X-Men: Apocalypse is a pretty weird tale (especially the way Magneto and Xavier were all “bygones be bygones” after all the mass-murder) but fighting a dour Smurf with vaguely defined powers is hardly the craziest thing the X-Men have done in their half-century of history. This is a team whose most famous member has a “mutant healing factor” that went up against a guy with “mutant death factor.” This is a metaphor for various American and international minorities that regularly takes trips to outer space. This is a team that has spent years – years! – with two versions of its original leader (thanks, time travel) opposing each other.
None of these WTF stories are exactly the best, but none are really the worst either, because the worst thing an X-Men story can be is boring, so drowned in its own continuity that no one without a doctorate in X-ology can understand it. It’s highly unlikely Bryan Singer or anyone else will be using these stories for inspiration, but at least they’re fun to talk about. These are the 12 Most WTF X-Men Stories.
12. The time Cyclops and Emma made out on Jean Grey’s freshly-plowed grave
Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men was one of the high points of the team’s publication history, but his last issue, #154 (2004), ended in a deeply weird place. In an alternate future, a bunch of X-Men were (will be? would have been?) fighting for the existence of the mutant race (yep, again).
One of those X-Men was Jean Grey, who realized that the way to prevent this whole hellish future was to go back in time to the last of her several funerals and give Cyclops a mental suggestion to go “live his life” without her, so he didn’t just quit the X-Men after her death like a wuss.
This apparently meant giving Emma Frost (with whom he’d already been cheating on Jean when she was alive) a big tongue-kiss right in front of Jean’s recently-interred corpse (or… on top of it? The art’s a little vague). So the future of mutantkind was essentially saved by incredible tackiness.
11. The time the X-Men fought in cyberspace in Pizza Hut
It was 1993, around the time that Tim Berners-Lee was introducing the World Wide Web. Well before the days of cat videos and fail-whales, there wasn’t a lot of imagery to inspire the storytelling when plot contrivance forced Cyclops and time-traveling X-Man Bishop to go “into the computer.” They spent most of their time wading through discount-Tron visuals and fighting their fellow X-Men as avatars, just like they did in real life all the time.
The comic was the fourth, final X-Men book produced for distribution at Pizza Hut, which became painfully clear on the last page, when the X-Men collectively grimaced at the camera, Professor X nattered on about how there would always be X-Men because there are X-Men and Jubilee interrupted with a shriek, “ME? I’m just STARVING. PIZZA, anyone?!” No one was talking to you, Jubilee.
10. The time Storm and Wolverine saved a lisping little girl robot bomb
Wolverine’s always had a soft spot for kids. One of his enemies decided to use that against him by [pick one]: (a) bribing a mutant girl to get close to Wolverine and betray him (b) calling Child Protective Services (c) advertising high-paying, boobytrapped babysitting gigs (d) sort of combining a and c by designing a five-year-old girl robot, Elsie Dee, to endanger herself and make Wolverine save her, then explode when he got too close (Wolverine #38, 1991).
But instead, moved by his willingness to protect her, she overcame her android programming – sorry, “andwoid pwogwamming” – and became his most underage girl sidekick, and the one with the shortest tenure. Storm was in that story too, technically. Maybe she actually did something and we just missed it.
9. The time Wolverine was even more feral and then wasn’t for no reason
After Magneto ripped all the adamantium metal out of Wolverine’s skeleton, we learned something else. Apparently the metal was all that was keeping him from mutating even more, so he progressively lost his human mind and appearance for about 12 issues of Wolverine in the mid-1990s (from #90 on).
Then he suddenly got his intelligence back but still looked like a noseless sabretooth-tiger-caveman in #102. Then, after a couple of changes in artist, he was back to his usual rugged good looks, despite not getting the adamantium back for years after. Considering how wildly varying the art styles were at the time, it’s possible someone assumed caveman Wolverine was just the previous artist’s attempt at drawing original-recipe Wolverine. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
8. The time Nightcrawler ended up dating his stepsister
Elsie Dee and Noseless Logan were brief additions to the canon, swept under the rug and never mentioned after a year or two, but the comics just haven’t let us forget Amanda Sefton, AKA Jimaine Szardos, no matter how hard we try. She’s the child of Margali Szardos, who also adopted Nightcrawler when he was a boy. Jimaine decided to stalk him after he joined the X-Men, take on another form and alias and start dating him. (Uncanny X-Men #98, 1976).
Nightcrawler, as it turns out, was totally fine with this magical catfishing and the two of them maintained an on-again, off-again relationship up to this decade, when Margali’s hunger for power left her daughter stranded in limbo. But this is comics, where everything done four decades ago is great because it was done four decades ago, so no doubt Kurt will be doing more step-brotherly tongue-wrestling before 2021.
7. The time Nightcrawler’s conception was revealed to make no sense
As if the rest of Nightcrawler’s family wasn’t screwed up enough (his birth mother was Mystique, by the way), in 2003’s Uncanny X-Men #433, he was also revealed to be the child of the demonlike mutant (Azazel, who has been trapped for millennia in Diet Hell (like Hell but not so… religious) and trying to use his “genetic connection” with his offspring to create a portal so he could get to Earth. How has he conceived these offspring? By mating with human women. (And Mystique.) Which involves going to Earth. Without the portal.
Have you spotted the carefully hidden flaw in this plot yet?
