Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and second in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, learn whether the X-Men were originally going to be called the “Merry Mutants”! See which famous artist liked to change the sound effect for Wolverine’s claws to “Sinkt!” And see what would have been Alex Ross’ first Marvel Comics work!
X-Men was originally going to be titled “Merry Mutants”
Reader Alexander T. wrote in to ask about an interesting legend that has been making the round lately.
You see, when “X-Men Apocalypse” was being promoted, two of the actresses from the film, Lana Condor (Jubilee) and Alexandra Shipp (Storm) did a bit where they read off interesting facts about the X-Men.
One of the facts that they revealed was that the X-Men were originally going to be called the Merry Mutants and that they were originally going to sing and dance.
The singing and dance stuff is just out of nowhere. Maybe she was joking? I dunno, but that’s not true.
As to the other part, it’s a bit trickier.
The X-Men were created as a collaboration between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Lee would later recall to Tom DeFalco that his motives for creating mutants were born out of laziness:
I wanted to do a new team of heroes and I said to myself, “I’ve run out of radioactivity and gamma rays and cosmic rays – what excuse can I find for these guys getting super powers?” I took the cowardly way out and said, “Wait a minute, what if they were just mutants? What if they were just born that way? Everybody knows there are mutations in real life. There are frogs that are born with five legs and so forth. I can get these guys to have any power I want. I’ll just say, “Well, they’re mutants. They were born that way.” Nobody can argue with that!
In a 1987 interview with Leonard Pitts, Jr., Kirby noted:
The X-Men, I did the natural thing there. What would you do with mutants who were just plain boys and girls and certainly not dangerous? You school them. You develop their skills. So I gave them a teacher, Professor X.
Of course, it was the natural thing to do, instead of disorienting or alienating people who were different from us, I made the X-Men part of the human race, which they were. Possibly, radiation, if it is beneficial, may create mutants that’ll save us instead of doing us harm. I felt that if we train the mutants our way, they’ll help us– and not only help us, but achieve a measure of growth in their own sense. And so, we could all live together.
Often, Lee and Kirby’s takes are at odds with each other, but I think this one follows pretty closely together.
But anyhow, in that same 2004 interview with DeFalco for DeFalco’s stunning book, “Comic Creators on X-Men”, Lee explained the name:
I originally wanted to call the book The Mutants, but Martin Goodman, who was my publisher at the time, didn’t like that name. He said our readers wouldn’t know what a mutant was. So, okay, since their leader was Professor Xavier, and they each had an “X-tra” power, I decided to call them the X-Men. So I said to Martin, “How about X-Men?” He said the title sounded good so we went with it.
Lee has been telling that story the same exact way for over 40 years now. In a lot of ways, I am unsure about citing Lee quotes post 1970, as it seems like around that point is when he had been doing conventions long enough that he now had stories locked in for everything, and they would never change in the decades since. You ask him about Spider-Man’s origin in 1972, you get the same answer you would get in 2002.
However, no one has ever disputed the story and it is such a normal answer that I tend to be willing to believe it. So I’m going to say that no, the “X-Men” were never going to be called the “Merry Mutants”, but I suppose “Merry Mutants” and “The Mutants” is not a whole lot apart.
Thanks to Stan Lee, Tom DeFalco, Jack Kirby and Leonard Pitts for the information! Thanks so much to Alexander for both the suggestion AND for the Stan Lee quote (saved me a trip to my bookshelf for my well-read copy of “Comic Creators on X-Men”).
Check out some legends from Legends Revealed:
Sam Kieth tries to draw the sound effect for Wolverine’s claws as “sinkt” instead of “snikt.”
Back in 2005, a young Matt Fraction got his first work published at Marvel Comics in the anthology series “X-Men: Unlimited” #9. It was a story about Wolverine thinking back on his life while at the funeral of a friend ((while also thinking about an incident that occurred with his friend when the friend took a bullet for Wolverine, despite him knowing Wolverine could have survived it – he just instinctively went to protect his friend).
The story was drawn by comic book legend Sam Kieth. Here are two pages where Wolverine’s claws pop…
Matt Fraction wrote about this work on his blog a while back and he had an interesting thing to say about Sam Kieth and what Kieth thought about Wolverine’s claws and the sound that they make…
Sam thinks the sound effect should be SINKT. Not SNIKT. SINKT.
