The Biased List: My Top 15 Favourite Uncanny X-Men Covers

Let’s talk about some comic book covers from the Uncanny X-Men series.

If it wasn’t obvious from the title of this website, the X-Men have had a pretty monumental impact on my life. I grew up reading the comics, watching the cartoon show, and harshly judging the films. More recently, I’ve even gone as far as to compile a fantasy X-Men team because this boy can dream!

While there’s plenty of X-Men books to talk about: from the Uncanny X-Men, Astonishing X-Men, Amazing X-Men, Generation X, X-Force, and so on, I wanted to sit down and discuss my all-time favourite Uncanny X-Men covers.

While the stories are ultimately what sold me on the X-Men, covers were really the selling point for people to pick up comic books. For example, Batman had to be doing something cool for someone to want to read his stories and not just think of him as some guy in a bat suit. And while there’s tons of X-Men to choose from, having the most popular X-Man, Wolverine, on the cover would be sure to drive up sales. A cover without Captain America fighting the Red Skull would be more awesome to pick up and read than one with him versus Batroc the Leaper, y’know.

Literally judging books by their covers isn’t my plan with this list however. I want to talk about the artwork and what about the cover draws me in. Colours, details, storytelling – what the cover says rather than what it’s selling. So here goes:

Some Honourable Mentions

Uncanny X-Men #525, Aug. 2010 (Cover by Adi Granov)

Six X-Men under siege by robots may seem like a typical X-cover (which we’ll see more of later), but this really gives us a sense of dread. The grey palette contrasting against Armor’s, Psylocke’s, and Cyclops’ reddish-pink weapons give a nice pop to the page. And Namor’s face though.

Uncanny X-Men #213, Jan. 1987 (Cover by Alan Davis & Paul Neary)

I considered adding this cover to my main list, but felt that the impact of this cover is actually more nostalgic feeling. I say that because at this point, nobody knew who Sabretooth was, let alone his history with Wolverine. However, the cover is action-packed and claustrophobic, especially considering how few colours are actually used on the page. It’s as if we’re in hte fight with them. One helluva great inking job too.

Uncanny X-Men #251, Nov. 1989 (Cover by Marc Silvestri & Dan Green)

I love me some Silvestri, which is why it pained me to leave this cover only as an honourable mention. In typical Silvestri style, we have lines, lines, and more lines running down the page, giving this Biblical representation of Wolverine’s crucifixion an incredibly sombre feeling. The green back-lighting against the crucifix is stunning.

Now the list:

15. Uncanny X-Men #476, Sept. 2006 (Cover by Billy Tan, Danny Miki, & Frank D’Armata)

While it’s definitely not the most action-packed cover on the list, this solo cover of Warpath stands powerful for me as it really speaks to his character. Out of the shadows, both literally and figuratively, comes Warpath with his Vibranium Knives and the head of the enemy. Figuratively speaking, he’s the little brother of the fallen X-Man, Thunderbird. Outside of Cable’s X-Force books, Warpath was a thrown away character lost and forgotten about. This cover for me represents his coming-of-age in the Uncanny X-Men – a bigger book than X-Force. With this one cover, without any dialogue, the viewer is given everything they need to know about Warpath.

14. Uncanny X-Men #205, May 1986 (Cover by Barry Windsor-Smith)

I couldn’t have a X-Men cover list without the legendary Barry Windsor-Smith on it, could I? The detail and confusion for the viewer on this cover is shared with Wolverine’s expression. The helplessness of both the viewer and Wolverine trying to figure out what is happening. The lines, wires, and colours all give a threatening feeling. It’s uncomfortable to see, let alone to understand. It’s a beautiful mess. Wolverine’s right hand – his claws extended as if they were forced out of him – add to the feeling of dread. Much like the cover, this issue is messy, violent, and mechanical.

13. X-Men #61, Oct. 1969 (Cover by Neal Adams & Sam Rosen)

The second appearance of the X-enemy Sauron lands in my top 15 list as it really encapsulates the threat of Sauron. An incredible landscape within a busy city adds to the sense that the public isn’t safe. Up in the air, Angel is alone against Sauron as the rest of the X-Men helplessly look on: they can’t fly! How can they save their friend? Sauron’s size engulfs the page and yet surprisingly his monotone green body doesn’t feel boring. What is he to the viewer? The grey city below doesn’t help with colour variety – yet the cover pops out with the bland green and grey as the dominant colours in the cover. How did Adams and Rosen pull this one off?

12. Uncanny X-Men #395, Aug. 2001 (Cover by Barry Windsor-Smith)

Fifteen years after our last entry with him, Barry Windsor-Smith still dominates the X-books with another favourite of mine as both a cover and an X-Man. Jumping over from the Generation X books, Chamber dominates with his literal explosive power taking over the cover, despite there being very little action at all on the page. His eyes scream attitude, almost as a “screw you” for his Gen. X series being cancelled. With his head slightly tilted, it’s almost as if he’s asking, “Are you talking to me?” as he makes his mark. The cover is bright, bombastic, and the lettering compliments – if not helps – the impact of the cover. A great premise behind the cover’s simplicity.

