This post is in the theme “A Long Waltz Through Nerddom”. Read the first.
August 3, New York: We’ve established by now that beginning in early childhood, I was a full-on nerd. But what nerddom would be complete without comic books? Certainly not mine. I read a ton of them, for about five or six years. It was an expensive habit, which kept my tastes limited, but I loved those comic books dearly. I was never much of a collector (I have a few issues in plastic bags somewhere), I was a READER. I devoured comic books, would read them twice or thrice through, I couldn’t wait for the next issue to show up at the drugstore.
I lived in the Marvel Universe in the 1990s, a world of mutants with crazy powers and heavy-handed messages of tolerance and diversity. I always loved the creativity of the mutant powers in Marvel (and always felt DC was less creative; I never really got into Image). I read primarily X-Men and its derivative titles. I think my first issue of Uncanny X-Men was the arrival of Bishop. For those of you who know your X-chronology: that was when Bishop showed up from the future and tried to kill Gambit because he said he betrayed the X-Men and killed them all. That was a tough pill for me to swallow because Gambit was quickly my favorite (he was from New Orleans).
I spent long nights fantasizing about wanting to be an X-Man. As a teenager I wanted nothing more than to a) be special and b) leave my life behind. Classic nerd. What a dream it would be to be discovered by Charles Xavier and shipped off to upstate New York to live a whole new life of adventure. I would lay in bed concocting the fantasy in intricate detail. I wanted to be telekinetic (the best power, in my opinion, because you could recreate just about all the other powers by working at the molecular level). Gambit and I would be buddies. Jean Grey would teach me how to use my telekinesis. And I thought I would date Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde). She seemed so very sweet (and not in her thirties).
Choosing an X-Men arc for the Thirty-Three Project was a challenge, but X-Cutioner’s Song seemed like the right fit. It was a big, fat crossover right in the middle of my love of comics. (I should note that it was in a subsequent crossover arc— Age of Apocalypse— that I finally gave up on Marvel of the 1990s.) This was a point at which the X-Men universe was getting a bit confused, you could feel it bubbling into too many characters, too much to keep track of. God forbid they threw a new artist at a familiar series, the B characters would be completely unrecognizable. A cross-over arc like this one brought them all together and jumbled them all up.
Reading X-Cutioner’s Song about two decades later I was lost. Who the hell were these people? I remembered the core X-Men, even down to Jubilee. I remembered Stryfe and Cable and Apocalypse. I remembered that there was an X-Force and there was an X-Factor, but so many of their members were complete strangers on the page. It was still a fun read and I do love that 1990s X-Men art, but it didn’t rekindle a love affair.
I think today about being an X-Man and it seems completely terrible. These are adults living on a suburban boarding school campus and they spend all of their time fighting, like physically fighting, other people with their fists. Their fists! Yes, they’re all in fantastic shape. But how boring would it be to have to spend all that time keeping yourself in that condition?
I’d still love to be telekinetic though.
You can buy this arc off the ol’ Internet, just like I did. Don’t ask at comic book stores, they don’t have this one and they will tell you it’s going to cost you like fifty bucks.