Comixology Sale Picks: 1960s X-Men
Posted by James Hunt at 09:38 on 09 Jun 2014
Lee & Kirby (#1-19)
Lee & Kirby launched the series, with Lee writing the first 19 issues and Kirby drawing the first 17. Unlike some of their other collaborations, the early X-Men stories aren't held in as high regard as the later ones, but that's only because the property was radically transformed in the 1970s. Those first 17 issues still introduce Magneto (#1), Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch (#4) and The Juggernaut (#12 & 13).
Other highlights include an issue with Namor (#6) and Ka-Zar (#10) but predictably, you can't really go wrong with Lee and Kirby, even if this is one of their less successful runs.
Roy Thomas (#20-42)
Although he's recognised as one of the great Avengers writers, Roy Thomas' X-Men wasn't quite the same hit, despite some decent artistic collaborators in the shape of "Jay Gavin" (Werner Roth) and Don Heck. There are some interesting ideas in his run - he changes up the membership and avoids using Magneto at all - but what that means in practise is that you're reading about Mimic, the Locust and El Tigre instead of the characters you actually like.
Thomas also avoids playing up the mutant issues and concentrates more on straight superheroics and mad science, which makes it feel unlike any other version of the X-Men. Personally, I find this entire run pretty tedious, and it goes on for a LONG time. Thomas is wordier than Stan Lee, which makes things a real slog.
Issue #20 is notable for being the one that explains how Xavier lost the use of his legs (spoilers: it doesn't involve Magneto) and I like the return of the Juggernaut (#32 & #33). Banshee makes his first appearance in #28, the team members debut their individual uniforms in #39 (but they're mostly horrible), and #42 is the first time Xavier died. But I'm not keen on most of these at all.
Gary Friedrich/Arnold Drake (#43-54)
The post-Thomas era is characterised by a changing approach to the title, with the covers de-emphasising the word "X-Men" and instead trumpeting individual members of the team. There's also the books first crossover, with Avengers #53. This is the period that introduced "origin" back-up strips for the original members, which give the X-Men some truly bizarre histories. It is canon, for instance, that Beast's first ever super-villain was a 14th century explorer who discovered the Fountain of Youth and called himself The Conquistador (#50, if you're interested.)
I have to admit, I like these issues a little more than Roy Thomas' initial run, but only because they're so ridiculous as to fall under the banner of wacky silver age hilarity. And it's a nice break from Thomas' WORDS WORDS WORDS approach.
In terms of what's interesting, #45 is the issue where Quicksilver can fly for some reason, #49 is the first appearance of Polaris, and #54 is the first appearance of Havok. As well as that crazy Beast story, #50 also introduced the new X-Men logo treatment by Jim Steranko, who draws issues #50 & #51.
Roy Thomas (again) & Neal Adams (#55-66)
Roy Thomas' return to the title marks a severe uptick in quality, but it's hard not to credit most of that with his artistic collaborator, Neal Adams. The title's visuals had been relatively consistent since it began, with most artists doing a passable Kirby imitation - but Adams' artwork is great even by modern standards. It's energetic and original, which is maybe why Roy Thomas doesn't cover it up with dialogue so much. These issues actually lay the groundwork for the greatness to come a few years later - Thomas finally nails the melodramatic tone that Claremont would later refine, and Neal Adams's art is a major influence on John Byrne.
This is widely held to be the best era of the original X-Men - better even than Lee & Kirby - and it's hard not to agree, even if the plots are the usual silver-age guff. Unfortunately, while sales were actually going up, Adams left the book in issue #65 because of some unarticulated creative differences. In issue #66, the X-Men fight the Hulk, and then the book is turned into a reprint series until the all-new team appear in #94.
Of particular interest in this run of issues are #55 (which brings Professor X back to life) and #64, the first appearance of Sunfire. But really, if you buy nothing else from this sale it should be the Neal Adams' issues.
Once again, you can access all of these issues in the current sale, today only.