This text deals with the history of the popular franchise, the X-Men.
The original X-Men
In the early 1960s, Marvel Comics editor/writer Stan Lee, artist Jack Kirby and several other illustrators produced a number of superhero titles which stressed character personalities and personal conflict as much as action and adventure, including The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man. The X-Men was one of the last titles of this Silver Age renaissance, appearing in September 1963.
In the comic book series, the X-Men were founded by the paraplegic telepath Charles Xavier, also known as Professor X. Xavier gathered the X-Men under the cover of a "X-Mansion" at a large country estate at 1407 Graymalkin Lane in Salem Center, a city in Westchester County, New York.
Cover-billed as "the strangest heroes of all", the original X-Men consisted of five teenagers still learning to control their powers:
- Cyclops (Scott Summers), whose eyes constantly gave off heatless blasts of concussive force that could only be controlled by a "ruby quartz" visor. He would become the X-Men's field leader.
- Marvel Girl (Jean Grey, later known as Phoenix), a telekinetic, who would later also be revealed as a telepath
- Angel (Warren Worthington III, later known as Archangel), who took his name from the large, angel-like feathered wings which sprouted from his back at puberty and allowed him to fly. These wings would later be amputated and replaced with metal wings, but these later molted to reveal his feathered wings regrown.
- Beast (Hank McCoy), a genius who originally possessed a human appearance with enlarged hands and feet, and enhanced agility, and later became a blue ape-like creature, and more recently a cat-like creature.
- Iceman (Bobby Drake), who could lower temperatures, condensing ice from thin air, and transform into an ice form, and has recently learned how to rebuild his ice body from damage.
A precursor to the concept of a school for feared genetic mutants appeared in the 1953 science fiction novel Children of the Atom by Wilmar H. Shiras, which has been credited — though never officially confirmed — with inspiring the X-Men. The title characters of the novel were also mutants, the results of an unintended experiment in genetic mutation. The term "Children of the Atom" has also been used at times during the X-Men franchise's history, often as a subtitle for various X-Men publications and video games.
Despite the philosophical concepts which appeared in The X-Men, Lee has said he invented genetic "mutants" to find a way to create a number of super-powered characters without having to come up with a separate and interesting origin for each one.
X-Men #1 also introduced the team's arch-nemesis, Magneto, who controlled magnetism and who felt that mutants should rule over or kill all normal humans. Magneto's character would later be fleshed out to reveal that he once shared a friendship with Professor X, and that his decree that mutants must conquer or be conquered grew from his experiences as a Holocaust survivor. The X-Men #4 introduced Magneto's team, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, including Mastermind, the Toad, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Other villain were also introduced during this era who would loosely become affiliated with the Brotherhood over time, including Unus the Untouchable, the Vanisher and the Blob, the latter having the most longevity with the group, joining or aiding nearly every incarnation.
While a few other important villains debuted during the 1960s — such as Professor X's superhumanly strong stepbrother the Juggernaut and the mutant-hunting robot Sentinels — the X-Men often fought easily-forgotten mutant criminals, alien invaders and brutish monsters. As a result, this era is largely regarded as unremarkable and The X-Men became one of the less successful Marvel series during the 1960s.
During this early era, only one other member was briefly added to the team:
- Mimic (Calvin Rankin), who could use the powers of others, including the other X-Men. He is notable for not only having blackmailed himself onto the team, but also being the only member expelled by Xavier. Whether or not he is truly a mutant is heavily debated.
Lee and Kirby departed the series in 1966, handing the reins over to Roy Thomas and Werner Roth. Roth gave up the regular art chores in 1967, and Thomas dropped the scripting slot in 1968. The title went with no long-term creative time for about a year, but had a couple notable artists. Jim Steranko drew several issues, one added the villain Mesmero to the cast, and Barry Windsor-Smith drew three issues. In 1969, Thomas returned, joined by fan favorite artist Neal Adams in an effort to save the series from its sagging sales. These issues are more highly regarded by fans and introduced recurring villains Sauron and the Living Monolith, as well as two more X-Men:
- Lorna Dane (later Polaris), a green-haired mutant with similar powers to Magneto; and
- Havok (Alex Summers), Cyclops' rebellious brother who could absorb cosmic energy and use it to disintegrate objects or create energy bursts (like his brother, he had great difficulty controlling his destructive powers).
