By Chris Buchner
In the 1960s, Marvel had begun to change the face of superhero comics forever. They introduced characters that were flawed and realistic. The Fantastic Four, the first family of the new Marvel, debuted without costumes at all. Spider-Man was a teenaged hero when teenagers were usually sidekicks. But the most unique heroes of all came in 1963 when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Uncanny X-Men (it should be noted that the book was known as The X-Men until 1978’s #114). They were mutants, people born with extraordinary powers that set them apart from the rest of humanity. Because of this difference, they were feared and hated.
Professor Charles Xavier, a mutant and the most powerful telepath on the planet, dreamed of a day when humans and mutants could co-exist in peace. However, his old friend, Erik Magnus Lehnsherr, the self-styled master of magnetism known as Magneto, had a different dream; one born from his days as a Jew in the Nazi concentration camps of WWII where the mutant race would rise up and dominate the humans. Both men sought out and recruited mutants for their own teams.
Xavier created the X-Men designed to protect humans and mutants from each other and aid in the realization of his dream. They were the then-teenaged Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, with the power of optic blasts; Jean Grey, aka Marvel Girl, with the power of telepathy and telekinesis; Henry McCoy, aka Beast, who had super strength and agility; Warren Worthington III, aka Angel, with wings for flight; Bobby Drake, aka Iceman, who could manipulate the cold. They worked out of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters (now Xavier’s Institute for Higher Learning) out of the Xavier family mansion in Salem Center, NY.
Magneto formed the Brotherhood of Mutants; full of like-minded individuals who sought to flaunt their power-given superiority over those they dubbed “flatscans.” The original roster included Mortimer Toynbee, aka Toad, who possessed abilities similar to that of a human frog; Jason Wyngarde, aka Mastermind, with the power of illusion; and twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, with the ability to alter probability fields and super speed respectively.
The X-Men books have often been seen as a mirror to the issues of racism that prevailed in the days of their creation. Themes like assimilation and tolerance often found their ways into the stories. Despite these progressive ideas, the book failed to find much of an audience and was cancelled with issue #66. The title went on, however, and reprinted older stories from #67-93 while the various X-Men made cameo appearances in some of the other Marvel books at the time. In 1975, they took another progressive stride in a re-launch by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum, who introduced an international team of several new and a couple pre-established characters in Giant-Size X-Men #1 that proved popular enough to merit taking over Uncanny with #94.
The new X-Men were comprised of new characters such as the Russian Piotr (Peter) Rasputin, aka Colossus, with the ability to turn his skin into organic steel; the German Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler, with a demonic appearance, super agility, and ability to teleport; the African Ororo Munroe, aka Storm, who could control the weather and the Native American John Proudstar, aka Thunderbird, with super strength and speed. Previously established characters included the Irish Sean Cassidy, aka Banshee, with a sonic scream that could deliver destructive damage and allowed him to fly who first appeared in Uncanny #28; the Japanese Shiro Yoshida, aka Sunfire, with the ability of pyrokinesis and flight who first appeared in Uncanny #64 and the Canadian Logan, aka Wolverine, with a mutant healing factor, animal senses, and bones and claws bonded with the unbreakable metal adamantium who first appeared in The Incredible Hulk vol. 2 #180-181 just a year prior. Led by Cyclops from the original team, this new team reignited the series which still progresses to this day.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the X-Men, writers Fabian Nicieza and Scott Lobdell penned the crossover Fatal Attractions which ran through every X-book n production at the time. And, who better to ring in the festivities than the X-Men’s very first adversary, Magneto? Unlike other crossovers, Fatal Attractions was a glimpse at various adventures within the lives of Magneto and his followers with an underlying theme, rather than one cohesive story. Each issue came with a wraparound cover (meaning one image across both covers) and a 3-D hologram card attached to the front cover with a different character for each issue in the story.
