Celebrating the Unpopular Arts
Comics You Should Own – ‘Uncanny X-Men’ #182-200

Comics You Should Own – ‘Uncanny X-Men’ #182-200

Some years back, I did a post about the “eras” of the X-Men, and this was part of the “superhero” era of the X-Men. This is as close as the book ever came to a straight-forward superhero book, but that doesn’t mean it’s not awesome!

Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont (writer), John Romita Jr. (penciler, issues #182-185, 187-197, 199-200), Barry Windsor-Smith (penciler, issue #186; artist/colorist, issue #198), Dan Green (inker, issues #182-185, 187-188, 190-197, 199-200), Terry Austin (inker, issue #186), Steve Leialoha (inker, issues #189, 194), Glynis Wein/Oliver (colorist, issues #182-197, 199-200), Christie Scheele (colorist, issue #186), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), and Rick Parker (letterer, issue #199).

Published by Marvel, 19 issues (#182-200), cover dated June 1984 – December 1985.

Some SPOILERS below, I guess. Be warned! You can also click on the images to make them bigger, because that’s just how we roll around here!

(Obviously, if you’re going to get the X-Men, you’re probably going to try to get every issue, something I would definitely encourage. But if you really don’t want to do that, I’m going to explain why issues #176-181 are missing from this post. Fret not!)

After Paul Smith left Uncanny X-Men and John Romita Jr. came on board, Claremont once again floundered just a bit while he got used to Romita a little. Each artist is different, naturally, and it seems like Claremont does need to get in sync with his artists before things can really take off. There’s not really anything wrong with issues #176-181, and if you read them, they’re perfectly entertaining, but they seem a bit … off. In issue #176, Scott and Madelyne crash their plane on their way to their honeymoon and Scott has to fight a giant octopus. In issue #177, Mystique trains to fight the X-Men. In issues #178, Mystique and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants attack the mansion and the Morlocks kidnap Kitty. In issue #179, the Morlocks remind Kitty that she promised to stay with Caliban if he helped the X-Men, but he releases her from the vow when he realizes she won’t be happy with him. In issue #180, Kitty and Storm have a heart-to-heart, and the X-Men get sucked into Secret Wars. In issue #181, they return from Secret Wars and help drive a dragon away from Japan. Nothing terrible, but the presence of Secret Wars in the mix is a disturbing harbinger of things to come, as the X-Men kept getting caught up in the big Marvel events, making the issues #182-200 a bit disjointed (especially when they go off to Asgard to have their adventures between issues #199 and 200, which is ridiculous). But in the issues I’m writing about, Claremont seemed to be able to shift a bit more fluidly with the necessities of the greater Marvel Universe, and the first time he did, prior to these issues, it was a bit awkward. Similarly, in these early issues Romita’s art isn’t quite as good as it would become. He’s inked by Bob Wiacek, his father, and Brett Breeding, and not until Dan Green comes on board does his art really take off. Green is probably the second-best inker Romita Jr. ever had (Al Williamson, I would argue, is the best), and once he and Romita formed a good team in issue #182, the book becomes much better. Plus, Claremont seemed to find his focus, and while these issues are the most “super-heroic” of his X-Men run, they’re also when he really begins to lean into the mutant hysteria of the greater Marvel Universe. Claremont isn’t the most subtle of writers (heck, superhero comics aren’t built to be subtle), but he really sank his teeth into the mutant prejudice angle, and while he had dabbled in it before, naturally, in these issues it really comes to the fore.

The other thing that Claremont does is focus on the other X-Men more than the Big Semi-Feral Canadian In Our Midst. By this time, Wolverine was a bona fide superstar (his solo series didn’t launch until 1988, but he probably could have supported one in 1985), and Claremont didn’t really need to do too much with him anymore. Early on in this run, he and Kitty go off and have an adventure in Japan (I’ve read the mini-series, but I don’t think it’s worthy of being included here), and he’s once again out of the book for a while. When he gets back, he’s often in the background. This was smart – despite Wolverine’s popularity, he works quite well as the strong, silent type, offering advice occasionally – as he does famously in issue #196 when Kitty foolishly tries his cigar – but generally staying in the background until he feels like unleashing on someone. Claremont builds up the other characters in these issues, making this not only a solid team book, but one in which the characters are interesting in their own right. Prior to this run, he hadn’t really done too much with Nightcrawler and Colossus, even though they were part of the “original” group of “new” X-Men. During Secret Wars (which I haven’t read and feel no particular need to), Peter gets a new girlfriend who is then killed off (Jim Shooter wrote Secret Wars, but at that point he was Claremont’s boss, so if he wanted to give Peter a girlfriend and then kill her off, Claremont probably couldn’t object too strongly), and Claremont deals with the fall-out of that when Peter (foolishly?) tells Kitty about it. Until that time, Peter and Kitty had been flirtatious but nothing more, and it’s true that at this point, Peter was 19 and Kitty was still 14, so their romance at this time was always quite chaste, but Claremont ups the ante just a bit by making Kitty more devastated than we would have expected. This conflict between them drives their stories over these issues, and Claremont does a nice job showing how they heal. In issue #183, Peter “breaks up” with Kitty, which pisses Logan off, so he takes Peter to New York (with Kurt) for a lecture while Kitty leaves the team temporarily. Both threads are handled quite well – again, Claremont wrote teenagers really well in this time, so Kitty’s reactions to Peter’s statement are well done. When she talks to Ororo about leaving, she asks how she can compete with a ghost, which is an excellent insight, and she tells Ororo that she hates Peter with all her heart, but in the next breath she says she loves him. Meanwhile, Logan is lecturing Peter, who’s not taking it very well. Logan points out that it’s easy to love when there are no consequences – Peter can love the girl from the alien planet because she’s dead, while Kitty is growing up and things were getting serious with her (again, the age difference doesn’t come up too much, but Logan does say that they were talking about marriage, which … is a bit icky). Nothing gets resolved with words because Peter accidentally gets in a fight with the Juggernaut, which Logan watches with delight. After the fight, he points out that she was ready to marry Caliban to save Peter, and he never even thanked her. Kurt points out how harsh that was, but Logan doesn’t care. It’s a great issue, not only because Romita draws a great fight, but because Claremont gets at the heart of teen (and even adult) romance and what it should mean to love someone unconditionally.

