The 1980’s were good to Marvel Comics. Chris Claremont and John Byrne ruled the roost with their runs on Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, and West Coast Avengers. But the big hitter, the serious heavyweight, was Uncanny X-Men.
An underdog story within an underdog story, X-Men was a book that had been relegated to obscurity by the mid-1970’s, with re-prints of older issues being published bi-monthly, and cancellation looming on the horizon. Len Wein and Dave Cockrum reinvigorated the brand by introducing the “All-New, All-Different” X-Men in 1975’s Giant Size X-Men #1, introducing readers to Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, and Thunderbird, and teaming them with known factors Banshee and Wolverine.
Popularity grew, and by the late 1980’s, the X-Men were superstars, moreso than the Avengers. More than Iron Man, who was considered a C-list character. More than the Hulk or Captain America, more than the Fantastic Four, the name Marvel Comics was synonymous with the X-Men. So much so that, in the early 1990’s when the speculator bubble was about to burst, the only thing that really stopped Marvel from going under were the success of the X-Men universe of comics and Spider-Man. In short order, Marvel Entertainment sold off the rights to their most popular characters, including Wolverine, the FF, and Spider-Man. Hence Disney’s problems getting the entirety of the Marvel Universe into one film universe. Now, with the merger of Disney and 21st Century Fox, the X-Men will be joining the MCU, along with the FF, but without the X-Men, we may not have had the Avengers on film.
Iron Man, Captain America, the Avengers, Thor…they were the characters no one wanted back when Marvel was trying to prevent bankruptcy. Which makes the MCU doubly successful. These underdogs, bouyed by the popularity of the X-Men and FF, made a universe that’s raked in billions of dollars and introduced millions of new fans to the Marvel lore.
So when the first Marvel Cinematic Universe X-Men film comes out, it will be seen as a more than long-overdue welcome home. And a celebration of all the things that make Marvel an amazing universe to play in; an amazing universe to visit, whether in a darkened theater or in the pages of monthly comic.
Rich Davenport graduated from Concordia University in St. Paul Minnesota with a B.A. in Mass Communication. He is a lifelong comicbook reader, a film fan and a hardcore video gamer. He also makes a lot of funny faces in pictures, much to his wife’s chagrin.