Another Weekend in Westchester

Since the last column featuring my former student Rachel's questions about the X-Men was so popular, I thought I'd share a few more highlights from that correspondence. She's been chugging right along in her reading, catching up with Essential X-Men volume one and Astonishing X-Men: Gifted, among others.

Brace yourselves, though... since last time, Rachel's encountered both the 1990s and the Ultimate universe, so she's more confused than ever.


Just wanted to say Happy Holidays! And also, (I'll bet you knew this was coming), more X-Men questions!! By the way, you can answer these whenever you want, whether it's a few days or months, I don't care. I know you're busy.

I waited until I was sure we were into Winter Break because I didn't want this to distract you from your schooling. It tickles me that you are so into this stuff, but remember to keep your eye on the ball. I'm still picking up pieces of wreckage at forty-seven, because I screwed up my grades in high school and dropped out of college; it's why I can't teach full-time. You don't want that kind of aggravation or regret. It really does matter.

Anyway, let's see if I can field these questions for you.

In Ultimate Spider-Man, Kitty Pryde and Peter Parker are a couple. Ultimate Spider-Man occurs when Peter is in high school - does that make it like an alternate reality comic, sort of? Could Kitty ever really date Peter since they're from different comic books?

Well, those are two completely different questions. Let's take the easy one first.

Marvel's Ultimate line is kind of an odd thing, neither one nor the other. It was started in conjunction with the X-Men and Spider-Man movies, and was designed originally to be a sort of updated, fresh version of the old titles that had been running for forty-plus years. The mission statement was that it should be a good jumping-on place for new readers.

Well, it was-- but it wasn't the group of new readers they had in mind. Because the books were mostly just sold in comics specialty shops, where you only find the same aging geeky comics readers you had already. So it ended up being a way for older fans to RE-connect with characters they'd gotten tired of, or for old-time DC fans to sample the Marvel characters for the first time. In other words, it was still selling to the same audience of grown-up nerds that had been buying comics all along, just a different group of them.

So what you have today is basically two different comic-book imprints under the same umbrella. There are now two sets of fictional histories at Marvel-- the main one and the Ultimate one.

The differences are so minor that they can hardly be counted as differences any more,  but there are differences. Mostly, in the Ultimate line, everyone is younger. (That's about all that remains of the original mandate of bringing in a new generation of young readers: everything in the Ultimate universe is skewed a little younger.)

Still with me? Okay, now here's the part where it gets confusing. The Ultimate books cross over with each other all the time...

....and the main Marvel books cross over with each other all the time...

....but never does an Ultimate book cross over with a main Marvel book.

So, sure, Ultimate Peter Parker can hang out with Ultimate Kitty and the rest of the Ultimate X-Men...

....and they could even all have an adventure with the Ultimate Fantastic Four if they wanted to.

But, technically speaking, they're not the same group of people that are in the other books you have.

The Dark Phoenix book and God Loves Man Kills and so on and so forth are all from the main Marvel line of books. Their backstory, or history, or whatever you want to call it, are different than the version of events that happened to the Ultimate X-Men. The Ultimate versions of the Hellfire Club and the Phoenix story and all of that stuff are completely askew from what you are familiar with.

The Ultimate line and the regular Marvel line might as well be from two different publishers.

That said, the regular Marvel X-Men and the regular Marvel Spider-Man have met any number of times.

... but never, ever would regular-Marvel Peter have gone out with regular-Marvel Kitty, because in that version he is about twelve years older than she is and it would have been too creepy-- he was in college before she was even out of middle school.

However, they have met.... I think. Here you get into an area where it will take someone even nerdier than me to nail it down for you, because even though there are fans that keep meticulous track of this sort of thing, I am not one of them.

It all started years ago as a sort of joke on Stan Lee's part, just a fun idea that all these heroes lived in the same world and might run into each other. Over the years, as more and more fans have turned professional, maintaining this fictional shared history and keeping track of it has become almost an obsession for the powers-that-be at Marvel, to the point where there have been entire stories done simply for the sake of explaining a seeming contradiction in that history. It's become a kind of trap for writers. One of the reasons the Ultimate line of books was so popular with fans in the first place-- maybe even the reason-- was the fact that it was a do-over, a fresh start without the burden of forty years of fictional history to keep track of.

