Monday, April 21, 2014

Avengers Firsts: Quicksilver & the Scarlet Witch

X-Men #4 (March 1964)(cover by Jack Kirby and George Roussos)
"The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!"
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Inker: Paul Reinman

Karen: We're back with our second 'Avengers' Firsts', this time looking at those terrific twins, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. The first thing you might notice is their appearance on the cover: the Scarlet Witch is colored green, and Quicksilver, who wears his green costume on the pages inside, is garbed in blue here! What a mess. But this introduction to two important members of the Marvel universe is a pretty fun read. Beyond just being the first appearance of these two characters, it also brings the concept of Xavier's and Magneto's conflict and differing philosophies to the fore.

Doug: I'll be using the X-Men Marvel Masterworks, volume one for reading; the art in today's post is from the X-Men dvd-rom, but we'll also include a couple of scans at the end from the Masterworks to show some specific coloring differences. Editorial seemed to think that maybe it was a better idea to correct the twins' costumes for the high-quality Masterworks reprint! Like you, I really enjoyed prepping for today's review. I'd only read this story one other time, and it was the better part of two decades ago -- it really had a fresh feel to it this time around.
I'd echo your comments about the relative importance of this particular comic, in light of the public's primary knowledge of the Marvel Universe coming through the feature films. Much of what happens between these covers is seminal to the X-Men franchise, and now with Wanda and Pietro set for their silver screen debuts it carries a bit more weight.

Karen: This issue starts out with the X-Men in the Danger Room -is it just my imagination, or did half the early X-Men issues start this way? Anyway, Beast is being put through his paces. He nearly completes his obstacle course but fails right at the end and falls into a pool of water. After getting some words of wisdom from Professor X, it's Iceman's turn. He's still the fluffy, snowman-like Iceman. He  also does well, to a point.
After another short lecture from the Professor, it's Jean's turn. But she has a simple task: to lift the lid on a box. Teacher's pet! Inside is a birthday cake. Professor X says it's been a year since they began training and it's time to celebrate. Hey, he wasn't all bad! The youngsters gather around their teacher and dig in, smiles all around. Amusingly, Cyclops slices the cake with his eyebeam. Apparently he had achieved remarkable control even at this stage.

Doug: The Danger Room certainly received some modifications over the years, didn't it? Using the Masterworks, I flipped back through the previous three issues, as I thought this story was the first in which the term "Danger Room" was used; wrongo, buckaroo. It was in issue #2. But you're right -- in these first few months the team seemed to spend every moment at the school in said training facility. I suppose that's OK if Stan and Jack felt that they were doubling their readership each month (probably not the case) or just wanted to toy with the mutants' powers. 
One thing I did take note of as a major shift in characterization from the premier to this ish was the upgrade of Hank McCoy's speech patterns. Gone was the Thing-like grammar and in its place was a more "normal"-sounding fella. He didn't seem to be the scholar he'd grow to be, but he'd certainly left the street-level talk behind.

Doug: Even at this early stage, the team had formed their personalities that would carry them all the way into the Bronze Age. Bobby would mature the most, I guess -- but he had the furthest to grow. I always felt that Warren looked the coolest of the five, but was perhaps the most bland. Sure, his jerk-like qualities sometimes rose to the surface, but editorial perhaps didn't want him to stray too far from his namesake, I guess. 
Oh, and in regard to Cyke's eyebeams and our discussion of such back in the "Secret Empire" storyline -- everything I'm seeing in these early issues has them as force beams. No heat seems to be present.

Karen: We switch scenes to another group of mutants gathered around a table, eating, but this is a far different gathering. This is our first look at the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants: Toad, Mastermind, and the focus of our review, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Gone is the camaraderie we saw with the X-Men; instead, Quicksilver upbraids the Toad for his table manners in front of his sister, while Mastermind comes on to her. Wanda, appalled and quite angry, uses her hex power to cause a bottle of water to fall over into Mastermind's lap. 
As he prepares to retaliate, she calls to her brother, and Quicksilver gives Mastermind a swift right to the jaw, knocking him off his feet. Mastermind is about to return the favor when the Toad begins hopping with glee, telling them go ahead, destroy each other, then just he and the Witch will be left to rule alongside "the Leader"! At the mention of "The Leader" Mastermind backs down, knowing that Quicksilver and his sister are integral to his plans. Hmmm, who could this mysterious Leader be???

Doug: Talk about nailing it the first time! Quicksilver upbraids the Toad, indeed! "Toad! Must you chomp your food like that?? My sister happens to be at the table, you obnoxious fool!" No lie -- laughed out loud when I read that. So I said the Angel was jerk-like above. Pietro would take any and all comers in a jerk contest and destroy them all! We spent some time last week discussing the elements of Hawkeye's personality that would stick and grow to become literally who he was/is. Stan truly does nail it the first time with a) Pietro's brashness and speech patterns, and b) his twisted devotion to his sister as her guardian and protector. Given that this was a Silver Age story, we had no inkling that Wanda's power would one day far eclipse her brother's and that she would make a better protector for him! I loved Wanda's costume in these early years, from her headpiece to the rings around her boots.
There really was no reason to sex her up as many artists did over the course of the 1980s-'00s.

