IF I COULD BUY THE UNCANNY X-MEN…

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Following up on the previous post about hypothetically buying the rights from Marvel to publish Fantastic Four comics, it made me think about the other Marvel property that Fox owns the film rights to, The X-Men. Let’s say, hypothetically, Marvel was willing to give them up for sale, for comic-books.

Now, as I mentioned before, when it comes to buying major comic-book characters, like the Fantastic Four or, as I mentioned Superman, you have to think exactly what you’re getting the rights to, because most of these character work so well because of the extra addition to their mythologies that have built up over the years. To use another example, I’d point to a character like Batman. I’d argue that Batman’s supporting cast and main villains are equally important to the “Batman” property as Batman himself is. If could just buy the character as he appeared in his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939, you would get Bruce Wayne/Batman, except is called “The Bat-Man”, and Police Commissioner Gordon (he’s never mentioned by his first name, so you couldn’t call him James or Jim). No Alfred, no Dick Grayson/Robin (which means no Nightwing), no Batcave, no Batmobile (The Bat-Man drives a car in the story, but it’s just a regular red car). No Barbara Gordon (no Batgirl or Oracle), and none of his villains. No Joker, Catwoman, The Riddler, The Penguin, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, etc. So basically you’d be getting a brand new character, which you could just create yourself anyway.

However, the X-Men are unique among the major comic-book icons in that pretty much everything you need to make the property work is right there in the first issue. That’s all you absolutely would need the rights to, the characters and concepts from Uncanny X-Men #1, published in 1963. Professor Charles Xavier, the mutant telepath in a wheelchair, founded a school to find and train young mutants, who are the next stage in human evolution. His first class is Cyclops, Angel, Ice Man, The Beast (but not the blue furry version), and Marvel Girl (Jean Grey, but you wouldn’t be able to use Phoenix). And in that first issue they fight Magneto, an evil mutant bent on world domination.

Boom! There ya go, that’s all you need to not only tell good stories, but build a whole franchise around. Sure, you’d be starting from scratch, to a major degree, and it would be easier if you just had all of the characters that have been added over the decades, including the spin-off teams (New Mutants, X-Force, X-Factor, etc.). But still, I could do without them. The thing about mutants is they’re so easy to create new ones. You don’t have to come up with a creative new origin story (they’re just born that way!). And you don’t have to worry about being too original with superpowers, just use the standard powers that exist. A mutant with super-strength, a mutant who can run at super-speed, a mutant who can stick to walls, a mutant with giant bat-wings on her back who can fly, a mutant with super-breath, a mutant who can turn invisible, the possibilities are endless. They key is making them each interesting characters, what’s their background, what’s their personality, and so on. But the actual powers and codenames, that’s the easy part.

I know that many would argue that you need the later characters, especially the popular ones like Wolverine, Cable, and Gambit. But I don’t agree. Sure, I’d take Wolverine, if he was available, but I think the X-Men can work without him. Of the newer X-Men, I’d want STORM first. Then Wolverine. Then probably Kitty Pryde, and maybe Colossus. And I always really liked the original New Mutants/X-Force team, I actually read New Mutants regularly years before I ever read the X-Men titles, so I’d want most of them, especially Cannonball and Sunspot.

But, again, they’re not required. I’d be happy with just the original team, and work with them for awhile, and slowly expand with new characters as necessary. I’d create a new group of evil mutants (just not called “The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants”) for Magneto to lead. In regards to established villains the ones I’d really want are Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost of the Hellfire Club. I like the idea of this secret society elite mutants who have their own agenda, not fully aligned with either Xavier or Magneto, who are still the core of the X-Men franchise. Their dichotomy is what drives the whole series and franchise.

Xavier and Magneto are two of the first, and most powerful, mutants of the modern era. They exist in a world where super-people didn’t exist before. They met as young men, in their 20’s, and each one was the first other mutant they’d ever met. After a lifetime of feeling alone, and like freaks, they’d finally found a kindred spirit in each other. They became friends, like brothers, eventually lovers. Yeah, I said it. LOVERS. My reasoning is that I’d be writing this series more like a science-fiction story than a traditional superhero story. I’d emphasize that these beings are the next step in human evolution. They’re not just people who happen to have superpowers. They are a different species than we are, they’re not human. Super powers is one way that manifests. But they also don’t think the way we do. They don’t have the same sexual and gender boundaries that we do. Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, those words and distinctions are meaningless to mutants. I may even create a new religion that some (but not all) mutants convert to, based on science and evolution (The Church of The Big Bang?). But eventually Xavier and Magneto part ways over their differing philosophies (the trick to not write them stereotypically as “exes who break up and become enemies but are really still in love with each other”). They don’t reconnect until 20 years later, both men now in their 40’s, as more mutants begin manifesting and Xavier has created his school to educate them, while Magneto has gathered his own group of mutants to commit acts of terrorism, in hopes of creating anarchy.

And there are no non-mutant superheroes or villains in this series. The concept of mutant prejudice never made sense to me in the comics, only in the movies and cartoons. In the Marvel Universe, why would normal humans fear and hate mutants but not have a problem with other super-people? If I’m riding the subway in Marvel’s NY, and The Human Torch sits next to me on one side while Ice Man sits next to me on the other, I’m going to be scared of both of them. One could burn me to death, the other could freeze me to death. The fact that one was born with his powers and the other just got his powers by accident wouldn’t make a darn bit of difference to me. So the world that the X-Men in my series live in his just like our world, until recent years when mutants started going public with their powers.

From there, there are many ways to go with series. I believe that I could write it for years without running out of ideas. And it all begins with that original team.

X-Men
Art by John Byrne

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