But now the Ultimate books have been around long enough that they are falling into the same trap, of being burdened with too much history. It's an argument that has been raging for a number of years now, about whether or not Marvel writers should have the freedom to contradict or ignore the older stuff. There are even those people who say the shared universe creates more problems than it solves, because it doesn't make sense for Spider-Man to fight powerful villains like Venom on his own when he has, say, the X-Men on speed-dial. The thing is, no one wants to give up the fun of having the characters meet, but no one wants the burden of keeping track of what 'counts' and what you can safely ignore, either.

Why is Professor Xavier in a wheelchair, anyway?

An alien being named Lucifer dropped a big rock on him when Charles was young. Lucifer was an advance scout for an invasion and Xavier was trying to stop him. This story was told way back in X-Men #20.

This isn't really a question, but... Hugh Jackman is hosting the Oscars!! YAY!! And also, the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie trailer is going to be out soon!!!

It's out NOW. Here you go.

Is it possible for people from certain comic books to contact/or team up with other people from different comic books? For example, Professor Xavier contacting the Fantastic Four, etc.

As long as they're published under the same imprint, sure. Sometimes characters even cross over to a different publisher. Marvel characters have occasionally met DC and other companies' characters in special editions that have been published over the years.

Fans love team-ups and crossovers, and publishers know this, which is why they sometimes get a little carried away with doing them.

Since in the comics, Bobby is with Lorna, and Rogue hasn't even joined the X-Men, how are Bobby and Rogue a couple in the movies? Were they ever a couple in the books?

You're actually way out of date, there. I think Bobby was only briefly with Lorna in 1969 or so. Lorna's almost always been with Alex.

As for why things are different in the movies? Because the movies didn't stick with the books. They made changes. Most of them are good ones, I think-- I much prefer Rogue as depicted in the movies than the one that started as a sassy villain in the comics. But the movie versions don't directly translate to the comics and you shouldn't make yourself crazy trying to figure out how to match them up. They just don't match. Warren Worthington in X-Men 3 is NOTHING like the Angel that's been a member of the X-Men since the first version of the book back in 1963.

The moviemakers are aware of the comics, certainly. But they are more about just picking and choosing the ideas that they think will work best for the movie they want to make.

I've heard Scott and Jean have a kid. Is this a rumor or true?? Doesn't Jean sacrifice herself and never return? And Scott is with Emma? I'm confused.

Ha! Confusion is the natural condition of someone trying to keep track of the history of the X-Men. I will answer these questions as best I can, but I think you will still be confused. Let's see if I can manage this. One at a time:

...Scott and Jean have a kid. Is this a rumor or true??

Scott and Jean, in this particular timeline in the main Marvel books, do not have a child. Well, not quite.

What happened was this. For a long time after the original Phoenix story, Jean was dead. Eventually Scott moved on, met a girl named Madelyne Pryor, and fell in love with her. There was a whole thing going on there for a while where it was hinted that Madelyne was a reincarnated Jean but that turned out to be a smokescreen from Jason Wyngarde back to cause more trouble.

Scott married Madelyne and retired from the X-Men to a remote part of Alaska. Eventually THEY had a son, Nathan.

...Doesn't Jean sacrifice herself and never return?

A lot of us thought so.

The trouble is, in comics, if you have something that's a big hit you want to duplicate that success. The X-Men were a big hit so Marvel wanted to do spin-offs.

First they added a book about a younger team, The New Mutants, that turned into a pretty big hit as well.

So then Marvel wanted to give the original five X-Men their own book, called X-Factor. Cyclops, Iceman, the Beast, Angel, and...whoops, Jean's dead. So she has to come back.

The problem was that Marvel's editors were adamant that Jean couldn't come back unless there was a way to somehow excuse her behavior as Dark Phoenix, where she had murdered an entire planetary population. Eventually the solution was that Phoenix had NEVER been Jean-- it was an entity that adopted her form and memories after the shuttle crash way back in X-Men 101. Jean that crashed the shuttle was Jean-- the girl that burst out of the water and fought alongside the X-Men from #101 to her death in #137 was only a being that THOUGHT it was Jean.