Though sales did improve while Adams illustrated the book, it was too little and too late, and Marvel stopped producing new issues of The X-Men in 1969 (Issue #66 March 1970 to be exact). The series continued by reprinting old issues and the X-Men appeared in other Marvel comics -- including prominent appearances in Marvel Team-Up, The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk and Captain America -- but faded to near-obscurity.
Late 1970s/Early 1980s
The all-new, all-different X-Men
In 1975, writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum introduced a new team of X-Men. Rather than teenagers, this group consisted of adults who hailed from a variety of nations and cultures. The wide range of cultures came from Marvel's intention to target the title in markets outside its U.S. base. Giant-Size X-Men 1 introduced this team, called together by Professor X to rescue the original team from captivity on the radioactive "living island" of Krakoa.
The "All-New, All-Different X-Men" were led by Cyclops, and consisted of:
- Sunfire (Shiro Yoshida), a hot-tempered Japanese mutant who could generate superheated plasma and fly
- Thunderbird (John Proudstar), an Apache who possessed superhuman strength, speed, endurance, reflexes, and instinctual tracking senses and skills.
- Banshee (Sean Cassidy), an Irish mutant with a "sonic scream" that allows him to fly and generate concussive sonic blasts.
- Colossus (Piotr Rasputin), a quiet, contemplative Russian who could transform his entire body into "organic steel", increasing his size, strength, speed and endurance while making him virtually indestructible.
- Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner), a rascally German who possessed great agility and the ability to teleport. His appearance, with iridescent eyes, blue velvet fur, three fingers on each hand, two toes on each foot, fangs, pointed ears, and a prehensile tail, makes him look like a demon. Note that one of his lesser known powers is the ability to fade from view in shadows.
- Storm (Ororo Munroe), a strong-willed African woman who was raised in Africa. She is psychically linked to the weather patterns of Earth, allowing her to control and manipulate the weather. Storm would become the X-Men's leader in times of Cyclops' absence.
- Wolverine (James "Logan" Howlett), a gruff Canadian government agent who possessed heightened senses, a regenerative "healing factor" which also slowed his aging process, and retractable adamantium claws. A covert agency named (Weapon X) had bonded the fictitious metal alloy to Wolverine's skeleton. Revealed piecemeal, Wolverine's origin would become one of the series's greatest mysteries.
After Giant-Size X-Men 1, Marvel began publishing new issues of The X-Men, featuring the new team minus Sunfire (who had quit) and Thunderbird (who had died in battle after two issues in The X-Men #95)). The series was illustrated by Cockrum and written by Chris Claremont, who would go on to become the longest-standing contributor to the series. One of the most important storylines of this era was "The Phoenix Saga" (The X-Men #101-108, 1977), in which Jean Grey (seemingly) bonded with a cosmic entity called the Phoenix and led the team on an intergalactic mission. The saga introduced the Shi'ar alien race and its empress Lilandra, a recurring love interest of Professor X. Moira MacTaggert and Proteus were introduced as well.
In 1978, Cockrum was succeeded as penciller by John Byrne, who also co-plotted the series with Claremont (soon retitled -- informally in issue #114 and officially in issue #142 -- The Uncanny X-Men). This marked the beginning of what many consider the X-Men's first creative renaissance, during which the series became one of the most popular in the industry. Following a confrontation with Magneto, Professor X and Jean Grey believed the X-Men lost and over the continuity of a year, the team fights its way back home. Byrne also introduced a series of Canadian-themed adventures with the introduction of Alpha Flight, a Canadian super-hero team. Wolverine consistently won awards as the most popular comic character, so between 1980 and 1984, at least one issue per year focused on him. In 1982, he was granted a limited series, penned by Claremont and drawn by Frank Miller, introducing the samurai element of his character.