Just to compound this weirdness, Azazel later invaded the real Afterlife, not the phony mutant afterlife. Now he’s running around on Earth, and yet the Earth seems fine. Well, okay, not “fine,” but it doesn’t seem like he’s doing any damage to it.
6. The time they were cast in an alien production of The Wizard of Oz
One of Marvel’s oddest recurring villains has got to be the alien TV producer and slaver Mojo, a yellow half-skeleton, half-slug whose power comes from the Earth-inspired entertainment he provides for a whole cosmos. His audience is particularly fond of the X-Men, so he sometimes finds it worth the risk to brainwash, enslave or manipulate them into his productions.
In 1992’s X-Men #10-11, he gets Cyclops, Rogue, Wolverine and the Beast to believe they’re the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, the Cowardly Lion and Toto, forcing other X-Men to play Dorothy and the Winged Monkeys.
This was Jim Lee’s last Marvel work before he founded Image Comics with other then-superstar artists, and it’s hard not to read his choice of villain, who ended up (temporarily) dead at the end of the story, as a bit of a middle finger to the editors from whom Image was declaring independence. Today, Lee and Dan Didio serve as “Mojos” at DC instead.
5. The time Jean Grey found out Professor X had the hots for her
Sometimes a superhero series takes a year or so to fully gel and early installments have ideas in them that the later ones usually ignore. In their earliest appearances, Superman couldn’t fly, Batman shot people, the Fantastic Four wore street clothes…
And, in 1963’s Uncanny X-Men #3, Charles Xavier called his underage student “the one I love. But I can never tell her. I have no right! Not while I’m
like 45 and she’s 15, come on, man, I could wait thirty years and that’d still be creepy the leader of the X-Men, and confined to this wheelchair!” So… if he got his legs back and Cyclops took over, he’d have a shot?
Everyone mercifully forgot this until 1996’s X-Men #53, when Xavier was going kind of nuts and “giving birth” to the psychic villain Onslaught, formed from his repressed urges. Onslaught spilled the beans, then basically hit on Jean, which would have been embarrassing if it hadn’t been so terrifying. Well, maybe it was a little of both.
4. The time they fought an entirely human clown, and lost
Obnoxio the Clown, the mascot of one of Marvel’s short-lived humor magazines, showed up at the X-Mansion to entertain at Kitty Pryde’s birthday party in 1983’s Obnoxio the Clown vs. the X-Men #1. This was believable, because teenagers in the 1980s loved clowns, trust us.
Unfortunately, the mansion was under covert attack by Eye-Scream, a villain who could turn into ice cream, for whom the X-Men mistook Obnoxio. Even more embarrassingly, the X-Men and the Danger Room all completely failed to beat a guy who was basically a middle-aged, fifth-rate Joker, while Professor X defeated Eye-Scream by lowering the thermostat.
Obnoxio, unconcerned that the X-Men tried to beat him to a pulp, did take offense at Kitty giggling at him for some reason, so he sprayed water in her face and left. This made him about as good at being an actual, professional clown as the X-Men were at being super-heroes that day.
3. The time they inherited a castle full of leprechauns
The X-Men team that introduced Wolverine, Colossus, Storm and Nightcrawler was well-intentioned in its global diversity, but those characters had more going on than being respectively Canadian, Russian, African and German.
But the team also had Banshee on it, and the story notes involved in Banshee’s development seemed to be just “Irish. IRISH. Everything Irish. IRISH.” So he was named “Banshee” and his power was screaming really loud, his nemesis Black Tom channeled his power through a shillelagh, and, in Uncanny X-Men #101-#103, when Black Tom led the team into a trap in Banshee’s ancestral Irish castle, it was full of leprechauns.
The little guys not only helped the team win the day, but gave out Wolverine’s real name for the first time (“Mr. Logan”) and taught Nightcrawler to be invisible in the shadows. Like most things are. Because it’s dark in there.
2. The time they were all just babies
In Chris Claremont and Art Adams’ Uncanny X-Men Annual #10 (1986) Mojo, doubtless inspired by TV’s Muppet Babies, exposed the X-Men to some glop which made them get younger, losing their powers and getting more reckless and immature as they went. It fell to the New Mutants, teenage trainees at the Xavier school, to declare themselves the new X-Men for a day and save the original X-Men from Mojo and themselves.
When Mojo got record-breaking ratings out of the deal, his assistant assumed a sequel was on tap for next year. “NEVER!,” Mojo replied. “A true artiste never repeats himself!”
1. The five years of reprints
The strangest X-Men story of all time is just how unpopular Marvel’s mutants were throughout the 1960s and half of the 1970s, and what Marvel did about it, which would be unthinkable in the modern marketplace of collectors, trade paperbacks and digital editions.
After briefly canceling the title, Marvel decided there was just enough interest to make it worth reprinting many issues from earlier in Uncanny X-Men‘s run as issues #67-93, often with slightly reworked covers and new (short) backup features or other reprints, but without having to pay for new full stories.
Why the X-Men seemed to be stuck in a time loop while every other Marvel character, including some they crossed over with, were slowly moving forward was, predictably, never addressed. In 1975, the reruns came to an end with the mother of all relaunches, and X-Men sales have been healthy ever since. Although if Marvel never gets those film rights back, it’s always possible it might pull this trick again next decade.
Any bizarre X-tales we missed? The comments are at your disposal!