It's been a blockbuster movie season for Marvel Comics. Captain
America, Spider-Man, and most recently X-Men, Days of Future
The current X-Men film, the seventh in the mutant franchise
since 2000, is based on a time-travelling plot that originally
appeared in X-Men issues 141 and 142 in 1981.
Written by Chris Claremont and Canadian John Byrne, penciled
by Byrne and inked by Terry Austin, the story bounced between
1980 and to the dystopian future of 2013 that is ruled by the
giant robots known as Sentinels. Mutants are considered enemies
of the U.S., if not humanity, and are numbered and kept in internment
The comic story centres on Kitty Pride, the X-Men member
who travels from 2013 to 1980 where she alerts the X-Men, including
a younger Kitty Pride, about the future.
The story line in 1981 resonated with the readers of the
era, because I remember it sparked discussions about how the
plot reflected the unfortunate true-to-life prejudices and hatreds
It was easier for the writers to bring to life these social
issues because unlike other super-characters who gained powers
because they were an alien (Superman), through some sort of natural
phenomenon, an act of a god (Thor or the original Captain Marvel),
a scientific experiment (Captain America or Doctor Octopus) or
an industrial accident (Daredevil or Electro), X-Men and their
evil counterparts were born that way.
Their powers and abilities were based on genetics and passed
on by birth, just like the colour of ones skin, a trait,
or possibly a deformation caused by genetic mutation. Claremont
described the X-Men in 1982 as a group that are hated, despised
and feared only because they are mutants: So what we have
here, intended or not, is a book that is about racism, bigotry
Sociologists Kelley J. Hall and Betsy Lucal wrote in 1999
in the journal Teaching Sociology that normal humans
fear mutants, but also try to control and eradicate them from
The anti-mutant sentiment in X-Men titles easily corresponds
to institutional and everyday racism, (hetro)sexism, homophobia
and anti-Semitism X-Men titles also demonstrate the politics
of separatism and assimilation as various mutant leaders try
to find solutions to the hatred and ignorance of normal
They also said the X-Men stories also show how mutant haters
use institutions, legislation and violence to eradicate mutants.
The overarching story line is deeper and headier stuff than
the routine Good versus Evil plot lines of the traditional comic
book. Escapism met reality.
The X-Men, created
by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, first appeared in 1963 and was part
of the explosion of characters from Marvel that helped usher
in the Silver Age of comics. Unlike most other characters, the
group was made up of outcast teens that attended Prof. Xaviers
School for Gifted Youngsters at a Westchester, N.Y., mansion.
But rather than being gifted in biology or math, Cyclops
emitted potentially lethal rays from his eyes, Iceman was a frozen
human, Marvel Girl had telekinetic powers, the Beast was ape-like
in physicality and the Angel had wings. They were promoted on
the cover as being the Strangest Super-Heroes of All.
Kirby and Lee are both Jewish and whether anti-Semitism was
overtly on their minds when they developed the story line is
unclear. Kirby - who also fought in Europe during the Second
World War - may have just answered the call by then Marvel boss
Martin Goodman to match DCs Doom Patrol.
Nevertheless, the result was a format that allowed storytellers
to explore the issues of hate, prejudice and conformity.
X-Men wasn't among the best sellers in the early days and
despite the uniqueness of the concept and a last-ditch effort
by enlisting great comic artists, including Neal Adams and Jim
Steranko, the book went into reprints between issues 67 in 1970
and 93 in 1975.
It was in the Giant-Size line that a new X-Men line-up (a
mix of original and new characters) was introduced by Claremont
in May 1975. New material in the regular book resumed with issue
94 and by the mid-1980s, the X-Men became among the top sellers
in the industry, leading to the too-many-to-mention spin-offs
and cartoons and movies.
Expect the original series of X-Men comics to command a premium,
in part because the newest movie received good reviews. It will
heat up the back issue market. The first issue from 1963 ranges
in prices from about $3,000 in Good to about $44,000 Near Mint,
but two copies that were graded and sealed in a plastic sleeve
as Near Mint by a third party each sold for $89,625 at auction
in 2012. That same year, a Mint copy realized $492,397.50 at
The Days of Future
Past issues, Numbers 141 and 142, range from about $9 in Good
to $125 in Near Mint. Giant-Size X-Men 1 ranges from $100 in
Good to $1,400 in Near Mint. Those books and others from the
original series are among the best Silver and Bronze Age comics
to invest in higher grades.
1 - Giant-Size X-Men 1: This comic revitalized the comic
book and is now considered one of the most important key books
in Marvel's line up.
2 - X-Men 142: Despite what it says on the cover, not everyone
3 - X-Men 1: The "Strangest Super-Heroes of All"
appear for the first time in this issue. Created by Stan Lee
and Jack Kirby, the teenagers would set the foundation for one
of Marvel's most successful and enduring story lines.
Let's Talk Comics with Rob Lamberti, who started collecting
comics when the going price was 12 cents an issue and Peter Parker
really was a teenager. He dabbled in the comic convention circuit
in the Toronto area for a while, but stopped to concentrate on
his career as a not-so-mild- mannered crime reporter for a great
metropolitan newspaper, where he hoped he managed to record a
little bit of history the past three decades.