Books + Comics

Literally the Best Thing Ever: X-Men

For anyone who feels irreducibly, irrefutably, DNA-level different.

Collage by Caitlin

It is human nature to feel a strong affinity toward people or things that we relate to on a very personal level. And when the subject of our affinity happens to be a band or a book or a TV show, it’s even more awesome, because we can get all obsessed and fangirly, and in doing so find other ~kindred spirits~ with whom we bond, and it becomes a huge, cool CYCLE OF CONNECTION that reminds us that we really aren’t alone in this big ol’ scary thing called life—which is why I thought it would be fun to have a convo with my fellow Rookie Lola about why the X-Men are so cool, and why they mean so much to us.

I’ve long felt a kinship with this team of comic-book (and now movie) superheroes. They are a group of “mutants”—humans with superhuman powers caused by a mutated X-gene. Professor Charles Francis Xavier, aka Professor X, is a mutant himself, and he helped train the X-Men to use their powers to help the world. Sounds cool, right? Well, the mutants don’t have it so easy. Imagine having the ability to do something so incredible that most people wouldn’t understand, and so they might even become scared of you. Or imagine just feeling STRANGE. You get picked on, harassed, threatened, all because you are different. Being a chubby, extremely shy (yet highly intelligent!) biracial nerd who was constantly threatened by bullies due to a perma-bitchface—or, as my dad likes to call it, the “Lodi Scowl”—I never felt really comfortable among my classmates. I looked forward to being at home, in my room, surrounded by the things I liked: comic books and movies. When I was given my first X-Men comic by my dad, I immediately felt simpatico with the characters. I always had a thing for the underdogs, the unlikely heroes, the freaks with the hearts of gold! They became my friends. —Marie

LOLA: Shout-out to biracial nerds! I was one, too, the weird girl with no friends. Every day, girls would demand to know why my hair was so frizzy and why I didn’t straighten it. The things I was good at—reading, computers—alienated me even further. I remember trying to help one kid with his spelling homework and him snapping, “Shut up, you read the dictionary.” Ugh, ice burn. I can’t remember when I discovered X-Men—it was probably the Saturday-morning animated series, and not the comic books—but the first time I ever felt like a mutant, they were there for me. Most of the X-Men have an origin story that goes like this: they’re born normal until a moment of trauma (or puberty!) causes a power to emerge, alienating them from friends and family, often cruelly. Then Professor X brings them to the stately X-Mansion, where they find out that not only are they not alone in their weirdness, but that the weird part of them is what actually makes them a fucking superhero. I felt relief knowing there were other mutants out there, despite the off-chance that they might not exist. I think this identification was the connection for a lot of people. Take Junot Díaz! In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, he writes: “You really want to know what being an X-Man feels like? Just be a smart bookish boy of color in a contemporary U.S. ghetto. Mamma mia! Like having bat wings or a pair of tentacles growing out of your chest.”

MARIE: I think a lot of people feel a strong connection to the X-Men because the X-Men became empowered by their perceived “flaws” instead of being paralyzed or devastated by them. Not to say it was all quick fixes. It’s an ongoing struggle, and I think that’s what so many of us can relate to. There’s this rad tarot reader in San Francisco named Storm (after the X-Men character!) who uses X-Men cards as his deck. Then there was this dude I lurved who had a rap-funk group a long time ago, and one of their songs was inspired by the parallels between X-Men and the civil rights movement. Chris Claremont, one of the comic’s writers, once said, “The X-Men are hated, feared, and despised collectively by humanity for no other reason than that they are mutants. So what we have…intended or not, is a book that is about racism, bigotry, and prejudice.”

LOLA: The X-Men are for anyone who feels irreducibly, irrefutably, DNA-level different. And they grind through the same questions as the rest of us. Are mutants an evolutionary advancement, or a mistake in evolution? If you could erase or “cure” your differences, would you? Is it better to assimilate by being “normal,” or to make normal PAY for what it’s done? When I was made fun of for reading the dictionary, should I have stopped using big words? I grew up to be queer as Christmas, hitting my gay stride just as the big question in the U.S. became: should I adapt to marriage or should marriage adapt to me? Professor X along with his X-Men engage in this lively debate against Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants. The X-Men want to live in harmony with humans, and Magneto doesn’t.

MARIE: Yes! In the movie First Class, I understand WHY Magneto chose a different path than Xavier, and I kind of sympathize with him. Magneto’s family was executed by Nazis in World War II. His worldview is a result of the trauma he experienced as a child. He doesn’t believe humans and mutants can be equal, and he wants to protect his fellow mutants from experiencing the kind of tragedies he did. Professor X was raised with wealth and privilege. He wants peace between mutants and humans. And while most of us would agree with his approach, we can understand why Magneto became the person he is. Mutants, like humans, are multifaceted, and incapable of being 100 percent good or 100 percent bad.