Magneto’s Brotherhood had evolved into the Acolytes, created by long-time writer Chris Claremont and Jim Lee in adjective-less X-Men #1 in 1991. Still mutants who share Magneto’s vision for dominance over humanity, many of the Acolytes worshipped him with religious furor as a savior. They operated from Magneto’s base in space, called Asteroid M, before it was destroyed in a conflict with the X-Men, and were predominantly led by Fabian Cortez, who had the ability to enhance mutant powers, when Magneto was believed killed in that battle along with the very first group of Acolytes. Under his leadership, the Acolytes had gone up against, and lost, several times to the X-Men.
One of those times was during an attack on a hospice where they senselessly murdered humans to prove their superiority, followed by an attack on the military compound Camp Hayden. The base turned out to be the headquarters for Project: Wideawake, the government’s latest program for the development of the newest model of mutant-hunting robots known as Sentinels, which first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #14. Both times, they were confronted by the government-sponsored mutant team X-Factor.
SPOTLIGHT ON: X-FACTOR
X-Factor was an offshoot team created by the original X-Men after Xavier had placed Magneto in charge of the team and the school conceived by Bob Layton and Jackson Guice. They worked to track down and help mutants through the cover of a mutant-hunting organization people could call and hire to track down and dispose of mutant threats, posing as normal humans. When action was needed, they would go out in costume as the mutant outlaw X-Terminators. Realizing the ruse was doing more harm than good by instigating hatred, and because it was the plan of their mutant-hating business manager Cameron Hodge, the team abandoned the idea and eventually rejoined the X-Men. Peter David and Larry Stroman were brought onto the book to recreate the team and keep the series going in X-Factor #71. The team would work for the Pentagon, making them the first and only salaried mutant team formed of X-Men allies.
The roster at this time featured Alex Summers, aka Havok, brother of Cyclops and former X-Man who could generate plasma blasts; Lorna Dane, aka Polaris, a former X-Man with the ability of magnetism similar to Magneto; Jamie Madrox, aka Multiple Man, with the ability to create duplicates of himself through physical impact; Guido Carosella, aka Strong Guy, who could turn kinetic energy directed at him into strength and muscular mass; Rahne Sinclair, aka Wolfsbane, formerly of the X-Men junior team the New Mutants who was a virtual werewolf; and Quicksilver (Quicksilver and Scarlet witch had turned against Magneto and became heroes to seek redemption, both at one point becoming members of the Avengers).
Their government liaison was Valerie Cooper; an ordinary human who had a similar role with the defunct team Freedom Force, also sponsored by the government and comprised mostly of then-reformed villains. They were also joined by a frequent ally and thorn in their side, the bounty hunter known as Marshall Evan Stone III, aka Random, whose body was a form of protoplasm that allowed him to change size, shape, increase his strength and fire bio-matter projectiles.
During the conflict, Cortez tried to recruit Quicksilver to their cause, to take leadership of the Acolytes as Magneto’s heir, since it was revealed that Quicksilver and his sister were his children. Quicksilver refused, and the Acolytes retreated. It was also at this time revealed that Val was under the control of one of the Acolytes for some time, finally shaking it off. However, that didn’t help her team forgive her for withholding information about the Sentinels and created a new tension between them. X-Factor left, breaking their ties with Cooper.
Exodus was born Bennet Du Parris (although spent a lot of his time under the name Paris Bennett) in France sometime in the 12th Century. He had superhuman physical attributes and powerful psionic powers including telepathy, telekinesis and teleportation. He could also act as a sort of psionic vampire, stealing that energy from others to use for his own means. A confrontation with Apocalypse, an ancient mutant with a belief in genetic culling so that only the strong may be allowed to survive, found Exodus stripped of his powers and locked away in a crypt until Magneto found and rescued him. Exodus became Magneto’s new right-hand man and chosen heir. Exodus traveled to Camp Verde where X-Force resided, offering Cannonball and Sunspot safe haven on the Acolyte’s new space station, Avalon.
SPOTLIGHT ON: X-FORCE
The New Mutants were the junior team of X-Men, X-Men-in-training created by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod in 1982’s Marvel Graphic Novel #4. When the then-mysterious mercenary from the future, Cable (later revealed to be the son of Cyclops and Jean Grey clone Madelyne Pryor sent to the future to help him survive infection of a deadly virus), took over the group, it was transformed into the platoon-like team known as X-Force in 1991 when Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza took over the book and ended The New Mutants with #100. The team was defined by its edgier approach to Xavier’s dream, with characters evocative of the anti-hero movement of the 90s.
