The year is 1975, Marvel comics has halted production on new stories for the X-Men comics and have instead been reprinting different stories from their earlier run. X-Men had been a dying franchise and was about to be cancelled due to poor sales and general lack of interest…until Marvel decided to publish Giant Size X-Men #1. Now; I’m not sure if this was the plan of The Editor(Marv Wolfman), The Writer(Len Wein) or The Artist(Dave Cockrum) but these men would be creating a multi-million dollar idea. 42 years later and The X-Men are considered one of the biggest franchises Marvel has, but why do I point to this issue as the saving grace? This was the team that introduced us to characters like Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as well as make Wolverine a staple for comics in general, paved the way for stories such as Days Of Future Past, The Dark Phoenix Saga and The Trial Of Magneto. This comic is why we know who the X-Men are and since April 1st is it’s anniversary I decided to do an article on it.
Up to this point, The X-Men had just been 5 students of Charles Xavier who happened to go on missions from Time to Time but they were honestly pretty boring and just couldn’t hold up to The Fantastic Four or Spider-Man. With the second team, they added diversity to it by making every member of a different nationality and made sure to focus on them working as a team by building their personalities, giving us their backstories in a very quick but effective way and laying the stepping stones for the group to grow. These weren’t inexperienced heroes either, most of them had a grasp on their powers and we didn’t have to focus entire issues on Wolverine learning how to extend his claws; instead, we got a group that would slowly become a team. Their growth and looking at the character development from 1975 to 1991 is genuinely one of the best parts about the X-Men and we owe it to these three men.
This comic did have one other factor who wouldn’t be added until later : Chris Claremont. Claremont is quite possibly my favorite comic writer of all time. The man is an absolute genius and his work on this series has proven why. He created most of the X-Men characters that we care about and was the man who made all the other characters work. He even made the original 5 X-Men interesting, Something that even Stan Lee couldn’t do for too long.
It can’t be looked over that he also gave us what is arguably Marvel’s best rogue’s gallery. Look at this list : Mystique, Apocalypse, Sabretooth and the Brood just to name a few. All of these characters are incredibly different and each have brilliant backstories that Claremont fleshed out over his run. But, in my opinion, Claremont’s crowning achievement is his work on Magneto. Whether it was his rivalry with Cyclops, his friendship with Professor X or his want to actually live in peace, these were the things that have made Magneto Marvel’s best villain…and one of it’s best characters in general.
This man gave us 16 years of a whole new universe to explore and it was all because of the freedom he was given after Giant Size X-Men #1 and the success of his early run. His earlier books were done by Dave Cockrum but he was followed by the likes of John Byrne, Terry Austin, Barry Windsor-Smith, John Romita Jr., Jim Lee and many others who would give us some truly stunning art over the years and create a mythos that will never die.
Since Giant Size X-Men #1, The X-Men have gone on to have multiple Television Series, Films and Comic Book Series that have been one of Marvel’s leading seller throughout most of the last 30 years or so. The X-Men have grown beyond anyone’s wildest dreams and it’s not hard to see why. The X-Men will always be a staple of Marvel and it’s all because of four men who took a risk in 1975.