Oh, X-Men. Marvel’s team of misfits and outsiders have long held a lofty station in the Marvel Universe, being one of the publisher’s most popular creations, especially over the last 30 or 40 years. As time marches on, and more film and TV adaptations are seemingly endless, more of our favorite mutants are getting a well-deserved day in the sun. However, there are still many card-carrying gifted youngsters in annals of mutant history that still manage to get the short end of the X-gene when it comes to recognition. So we aim to set that right with this list here, spotlighting some of the X-Men that may have fallen through the cracks or maybe just aren’t thought of as marquee names in the franchise.
On the flip-side of that coin, we have the X-Men that everyone knows, whether from the comics, the movies, or any of the various and sundry TV shows, animated or otherwise. These are X-Men whom we will not deny their glory, but at the same time, maybe these particular X-Men could share the spotlight for a bit with some of their more unsung teammates. Not that they are being showboats or glory hogs (some of them), but we feel some of these mutants might have the secondary mutation of being over-publicized. We aren’t here to deny their greatness, but at the very least, we can examine why maybe it would be okay for them to not appear on a cover every now and then.
20 UNDERRATED: THUNDERBIRD
By the early-1970s, Marvel Comics' The X-Men was dragging in sales and had been reduced to just a reprint book. It wasn’t until 1975 that writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum brought the world the All-New, All-Different team, featuring mutants from far and wide and some mutants of color, including the Apache Nation’s own John Proudstar.
Codenamed Thunderbird, Proudstar had fought in the Vietnam War and like so many veterans had returned cynical and bitter. Being a part of a team again brought back his heroic side; however, in his eagerness to prove himself worthy as a warrior, he died in the fight with Count Nefaria. It’s always been a shame that the first Indigenous X-Man became a martyr, a footnote in X-history.
19 UNDERRATED: FORGE
Some X-Men have very showy powers and the personality to match. Some X-Men are physically so different from “normal” humans and mutants that they stick out just by existing. And then there are the quieter ones, the ones whose powers do not necessarily physically manifest themselves. The mutant known only as Forge is one such X-Man.
Another Indigenous American Vietnam veteran, Forge’s power is of the mind, enabling him to invent and build intricate machinery. Obviously, this sort of talent is put to better use behind the front lines, and so Forge does not see battle as much as his teammates. Forge is often also relegated to the status of Storm’s ex-boyfriend in the minds of many, which again undersells his importance to the team.
18 UNDERRATED: LONGSHOT
We say Longshot is underrated, but we could also see the argument that he maybe shouldn’t even be rated at all since he’s only a mutant under a technicality. However, the subject here isn’t overrated and underrated mutants, but X-Men, and Longshot is most definitely an X-Man.
A transplant from the Mojoverse, Longshot served with the X-Men proudly, fighting in the storied battles against the likes of the Reavers and the Brood. He also began a romance with Dazzler, a relationship we also consider to be underrated when compared to Gambit and Rogue, say. Longshot did quit the team eventually, but he’ll always be around if we’re lucky.
17 UNDERRATED: DAZZLER
In fandom, there is a tendency for the more high-minded among us to look down our noses at products created as an unapologetic attempt to cash in on a trend of the day. In the case of Dazzler, Marvel sought to make a quick buck off the disco trend, along with Casablanca Records, who would create an actual singing star out of the character.
That never came to pass, but Dazzler was still not taken seriously as a hero unto her own. Once she joined the X-Men, she began her path to redemption. She maintained her singing career while still proving herself to be one the many strong female characters in the X-books, including the very fun and underrated itself X-Treme X-Men series from 2012.
16 UNDERRATED: ANGEL
The only of the original team to appear on this side of the list, Warren Worthington III always seems to have been given the brush by many fans. Perhaps it is his upper-class background to which few can relate, or maybe it is his somewhat lackluster powers of flight, but the Angel felt like a fifth wheel to the team almost from the start.
His reinvention as Archangel in the pages of X-Factor, when he became one of Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen, only reinforces this. Once his feathery wings became weapons of mass destruction, readers began to take him more seriously. Yet Warren is still one of the originals and always a steady influence on his rather emotional peers, an aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked.
15 UNDERRATED: POLARIS
Lorna Dane has struggled to find her own identity in several ways since her creation in the late-1960s. Betrothed of Havok, daughter of Magneto, controlled by Malice, Polaris has very rarely been the author of her own fate. However, it is these very struggles to define her identity which have come to identify Polaris as Lorna Dane and vice versa.