Claremont and Byrne thrust the X-Men into a variety of desperate situations that tested their character, most notably "The Dark Phoenix Saga" (Uncanny X-Men #129-138, 1980). In this story, the aristocratic Hellfire Club seduced Phoenix, using Mastermind's mutant ability to create complex illusions. This tampering with her mind unleashed Phoenix's dark side, and she went on to destroy a populated planet with over five billion inhabitants. Although the X-Men tried to control her and apparently succeeded, Lilandra had Jean Grey captured in the hope of ending the Phoenix threat. Professor Xavier called for a duel of honor for the right not to surrender Phoenix. Lilandra, with the agreement of the Kree and Skrull as long as the superheroes' defeat was guaranteed, agreed to the challenge. The result was a battle on Earth's moon between the Shi'ar's Imperial Guard and the X-Men, with Jean Grey's fate hanging in the balance. The X-Men were eventually overwhelmed, but the stress of the battle, during which Cyclops was injured, overcame Phoenix's mental restraints against her dark persona, and it returned. At that point, Lilandra ordered the solar system destroyed in hopes that the Phoenix might be killed in the process, and Professor Xavier regretfully ordered the X-Men to kill their teammate to prevent such destruction. Because of Jean Grey's humanity and willpower, Phoenix committed suicide to prevent further loss, a watershed moment for comics; major characters had rarely been killed up to that point, and sacrificial suicide had previously been inconceivable. "The Dark Phoenix Saga" introduced several characters, including Kitty Pryde, the White Queen of the Hellfire Club (and future X-Man), and Dazzler.
For their swan song, Claremont and Byrne produced "Days of Future Past" (Uncanny X-Men #141-142, 1981), which portrayed a dystopian future in which America is a wasteland controlled by Sentinels. In this timestream, most X-Men, and other heroes, are dead, and mutants are confined in concentration camps. In the classic storyline, the psyche of the adult 'Kate Pryde' is sent back in time to the body of her younger self (Kitty), and she convinces the X-Men to help her thwart the assassination of a senator by a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants led by the shapeshifter Mystique and her new Brotherhood, including new characters Avalanche, Pyro and Destiny as well as the Blob. This dark vision of a future created by fear, hatred, and intolerance has inspired many X-Men stories in the years since.
In 1982, Claremont wrote and Brent Anderson illustrated the graphic novel X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, in which Reverend William Stryker began a religious crusade against mutants, capturing and brainwashing Professor X to manipulate his powers to attack and eradicate mutant minds. The X-Men united with Magneto to battle Stryker, resulting in one of the clearest examples of mutants as a metaphor for race relations in the series. More than 20 years later, the story partially inspired the plot of the second X-Men film.
Meanwhile, Uncanny X-Men continued with Claremont and artists such as Paul Smith and later John Romita Jr.. Early 1980s storylines introduced the aliens Deathbird and the Brood, the subterranean mutant gang the Morlocks and the futuristic mutant hunter Nimrod; explored Wolverine's love of Japanese aristocrat Mariko Yashida; saw Storm adjust to the (temporary) loss of her powers and form a relationship with the mutant government weapons contractor Forge; and delved into Cyclops' relationship with Madelyne Pryor, a seeming doppelganger of Jean Grey. This last story ended with Cyclops marrying Pryor and retiring from the X-Men.
The X-Men gathered several new recruits in the early and mid-1980s, including:
- Sprite, (Kitty Pryde), later called Ariel (briefly) and now Shadowcat, a Jewish-American teenager who could "phase" through solid objects, walk on thin air, utilize her powers to scramble electronic systems, and extend her intangibility to anything she touches. She would later be called Shadowcat after an adventure in Japan with Wolverine.
- Rogue, a southern belle who involuntarily drained powers and memories from anyone she touches, leaving them weakened or unconscious for the duration, and permanently comatose in a few cases. Rogue was introduced as a member of Mystique's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
- Rachel Summers, the second Phoenix (later the second Marvel Girl) and the adult daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey from the "Days of Futures Past" timeline. Telepathic, telekinetic, and able to travel through time astrally, she formerly acted as host of the Phoenix Force, which amplified her powers and allowed her to physically transport herself and other people or objects through time at will.
The series becomes a franchise
In the 1980s, the growing popularity of Uncanny X-Men and the rise of comic book specialty stores lead to the introduction of several spin-off series nicknamed "X-Books." The first, New Mutants, was launched in 1983 and featured a new group of teenager mutants attending Xavier's school. In 1985, the original X-Men, including a controversially resurrected Jean Grey, formed X-Factor. In 1988, Wolverine was granted his own solo series, which often dealt with his struggles with personal honor and his past. In 1987 Marvel added the offbeat Excalibur, featuring Rachel Summers, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat and the British superheroes Captain Britain and Meggan. With so many spin-off series, the X-Men franchise became one of Marvel's most valuable assets, although the X-Men mythos became increasingly complex and the larger X-Men storylines more difficult to follow. In the coming decade, the success of the X-Books would inspire other popular franchises, such as Spider-Man and DC Comics' Superman and Batman, to develop into interconnected "families" of multiple series.
