For those of you who don’t know: I organise a community reading group called Cornwall Graphic Novel Group. We try to meet-up once a month to discuss a particular comic book series, graphic novel, character, writer or artist. May saw us discussing Marvel’s X-Men for the first time. With X-Men: Days of Future Past screening in cinemas, it seemed the perfect time to take a closer look at the films’ comic book origins and the very storyline the latest film had borrowed from the comics.

Bizarre origins

The X-Men, of The Mutants as Stan Lee wanted to originally call them, started off quite strangely. A bunch of teenage, hormone-filled boys living in a mansion with a bald, wheelchair bound man who were exposed, on a daily basis, to assualt courses that tested their strange, superhuman powers, judgement and wisdom to its max. Within the first issue we meet Professor X, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and the Angel, followed quickly by Jean Grey (or Marvel Girl, as she’s quickly nicknamed).

During the course of the meeting, we agreed that the original comics were a bit too stilted, though not necessairly cheesey. They were tough to read, because there were so many words per-panel, and it would take a long time for anything to happen. But the foundations for the world were quickly laid out: Professor X wanted to work with humans and save them from evil mutants. It was all stuff that the group could recognise from the later comics and films.

Cornwall Graphic Novel Group May 2014 Professor XBut what we weren’t prepared for was seeing some of the more bizarre trains of thought that the original comics took on, like this moment in issue 4 of the original series. Seriously: Jean’s underage and Professor X is like 40 years old or something at this point. What the hell were Stan Lee and co. thinking?! It makes no sense. And yes, when we found this panel in the TPB I had of the first ten issues we all looked a bit ill.

We couldn’t fathom how the heck this made it in and the thing is, it doesn’t get mentioned again until some time in the 90s comics! But it just shouldn’t have come back and just shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

If there’s one aspect of the comics we should all be thankful for not making its way into the current film universe – it’s this.

A rationale for powers

One of the big differences that the X-Men created between the Marvel universe and the DC universe was a more believable rationale for people getting powers. While the early comics don’t quite see the growth of powers among the X-Men as something that came specifically from genetics, though it soon would, there were better scientific-stryle explanations for why people could do what was portrayed in the comics. This is something, though I like a lot of Dc characters, that I have always preferred about the Marvel universe over DC.

Cornwall Graphic Novel Group May 2014 posterWhen we look at why Quicksilver is able to do what he does in the X-Men comics in comparison to The Flash in his comics, Quicksilver’s origins make a whole lot more sense. Though the genetic elements and survival of the fittest/natural selection like tones the X-Men’s powers bring also makes for far more interesting storytelling than beings from outer space.

Days of Future Past

The majority of us at the meeting had seen the film, but not necessairly read the comics it was based on. I had read the comics after seeing the film and when I realised that the story was only based on two comics, I was kind of shocked. And saying based is a bit of a stretch, because it turns out the film hardly resembles the two comics at all. In the comics there’s a lot of focus on what things are like in the future, without too much fighting the Sentinels.

A lot of the differences between the comics and the film come from the fact that the films had already used aspects of the comics from that period in the comics in the previous films. Like Senator Kelly. Though the comics were able to make more sense of why certain persons could go back in time using their minds. One can only now hope that there’s going to be a deleted scene on a Blu-ray/DVD for Days of Future Past that will explain what was going on with Kitty.

The next Cornwall Graphic Novel Group meeting will be on Saturday 28 June. We’ll be talking about Image comic’s Sex Criminals. You can keep up to date with all of the latest group news on our website.

  • Nicholas Heartland

    I can’t say I agree that Stan Lee’s X-Men comics were stilted. A lot of modern readers find it difficult to digest early Marvel because of Stan Lee’s verbose narration but I actually struggle with recent mainstream comics and their decompressed storytelling. There’s a literary quality to Stan Lee’s writing that puts writers like Brian Michael Bendis to shame.