Kitty goes off and has her Japanese adventure, and when she returns, Claremont incorporates her growth into the regular series. It’s a fascinating shift – Kitty seems grown up, while Peter acts more like a child, despite their age differences. Kitty is more confident and willing to speak her mind, and she even acts as team leader briefly in issue #195. Finally, they reach a detente in issue #197, when they’re kidnapped by Arcade. Peter pours his heart out to Kitty, saying part of his love for his dead girlfriend is guilt for having survived when he couldn’t save her, and he thinks he has saved Kitty from death, which brings about his epiphany. It’s not Kitty, though, just one of Arcade’s robots, but Peter feels better having said it out loud, and he and Kitty begin to rebuild their friendship. It’s a nice arc for Peter, mostly, and it allows Claremont to pull back on what was, let’s face it, somewhat of an untenable and even creepy situation. Until he could allow Kitty to become an adult, having such intense feelings for someone significantly older than she wasn’t the best strategy, even during a time when that kind of thing wasn’t as frowned upon as it is today. But it makes Peter a more interesting character, as well, as he shows some of the same growth from lovestruck boy to mature man.

Nightcrawler experiences some change, too, although Claremont never quite seemed to know what to do with Kurt, even though he used him in Excalibur fairly well after Kurt left the X-Men. In this run, Kurt becomes team leader after Ororo loses her powers and goes back to Africa, and the refreshing thing about that is that he’s not a particularly good team leader. He manages to get Rogue to activate her “sixth sense” power that she stole from Carol Danvers, but then jokingly asks for a kiss from Rogue, because Nigthcrawler sees himself as Errol Flynn and that’s what Errol Flynn would do. He forgets, of course, that Rogue can’t touch anyone, and as this is on his first outing as team leader, it doesn’t set a good precedent. He fails miserably when James Proudstar takes over NORAD mountain in issue #193, and is bailed out only because Proudstar really doesn’t want to kill Xavier. Kitty and Rogue save the day when Nimrod attacks in #194, and he’s not even present in issue #195. In #196, Claremont has him visit a priest, the first indication, I think, of his deep religious faith, an interesting component of his character that has never been properly explored, and it isn’t really here, but at least Kurt has a spiritual advisor for when he meets god-like beings like the Beyonder. Unfortunately, he’s too busy with his crisis of faith that he isn’t around when Kitty, Rachel, and Xavier almost get killed. It’s a minor arc for the character, as it gets pushed a bit into the background by the momentous events happening to other characters, but Claremont is bold enough to make Kurt not a leader, something we don’t see too often in superhero books unless it’s with a random character who gets killed quickly. Kurt is a fine X-Man, but he’s just not a leader, and Claremont does a nice job showing us that without dumping too hard on Kurt.

Claremont also introduces Rachel Summers (Summers-Grey? Grey-Summers?) into the book at this time, which works for a while but seems to be an albatross for years afterward. Rachel is the young woman who helped throw Kate Pryde back into the past in issues #141-142, the justifiably classic “Days of Future Past” story. In issue #184, she appears in “our” time and gets attacked by Selene, the energy vampire (who becomes her personal nemesis) and meets the X-Men when they rescue her, but it’s not “her” X-Men because she went back in time to a different timeline (Claremont opened up a whole can of worms with that; couldn’t he have just said that preventing Senator Kelly’s assassination in issue #142 obliterated the “other” timeline?). Rachel is a telepath/telekinetic, and Claremont makes her a hothead, which adds some interesting elements to her character. Obviously, she reacts very negatively when Kurt mentions that Jean Grey is dead in issue #188 – that’s understandable, considering Jean is her mother – but her past as a “hound” – a mutant used to hunt other mutants – has given her post-traumatic stress disorder, and for most of her time with the X-Men (before she moves over to Excalibur), she doesn’t handle it well. She breaks into the Hellfire Club in issue #189 in an attempt to kill Selene, which is pretty foolish for someone who isn’t all that trained in the use of her abilities. She has a panic attack in issue #193 and is out of action for most of the issue, but she manages to acquit herself well when the team fights Nimrod in issue #194. Her PTSD comes more to the fore in issue #196, when she and Rogue rescue a mugging victim only to discover he was spray-painting anti-mutant graffiti on a wall. So Rachel is already in a tense mood when she activates the “bomb” in Xavier’s office, which turns her psychic energy back on her and causes her a great deal of trauma. She freaks out and almost kills Phil, the ringleader of the plot to kill Xavier, but Magneto stops her and talks her down, which does not make her very happy. Finally, in issue #199, she embraces the legacy of the Phoenix, which is something that Claremont knew he would have to deal with when he brought Rachel into the book. He doesn’t do anything with it right away, but it’s fascinating that he chooses to have someone as damaged as Rachel try to hold onto the power. It’s obvious that it will bring her nothing but grief, but Claremont did a good job showing why she might want such power, given the tragedies she had experienced in her life.