The team was comprised of Nathan Dayspring Summers, aka Cable, with the potential to be the most powerful telepath and telekinetic on the planet if most of his telekinetic abilities were not dedicated to keeping the techno-organic virus infecting his body in check, instead relying on large weaponry for combat; Domino, a mercenary with the tendency to make the odds fall in her favor and Cable’s lover; Shatterstar, a swashbuckling mutant from another dimension with enhanced physical attributes, quick healing, fast learning ability, and able to project bio-electricity through his swords; James Proudstar, aka Warpath, brother to the deceased X-Man Thunderbird who shares his abilities of super-strength and speed; Theresa Rourke Cassidy aka Siryn, the daughter of the X-Man Banshee who shares his sonic scream; Julio Richter, aka Rictor, who was able to generate seismic energy through his fingertips and Maria Callasantos, aka Feral, a cat-like mutant with a beast-like temperament.
Holdovers from the New Mutant days included Sam Guthrie, aka Cannonball, who could fly at jet-speeds and project a force field around himself why flying; Tabitha Smith, aka Boom Boom aka Boomer, who could create energy “time bombs” that detonate whenever she wishes and Roberto DeCosta, aka Sunspot, who could absorb and rechannel solar energy.
X-Force tried to fight Exodus, but were no match for his powerful telekinesis. Sensing an opportunity, Cannonball agrees so long as they could bring their teammates Rictor and Boomer with them. Also, two mutants in their care brainwashed by the Mutant Liberation Front, a young mutant terrorist group founded by Cable’s evil clone Stryfe, Rusty, a pyrokinetic, and Skids, who can generate a force field. Exodus reluctantly accepted and took them all to Avalon, leaving Cable with a tracer to track them down.
Arriving in Avalon revealed that it was actually Cable’s former base, the space station Graymalkin upgraded with tech from the alien Shi’ar Empire, allies of the X-Men when Jean Grey for a time became possessed by the Phoenix Entity in the Dark Phoenix Saga. They also learned that Magneto was very much alive and well, and used his abilities to destroy Rusty and Skids’ implants. Once again, he offered to let them remain in his home.
The rest of X-Force had made their way to Avalon. Using his knowledge of the station, Cable hoped to use the bodyslide technology, a form of teleportation, to get everyone off safely while he set the self-destruct sequence. Rusty and Skids, however, wished to stay and were left behind. Cable’s final act was to retrieve the sentient program from the station known as The Professor, but is stopped by Magneto before he could set the self-destruct. Magneto easily tears apart Cable’s metal arm and implants, forcing the soldier to retreat.
It was about this time that the Acolytes learned it was because of Fabian Cortez’s manipulations for power that Asteroid M was destroyed and their brethren killed, and almost led to Magneto’s own demise. The Acolytes tried to exact their vengeance, but Exodus stops them informing them a greater punishment awaits him. At that time, Exodus had now gained control of the Acolytes.
The Legacy Virus was a super virus released by Strife that originally only targeted mutants. The virus came to infect Illyana Rasputin, the younger sister of the X-Man Colossus and eventually killed her. She was staying with the X-Men at the time due to her parents being murdered by the Russian government to take her for her mutant abilities, revealed when an abduction to an alternate demon dimension resulted in her being temporarily aged to the teenaged New Mutant Magik.
She was given a service and burial on the Xavier estate when Magneto and the Acolytes decided to crash the funeral. They made their intentions known of their desire to wipe out all humanity from Avalon (which appeared menacingly from above), and offered all those who wanted a chance to survive to come with them. The X-Men fought valiantly, but Magneto was even more powerful than ever and they stood little chance. Colossus, distraught over all the tragedy in his life, brain damage he received from the X-Cutioner during X-Cutioner’s Song that forced him to remain in armored form, and his belief in Xavier’s dream wavering, accepts their offer and became one of the Acolytes. In his first bit of rage, Xavier took control of Magneto’s mind and forced him and Avalon back into space. He escaped, Xavier unable to kill him.