11. Uncanny X-Men #268, Sept. 1990 (Cover by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, & Tom Orzechowski)

The only Jim Lee cover on my list. It’s my favourite for a few reasons: firstly, it’s an iconic cover. Three big names in the Marvel Universe together on one cover and “together again for the first time.” Secondly, their stance and dominance on the page make the viewer forget the trio really aren’t anywhere. There’s a city in behind, a bridge, and. . . steps? The trio seem to be looking off at something – are they above it or at eye-level? It really doesn’t matter because we focal point of the cover draws us away from the background’s strangeness. The viewer is forced into seeing Captain America’s chest and shield, then Wolverine, then Black Widow. The distinct colours and inks wonderfully make your eyes circle along with the figures – only to circle back around from Black Widow’s head into Captain America’s chest and shield again. Repeat. It’s truly a great cover, if not a bit clever, cover.

10. Uncanny X-Men #290, July 1992 (Cover by Whilce Portacio)

Making a graceful cover even more wonderful is Whilce Portacio’s Uncanny X-Men #290. Here, Storm stands literally and figuratively in her element(s) as few colours are used to define the image. Heavy on the inking to define the white space and rain, the viewer is left uncertain on whether there are tears running down Storm’s face or the rain. The cover is a simple idea which is manifested into something much more grand with Storm’s body language suggesting either relief or joy. She stands in front of the X-Men logo, making sure she is the focal point for the cover. Everything else is secondary.

9. X-Men #137, Sept. 1980 (Cover by John Byrne, Terry Austin, & Jim Novak)

Blunt and to the point: Phoenix must die! With their backs against the wall on an alien planet (notice Earth in the background!), the X-Men are in for the fight of their lives to save Jean Grey. Cyclops and Jean holding on to one another while fighting off the enemy (or in this case, the Shi’ar could be considered good guys?), in a battle to the death. Words do a lot to sell this issue. “Special Double Sized” and “MUST DIE” really stand out as a selling point – to a lesser extent earning $2500 sounds great as well, but that’s besides the point. However, there’s a bit of a throwback in this cover. We have Jean back in her earlier costume, giving bright composition to the dreary background. She’s front and centre on the cover, both her and Cyclops launching weapons at an unseen foe. Lots of mystery and intrigue is given on this cover (and what happens inside the book is a doozy!)

8. Uncanny X-Men #207, July 1986 (Cover by John Romita Jr. & Dan Green)

A simple cover still reeling with incredible action. Wolverine ripping the cover he’s contained in? Talk about breaking the fourth wall. This cover is so basic, but feels like there’s a lot going on. Straggly vertical lines; little details on Wolverine’s otherwise boring costume colours; the pose. I like this cover because, to paraphrase physicist Lawrence Krauss, it makes something from nothing. What could be a ho-hum cover by Romita Jr., ends up being one of the most iconic covers featuring Wolverine.

7. X-Men #101, Oct. 1976 (Cover by Dave Cockrum & Danny Crespi)

Speaking of iconic covers: the first appearance of the Phoenix certainly is one! Cyclops drowning, Nightcrawler struggling to swim – Storm seems as if her cape is weighing her down, yet still looks over to help see Cyclops in danger – the fear the cover strikes is enormous. Given it was only a few issues earlier where X-Man Thunderbird died, there’s still a chance for any of the main members to go as well. Cockrum was so far ahead here, one can even see the fear in Cyclops’ eyes through his visor. Much like issue #137, we have another bright green Phoenix cover, contrasting against Jean’s red hair and the blue sky – lots of colour composition is happening here and the characters seem purposefully chosen to make the colours work. And not to mention the impact of Jean’s explosion out of the water. It’s just one big “wow.”

6. X-Men #133, May. 1980 (Cover by John Byrne, Terry Austin, & Gaspar Saldino)

So about those iconic Wolverine covers. . . often considered to be one of the best Uncanny X-Men covers, Wolverine taking on the Hellfire club soldiers helped define his character. Clearly out-manned, alone, and forced into melee combat against armed combatants, Wolverine simply kicks some serious ass. Keeping mostly primary colours: red, green, blue – and yellow, the individual characterization of each person on the cover really shine. The fearless shooter from a distance; the annoyed soldier behind Wolverine, the three goons getting knocked away and whose pain the viewer can actually feel because the bodies aren’t in unusual positions – this cover, “delivered” by John Byrne and Terry Austin, not only defined the X-Man, but helped define the series.

