In the Age of Silver there was the Man and the King:
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created a little comics called X-Men in 1963. Nestled alongside Fantastic Four, Avengers, Amazing Spider-Man and the Mighty Thor, this comic despite it’s interesting ideas and characters was something of an also ran, notable mostly for it’s civil rights metaphor backstory. Despite it’s sterling pedigree and subsequent talent on the book such as Alex Toth, Roy Thomas, Jim Steranko and Neal Adams, the comic died a merciful death after 66 issues, soon becoming a reprint title for it’s previous issues.
All-New and All-Different:
In 1975, new blood arrived on the scene with Marvel Comics writer Len Wein taking an interest in the property, with an eye to expanding it’s cast to give more of an international feel to it. New characters were introduced, others brought back and the artwork of Dave Cockrum breathed new life into a old comic. When Wein took on other projects, his assistant Chris Claremont took the reigns and in 17 years, created a huge and powerful narrative taking these heroes from a hidden gem, to a sales juggernaut to the cornerstone of a comics franchise. However the rise of the superstar artists and backroom politics took Claremont from the characters he had revitalised. His mark had been made though, the X-Men were forever changed as was comics in general and it wasn’t done with doing that yet.
The Dark Times:
1991 and this is where I came in. The 90’s were very much a divisive period in the mainstream comics. With the massive expansion of the direct market and the X-Men becoming more and more of a sales powerhouse, it kinda felt that they really could do any wrong in regards to sales. There was less critical acclaim than under Claremont’s stewardship, but with several different writers cranking out several new stories, if quality lacked, quantity did not. By 1995, the X-universe of titles was in a little box of it’s own with 8 monthly titles and a quarterly one.
X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, X-Force, Wolverine, Excalibur, Generation-X and Cable were doing decent numbers and were very well integrated along with X-Men Unlimited, the quarterly series. They were able to pretty much do whatever occurred to them to try. In an attempt to do something a little different than the rest of the industry they did something unprecedented. They took these 9 high selling titles and cancelled them for a short 4 month term and filled that gap with the 40+ part event Age of Apocalypse. I read it at the time and remember it fondly. Not everyone does.
The Look Back:
I intend to use this blog to revisit this event and the comics within and take a (hopefully) fair look at these comics both in the time they were written and how they look now 20 years later. Issue by issue, month by month from Legion Quest to X-Men Prime. I really hope that you come with me.