Once it was firmly established after years of speculation that Magento is in fact her father, Polaris was then out from under that undefined shadow. Her relationship to Havok remains more complicated, especially as Alex continues to indulge his more villainous side. Lorna has remained steadfast to Xavier’s dream, even in the face of the man to whom she was once engaged.
14 UNDERRATED: NAMOR, THE SUB-MARINER
In Marvel lore, it’s long been given that if one is born with one’s powers than one is considered a mutant. Although he made his first appearance in the the Golden Age, decades before the X-Men were created, Prince Namor of Atlantis was in fact born with his superpowers, and therefore qualifies as a mutant.
Long considered to be more important to the Fantastic Four franchise, Namor has had his mutant roots overlooked for decades. Even though he was vital to the Avengers vs. X-Men storyline, as well as the Dark X-Men, many still forget he was even on the team. Namor’s presence in the ranks does much to justify both Xavier’s philosophy of inclusion as well as mutant haters’ xenophobia, continuing Namor’s complicated relationship with humanity.
13 UNDERRATED: BLOODSTORM
This is the most recent incarnation of Bloodstorm we are discussing here, from the pages of the X-Men Blue book. Although it would appear that her short time with the team has already come to an end (for now), even over this past year, she has contributed much to Magneto's most current line-up.
The Blue team consisted mostly of the original time-displaced X-Men, who have been stuck in the present day since the events of “Battle of the Atom.” Bloodstorm and Jimmy Hudson are both displaced from different dimensions, so they are even more out of place than their teammates, yet do not receive as much attention. It is hoped that this vampiric version of Ororo Munroe will one day get her due.
12 UNDERRATED: MIMIC
Calvin Rankin is again another character from the early-1960s who has mostly been overlooked since, even though he holds a couple rare distinctions. After first encountering the X-Men as an enemy, Mimic later joined the team as the first person outside of the original five to do so. Plus, Cal’s powers of mimicry were not from birth, so he is the first of the very few non-mutant members of the team.
After he spent many years without his powers, he returned to the team during Dark Reign as one of Norman Osborn’s Dark X-Men. Not long after, Calvin came to Beast for help and has remained a reliable if oft-underused member of the team, although his future too remains murky at this point.
11 UNDERRATED: BANSHEE
Along with Thunderbird, Sean Cassidy was one of the first of the All-New, All-Different X-Men, although he had earlier encountered the team as a villain. Sean was too much of a sweetheart to remain a villain for long, though, and eventually joined the team, turning on and helping to fight his cousin Black Tom Cassidy and his pal the Juggernaut.
Sean was somewhat de-powered here and there, but remained an important member of the X-Family, spending much of his time with Moira MacTaggert on Muir Island. His daughter Siryn also eventually joined the fold after a start in supervillainy – like father, like daughter. Sadly, Sean died during Deadly Genesis, but we still hope he’ll return to the living one day.
10 OVERRATED: GAMBIT
Okay, here’s where we start getting angry phone calls. Remy Lebeau made his debut in those dark and dystopic days of the early-1990s and was one of the first to usher in the trench coat in lieu of cape look that proved to be so popular in that decade. But, come on, that accent? Please.
Gambit’s appeal is a double-edged playing card. For many fans, he is the quintessential ladies’ man whose confidence and charm is enviable. For many others, by that same coin, he is a leering, morally questionable vagabond who, if encountered in real life, would likely get a smack in the mouth as a kiss. Is he cute? Sure. But so is a baby rattlesnake.
9 OVERRATED: WOLVERINE
Hero to short men everywhere, Wolverine was very popular right out of the gate. In the same class as Thunderbird and Nightcrawler, Logan’s world-weary ways and savage fighting skills immediately enamored him to superhero fans all over. However, the man that arguably began the Golden Age of the anti-hero feels very on-the-nose with that same schtick 40-some years later.
Add to that the fact that Wolverine, as we have said before, postures himself as this tough lone-wolf sort, yet he has been on pretty much every single X-team since his debut, and still he will hop on his Harley and bail pretty much every few months. It’s no wonder that his one-time protégée Kitty Pryde has made a much better leader than he ever did.
8 OVERRATED: EMMA FROST
We were into White Queen back when she was an elite in the Hellfire Club and was more or less singlehandedly keeping corset training alive in the Marvel Universe. Once she turned to the light side, we continued to be interested, but once she started dating Scott Summers, hoo boy, hold it right there.
