The X-Men, one of the most popular teams in comic book history, almost went by a different name, according to Stan Lee. If not for Lee's publisher, the comic book series would have been titled The Mutants.
Created by the legendary duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the X-Men debuted on September 10, 1963 in the pages of their own title, The X-Men #1. Conceived as a group of teenagers born with special abilities, the X-Men originally consisted of five young mutants: Cyclops, Marvel Girl (Jean Grey), Ice-Man, Angel and the Beast. Over the years, mutantkind and the X-Men became a cornerstone of the Marvel Universe. As the team expanded to include characters such as Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus, the X-Men's popularity soared. As a group full of fan-favorite characters, the X-Men have been the focal point of numerous video games, animated TV programs and movies to date.
Speaking to fans at Wizard World Nashville, Lee talked about creating the iconic superhero team and his vision for the comic. Lee also shared a story on the origin of the 'X-Men' name. Lee claims that his original idea was to call the group 'The Mutants', but the name was rejected by Marvel's publisher at the time, Martin Goodman:
I wanted originally to call them The Mutants and he said, 'you can't call them The Mutants' and I said, 'why not?' He said, 'our readers, they aren't that smart.' He had no respect for comic book readers. He said, 'they won't know what a mutant is.' Well, I disagreed with him, but he was the boss so I had to think of another name. So, I went home and I thought and thought and I came up with the X-Men and I mentioned it to him the next day and he said, 'that's okay' and as I walked out of his office I thought, that was very peculiar. If nobody would know what a mutant is how will anybody know what an X-Man is? But he had okayed the name and I used it.
After adding that he didn't believe Goodman was "very smart," Lee humorously remarked, "I can say that now because I'm not working for him anymore."
Martin Goodman is an important figure in Marvel history. Goodman founded Timely Comics in 1939, and re-branded it as Marvel Comics in 1961. Goodman remained the publisher until 1972 when he was replaced by his son, Chip. Shortly after, Stan Lee succeeded him as president.
Source: Stan Lee [via Comic Book]