X-Men Reviews

X-Men #1 (1963)

X-Men #1 (September, 1963)
Writer/Editor – Stan Lee
Pencils – Jack Kirby
Inks – Paul Reinman
Letters – Sam Rosen
Cover Price: 12¢

Hey, howsitgoin’ everybody? Been a minute since I last wrote anything here, and while I can’t make any promises that this ol’ place will be anything near “regular” again, I woke up today with a wild hair to put out something (sorta-kinda) new. Over on the audio side, I’ve resumed my coverage of the X-Ploits of the Silver-Age X-Men in The Essential X-Lapsed. Thing of it is, I’d been away from those books for so long (the last episode of that series was in March, 2022), that I’ve darn near forgotten most of what came before. I mean, these stories aren’t terribly memorable to begin with… add in my year-long absence from the books, and… woof. Your humble host is lost.

And so, I figured it might behoove me to re-x-plore the early days of these strange teens, and to do so in a words-n-pics sort of way. Also, maybe I can try and re-learn some of this WordPress hoo-doo… because, it’s been so long since I’ve blown the dust off this place, that I’ve totally forgotten how to code it so our thumbnails all stay the same size (if anybody out there can help a fella out… please do)!

So, let’s get into it, yes?

Well, first, howsabout a pre-ramble? Those are always fun, right? Okay, don’t answer that…

I just wanted to briefly discuss how and why I started covering these Silver Agers to begin with. Ya see, back when I was doing (original recipe) X-Lapsed, it took me… I wanna say, seven or so months to get “caught up” with the then current X-Books. As X-Lapsed was (like most of the stupid stuff I do) an every day thing, once I was caught up… I needed something to talk about to keep the “streak” alive.

But, what?

Well, I initially planned to take a step back… like, work my way backwards through the X-Men books/era that I missed out on. Since we started this project with the HoX/PoX era, I thought it only natural to jump back to the start of the era that proceeded it, which is to say the “Disassembled/Age of X-Man/Rosenberg” run. Figured I’d call it something “clever” like Uncanny X-Lapsed. I then decided, heck… if I’m gonna go back an era, maybe it’d be smart to jump back TWO… in order to pick up with the X-Books where I had walked away, which is to say… the X-Men Blue/Gold/Red/Black era. Maybe calling that show something “clever” like X-Lapsed Prime (that era kicked off with a one-shot called X-Men Prime… no, not that X-Men Prime).

And so, I began doing my normal amount of pre-project research… which is to say (dang, I say “which is to say” a lot)… I basically dove into these 2015-2019 books headfirst. I snapped up any and all X-Ephemera from the era, copy and pasted information and interviews from comics “newz” sites… really began doing my due diligence in finding just the right amount of “Gestaltiness” to do these missing-years justice.

Then, I found myself in a very strange mindset. Ya see, it’s probably quite evident to anybody whose been reading my stuff for any amount of time, but… I’m kind of obsessive. Used to be, back in the long ago, that I could recite X-Men factoids “chapter-and-verse”. It’s nothing to brag about or be proud of, but I knew a lot about these silly books. And here, as I was attempting to re-acquaint myself with these characters and stories, I found myself… well, kinda lost.

Usually, I can blame those sort of feelings on lazy creators or editors… but, this time? This time it was my fault for disassociating from these books to the point where I just forgot everything. I suddenly felt like I wouldn’t be able to give my usual “top-quality” level of insight in discussing these 2015-2019 era X-Books. Ya see, with the “current-year” stuff… that’s all pretty ephemeral, yes? We’re discussing it as it happens… the story isn’t over yet, and so… they kind of invite things like speculation and wild editorializing. But, a prior era… well, that’s already “done”, ya know? The door is closed, the story’s been told… so, I kinda feel like I need to be more, I dunno, analytic with stuff like that.

Anyway, it was here that I decided I needed to go even further back. But again, how far?

I could list the eras I considered… and the “clever” titles I’d have given those shows… but, honestly I’ve wasted enough of your time already! Suffice it to say, I took the scenic route… and wound up all the way back to the Summer of 1963.

Before kicking off the Essentials show, it’d been every bit of 20 years since I’d read any of these issues. The Essential Uncanny X-Men black and white “phonebook” was the first Essential I ever bought, and was the first time I’d read nearly all of those early issues.

It wasn’t the first time I’d ever read X-Men #1 though. First time I read that was when I was very young in my X-Fandom. I found a copy of Sons of Origins of Marvel Comics at the Connetquot Public Library. It was one of the, maybe dozen, comic booky things there… and, it was kind of a trip to see! I was shocked to learn who the original X-Men were… at the time, I honestly couldn’t have imagined a more boring team! Where’s Wolverine? Where’s Colossus? Where’s Storm?