Another controversial move was to have Professor X relocate to space in 1986 after he sustained injuries so severe that only Shi'ar technology could save his life, while a convenient solar flare prevented Xavier from returning to Earth. The major controversy arose from former arch-villain Magneto taking Xavier's place in running the school as well as the various X-teams (this was the reason given for the original X-Men's decision to form X-Factor and keep their identities secret -- they thought the new team had "betrayed" Xavier by working with Magneto).
This plethora of X-Men-related titles led to the rise of crossovers (sometimes called "X-Overs"), storylines which would overlap into several X-Books, sometimes for months at a time. The first, 1986's "Mutant Massacre," featured the Marauders, a group a murderous mutants, who slaughtered the Morlocks and severely injured many of the X-Men who intervened (Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler's injuries allowed the writers to ship them off to England for Excalibur). The saga introduced Mister Sinister, a nefarious mutant geneticist who was the Marauders' leader and a central figure in many subsequent plots. It also brought Sabretooth, previously an opponent of the martial arts hero Iron Fist, into the X-Men's world as an adversary for Wolverine, with the suggestion that the two were linked in the past.
During this period Claremont unveiled a new X-Men line-up consisting of Storm, Rogue, Wolverine, Colossus, Havok and several characters new to the team:
- Magneto, the team's then-reformed former nemesis, was left in charge of the X-Men and New Mutants by Xavier as he departed. Magneto left the X-Men after he failed to prevent the death of one of the New Mutants (Douglas Ramsey, also known as Cypher), and ultimately reverted to villainy. It was during this era, that Claremont expanded and gave Magneto his Holocaust origin.
- Longshot, a television action star with "good luck" powers from an absurdist alien dimension run by the tyrannical television network head Mojo.
- Dazzler (Alison Blaire), a former disco singer who could absorb sound energy and convert it into a variety of light effects, including lasers. Dazzler had been introduced in the book several years earlier and had had her own comic series in the intervening years.
- Psylocke (Betsy Braddock), originally introduced in the Captain Britain comic as an English telepath, she would change powers many times over the years, and would go through a body-swap with a Japanese woman, becoming a sexy, martial artist femme fatale in the process, and is currently telekinetic.
Also in this time period, in addition to crossovers, the X-Men co-starred in two mini-series: The Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men and The X-Men vs. the Avengers. The former took care of a dangling plot thread left over from the "Mutant Massacre" story, as the Fantastic Four's leader, Mr. Fantastic, and their enemy, Dr. Doom, were needed to save Kitty Pryde's life.
Following the 1987 "Fall of the Mutants" crossover, in which the X-Men died and were reborn fighting a demon called the Adversary in Dallas, the team briefly relocated to an abandoned outpost in Australia. The Australian period saw the introduction of the Reavers, a band of cyborg mercenaries, and the crossover "Inferno", which revealed that Madelyne Pryor was actually a clone of Jean Grey created by Mister Sinister. The X-Men and X-Factor battled Pryor, who was now the insane Goblin Queen, and the demons she had allied herself with. One of the high points of the story was the reunion of X-Factor and the X-Men -- X-Factor had no idea the others were really alive, and the X-Men had assumed Jean Grey was still dead. The Australian sojourn finally ended with Storm and Rogue presumed dead and most of the others, despondent, choosing to enter the Siege Perilous, a crystal which determined their individual fates. Claremont took this opportunity to write Dazzler and Longshot out of the series (they paired up and left to raise a child).
In late 1989, Marvel began publishing Uncanny X-Men twice a month, allowing Claremont to write intertwined plot threats involving a number of X-Men. The 1990 crossover, "The X-Tinction Agenda," pulled the X-Men back together, with Storm, Banshee, Wolverine, Psylocke and three new members:
- Forge , an American Indian with the mutant gift of instinctive invention.
