Back in 1984 I’d just moved to America, had been introduced to Dungeons & Dragons, started listening to a lot more music, and picked up my first Marvel Comic. That first comic, an issue of Secret Wars, introduced me to a universe of characters who I quickly fell in love with. One team stood out for me above the others –The X-Men.
Now, almost 40 years later, I’m heading back to where it all began for our team of Mutant misfits. My plan with this column is to relook at each issue, starting with the September 1963 release of the first issue of The X-Men, and journey with them through their adventures, losses, personnel changes, good times and bad, throughout the years as they changed from The X-Men to The Uncanny X-Men on a run that would last 544 issues – and spawned dozens of spin-offs and introduced some of most iconic heroes and villains in comics, and wider media, today.
We open this issue with a photo op. The team, and Professor X, are all gathered (the team in costume, the Prof in a suit) for Graduation Day! Putting aside that Bobby (Iceman) is two years younger than others, and they’ve only been in the school for a year (so Bobby would be 17 at this point with the others 19) it’s a touching moment between the team and their mentor. Hank (The Beast) quips that maybe they should send a photo to Magneto, with a suitable inscription, such as “Always Thinking of You!”
The Professor tells the (former) students that they have mastered their mutant powers to his complete satisfaction and there is nothing more than he can teach them. They are the “forerunners of Homo Superior – superior man! You each have a priceless extra mutant power to be used for the good of humanity and, you must still keep your X-Men identities secret, for the world of ordinary humans is not yet ready to accept you – while Magneto and his band of Evil Mutants still seek to destroy you! And now, it is time to bid you farewell…”
“Farewell??!!” exclaims Scott (Cyclops), echoing the thoughts of the rest of the team, and also the readers…
“Yes! I have many unfinished tasks which I must now turn my attention to! So, I must leave you for a while! But, before I go, I shall appoint one of your as Group Leader, to act in my behalf until I return”
After that bombshell, we travel to another mansion – although this time a “lonely ramshackle mansion”, where we find Mastermind and the Scarlet Witch. The Scarlet Witch has been summoned by Magneto, who has yet to arrive, so Mastermind once again tries his ‘charms’ on Wanda to try and seduce/bribe her into being his lover. He promises her palaces, that the combined power of the two of them could have anything they want, that they could go anywhere at the slightest gesture. “Enough! You weary me with your empty images! When will Magneto arrive??” Wanda finally snaps at him. “Magneto! Magneto! Am I always to be plagued by that name? He doesn’t feel about you as I do! He has no emotions… no heart!”
Which is, as Masterminds luck (or lack of it) would have it, the exact moment that Magneto decides to arrive, having overheard Masterminds rant. Magneto throws Mastermind against the wall, reminding him he can “snuff out your treacherous life as easily as I’d snuff out a candle.” As Mastermind pleads forgiveness and reasserts his loyalty, Magneto (not for the first time in the last few issues) states that “Loyalty is for homo-sapiens!! I expect no loyalty!! I only demand fear – and blind obedience!!”
Quicksilver and The Toad arrive, with Quicksilver catching the end of the argument and pledging that if any harm comes to his sister they’ll have to answer to him – at which Magneto reminds him that he’s pledged no harm will be done as long as they continue to obey him implicitly. Then he moves to the main reason he gathered them… a plan to defeat, no destroy, the X-Men…
We find ourselves back at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters with The Professor and Scott walking down a corridor of the mansion that has previously been off-limits to Scott, and the other students. The Professor says he wants to show Scott something he’s been working on and opens a door to a room full or machinery – seemingly built with no rhyme or rhythm and looks more like an obstacle course than an advance scientific tool.
“You are the only other person who will share my secret!” The Professor informs Scott as he lights his pipe, “It is actually a complex E.S.P. machine, which I call Cerebro, from the Latin “”Cerebrum” meaning “The Brain!” It’s sole purpose is to aid in detecting new mutant brain waves – to help us locate other mutants – both good and evil!! These wires lead directly to my private office, transmitting all E.S.P. date as it is received!”
“But, Sir, why do you need that machine? I thought you could detect other mutants by the power of your brain alone!”
“True, Scott! I personally have little need for such apparati! But, while I am gone, the one who replaces me will find it most useful!”
“I have decided that you, the X-Man known as Cyclops, shall be group leader until I return!”
The next morning, with The Professor having left the mansion for pastures and tasks unknown, the team are enjoying their first post-graduation day off. They are up early and heading into town. Warren, Jean, Hank and Bobby find Scott in the Professor’s study and realise that he has been selected as their new leader. Congratulating him as the “logical selection” Scott thanks them, but says “I want you to know that I didn’t ask for thisassignment! In fact, I didn’t desire it! IU had been thinking of leaving the X-Men!” Angels sounds aghast, “Leaving the X-Men?? Why, Scotty?”. “You know how I fear the power beam which emanates from my eyes! I shudder to think what would happen if it ever accidently gets out of my control! I had hoped to visit various Doctors – to seek a cure! But, the Professor convinced me it is my duty to remain – to use my power against all evil – – no matter how I dread the task!”
The team give Scott encouragement and support “We know how you feel Scotty! And we’re with you all the way, pal” says Bobby, with Jean also giving him encouragement (with Warren seeing how she looks at Scott and wondering “can’t he see how she feels about him??” giving us a further glimpse of the future romance) and Hank suggesting Scott joins them as it might be good therapy. Scott declines though, “I’d like nothing better than to be with you – but I must remain here to look after things!”
The team, minus Scott, head out to, according to Bobby, “the coolest little coffee shop in Greenwich Village with the dreamiest waitress!” as Scott ponders of the loneliness of the task and how it must have felt for the Professor.