Over the course of these issues, Claremont did perhaps his best work with Rogue and Ororo, linking them early on in the run and then sending Ororo to Africa to discover herself while Rogue stayed on to grow as a member of the X-Men. Issue #182 begins with Rogue flying back to New York from Japan, and she’s in a great mood until she hears a message from Michael Rossi, who is in trouble on the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. Rogue simply takes off and breaks into the helicarrier, where Rossi is being tortured by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, one of whom is a Hellfire Club mole. She breaks him out (and gets framed for murder when the mole kills his own partner, who, to be fair, was kind of a douche) and takes him to Cape Cod to help him recuperate, and that’s when things start to break down. She loses her train of thought a few times, Rossi doesn’t recognize her (he knows she’s Rogue, but they’ve never met) even though she speaks of him as an intimate friend, she’s speaking with a Boston accent even though she’s from the South. Suddenly, she realizes that she’s not who she thinks she is, and Rossi “helps” her along by grabbing her and telling her forcefully that she’s not Carol Danvers, with whom he was once intimate. She freaks out and runs onto the beach, where she tells Rossi everything about her fight with Carol and why she rescued him. He … does not take it well:

It’s a terrific emotional gut punch after the joy Rogue felt at the beginning of the issue, and it signals that Claremont is ready, at least a little, to delve more into the consequences of Rogue’s actions. He’d already done a little when she joined the team because she believed Xavier was the only one who could help her, and we saw the reaction Carol herself had to Rogue’s leaf-turning, but Claremont hadn’t had a chance to get into what it means to absorb someone’s entire life. With this excellent issue, he begins to show that Rogue is not right, and this drives the plot for a few issues. Issue #183 is the famous Colossus-Juggernaut fight, but Claremont does show Rogue in the Danger Room, pushing herself too far before Ororo rescues her. Ororo wants to help, but Rogue rejects it. In issue #184, Claremont introduces Forge, a mutant who can make anything, and he’s working on reverse-engineering a weapon of Rom’s that can take superpowers away. Finally, in #185, the government decides to track down Rogue and shoot her with the gun, as they are convinced she killed the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Rogue has left the X-Men and headed to Mississippi, where Ororo finds her. She offers to let Rogue take her powers freely, and Rogue experiences what it’s like to be Storm. Before the powers fade, though, the government agents attack her, and she defends herself, but she can’t control the weather powers as well as Ororo, and things get out of hand. At one point, Rogue thinks about saving a tugboat crew and believes that’s Ororo’s mind overriding hers, but she learns that Ororo had already regained her powers, and Claremont is pointing out that Rogue is transforming into a true hero. She and Ororo help the tugboat, but that only allows Henry Gyrich – the government’s main toady – to use the weapon. Storm knocks Rogue out of the way, though, and gets shot, losing her powers. Claremont drops the idea of Rogue going insane after this – one of the weaknesses of Claremont’s run is that he would dust ideas off, use them for a while, and then ignore them until it was once again convenient not to – but we can infer that her realization that she is becoming a better person calms her down, and she becomes a much more integrated part of the team, despite still not knowing how to handle her power. In issue #194, she comes up with the novel solution and taking all of her unconscious teammates’ powers to defeat Nimrod, and she even has a positive attitude about the world in issue #196, when she’s trying to convince Rachel that things aren’t as bad as in Rachel’s world. Rogue becomes a hero in this run, and the best part about it is that Claremont makes it feel organic, as she works through her anger and eventually comes out the other side.

The best character work that Claremont does in these issues is with Ororo, whom he obviously liked as a character before this, but once he decided to take her powers away, Storm really comes into her own. Claremont’s work to mature her during the Paul Smith run continues in these issues, as Storm is the true team leader (in contrast to both Scott earlier and Kurt later; she’s far more compassionate than Scott and far more competent than Kurt), reaching out to Rogue when Rogue needs it, finding her in Mississippi, offering to let Rogue use her powers, and saving Rogue when Gyrich tries to shoot Rogue with the power-neutralizing gun. Just that would be a terrific arc for Ororo, but Claremont does much more. Issue #186, “Lifedeath,” is the first of a few collaborations with Barry Windsor-Smith, a 40-page love story between Storm and Forge, as the inventor takes Ororo back to Dallas and his home so she can recover from losing her powers, and the two grow very close as he helps her. Then, of course, she learns that he built the weapon that took her powers away, and their budding romance is destroyed, although the feelings are still there. Claremont does a nice job in the issue, with his customary verbosity always present, naturally, but in the service of a heart-rending story of a woman who has lost the inner core of her being but still needs to move on. Ororo contemplates suicide, slowly heals, worries about whether Forge will think she’s pretty (which Claremont cleverly undercuts almost immediately), is betrayed, and sees the depths of Forge’s pain, all in one issue (plus, the X-Men are looking for her, but the extra length allows Claremont to get that in there, too). She rejects Forge but embraces herself, and walks away proudly. It’s a crucial issue in Ororo’s development, taking the rebel from Paul Smith’s run and turning her into more of an adult.

In a finite story, this would be the dramatic ending, but one of the great things about serialized fiction is that, like life, there are no easy endings, so issue #187 picks up right where #186 leaves off, with Ororo walking away in a torrential rainstorm. Instead of leaving Forge behind forever, she’s forced to go back inside his building and fight Dire Wraiths, and Claremont does a superb job showing how she’s still formidable even without her powers. Eventually the X-Men come to her assistance, but it’s still impressive to see how well she handles herself. She gets a final word and kiss-off of Forge, and finally gets to walk away. But she also decides that she has to leave the team and the country and head back to Africa, which she eventually does (after Kulan Gath takes over Manhattan in issues #190-191, which delays her a bit). While in Africa, she saves a woman from the unwanted attentions of Andreas Strucker and earns the wrath of both he and his sister, Andrea, the quasi-Nazi scions of Baron von Strucker and, when they join hands, the awesome mutant villains Fenris (I’ve always dug Fenris – don’t judge me!). Later, Andrea Strucker takes a shot at her, winging her and leaving her to die in the bush. She doesn’t die, of course, and she manages to make it across the desert, not before hallucinating about her teammates and Forge and contemplating suicide. She finds an overturned truck and a pregnant woman, who’s trying to return to her village. When she does, Ororo helps her give birth, which prompts the oldest man in the village to head out into the desert to die because the village can’t support a new mouth to feed, so when someone new is born, the oldest has to die. Claremont does a nice job showing the effects of industrialization on the African people, condemning those who came to Africa and exploited the natives but not letting the natives completely off the hook, either, as the elder tells Ororo that the natives didn’t use the land properly, as they quickly cast aside their old ways in pursuit of an easier life. For a mainstream superhero book, it’s a fairly nuanced look at the problems in Africa, and the old man’s speech prompts Ororo to realize that she has been neglecting her responsibilities and wallowing in self-pity following the loss of her powers. She returns to the team via Asgard (in the New Mutants crossover that has to be a post for a different day), ready to take up her position in the X-Men again. It’s a fantastic arc for the character, and Claremont wrote it very well.