I remember taking that bit of “trivia” to school with me the next day and blowing a few new comic fans’ minds. None of us would have ever guessed these five were the originals. I remember really wanting to cut the X-Men #1 pages out of the collection and staple them together, so it would be like I actually HAD a copy of it. I was a stupid kid.

That same year, I actually found a copy of X-Men #1 at a local comic shop… it was on the wall, and was priced at (get this) $200. Two-hundred bucks! I begged for it to be my Christmas/Birthday present… but, it just wasn’t to be. Could you fathom finding, even a ragged copy of X-Men #1 for two-hundo?

Anyway… howsabout I shut up so we can get into it?

We open in the study of a very exclusive private school, where sits a bald man in a Laz-e-boy. Ya know, here’s my first bit of Mandela Effecting… I could’ve sworn Professor X was in his wheelchair on this page. In fact, if you’d asked me to recreate it, I’d have 100% included the wheelchair. Anyway, he telepathically summons his four students for class… So, let’s meet them! Front and center is… Angel, who swoops in overhead, making me question just how large this study actually is. Beast hops in through a window just hanging there in this featureless void of a room. Iceman, uh, well… let me be the thousandth person who points out that he… pole dances? And Cyclops takes up the rear. They all introduce themselves to the readers.

The fellas immediately attempt to make the Professor feel a bit more comfortable by reclining his Laz-E-Boy and adjusting the afghan that covers his legs. Brown-nosers. Off to the side, Bobby sprays Hank with some slush and it looks like they’re about to engage in a bit of roughhousing. Angel soothes the sopping Beast, and now it’s time for today’s lesson. Worth noting, Professor Xavier hasn’t spoken yet… everything he’s “said” thus far has been telepathic. He is happy that the teens are able to receive his thoughts, and suggests that, eventually there’ll be no need to speak aloud to them ever again. Promises, promises. Cyclops pushes a Training Machine into this giant featureless void of a study. It looks kind of like a forklift or an order-picker, but is taking the place of the Danger Room, it seems. I think the Danger Room will be introduced pretty soon, but for now – we’ve got the forklift gimmick. Not sure why they’re training in a room with a great big Beast-sized window in it… seems a bit strange given that the makeup of the school is supposedly a well-guarded secret.

First student we see train is Beast. The room is suddenly full of trapeze-looking equipment and hoops, which he dives through and around which puts his agility and balance to the test. Upon landing, Hank asks how he did. Professor X barks that he’ll get his grade tomorrow. Dick.

Next up, it’s Angel’s turn. The room is now full of whirlydoos and whoziwatzits which Warren must avoid and evade. He barely manages to make his way through the course, nearly slipping up at the end. Xavier congratulates him on his hovering and recovering abilities.

Iceman is then given… five minutes of “free play”. Ya see, he’s the youngest of our group… and is being treated as such. So, for Bobby’s “free play”, he decides to make himself look like an actual snowman… with carrot nose, and broom, and everything…

Beast then hurls a bowling ball in his direction. The slowest moving bowling ball ever, as Bobby is able to have a full-on monologue about it AND concoct an ice arc to deflect the bauble by the time it makes it across the room! Though, in fairness, we’ve already established that this is quite the sizable room. Professor X is impressed… especially considering that Bobby is only 16 years old. We learn that he’s “a couple of years” younger than his peers, which suggests that Scott, Warren, and Hank are 18 right now.

Finally, it’s Cyclops’ turn. And his training is… well, basically blasting the bejeezus out of his fellow students. Worth noting, here he has to operate a mechanism on his visor to open it before unleashing an optic blast. And, evidently, he can control the size of the blast by adjusting the dial. First, he blasts Beast… then Angel… finally, Iceman – who had erected an ice cube shield to protect himself.

Professor Xavier looks one while his students beat the hell out of one another, suggesting that a little roughhousing is good for them to blow off steam. He then turns on a dime, and demands the stop the horseplay and return to formation – at once! Yeesh. This telepathic message is more akin to an assault… Hank claims that it very nearly bowled him over!

Xavier tells the fellas that he senses a taxi pulling up outside carrying a new pupil. A very, ahem, attractive, young lady. That’s a creepy thing to say. Worth noting, the fellas are all going to be pretty creepy toward this attractive young lady. I probably don’t need to say “this didn’t age well” over and over again, so consider this my blanket “this didn’t age well” statement. Worth noting, while Scott, Hank, and Warren are pretty psyched that they’re about to be joined by a girl… Bobby couldn’t care less. Hmm… I’m guessing this was one of the five issues of X-Men Brian Bendis bothered to read before taking the gig.