5. X-Men #98, April 1976 (Cover by Dave Cockrum & Gaspar Saldino)

One could say that battling giant robots could be considered the X-Men’s forté. The giant Sentinels literally tower over the X-Men, leaving the dynamics to this cover to be in the hands of the legend, Mr. Cockrum. We only really get an idea of the scale of the Sentinels by Wolverine and Cyclops, making the fall of Colossus from the building that much more dramatic. Lots of action sprawls over the cover with every X-Man doing something relevant on the cover (which is a thing older X-books had a problem with – see my #3). The purple of the Sentinels compliments the strangely green-lit background featuring a Kirby Krackle sky. In my eyes, if there’s one cover that screams “The X-Men,” this would be it.

4. X-Men #141, Jan. 1981 (Cover by John Byrne & Terry Austin)

Everyone’s dead! In a dystopian future, we have an older Wolverine and Kitty Pryde up against a wall with their friends – and all of the characters we’ve read about – all apprehended or dead. It’s a dark, dreary cover for the X-Men which actually reflects the storyline contained within. It’s gritty and reeks of fear and anticipation. Who’s after Wolverine? Who has killed them all? How will anyone survive? Looking at this cover to this day, I still imagine what happened to the X-Men who were captured or killed. The cover gives more questions than answers and begs the reader to pick up the book.

3. X-Men #12, July 1965 (Cover by Jack Kirby, Frank Giacoia, & Sam Rosen)

I bet some of you were asking yourselves when the Kirby representation was going to appear. X-Men #12 takes the cake for me as his best X-Men cover as we witness the first appearance of the mighty Juggernaut. His explosive entrance to the cover (and the series) knock back the X-Men – save for Jean Grey which Kirby never seemed to know what to do with on his covers. But what works well for this cover is a few things: the mystery behind the Juggernaut. We see his back, a gigantic fist, huge shoulders – what sort of creature is he? The cover is bright and red; instilling fear and drama on the cover. It makes the X-Men’s yellow costumes pop out, which in-turn also adds to the dramatic feel to the cover. There’s nothing happy happening here. It’s dark, obstructing, and moody, not only making it a really strange cover for its time, but one of my favourites to go back and look at.

2. Uncanny X-Men #210, Oct. 1986 (Cover by John Romita Jr., Bob Wiacek, & Danny Crespi)

Alright, alright. I’m sure you folks are wondering why this cover is so far up on the list. The real reason is that this cover totally hits the mark of the “definitive X-Men lineup” for me. While the catch phrase on the cover is cheesy as all hell, it’s the body language the X-Men give off that really strikes me. If you were to gauge the X-Men on their covers, to this point, save for issue #141 (and its next issue), it would’ve felt like regular comics for all ages. This cover was the turning point in the books for me, featuring the Marauders and a lot of dead Morlocks. The following covers feature blood, violence, fear, and action – but all originate from the storyline in this book – based off of the attitude from these characters. I wouldn’t want to mess with any of the X-Men based on this cover. They’re fearful, they’re menacing, and most importantly, they’re the best mutants for the job. Much like issue #207, Romita keeps it simple with a plain background and some horizontal lines to give this cover the edginess it needs to really hit home.

1. Uncanny X-Men #142, Feb. 1981 (Cover by Terry Austin & Danny Crespi)

Like I said before, save for issue #141 and its next issue, the X-books felt like comics for all ages. Then comes along Uncanny X-Men #142 by Terry Austin and all hell breaks loose. A giant Sentinel obliterates Wolverine on the cover as an impaled and broken Storm looks on. In this issue, EVERYBODY DIES. It’s a gut-wrenching cover for anyone to gaze upon. The action – and Wolverine’s death – demands your attention. Eyes focus on the colourful composition of his face. Just based on colours alone, everything compliments one another – green goes with purple which goes with yellow and orange. It’s inked beautifully to mask the real gore behind Wolverine’s death. It’s like the old horror movie trope: it’s better to have the murder done off-screen to leave the gruesome details to the imagination. And Wolverine’s death being caused by a soulless, faceless machine makes the hit so much stronger. As far as Uncanny X-Men covers go, this one delivers.

So that’s it! That’s my list of my favourite Uncanny X-Men covers! I’m sure a lot of you could agree with my choices, but I’m certain a lot of you would disagree with what I’ve said or my selection.

What have you? Did I overlook a cover? Let me know below! Or you can let me know on Twitter and Instagram!

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

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The Dream X-Men Team

Man, I love me some X-Men. I grabbed my first issue back in 1994 and was hooked from there: indulging myself in the world of X ever since. I’ve watched many teams break up, reform, or take turns becoming “Uncanny” in various ways. I’ve seen X-Men both die and come back to life, join other non-X-related teams like the Avengers, or became enemies against their friends. It’s been a wild ride.

Author Kelly Thompson recently retweeted a link from Comics Alliance which featured an X-Men Fantasy Draft. While some of the teams are great (like Katie’s and Aaron’s choices), I thought I should probably showcase my own.