So Jean, the REAL one, was discovered in suspended animation on the bottom of New York Harbor and revived by the Fantastic Four. Eventually she regains her memories and a measure of her power and is thrilled to be reunited with Scott, who is too big of a jerk to admit to having a wife and child in Alaska.  This caused quite a controversy among fans, who felt this was really dishonorable, and with writer Chris Claremont, who thought Jean should have stayed dead.

The solution for this mess has to stand as one of the weirdest things ever thought up for comics.

It was revealed that Madelyne Pryor was a clone of Jean planted deliberately in Scott's life by a villain named Sinister for the express purpose of producing a child. Sinister then kidnapped baby Nathan.

Madelyne, seething with grief and anger, was seduced by a demon into becoming the villainess Goblin Queen, who fought the X-Men in a big crossover story called Inferno.

In the course of this battle it was revealed that a spark of the Phoenix being had entered Madelyne, giving her the same power. Finally at the end of Inferno Madelyne 'died' and Jean sort of absorbed Madelyne's powers and memories, including the Phoenix spark.

The kidnapped child, Nathan, was rescued at the end of Inferno but was later infected with a techno-organic virus and was taken 2000 years into the future for a cure, leaving Scott and Jean alone, single, and finally in a position to rekindle their romance.

Eventually a mysterious character named Cable showed up in the X-books, and it was revealed in a shock twist that he was Scott and Madelyne's child Nathan grown to adulthood and traveled back in time as an adult.

Confused yet? Because none of this has anything to do with Rachel Summers, a young redheaded girl telepath who traveled back in time (from a DIFFERENT alternate future timeline where she was the daughter of Scott and Jean) to fight alongside the X-Men in an effort to keep that future from happening.

Rachel Summers ended up staying on to form a group with Kitty, Kurt and a couple of others called Excalibur.

This all happened in the late 80s and early 90s, which is when a lot of us walked away from the X-books because it was too confusing even for hardcore fans to keep up with. This is why there are fans who say it's not worth it to try and keep your internal history totally consistent.

...And Scott is with Emma?


Scott and Jean eventually married and lived happily for a time, but things are never happy for long in the soap-opera world of the X-Men. Scott was kidnapped and mind-controlled by a villain for a while and when he returned he was cold and distant and screwed-up. And Jean's Phoenix-self was beginning to manifest again. So the marriage was in trouble. In an effort to get over this, Scott started doing telepathic therapy with Emma Frost, who was herself falling in love with Scott. They ended up having a kind of telepathic affair, with Scott telling himself it's not really cheating because it's all in the mind.

Jean thought differently and when she found out there was a big fight and shortly after that Emma was found murdered. Using the Phoenix Force, Jean resurrects her and is able to acknowledge that as bitchy and horrible as Emma is, she somehow really does love Scott.

Then Jean is killed by a mutant named Xorn, in a sacrifice reminiscent of the original shuttle crash where she 'died' the first time.

Scott, destroyed by grief and guilt, walks away from Emma and abandons the X-Men. This leads to another horrible dystopian future. Jean Grey, in this future, is reborn as the White Phoenix and travels back through time to psychically influence Scott into STAYING with Emma and NOT abandoning the X-Men, so this terrible future will never happen.

So Scott being with Emma is actually future-Jean's idea.

They have her blessing, in a way, which makes it all right with fans though the other X-Men are still a bit skeeved by it.

Myself, I kind of like the idea of Scott and Emma together, but explaining how it happened gives me a headache.

Does Stryker create Wolverine in the comics, as well as in the movie? Or was that something the movie added?

That's a movie thing. The EVENTS took place largely as depicted, and that can all be found in a book called Weapon X that was written and drawn by Barry Smith.

But remember, in the comics Stryker was a minister, a televangelist, not a secret government black-ops guy.

Anyway, as you can see, I'm still obsessed with X-Men. :)

God help you.


Now, I thought for sure that level of geeky didacticism would keep her busy for a while, but in no time at all, Rachel was back for more with this e-mail....


Although I am OBSESSED with X-Men, I don't let it get in the way of my schoolwork. Even though I would rather be rereading the Dark Phoenix saga than doing algebra.

