August 24, 2020

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Sean’s “What’d I Miss?” feat. The X-Men #1 (1963)


Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

"1789
How does the bastard
Orphan
Immigrant
Decorated war vet
Unite the colonies through more debt?"
um... #comics!

Welcome to the inaugural edition of what could become an on-again-off-again as-regular-as-I'm-able, column to our website. Each week (err.. month-ish?) I'll select an issue, or volume of a comic from way back or the fairly current that I've managed to avoid due to intentional neglect, or pure oversight. For obvious reasons (and because my recency bias is overcoming my subconsciousness) this personal endeavor will be referred to as What'd I Miss? And having just recently watched Hamilton, coupled with the realization that I have hours of quarantine time to spend reading things I haven't yet, I've concluded that it be good reason to document and share my experiences here as I read them for the first time; those stories that I probably should have already.

First up: The X-Men #1 (1963)

Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
The Uncanny X-Men #1 (1963) - Marvel

Unsurprisingly, I get a lot of well-deserved gaffes aimed in my direction after admitting to never having read an X-Men comic. To be completely free and clear of any missed remarks, my gap here extends far beyond any ghastly and epic fail in comics to having my sole X-Men exposure from accidental and partial viewings of the first film in non-linear and broken parts. The universe itself has always felt intimidating to me, and frankly, far too established to give me any reason to exert effort in understanding why Cyclops wears a headset or what brought Professor X to be put in a wheelchair. I do, though, manage to recognize the theme song for the 90s cartoon. The one which I've never seen. 
So what is all the fuss about?

Queue self-serving with a purpose column idea for Panel Patter dot com. I immediately sign on to my comiXology account, searched for X-Men #1 and proceeded to initiate the download. I literally had no idea what I was in for.

Pummeling through all 24 pages of the 1963 "classic" debut I wasn't sure where the hook was. Did I read the right number 1? Was I not the intended audience? Answer: yes, and of course I'm not! Since this is a comic from pre-Civil Rights era it was mostly unbearable outside the fact that it housed the birthing place for some of the most iconic characters in all of the Marvel Universe. Cyclops, The Beast, Iceman, and The Angel, along with Jean Gray, Professor X, and Magneto are all here in what Stan Lee and Jack Kirby describe as the Fabulous First Issue. Was it fabulous? Sure. Did it have every stereotype imaginable coming from a book from this time period? Absolutely. Will I likely read more X-books following this? Without a doubt! That ship has sailed.

Jack and Stan did a fine job at casting, voicing, and visualizing these heroes when doing so was still considered innovative and edgy. Although I can't say I necessarily loved this first issue, and I certainly wouldn't call it fabulous by modern standards, but it did leave me wanting more. So that's saying something I guess. The dialogue was god-awful cheesy; everything you'd want from a classic. The illustrations brought me back to Saturday morning cartoon reruns on the living room floor; simply the best. When you reach this far back in comic book history intending to fill a knowledge gap you must also prepare yourself for where you will end up. Jack and Stan were doing their own thing among a pool of their peers all competing for the same thing. (Refer to Tom Scioli's new biopic, Jack Kirby, for insight). This issue of X-Men was literally being born into the foundation of an era, an industry, that hadn't yet become self-aware. These industry innovators were making "that dastardly villain" for the very first time; no fall back in reference here. Those thought bubbles existing only to over-explain an action sequence where anticipation of readership was to be otherwise confused. Magic was happening here. Magic was happening fast. Something was being born and, until now, I hadn't yet witnessed the sound.

I can now say, without reservation or hesitation, that I have read a comic featuring the Professor Xavier. Did my question get answered regarding what brought on the wheelchair? Outside the vague mention of a childhood accident: no. The mystery continues.

Something tells me that this book may have a future.
Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

The X-Men #1 (1963)
Written by Stan Lee
Drawn by Jack Kirby
Inked by Paul Reinman
Lettered by S. Rosen
Published by Marvel