Of course, none of this would have worked as well if Claremont and Romita hadn’t meshed. As I noted above, once Dan Green began inking Romita, he became “John Romita Jr.,” the artist everyone knows, even if we had seen signs of this Romita emerging during his run on Amazing Spider-Man, but it’s here that it blooms. Romita became kind of the house style of Marvel in the mid-1980s, despite his work never quite fitting in superhero comics – his figures are a bit more blocky and reliant on geometric shapes than the earlier Marvel “house stylists,” which were probably Pérez and Byrne, but Romita’s humanistic approach to figures struck a chord in readers, and his terrific work with body language and facial expressions – especially crucial in a soap opera like Uncanny X-Men, where Romita made us believe that half the cast was about to cry at any moment – made him a superstar. If we look at the first issue of this “run” (which, I know, begins earlier than #182), he moves Rogue from being in control and slightly cocky to happy to see Michael Rossi feeling better (it’s a false happiness, obviously, as Rogue is feeling Carol’s happiness, but Rogue is so dour so often that it’s nice to see her relaxed and enjoying herself) to confusion and mounting horror to utter despair. Romita is great at this sort of thing – when Kitty is holding back tears as Peter breaks her heart, only to crumble later; when Rachel calls Scott and can’t speak to him because she’s not ready to talk to a father who she thinks of as dead; when Storm leaves her hurt feelings behind and concentrates on being a bad-ass; when Rachel goes nuts because she “hears” that Jean Grey is dead; when Kurt berates himself because he asked for a kiss from Rogue, not remembering what it would do to her; when James Proudstar can’t bring himself to kill Xavier; when Andrea Strucker is enjoying shooting Ororo just a bit too much; when Andrea herself is terrified that she’s about to get brained by a rock; when Xavier tells Magneto he has to run the school. All of these small moments make the characters real, even a villain like Andrea, who is always awful but in one panel, Romita shows that she has human feelings, too. While Claremont never met a panel he couldn’t litter with dialogue, Romita can make almost any character more subtle than that, which makes it easier to take Claremont’s verbosity.

(Check out the many moods of Romita!)

Of course, Romita is good at the big action, too, and it’s impressive that he’s able to give us huge set pieces while, through his character work, still make the stories resonate. The fight between Colossus and Juggernaut in #183 is a classic, and while most of us can’t relate to two almost unstoppable men destroying a building, we can relate to Peter’s pain as he looks to take it out on anyone, even a villain who’s just trying to get a drink and chase some tail (Peter unwittingly saves Marko’s life, as the woman he was chatting up is Selene, who drains life forces and would have killed Marko). The fight between Rogue and Ororo and the government agents in #185 (which isn’t really a fight; Rogue and Storm are just trying to escape but they need to rescue the tugboat) is excellent because Romita is able to show how crazed with hatred Gyrich has become, and the moment where Storm loses her powers is just a terrific drawing. Romita draws excellent Dire Wraiths, as his use of hatching makes them look both slimy and segmented, putting us in mind of giant insects even though they look nothing like insects. He has fun putting the superheroes into medieval costumes in the Kulan Gath story, and even though that’s almost a throwaway plot, it’s entertaining partly because Romita does such a nice job with a giant cast. His Nimrod is a classic Romita creation, all blocks and straight, clean lines, and Romita is able to get across in just a few pages how indomitable Nimrod really is. His big action pieces in #200 are great, as he gives us a good sense of the scale of the battles but also never loses sight of the individuals, so it remains a very personal fight. Green, as I noted, is excellent, too, smoothing Romita’s hard lines just a bit to soften the drawings, adding elegant hatching but never overdoing it, and giving everything a more tactile feel to it. We can see this when Green doesn’t ink Romita during this run, in issues #189 and #194, when Steve Leialoha inks him. Leialoha is a fine artist in his own right, but whereas Green balances Romita, Leialoha leans into Romita’s style, and the result is a harder, thinner edge to the lines, which lack the lushness of Green’s inks. Romita, throughout his career, seems to look better when he’s being inked by someone who balances him, so while issues #189 and #194 look perfectly fine, they lack the verve of the rest of the run. Romita’s spectacle works partly because Green is there to bring it down to earth just enough to make it quasi-realistic. In a superhero book, that’s important.

Claremont gave us a spectacle in issue #200, which is why I end this section with that issue. It was a turning point; Xavier was injured and needed to go with Lilandra to get healed, which Shi’ar technology could do in less than an hour, but due to an issue with celestial machanics, he ended up staying in space for over 70 issues, which is an eternity in comic book time. Magneto, whose turn from villain to hero is not covered in this comic (it largely occurred in New Mutants), takes over the school, even though he’s reluctant to do so (given the way the X-Men feel about him, that’s not surprising). Claremont, we now know, had the next 100 issues kind of plotted out in his head, but he’d never get to write it the way he wanted to – the introduction of James Jaspers in issue #200 is a nice foreshadowing of what was coming, as Jaspers was the reality-controlling villain from another dimension that vexed Captain Britain during Alan Moore’s run on that title, and Claremont wanted to bring him into the “real” Marvel Universe. So issue #200 is a watershed, as Claremont, never one to shy away from change, upended the apple cart once again, and set the X-Men on their most divisive journey yet. But that’s a post for another time!

