Stan Lee had many astonishing insights as to what would sell comic books, not the least of which was to pander to his audience.
“If my merry band of Marvel marchers are nothing more than lily livered teenage freakazoids,” He must have thought, “Then I’ll make half the heroes in the pantheon of Marvel teenage milksops, too!”
This notion worked brilliantly with the bookish Peter Parker in the pages of Spider-Man, worked so-so with hot head roast-master Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four and slightly less brilliantly in the pages of The Hulk where the tremendous jade giant was shackled with annoying teen sidekick Rick Jones.
Nowhere was the “protagonist as teenage outcast” more successful than in the pages of the X-Men.
The X-Men were intended as an antithesis to the handsome, muscle-bound heroes of the golden age. Just as Lee and Kirby had done on the Fantastic Four, the X-men were created with internal struggles, awkward family dynamics and the strangest gimmick of all: they were all (supposed to be) ugly, freakish mutants unable to fit into society.
To audiences used to Superman and Shazam the X-Men must have looked far out. Angel was a thin teen with a frail body to support his massive wings, not the oiled up Hawkman of DC’s Justice League. Cyclops was Jimmy Stewart with a weird, one-eyed visor. The Beast was an overdeveloped muscle-bound ape more akin to gorilla than man. Iceman at this time looked more like a snowman.
They looked different and so they were shunned. THIS comic book reading teenagers could get behind! Continue reading