Anyway, this attractive new pupil arrives at the School… and, of course, it’s Jean Grey. Professor X introduces himself as though they’d never met before… which, of course, has been retconned away – we would later learn that Xavier met Jean as a young girl following the death of her friend Annie Whatsherface… which, only makes his apparent attraction to her all the more creeptastic. Xavier explains what the school is all about, suggesting that Jean didn’t already know. He tells her that she, like his other students, is a mutant… and that his students are called the “X-Men” due to their having Ex-Tra Powers.

It’s now time for the fellas to introduce themselves… and it’s the first time we see them in their civvies… and being addressed by their real names. Cyclops is given the name “Slim Summers” by the way, and he looks like an absolute geek. Bow-tie and plaid pants… was that EVER a style? Is it just laundry day?  Or did he lose a bet? I don’t remember when they first told us his real first name is Scott… though, I’m assuming it won’t be long from now. Angel welcomes Jean to the X-Men. It’s weird that Angel seems to be poised as the leading man here. Jean is given the name Marvel Girl, which leads to Beast trying to figure out what her powers might be. He, by the way, is drawn to look like a boilerplate Kirby no-neck goofball character. Probably also worth noting, Warren looks like he’s around 40 years old, and Bobby resembles Eddie Haskell. Scott, while not in this panel, looks a lot like Marty McFly’s dad. Scott pushes a chair over for Jean to sit in… which she uses her telekinesis to pull in closer. This freaks the fellas out, but at least now they have an idea of what she can do.

Professor X then explains more about himself and the school. He claims that when he was a younger man… and, I mean, he’s probably all of thirty here… even though he looks quite ancient, what with looking kind of like Mr. Wizard. Anyway, when he was a younger man, he was distrusted for having his mental powers. The human race was not yet ready to accept people with extra powers and abilities… and so, he decided to build a school where mutants can kind of hide out, working to help mankind in hopes that they’ll one day be accepted by them. For those of you who have checked out the (short-lived) X-Lapsed Origins series of blog posts, this sounds a lot like what we saw in Amazing Adult Fantasy #14 in the first ever Marvel-Mutant story featuring Tad Carter! Xavier also claims that both of his parents worked on the atomic bomb… and that he lost the use of his legs in a childhood accident (which we’ll find out isn’t x-actly the case later on down the line.

Beast then… forces a kiss onto Jean! To which, he’s hurled across the room. Well, that was bizarre, eh? If nothing else, there’s a bit of X-Trivia for us, I guess. Who was the first X-Man to kiss Jean Grey? The Beast!

Xavier continues his ramble… introducing us to the concept that there are EVIL mutants out there. Those who seek to destroy mankind… and, naturally, it’s up to them to stop it. No sooner does he say this than we shift scenes and meet one such evil mutant! In a secret laboratory near Cape Citadel, it’s… Magneto… or, the Miraculous Magneto, if you prefer. He vows to take the Earth from the humans, and refers to Mutants as “Homo Superior”. Wow, I don’t remember that being a thing from the very get-go… but, here we are! He watches via monitor a test missile being launched from the Cape, and then uses his magnetic powers to screw with it.

The big brains at NASA can’t figure out what’s wrong. The next day, the Daily Bugle Globe reports that this is the sixth failed launch. Later on that day, all sorts of metallic artillery starts going nuts! Gatling guns and tanks alike begin behaving as though they’ve got minds of their own. The troops look to the sky and see a message written in metallic dust. It reads: Surrender the Base of I’ll Take it By Force… and it’s signed Magneto… Like, Magneto is literally in cursive, which is rather precious, innit? I mean, just look at it!

Magneto then launches another missile from a silo and rockets it toward an unmanned target ship in the sea. At this point, our man tires of working remotely, and so he just saunters on in to Cape Citadel. He is naturally mocked for being dressed like a big ol’ goof… and, yeah – I probably should mention that, while he is most definitely Magneto, his helmet is a bit different than what we’re used to seeing now. The helmet, instead of having a thick “rim” or “ridge”, for lack of a better term, here has more distinct and larger horns… which, I suppose aids in the obvious evilness of the get up. Anyway, Magneto uses his powers to take over the base. As he makes his way inside, he mentions that he will change his magnetic charge from positive to negative… which, I didn’t realize was a thing he ever had to do… but, well – we’re still learning, ain’t we?

In an office, in Chris Claremont’s favorite panel of the ish, Magneto, who is almost completely obscured by a word balloon, informs the Citadel bigwigs that he claims the Cape for Homo Superior. He then snags all the soldiers in a magnetic “fence” rendering them fairly useless.