Marvel published their black-and-white “Essential” volumes collecting these issues, but I can’t find any other collected editions of these specific issues. That seems crazy, doesn’t it? Oh, wait, there’s one of those “Epic Collections” with issues #189-198, which of course leaves out the early issues where Storm loses her powers. Amazon has it for Kindle, if you’re interested. That’s pretty insane – Claremont’s work on X-Men should be collected in correct order and should be in print all the time, but I guess Marvel knows what they’re doing. Anyway, if you haven’t read these issues, I guess you’re going to have to go back-issue diving. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially when you get such fine comics!


  1. Eric van Schaik

    Hi Greg,

    As always some very good and interesting points.
    Your getting closer to the point where I started reading US Comics. Before that we had some translated stuff (FF, Avengers, X-Men and Spider-man).
    My first issue of Uncanny was 225. Curious if it’s in the next run you write about.
    I’ll have to wait and see. πŸ˜‰

    1. Greg Burgas

      Eric: Thanks for the nice words. Yes, issue #225 will be included, as it’s right at the tail end of the next “run,” which for me concludes with Fall of the Mutants. Good stuff! πŸ™‚

  2. Louis Bright-Raven

    Presumably, you’re just running through Claremont’s entire 17 year run (through #279), or at least that’s what you seem to be doing, Greg.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Probably, Louis. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I did skip some issues, though, after Byrne left! But we’ll see – I’d like to say that that’s definitely what I’m doing, but I haven’t re-read them in a while, so we’ll see.

    2. Louis Bright-Raven

      Well, see, I just have to call bullshit on you, then, Greg. Especially since you already told Eric that you’re doing through #225. Because there IS something wrong with that.

      You remember that little rant you did over in Flippin’ Through Previews in March about CB Cebulski not talking to Marvel fans about what they want in their comics? Let me refresh your memory:

      “Have you spoken to any Marvel fans recently? What they want are creative teams that stay on books for more than five issues. I would love it if Marvel hired an artist who could draw 5 issues in a row and stayed on a series for longer than 25 issues.”

      Oh really? Is that so?

      Here’s the list of artists on UNCANNY X-MEN #201 to #279, Claremont’s final issue of his 17 year run:

      #201 – Rick Leonardi (1 issue)
      #202-203 – John Romita Jr. (2 issues)
      #204 – June Brigman (1 issue)
      #205 – Barry Windsor-Smith (1 issue)
      #206-211 – John Romita Jr. (6 issues)
      #212 – Barry Windsor-Smith (1 issue)
      #213 – Alan Davis (1 issue)
      #214 – Barry Windsor-Smith (1 issue)
      #215 – Alan Davis (1issue)
      #216-217 – Jackson Guice (2 issues – Dan Green inked 216, Steve Leialoha inked 217 so they look totally different from each other as a result, BWS covers #216; Walt Simsonson covers #217)
      #218 – Marc Silvestri (1 issue)
      #219 – Bret Blevins (1 issue)
      #220-222 – Marc Silvestri (3 issues)
      #223 – Kerry Gammill (1 issue)
      #224-227 – Marc Silvestri (4 issues)
      #228 – Rick Leonardi (1 issue)
      #229-230 – Marc Silvestri (2 issues)
      #231 – Rick Leonardi (1 issue)
      #232-234 – Marc Silverstri (3 issues)
      #235 – Rick Leonardi (1 issue)
      #236 – Marc Silvestri (1 issue)
      #237 – Rick Leonardi (1 issue)
      #238-244 – Marc Silvestri (7 issues)
      #245 – Rob Liefeld (1 issue)
      #246-247 – Marc Silvestri (2 issues)
      #248 – Jim Lee (1 issue)
      #249-251 – Marc Silvestri (3 issues)
      #252 – Rick Leonardi (1 issue; Jim Lee cover)
      #253-255 – Marc Silvestri (3 issues)
      #256-258 – Jim Lee (3 issues)
      #259-261 – Marc Silvestri (3 issues; #260 and #261 have Jim Lee covers)
      #262 – Kieron Dwyer (1 issue)
      #263 – Bill Jaaska (1 issue)
      #264 – Mike Collins (1 issue; Jim Lee cover)
      #265 – Bill Jaaska (1 issue; Andy Kubert cover)
      #266 – Mike Collins (1 issue; Andy Kubert cover)
      #267 – Whilce Portacio and Jim Lee (1 issue)
      #268-272 – Jim Lee (5 issues)
      #273 – Whilce Portacio, Jim Lee, John Byrne, Klaus Janson, Mike Golden, Larry Stroman, Marc Silvestri, and Rick Leonardi.
      #274-277 – Jim Lee (4 issues, but let’s say 5 since #275 is double sized and is part of why #273 needed 8 pencilers to complete)
      #278 – Paul Smith (1 issue)
      #279 – Andy Kubert (1 issue; Claremont’s final issue)

      Now, if we are to go by what you (and not just you, but many fans) claim Marvel fans want, then shouldn’t this entire run be considered total and utter shit, because of the constant turnover of round-robin artists? 20 total pencilers over 79 issues, with 7 of them only having a single issue to their name, 4 of them only have part of one issue credit, and only 3 artists – Romita Jr. Silvestri and Lee – who ever had a point of your requisite 5 consecutive issues, and only Silvestri doing a total of 25 issues or more, broken up as hell as it is.

      So based on said criterion, there is basically no need for you to tell us why we should own this run, because it would seem ‘today’s comics fans’ would almost certainly crap all over this run (wrongly, of course, but it is what it is).

