Find out more about the story that breathed new life into the X-men series!
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely,
Ethan Van Sciver,
and Leinil Francis Yu
Published by Marvel Comics
Back in 2001, the X-men were in dire straights. While the first X-men movie had just been released, the comics had just endured nearly a decade of confusing stories, convoluted crossovers and alienating continuity. Even re-hiring legendary X-men writer Chris Claremont hadn’t worked.
Enter: Grant Morrison. Part of the first generation of ‘British Invasion’ writers that followed in Alan Moore’s wake, Morrison had made a name for himself at DC on such titles as Animal Man, Doom Patrol and Batman: Arkham Asylum. Then in 1997 he rebooted the Justice League into the ‘JLA’ and essentially revived the traditional superhero.
When Bill Gemas and Joe Quesada began their glorious reign at Marvel Comics (a short stay for Gemas, unfortunately), they knew that Marvel’s (then) flagship title was in need of a facelift. Hiring Grant Morrison was a controversial choice; X-men fans are notoriously the most rabid of fan-boys (Mike-EL theorizes that most 1980s comic book readers were X-men fans first and comic book fans second). When Morrison insisted on bringing along his Scottish countryman Frank Quitely, X-fandom went ballistic.
After a decade of Jim Lee-clones on art chores, Quitely’s bizarre pencils alienated X-fans. Perhaps the first superhero artist influenced by the texture and linework of famed underground comix artist Robert Crumb, Frank Quitely took a jack hammer to ten years of X-homogeny.
First on Morrison and Quitely’s agenda was to throw away the X-men’s brightly coloured leotards. Morrison pointed out that all superhero costumes were inspired by Superman, who’s spandex outfit was a relic of his era: the 1930s. Designed to resemble a circus strongman, the Superman archetype was shunted aside to make room for a new one: punk rock.
So, spandex was replaced by black leather, chains and (for one character) an S & M influenced mask (via the Sex Pistols). In addition, the rest of the team now sported black leather jackets to go with their leather pants (thanks to the Ramones).
Once again, fandom erupted. There hadn’t been a change this radical since 1975’s Giant Size X-men #1. That’s when Len Wein and Dave Cockrum introduced the new of mutants that would embody the public’s current perception of the X-men: Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm and Wolverine.
When the new issue of ‘New X-men’ hit the stands (the title being a reference to the 1975 reboot), it only took Morrison & Quitely 22 pages to completely revamp the title. The tired conventions of 1990s comcis were replaced by a simplified, accessible, yet futuristic form of storytelling that elevated X-men from a ‘trash’ comic to a critically acclaimed best-seller.
Sadly, the will of the fan-boys was too great. After 4 years of genre-shattering stories, Grant Morrison resigned from the New X-men -and Marvel. Perhaps Morrison’s bitter exit is what motivated the stories that followed: his legacy was wiped out by inferior writers and inferior policies. His forward looking storytelling was gradually relaxed back into genre formula, Quitely’s costume designs were jettisoned in favour of some ‘retro’ inspired leotards (in an embarrassing misjudgment by designer John Cassady) and Morrison’s most famous plot twist was contradicted, then gut like a fish.
Still, for the cynical comics readers, for the non-superhero reader, for the man that hates all things mutant, THIS is the comic for you. Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s oddball school for superheroes, reimagined by the high priest of superheroes himself: Grant Morrison.
Welcome to the New X-men; hope you survive the experience!
You can purchase a copy of the New X-men Omnibus on Amazon.com here: http://amzn.to/UDtoqI