Thursday, December 14, 2023

All the X: The dilution was real

As well as really finding out how much Kitty Pryde was an insufferable brat, a recent read through of all the X-Men comics written by Chris Claremont up to 1989 also showed how tight - both thematically and storytelling-wise - the series could be, and how this loosened with the addition of spin-off comics, before snapping completely in the 1990s.

The Uncanny X-Men were undoubtedly the biggest comic in the English speaking world for the 1980s. It set the pace in sales and storytelling - a high-water mark that the entire American industry is still chasing after. It was kind of astonishing that such a popular comic was also a legitimately great comic, with high level superheroic soap opera action, and characters you actually cared about ( I might not actually like Kitty anymore, but I still care enough to have a strong opinion on the matter )

Even more astonishingly, Marvel didn't saturate the market with X-Men, content to keep it tight, not willing to fuck with the golden goose. There were guest appearances and the occasional limited series, but everything you needed to follow the X-crew was there in one monthly comic.

The editorial staff at the time still insist the call came from the creators for a new title, because they just had too many ideas for one monthly series, and the New Mutants was born. And it was a series that could occasionally be brilliant, especially when the remarkable Bill Sienkiewicz got involved, but it did leech away the strong focus from the main X-title.

You can see it happening in the Uncanny X-Men. While they're still up to thier usual mutant misadventures, there were also a lot of things happening just over there, just out of sight, and while they were possibly inessential, you could feel the story fragmenting.

It fragmented even further with X-Factor, and while the regular X-team were kept away from the originals for the first few years, it all got a bit diluted.

Of course, when the 90s rolled around, there were suddenly dozens of x-titles every month, and trying to follow it all became a fools errand. That mindset of squeezing every last bit of creativity and commodity out of the X-brand had been the standard since then, even as the multitude of titles leave even seasoned readers lost. (I still maintain that the Krakoan era would have been far more palatable - and way more affordable - if it had just been the one X-Men title.)

But that kind of mindset isn't going to change anytime soon, so all you can do is look back, before it was all spread so thin, and marvel at how you didn't need anything more than the core title, until the fucking X-babies came along.

No comments: