884: CHARACTERS YOU WON'T BE SEEING IN AN X-MEN FILM NEAR YOU
In the Warehouse's attempts to keep up with Hollywood, here is our tie-in with the latest X-Men flick. While the series has transferred many characters from the comics to the screen, there are many more who will likely never see their 15 seconds of celluloid.
Background: The X-Men were launched by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby in late 1963. Original line-up: Cyclops, Marvel Girl (Jean Grey), Angel, Iceman and Beast (non-furry version). The first two years of the title built well upon the themes of persecution (hatred of mutants standing in for racism in general) and alienated teens. Unfortunately, Lee and Kirby were gone by early 1966, after which the book went through a three-year slump under several writers and artists. A late creative revival by artist Neal Adams and writer Roy Thomas wasn't enough to save the series. The series ended after 66 issues in early 1970, though was revived as a reprint title by the end of the year. This state of affairs continued until 1975, when new stories returned to the book, featuring a new, international-flavoured set of characters that took off...
Note that all links lead you to The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe site, a goldmine of lesser-known comic book characters.
We're sticking to villains/misunderstood characters for this entry, so all you fans of Bernard the Poet will have to sit back and cry. All of the following characters debuted during the "slump" mentioned above. Creative staff came and went - for a time, the series seemed to be a testing ground for artists working on Marvel heroes for the first time. Werner Roth was the main contributor, whose background in romance comics served the soap opera aspects of the book well (afterwards, his main credit was a run on Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane in the early 70s). Roy Thomas's first run as writer ('66-'68) showed someone finding their way with the medium, wordiness dominating his early issues. Overall, stories from this period have a goofy, innocent charm, but don't compare well to other titles coming out of the "House of Ideas" at the time.
The Locust: slightly-off-his-rocker former university prof dresses like a locust and uses a ray gun to enlarge insects. His last name was Hopper. Get it? First appearance: X-Men #24 (Sep/66). Cover art by Werner Roth and Dick Ayers.
Cobalt Man: Former gridiron star scientist brother of one of Jean Grey's college friends proves that atomic-powered armor and multiple concussions don't mix. Later mutated into a giant blue dude and blew up real good in front of the Hulk...twice. First appearance: X-Men #31 (Apr/67). Cover art by Dan Adkins.
Mekano - a normal kid who steals an exoskeleton to gain his philanthropist father's attention. The issue ends with a Full House moment between father and son. Awww. First and only appearance: X-Men #36 (Sep/67). Cover art by Ross Andru and Frank Giacoia.
Grotesk: Subterranean prince mutated by underground nuclear testing into a big yellow hairy dude. Tried to steal a device that caused earthquakes, fought our merry band of mutants. Partly responsible for the seeming death of Professor X (who was actually a dying impersonator - Charlie showed up alive two years later). First app: X-Men #41 (Feb/68). Cover art by George Tuska and Don Heck. - JB