How do I know this?
Sam sent in his pages with the SFX lettered right on the boards, as part of the art. This is sound practice if you’re in the onomatopoeia business – get your artist to make the effect a part of the panel composition instead of relying on a letterer to cover art up. No one works the panel better than the person drawing it.
One downside is, if, like Sam did (at least in 2004) and you still worked with real ink on real paper, you send the art in or you scan it and email it and if you’ve organically lettered the sound effects into your artwork, the way Sam does, the way all right-minded artists do and right-minded writers ask their artists to do, if you, say, take Wolverine’s trademark sound effect and invert two of the letters as a matter of personal preference… it’s hard to fix.
As I recall, Warren called Sam. Effusive with praise at first, he then mentions oh, hey, the sound effect for Wolverine’s claws, it’s “SNIKT” not ‘SINKT.’ To which Sam said something like “Yeah, but I like SINKT better.” Can you change it? “Nope, nope, it should be ‘Sinkt’.” Sam you know we can’t let this out of here like that. It’s gotta be fixed and if you don’t do it someone in the bullpen will. “Whatever!” *click*
I gotta say, I admire his perseverance.”
That’s pretty hilarious. I love how Warren Simons handled it. What can you do but do what he did?
So that made me think that, hey, we should go back to 1991 and when Sam Kieth first drew Wolverine in the pages of “Marvel Comics Presents”! He debuted on Wolverine on a feature written by Peter David that introduced the deadly Cyber.
Here is Kieth’s first issue, “Marvel Comics Presents” #85 (“Weapon X” by Barry Windsor-Smith had just ended!)…
So he used “Snikt” back then, right?
Well, check out the following issue…
Yep, even when Kieth was JUST starting out on the character, he was already trying to sneak some SINKT in there!
He also had more than a few times where Wolverine’s claws just made no sound, suggesting that that might have been a bit of a compromise. You can’t do “Sinkt” but we won’t force you to have “Snikt”.
In “Marvel Comics Presents” #89, the “Sinkt” is back!
That was it for Kieth and “Sinkt” as his other issues either avoided the issue by going sound effect-less or used “Snikt.”
Like Fraction said, you have to admire his persistence! To be honest, once I start saying “Sinkt” in my head, it actually DOES sort of sound like it makes more sense than “Snikt,” as “Sinkt” gives off a sort of metallic vibe in my ear.
Thanks to Phoenix B. for suggesting this one and thanks to Matt Fraction for the head’s up about the cool piece of information!
Alex Ross’ first Marvel work was going to be in the fifth issue of a comic series…the series was canceled with issue #4!
Alex Ross famously took the comic book world by storm when the mini-series “Marvels” was released in 1993. The brilliant story by Kurt Busiek coupled with Ross’ amazing painted artwork made Ross an instant star. However, just four years earlier, he wasn’t even popular enough to get Marvel to publish a story that they had already paid for!!
In 1990, Ross was set to make his debut in the fifth issue of the science fiction anthology series, “Open Space”, a series that was edited by none other than Kurt Busiek himself!
The series was a nice collection of tales, including some great artists like Tom Grummett, John Ridgway and Ray Lago. However, it was canceled after just four issues were released.
The kicker? Alex Ross drew a story written by Lawrence Watt-Evans that was going to be in “Open Space” #5!!
So instead, Ross didn’t make his Marvel debut until 1992’s “Clive Barker’s Hellraiser” #17…
However, his later work at Marvel was as a result of the “Open Space” story, as Ross had stayed in contact with Busiek and sent him some paintings he had done of superheroes. Those were good enough that he got the Hellraiser story, and then Marvel was like, “Hey, could there be a story to go with these paintings?” And Busiek and Ross decided to work up a proposal and that became “Marvels”. So even from “failure” we saw the seeds for success!
A few years later, “Wizard” published the 12-page story as a special #0 comic. Here are the first four pages from the comic…
Very cool! Go seek out a copy of the #0 issue if you want to see how it ends.
Thanks so much to Wizard Magazine for reprinting this cool tale (and thanks to Kurt Busiek for explaining the whole situation in his intro to said comic)!
OK, that’s it for this week!
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