and Beast - are not trying to keep their identities secret they will stick around to answer questions from police and the press, much like the Fantastic Four and Avengers are generally written as doing, rather than leaving the scene.   
    Of course, denouncing prejudice won't be absent from the Reboot X-Men, but the plan is to be a lot less anvilicious about it.  Groups like Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutants and Mystiques Mutant Liberation Front can and probably will be used as stand-ins for real-life groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, but the issues will be handled with more subtlty.  My preferred writer (for both X-Men and Spider-Man) is Fabian Nicieza, who handled similar topics in New Warriors v1 in the early '90s with intelligence and presenting all sides of complex issues without judgment while trying to find a compromise.
     Of course, many of the long-time X-Men from the Claremont era and later aren't going to be inactive.  Rogue is still with Mystique's MLF, though there are hints she may end up leaving the group, though whether she'll end up at Xavier's or in the X-Men proper is unknown.  Wolverine is working with an outlaw hero group, the Renegades, who are based in part off Bendis's New Avengers team.  Storm is going by her earlier epitaph Wind-Rider over in Africa, and being romanced by King T'Challa of Wakanda; I've decided that their romance was a good idea, but Marvel's handling of it was painful in that it was retconned into existence.  Far better to build it organically from their first meeting; it will also be handled in his title, not the X-book(s).  The locations and activities of other long-time members are not yet revealed.  Alex Summers/Havok and Lorna Dane/Polaris are attending the Institute; it's entirely possible that others will be attending as well.  And finally, I've decreed that Psylocke is still a student and "page three" model over in England, not a ninja.  (I'm not sure why she was made into a Japanese ninja in '89/'90, unless it was by editorial decree.)

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