      1. Greg Burgas

        You’re always so strident, Louis! There are certainly many problems with the art chores on the latter portion of Uncanny X-Men, which I will address. It was obvious that Silvestri couldn’t do a regular book, but you’ll notice that at least they had he and Leonardi kind of consistently. I don’t like it when artists that we KNOW can’t hit a deadline are trumpeted as the new artist on a book, but I don’t mind if DC acknowledges, say, that Ryan Sook won’t be able to do a regular book, so they get Cary Nord as the “other” regular artist. The latter part of Claremont’s run is great partly despite the problems with the art, and at least they got good artists to draw it (for the most part)! But I will get into the art problems, because even with the art problems, these are terrific issues!

        (Also, what the hell do I know about what Marvel fans want? Apparently all they care about is that Cap, Iron Man, and Spidey are white dudes. That seems to be the extent of their desires! πŸ™‚ )

        1. square

          There’s something missing here is that this is when Marvel started doing bi-weekly runs in the summers, so when Silvestri and Leonardo were trading duties, Silvestri was hitting his deadlines, and was the regular artist. Personally, I liked both artists at the time, so fill in books didn’t bother me.

          Around the 260’s, that seemed to be when the book was creatively unstable. (I checked out around 250 to be honest, but I was pretty happy when Silvestri was penciling, so I overlooked the writing).

          1. Louis Bright-Raven

            Square (and Greg):

            I never said Silvestri couldn’t meet deadlines – that was Greg. But truth be told, Silvestri had already been ‘spelled’ four times before the biweekly schedule started in #232 with the Brood on earth storyline (#232-34) and the Genosha storyline (starting in #235). Blevins in #219, Gammill in #223, and twice by Leonardi issues #228 and #231 respectively. So it’s easy to see why Greg may have come to this conclusion. Silvestri coincidentally had no problems hitting a 12-13 issue consecutive run on WOLVERINE immediately after he left UNCANNY, so his ability to hit deadlines was likely not the issue, so much as the production and scheduling of X-MEN constantly being shortened by crossover storylines with X-FACTOR and NEW MUTANTS and having to wait on other creative teams to get their work done so that the X-MEN creative team could continue the next installment. (One of the primary reasons Claremont was so vehemently against all the spinoff titles and tried to write them all himself for a brief time, early on. Of course, had X-Factor just been edited by Ann Nocenti from the start instead of Bob Harras, and had Annie not left and Bob taken over the X-Line in whole, a lot of the problems would have been avoided.)

            And understand, both of you – I personally never considered ANY of these artists to be “fill in” artists. They were just whoever happened to get the assignment that month. I never once thought, “Wow, this issue sucks because this artist is this month’s artist” or “I’m quitting because of this artist.” during the Claremont run. I wanted to run away screaming after Claremont left, though. (And eventually, at UXM #300 I did.)

            The point I’m making is that you have to have an anchor creator / team you actually like. Longevity isn’t the issue. Dan Slott just completed ten years writing Spider-Man, and half of comics fandom would just as soon stick his head on a pike as look at him. Mark Bagley did 111 consecutive issues of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN with Bendis, 49 out of the first 52 issues of THUNDERBOLTS with Busiek and Nicieza, the first twenty-five issues of NEW WARRIORS plus the first annual with Nicieza, 57 out of 64 consecutive issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN… pretty damned consistent artist. Yet all I ever hear about his how “mediocre” he is and how people “hate” his art. Go figure.

            “Apparently all they care about is that Cap, Iron Man, and Spidey are white dudes. That seems to be the extent of their desires!”

            I don’t remember this kind of backlash when James Rhodes was Iron Man during the Denny O’Neil / Luke McDonnell era in the 1980s. I do remember every time Steve Rogers isn’t Captain America, there’s been some backlash, no matter who’s in the suit. And they also seem to bitch about anybody other than Peter Parker in the suit.

          2. Eric van Schaik

            Gee, sorry for bringing up issue #225 πŸ˜‰

            The way I see it the column is called Comics you should own.
            Those are comics Greg feels that everybody should own.
            In many cases I agree with him (Firestorm/Elektra:Assissin), but not all the time (FF 347-349) and that’s ok. In this case I think Louis that you agree with Greg because you stuck even longer to Uncanny X-Men than Greg (I think) or me. I left the X-train after Inferno. I saw it as the perfect jumping off point.
            The only time I came back was for Age of Apocalypse, which (now I sound like Travis) πŸ™‚ haven’t read yet, so I don’t know if it’s even good.

            Funny how we get emotional about comics πŸ™‚
            When Greg starts liking And Also The Trees the world will be fine again πŸ™‚

            Off topic, this is the first weekend that I’m staying at my ex place. No more daily care for my demented mom.
            I’m a bit sick, but it finally gives me time to catch up on my reading.
            I already finished The Long Haloween and Dark Vicory in glorious Absolute Edition. Now I’m reading the first MMW Marvel Team-Up HC (with great Andru/Kane art) and after that Absolute All Star Superman.

            Have a nice week all of you

          3. Greg Burgas

            Louis: I think for me the biggest problem is that back in the day, you didn’t have the internet to trumpet certain things, so the fill-in artists weren’t as big a deal. I don’t hate different artists as much as the fact that Marvel and DC say that so-and-so is the new artist on a book when experience tells us that artist won’t make it past a third issue. So that’s what bugs me more than anything.

            Hey, I like Bagley! He’s not my favorite, but he’s not bad!

            Eric: I’m glad the burden is off you a little. I know it can get very hard caring for someone all the time.

            I bought X-Men far, far longer than I should have, but that’s all I’m going to say about it now! πŸ™‚

          4. Louis Bright-Raven


            Just FYI – Your comment really didn’t start my discussion. Greg’s comment “to” Cebulski from FTP is something that irked me from the start. It just so happened that the facts of the regular turnover of artists on UXM rather disproved his statement and I wanted to throw the nonsensical illogic of his notion in his face, and since that comment in FTP was made over a month ago, it was better suited to do it here. So I was going to hit him with it, either now or when he started the next CYSO run of UXM, regardless of your question.