Scott and Emma as a couple were very interesting indeed, but even given that, we still cannot, after all this time, abide by this relationship. Emma is just far too caustic, and you don’t have to look far to see how her influence directly lead to the fall of Cyclops. Not that she gets all the blame, but still.
7 OVERRATED: PSYLOCKE
Back in the day, she was a cheery, cheeky English gal, and she even had a little ren faire phase with that cloak and armor and all that after being rescued from the Mojoworld. She had charm, she had skills, she had powers. So naturally, the powers-that-be decided to chuck all that and make her a ninja.
Transformed into a lethal martial artist in the early ‘90s, Psylocke’s popularity took off as many, many pieces of her costume suddenly went missing. Betsy became a more nuanced and interesting character, particularly during her stint with X-Force, but it’s still difficult for us to reconcile with such a drastic and just plain weird overhaul.
6 OVERRATED: FANTOMEX
Again, we have an uber-cool guy character who we love to hate to love. Fantomex was a creation of that very cool dude, Grant Morrison, and artist Igor Kordey during their run on New X-Men. Based on the popular Italian thief character Diabolik, Fantomex presented himself as dashing, devil-may-care type straight out of the Remy Lebeau handbook.
Despite everything we’ve said about these overrated characters, we’re still glad to have them, even good ol’ Jean-Phillipe here. We suppose our question here is: How cool is too cool? It’s difficult to root for, and even more difficult to relate to, a guy who would step over his own mother just for another really cool facemask. Is Fantomex cool? Undoubtedly. Is he X-Men material? Not so much.
5 OVERRATED: BISHOP
Now, make no mistake here, Bishop is super cool. Even with that mullet that he had in his early years, there’s really not much cooler than a face tattoo. To this day, however, we are still not exactly sure what Bishop’s contribution to the team is exactly. Yes, yes, energy absorption, we know that’s what his baseball card says. Still, it seems like it’s more the big guns and being from the future, and that’s already Cable’s schtick.
Speaking of which, Bishop and Cable were mortal enemies in Duane Swierczynski’s tremendous run on Cable a few years back. While that’s all well and good, it doesn’t exactly make the argument that Bishop has been an X-Men team member in good standing during his tenure.
4 OVERRATED: ICEMAN
Now we get into the o.g. team. When you are a decades-old character in one of the most popular franchises of all time, it is going to be extremely difficult to remain vital and exciting to readers, old and new alike. Perhaps Bobby here isn’t overrated because of anything more specific than the fact that he’s been around forever.
Ever since Iceman came out of the closet a few years ago, he’s become more relevant by today’s standards, and we certainly applaud the editorial decision to bring this character into the modern age in such a way. This still does not change the fact that Bobby has been ever-present in the X-books for over 50 years and hasn’t done much more than freeze water.
3 OVERRATED: BEAST
Hank McCoy’s transformation into the big, blue fuzzball we know and love is still one of our favorite changes any of these characters has ever gone through. Again, though, it’s the only thing he’s done since the early ‘60s that’s been any different.
He is reliable as the team’s big brain, but this is also on a team that includes Forge, Doctor Nemesis, and Cecila Reyes, just to name a few. Big brains are in no short supply (which is rare in the real world, we know). However you want to slice it, let’s see someone else fill these (literally) very large shoes around here for a bit.
2 OVERRATED: JEAN GREY
Everyone’s first love in the X-Universe, Marvel Girl here will always hold a place in our hearts. To be blunt, however, Jean’s one of those characters who always seems to have a larger presence when she’s deceased. Ever since her first demise on the moon, there hasn’t been a time where Jean heading to the grave hasn’t been a real event (no small feat in superhero comics).
Yet recently in the pages of X-Men Blue, her apparent demise at the hands of the Poisons was milked pretty hard. When she was most recently picked off, we got to really miss her, so it’d be a shame to have her bite the dust so soon. Either way, this might be a good time for Jean to really finally go back and finish college.
1 OVERRATED: CYCLOPS
Of all the characters who may have been around too long, Scott Summers has by far worn out his welcome most. Scott used to get dismissed as oversensitive and lachrymose since at least the ‘80s. We thought that was pretty harsh back then, but it’s hard to argue that his goody-good personality doesn’t begin to get cloying after a while.
When he made his turn towards the dark side a bit, he began to get interesting, a sure sign that he would not be around for long. We found the new and unimproved Cyclops to be fun – all the anger of Quentin Quire but with the life experience to justify it. We knew it couldn’t last, but boy, it was fun for a while.