Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and thirty-third week where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.
As we’ve been doing it for some time now, one legend today, one tomorrow and one Sunday.
The X-Men were almost given their own series again after a prominent guest spot during the original “Secret Empire” storyline in Captain America.
My pal, Chris, who runs the awesome Unpublished X-Men website, dropped me a line about a online reader chat with John Byrne that he had read years ago (circa 1999).
The reader had written:
“The original team were nearly relaunched in 1974 after a well received guest appearance in Captain America.”
And Byrne responded with, “Wow! Sudden huge nostalgia jag! I “auditioned” for that book! I heard through the grapevine that it was being considered, and sent in whole rafts of pages — pinups, fake continuity, story ideas — for the relaunch of X-MEN. It was one of the last things I did before I officially “turned pro”. Thanks for the memories!”
In late 1973, Captain America and the Falcon were caught up in the original “Secret Empire” saga (the title of which inspired the current major Marvel crossover event), where a powerful secret organization (which included even the President of the United States!) was controlling things behind the scenes and they had successfully framed Captain America and the Falcon as traitors. The heroes went on the run. In Captain America #172 (by Steve Englehart, Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta), they accidentally bump into the powerful mutant known as Banshee, who had previously been forced into working for the criminal group called Factor Three. Banshee thinks Cap and Falcon are crooks, because that’s what the news says, so he thinks that they are here to force him to join their gang, so he attacks them. He’s kicking their ass when Cyclops suddenly shows up to save Cap and Falcon…
In the following issue, Professor Xavier explains how the Secret Empire had been capturing the X-Men, to the point where only a couple of his students remained free…
So they teamed up with Cap, leading into the finale of the story, where Cap reveals the Secret Empire to the world and restores his reputation.
So, did this prominent guest appearance inspire the X_Men to almost get their own book? In a word, no. I asked the great Roy Thomas, who was the Editor-in-Chief at the time, about it. In X-Men lore, besides having a great stint as the writer on the series himself, Roy is perhaps best known for coming up with the idea of an international X-Men team (based on a suggestion by then-Marvel President Al Landau that having an international superhero team might do well with foreign sales). However, he explained that while he HAD begun developing ideas for a new X-Men series around that time (it was an open secret that Marvel was planning a new X-Men series, which is what Byrne recalled), it had nothing to do with their appearance in Captain America.
Thomas then left as Marvel Editor-in-Chief and the idea languished for a time until 1975, when Len Wein and Dave Cockrum finally launched the All-New, All-Different X-Men, which worked out okay…
But no, their Cap appearance had nothing to do with it at all.
Thanks to Chris for the suggestion and thanks to Roy for the information!
Check out some legends from Legends Revealed:
Check back Saturday for part 2 of this week’s legends!
And remember, if you have a legend that you’re curious about, drop me a line at either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org!
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