- Jubilee (Jubilation Lee), a teenage "mall rat" who could generate explosive energy, she calls fireworks. Jubilee stowed away with the X-women when they teleported home from a mall excursion. She lived in their quarters without their knowledge for several weeks, finally revealing herself to save Wolverine from a crucifixion at the hands of Lady Deathstrike.
- Gambit (Remy LeBeau), a suave Cajun thief who could charge objects (most commonly playing cards) so that they exploded on impact when thrown. His hypnotic charm allows him to exert subtle influence over sentient minds, compelling them to believe what he says and agree with his suggestions.
The sales boom of the 1990s
After the X-Men's return to the Westchester, New York and Professor X's return to Earth in early 1991, Marvel revised the entire lineup of X-books. Artist Rob Liefeld transformed The New Mutants into the platoon-like X-Force, led by the mysterious warhawk Cable. The original X-Men abandoned X-Factor and returned to the X-Men, some of them much different from when they left. Beast had developed blue fur and earned a PhD in genetics and Angel, now called Archangel, had been transformed by the 5,000-year old supermutant Apocalypse and now had blue skin and metal wings. Meanwhile, Havok, Polaris and several secondary mutants formed a new, government-affiliated X-Factor.
To make room for the enlarged main team, Marvel launched a second X-Men series, simply called X-Men. Written by Claremont and illustrated by Lee, the new series featured the "blue team," consisting of Beast, Psylocke, Rogue, Gambit, Cyclops and Wolverine. Uncanny X-Men, written and illustrated by Lee and Whilce Portacio, featured the "gold team," consisting of Colossus, Iceman, Archangel, Jean Grey, Storm, and Bishop, a gun-toting renegade mutant from a distant future. Professor X, Jubilee, Banshee and Forge stayed on as non-combatant X-Men; Banshee and Forge left soon after for various reasons.
The popular art of Lee and Liefeld and the buzz produced by this reformation raised the X-Men's popularity even further and the first issues of X-Force and X-Men became two of the best-selling comic book issues of all time, thanks mainly to the sales boom from comics speculators.
Amid the success, internal friction split the X-Men books' creative teams. Claremont left after only three issues of X-Men due to clashes with Marvel editors and with Lee, ending his fifteen-year stint as X-Men writer. Months later, Liefeld and Lee left Marvel with several other popular artists (including Silvestri and Portacio) to form Image Comics.
The X-Men's rise in popularity continued, largely thanks to the Fox Network's top-rated X-Men animated series, which debuted in 1992. Meanwhile Uncanny X-Men was handed over to writer Scott Lobdell and artist Joe Madureira, whose manga-like style helped generate a new interest in Japanese comics in the U.S. X-Men continued with writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Andy Kubert.
X-overs proliferated, becoming almost annual events during the 1990s. Although they consistently boosted sales, fans began to complain that they were just contrived publicity stunts. Some of the more prominent crossovers from the decade include:
- "The X-Tinction Agenda" (1990), in which the government of Genosha, a fictional island off the coast of Africa where mutants are used as prison labor, captured the X-Teams.
- "The Muir Island Saga" (1991) in which the X-Factor and Xavier returned.
- "X-Cutioner's Song" (1992), in which Cable's clone and arch-enemy Stryfe framed the X-Force leader for an attempt on Professor X's life. He also captured and tormented Cyclops and Jean Grey, the genetic parents of both Cable and Stryfe, who were revealed to be time-travelers.
- "Fatal Attractions" (1993), which Magneto returned, ripping out Wolverine's adamantium and forcing Xavier to mindwipe him. It was continued in "Bloodties".
- "Phalanx Covenant" (1994), in which a collective consciousness infected with the Transmode Virus infiltrated the X-Mansion, kidnapped a small bunch of previously unknown mutants (including Husk), and plotted to eliminate mutant-kind. The Phalanx was eventually thwarted by the few X-Men who had not been incapacitated, and the cross-over resulted in the spin-off of the Generation X series.
- "Legion Quest"/"Age of Apocalypse" (1995), in which Professor X was killed by his time-traveling son Legion(David Haller) before the Professor had ever formed the X-Men. An alternate reality unfolded in which Apocalypse ruled North America and Magneto led the X-Men as a resistance force.