While there’s well-over 300 X-Men to choose from, I’m going to limit myself to ten. I know the folks over at CA capped it at 8, but I’m making my own rules. And now, in no particular order:

moonstar1. Mirage (Danielle Moonstar)
Part of me hates that I have to explain why I’ve chosen Moonstar when I know she speaks for herself. Not only is she a quality leader, she’s still a complete bad ass even without her powers. On more than one occasion has Moonstar been the voice of reason, keeping her calm and head in the game when things get rough around her. She seems to always be there for someone even when her own life seems to be in shambles. Empathetic, compassionate, and yet still tough as nails, easily proven when she took on Hela herself. A natural, gifted, and talented member – an obvious choice to be on the team.

2. Archangel (Warren Worthington III)
For the record, I’m referring to the original Worthington, not the new one brought up through time travel (like I said, it’s been a wild ride). I’ve always had a soft spot for Worthington as he’s not only an emotional basketcase that I have sympathy for, but also still clear in mind to help his friends when needed. Despite turning against his friends time and time again, his heart (and fortune) is always in the right place.

warren_worthington_iii_earth-616_0033

One of the original five X-Men, Archangel has always been a background character of sorts. While his powers of flight aren’t as aggressive as Cyclops’ optic blasts or Wolverine’s claws, they keep him cautious and clear headed in action. That is, unless the Archangel takes over. . .

monet3. M (Monet St. Croix)
I’m always a big fan of confidence. M oozes it. Her confidence is backed by her mutant powers of strength, flight, healing powers, and telepathy – essentially “perfection.” She’s a super-smart one-woman show who, as I once reviewed, doesn’t take crap from anyone. Originally with the Generation X team, she later grouped with X-Factor to showcase her investigative side and how she works in more intimate, adult groups. My only beef with having her on the team is that a lot of the other members would have a hard time putting up with her attitude. While it’s not usually warranted, it makes for some great stories.

4. Chamber (Jonothon Starsmore)chamber

Another character originating from Generation X, Chamber has always struck me as a tortured soul – unable to eat, breathe, and speak like a normal human, Chamber’s lower jaw was destroyed by his mutant powers when they first manifested. The energy that flows within his jaw can be controlled, giving him immense power and making him a formidable X-Man.

I first really understood Chamber when picking up Uncanny X-Men #395 (which also features a great X-Men roster) and reading his development as a character. I grew attached to him from there and been a big fan of his ever since.

5. Multiple Man (Jamie Madrox)mm

If I am ever given the chance to write an X-book (Marvel, are you there?), I would NOT use Jamie Madrox. This is simply because I believe he is author Peter David’s character. David’s work on the Multiple Man over his long run of X-Factor showcases character development and dedication to both a story and character arc. Multiple Man always struck me as Joss Whedon’s Captain Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly before Firefly was even a thing. Madrox’s humour, strength, tenacity, and struggle with leadership makes him the most human person on the team. But, oh man, his powers would be so freakin’ useful. (And once upon a time I went as Multiple Man for Halloween).

6. Domino (Neena Thurman)

dominoFor the uninitiated, Domino may seem like the mutant version of Black Widow – but with a luck on her side. Quite literally. Domino’s powers of shifting the odds in her favour not only make her a terrifying force to be reckoned with, but a incredible asset to any team. Originating in X-Force, and then later in a new X-Force, only to be put into another X-Force after that, Domino knows a thing or two about sneaking around, combat, and making stealth a priority.

While some of her snarky attitude and over-confidence may mirror M’s, Domino knows when to duck out if things get too dicey. She’s experienced, tough, and yet will stick to her guns (literally, too) if something doesn’t seem right. It also helps that she’s also worked with my next pick!

7. Boom-Boom (Tabitha Smith)boomboom

If your idea of Jubilee comes from any of the X-Men cartoons or movies, think of her near-opposite and you have Boom-Boom. While Jubilee was the hip teenager who wanted to go to the arcade and chew bubblegum, Boom-Boom was out hunting for boys and blowing stuff up. Her mutant power – creating ticking time bombs made out of plasma energy – can explode with great force. While working with both X-Force and X-Factor, she has never really been written as a fully-matured character. While that may be a turn off for some folks putting together a team, Boom-Boom still has it where it counts and her light-hearted attitude and spirit would make for easing tension and energizing the group.

8. Fantomex (Jean-Phillipe/Charlie Cluster-7)

fantomexOne-part James Bond, one-part Wolverine. One-part three brains. What.

Fantomex is a creative secret agent out of the Weapon Plus program that uses his powers for confusion and escape more than anything. If there’s one thing that Fantomex does do, however, is make himself look good to others by getting the job done. Whether it be him single-handedly saving Uncanny X-Force from the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, or managing to make The World work in his favour, Fantomex’s bag of tricks seem to be limitless as he (and trusty E.V.A.) are a tag-team of terror. Fantomex’s only real challenge being on the team is my next choice. . .