LOLA: Right. Complexity! Baggage! Poor impulse control! Like real people. The relationship between Magneto and Professor X is true to real-life nemeses. They’re best friends who become worst enemies for the same reason they became friends: they’re so alike. They become each other’s direct competition. And even then, they still play chess together in a futuristic glass prison cell, because they’re the only people who really get what the other is going through.

MARIE: For a long time, I would sit on my bedroom floor after school, reading about the latest X-Men mission while other girls in my class were only reading Bop. Little did they know I was crushing simultaneously on Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell AND Beast, the blue “intelli-thug” (as I like to call him). A life of balance, always!

LOLA: Marie, I am not judging you. I cannot, when this 1995 Fleer Ultra “X-Men Spring Break: Gambit & Rogue” trading card was largely responsible for the sexual awakening of the nine-year-old who became the 26-year-old writing this article with you:

I wanted to make out with Rogue and Gambit, and I wanted to watch them make out. I wanted their relationship, I wanted to be them, and, according to this fanfic I wrote when I was 11, I wanted them to be my parents, too. Taking a moment.

Damn. That tension. The quote from Gambit on the back of the card: “Mon Dieu! How do you put lotion on a belle you can’t touch?”

MARIE: Poor Rogue. She couldn’t get any action, otherwise she’d put her lovermenz in danger, because she can absorb a person’s abilities and memories, essentially sucking the life out of them, just by touch! But what a fierce lady. I loved the team’s all-around strong female presence. If you are a mutant, there is no “weaker sex.” The female X-Men can kick ass just as hard as the men. Storm, who sometimes leads the group, has the power to manipulate the weather and fly. Jean Grey has telepathic and telekinetic powers, and when she transforms into Phoenix, reaching the apex of her mutant abilities, she can engulf an entire planet into flames. Baby gurl’s got skillz.

LOLA: Right! Jean Grey is kind of the manic pixie dream girl of the team. She’s the center of a love triangle with Wolverine and Cyclops. She’s the most basic of all the X-Women, and she STILL almost destroys the entire universe. She dies at least twice!

MARIE: There are SO MANY BADASS MUTANT LADIES! My personal favorites were always Jubilee, the rebellious, rollerblading mallrat whom I also bonded with, because she was Chinese, and Kitty Pryde, who became a sort of kid sister-type to many of the more established mutants. Kitty could pass through walls and had a cute little dragon named Lockheed as a sidekick. I wanted to be one of them! TAKE ME AWAY, PROFESSOR X!

LOLA: I feel you so hard. Maybe it’s because the location of the X-Mansion—Salem, New York—is a real place near where I grew up that I can’t rule out the idea that one day, if I am strong enough and my heart is brave enough, the X-Men will knock on (blow up?!) my door, yelling: “There’s no time—come with us. Now!” The possibility of this event helps me stay true to the importance of being a glorious mutant. That and my tattoo.

28 Comments

  • vintagewhimsy November 5th, 2012 7:38 PM

    I love how in X-men, the mutants all band together and look out for each other… Kind of like the Rookies! I think that teenagers should be kinder to each other. We’re all going through similar problems, after all.

    http://vintagereverie.wordpress.com

    • HollinsCollins November 5th, 2012 8:05 PM

      I totally agree <3

      (I love your blog, btw!!!)

    • I.ila November 5th, 2012 9:44 PM

      Yes! I love this!

  • AnaRuiz November 5th, 2012 7:44 PM

    The collages here on Rookie are insanely awesome.

    anaruizwriting.blogspot.com

  • katiemeg November 5th, 2012 7:45 PM

    this is fantastic. i loved x-men:evolution as a preteen and i’m still waiting for my mutant powers to kick in.

    just a reminder that kitty pryde is more than just a kid genius: she’s a prodigious computer scientist, has some badass martial arts skills, and that jewish girl swag!

  • katiemeg November 5th, 2012 7:45 PM

    ****kid sister

  • umi November 5th, 2012 7:49 PM

    I love the X-men! I myself am a biracial nerd.My favorite ( kind-of,bc he likes to work alone most of the time) is Wolverine.He’s like 100 years old and heals super fast and his claws are awesome.
    My dad told me he loved the x-men bc of the similarities to the civil rights movement . Professor X would be Martin Luther King ( he wanted peace and tried to solve things in a peaceful manner) while Magneto would be Malcolm X ( who was more violent and thought mutants were superior to human).
    x-men is just all around awesome tbh

    • eggzonable November 6th, 2012 4:43 AM

      thing that was always interesting for me… why doesn’t Wolverine have adamantium teeth?

      • umi November 6th, 2012 4:45 PM

        well,teeth are not bones.they are calcified but they arent bones.i’m not 100% positive on how they put the adamantium onto his bones but it wouldnt have effected his teeth~~

  • HollinsCollins November 5th, 2012 7:57 PM

    YAYY FIRST CLASS

  • missmadness November 5th, 2012 8:46 PM

    http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blog/2011/dec/22/mutant-rights/

    ^ really interesting podcast involving airport shipping and….mutant rights.