Karen: I think you're a bit hard on Pietro -he's a hot-head, but at this stage, I don't think he's a real jerk. But I'll save my comments for him until the end.

Doug: I haven't read all of the Silver Age X-Men books, but every time I come across Mastermind I am astounded that the fool could pull off the whole manipulation of Phoenix as "Jason Wyngarde". Just floors me -- what a great choice by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, because I recall a deep sense of, "Ha! Got me!" when the reveal came.

Karen: In the office of a shipping line, the mutant master of magnetism, Magneto appears! I just really wanted to do a Stan Lee alliterative phrase there. He winds up stealing an old freighter that has guns on its deck. I don't know much at all about ships but I thought that was interesting. Using his magnetic abilities his pilots the craft out to sea -and who should be flying by but the Angel, on a training exercise. But although the winged teen swoops down for a closer look, neither mutant spots the other. Angel returns to the mansion and Professor Xavier runs a series of physical tests on him as Jean assists. Warren (the Angel) relays what he saw, and the Professor has a sense of foreboding about the freighter.

Doug: Speaking of headpieces, Magneto has one of the coolest headgears in all of comicdom. I love that helmet! I also know next to nothing about ships, but I share your wonder at why a "freighter" would be armed with heavy artillery; I also questioned Angel's query about the possibility that it was being remotely controlled. I tried not to read too much into the image of Jean as a lab assistant. Any reason why Hank wouldn't have been involved in... I don't know, biochemistry?


Karen: Magneto arrives at his uncharted Atlantic isle where the Toad excitedly greets him. The first thing the little wretch does is squeal on his comrades, telling Magneto they were fighting. Mastermind tries to downplay it, but when Toad says he tried to hurt Wanda, Mastermind angrily blurts out that he'll make the Toad pay for this. This infuriates Magneto, who grabs Mastermind and reminds him that their personal issues are nothing, only the plan matters. He finds Wanda and Pietro and tells them he must speak to them. Quicksilver says that he doesn't scare him, and that he's taking his sister away and leaving. Magneto then reminds him of the debt that she owes him. Wanda regretfully says that she has to serve him until she has repaid him. Magneto then recounts how he came upon their village "in the heart of Europe" where superstitious villagers were after Wanda, calling her a witch. The flashback shows Wanda standing in front of a burning building, her arms in the air as if in a panic, while angry villagers (one even has a pitchfork!) come after her. In the next panel, Magneto appears and gathers her up, saving her life. Back in the present, the master of magnetism reminds the twins that they are Homo Superior and it's their destiny to rule over humankind. Quicksilver however, has not completely drunk Magneto's Kool Aid -he isn't convinced, although he has no love for humans. But since his sister feels she must stay, he will too. Magneto says now that he has his ship, he will begin his assault on humankind. The five of them will attack and conquer an entire nation!

Doug: Would it be safe to say that since Magneto had found the island and then built an estate on it that it would no longer be "uncharted"? When Jack does the pullback right before the end of this scene, I can see why Magneto would later set up shop on an asteroid. This island is nothing to write home about! But I digress. I love the Toad. He's such a fool, a jester. I suppose one could argue that he's so unfairly persecuted and the butt of every joke as well as the recipient of the lion's share of the aggression from his comrades.
But he could be (when written with a degree of reservation) such a great character, present mostly to add color to a typically testosterone-laced scene.

Doug: I am convinced that Europe never left the 19th century. Marvel Comics said so. Everything on that continent exists as it does in the 1931 Frankenstein film.

Karen: Several days later, Professor X is reading the newspaper, which says the tiny South American republic of Santo Marco has been attacked by an unknown ship. The Prof quickly figures out that it has to be Magneto and his allies. He summons the X-Men, who are all shown doing various off duty activities: Hank (the Beast) is solving math problems, holding the pen with his foot; Jean is either dancing or exercising; Warren could be listening to the radio or working on electronics; and Bobby is having a tremendous milkshake. Only Scott is dressed in his uniform. He comes running in from the practice field, yelling at everyone to suit up, it's a red alert. They find the Professor in a trance. But he's whispering, faintly. Professor X has sent his consciousness to the astral plane (although it is not called such here, it later will be) where he confronts Magneto. This is where the gauntlet is truly thrown down between them. Magneto says that only Xavier and his team stand between him and world conquest, but why do they fight their own kind? Xavier responds that he wants to save mankind, to bring about a golden age with humans and mutants living together. Magneto can't comprehend this. He says the only place for humans is as their slaves. If that's how Xavier feels, then they are enemies. Xavier comes out of his trance yelling that the X-Men will stop Magneto -even going so far as to say, "It will be mutant against mutant -to the death, if necessary!" Whoa, calm down there Professor! The X-Men are raring to go after Magneto.