9. Psylocke (Elizabeth Braddock)psylocke

Psylocke is a character which many authors struggled to understand (and even more artists struggle to draw properly). Explaining her origin would take longer than what you’ve read here so far, so let me leave you with who she is: a psychic ninja assassin with more baggage than most people. One would think that being on another team with two men she has dated (Archangel and Fantomex) would mean trouble – and you know, it probably would. But she doesn’t let things linger or bother her for long – pushing emotions aside to finish the mission. Psylocke has been a tremendous force in the X-Men for many years – her devotion to the team and making things right is part of her moral code. The soft-spoken ninja never needs to prove herself because she lets her actions do the talking.

10. Banshee (Sean Cassidy)

At the end of my list, we have the leader of Generation X and the only (currently?) dead X-Man. While the movies (or failed TV pilot) don’t give Cassidy any justice, he is totally on my list because he is probably one of – if not the most – experienced character in the roster. He’s seen his fair share of action as he’s been in the X-books since the 60’s. He’s lost his powers by damaging his vocal chords when saving Japan from tremendous waves (caused by a villain). He founded X-Corps: a short-lived mutant police force. He’s been a detective with Interpol. He’s a father. The list just goes on. Noble, honest, and self-sacrificial (I mentioned he’s dead, right?), Banshee would be the most likely to lead my fantasy group of X-Men.

My honorable mentions go to: Captain Britain, Juggernaut, Polaris, Rogue, and Nightcrawler.

So that’s my list! Do you agree? Disagree? Do you think there would be too much drama or that everyone would be mature enough to get over it all?

And what about you?! Who is on your X-Men dream team? Heck, who is your dream team of superheroes? Sound off below!

And keep on Space Truckin’!

Pokémon GO & Growing Up as a Nerd in the 90’s

With the new release of Pokémon Go seemingly affecting everyone’s lives and social media platforms (which arguably are the same thing to some folk), it always surprises me when I see something from my childhood come back into the mainstream. That’s not to say Pokémon ever went away. There are still new movies, new toys, and of course the online sensation known as TwitchPlaysPokémon which went all over the news which also introduced lots of people to the streaming service Twitch. This also happened with the Twitch Bob Ross marathon, but I digress.

I grew up in the 90s. I was born in the mid-80s, letting me absorb the cool TV shows that survived the end of the 80’s era: GI Joe, Transformers, Dino Riders, and Denver the Last Dinosaur were only a few of the many shows that trickled over into the 90s with me.

I was pretty obsessed with dinosaurs as a kid. I wanted to be a palaeontologist when I was in grade three and wrote cool stories featuring both dinosaurs and Transformers in my English classes. Why I never considered just writing about the Dinobots – I’ll never know. I collected rocks and went through the gravel in neighbours driveways to look at the imprints of trilobites or plants within them. It was really fascinating to me.

Ah, my first comic book.
Ah, my first comic book.

In the early-90s, I stumble across a animated TV show called The X-Men on FOX Kids. There was also Spider-Man, Batman, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, The Tick, and a short-lived Hulk series that I also enjoyed. I picked up my first comic book, X-Men #36, in 1994 when I visited a local convenience store. I recognized Sabretooth from the cartoon. The book also featured Jubilee – who I also knew from the show – as well as having a gatefold cover which caught me up with what was going on in the series. I recognized a lot of the X-Men on there. I felt like I was in the loop!

Coming to the mid-90s, some kids my mom babysat brought over this three-part movie series on VHS called “Star Wars.” Needless to say, that changed my life in a dramatic fashion. No longer did I want to dig up old dinosaur bones: I wanted to fly into space, maybe meet the Shi’ar Empire, fly an X-Wing, and so on. You know, the usual stuff kids dream about doing.

But as with everything, there comes a price.

I was a scrawny kid. I had asthma, acne, allergies – the works. All I ever wanted to do was talk about Star Wars and read comic books. It’s quite typical to look back and think that’s all kids in the 90’s wanted to do. If they weren’t doing that, they were playing video games. Let’s not forget that great pastime. I especially played the non-sport games or popular games from franchises. NHL series? Nope. Zelda? No time! At least Super Mario? I certainly played those games to death but would easily prefer games on a different “console” – the PC. SimCity 2000? Totally. X-Wing? I still have all five floppy discs! Command and Conquer? My ion cannon was ready!

While everything I wrote above gives you a good idea to what kind of kid I was, it was definitely not considered “the norm.”

I remember in grade seven on May 4th (years before the “Star Wars Day” even existed), my grade seven teacher wrote on the chalkboard “May the Fourth be With You.” I distinctly remember arriving early to class that day before both the teacher and the majority of my fellow classmates came in. I saw those words on the board, and I nearly cried in embarrassment. I ran up to the chalk board and erased everything that was written. I went back to my seat while the few other students didn’t say anything about my actions. When class started and the teacher arrived, she asked why her message was erased. Once I was ousted as the culprit, she asked me why I did what I did. I shyly shrugged my shoulders. She was good enough to accept the answer and move on with the day.