Back at the School, Jean Grey tries on her costume… while the fellas all peep on her from around a corner. Yup… that’s right. One of them, I think Bobby, suggests that Jean was “poured” into her suit… and yeah, it’s fairly form-fitting, I’ll give him that. Jean, upon realizing that the fellas are perving on her, tells them to back off. Hank calls her gorgeous and tells her not to get mad. This scene is cut short by a psychic command from Professor Xavier, ya see, nobody better be perving on Jean… except him! Nah, that’s not what he said… but, you can bet he was thinking it!

He actually gives the team 15 second to report to the study for a briefing. They arrive in time, and are advised about what’s going on at Cape Citadel. Magneto is identified as the first evil mutant to surface… and the X-Men are told that this confrontation will serve as their “baptism of fire”. And so, the X-Men suit up… and load into Charles’ souped up Rolls Royce. From there, they’re taken to Xavier’s private jet, which whooshes them down to… I’m assuming Florida, faster than the speed of sound… which is pretty damn quick, innit?

And so, we’re back at the Cape… and the X-Men have arrived. They introduce themselves, and are naturally mocked for their costumes. The soldiers agree to stand down and allow these weird teen-agers to do their thing. They rush into the base! Cyclops runs right into Magneto’s force field… and decides to try and blast his way through it. He nearly knocks himself out in the process, but actually manages to break through Magneto’s defenses!

Magneto pulls back, and launches five of the Cape’s hunter missiles. Which will be attracted to the X-Men by their own body heat? Worth noting, he does this by operating a control panel rather than just using his miraculous magnetic powers. Angel deftly dodges the onslaught. Bobby then hurls some ice grenades at the missiles… and actually manages to hit, and take down all but one. Wow, heckuvan arm on this kid! Even more impressive when we realize he’s only sixteen years old, am I right? Get used to me saying that, by the way… apologies in advance. The final missile is hot on Warren’s tail.

Beast swoops un below, and catches the lil rocket with his feet. Jean then uses her TK abilities to take control of the missile. She dumps it in the Ocean, where it goes boom… Killing an entire undersea ecosystem, and probably really ticking a certain Sub-Mariner off.

Magneto then hurls a bunch of metallic debris at the X-Men… which Cyclops is able to take out pretty easily with an optic blast. And so, Magneto then sets a tank of rocket fuel on fire and sends it in the X-Men’s direction. It explodes… however, before it did, Bobby… who I want to remind you is only 16 years old — is able to erect an ice igloo shield! The X-Men, while not blowed up – are covered in a whole bunch of rubble. (The Miraculous) Magneto thinks he’s won the day.

However… from the pile of rubble shoots an optic blast! The X-Men then go on a full-frontal assault of the Master of Magnetism, which includes… well, Cyclops hitting him with another optic beam. Magneto decides here that discretion is the better part of villainy… and decides to hightail it on outta there, leaving a wake of impenetrable magnetic energy in his wake so he cannot be followed. Whatever the case… it would appear as though the day has been saved! The Cape Citadel troops refer to our heroes’ antics as “Uncanny” before telling them that the name “X-Men” will be most honored… well, I guess that’ll be nice while it lasts. We wrap up with Professor Xavier calling his students back home, and, check this out… he sorta kinda delivers THAT line: “And now, return… To Me, My X-Men!”

I still remember how weird it was to read this for the first time, having come into the X-Books with X-Men vol. 2… this was just so strange to see. As mentioned during the overlong pre-ramble, I never would have guessed that, outside of Cyclops and maybe Jean, that this would be the original team! Also, where’s Beast’s fur!  Is this a *different* Beast?  I didn’t know that he started off unfurry when I first read this! Why is Warren Worthington the Angel instead of Archangel??? What reading this issue told me back then was that… I had a LOT to learn about my favorite comics team.

And so, let’s learn… or re-learn, together!

One thought on “X-Men #1 (1963)

  • Chris U

    Glad to see you back behind the keyboard.

    Whenever I read a story from this era I always try to think of who the intended audience was for this story at the time it first came out. How did a 8 to 12 year old boy in the 1960’s view this story. Was this as cool then as we all wish it was now?

    I just like the classic Kirby illustrations with virtually no backgrounds whatsoever. The massive void of a room actually hits a soft spot in my heart.

    Knowing now how Kirby felt about Lee taking all the credit for the writing of the books, the panel where Kirby’s Magneto is almost totally eclipsed by the word balloon containing Lee’s words takes on a very meta message status to my adult mind.

    I’m looking forward to taking a trip with you through these issues of classic X-Men. (No not that Classic X-Men.)


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