With the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past , we asked the Hex team to talk about their favourite characters from Marvel’s comic book series that was almost called The Mutants . The order of characters featured does not reflect how much we hold them dear.
I will admit that I probably wouldn’t enjoy reading comics featuring this character half-as-much if it hadn’t for his popularisation through the X-Men films and Hugh Jackman fitting the role so well (other than that whole height thing). Wolverine/Logan/James Howlett was not an early recruit to the X-Men, and his first appearance was actually in the Hulk’s comic book series in the early 1970s.
I’m not sure what really draws me towards this character as one of my favourite X-Men, but it’s probably a lot to do with his darker side and the fact that he finds it so difficult to overcome the more savage qualities that keep trying to manifest themselves within him. But despite his dangerous nature, Wolverine is one of the most loyal and determined comic book characters I’ve ever read about. Whenever there’s an opportunity to reflect on his efforts drawing the Great Wars, for instance, he’s portrayed as a character with more depth than the likes of Captain America. I also like how he is a malleable character who works as either loner and team player.
Those looking to see how Wolverine became the character that he is today would do well to check out the Wolverine limited series written by Chris Claremont and with art by Frank Miller. Published back in 1982, and collected in a TPB under the character’s name, it follows Logan as he tries to find meaning and love in Japan and gets far more (of course) than he bargained for.
The X-Men probably my favourite hero team in Marvels Universe. There’s been new additions over the years, familiar faces returning and a lot of changes to the roster. One of my all time favourite characters though is Pyslocke.
She’s been in many a story involving the mutants, a personal favourite of mine though was when she joined Storm’s X-Treme X-Men team. That story has really stuck in my mind, we had Neal Sharra who was helping Pyslocke open up more. She had for a while been rather frosty, meeting Neal helped her to manage to break down the barriers and I loved how the relationship unfurled within those pages. There was also the little matter of tracking down Destiny’ diaries and a foe that matched her sword skills in the rather psychotic Vargas. It was a story that showed why Pyslocke in my opinion should be on the team more, her courage and loyalty shining throughout.
I have a confession to make. I haven’t actually read that many Marvel comics in my life, let alone that many X-Men comics. But out of the ones that I have read, one character has always shone through the pages and has stayed as my favourite for many years now. That character is the Ragin’ Cajun himself, Mr Remy LeBeau .
I don’t really have a specific comic that highlights my love of Gambit, because most of my love for him comes from X-Men: The Animated Series (cue theme tune), but the comics I have read portray him just the same as the TV show does, so I’ve never felt the need to distinguish between the two mediums when I announce to people that Gambit is my favourite X-Man.
With a dark and shady background and just the right amount of moral ambiguity, Gambit cuts an appealing and intriguing figure in his big brown trench coat. While he’s got the swagger and the charm of a ladies’ man, he is in fact surprisingly chivalrous, and his ongoing love and dedication to Rogue, the one woman he can never truly have, is nothing short of heartbreaking sometimes. Oh, and he can blow up playing cards with kinetic energy and fights with a bō staff. How freaking cool is that?
Gambit has generally been portrayed pretty accurately in the various X-Men TV shows and computer games – especially the previously mentioned X-Men: The Animated Series – but has yet to be portrayed well in the film series (poor Taylor Kitsch, it wasn’t his fault). But all of that could be changing very soon. It’s recently been confirmed that he’ll be portrayed by loveable lunk Channing Tatum in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse. If he can master a Cajun accent, well, then colour me excited.
When a cure for mutants is offered, it is perhaps unsurprising that Hank McCoy is interested. Instead, he finds out that the supposed cure will cause a hell of a lot of trouble for the X-Men. Beast: highly intelligent scientist who can’t quite accept who he really is. In the Astonishing X-Men run he is the father figure – a Giles to a school of Buffys.
He is, in other words, and intelligent teddy-bear. Audiences have great sympathy with him – he is troubled by his bestial form yet knows he can use his abilities to shape mankind. The comic is a struggle of this, but Beast shines trough – but not before being reverted to an animalistic state when the Hell Fire Club ambush the X-Mansion. One of his students offers him his safeguard – in the form of a ball of string, among what I found was a hilarious episode. It’s not long before Hank is back with his team mates.
Beast is a wonderful character who is constantly battling with himself about his abilities, and I feel I can really connect with him.
“I destroyed a world — In my mind, I can still hear the screams of the dying — and it felt… good ! I don’t want that feeling ever again. And yet — I do !” ( The Dark Phoenix Saga , Chris Claremont and John Byrne)
These are the desperate words of a young mutant with telekinetic and telepathic abilities named Jean Grey. She was once known as Marvel Girl, teen student of Professor Xavier, then a fateful mission in outer space triggered her rebirth as Phoenix; one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe.
It would be difficult to find a more tragic, conflicted or self-sacrificing character in the annals of the X-Men. Before even the age of 25, Jean Grey had lived and loved, died and been resurrected, reached godhood and gone insane. I’ve always been drawn to dark characters and Phoenix fits the bill perfectly, with a darn cool costume too. She’s inherently a moral character, but a repressed darkness begins to corrupt her mind. What she inevitably becomes is a terrifying being that devours stars, commits genocide, enjoys it… and hates herself for it. Her gradual descent into madness and transformation into Dark Phoenix is both chilling and fascinating.
I don’t really have a favourite mutant. The strength of the X-Men isn’t in its individual characters – it’s in the relationships between those characters and the dynamics of the group. That’s how the X-Men can stay the X-Men despite their lineup changing every few months.
But through all those lineups and all those changes, there’s always been one constant, reliable presence: Cyclops .
Scott Summers, chosen by Xavier to lead his first ever team, has been a part of almost every X-team since. He’s a natural leader, a master strategist, and he shoots lazorz out of his eyes. He’s also, at this point in the comics, a wanted criminal.
Over the last few years, Cyclops has broken away from the X-Men, gone to war with the Avengers, and murdered Professor Xavier. It sounds like he’s gone bad, as superheroes often do, but Marvel have handled it with surprising nuance.
When he recently met his teenage self (because comics) the two were surprisingly similar. They believe the same things and they have the same goals. In fact, it’s Scott’s dedication to those values which caused all this. The qualities that made him Xavier’s favourite are the same ones that made him into Xavier’s killer, and I find that incredibly compelling.
In the end, the comic’s fifty-year history is one long character arc. He may not me my favourite – he may not be anyone’s favourite – but, in a lot of ways, Cyclops is the X-Men.