- "Onslaught" (1996), which dominated all Marvel series for two months. In this storyline, Professor X lost control of his powers, producing an evil, near-omnipotent secondary personality called Onslaught, which battled the X-Men, The Avengers and the Fantastic Four.
- "Operation: Zero Tolerance" (1997), in which an anti-mutant army is given government license to hunt down the X-Teams and other mutants.
Other important storylines included the slaughter (again) of the Morlocks; Iceman learning to deal with increased power levels, now able to turn completely into ice; the murder of Colossus' family and his subsequent defection to the Acolytes of Magneto; Psylocke discovering the origin of her transformation from English model to Asian assassin; the burgeoning relationship between Rogue and Gambit; Jean Grey abandoning her Marvel Girl codename in favor of Phoenix, to honor both Rachel and the alien life force; Rogue briefly quitting after absorbing Gambit's psyche; Bishop dealing with faulty memories from a timeline that could not exist; Psylocke and Archangel's near murders at the hands of Sabretooth, warranting their leaving the team; Wolverine mutating into a strange, unintelligent beast after losing his adamantium at the hands of Magneto; Iceman quitting to nurse his bigoted father back to health after being attacked by anti-mutant activists; and Gambit harboring a dark secret: he was the one who gathered the Marauders for Sinister.
The 1990s saw an even greater number of X-books, with numerous ongoing series and limited series running at any given time. Ongoing series from this time included Generation X, starring another team of teenage mutants and X-Man, the offspring of Cyclops and Jean Grey from the Age of Apocalypse reality. Marvel launched solo series for several characters including Cable, Gambit, Bishop and Deadpool, a sarcastic mercenary antagonist of X-Force. In 1998 Excalibur and X-Factor ended and the latter was replaced with the parallel world series Mutant X starring Havok.
Late 1990s/Early 2000s
Era of reformations
By the time "Operation: Zero Tolerance" concluded in 1997, major characters such as Bishop, Gambit, Jean Grey and Cyclops had been written out of the X-Men. In place, writers assembled a new team consisting of Wolverine, Rogue, Beast, Storm and several newcomers including:
- Cannonball (Sam Guthrie), a former member of the New Mutants and X-Force who flew at jet speeds;
- Joseph, thought at the time to be a mind-wiped (and somehow de-aged) Magneto;
- Marrow (Sarah), a former Morlock whose body grew protruding bones which she could remove and use as blades or clubs;
- Maggott (Japheth), a South African whose intestines took on the form of giant maggots, allowing him to digest any/all matter; and
- Cecilia Reyes, a Puerto Rican doctor with a personal force field.
When writer/artist Alan Davis began his stint as X-Men plotter and penciller in 1998, he scrapped that team, keeping Marrow, Rogue, Storm and Wolverine and returning Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Gambit and Professor X to the fold. Fans considered Davis' stint -- during which he illustrated X-Men and Adam Kubert illustrated Uncanny X-Men and which included the popular Magneto War and The Twelve (where Cyclops was killed off) storylines -- a moderate success, but Marvel ended it when Claremont agreed to return in early 2000 to write both core X-Men series.
With the event called "Revolution", Marvel instituted a six-month time gap between issues of the X-Books, allowing Claremont and illustrators to completely revise the X-Men in a single month. (A later mini series, X-Men: Black Sun, filled in part of that gap). Claremont's second stint featured mainly a cast of the old regulars: A main team appeared in "X-Men," consisting of Wolverine, Rogue, Colossus, Shadowcat, Psylocke, and a new Thunderbird: an Indian pyrokinetic named Neal Shaara. A sub-team appeared in "Uncanny X-Men" consisting of Gambit, Storm, Phoenix, Beast, and Cable, X-Force's former militaristic leader, now finally a full X-Man. Claremont soon also introduced former Hellfire Club ally "Tessa" as an X-Man, now called Sage. This character, who possessed telepathic powers and a computer-like brain, had been seen as a part of the aristocratic club for years but was revealed to be a spy for Professor X.
Wandering plot lines and forgettable new villains, such as the Neo, plagued Claremont's return, leading Marvel's new Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada to remove him from the two flagship titles in early 2001. Quesada paired Claremont with artist Salvador Larroca for a new title, X-Treme X-Men, featuring Sage, Psylocke, Bishop, Gambit, Thunderbird, Rogue and Storm operating outside the central X-Men, akin to the West Coast Avengers of the late 1980s-early 1990s.