She understood why I did it: I was picked on a lot as a kid. Star Wars wasn’t cool. I wasn’t into the same things the rest of the students were: MuchMusic (Canada’s version of MTV), WWF, sports, hanging out with each other after school. . . it just wasn’t me. While I did participate in after-school sports, I wasn’t considered “cool” enough by my peers for a variety of other reasons. I still had no idea what music they were talking about, what movies they went to see together, and what games they were playing. I had my own world with my own interests.

I was often bullied and usually made fun of for my indulgence of the things I enjoyed. However, I eventually became a bit numb to it and ended up wearing it like a badge of honour. In my grade eight yearbook, my nickname was “Star Wars Fan” as the teacher opted not to have “Freak” put into the book. Good call, grade eight teacher. Good call.

1997 saw a lot of changes such as Greedo shooting first.
1997 saw a lot of changes such as Greedo shooting first.

So you can see how looking upon the fads now, I’m a bit surprised by how popular all of these things are. While sure, Star Wars is definitely one of, if not, the most popular film franchise of all time, there was a period when it was completely not cool to like it. I know that because I lived it.

With Return of the Jedi’s release in 1983, there was no new Star Wars until 1999. That’s a long period of time for something to be removed from popularity. While the 1997 Special Edition release brought the series back into the spotlight my fellow peers didn’t care, but my excitement and intensity over the films only increased. Newer toys were being released which I bought up with my paper route money.

I remember trying to talk to someone in my grade eight class about a few toys I had purchased. Their response? “You could’ve used that money to buy a car.” I was laughed at by a few of the other students. I was thirteen. Star Wars was what made me happy. I’m sorry I didn’t watch Party of Five or 90210. I was busy watching Nova on PBS. Besides, I wasn’t even old enough to drive.

Even as I began to discover music, I found myself starting to enjoy both progressive rock and heavy metal. It was complex stuff that shunned away the masses but really drew me in. As with heavy metal music, it is a purposeful insular culture that gives the middle finger to the establishment. And for me, that establishment was the two Catholic schools I attended and the rest of the people who didn’t understand me.

By that time as well, I was in high school and I had stumbled across a PC game called StarCraft. Even to this day, I watch professional StarCraft as my “sport” of choice. I don’t and never have followed popular sports. But I do follow the eSports scene.

Game 3 of Scarlett vs. Bomber during Redbull Battlegrounds.
Game 3 of Scarlett vs. Bomber during Redbull Battlegrounds.

With all that being said, you can imagine seeing the rise in popularity of comic books, their respective movies, and other nerd culture being highlighted in the media – how someone like me can feel a bit overwhelmed and if not sometimes feeling like a bit of a shut in.

However, now some friends and family will come to me to ask me questions about comic book character X, or ask me about the Star Wars Expanded Universe (or Legends as it’s now called). Suddenly the ridicule for the things I enjoyed for the first sixteen years of my life was to be forgotten: my interests were in the spotlight and as collateral had it, so was I.

But I wasn’t, and still at times, am not ready for it. It’s just seems strange to see people freak out over Pokémon Go now when I still talked about Pokémon exclusively with my younger brother when I was in grade ten because I didn’t know anyone else who was interested in it (shortly after I found, and still have, some long-time and close friends who I can nerd out with). Even look at the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 Kickstarter that BROKE records. While I am super happy for MSTies everywhere, it was only myself and two other friends who watched the show religiously, making it a surprise for me to see the revival actually happening. How didn’t I know so many other people liked it? Where were these people in my life growing up?

Now when the big comic book movies hit the theaters, I’m allowed to be myself in public and indulge in the culture I was once made fun of for indulging in before. When I’m at work, I’ll see a customer with a comic book movie shirt on and talk to them about it. They may not be fans of the comic books, but that’s okay! It’s great to finally be able to have the conversation without getting made fun of.

I'm actually level 15 now.
I’m actually level 15 now.

As irony would have it, I was out playing Pokémon Go with a friend the other night. We were only two out of about 150 people in the downtown core playing at a couple of close proximity Pokéstops. Five kids, I’m guessing ages 7 to 10, rolled up next to us on their scooters and bikes, looking out to the crowd of 15-35 year olds playing Pokémon Go. Their response? “Pokémon Go is THIS popular? What a bunch of losers!” they said out loud.

While everyone ignored them, my friend and I laughed as they rode away in disbelief. It was certainly something wonderful to see that despite all of the diversity and ridicule one may have had growing up, I looked out upon this group of Pokémon Go’ers and felt right at home.

In another instance this week, I spoke with a lady in her late-forties and joked with her about the game – not revealing that I play it. She said, in all-seriousness, “If I catch my son playing the game, I’ll kick his ass.” Her son, she admitted, is twenty-seven years old. Fortunately I was mature enough to simply let the conversation bounce off of me and not feel concerned about what she thought (and unfortunately I wasn’t in a position to correct her at the time).

So in one instance there’s a mother bullying people younger than her over the game, while in another instance those young kids who looked down upon my friend and I would’ve been the same kids to do that to me when I was their age.

