The X-Men, almost more than any other superheroes, are inextricably tied to a creator that made them a sensation. The Chris Claremont-led era is so huge, so famous, and so good, every single X-Men title or run since has responded to it in some way. Even characters and books that are somewhat divorced from the main X-Men continuity -- like Magneto’s recent solo series, or The All-New Wolverine -- draw on what the Claremont era did.
While impressive, it's also inherently limiting, because to anyone trying to jump into the X-Men through consulting various guides, be they online here at CBR, elsewhere on the Internet, or in print, they’ll inevitably be pointed back to the Claremont-led era. And not every new reader likes or wants to dive into forty-plus year-old comics right away.
Which is why Marvel’s announcement at Comic-Con International that Hip Hop Family Tree cartoonist Ed Piskor is writing and drawing the upcoming miniseries X-Men: Grand Design is the smartest thing the publisher has done for the franchise in at least a decade.
If you take a look at Piskor’s work -- Hip Hop especially (which is available from Fantagraphics, and some older steps are available on Boing Boing) -- as well as his Twitter, you know that Bronze Age X-Men comics are embedded in his creative DNA. That's not unusual for creators his age; essentially every writer and artist working in comics today has encountered them at some point.
So the news that Piskor and Marvel have come together to tell a six-issue story, with each chapter covering a full decade of X-Men continuity, is welcome for three major reasons. Let's tackle them in order, shall we?
The X-Men, Even In The Internet Age, Have The Biggest Barrier To Entry In Superhero Comics. Grand Design Will Change That.
I say this as someone who loved X-Men: The Animated Series as a child, has read his fair share of Wolverine comics, and lives for new episodes of Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men: The X-Men are the toughest characters in superhero comics to get into. Besides the fact that every post-Claremont run is touching on that era in some manner, there are constant events and roster turnovers. It seems like every new creative team introduces a new team of mutants or villains to call their own.
The sheer amount of mutants running around the Marvel Universe is so confusing that the publisher, in the form of a heartbroken and angry Scarlet Witch at the end of 2005's House of M event, literally de-powered nearly all but 198 mutants and kept it that way for a good long while. To make things even more confusing, the current era of the X-Men line began with the original five -- Beast, Cyclops, Angel, Marvel Girl and Iceman -- time traveling to the present day, where they're currently running around.
Even with Wikipedia, X-Plain The X-Men and other resources on hand, this stuff is so, so hard to keep track of. (And I say that as someone who wrote about the entire 30+ year history of Transformers comics.) But now, anyone looking to get a sense of X-history without digging through Marvel Unlimited will be able to simply go straight to Grand Design.
When the collected edition of this miniseries -- which starts in December -- eventually comes out, bookstores and comic shops would do well to stock it and talk it up as "a crash course on the X-Men." That pitch sells itself.