Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas with Marc Silvestri´s X - Men

It´s that time of the year again and after having a really bad day ( and night ) Yesterday I feel much better and ready to spread some Christmas spirit. As usual I´m doing things a bit different here so let´s get started.

UNCANNY X - MEN 230, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Marc Silvestri with inks by Josef Rubinstein is an issue that has been covered by a lot of blogs ( I will include some of them in the link section of this post for those who want to read more about it ) especially on Christmas.

The issue takes place after the events of the FALL OF THE MUTANTS storyline and is the first one with the X - Men in their new headquarters in Australia which they just repossessed after defeating a really nasty band of mutant cyborg baddies called the Reavers in the previous issue.

Now this was a time when I was fully immersed into the X - Men universe and Marc Silvestri was my man. I had seen his artwork on other books like the first AVENGERS vs X - MEN mini but here he was on a monthly title.

I´m not quite sure but I think his first issues were not where I did start. Like most of my comic reading in that day I read issues out of order and I think the first time I saw Marc Silvestri on the X - Men book was during FALL OF THE MUTANTS. Naturally I also did not read those issues in order and I bought them at various comic conventions and comic fairs. In fact I think I got the first ones at the first International Comic Salon in Erlangen I ever attended. Or the first Comicbörse in Stuttgart. Man, that was one event that was a big deal for me. Before that I only found some scattered issues at the kiosk at the bus stop or the train station in Ludwigsburg and now there were hundreds, no thousands of these issues. I know I got a lot of John Byrne SUPERMAN and ACTION COMICS issues the first time at the Comicbörse in Stuttgart. In any case, I know that I didn´t start reading the series on a regular basis until much later into the Marc Silvestri run because the very first issue I bought at the newsstand at the central train station in Stuttgart was the one with Wolverine and Rogue in Genosha.

It must have been pretty early into my X - Men reading - at least of the original american issues - because at that time neither Psylocke nor Rogue were familiar to me. And what happened to Rogue shocked me.

For those that haven´t read the issue I´m not going to spoil it but as a result of it Rogue became catatonic and the Carol Danvers part of her id took over. Which also was very fascinating. Here was this mutant whose powers were to absorb powers and memories by touch ( thankfully this and most of the other X - Men´s powers were explained in the issue because without it I would have been lost ) who had another personality inside her head as kind of a back up. Okay, not really but since I had no intimate knowledge of Rogue´s backstory that was how it looked to me.

I think that was one of the reasons why Rogue very quickly became one of my favorite X - Men. Which sounds a bit weird and reminds me of when Jubilee started to hang out with the team ( much later ) : " Why do they call themselves X - Men when there are so many women on the team ? "

With this issue I thought the same, not that I was complaining. I always say, the more hot women there are on a team the merrier ( I become ).

Okay, but as fascinating as you may find my time travel back to the days when I was just starting with the X - Men franchise you probably want to know what all this and UNCANNY X - MEN 230 has to do with Christmas.

Like I said, this was just after the X - Men have set up shop in Australia. They had defeated the Reavers in the previous issue and all the Reaver´s stuff was still there - including the loot from their years of plundering. One of the new X - Men ( at least for me as a new reader ) was Longshot who had the power of psychometry - the power to read an object´s history by touching it. Now he heard the voices of all the valuables in the vault or wherever it was kept and went down there to see what it was. Check out this incredible double page by Marc Silvestri and inker Josef Rubinstein :

And here is the colored version by Glynis Oliver that was printed :

Anyway, overcome by the sheer number of voices Longshot blacks out. At first the rest of the team doesn´t notice this because they are all busy setting up shop in the new headquarters, cleaning up the Reaver´s mess.

After Longshot regains consciousness he insist the X - Men have to give the loot back but the other team members don´t know if they can take this serious. So they all share one of the strange visions Longshot gets when touching an object thanks to Psylocke´s telepathic mindlinking.

After that the X - Men are discussing IF and how they should do this. In the last issue the X - Men´s new status quo just had been established.