While some things will never change and crappy kids and adults will always exist – one thing is for certain, if not a bit clichéd: enjoying what you do – regardless of popularity – is important. Life does get better.

Remember my grade seven teacher who wrote “May the 4th be With You” on the chalk board? Later in the day she did come to me in private before recess and apologized for unintentionally offending me. She knew how I felt and it was really one of the only times in my grade school years I felt someone outside of my family actually get what I was going through. I know this because here I am in 2016 still remembering that very simple gesture from all those years ago. I can only hope that more people are like that to children today. Empathy is a wonderful thing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go catch some Pokémon with some friends.

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Toronto ComicCon Recap!

As promised, my review from the Toronto ComicCon!

But first, I’ve been crazy-busy with work. I thought I would have had this up sooner, so I apologize for being so late. Blame the vikings.

ComicCon

I got to the Con around 11am and due to some unfortunate lack of organization, I didn’t get in until twelve – and that was by purchasing an advanced ticket. While I didn’t whine or complain at all, I knew the reasoning behind it was because this was the first year for the Con. Usually the Con is small and does not cater to so many celebrities, as well as the anime, science-fiction, and horror audience. Alas, I don’t think the people running the Con were expecting such a large turn out. Props to them for keeping their heads cool, despite all of the rage-induced fanboys that went after them.

The workers at FanExpo and the Toronto ComicCon deserve more respect than they’re given.

I managed to get in and pick up some early issues of X-Men for a great price. X-Men #16 and X-Men #19 (last story by Stan Lee) were picked up at an excellent price. However, my prized win was picking up a pretty decent quality copy of Amazing Adult Fantasy #8. Originally called “Amazing Adventures,” the title changed with issue #7. The stories were by Stan Lee, with the artwork & cover done by Steve Ditko.

Seven issues later with issue #15, this title would be renamed “Amazing Fantasy,” and feature the first appearance of a nobody named Spider-Man. With issue #15, the series would get canceled. The rest is history.

AmazingAdultFantasy

While I didn’t bring anything to sign for him, George Perez was there and as expected, had the largest line at the Con.

A few friends of mine lined up for signatures with Mark Bagley, while I met up with Swamp-Thing artist, Yanick Paquette. I got chatting with him and he explained to me a few extremely interesting things about his artwork and how he does it. I won’t go into details here, however. He was a incredibly down-to-earth guy and was absolutely hilarious.

After a few more scores: Uncanny X-Men #201 (first Cable) and the mini’s of X-Men: Phoenix Endsong and Cloak & Dagger volume 1 #1-4, I headed off to see the sketch duel between Paquette and Daredevil artist Paolo Rivera.

Both gentlemen were hilarious at the panel – making jokes and describing their reasonings to why they got into art in the first place.

As for the sketches, they were challenged to draw Spider-Man punching a shark. Yup.

Overall, it was a great time. I wish I had both arrived earlier and was able to go the second day, but alas, work calls!

I’m definitely excited to see what the next Con will bring!

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Review: X-Factor #228 & Avengers vs. X-Men

X_Factor

X-Factor #228
Peter David (writer), Leonard Kirk (pencils, inks), Matt Milla (colours), Cory Petit (letters), David Yardin (cover). $2.99

There is always a ton of fun to be had in an X-Factor book – guaranteed.

As of last issue, Jamie Madrox (Prime) was killed by Jamie Madrox (Dupe) who was killed by the little boy whose father X-Factor was sent in to save and later possessed by the villain Bloodbath who Strong Guy apparently killed! Geddit? And that was all in the last issue!

Although it may seem overwhelming with that summary, X-Factor is fast-paced and features many twists and turns with each page. By the end of it all, you’re left begging for more after each issue. In X-Factor #228, there is no exception. Albeit a more of a conversational book, the dialogue is completely necessary and builds up the inevitable answers people have been asking since Layla Miller’s return in X-Factor #202. (We’re so close!) Not to mention, we’re also getting closer to find out what really happened to Guido after his “death”! And those are still only a few of the loose ends!

Looking at the writing, however, it’s obvious that David has a great handle on this book. Even in a book with little action, the amount of effort put into the characters we are reading allows us to enjoy the book on such a higher regard. It really is a family book, where even the characters are invested in their own team – and that alone makes it a fun read.

And what’s to say about Leonard Kirk? He’s a tight artist with strong emotions pouring out of the characters. Layla in particular really shines with bits of sadness, rage and shame. With such a focus on characters, it’s hard to notice that most of the panels do not have backgrounds to them as readers will find themselves much more interested in the story than the “set” background. It leaves colourist Milla with a lot more freedom to set different moods in the varying panels of humour, action, and sorrow.

Although the book is definitely not a jumping on point for new readers (and I think most books should be), for the fans, we’ll be at the edge of our seats for yet another issue.

Bonus points for a killer cover by Yardin.

Grade: 7/10

As an aside, I’m sure you’ve all heard about Marvel’s summer blockbuster involving The Avengers versus the X-Men. Marvel’s pushing it with an “it’s finally happening” message through their all of their media releases.

