I really haven’t written all that much about my stint collecting comics in the pages of Branded, so I thought I’d rectify that by sharing some advertisements for comic crossovers that I was mildly obsessed with as a kid. Though, like most kids, I had my fare share of comic books growing up, I didn’t really get serious about it until around 1989 or so after coming off of a period of intense baseball card collecting. I’d had a falling out with a friend (who had gotten me into collecting baseball cards) and I was ready to trade all my cards in for some cash to put towards another hobby, anything other than more cards.
I think I had about 15 dollars saved up from Christmas and raiding my parent’s penny jar (I was allowed to keep anything that I counted and rolled), and it was burning a new hobby sized hole in my pocket. My mom let me tag along with her to a new grocery store called Florida’s Choice (it was the first mega-sized grocery store I remember going into, much larger than the Albertsons, Goodings, and Publixs in the area) which had a seriously gaudy neon sign made up of pinks, pale greens and baby blues. The cool thing about this new store was the size of its magazine section was located in its own little room next to the pharmacy and a pretty big plants and flower area. For some reason, I think because the store didn’t have a toy section like Albertsons did, I decided to spend all my money on magazines, in particular any Martial Arts, Cracked or Mad magazines I could find. While flipping though the racks my eyes were drawn to the bottom shelf where all of the comics were lined up. I decided that since the issues were pretty cheap, at $1.50 each, I’d grab as many different titles as I could to see if any of them were cool. I ended up buying some miscellaneous issues of Mad and Cracked, a Kung Fu magazine for the weapons ads, an issue of G.I. Joe, one of the 80s DC Starman comics, Uncanny X-Men 242, and Wolverine number 6. These last two had a very drastic and lasting effect on my pre-teen mind as I was introduced to the long and complicated continuity of the X-Men universe.
Though Wolverine was more or less a stand-alone series, issue 242 of the Uncanny X-Men was smack dab in the middle of a huge crossover storyline that had me completely baffled until I realized that there were other X themed comic titles, like X-Factor and the New Mutants. It was while trying to find all of the corresponding issues of the Inferno storyline that I waded hip deep into the world of comic collecting, weekly hitting up my local 7-Eleven, the spinner rack at Albertson’s and eventually a little hole in the wall comic store in Orlando called Phoenix & Dragon Comics and Collecting. I ended up putting every penny I could scrape together into buying back issues of X-Men comics or anything that had a guest appearance by Wolverine. As I inched my way backwards I would always get stupidly excited when I stumbled upon another crossover series. Eventually I’d be able to mark my collection by these story arcs beginning with the Mutant Massacre, which ran through Uncanny X-Men 210-213, X-Factor 9-11, New Mutants #46, Thor 373-374, and Power Pack #27.
According to the Wiki entry on this crossover, Chris Claremont, who was one prolific freaking x-themed comic writer, had decided to take out the who Morlock encampment in the sewer tunnels under New York because he was tired of that idea. Marvel and Claremont were also planning on jostling the line-up of the X-Men so they planned an even that they could envelop this all into. Claremont took aim and shot down series regulars Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler, as well as Angel and Karma (in X-Factor and the New Mutants respectively.) Though Marvel was no stranger to long crossovers (e.g. the Secret Wars) they handily provided this sewer pipe themed map to the Mutant Massacre series in their titles just before these issues started hitting store shelves. Though the ad comes off as pretty goofy, with Nightcrawler, Beast and a couple of the Power Pack members acrobating around the maze of issues, the actual storyline was pretty dark and disturbing. Actually, aside from listing the issues and order to read them in, this ad completely misses the feel of the crossover which is something that Marvel would rectify in future crossover ads.
The Mutant Massacre crossover was also cool because it took place during the Marvel 25th anniversary celebration, so a lot of the comic covers featured the neat character portraits surrounded by a bevy of other characters, a design that I’ve shown my love for here in the past. The issues were also some of the more expensive titles in the run of Uncanny X-Men, and therefore had to be purchased as Christmas and birthday presents, which also added to my love for them. In fact, I think at the time when I was first collecting these, they were going for around $20 a pop which my parents had a hell of a time understanding, and which is a perfect example of the insanity of the secondary market (something that would put me off of comics after the stupid collecting boom in the early to mid 90s.) I never did find the entire crossover, mainly because after I got into the X-Men characters I very rarely wanted to stray much further, even if they popped up in other titles, so I never read the Thor and Power Pack issues until Marvel reprinted them in their Essential series which I thought was an awesome touch. The Mutant Massacre also served as the relative beginning marker for my X-Men collection as I only bought a handful of issues that came before it. I always dug this story because it set up the rivalry between Sabertooth and Wolverine as well as cementing Psylocke as a permanent (well as permanent as any member of the X-Men ever really is) member of the team. It was also the changing of the guard that would lead to the Team that I was introduced to in issue 242. (You can find out more about the crossover here.)
The next big crossover, and the one that the Mutant Massacre effectively set up would be the Fall of the Mutants, which ran through Uncanny 225-227, New Mutants 59-61, and X-Factor 24-26. Though there isn’t an over arching storyline that connects the different titles, each goes through a very similar and fundamental change as does the world that the titles takes place in does.
