* Of course I'd say that, I was 13 years old at the time, and as leading scienticians have already proved: you are legally required to love the X-Men when you're 13 years old. Those scary physical changes are just a little bit more manageable when there is the distinct possibility they may give you the ability to fly, or run faster than the speed of light, or pick up ice cream trucks and throw them across town.
But those years when the X-Men lived in a whole town full of treasure, ghosts and fast motor-cycles, those were the years for me. Over the years that he steered the X-books, Chris Claremont had a nice habit of tearing the whole team apart and scattering them to the winds, only to have them reform to deal with some unimaginable menace. In the three years leading up to 1987's Fall of the Mutants storyline, leading characters had been crippled, lost in time or buggered off to join some other super team.
So when they all got together against another massively powerful demon who threatened to eat Dallas, it was definitely a case of the band coming back together. One faked death later, a quick establishing of a new, mysterious and exotic base, and a couple of costume changes, and the team was set.
At my most geekily pedantic, I try to remember who was an official X-Man at different times, and I'm a little embarrassed to admit I have literally wasted hours pondering this inane idea. But it's not as easy as it looks. I have been horribly conflicted over when Banshee was officially off the team, while mildly bemused by Angel's status. It usually gets a bit much, and I have to start thinking about something more important. Like the names of every actor who played a Doctor Who companion, and what order they appeared in.
But the Australian team is a cinch, a clearly defined team that almost lasted for two years before Claremont kicked in the sandcastle again. Four male, four female. Storm, Dazzler, Rogue and Psylocke; Havok, Wolverine, Colossus and Longshot. A basic team covering all the skills and abilities that would ever be needed, with a potent mix of sheer power and delicate precision.
There was an aboriginal teleporter up on the hill, odd computer systems in the depths and a teenage runaway girl living in the walls. Genosha made its first appearance and was genuinely horrifying, while Inferno had everybody up against personal and literal demons in an oddly accurate New York/Hell hybrid.
There were natural leaders in Storm and Wolverine, and everybody saved the day at least once. The world thought they were dead, which left the team free to ride in, save the day and fuck right off again. It also meant there was very little interaction with the rest of the Marvel universe, which could get a little frustrating, but was ultimately beneficial for the overall story. It eventually got to the point where it actually was a genuine thrill to see X-Factor and the X-Men finally meet in a demon-filled New York.
Primarily rendered in scratchy magnificence by a young and eager Marc Silvestri, there was also nice art from Rick Leonardi and a couple of others, although the sharpness of Jim Lee and his gorgeous hardbodies made an immediate impact in just one issue.
That Lee-drawn issue is also notable for being the exact point where it all went a bit pear-shaped for the Aussie team. The team had already just lost Rogue, but there was much worse to come. Havok, who was taking his whining to artistic levels, let loose on the bad guy and Storm got caught in the crossfire. The angst got a bit much for everybody involved, and within half a dozen issues, the rest of the team had all taken a magic portal ride into new lives, and Wolverine got nailed to a cross.
Then it all went a bit odd, and there were a couple of years there where there really wasn't any X-Men team. Scattered across the globe, all messed up, inside and out. It wasn't until everybody got back together for a jolly Genoshan adventure in the X-Tinction Agenda that most of the team were reformed, if a bit different. Storm was as magnificent as ever, and Wolverine was just as brutal. Havok went off and sulked for a while, Colossus was back where he belonged at the back of team poses and Psylocke had been all ninja-ed up. Rogue took everything in southern stride, but Longshot and Dazzler went off to do uninteresting things in uninteresting comics.
It all spiralled away from Claremont into the hands of the artists and editors who thought they knew more about writing than the writer, and that led to a decade of dire comics, enough to stain the franchise forever. A few notable attempts to get it on track notwithstanding, the X-Men are still tainted by this immediate past.
Maybe that's why I love the Australian X-Men so much. The comic grew up and we both went our separate ways, and I was off trying to find Hellblazer back issues and sneering at superheroes. But there is always that fucking annoying 13-year-old inside me, with a deep and unwavering love or a bunch of comics published 20 years ago, a status quo that became just another little slice of history.
A slice I still can't help loving.