At the same time, Marvel canceled Gambit, Bishop, X-Man, Mutant X and Generation X and completely overhauled X-Force. While these series had sold well, Quesada argued that so many mutant superhero titles had become redundant.
Marvel launched a few new books, not based on the theme of "fighting for a world that hates and fears them," including:
- Weapon X, a black ops villain team employing Sabretooth, Marrow and several other hard-edged characters.
- Exiles, a group of reality-hopping mutants from various parallel worlds.
- The new X-Force (later retitled X-Statix) a sardonic series featuring a group of publicity-seeking, corporate-sponsored mutant superheroes.
Other drastic changes of this time included the deaths of long-running characters Moira MacTaggert, Senator Kelly (both in the 2000 Dreams End, Colossus (as part of the 2001 Eve of Destruction, getting rid of the Legacy Virus), Apocalypse and Psylocke, and the long-awaited uncovering of Wolverine's beginnings in the 2001 Origin limited series
The Grant Morrison Years
2001 also saw the ascent of writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely to X-Men, retitled New X-Men, featuring the line-up of Beast, Jean Grey, Professor X, Cyclops, Wolverine and Emma Frost, a seductive telepath and former White Queen of the Hellfire Club. The team ditched their costumes in favor of black leather uniforms (resembling those of the 2000 X-Men film) and a student body of teenage mutants was added to Xavier's School. New X-Men was known for its multi-faceted allegorical science fiction concepts and ambitious, unexpected twists and turns such as the killing of 16 million mutants in Genosha at the hands of the Sentinels, as well as for controversial changes in long-established characterization. One of Morrison's more controversial plotlines involved the married Cyclops having a telepathic affair with Emma Frost behind Jean's back, as well as introducing Xavier's sister, Cassandra Nova, who is responsible for the Genoshan genocide. With his mutant status exposed to the mutant world, Xavier launches a corporation to help mutants worldwide. Morrison also returned Wolverines passion for Jean, and wrote new details in his Weapon X backstory.
Simultaneously Uncanny X-Men was revamped by writer Joe Casey and artist Ian Churchill (they were later replaced by writer Chuck Austen and a revolving door of artists). While "New X-Men" focused on Cyclops' five team members as teachers to a new generation, "Uncanny" focused on an "away team" and traditional action and adventure, featuring team leader Archangel and members Iceman and Nightcrawler. They were soon joined by:
- Chamber (Jono Starsmore), a former member of Generation X whose chest was filled with psionic energy;
- Stacy X (Miranda Leevald), a former prostitute who controlled pheromones;
- Husk, (Paige Guthrie), Cannonball's sister and another former Generation X member, who could rip off layers of skin to reveal stronger forms underneath; and, most surprisingly,
- The Juggernaut (Cain Marko), Xavier's step-brother, who had been a criminal and enemy of the X-Men since the mid-1960s (Austen had Juggernaut redeem himself, in one of the few storylines of his run that was well-received).
Austen brought back Havok, who had been floating in limbo (literally) ever since Mutant X had been canceled, as well as Polaris and Jubilee. Both Casey and Austen, however, received considerable backlash. Many critics felt Uncanny X-Men was treading a derivative and well-worn path (especially in comparison to the more adventurous New X-Men), while fans often objected to the changes that were made, including retcons of Nightcrawler's previously becoming a Catholic Priest as well as his parentage, a change in the character of Polaris (turning her into a cruel and mentally disturbed terrorist, and confirming a longheld suspicion of being Magnetos daughter), and a controversial Archangel/Husk romance (Husk being an 18 year-old roughly 10 years Archangel's junior).
Meanwhile, in "X-Treme X-Men," two other new characters were added to the team:
- Lifeguard (Heather Cameron), whose body would adapt to dangers thrown at her; and her brother,
- Slipstream (Davis Cameron), who could teleport using his "Warp Wave".
Another popular new X-Men series was Ultimate X-Men, writer Mark Millar and artist Adam Kubert's reinvention of the concept featuring modern teenager versions of the X-Men and meant to appeal to new readers. Ultimate X-Men was set in the "Ultimate Marvel Universe", alongside Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimates.
