Last week, Marvel announced New Mutants Forever, which joins X-Men Forever and Louise Simonson’s X-Factor Forever to form a trifecta of retconned mutant continuity. Picking up after the events of New Mutants #54, Forever offers longtime X-scribe Chris Claremont a chance to explore what might have been had he remained on the book. It’s a way to extend the olive branch to crusty old fogies who haven’t read the books since the eighties (a time we like to refer to as “when they were good”) as well as yet another milking of the cash cow that is the X-Men. It seems that there are a million titles in the X-Universe and pretty soon we’ll have a million more that are outside regular continuity.
And it’s got us thinking… why stop now? Of course it’s cool to see where Claremont would’ve taken the series and it works with Simonson as well. But there were other X-writers who had decent runs and might deserve another crack at it. Today’s Comicscape explores another Forever we wouldn’t mind seeing.
New X-Men Forever
Back in the day, Marvel made a name for themselves by tackling topical issues and putting a little realism into their comics. Nowhere was it more prevalent than in the X-Men, where mutants became an analogy for any and every minority struggling to survive in a world that hated and feared them. Subject to religious persecution and distrust from the government, mutants were the freaks we could all identify with and Magneto and Professor X acted as the Malcom X and Martin Luther King jr of the superhero world. It was great stuff, but after having it crammed down our throats for 30 or 40 years, it got a little old. Like we were having the same conversation seven times a day, seven days a week.
Then along came Grant Morrison. Turns out the battle between mutants and humans was long since over and we’d lost. The next stage of evolution was upon us and it was time to make way for homo superior. Professor X’s vision of human/mutant co-existance appeared to be the victor (though radical mutant dissenters existed within the halls of his own school) and ol’ Chuck even came out of the mutant closet, announcing to the world that he was a mutant. The X-Men dropped the costumes in favor of sexy new uniforms and the X became less of a target and more of a brand name. We found out that Wolverine wasn’t Weapon X, he was Weapon TEN and that Captain America was Weapon I and we were introduced to a mutant-specific drug that enhanced your power levels. We were treated to little bits about the collective unconscious, the nature of space and time and saw superpowers being utilized in brand new ways. Scott Summers was having an out-of-body affair with Emma Frost and we saw less pretty-boy mutants like Scott or Warren Worthington and more characters like Beak, who actually couldn’t walk down the street without scorn.
Seriously, having to wear sunglasses all the time isn’t all that bad. Being insanely handsome and having giant wings that you can easily strap to your back when you want to hide them isn’t a terrible detriment and having to live your life as a ridiculously beautiful black woman with white hair and blue eyes… yeah, that doesn’t sound like someone who would be hated and feared. Stared at, maybe. And in some parts of the country, yes we concede that she would be hated – but not because of her white hair. But in New York City? Really?
And no, Morrison wasn’t the first writer to do this; Nightcrawler, Beast and a few others couldn’t exactly walk down the street without sporting the classic trenchcoat and slouch hat look. But with Morrison’s run, we saw more of it and we saw more outlandish and freakish characters who couldn’t just put on a coat and hat to disguise their deformity… and beyond that, they didn’t want to. Much of the credit here belongs to the artists who worked on the title as well as the changing times. In this respect, Morrison just took familiar X-Men tropes and turned ‘em up to eleven. In fact, that’s pretty much what he did with everything about the X-books: he just turned it all up to eleven and advanced it along it’s natural path. The path a book like that would have taken were it not mired in the mainstream Marvel U.
Grant Morrison gave us a bunch of grotesque characters, brilliant new concepts and actually evolved the X-Men for the first time in years. He made them cool again. He made them matter and it made it okay to read the X-Men in public and not be embarrased. And the minute he was off the book, Marvel did everything in their power to erase everything he created, relaunching the X-Titles with new looks and new directions, putting the costumes back on and not too long after, de-powering most of the mutant population to once again make them a tiny minority, hated and feared by the rest of the world. In short, they took a brilliant new concept and shot it in the head, setting mutant creativity back 30 years.
The Whys and Wherefores
Maybe it was because Morrison took things too far and shook the status quo up too much. As we all know, you can only rattle the apple cart so much before everything has to be set right again. Morrison made the X-Men interesting for the first time in years, but that once-exciting, now-boring foundation that the franchise had been built upon has sold an awful lot of t-shirts, action figures and pajamas. Sooner or later, it had to go back to boring status quo.
Maybe Morrion was just too damn good? The hive mind of the Stepford Cuckoos, the (quite literal) mind-f*ck that was Scott and Emma’s affair and the concept of a man with a star for a mind… well, these ideas are all distinctly Grant Morrison and not the type of threads that many writers can continue, much less follow up or try to top.
But we’re not here to wonder why. We’re here to put forth the notion that if anybody deserves a Forever title, it’s Grant Morrison. Sure, we’ve always been dying to know what Claremont would’ve done with the X-Men if he hadn’t been treated like dirt by editorial and driven to quit. Louise Simonson left a lot of dangling plot threads on X-Factor and the notion of returning to those ideas to see what might’ve been is thrilling. But Grant Morrison basically reinvented the X-Franchise from the ground up and took the concept into a new millenium. He gave us an X-Men that we could rally behind and evolved what the characters could be into what they should be. It wasn’t just a good X-book or a good superhero book; it was a damn good comic book, period. Grant Morrison took the X-Men to new heights during his run on the title and we’d love to know just how far he might’ve taken them if he’d stayed on the title for a few years more. If any creator’s work is deserving of a Forever title, it’s Grant Morrison’s X-Men.