Flashback: How Marvel's "House of M" Changed an Industry and a Universe

In the age of constant comic book events and multi-part mega-crossovers, it is hard to believe that in 2005, the massive comic book event was a thing of the past. Under the management of Marvel Comics publisher Bill Jemas and editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, no line-wide crossovers occurred for much of the early '00s. But things changed in 2005 as a buzz began in industry trades, on the internet and at comic conventions; Marvel began teasing something called "House of M." By the time the dust settled on the first in Marvel's new generation of comic book crossovers, a new event paradigm would be created that would drive the industry into the next decade, a polarizing superstar writer would be driven to new heights of popularity, many long standing characters would be inexorably changed and the very foundations of the Marvel Universe would be altered forever.

To truly understand the full impact of "House of M," one must understand the landscape of Marvel Comics in 2001 and the state of the intracompany crossover in general. Marvel had all but abandoned the event format and had instead -- under Jemas and Quesada -- focused on creatively fixing its all-star cast of characters, a super heroic pantheon that was left somewhat broken by the speculative glut of the '90s. Suddenly, some very fresh voices were guiding the adventures of Marvel's biggest stars. TV writer J. Michael Straczynski was writing "Amazing Spider-Man"; the wonderfully strange Grant Morrison wrote a revolution in "New X-Men"; horror icon Bruce Jones was managing "Incredible Hulk"; famed director Kevin Smith had established a new and exciting direction for "Daredevil" and Vertigo legend Garth Ennis found a bloody new direction for the Punisher.

Added to these visionaries was Cleveland-based writer Brian Michael Bendis, a fast-rising star who was already thrilling fans with an award-winning run on "Daredevil" and who recently introduced the character of Jessica Jones in the pages of the mature readers Marvel MAX series "Alias." More importantly, Bendis ushered in the Ultimate Universe with the fan-favorite "Ultimate Spider-Man." In 2004, Bendis was handed the keys to Marvel's "Avengers," a franchise that was experiencing a wane in popularity in the early years of the 21st century. A year after Bendis' "Avengers Dissembled" tore Marvel's classic team asunder, "House of M" promised to continue Bendis' universe altering storytelling.

While fans may have been expecting some substantial changes, little did anyone know "House of M" would not only change the heroes of the MU, it would also change the business of comics -- particularly in the arena of promotion. Bendis already got a rise out of Avengers fans by killing off longstanding Avengers like Vision and Hawkeye. With the upcoming "House of M" story, Bendis added the X-Men into the mix with his disassembled Avengers. "House of M" promised to be the ultimate Avengers/X-Men story and Bendis took to the internet and began a huge media blitz promising shell-shocked fans still reeling from Hawkeye's death that his "House of M" would "break the internet." "House of M" marked the first time a major comic book event was publicized through internet media as chat rooms, talk back sections and newsgroups (remember those?) blew up with speculation over what Bendis, the man who shattered the Avengers, would do when given the entirety of the Marvel Universe to play with.

With fan conjecture bursting at the seams, the first issue of "House of M" hit in June 2005. Like Bendis, the artist of "House of M" was also a newcomer to a major mainstream project. Olivier Coipel gained notoriety doing a couple of critically acclaimed "Legion of Super-Heroes" projects for DC ("Legion Lost" and a new ongoing entitled "Legion"), but many fans were still unfamiliar with the artist's uniquely raw style. Like Bendis, Coipel gained notoriety on "House of M," as he was front and center on a book that delivered shock after shock.

"House of M" #1 centered on Scarlet Witch, a long time Avenger. In "Avengers Dissembled," Wanda Maximoff was responsible for the mass destruction that tore Earth's Mightiest Heroes apart. In "House of M," the Avengers and the X-Men gathered to discuss just what should be done about this dangerous mutant with the ability to alter reality on a whim. This situation presented Marvel with many firsts. It was the first in a long line of crossovers that would involve the clash between two groups of major heroes. "Civil War," "World War Hulk" and "Avengers vs. X-Men" would follow as Marvel found a new formula to grab fan attention -- have two factions of popular heroes find a fundamental, ethical difference and have said heroes battle it out in a massive event.

While "House of M" did not feature a battle royal between groups, Bendis infused the first issue with palpable tension as mutant and superhero argued over the fate of the Scarlet Witch. It was clear that if the sides threw down, it would be epic. Fan debates sprung up online arguing who was right. Should Wanda be destroyed or contained? And if she was contained, who should care for her -- mutant hero or human champion? This super heroic moral impasse would become a frequent trope used in event comics, but this particular war of ethics would not continue for long in "House of M." In the first issue, Magneto showed up to retrieve his daughter and the true drama began. "House of M" #1 was read, devoured and debated, but most of all, it was an instant smash with 233,000 copies sold. Those numbers indicated that the super hero crossover event was back in a big way.