  • Moxx November 5th, 2012 8:47 PM

    yes yes eyshysy I love the x-mennnnn
    So many feels felt for nightcrawler while reading under the covers as a tiny girl (and still)
    <3 my blue bb <3

  • krissyt November 5th, 2012 10:05 PM

    this is dedication and fandom at its finest

    http://krissytuason.blogspot.com/

  • jenaimarley November 5th, 2012 10:23 PM

    Oh my gods this is SO great!
    My cousin, sister and I would dress uo as Storm, Mystique, and Jean Grey and traipse around playing make believe X-men games all day when we were little.
    We also named pets after the X-men characters.

    Like you lovely ladies note, X-men really addresses (and is a metaphor for) so many different kinds of isolation and discrimination (race, sexual orientation, etc etc)

    Thanks Lola and Marie!

  • mudcat November 5th, 2012 10:30 PM

    It’s a relief, sometimes, to realize that there are legitimately other people out there whose bizarre obsessions so closely parallel mine.

    Right, now clearly I’m inspired to read some trashy Gambit/Rogue fanfic. Away!

  • baratully November 6th, 2012 2:43 AM

    x-men! kitty pryde was my IDOL for a long time, especially for her portrayal as just the ”’little sister”’ for so long. as the youngest girl, i could relate. i waited for my mutant powers more fervently than my hogwarts letter.

  • FiveDimesForNineLives November 6th, 2012 8:27 AM

    AGHHHHHH I love X-Men! I remeber being a kid a pretending to be storm and trying to save the world.

    http://five-dimes-for-9-lives.blogspot.com/

  • Miarele November 6th, 2012 9:10 AM

    X-MEN EVOLUTION IS THE BEST. I watched the whole series over and over as a kid and back then I always thought I want to be a teenager with all the right combination of power and the angst like them. …………………………………………………………….maybe I still do even to this day tbh let’s be serious here.

    I think the best thing about X-Men is the wide array of characters, because there’s someone for everyone. There’s bound to be someone who represents you in a way, how different you feel, or at least you could relate to <3 Also, X-Men is the only superhero movie franchise that I watched all the installments of and loved ALL of it. So glad that finally there's people who appreciates First Class! everywhere I see it's just rants and complains!

  • Teez November 6th, 2012 11:20 AM

    i love x-men!!

  • ♡ reba ♡ November 6th, 2012 12:21 PM

    Yessssss!! I watched the cartoon almost every day and my dad is a huge comic nerd so i read a load of his and made him explain every detail of every one of the x-men to me!! Kitty and Nightcrawler were my favourites. I never really felt excluded because i was mixed race (British/Caribbean), more to do with my interests throughout primary school, but I still empathised and connected with the x-men. This has inspired me to go get out all my dads old comics!!! Articles like these are why I love ROOKIE xxxxxxxxxxx

    Also, that is the coolest tattoo in the entire world, no doubt in my mind.

  • SiLK November 6th, 2012 12:52 PM

    I got so excited when I saw this article, not in the least because I’ve never consciously pinpointed what makes me love these, my favourite superheroes, so much. Thanks Rookie!

  • Maradoll Mynx November 6th, 2012 1:18 PM

    Just feel like women are such an afterthought. (“x-’MEN’)…(‘Brotherhood’ of ‘Heroes’)…the goodlooking and talented women are there, sure…but…(?) Prob. just me.

  • nickz November 6th, 2012 3:32 PM

    X-Men was one of my favourite cartoons but there are so many versions of it,it gets a bit confusing.Anyways I m glad you didn t leave out Rogue she was my favourite female character.

    rightrough.blogspot.com

    • Lola November 6th, 2012 6:40 PM

      rogue is my favorite, too. writing this article inspired me to finally realize my dream of getting red-with-a-skunk-stripe rogue hair. if not me, who? if not now, when?

  • Sofiag November 6th, 2012 7:27 PM

    Love xmen!

    But did you read this:
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/115001-Federal-Court-Rules-that-the-X-Men-are-Not-Human

    It’s horrible!

  • alyssalyssa November 7th, 2012 9:03 AM

    This is such an awesome post ! I may not agree with a few of his ways, but if I have to choose, I’d join Magneto any day ( this is why my mother worries. ) ‘ Mutant and proud’ for the win !

  • onewithahippiesmile November 7th, 2012 2:37 PM

    goodness, thats exactly how i feel about x men! I was born with a white streak in my hair and no one knows why. When i was little i hated it, i felt like a freak, and i worked hard to hide it. than, when i was ten my nanny introduced me to the x men comics, and there was rogue who had the same white streak as me, and i was delighted to see that i wasnt the only one to be like this, and that being different could be cool too. i fall in love with x men and since then they are my favourite super heroes, i really love them. they taught me to like myself the way i am, and thanks to them i was introduced to comics, that are my biggest passion today. luved the article, x men is literally the best thing ever! <3

    ps.: your tatoo is just amazing, im jealous lol