Doug: I'll amend what I said earlier about Hank not being depicted yet as a scholar -- the scene of him working the math equations totally went by me! My eyes fixated on Jean's yoga (or whatever) and Bobby's ice cream soda. Hmmm... I'm sure someone in the audience could do a personality breakdown for me based on that. The two panels where Magneto and Xavier meet on the astral plane were just wonderful. Kirby could do scope and scale, couldn't he? This scene is formative for everything that will come after, for decades.

Karen: Back in Santo Marco, Magneto and the Brotherhood have taken over the the small country. Mastermind uses his illusionary power to whip up a phantom army to keep the people in line. Kirby draws a bunch of jack-stepping goons whose attire, with striking helmet design and 'M' armbands, would have looked like Nazis if they were colored green and not purple. Of course, in 1964 Magneto did not have his origin as a concentration camp survivor, but with that thought in place now it's a little unnerving. Of course, Kirby was using what he knew, and the Nazis would have been a symbol of supreme brutality. It works no matter how you look at it. Wanda questions why Magneto must terrify the people so, but the mutant leader says the humans are sheep, and fear is key to controlling them.

Doug: There's a lot to chew on in these eight panels. First, though -- in the Masterworks the army's uniforms are indeed green with dark green helmets. They resemble the Wehrmacht. And so I wonder if Claremont considered what Lee/Kirby had produced as canon? As we've remarked, this issue is so foundational on several levels, that to ignore any of its trappings seems irresponsible. I agree with you that Kirby perhaps equated all of Marvel's diabolical megalomaniacs with the megalomaniac of the 20th century. Kirby draws a sentry on a road checking for identification papers -- of course Jews had to carry papers on their persons at all times, and their movements could be restricted.
So for Claremont to later switch everything in this scene to a polar perspective seems odd at best. I'm not saying the transition in Magneto's backstory isn't good or worthwhile; I merely question the rights of creators to retcon the work of the masters. There's a reason why you're getting a paycheck writing comics, son.

Karen: Soon Magneto is able to take over the government, and he recruits a real army. They are guarding the border when the X-Men drive up, in their civilian disguises, acting as American students on a goodwill tour. They are allowed to pass. Magneto is dispensing 'justice' in the presidential palace when he senses their arrival -somehow he seems to have a residual mental connection to Xavier. He tells the Brotherhood to prepare for them. Likewise, Professor X senses more mutants than Magneto and warns his young charges. They plan their assault on the palace and Beast takes the lead. He climbs a tower but is repelled by the Toad. Beast grabs onto the side of the tower and starts to work his way back up, but Mastermind uses his illusions to make the Beast think the stone tower has turned to smooth glass. The young mutant panics, believing he can't get a grip on the smooth surface. On the other side of the castle, the Angel engages turret gunners, knocking them out (killing them?) by dropping a live wire on them. He flies into the palace to search for Magneto when he runs into Quicksilver. I really get a kick out of how Pietro's speed is depicted here -he's all blurred out, just a bunch of green lines. Angel and Quicksilver race around the hallways, and Quicksilver is definitely faster, but Angel has the upper hand in maneuverability, and makes a sharp turn, avoiding a wall which Quicksilver slams right into. Pietro is out cold, but suddenly Wanda appears and she's upset to see her brother hurt. All Angel can think about though is how hot Wanda looks! The Witch uses her hex and suddenly the ceiling above Angel collapses and crashes down on him. Moments later he's tied up by soldiers and Quicksilver has recovered.

Doug: What do you think of Magneto's mental prowess in this story? The ground certainly seems to be laid for a prior relationship between Magneto and Xavier -- could they have been brothers, old friends, cousins? There's a connection between them that of course was mined in subsequent years. Back to the Hitler comparisons for a moment -- how about the soldier who remarks to his partner, "Strange how he took over our entire government -- so sudden, without firing a shot!" Franz von Papen and his mates felt at one time they could "box Hitler in", or "hire" him. Making him Chancellor was too easy -- a fire in the Reichstag soon after and Hitler declared emergency powers to rule by decree. "Strange how he took over our entire government -- ...without firing a shot!" Yes.

Karen: Well, these two men -Lee and Kirby -lived through WWII, and I'm pretty sure they understood how Hitler came to power. This isn't the only example  of this type of analogy in Marvel books.