Before I get to the story, I want to say just how much I love this poster/Ad that ran in Marvel titles leading up to the crossover. It’s very morbid and drastic in its depiction of the trail of dead mutants and sort of marked the height of the various X-titles more adult take on comics. The X-Factor story line isn’t quite as serious and adult, though it’s certainly going in that direction. The other two books though, even with their otherworldly fantastical villains, deal with a more down and dirty approach, a very gritty realism that is mostly missing from super hero books (and what makes stuff like the Dark Knight Returns and the Watchmen so novel.) This is perfectly illustrated in this ad, which I had a copy of hanging on my wall through 2 houses and four apartments, over a 10 year period.
As far as the plot and story gores for Fall of the Mutants, each plot shift in the three books marks the demarcation point for where I entered the storylines, so I’d always come back to this point as where I fell in love with the X-Men. In all three books the idea of the Mutant Registration act is introduced, which is basically a government mandate that all mutants need to register, giving up their identity and listing their powers, in essence painting a target on their heads. It basically echoes the beginning of the Holocaust, an idea that runs through a lot of the x-writing (not to mention how Magneto’s past is retconed to tie into the Holocaust.)
In the Uncanny book three main things happen, Storm gets her powers back, the entire team sacrifices their life, souls and all, to defeat their enemy (which after they are resurrected causes a shift in their outlook as far as how they operate and puts them on the offense instead of waiting in defense mode where most super hero comics reside), and they are presented with a mystical item called the Seige Perilous which would feature heavily in later issues (and would be the cornerstone of some brain storming fan fiction sessions between my friends and I.) Basically the X-Men become true outlaws, taking up residence in Australia and picking enemy targets to hit. This is also the beginning of the team that I am most familiar with consisting of Psylocke, Rogue, Storm, Dazzler, Longshot, Havok, Wolverine, Colossus and sort of member Madelyne Pryor (or the anti-Jean Grey.) The structure of the Xavier institute is lost, and I love it. In fact this is probably why I love film X2: X-Men United so much because it’s very similar in feel. I’ve never been an Xavier fan, and pretty much I only like the school as the setting for books like the New Mutants and Generation X.
In the New Mutants portion of the story the team has to deal with the death of one of the team members (Cypher, a troubled mutant who never felt like he was doing much as his mutant ability was to decipher languages.) Coming from the point of view of what’s basically a kids title, this was a pretty big shift in tone, and had some pretty big effects on the team including them breaking away from the Xavier institute (they already think the X-Men are dead thanks to the Uncanny portion of Fall of the Mutants.) This was also the beginning of the end of this series as it never really gained the same head of steam it had, and would eventually devolve into X-Force, a book where the less said the better.
The changes in X-Factor saw the return of Angel (thought dead after the Mutant Massacre storyline where because of injuries received he had to have his wings amputated which lead him to attempt suicide) as Archangel, the introduction of Apocalypse as a villain, and the procurement of his Ship as X-Factor’s new base of operations, which would easily widen their storytelling scope as they could easily go into space and beyond. Obviously the biggest change was Angel shifting into Archangel, which transformed him from a playboy backer for the Xavier institute who was basically a silly character who ended up being the "dude with wings who carried a mean bazooka", into an almost Wolverine like character, cold, distant with newly forged razor sharp adamantium wings that contained nerve toxin tipped feather darts, not to mention having blue skin to boot. This shift was very important to this original X-Men team bringing them effectively up to snuff, hardening them a little, and basically being a rival for the current regular X-Men team. The addition of Wolverine to the original X-Men cast was really a stroke of genius, a theme which has been repeated a million times in every derivative of the X-Men comic, from Alpha Flight to X-Force and all the other permutations in between. This is also the beginning of the end of X-Factor comic, not in terms of characters, but just its survival as a comic independent from the core X-Men book. Since the characters were shifting a bit to become more like the current X-Men they were soon worked back into that book, and the X-Factor title was left to be rebooted from scratch a couple of unsuccessful times.
Now getting back to where I was introduced to the X-Men comics, a year or so after Fall of the Mutants we had Inferno which was a much more widespread crossover that had ripples throughout the rest of the Marvel universe. It basically ran through Uncanny 240-242, X-Factor 36-38, and New Mutants 71-73, though it was introduced earlier in the Uncanny books, not to mention in a New Mutants like spin off prequel called the X-Terminators.
The story also ran through a bunch of other titles including the Amazing, Spectacular, and Web of Spiderman, Daredevil, the Avengers, Power Pack, Cloak and Dagger, the Fantastic Four, Excalibur, and the short lived Damage Control (as well as getting a What If…? spotlight issue.) Though it’ll always have a strong place in my heart as my introduction to both comic collecting and the X-Men, it’s certainly the weirdest of the initial X-crossovers as it concerns itself with super heroes facing off against demons, both personal and actual. Many of the ongoing story arcs were concluded or came to a head in this story including the X-Men finding out about X-Factor (and the group basically coming back together, well at least setting the ground work for that), Wolverine sharing his feelings for Jean outright, Madelyne Pryor coming out as the Goblin Queen, the outing of Mr. Sinister, the revelation of where Magik’s powers come from, and in the Spiderman end of the Marvel Universe, the Hobgoblin actually became a real demon.
This Inferno Ad is very much in the style of the Fall of the Mutants ad, with plenty of dark imagery and possibly dead X-characters. I especially love the sort of Return of the Jedi era Leia in bondage reference with Magik chained to S’ym, it’s a nice if inappropriate touch.
All in all, I really dig these types of internal company ads. I’m not sure if there was one for the X-Tinction Agenda (which was the last major crossover I collected), but I hope there was. At one time or another all of these ads have lived on my walls, and in my scrapbooks, and now they can live on this site as well.