With Magneto on the scene, the story really got moving. Using her reality-altering powers, Wanda changed the world and gave every hero in her vicinity their heart's desire. Across the entire line, Marvel replaced its reality with the world of "House of M," a false paradise that seemed too good to be true. In this altered realm, Wanda's lost children were returned and her family was by her side. This was not the first time Marvel replaced its reality with a whole new world -- Marvel used the same trope in the ultra-successful "Age of Apocalypse," but "House of M" was different. "Age of Apocalypse" presented a hellish future, but "House of M" seemed like a paradise with mutants ruling the world and all of Earth's heroes living a blissful but false existence.

This new world was ruled by Magneto with his children, Wanda and Pietro, at his side. Pietro Maximoff, the speedster known as Quicksilver, was instrumental in convincing Magneto to help Wanda before the Scarlet Witch altered reality. Mutants were the ruling class with humans living a stable but marginalized life separate from their super powered brethren. A small band of heroes began to wake up to the truth of Wanda's machinations and set about taking steps to bringing about the fall of the House of Maximoff.

In this inaugural event, Bendis not only constructed a compelling plot, he crafted a story with many branches, making "House of M" the first event of its kind. In previous crossovers, the main event would infringe upon a whole line of comics with the tendrils of the main story reaching into countless monthly comics. "House of M" introduced a new publishing model involving a crop of mini-series that were not essential to the main event itself but served as story enhancements should a reader choose to purchase them. There were some Marvel monthlies that did feature a crossover with "House of M," such as "Cable & Deadpool," "Uncanny X-Men" and "Excalibur" -- but for the most part, the event was confined to the main series and a group of miniseries. "House of M" not only altered the Marvel Universe, it also altered real world publishing as many later crossovers would use the "House of M" model to varying degrees of success. The very next year, "Civil War" aped the "House of M" publishing plan and set the standard for comic book events.

But it was the characters of the Marvel Universe that were changed the most by "House of M." After decades of being a fundamental part of the Avengers, Scarlet Witch became something of a chaos goddess, a once brave hero removed from the rest of the Marvel Universe. In the half decade following her central role in "House of M," the formerly prominent Wanda Maximoff was treated as more of a background threat than an active participant. This only recently changed with her inclusion in 2012's "Uncanny Avengers" series. Hawkeye, a hero whose death left fans shaken and distraught, returned during "House of M" in a moment that truly "broke the internet." The phrase, "you don't know what you got 'til it's gone" never rang truer as fans were elated to have Clint Barton back in the Marvel fold. When "House of M" concluded, Hawkeye retuned alive and well. The character's popularity had waned prior to his death with sales on his solo series leading to its cancellation in less than a year. But when Bendis returned Hawkeye to fandom in "House of M," the writer began a new age of stardom for Marvel's most beloved archer -- a popularity the character still enjoys today.

As anyone who read "House of M" knows, Magneto was not the true antagonist of the event. That dishonor goes to Quicksilver. At the series' end, it was revealed that Marvel villain Magneto had not manipulated his troubled daughter into creating the alternate reality; it was a jealous and broken son, Quicksilver, who thought he had the right to uproot his comrades' world and create one that served his whims and those of his people. For a long time after the event, Quicksilver was cast in a villainous role,a broken and tragically selfish character until very recently. His road to redemption began in 2014 as a regular role in "All-New X-Factor" eventually led to his return to active Avengers duty.

While all those changes were profound, it was the mutants of the Marvel Universe that suffered the most. After Magneto discovered his son's betrayal, he lashed out at Quicksilver, mortally injuring the speedster. Wanda was so devastated that she tried to put an end to the human mutant conflict once and for all. When Wanda awoke from her stupor, she uttered the phrase that would change everything: "No more mutants." These words still resonate in the Marvel Universe -- they're still popping up on new comic book covers, too -- as the mutant population has never fully recovered from Wanda's genocidal words. All of a sudden, the majority of mutants in the Marvel Universe lost their powers, many of the hapless mutants dying in the process. Thanks to the events of "House of M," mutants went from a minority population to an endangers species with only 198 of them remaining worldwide. That was the status quo for mutantkind for a very long time, until the final moments of 2012's "AvX" event.

Other heroes such as Ms. Marvel, Polaris and Spider-Man would also be profoundly affected by the events of "House of M" for years to come, and the event's echoes are still felt today, a solid ten years after the first issue's release. But its biggest impact can be felt in comic stores on almost a monthly basis as countless crossovers have come and gone that used the "House of M" format as a model. So as we enter the tenth anniversary of "No More Mutants," let us remember the event that not only changed a universe, but also changed an industry.

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