Doug: I thought it was interesting that the Beast would go first, but I suppose of the five teens he was the "stealthiest". Angel would certainly be obvious, and one could spot Iceman coming a mile away on his ice slides. I did think it odd, however, that given the size of Hank's feet that he could squeeze those big honkin' toes in between the stones on the tower wall. I also like how Kirby and Don Heck drew Quicksilver in motion. But my single favorite image of Pietro is this one (ha - have to make the jump to see it!).
And Warren... ever the prospective playboy. Dummy.

Karen: Magneto arrives to see that the Angel has been captured and is pleased, but this doesn't last long as a powerful beam of read energy comes blasting into the room. Yup, it's Cyclops. It's pretty silly, but Cyclops sends to soldiers spinning heads over heels into the room by the force of his beam. Next he turns it on Magneto who dodges it. Quicksilver runs around behind Cyke and grabs him, but pulls him down, aiming his beam at the ceiling, inadvertently hitting the electrical generator for the castle and knocking it loose. Somehow this causes electricity to flow through the castle, menacing everyone. Cyclops then decides to blow the generator entirely out of the castle and cuts loose with a powerful blast, which blows the machine through the castle wall and away from them. But the strain of the task causes Cyclops to lose consciousness -so typical of these early 60s Marvel heroes.

Doug: I think in regard to Cyke bowling over the soldiers, that just Kirby's mind. I'm sure he was thinking of the most kinetic thing he could draw for a great entrance.
Cyke and Magneto have had some cool stand-offs over the years. I always felt, that at least temporarily, Cyke could get Magneto. I don't think it ever turned out that way, but it just seems that when they come into contact Cyke enjoys an upper hand at the beginning of the fracas.

Karen: Everyone's little buddy, Iceman, happens to be in the path of that ejected generator! Luckily he's been practicing -he creates an ice slide to divert its path. Then he uses ice spikes to climb up the wall of the castle, where he frees Angel and wakes up Cyclops -by covering him with slush! Yuck. They're soon reunited with Marvel Girl and the Beast -well, after Jean sends some telekinetically aimed objects at them by mistake - and then the whole team is together. I liked the next two panels as the teens expressed doubt over their ability to handle the situation.
Beast: "So far we've used up a lot of time and energy and accomplished nothing!" Yes, these were the heroes. During the midst of their debate, a huge river of fire appears, heading down the hall towards them. The teens run but find themselves cornered. Then from out of the flames comes Professor X! He tells them not to be afraid, it's simply an illusion. Regrouped, with their older and wiser leader, they head back off to find Magneto.

Doug: "Everyone's little buddy" -- Bobby Drake is the Gilligan of this outfit, isn't he? I thought Iceman got some quality screen time on these pages. It was nice to see him making a contribution and not being some sort of mascot. His power, too, would grow over the years. The scene where Jeannie inadvertently fires the medieval weapons at the gang was a throwaway, but at the same time integral to showing her power set as well as that whole clay feet deal that was Marvel at this time -- everyone could screw up, at any time, and we all might end up paying the price. What seems like a silly scene is in reality part of the greater mythos that the Bullpen was crafting!

Doug: I'm going to assume that Magneto's fortress here did not comply with the Santo Marcos version of the Americans with Disabilities Act, so I'd sure be interested to know how Xavier got into the building in the first place! I have enjoyed seeing the Professor's various powers over the course of these first several issues.  

Karen: Magneto is busy at work on two bombs: one a simple bomb to booby-trap the door; the other, a nuclear bomb to blow up the whole country! Quicksilver asks Magneto about all the innocents who will die. Magneto has a bunch of answers for him -they are only Homo Sapiens, they would kill us if they could, and it's really self-defense! Good grief!

Doug: Quicksilver = conscience. Who'd have thunk it? But a question about young Pietro: do you consider him a moral person? I suppose my opinion of him is skewed by his reactions to Wanda's professed love for the Vision. But in these early years he was devoted, and I do believe that he had a hero's heart.

Karen: The X-Men rush at the door to Magneto's lair but at the last second Professor X senses the trap and throws himself in front of the X-Men. He takes the brunt of the impact. Surprisingly, it doesn't kill him -it only renders him stunned.
Cyclops blasts through the door as the evil mutants high tail it down an escape chute (!) towards their freighter. Wanda is also shocked that Magneto would kill thousands of innocent people, but she runs off anyway. Her brother, though, has another idea. After Magneto jumps in the chute and commands Pietro to follow him, the speedy mutant says there's something he has to do first. He runs into the other room and defuses the nuclear bomb. The X-Men see him do this, much to their confusion. Quicksilver runs off, saying that although he couldn't let a nation be destroyed, his place is with Magneto. "You are the betrayers of Homo Superior! Expect no mercy next time we meet!" The X-Men return to Professor X, who lies dazed on the floor. Unfortunately the blast has somehow affected his mental powers. He no longer has his telepathic abilities. The team wonders how they can face Magneto without him?