After the events in Dallas during FALL OF THE MUTANTS the world thinks the X - Men died, saving the world from evil once more. Which they did.

But unbeknownst to the world at large Roma brought them back to life although with a little catch : the X - Men are now invisible to any kind of electronic device like cameras and the likes except for the ones in their new base of operations. She also leaves the Siege Perilous in their care but that is - hopefully - the topic for another Marc Silvestri X - Men post.

I´m only mentioning this whole " believed to be dead " thing because it is one of the arguments Logan makes for not returning the stolen goods.

Here´s the colored version, well, the part I could find in good quality :

Of course the X - Men decide to go through with it - otherwise this would not be a Christmas story - and after dividing all the robbed items into huge piles for each continent thanks to Longshot they go on a worldwide trip where they even have a little run in with some of the New Mutants.

Now I don´t want to go over the whole issue step by step because that´s not what I do here and there are other blogs out there that already did.

GENTLEMEN OF LEISURE do their usual in depth analysis of the issue and Chritoph Maurer has a long post on it with many pictures at the SEQUART ORGANISATION website where he has many extensive posts about X - Men : To the Outback & Beyond . If you don´t have that much time but still want to know what the story is about Christopher Cummings covers it in his ten panels or less post , it´s number 20 on CBR´s countdown of THE GREATEST CHRISTMAS STORIES EVER TOLD and it´s mentioned in the Psylocke Psunday episode 21 : Everybody hates Psylocke at BULLY SAYS : COMICS OUGHTA BE FUN ! ( I hope I got the name of the website right ).

All I want to say about the story is that it´s really well done and it not only works as a Christmas story it also helps new readers get their foot in. There are also some funny bits like when the X - Men are trying to turn their new homes into an environment fit for a human being / mutant.

Now the reason why I picked this particular Christmas story Today was that it gave me an opportunity to talk about my favorite X - Men period which is not when John Byrne was on the book. Now, don´t get me wrong.

The classic Chris Claremont / John Byrne issues are still the gold standard for me and, well, the reason why they are so classic is that they still work. You can read them now and you will not find anything on the stands Today that compares. Yes, ALL NEW X - MEN is great but it´s not coming close.

And I don´t want to downtalk the new stuff that is out there. Especially since I´m not reading much of it besides WOLVERINE AND THE X - MEN.

There´s like I said ALL NEW X - MEN and - based on a recommendation by Comicbookgirl19 - I just recently got the first trade of the new X - MEN LEGACY series PRODIGAL written by Simon Spurrier and art by Tang Eng Huat ( which I didn´t like that much ) and Jorge Molina, who reminded me a bit of Olivier Coipel on one of his better days. It is a good read.

No, what I mean is that there are a lot of different periods in the X - Men´s run from the earliest stuff to when Neal Adams stepped in, to the John Byrne issues, the John Romita Jr stuff, the Paul Smith issues then John Romita Jr again ...... I could go on ad infinitum, you get the idea.

There are those parts where we can all agree on that were the best. And then there´s the one that´s special to you. For some it´s connected to a storyline, it may be AGE OF APOCALYPSE which I´m also a big fan of. It´s one of the rare cases where the fans won over the critics because at first the critics hated it. But because it´s beloved by so many fans over such a long period of time now it´s one of the classic eras in the X- Men history.

For me that special time was the outback period. The John Byrne issues came out before my time and even the few spanish issues I got were old. I read a lot of them in trades ( the DARK PHOENIX SAGA and DAYS OF FUTURES PAST were two of Marvel´s earliest trades ) and in the X - MEN CLASSIC edition and before that I had to rely on Condor pocket books.

With most of the Paul Smith or John Romita Jr issues I was also behind.

One of my favorite Marvel crossovers was SECRET WARS II ( as longtime readers have probably noticed by now judging on the number of posts I have already done on the subject ) but that also was a time where I had to look for those issues at conventions and just got one or two issues at a time because I didn´t have a regular comic shop where I could get them.