Okay. but your folks expressed some concern.

I think I get the whole Marvel Peter/Marvel Kitty vs. Ultimate Peter/Ultimate Kitty. It's like two different worlds, even though it's the exact same characters ...weird but I get it. I think it's pretty cool that Peter and Kitty can be a couple, although I THOUGHT Kitty was with Colossus..? But then again, the Ultimate worlds and the Marvel worlds have different stories.

You have no idea. Ultimate Colossus is gay.

That's so weird about Professor Xavier!! I thought his half-brother Juggernaut (who I just found out was his half-brother and that is SO bizarre!!) might have put him in the wheelchair.

No, though there have been other things. Actually Juggernaut was reformed for a while, and even now I don't think he's really very villainous.

I'm psyched for the Wolverine:Origins movie. After that, they're going to be working on a Magneto: Origins, and then X-Men: First Class, which will be the X-Men as teenagers at the school.

FIRST CLASS is actually a terrific series from Jeff Parker, who has two drawings in our class scrapbook and is just a fine fellow.

Wait, so lemme get this straight here. After Jean died, Scott fell in love with Madelyne Pryor, who he thought was Jean reincarnated but really wasn't, they had a kid named Nathan who was later kidnapped by Sinister, who stuck Madelyne in Scott's life because Madelyne was a clone of Jean and Sinister wanted a child, but then everyone found out that Jean didn't really die in the first place, and the girl who'd fought with them and died as Jean/Phoenix was someone who THOUGHT it was Jean, then Madelyne is mad and becomes the Goblin Queen, after a big fight she dies, then Nathan was rescued but infected by a virus and was taken into the future for a cure, then a guy called Cable came to them one day and they found out it was Scott and Madelyne's son. Later Jean and Scott marry, but Scott has been mind-controlled and Jean is going Phoenix, so Scott gets telepathic therapy from Emma, but Jean finds out there is something more going on, Emma dies, Jean resurrects her and then is killed, Scott leaves Emma, Jean Grey (in the future) becomes the White Phoenix, travels back in time to tell Scott to stay with Emma, so he won't leave the X-Men, so the future won't get screwed up, so Scott and Emma as a couple was sort of future Jean's plan. Wowza. I'm a bit out of breath. But I think I get it.

I'm still not quite sure I do, but yeah, that's more or less it. (Note: At this point, I had a ridiculous urge to giggle and chant, "One of us... one of us...")

Also, I noticed Marvel has put up the first ten episodes of X-Men: Evolution on YouTube, so I've watched those. It's really good! I wish it was still on TV, but apparently some new animated show called Wolverine and the X-Men is coming sometime in January. Why is Wolverine always the center of the X-Men anyway? Cyclops is supposed to be the group leader, I thought.

The practical reason? Because there's no X-Men Origins: Cyclops movie coming out. Never forget this isn't just art... it's COMMERCIAL art. It has to make money. On TV you make money by bringing in a big audience and Wolverine has more fans. More fans, bigger audience, more money.

How this will play out on the show, I have no idea. I have a hunch that there will be some in-story explanation as to why Wolverine has a bigger role. We'll see, I guess.

There was a show from Saban in the early 1990's that was a lot closer to the comics, actually. I looked and someone has been doggedly posting them all in pieces on YouTube as well.

I am glad you are having fun, but please don't become one of the scary glassy-eyed fans we make fun of at shows. A lot of them are X-geeks, you know.


I wikipedia-ed the First Class series by Jeff Parker you mentioned - it looks really cool!! Do you think he will be at the Emerald City Comic Con?? Will any other X-Men artists?

Why not just check? Here's the guest list.

Yes, he will. And so will quite a few others... Brian Bendis, Greg Horn, Howard Chaykin, Erik Larsen, Bob Layton, Rob Liefeld, Paul Smith, and several more have all worked on X-books. Though very few of them except Liefeld are famous for THAT particular work; most of those fellows are known for their other stuff. (It should be noted that Rob Liefeld is primarily famous for being one of the architects of the really BAD 1990s stuff that gave us Cable and X-Force, among other X-shames. He gets a lot of crap from fans for this.)