Doug: Xavier's act in defense of his students was incredibly self-sacrificing and noble. It was the high point of the story, because I really felt that not only did he see them as his students or his charges; in a real way he saw them as his children. And I also found it strange that Wanda leapt into the chute. That's some blackmail/debt that Magneto is holding over her head. 

Karen: This was a very entertaining little story, action-packed as you can tell. We could probably consider it one of the key early Marvel issues, seeing as how it introduces some major players, and also sets up the key conflict in the X-Men mythology. One thing I'd like to do is defend Quicksilver. Too often I hear that he was always a jerk. I don't think that's really the case. He had a temper, and he would not let an insult to his sister go unopposed, but in the early days, he was not the unmitigated butthead that he later became. In this story we can see that the twins are not truly bad, but forced into Magneto's sphere by circumstances beyond their control. It would have been terrifically exciting to have been a fan back in those days and have seen them make the change from reluctant villains to heroes.

Doug: I'd mentioned above that the coloring in the Marvel Masterworks edition was different from that which Karen was looking at on the X-Men dvd-rom. Below you'll see the re-colored, re-mastered, whatever version of some of the panels that featured Magneto's army on the island of Santo Marcos. See if you think there's a Nazi vibe going on here... which for me, and again we had a bit of this conversation above, is quite compelling given that the copyright date on the Masterworks is 1987 (I have the fourth printing -- not sure that makes a difference). All-New, All-Different X-Men scribe Chris Claremont retconned Magneto's personal history in Uncanny X-Men #150 to state that Magneto had survived the Holocaust. That issue hit the newsstands in 1981. So for the coloring in this version of X-Men #4 to mimic color schemes used by the various military and para-military branches of Hitler's forces seems a bit odd. I'd add that Magneto's entire schtick in this issue (and later stories) smacks of Homo superior as a true "master race" with all other sorts of people as untermensch (subhuman).

Doug: So, since this is after all a post about Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, I have to ask our fellows who still read comics if the fact (now, at least) that Magneto is the twins' father has ever raised issues of their "Jewishness"? From what I've seen, and that would run about through Avengers, volume 3, Wanda has most often been portrayed as Romani (at least that's the implication to me) by various creators. But I don't know that anyone in the Marvel Universe other than Ben Grimm has been characterized as ethnically Jewish. Diversity is the spice of life, and America is certainly known as the "great melting pot"; our comics most often do not reflect that.


Fred W. Hill said...

Rather fascinating seeing the development of the Marvel mythos and aspects of the early years that wouldn't quite fit developments of later years. In this issue, from less than 20 years after the fall of the Nazi regime, Magneto is depicted very much as a minor-league Hitler with no hint that he was a survivor of the Holocaust. Hmm, and now I wonder -- is he supposed to be Jewish or Romani -- after all, Romani were rounded up for extermination by the Nazis too. Come to think of it, Dr. Doom's depicted as Romani too. And in pretty much every depiction by Kirby of central Europe (outside of WWII), it seems to be perpetually in the Middle Ages, or at least a cleaned up version of that era. Another fun review, Doug & Karen!

Anonymous said...

" But I don't know that anyone in the Marvel Universe other than Ben Grimm has been characterized as ethnically Jewish."

Some other MARVEL characters who have been specifically identified as Jewish are:

1. Kitty Pryde

2. Moon Knight (he's even the son of a Rabbi)

3. Doc Samson

4. Izzy Cohen of the Howling Commandos


Anonymous said...

Holy gigantic milkshakes Iceman!

Greta review here. This truly is one of the pivotal early issues in X-men history which really lays out the groundwork for future developments. Even at this early stage we see their distinct personalities - the scholarly Hank (although he doesn't adopt the university professor speech pattern we see in later issues), the snooty prep boy Angel, the young impetuous Iceman, the serious leader Cyclops and the nervous female Marvel Girl.

Some impressions - I like how Kirby draws Quicksilver in action, just green blurred lines as he's running. It's a simple trick, but it's quite effective in displaying Pietro's speed power. If a guy was running at you at superspeed, you'd probably just see a blur before he hits you!

As for Magneto's helmet, if Kirby came up with that design, add another kudo to his belt. I've always wondered about the title 'Brotherhood of Evil mutants'; I'm guessing Stan decided he had to have a dramatic sounding name for his team, no matter how corny it sounds. Typical Stan.

The astral plane scene is excellent too. Now we come to Magneto. I've always found it touching and somewhat ironic that Claremont retconned ol' buckethead as being a Holocaust survivor himself, given the Nazi-style soldiers and rule that Magneto brings in this issue. I guess Claremont had to give the readers a solid reason why Magneto hated mankind so much. I think Stan and Kirby just used the most compelling imagery of totalitarian rule and oppression they knew from personal experience, given that both men were around during WW2.

