I am waiting for tonight’s Dr. Who finale to pronounce my judgement on the Twelfth Doctor and its flavour of Cycle 24 New Psychedelia . (Read up on the Sekhment Hypothesis and the hippie maxima being in ascendant). I had wanted to revisit the Claremont/McLeod New Mutants this month after 30 years but the TPBs are dreadfully expensive.
Then last week’s “Goth at the BBC” compilation regaled us with the spectacle of Speciemen’s hilarious Rocky Horror pronouncement : “Peasants gather round oh beautiful mutants”.
This doggerel reminded me it was the twentieth anniversary of Generation X, the Nineties generation of Marvel’s mutants. Synchronicity indeed!
This moody, monstrous class of mutant teens made their debut in The Phalanx Covenant. A small scale crossover event by comparison to the modern era, it involved an attack on some new mutants by a group of human supremacists infected by Warlock’s Transmode virus. The story ends with the sacrifice of Blink ( who’d go on to appear in this year’s’ X-Men: Days of Future Past.)
The creators were Scott Lobdell ,Joe Madueira, Fabian Nicieza and Andy Kubert. It feels quite contemporary, probably because the art styles are so influenced by early 90s Image Comics… as are modern DC books.
When GNX were launched in their own comic, the art was by Chris Bachalo. Stylised and moody but with a quirkiness that replaced the Neal Adams-ish photo realistic elements of Bill (New Mutants) Sienkiewicz. Ugliness and cartoon elements abound in GNX making the kids feel less wholesome and more, well, Goth.
Where the New Mutants of the previous decade were often rather child-like and twee ( even Sam, who was shaving), GNX looked more dangerously glamorous and adult. They were loners with literally spikey peronalities and Angelo even smoked. Don’t call them X-Babies!
Actually, don’t call them at all. Very few are around in any form today. Mondo, the short-lived Samoan member and the mute Penance were essentially red herrings. Skin and Synch were killed off. Husk and M were hived off into other X-Books as was Chamber. The disfigured poster boy of the group, an analogue of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman- or even of Gaiman himself -was a passive-aggressive character, given to glaring in the rain, whilst delivering his monologues in telepathic thought balloons. The Ultimate Goth hero is now reduced to cameos.
Even the Identification Figure -the Cyndi Lauper-ish Jubilee – lost her sass and sparkle,vampirised years ago but too late for GNX. Happily though, the MC2 version of Jubes grows up to serve as leader of the X-Men, sorry, X-People.
On the other hand, the series effectively created or reinforced the star-status of the adult leads: all former X-foes. Banshee was clearly rejuvenated and became a buff, bearded Irish hunk from the cover of a romance novel. A far cry, sadly, from the spectral, androgynous figure designed in the 60s by Werner Roth. The ultraviolent Sabretooth was in the midst of his bizarre transition from serial killer to antihero while the conflicted super- bitch Emma Frost provided sexual chemistry with Banshee that would ultimately lead to her starring role in Morrison and Whedon’s iterations of the X-Men.
Curiously, GNX was awarded its own TV movie , predating the Jackman-Stewart-McKellen cinema cycle. I haven’t seen it for years but US sensation Max Headroom is the villain. Sort of. Bwah-ha-ha.
What GNX proves, ultimately, is the strength of the X-Men’s core concept. They are not, despite the potency of the Claremont-Cockrum-Byrne 70s era, a super- powered strike force but a school. And as I now know, all students have to leave eventually but the classes are refreshed with new intakes. The experience is similar but always individual.
Many of these Marvel students are now long gone but the legacy of Young X-Men, New Mutants Vol. 2 , Genext and Wolverine and the X-Men proves that mutant school days are the best of their lives.
To conclude: another shape-shifting character, blending tragedy and comedy, is fifty this month. Metamorpho, the Fabulous Freak created by Ramona Fradon and Zany Bob Haney, is one of my earliest Batman memories. He was a strangely comfortable fit in the campy (Batman and) the Outsiders of the 80s. But the chemical hep-cat has resisted attempts to turn him into a moody, Goth outcast. Happy 50th, Rexy-Boy.
Coming soon: Signs, wonders and death in Heaven.
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