            As for my sticking around as long as I did… UXM was my first title I actually collected. I started at #196, and I went both backwards and forwards, and by the time Claremont left at #279, I had almost finished collecting everything back to Lee / Kirby #1, so it was just a point of finishing the run through #300 to have it rounded out to a ‘full collection’. Later, because I had to help pay off monstrous medical expenses for my parents, I decided all I really needed / wanted was the Wein / Cockrum / Claremont & Co. era, so I now only have #94-300 in my collection.

            The real issue, again, just to be clear, was with his comment to Cebulski, *not* with him covering Claremont’s run. But if you’re going to contradict yourself so blatantly, I am going to call you out in it. Especially when the notion that the reason we quit buying comics is because of creator turnover is so silly.


            Greg: The internet is just a huge problem in today’s society, period.

            Like I said above, I don’t remember anybody complaining about James Rhodes being Iron Man back in the 1980s, but that was pre-internet. For all I know, Marvel could have received a mountain of hate mail over it but it was never seen in the public eye. If that stuff happened for the first time in today’s social media climate, it’s almost certain that there’d be this loud obnoxious subgroup of fandom who wouldn’t shut up about it.

            And yes, you’re right, we didn’t know who was supposed to be on the books as a general rule of thumb back in the 80s (maybe the retailers did because the order catalogs used to list that information, but it was not generally open to the public). We just got our books via mail order subscriptions (in my case) or at the comics shop / newsstand when they came out. And I do feel that ‘innocence’ of just being a reader and just enjoying what we were given has been lost because of over-information.

          5. Louis: β€œβ€¦and I wanted to throw the nonsensical illogic of his notion in his face…”
            β€œSo I was going to hit him with it…”

            I feel I should offer a suggestion, not only to you, but to commenters in general. A conversation is not necessarily a debate; a debate is not an argument; and an argument is not a fight. Conversations do not have to have a winner. It’s an exchange of opinions and thoughts, not a jousting match.

            When one phrases one’s rebuttal in terms more commonly associated with aggravated assault, and describes oneself as plotting and laying in wait to ambush another party in a conversation, my feeling is that perhaps one is being excessively contentious and needlessly confrontational over what is essentially trivia.

            So I’m going to just go ahead and put it out there: I personally do not want to hear any more talk of “throwing it in his face” or “hitting him with it,” and I really don’t want to see any posts written with that mindset. Disagree all you like with anything anyone says, but I’m going to insist we do it respectfully and in a friendly manner. Nobody here is paid to put up with it. There are a million other sites that encourage readers to approach every discussion as if entering Thunderdome. This ain’t one of them. Please unclench and enjoy, okay?

          6. M-Wolverine

            Eh, I think we knew when they were fill ins, and when they were regular artists who couldn’t handle the load. I don’t think we really loved it back then either. But when the only response was to write a letter that they choose to publish or not, who knows? Then and now I think they make the mistake of not planning well enough, and undervalue a coherent story. If they got ahead of things, and we had 3 or 6 issues of one artist, followed by 3 of the other, story to story, and let them get ahead of the schedule, that wouldn’t be any big deal. Then we went the other way where deadlines didn’t mean anything. But in retrospect it would have been nice for things like the Punisher mini-series to have all the issues drawn by Zeck.

            On the other hand I don’t think readers want Cap, Thor, Spider-Man, and Iron Man to be white guys. They want them to be Steve Rogers, uh, Thor, Peter Parker, and Tony Stark. I’m sure people freaked out about James Rhodes and John Stewart back in the day. But not nearly as much as they did John Walker or Kyle Rayner, white guys. Or how about John Paul Valley? Dude was pasty. Plus back then we actually believed these things might be permanent. Now the reason they do it is just to get a headline. There weren’t any comic headlines back then, so it was more story driven.

            Marvel kinda messed all that up. Because DC* did try and make the names interchangeable. But Marvel had such character driven stories you were reading about the character, not the costume. Funny that they don’t do this much in other media. It has to be the costume (and somehow, the powers) are passable. Because they can get different actors to play James Bond, but never say “James Bond is a different person now.”

            Of course there are also all sorts of ways to make existing characters more popular. Byrne at least used to swing his name power to characters like She-Hulk and Sub-Mariner sometimes. Bendis could have tried to do more Luke Cage solo work, but never did. Still elevated him some. Where was Black Panther before Marvel Knights made him even more cool? And look at him now. They completely bungled Falcon; he’s as cool and well known as he’s ever been thanks to the movies…let’s just make him Captain America. That’s silly. Bucky can be Cap, because Bucky was always a sidekick. Falcon wasn’t a sidekick, he was a partner. Robin appeared in BATMAN. For awhile it was CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON. Making him Cap was a regression. They should have just gotten him some name talent and gotten a hot book out of it. The mesh of big name talent and big titles is always huge, but X-Men/Spider-Man/Batman will always sell. Get them to do some of their oddball favorites and create a stronger line up as a whole. But this has already gone on a huge tangent, so….

            *Of course, that was usually with a decade of not publishing those characters, and a whole new generation of kids…when they were made for kids…reading it. They didn’t do it with the big 3 who were published the whole time.

  3. square

    Nice write-up! I know the first JRJR issues were a little weird: Cyclops vs that octopus was an issue that I probably only read once, though I usually read X-Men three times or more at that time. 181 though, I really loved that issue. The X-Men in Japan had a sort of humor which hadn’t been overdone at the time. The X-Men in America are hated, but in Japan they are simply super-heroes. Somewhere in the 220’s, the kids from this issue are on holiday in the States, and are hero-struck again, and it was a wonderful callback. (off-topic, that is a joy of comics, the deep callback. TV tries it, but it’s a little less rewarding from syndication. It’s a lot easier to be a TV fan.)

    Issue 182 was a really emotional issue. I read it at age 11 and didn’t make much of it, but a few years later, when I could understand it, it really packed an emotional punch.