Well, all of that changed when Marc Silvestri came on the book. It´s true, I also got the FALL OF THE MUTANTS and the issues before that at comic conventions but with the Genosha issues I got them at the newsstand in Stuttgart and soon after that I had my first subscription at a real comic shop where I got all the issues I needed. Times were good and when I got my monthly package the only thing I did that weekend was read comics.

And then one day my brother came back from the Art Academy in Erlangen and brought me two brand new issues of UNCANNY X - MEN.

It were two issues from Marc Silvestri´s run and the issues were far ahead of what I was reading at the time. Also it came out twice a month.

Two issues in one month by Marc Silvestri ( he has drastically decreased his monthly output since then ) and it introduced me to creepy new villains in the X - Men universe : the Brood. At this point I hadn´t read the X - Men issues by Paul Smith so the Brood were all new for me.

My brother got the issues at that comic shop in Erlangen, SAMMLERECKE and the rest is history. Okay, some people may think that I got my X - Men comic buying timeline confused since the Genosha story came out after that and I bought it at a newsstand and had my first comic subscription after I discovered I could get them there. What you have to understand is that buying comics back then was much like reading comics - which means non linear. You were used to read comics out of the normal order because that´s how you got them. It´s not like nowadays where you have dozens of online comic shops and when you have found one that´s where you get all your comics. No. Even if you had a regular comic shop where you could get your issues you never knew if they would not skip an issue or two or not get an issue from their supplier. So while I had my monthly comic subscription I still got the issues I could from the newsstand or anywhere else and if some of them were comics on my list I just phoned the comic shop ( yes, that´s what we old folks did before the internet ) and told them that I already had issue such and such and they should take it out of my regular comic order for that month. Which happened quite a lot now that I think back on it. I guess I was a really difficult customer.

Anyway, it took a few months before I finally switched to the comic shop in Erlangen but when I did UNCANNY X - MEN was one of the titles on my pull list and it soon became the first one I read every month. I guess most comic fans who have a monthly subscription have a special order in which they read their comics. My order was always that I read all the good stuff last and the other books first. Except one book. There was always one book that was the best of the best and that was the book that earned the top spot on the reading pile. Because that was the book I read first.

And for the longest time that was X - MEN, in fact together with NEW MUTANTS those were the books I read twice or even three times. Yes, I had much more free time then. Like I said this was before the internet.

So if you ask me about my favorite run on X - Men it´s the outback years by Marc Silvestri. It´s FALL OF THE MUTANTS and INFERNO, it´s Reavers and the Brood and everything that came after the Siege Perilous, it´s Longshot and Jubilee, it´s grim and gritty and Storm´s leather outfit.

Like with GIANT SIZE X - MEN 1 this was a team with a lot of members I knew nothing about and Chris Claremont was still at the top of his game.

There were epic storylines, new twists around every corner, a lot of crossovers with other X - books and the brilliant art by Marc Silvestri.

I have often said that we buy the same books over and over again and Marc Silvestri´s X - Men issues ( or his Wolverine issues which is where the shot of Storm above is from ) are what would indeed get me to buy an Artist´s Edition. So far I have only seen a few of them at german online comic shops - they are practically non existent on amazon in Germany - but so far there is none where I would think I absolutely have to have it.

But if there was an Artist´s Edition with Marc Silvestri´s X - MEN, some FALL OF THE MUTANTS stuff, some INFERNO issues, some Brood pages and the likes - I would totally get that. Even right now I´m thinking about investing the amazon gift certificate I got for Christmas in the INFERNO PROLOGUE omnibus hardcover although I already have all of the issues.

I thought about getting the FALL OF THE MUTANTS omnibus but I saw a copy at a comic convention or at the Sammlerecke and the production value and the printing is really not good on that one. Besides I already have that story in a spanish edition because it was in a bigger format.