All in all, another great review, Karen & Doug. To me, the real hero here is actually Quicksilver; he shows his compassion by disarming the bomb, even though he's a hothead mutant who still doesn't like humans. Nice redemptive touch here, a good change from the arrogant jerk we've seen in more recent comics.

- Mike 'Homo Gluttonus' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Doug said...

Thank you, trajan23! I should have remembered Kitty Pryde; the others I did not know (or totally forgot if I ever did know).

As we've said around here before, and I know bloggers like Dr. Oyola have mentioned as well, comics rarely show the true diversity of American demographics. While I am generally against affirmative action-type programs, it would be nice if creators, on their own, made it a point to reach out to all sectors of the comics-reading public. I think in current comics that effort is being made, and I suppose we can write off some of the inaction of days past to the political climate of those times. Strides began to be made in the Bronze Age, but overall it's been slow.


Anonymous said...

"if the fact (now, at least) that Magneto is the twins' father has ever raised issues of their "Jewishness"?"

Well, seeing as how both their biological mother and their foster parents were Romani, they've been pretty consistently depicted as identifying more with their Romani than their Jewish background.

As for their Jewish background actually being referenced in a comic, the only time that springs to mind is UNCANNY AVENGERS # 2, where the Red Skull catalogues those aspects of the Scarlet Witch that he finds dangerous:"Jew, Gypsy,and a mutant,yet so beautiful. So deceptively...human."


Doug said...

Thanks Mike!

Before anyone jumps down my throat about my affirmative action comment, I guess I should clarify. And no -- I really don't want to open up any political discussions more than they need to be opened in the context of today's post.

Sadly in the U.S., those sorts of race/ethnicity quotas may be necessary, although I would hope less and less so. My personal stance is from the standpoint that I don't care if a person is black, white, red, or green -- if they are the most qualified, then they should get the job/scholarship/college admission/etc. But I've seen the reverse of those programs, where (for example) a student of mine of Asian descent was denied admission to an Ivy League school. While his rejection letter stated that he was qualified, the "saying it without saying it" gist of the letter was "we have better Asians than you". Victimized by the quota...


Doug said...

trajan23 --

Who was the author of that Red Skull line? That's pretty classic stuff.


Edo Bosnar said...

As I recall, Hank made the switch from a luggish, Ben Grimm type to bespectacled genius in X-men #3. By the way, I read these early X-man tales in the revived Amazing Adventures reprints, where the coloring on Wanda and Pietro's costumes was corrected on the cover.

On the question of Wanda and Pietro's ethnicity, I think trajan23 has it right: their biological mother, Magda, was supposed to be Roma (Romani) from the start. This was at the very least confirmed in Magneto: Testament. Also, I seem to recall that Wanda and Pietro were depicted as living with an itinerant group of Roma on a number of occasions before Magneto came upon them, and this was then confirmed in the Nights of Wundagore story.

And Fred, I would agree with Doug that the depictions of mainland Europe always seem rooted in the 19th century rather than the Middle Ages - and that's bad enough. The thing that really always bothered me is that these depictions persisted even later, i.e., in the aforementioned Nights of Wundagore story arc from Avengers in the late '70s, the locals - in some small Balkan country no less - are all depicted as though they just stepped off the set of a Heidi movie, complete with lederhosen and using Germanisms like "mein Herr."

Anonymous said...

"Who was the author of that Red Skull line? That's pretty classic stuff.


Rick Remender wrote it. The fantastic art was from John Cassaday And, yeah, it was really great. The Skull decides to go after mutants as a threat to "true humanity." Oh, and the Skull has gained the mental powers of Professor X!


Doug said...

Edo --

I was actually going to go back in and edit the post to include a link to my review of Magneto: Testament -- but of course I forgot! I'll write that off to Easter festivities and to spending time with the family while the boys were home this weekend.

I feel the need at some point to update or even rewrite that review and do that graphic novel justice. It is pretty highly regarded by some in the education department of the USHMM, and we've had discussion on the possibilities of using it in some fashion in our teacher workshops. As I say in the review, the best part of that book is the historical references at the end of the story.


Anonymous said...


I was just wondering if you've read Greg Pak's "parallel" text, RED SKULL: INCARNATE? It's a damn fine work in its own right, and it gains in power (to my way of thinking) when read in concert with MAGNETO: TESTAMENT.


Doug said...

trajan23 --

I have not read that.

Recommend it to me -- basic synopsis, quality of the art (is it comparable to the art in Testament), etc. Is this story at all based off of Kirby's Red Skull origin from Tales of Suspense?



Anonymous said...


There's even a subtle crossover with MAGNETO: TESTAMENT, where Johann (the future Red Skull) encounters Max (the future Magneto).

Anonymous said...

"Recommend it to me -- basic synopsis, quality of the art (is it comparable to the art in Testament), etc. Is this story at all based off of Kirby's Red Skull origin from Tales of Suspense?