Whoa - that 1990s show looks really retro! Back when I was reading the Dark Phoenix saga for the first time, I found that there had actually been an ALMOST exact adaptation of it, and had been posted on YouTube, but I didn't realize it was part of that show. And by ALMOST exactly the same, it was different because it was the Circle Club instead of Hellfire, and the whole Phoenix story was mildly altered so that Jean didn't die. It was still interesting to watch though. Why can Rogue fly though?

I don't think it was addressed in the cartoons, but during her villain days Rogue absorbed the powers of Carol Danvers, a superheroine known variously as Ms. Marvel, Binary, and Warbird. Full story can be found here.

Haha! Although I do love X-Men... I definitely don't want to be one of those creepy middle-aged people who have memorized all the dialogue in issues and know every single story to a T and live in the basement with their parents. reading comics all day. And go around in Jedi robes, heehee.

Well, THAT'S comforting.


Hi Greg,

I have finally made the switch over to C___________ High School, and I'm liking it a lot.

And of course... I still love X-Men a whole lot.Speeeaking of X-Men...

So technically, there are three groups of X-Men? And by three, I mean...(A) The ORIGINAL team, which would be Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Beast, and Angel(B) The new team, which would be Cyclops, Wolverine, Phoenix, Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, and Banshee(C) The team in X-Men: Gifted, which is Cyclops, Beast, Emma Frost, Kitty, and Wolverine

Um... not exactly.

Here's the thing. The X-Men have been a going concern for over forty years. What you are calling 'groups' is what most fans refer to as 'eras' or 'runs.' So those three runs you are talking about are actually three of-- God, I don't know, fifteen or twenty different configurations of the team, at least.

When Chris Claremont was writing the book, the usual way of differentiating these eras was by the artist. So your Dark Phoenix book was "Claremont/Byrne." What you read about in Essential X-Men volume one is usually called "The first Dave Cockrum run," because he was on the book twice. The introduction of Madelyne Pryor was around the time of "the Paul Smith run." And so on. When you talk about the books after Chris Claremont left, the writer is usually given the top billing: "Morrison's run on X-Men," or "Whedon's run." Gifted, for example, is the first volume collecting Whedon's run.

Sometimes, if there was a big sprawling storyline that ran for a long time, that gets its own name too. There was a time when the X-Men were presumed dead and living in Australia. That is often called "the Outback era." And so on.

My colleague Greg Burgas breaks it down for you pretty well here.

I'm still confused where in this weird little timeline Havok, Polaris, and Rogue fit in.

Okay, maybe this will help. Here is the timeline of the books I know you own or have read.

Neal Adams Visionaries with Havok and Polaris comes first. This is the very tail end of the original book that launched in 1963... the stories collected in that book were published in  the late 1960s.

Then Essential X-Men volume one. That was in 1975.

Then Dark Phoenix, in 1980.

Then God Loves, Man Kills in 1982.

Now, here comes a huge gap in between those books and Gifted. Right around the time of God Loves, Man Kills, Marvel launched the first X-Men spinoffs, a Wolverine solo mini-series and The New Mutants. Rogue reformed and joined the team about then.

That was the early 1980s. Then there is a long, long period where all that Inferno-Madelyne Pryor-Cable stuff happened, Professor Xavier was gone and Magneto led the school for a while, Gambit was introduced, Excalibur was launched, X-Factor became a completely different team led by Alex and Lorna, Generation X was launched, Wolverine got his own book, Cable got his own book... this is where I am going to have to give up, I can't keep it all straight.  I'm going to refer you to Wikipedia or UncannyXMen.net for details on those stories. I just don't know very much about that stuff.

Honestly, I didn't really start paying attention to the X-Men again until the first movie came out and reminded me how much I used to enjoy them. Somewhere in there Grant Morrison came on the book and I'd liked some other things he'd written so I started picking it up again. That was in 2001 or so.  A couple of years after that, Joss Whedon and John Cassaday launched Astonishing X-Men and the first six issues of that comic are collected in Gifted. So you're talking a twenty-year gap between the publication of God Loves Man Kills, and Gifted. Because the mission statement of both Morrsion and Whedon was "get the X-Men back to basics," those two eras of the X-Men actually fit pretty well together, but there were twenty-plus years of X-Men comics and their various spin-offs in between.

