Jeff Alan Polier’s MY FIRST ISSUE… of X-MEN!

7 Oct

Hey guys, Mike here – hope you like Jeff’s remembrances. I miss being a kid and reading comics with un-jaded eyes… sigh… X-Men was the first series I fell in love with – I loved how Chris Claremont and John Byrne fit all of their early Marvel work together (on X-Men, Marvel Team-Up, Champions, Iron Fist, Avengers, etc….) Anyway, here’s Jeff’s latest for you guys – let us know what you think! (And by the way, no, I’m not Jeff’s cousin; there must be another Mike out there – somewhere…!)

 

My First Issue of X-Men

X-Men 111 cover

Uncanny X-Men #111

June, 1978

            This was another garage sale purchase when I was young. I remember exactly where the house was it came from and that I also bought an issue of Boris Karloff. When I first read this issue, it didn’t make much sense to me. Lots of excitement but I sure didn’t know who these people were or what was going on. Reading it again over two decades later, I at least know who the characters are but still think it’s a bad issue to be someone’s first. It interested me for two reasons. First, my cousin Mike was big into comics and I thought Mike was cool. Second, it was a cool cover.
            The logo (pre-Uncanny) was made to look like a circus playbill with “Now Playing” plastered over it. A carnie barker—Banshee—is announcing the show. “Step right up, ladies and gents—see the strangest show on Earth! Once they were a mighty super-team—now they are mere performing freaks!” Behind him are posters of the acts. “Storm: Goddess of Elements.” “Colossus,” carrying a one-ton weight in one hand while balancing another heavy mass on one finger of his other hand. “Nightcrawler: Man or Monster?” “Wolverine: Killer Beast in Human Form! Savage!” There’s no denying that this Dave Cockrum/Terry Austin cover is thrilling and attention-grabbing.
            “Mindgames!” was written by Chris Claremont. John Byrne and Terry Austin handled the art honors. I had no idea at the time that I was reading a comicbook team that was considered legendary. The story begins with former X-Men (at the time) and current Avenger (again, at the time) Hank McCoy, also known as the Beast. He’s visiting a carnival in Sullivan County, Texas while looking for the X-Men…and he can’t believe his eyes. He hasn’t met the “all-new, all-different” X-Men but the carnie barker sure looks like Banshee. The posters behind him look like Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Colossus, and Phoenix.
            Beast, his blue fur disguised by a trench coat and fedora, pays his five dollars to enter the sideshow. Inside he finds a short, nearly naked man secured by heavy chains, and demonic looking blue-furred creature, and a black woman with white hair in a leopard-print bikini. (Other attractions include Lotta Little–the huge woman–and Leialoha the Duck.)
            We then have a one-page bit of Beast remembering what brought him to this point. Lorna (Dane, AKA Polaris) had called from Muir Isle to the Avengers Mansion. Her boyfriend, Havok (Alex Summers) had been abducted and the X-Men weren’t answering. Arriving at the X-Mansion, Beast discovered that it was abandoned. Suddenly abandoned, too, as things were left in a state of disarray. Using Cerebro, the X-Men’s mutant-detecting computer, he tracks the X-Men’s signatures to Mr. Mike’s One-Ring Travelling Tent Show.
            Now watching the main event in the big tent, he sees an aerialist who may be his old friend, Jean Grey. It seems to be confirmed when she misses the person who is supposed to catch her but floats to the floor. Beast confronts “Ms. Destiny” in her trailer but the cigarette-smoking acrobat doesn’t recognize him. Neither does her next visitor, “Slim.” The carnie is red glasses is definitely Scott “Cyclops” Summers but he doesn’t recognize Hank, one of his oldest friends, either.
            Slim calls for help and the Beast is beset by carnies of all types. Just when he thinks he’s lost them by hiding in the sideshow, he is punched by Colossus. Woozy from a hit that would have killed a normal human, the Beast is no longer a match for the carnies that proceed to beat him to within an inch of his life. They drag him off to their leader, observed by the chained savage, Wolverine. The image of the unjust beating of another X-Man breaks Wolverine out of his implanted personality. Wolverine strains against his chains and shatters links. (Where did he obtain super-strength from? No idea. Why didn’t he use his Adamantium claws to cut through the chains? No idea.)
            Beast is brought before the leader of the show, Mesmero. One of the X-Men’s oldest foes, Mesmero has hypnotized and humiliated his enemies. He promises to do to Beast what he’s done to the others.
            Free at last, Wolverine storms in on “Ms. Destiny” and “Slim.” He figures that strong emotions are the way to shatter the mind control. He knocks “Slim” aside and starts to slap Jean around. In short order, the pain and anger releases the real personality and Phoenix blasts Wolverine across the trailer. Phoenix frees the minds of the rest of the X-Men and the assembled heroes burst in on the trailer where Mesmero has been failing to trap Beast’s exceptionally strong mind. Mesmero is no longer a threat, though. He’s already been knocked out by the X-Men’s oldest and greatest enemy: Magneto!

Why do I still consider this exciting story a lousy first issue? Because the heroes of the story are barely in it. Even when they regain their own personalities, they don’t have time to show the reader who they really are. It is great as part of a story—just not a good place to start. I wouldn’t read another issue of X-Men reader until “Fall of the Mutants,” over 100 issues later.

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  1. Jeff Alan Polier bring us a Very Special episode of MY FIRST ISSUE… of Underdog! « All Day Comics - October 12, 2011

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