Basic synopsis is that, yes, this tells the same story that we got in the classic Kirby-Lee TALES OF SUSPENSE 66, only Pak has grounded the tale in the actual history of Weimar Germany and the rise of the Nazi Party.So we see young Johann Schmidt, a penniless urchin living in the streets, reacting to the street clashes between the Nazis and the Communists, the economic woes that beset Germany, the growth in Anti-Semitism, etc.

Art: the art is by Mirko Colak (David Aja does the stunning covers). Yes, I would say that the art compares quite favorably with Carmine Di Giandomenico's work in TESTAMENT. Colak provides a strong sense of time and place with his art, and the character work is outstanding. You can really feel the characters' emotions playing across their faces.

Writing: I think that the highest praise that I can give Pak's script is to note that he makes you understand (not agree with, mind you) Johann Schmidt's actions. And doing that with a monster in the making is high praise indeed.


Doug said...

Thanks very much! I looked up the compilation on Amazon and found that a new copy can be had for around $5! I think I'm in.

I also feel that it's high time I read the Winter Soldier arc, so am heading that way as well. The latest Cap movie was so good, and Ed Brubaker gets so much praise, I guess I'll see what all the fuss is about.


Karen said...

Good morning folks. First off, thanks to my partner for adding the art to this and generally holding down the fort while I had to do some traveling this last week. He did a terrific job! That family pic yesterday was great - the kids look like him AND Mrs. W.,what a case of all the best features coming together!

I think this issue is definitely a pivotal Silver Age Marvel. The introduction of the twins and the establishment of the conflict between the two mutants sides, while perhaps written in shorthand, is still there to serve as a foundation for so much more to come. I do think that much of this was left untouched until Claremont came along. Certainly Roy Thomas seemed to focus less on the mutant vs. mutant struggle as a political or social struggle and more on mutant vs. human. Or when he did use Magneto, he was more of a standard villain.

I can only imagine that Claremont plumbed these early issues and saw the makings of a great conflict here and chose to expand upon it. He took Magneto, who had become over the years more of a Dr.Doom wanna-be, who sought power more for himself than any other reason, and had become a foe of the Avengers, FF, and even the Defenders, and gave him a much more layered personality and sense of purpose. Once again he was seeking to place mutants above humans -but now, he truly seemed to be fighting a crusade, rather than seeking out power for himself. The addition of a past that included being a survivor of the concentration camps completely upended what we knew about him.

Now in some sense, this is the ultimate retcon! Magneto had been a villain, pure and simple, back in the 60s. But to be honest, he was not a very interesting one. If you're going to rewrite history, this is the reason to do it. The new Magneto was a far more intriguing character, because an argument could be made for his point of view. Was Prof. X deluded? There were many more possibilities for stories with this new facet.

I don't care much for the way Magneto has bounced back and forth from villain t hero, X-Man to foe, but there's no denying that Claremont took the seeds planted here and grew something really great back in the 70s/80s.

Dr. Oyola said...

This issue was covered in the most recent episode of a new podcast I am now following called "Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men" - a weekly 'cast meant to try to make sense of the mess of X-Men continuity. So far, I am enjoying it.

I never really thought about Pietro and Wanda as potentially Jewish before- though if I am not wrong I think that if their mom is not Jewish they'd need to actively convert.

As for affirmative action - it is a very complex issue with lots of flaws and benefits.

I just edited this post to remove a long digression on the issue, figuring this was not the place for it. But always happy to talk offline about such things.

Anyway, count me in the camp of people who prefers the more nuanced Magneto and a jerky haughty Quicksilver and doesn't like Scarlet Witch much at all.

Karen said...

I'll have to check out that podcast when i have a chance (ha! Free time is turning out to be a rare commodity these days).

I also don't want to delve too deeply into politics, but I will say that I believe affirmative action was necessary to help millions of people in this country and pull us collectively from the mire of institutionalized racism -which still burdens us today. Neil DeGrasse Tyson made a very honest and personal comment about institutionalized racism that's been bouncing around the web ( that I think is worth listening to.

As for our happy little dysfunctional mutant family, I think Wanda has suffered the most. From the prototypical Marvel 'helpless heroine" to the more assertive 70s woman of the Englehart era to the sadly psychotic mess she has become, I don't know if there's another Silver Age character that has gone through more ups and downs and been more poorly handled than she. She never seemed to stand on her own and have her own identity -always she was someone's sister or wife, daughter or (now I guess) mother. It happens to women a lot but on top of this she has been seen in a negative light for perhaps the last ten years, actually even longer. her powers were unstable and later, so was her personality. A real shame.

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, thanks so much for that link - I love hearing Tyson talk about pretty much anything, and that was just a brilliant retort to that whole topic.

As for Scarlet Witch, you pretty much summed that up quite nicely. And it's true that she became more assertive under Englehart, but I still think that ultimately her marriage to Vision was a mistake (for reasons I've explained on several threads before).

david_b said...