Personally I do fine ignoring that whole twenty-year period, especially the nineties. But in fairness, a lot of people do really like that stuff. X-Men: Mutant Genesis with Jim Lee on the art is probably the most successful X-Men story ever published in terms of sheer sales numbers.

I think quite a few of those sales were to collectors and hoarders, because the book had multiple cover images you could assemble to make a giant poster image... but some of those people had to be reading it. Likewise, Cable has been a big success story for Marvel, though, again, it's not my thing.

Bear in mind that it's not a "weird little timeline." It's a huge one, and it encompasses a dozen different titles over several decades of publishing. This is why I always advise you to pick and choose. There are enough different versions of the team, most of which are now available in various paperback reprints, that there will always be one you like. The first few Essentials, the first couple of volumes of New Mutants, and Morrison and Whedon's... those do fine for me. But there might very well be lots of other versions you like. Maybe you'll be a Jim Lee-era fan. Maybe the Outback years, or Generation X.

My point is, don't get too obsessed with getting caught up. You can blow your life savings and waste years of your life trying, and still not get all the X-Men books out there.... hell, at this point there's several different cartoon versions, even. Pick and choose.

Also, Kitty appeared near the beginning of the Dark Phoenix saga... does she later join the team in that line of comics?

She does.

Kitty arrived at the school to stay right after Jean's funeral, and she was the first real try at promoting the concept that Xavier's is a school, an ongoing concern with some X-Men graduating and other, younger ones arriving to enroll. Shortly after Kitty's arrival Claremont introduced Karma, Cannonball, Moonstar, Wolfsbane, and Sunspot, another group of newly-arrived young students at the school. Those were the members of The New Mutants.

Really it was the first movie, though, that sold the idea of a BIG school with a large cast of mutant kids living there all the time. That was such a great idea that the comics instantly stole it.

In the movies, the main enemy always seems to be Magneto and Mystique. (In the first they were accompanied by Sabertooth and Toad). Were they also the big, bad, master villains in the comics?

They were, but it was the movies that put them together. Sabretooth started on his own, Mystique started on her own, and Magneto's original Brotherhood was completely different, though Toad was a member.

Magneto's always been the big gun, though.

Did the movie makers just choose those particular villains because they were more humanoid and realistic than others? (In Essential X-Men, Sauron the big dinosaur pterodactyl thing is REALLY strange....same with the Sentinels.)

Pretty much, yeah. Fans have been clamoring to see Sentinels in the movies ever since they heard the first one was getting made. But the technology wasn't up to it. For that matter, the Danger Room was something that you really couldn't do in the earlier films. I'm still not sure if you could make a really good Sentinels vs. X-Men fight work on film, even today.

I'm guessing that the other reason they keep using him, though, is that of all the X-villains, Magneto is by far the most interesting. Guys like Apocalypse or Mr. Sinister are mostly just evil, being bad for no real reason except that they're bad guys. Magneto actually has a cause, he's got good in him, you can make a case that he's got a legitimate reason for doing what he does.

Not a question - but it's funny because I just realized Colossus and Wolverine always do the Fastball Special attack, and in X3 when they're in the Danger Room, they do it there too. Also in that scene, I just realized that it looks like they were fighting a Sentinel! Because it looks like a Sentinel head when it falls to the ground. :)

Good eye. Those were all little shout-outs to the fans. The movie people were figuring, well, they could at least sneak a little Sentinel cameo in there, even if they couldn't do a full-on battle. There are lots more of those little Easter Eggs and nods to the comics (take a look sometime at the other things Yuriko has on her computer desktop in X2) and some of them, like Kitty's little walk-on in the first movie, actually get expanded to a real role in the story later on.

P.S. I attached a picture that I drew the other day. I THINK I'm getting a little better at drawing. Anyway, it's all the X-Girls (Jean, Storm, Kitty, Rogue) having a pillow fight.

This is so beyond awesome. Now I know I have to run this in another column. It's too good not to share.


And there you have it. As always, I'm sure you all will have lots of tips for Rachel and suggestions for further reading, as well as corrections for me, so I'll leave it to you.

See you next week.

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