Meanwhile, at a noisy carnival that we’ve been to before, Magneto strides through the crowd (“This is the one place I can appear in public with impunity! All who see me think I am merely another costumed performer!” to watch the mutant known as The Blob. Now The Blob had his mind wiped a few episodes back when he refused to join the X-Men and they were afraid he’d be an issue as he knew their location. Magneto realises that The Blob is indeed a mutant, and a powerful one to boot, and introduces himself to Blob whilst probing his mind – only to discover a strange mental block he can’t penetrate.
There conversation is interrupted by The Blobs boss, who Magneto encages, before being set upon by the rest of the carnie folk. The Toad, and co, come to their masters assistance and make relatively quick work of the humans. Magneto offers The Blob the chance to join him, to which The Blob (as he did with the X-Men) refuses as he doesn’t need anyone. Magneto decides that he can’t leave The Blob incase he joins the X-Men and the two tussle, during which the force of Blob impacting a cart dislodges the mental block and he remembers the X-Men, and what they did. The X-Men are his enemies and he wants revenge – so he agrees to join Magneto.
At Xavier’s Mansion a siren howls and Scott sees that Blob’s name is flashing on the machine. Realising his memory has returned, and he has joined the Evil Mutants Scott calls Warren’s car radio to alert them and call them back to action.
The others, however, are really enjoying themselves as a very bohemian coffee shop, with poetry readings, jazz, and some very strange patrons. When Hank removes his shoes (as they’re hurting his oversized feet) many of patrons are enthralled at their size and end up claiming him as the ‘King of the Barefoot Beats’, hoisting him on their shoulders as they parade him around the shop before stopping to paint his feet.
Whilst this is going on Bobby is chatting up Zelda, an attractive waitress at the coffee shop. His flirtations are interrupted by Warren, who has received Scott’s message over the radio, who calls the team away from their R&R (much to Hank’s relief) and into action.
Magneto, and co, are laying a trap for the X-Men in a factory he owns and then issues his challenge… “X-Men!! I intend to put the entire city under my control! I challenge you to stop me! You can find me waiting at the following address…”
As the X-Men arrive, by helicopter, at the address they spot The Blob waiting for them. Displaying caution they decide to hover whilst looking for the rest of Magneto’s crew, much to Magneto’s annoyance – so he uses his powers to pull the helicopter apart mid-air. Iceman creates a slide for the X-Men (apart from Angel who flies down into action) so they can land safely.
Angel, as he has seemed to do in most issues, runs into trouble and is grappled by The Blob. The Beast jumps to his defence, but is also pinned down . Marvel Girl tries to raise The Blob up, but his weight is just to great and she exhausts herself and Cyclops and Iceman have to come to her rescue as Magneto launches a barrage of torpedo’s at them, which thankfully Iceman manages to deflect.
The Beast manages to use some quick thinking to free Angel and himself, but The Angel Is soon engaged by Quicksilver who not only fights him but keeps Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Cyclops busy until Marvel Girl catches him with her telekinesis and keeps him spinning in the air.
Scarlet Witch goes to save her brother, but Magneto stops her, “No, you little fool! Don’t distract them! I want them gathered in one group like that!”. But Scarlet Witch manages to use her hex power to free Quicksilver who rushes back to safety. The Blob, currently incased in a large ice block, breaks free and advances on the X-Men. Magneto see’s his chance with the X-Men all in one place and launches the rest of her torpedos at them. “But… the Blob!! He’s there ith them, too!!” exclaims Mastermind, “That’s his hard luck! He’s served his purpose!!” Magneto gloats as his torpedos streak across the short distance… whilst Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are once more aghast at Magneto’s callous actions.
Not all goes according to plan though, as the X-Men launch themselves behind Blob who takes the full force of the missiles, which only knock him over.
Magneto decries his bad luck, whilst Scarlet Witch berates him, “Magneto, I know you saved my life once – and because of that I owe you my allegiance! But I can’t take any more of this senseless carnage!” Magneto seems to ignore this latest outburst and instructs the entire team to retreat back into his Magna-car for a getaway, leaving The Blob and the X-Men behind.
Angel and Cyclops are ready to blast the car out of the sky, before realising that Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch have gone back with Magneto. Not believing the duo evil, Cyclops refrains from taking the shot.
Iceman taunts The Blob about being left behind by his pals, but The Blob says he realises he has no pals. Marvel Girl tells The Blob they don’t need to be enemies, and invites him to join the X-Men. But for the second time The Blob turns down the offer, “No! I’m thru with fighting other people’s fights! I’ll never trust anyone again!”. He claims he is weary and just wants to go back and live peacefully at the carnival.
As the X-Men let him go his way their attention turns to how they are going to get back home. The helicopter lies in ruins, so Iceman asks if anyone has any change so he can call a cab for them.
“Have no fear – Angel’s here! I’ll fly ahead and hail a taxi for us!” Angel informs them, “While you’re at it, borrow the fare! Your ‘Group Leaders’ broke!” calls Cyclops after him…
And thus issue 7 draws to a close.
Quite an interesting issue, with the first glimpse of Cerebro, Cyclops becoming the designated group leader, Scarlet Witch seeming to really be nearing the end of her loyalty towards Magneto, and the return of The Blob. Who knows where the Professor has headed off to, but he no doubt has a number of projects and people he’s not seen over the past year or so whilst he dedicated all his time with the fledgling X-Men and their training.
Overall I enjoyed this issue, much more than the previous issue. Next issue we see one of the X-Men leave the team (and surprisingly not Scott who had informed us this issue that he was on the verge of leaving before the Professor made him leader of the team), and a new villain.
“The Return of The Blob!” is written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Jack Kirby.