Morrison concluded his spectacular run with the return of Magneto in Planet X and Here Comes Tomorrow, and the death of Jean Grey, who once more bonded with the Phoenix Force. Controversially, Magneto becomes a full genocidalist, and is decapitated by Wolverine, and once more Cyclops watches Jean die.
In 2004, Morrison left New X-Men and Marvel prepared for what was already being called the "post-Morrison period", in an event called X-Men ReLoad. Marvel canceled X-Treme X-Men and placed Claremont back on Uncanny X-Men. This team, consisting of Storm, Wolverine, Bishop, Sage, Marvel Girl, Nightcrawler, and Cannonball had been granted U.N. authority in an act called the X-Treme Sanctions Executive (X.S.E.) and were given full authority and government approved status equal to the Avengers to act as law enforcers to mutant activity across the world. New X-Men reverted its title back to merely "X-Men," and featured Havok, Polaris, Iceman, Rogue, Gambit and Juggernaut. The company also launched Astonishing X-Men with writer Joss Whedon (well-known as the creator of the cult television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and artist John Cassaday (Planetary) Astonishing featured Cyclops, Frost, Beast, Shadowcat and Wolverine. To set up the three new teams, Cyclops mandated the X-Men ditch the leather outfits and return to their costumes, while unceremoniously removing Archangel, Husk, Jubilee and Northstar from active duty.
Astonishing X-Men became a hit among comic book fans due to Whedon's plotting and dialogue, and John Cassaday's clean and realistically-styled art. Some attribute the title's success to its relatively straightforward presentation: many X-Men books from the 1990s were known for complicated continuity and flashy art overshadowing the characters in the story. The series included the return of decisively dead X-Man Colossus, which fans generally accepted due to the nature of his death several years earlier. Astonishing X-Men earned a few spin-off limited series, such as X-Men: Phoenix - Endsong and Colossus: Bloodties. Psylocke was also resurrected in Uncanny X-Men (Chris Claremont had intended on bringing her back ever since her death over in X-Treme X-Men, but was not allowed to due to a 'Dead is Dead' rule at the time).
Marvel has also launched several new secondary X-Books, including District X, in which Bishop polices a mutant neighborhood of New York City, New X-Men: Academy X, a continuation of the recently launched New Mutants (vol. 2) starring Xavier's student body, and a new Excalibur, featuring Magneto (with the previous story retconned into an impostor named Xorn and Professor X's attempt to rebuild Genosha. Rogue, Nightcrawler, Gambit, and Jubilee all received their own eponymous ongoing series at this time, although Jubilee was canceled after only six issues, as it had sold less copies per issue than any other X-Men spinoff ever published at that point; Gambit and Rogue only made it to twelve issues each.
Meanwhile, the long-delayed series NYX introduced the character X-23, a teenage female clone of Wolverine who had originally appeared on the animated television series X-Men: Evolution. X-23 subsequently joined the school in New X-Men after helping the Uncanny X-Men team.
In 2005, Marvel's major crossover event, House of M resulted in a decimation of mutants, in which millions lost their powers, including Professor X and Magneto. Following the Deadly Genesis limited series, which revealed skeletons in Xavier's closet, he and Cyclops soon turned against one another, and the villainous character of Vulcan, Cyclops' brother, was introduced. Also, Wolverine regained all his memories, continued in Wolverine: Origins.
In the meantime, limited series such as Son of M, Generation M and The 198 dealt with the mutants who had lost their powers, with New X-Men studying it in full. Apocalypse is also resurrected, with Cable returning from limbo, turning heroes such as Polaris and Gambit became villains, though all are rescued in due time.
Meanwhile, the Avengers and Magneto deal with the missing mutant power in The Collective. Afterwards, House of M led onto Marvel's 2006 crossover: Civil War. Chris Claremont also moved onto New Excalibur. Xavier founded a new team in a storyline continuing Deadly Genesis as Ed Brubaker took over Uncanny X-Men.
Astonishing X-Men continued it's successful run, but as Whedon's contract was renewed for another 12 issues following his original 12 issue contract, and during 2006 the title became bi-monthly to allow him time to finish his arcs. He also returned Emma Frost to villainy. Rogue lead a splinter group in X-Men, consisting of seemingly reformed villains such as Mystique and Sabretooth, whilst the New X-Men suffered the return of William Stryker.