Well, what about Avengers #53? Jeez, guys.

Avengers vs. X-Men

Yup. “‘Nuff said!”

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Classic Comic Fridays: X-Men #95

It has been about four months since I’ve last done a Classic Comic feature. For the new folks here, Classic Comic Friday’s feature a comic from my personal collection which I look back upon and review. Then, if we’re lucky, I can compare it to newer comics similar to it so we can see how things have changed.

This past August, I was fortunate enough to find a decent-quality copy of X-Men #95: The death of Thunderbird. He was arguably the first X-Men to be killed (because people debate Changeling), and set-off a idea of the “unknown” with these X-Men comics. Another notable mention is that X-Men #95 features Chris Claremont’s second story with the X-Men.

So here we go:

X-Men 95

X-Men #95 (October, 1975)
Chris Claremont (writer), Len Wein (plotter), Dave Cockrum (pencils, cover), Sam Grainger (inker), Petra Goldberg (colours), Karen Mantlo (letterer) Cockrum, Gil Kane & Dan Crespi (cover). $0.25

If you were unfamiliar with the X-Men prior to this issue, Claremont and Wein set up this story so you can fully grasp each character within the first few pages. You find out who is the strongest, which heroes can fly, who the X-Men’s field leader is, plus who has the smartest mouth and who has the biggest ego to them. All within the first few pages. Within those pages, would you believe we also get a recap to who all the villain is – Count Nefaria – AND his masterplan! They certainly do not make stories like they used to.

So now that everyone and everything is established at the beginning, the rest of the story is a playground of fun ideas to entice the reader to keep reading. Nightcrawler teleports in the enemy base to let the X-Men in, followed by a battle between the the villains evil creations: The Ani-Men and X-Men. Just when the X-Men have seemingly won, Count Nefaria escapes in a jet plane. Fortunately, X-Man Thunderbird follows suite and jumps on the plane. As Nefaria tries to escape, Thunderbird uses his brute force and beats the plane down to stop Nefaria at the price of Thunderbird’s own life.

As shocking as it comes to a comic reader that a hero had just died, it was done so artistically well, thanks to the legendary Dave Cockrum. Well-known for his clean pencils and well-plotted out panels, Cockrum owns this book. When the X-Men are on a mountain, their hair is blowing. When problems appear, the faces clearly represent what the characters are saying or feeling. The action sequences are never jumbled and without dialogue, we can tell what is happening in the story. It is very rare to see comics these days like that. But like I said, Cockrum owns it.

Thunderbird's Death

In fact, the whole artistic team really controls this story. While the exposition sets up the characters, the true feeling of this story comes from the art. With a very James Bond-like tone, it’s as if the reader can feel themselves in the trees on a mountain or smell the machinery inside the hidden base. Both Grainger and Goldberg accentuate Cockrum’s pencils with a tremendous dramatic effect. Nothing is overdone on the inks and the fluidity of colour is spot-on. Vibrant sheens across each page really gives this book a light-hearted tone – setting the reader up for the unexpected.

The most exciting part of this book is definitely the unexpected death of Thunderbird. The build up, while readers have seen it in hundreds of comics throughout the years up to this point in 1975 – the death was sudden and done tastefully. The X-Men do not take the death lightly. However, because of the character development and the “team” feel the book gives, readers are forced to read on to the next issue to see how the team deals with the death.

That’s right. There’s no twist ending to make readers want to jump back to the book like a season finale of a TV show. Claremont and Wein compel readers to come back because throughout the book readers are forced to care for the characters. And that’s a more powerful reason to continue reading a book than any cliffhanger could bring.

Grade: 8/10

Looking back on this book, it’s amazing to also consider that Thunderbird is one of the few Marvel characters whom have stayed dead. Aside from some flashbacks or the more-recent Chaos War – Thunderbird, John Proudstar – has stayed dead. It’s interesting to see why that has been the case. Three issues in, of course he would not have a lot of reader fanbase – but it still remains.

To top it all off, there was no cliffhanger of a villain suddenly appearing on the last page. Nor was there a jaw-dropping moment for readers to say, “Wow! I need to go back and read this book!” The readership is solely gained because of how the writers make us feel for these characters. Name three comics nowadays that end that way. It’s pretty hard to come up with a list.

And don’t forget to check out UncannyDerek on Facebook and Twitter!

So until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

The X-Men’s New Rosters – Who Did You Choose?

From both Uncanny X-Men #1 and Wolverine & The X-Men #1, we get to see who took which side.

Who did you end up siding with? Wolverine or Cyclops? Click for a bigger picture on both rosters. The wonderful artwork was done by Irene Lee.

Let us not forget that these charts are still missing personnel from Uncanny X-Force and X-Factor.

Wolverine at the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning:

Wolverine Faculty

Cyclops on Utopia:

Utopia

Keep on Space Truckin’!