    Rachel’s introduction was also a bit over my head when it came out, but I aged along with her character, and I think she was one of Claremont’s favorites. On rereads, she is one of my top X-characters. One of the Claremont-isms that resonates most with me is the tortured character who learns to enjoy life.

    Other issues/stories in this run that I still love:
    -183 is an all time great. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve ever had a relationship like Claremont’s Wolverine/Colossus/Nightcrawler do, but something about Wolverine letting Juggernaut wallop Colossus has always rang true.
    -192 was a big favorite, especially as I wasn’t reading New Mutants at the time. The fight against Magus read like a horror movie.
    -193 was spectacular, tying back to Count Nefaria in 94-95, and made me interested in Warpath long before he was a proper character.
    -194 was just cool as a comic reader. The cover says it all, Rogue absorbing all the X-Men. But the opening page was one that made me really made me think about comics. Not to say it was the best ever, but it was a great page, and intersected with my young self. Long cinematic panels of a city scene with a guy walking forward, making his stature more obvious as he gets closer, leading to a splash page revealing the Juggernaut is in town. This was probably the one comic that made me think comics were super-awesome.
    -190s, the subplot of Professor X getting beaten for being a mutant, then Kitty investigating it. These were very grown up stories, and I appreciated it. I’m glad I read them at a formative age.

    Most improved issues: 190-191 I hated these issues as a kid, because I had no idea what was happening. I figured they were part of a crossover, and just couldn’t understand it. As an adult, they are really interesting variations on heroes we know, but man, they were frustrating as a kid.

    1. Greg Burgas

      square: Thanks for the nice words. I do like issue #181, mainly because of the humor, and I agree that callbacks are part of what makes long-running serials so much fun to read.

      The Kulan Gath story is perfectly fine, and the “variations” on the heroes is interesting, as you note, but it is, after all, almost pure plot, so I didn’t really have too much to say about it. But it’s a decent story, I agree.

  4. M-Wolverine

    Even then I thought the Kitty-Colossus thing was a little weird. Kitty having a crush on a handsome big older boy? Of course. That even an immature 19 year old would would be developing feeling for a girl who he first met at 13? Weird. Could latter on he be 22 and her 17 and he suddenly realizes his lil sis figure is who is closest to him after all and develop romantic feelings? Sure. But Piotr spent too much time on the farm, methinks.

    Speaking of weird acceptance, I know Carol Danvers wasn’t the most popular character then (go figure now, right?), and it might not even be the worst “meh” reaction to her abuse in character history, but the fact that comic characters and readers alike accepted Rogue so easily is kind of weird, isn’t it? She steals her powers and MIND, basically a body and soul rape, and effectively kills who Carol Danvers is. So a murder in everything but body. But oops, I was a bad guy who didn’t know my limits, so I didn’t mean it. Didn’t we have a whole Civil War based on being careless with your powers, even when you’re trying to help? I’m trying to think of other bad guys who have done as much harm as she has. Very few reformed ones. Hawkeye and Black Widow and Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch were mainly comic book bad guys. Venom later was awful, but he never makes sense as an anti-hero. Just because he’s popular and has a cool costumes doesn’t make him good. His catchphrase is about eating brains! (“Oh, I was using it metaphorically). But X-Men likes to blur that line a lot. Magneto’s reform was an interesting story, but some dudes just do stuff beyond forgiveness. I don’t even really like Captain Marvel all that much, but if she decided to kill Rogue just for shits and giggles, who could blame her? The idea that it takes one act for supposed friend Wolverine to say, ok, I’m good with you girl is just bad. I can’t help but wonder if readers would have been so understanding if instead of being drawn like a Southern Belle of the ball like in X-Men if she was still drawn like in her villain days looking like a troll doll.

    And I saw that discussion of a series of “In Defense of…” articles, and am I going to have to write one for Secret Wars? That was huge, but I can’t help but feel with time it’s turned into one of those things people shake their fists at. It was one of the things that helped created the mess of crossover that we have today (though not all bad…we’re not getting an Infinity War movie without them) and may not have been perfect but is still one of the best mass crossovers ever. Crisis doesn’t get all the hate it does, but Crisis, while good, is a bit of a throw everything together jumbled mess at times, and the Anti-Monitor is even less of a fleshed out antagonist than even the Beyonder; who is really more of a mcguffin than the bad guy, it’s really the existing characters interplay. Which allowed a mesh and mash of different characters and revealed new things about them through their interaction.

    Note: I don’t think Crisis is bad, or even less than really good. I just think people seem to harp on it’s flaws a lot less than SW. And why, because there was a toy line for SW, is that really worse reasoning for a story than “we broke our multiverse?”

    1. Greg Burgas

      M-Wolverine: Part of my acceptance was I didn’t read Avengers Annual #10 until years after I was introduced to Rogue, so while she said what she did, it was always in the abstract. Plus, I didn’t care too much about Carol Danvers, either. Now, it’s been so long that it doesn’t bother me. I think Claremont did a pretty good job, though, of showing how Mystique manipulated her and how she had no idea her power would do that to Carol. But that could just be me making excuses because Rogue is so awesome.

      I don’t have any hate for Secret Wars because I haven’t read it. I don’t know if people are conflating it with Secret Wars II, which I’ve heard was terrible, but I’m not sure. I’m just pointing out that the Beyonder kind of screws things up for the X-Men in their own title, but nothing really gets resolved in that title, either. Even in issues #202-203, where they fight him in San Francisco, it’s kind of a weird story that feels like it’s leading somewhere, but we’d have to read something else to find out what. I’ve never liked that kind of crossover. But I’ve rarely heard bad things about the original Secret Wars, unless I’m not reading the right web sites! πŸ™‚

  5. Edo Bosnar

    On the topic of readers accepting Rogue “so easily,” I just have to say I wasn’t one of them. In fact, it’s one of the key reasons why I finally dropped X-men during this period.

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