But I really could go with the INFERNO PROLOGUE omnibus because it not only has six issues of Marc Silvestri´s UNCANNY X - MEN run including the Brood story which I have to cover at length in another post ( the other four UNCANNY X - MEN issues were done by Rick Leonardi ) , it also has seven issues of Walter Simonson´s X - FACTOR and nine issues of NEW MUTANTS including the aftermath of the Birdbrain story by my favorite artist Bret Blevins which also ties in with my DEATH IN COMICS theme.

Man, I really have to be careful with all this comic pimping because I end up buying all these great comics ( I totally went and got the Avengers Marvel Masterworks volume from my last post ) and now I have to get a new porn shelf. And I really don´t want to help Disney filling its pockets.

So despite of the fact that I´m probably buying the same issues again in an expensive hardcover collection ( 125 dollars is the regular price but it´s only 75 bucks at amazon ) you should still check out the UNCANNY X - MEN issues by Marc Silvestri. I think you can still find most of them in dollar bins and if you don´t have a comic shop near that has a dollar bin you can get the ESSENTIALS. I got two ESSENTIALS at Erlangen at a real bargain price and volume 8 which has all the issues after the FALL OF THE MUTANTS I mentioned here is one of my favorite ESSENTIALS ( I used it as a resource for preparing the material for this post and the next ones about Marc Silvestri´s X - MEN run ). Most of the issues are out in this format and now that Disney has switched to the Epic Collection format I think that´s your best chance to read it. With the newly released INFERNO PROLOGUE and the stuff that´s already in the FALL OF THE MUTANTS and INFERNO collections ( man, I should have bought the INFERNO hardcover when it was offered at amazon at half price ) I don´t think there will be any of that material put into any Epic collections any time soon. And they are still far away from it with the X - MEN pocket books from PANINI UK.

But that´s the topic of another post that will be all about the nice pocket books from PANINI UK. For now it´s time to come to an end because it is already late and even if Tomorrow is a holiday there might be other things you wish to do. But don´t be afraid, we will continue this topic. There are too many pages of original art I want to post and so many things to say. 

I hope my ramblings were not too boring and you enjoyed the black and white pages I found at various websites like Comicartfans without whom making this post would have been impossible and I wish you a Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Fröhliche Weihnachten and Feliz Navidad !

Now there are a lot of Christmas videos on YouTube but I thought this time I´d pick some of my personal songs that just HAVE to be part of every Christmas. And the first one is Do they know it´s Christmas by Band Aid. When I was still working at the printing company we were doing a lot of 10, 12, 20, 24 or even 36 hours shifts often working through the holidays. Now if we would have gotten paid the overtime this would have been quite a bonus but since our boss didn´t like to pay us the extra hours they just kept accumulating. So this song became our special Christmas anthem and we sang the refrain - Do they know it´s Christmas time - especially loud because we would be thinking about our bosses.

As a child that grew up during the german disco era my second pick is Boney M´s MARY`S BOYCHILD - no contest there. I picked the group´s appearance on Top of the Pops in 1979 because that has the best quality.

My next video is a more recent one from one of Michael Bubble´s Christmas shows. I have to admit that totally passed me by and I had no idea that this was kind of an annual tradition. Like no Christmas is complete without singing Feliz Navidad here is a duet with Thalia. It´s kind of a substitute for the Thalia videos that were here and have now moved to my next post ( kind of complicated but trust me on this ).

And we continue with the Michael Bubble duets because I just couldn´t pass All I want for Christmas with my favorite Santa, Mariah Carey.

If like me you haven´t seen one of Michael Bubble´s Christmas specials here is a full show from 2013. Naturally I picked the one from which the clip above is. There is also a second appearance by Mariah Carey later on.

I also want to add an animated video for my readers who are not that into music videos and because nothing quite says " Merry Christmas ! " like giant robots and senseless violence here is VOLTRON - THE MOVIE from 1984. According to the title it´s the violence restored version but since I have not seen the movie before I just have to take them at their word.

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