I have tons to say on affirmative action and it's unfortunate societal influences on our culture, but they won't be addressed here.

On a MUCH simpler note, my hats off to whoever decided to color Pietro's costume light green.

I often ponder whether I prefer the light blue over the green outfit for Pietro and I find myself preferring the green blur, which adds much more distinctive color to the action panel mix from the days of the Kooky Quartet than the pale blue did later on.

The blue blur just seemed comparitively boring, visually.

Anonymous said...

"X-plain the X-Men", I love that title. So obvious and yet very creative.

Quick thoughts: dinner scene among the Brotherhood, is it just me or is Wanda's waist 11 inches? It makes her look freaky. And not in a good way.

As I mentioned in the Hawkeye post, I get the sense with Clint, Pietro and Wanda that they are the second generation of heroes. The X-Men's tag was they are teen-agers. With Clint, Pietro and Wanda, I get the same feeling, looking back on their introductions. They would be in that 17-19 year old range. And probably not much older, within a year or two, when joining the Avengers.

Lest we forget the true horror of the event, the Jews of Europe were not the only ones to suffer during that time. Magneto and Magda could very well have been targeted for being Romani as not. If I recall correctly, they were both in a concentration camp when they reunited.

Why didn't the Professor use his mental power to contain/prevent the explosion? If his body was sufficient to contain the blast, couldn't he have used the door itself and mentally "frozen" it in place? What about mentally commanding Iceman to construct a shield of ice? Second point about the door, Cyke speaks of reducing the door to ashes. Wouldn't you need fire/heat to do this? If his beams are force beams and not heat beams, the door would be splinters, not ashes. What is it Marvel? Heat or force? Force or heat?

I know this is out of order, but the earlier scene of Jean helping the professor. Isn't this a product of the 60s culture? Women were nurses, secretaries, assistants, helpers, not doctors, managers, leaders, inventors etc etc etc and so on and so forth.

Quick question: which Brotherhood member has grown the most?

The Prowler (Homo Gluttonus Maximus).

PS: Why does it keep telling me I'm spelling Pietro wrong?

Anonymous said...

Dagnabbit, the things I forgot in my first post.

If I remember, some merchant vessels were fitted with arms to protect convoys from German subs and planes during the Atlantic crossings. I don't know what happened to these ships post war but there may have been a few still hanging around. I don't know how heavily they were armed.

The nuclear bomb. I've had the chance to read some of the sci-fi, especially British sci-fi, of the 60s. For much of the decade, there was the thinking that there was such a thing as a viable atomic war that could be won by either side. In a Nick Fury story, the Hate Monger's going to destroy New York City causing a world wide Nuclear Holocaust to wipe out the inferior races. Then repopulate the world with the survivors from his orbiting platform. In some the sci-fi stories, they wear exposure strips and can be in radiation areas until the strip turns black, at that point they go to a decontamination center to clean up.

The Prowler (HUGO fan and proud supporter of the Science Fiction Writers of America).

PS And not a robot.

Fred W. Hill said...

BTW, speaking of coincidences(?) it appears another Brotherhood made it's initial appearance the same month X-Men #4 went on sale, namely the Brotherhood of Evil in the Doom Patrol. I've read that DP writer Arnold Drake was certain that someone at DC was feeding Stan Lee his story ideas. No idea whether there's any truth to that but if not something odd was going on with these "strangest" groups! Of course, the brotherhoods were very different from one another, and as Karen touched on, Lee & Kirby seeded their stories with so many great ideas but it was really Claremont (with some significant input from Byrne, I'm sure) who really brought the ideas to greater fruition. But Thomas and Adams added their bits too, especially when Adams first drew Magneto without that helmet, and, danged, if he didn't look very much like an older Pietro (and I'd like to think that wasn't due to any inability on Adams' part to draw distinguishable male faces). The earliest X-Men story I remember reading was part of their run-in with the re-formed BoEM at the tail end of Thomas' first run, when they were all trussed up but Angel managed to get free and in his flight for help wound up running into the Red Raven, making his first Silver Age appearance. Interesting story with Wanda & Pietro having been tricked into quitting the Avengers and hooking up with Magneto again, but then the lowly Toad turning against his "master". Good twist, but alas that neither Thomas nor his immediate successor scribe Friedrich many any noticeable effort to make Magneto more interesting or sympathetic as a character. He had such potential but no real personality to distinguish him from, say, the Mandarin or Diable.

Anonymous said...

Fred W. Hill :"I've read that DP writer Arnold Drake was certain that someone at DC was feeding Stan Lee his story ideas."

Seeing as how Stan's SOP was to do the opposite of what DC was doing, that seems quite doubtful. For that matter, in terms of who was influencing whom, the SA Doom Patrol looks like a DC take on the FF.


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