Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How is an iconic character an anachronism?: Marvel kills off Professor X (for now)

I stopped reading the X-Men family of books some time ago. However, the comics purist in me is feeling a little ticked off----again----because of an article in today's New York Daily News.

With the X-Men soon to celebrate their 50th anniversary, Marvel decided to do the seemingly unthinkable, and kill off Professor Charles Xavier, the founder of the team and the school that had served as its base for years, in the latest installment of their Avengers vs. X-Men event maxiseries, out today. I think I know where the writers got the idea, though.

Think back to "X-Men: The Last Stand", the third installment in the movie series. Xavier (Patrick Stewart) was killed off then, too, thanks to the Phoenix-possessed Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). In the book, it is Scott "Cyclops" Summers, another original X-Man, who does the deed. As with most comic book deaths, you don't expect this to stick, contrary to what Marvel's Tom Brevoort's claim that this will be permanent. Right, and if you believe that one, I'm sure Brevoort and his cohorts have a bridge to sell you.

In the Daily News account, Xavier, or Professor X, if you prefer, was referred to as an anachronism, out of place in modern comics. Oh, really? In terms of the overall story, you can say that perhaps it was time to move forward, but the editors at Marvel, ignoring the fact that they're now part of the Disney conglomerate every so often, are looking for headlines, shock value, and a quick boost in sales, not specifically in that order. Today's generation might be able to buy into it, but older readers, depending on whom you talk to, might not be so quick. When Stan Lee & the late Jack Kirby introduced the X-Men in 1963, the idea was that you had 5 young people gifted with extraordinary abilities, but sheltered because of then-prevalent prejudices about anything/anyone that was different. Xavier was the bedrock that held the team together, the cornerstone of the series. Nearly 50 years later, you can make a case that the torch has been passed, with Summers, Grey, Wolverine, et al, doing the teaching. That's all well and good, but the manner in which Marvel is going about eliminating Xavier from the picture doesn't ring true enough to suit this writer.

In the last 5 years, Marvel has killed off Captain America and brought him back. They did the same with the Human Torch. Jean Grey has been killed off 2-3 times in the last 30+ years, but brought back every time. If Brevoort, Axel Alonso, and their staff think this will be any different, they're kidding themselves.


Samuel Wilson said...

This won't be his first death. Marvel whacked him during the original run of the book in the Sixties, but brought him back toward the end to explain that he had to fake it earlier.

hobbyfan said...

Sam, I knew about that storyline, which wasn't referenced in the Daily News article.

The trend now is that iconic characters such as Xavier are being used in this manner as a means of a quick boost in sales, and in the Buckley-Quesada-Alonso era, that means mainstream press as well.

As a long time reader, don't you think this is getting too disturbing, anyway?

Samuel Wilson said...

Sad, not disturbing, because it proves that these writers really have few actual story ideas. Also sad that Marvel let the media spoil the issue in the hope of getting more sales for an "event" issue. But having read the thing now, I question whether he's even dead for the moment.

hobbyfan said...

Every "event" in the last few years, from the pseudo-outing of the Rawhide Kid to the same-sex marriage of Northstar (also in the X-family of books) to now, has been leaked to the press in order to lure in the casual reader in the faint hope that said consumer might be curious enough to invest in it. DC does the same. In contrast, when Archie introduced a gay character (Kevin Keller) a while back, while it got considerable media attention, it was low-key compared to the sturm und drang of the big boys.

Oh, and one more thing. I too believe Xavier is not dead, and you provided a clue with your reference to his previously faking death in the 60's. They may be going to that well again, I think.