I’ll say it right now: the X-Men are my favorite team of superheroes ever. Avengers? Fuck them, they’re only interesting when Spider-Man or one of the X-Men slips onto the roster. Besides, can you name any major members besides Thor, Captain America and Iron Man? Hell, before his new live-action picture started getting steam, did you even know who Iron Man was?! And what about the Justice League? Sure, you’ve got legends like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash… but it’s like a superhero team consisting of a bunch of cub scout leaders.
X-Men, though. They’re something special to me. I’m sure it has everything to do with the fact that they starred in a surprisingly faithful and engaging FOX animated series, much like their buddy Spider-Man, during my childhood, and maybe yours, too. Remember getting up eagerly every Saturday morning to see what would happen? And when the Phoenix story arc was a fuckin’ EVENT that actually got to air during prime time? Then again, the 90s certainly were X-Men’s decade more than any other before it. Rob Liefeld and tacky foil covers drove the comic industry’s profile and sales higher than ever before, and X-Men was at the top of the heap.
But even this doesn’t really get at why the X-Men are so cool. ANOTHER reason why I think they’re awesome is because their powers had some thought and creativity put into them. Yeah, Superman is super and all that, but how many powers does he share with Wonder Woman? And Martian Manhunter? And any of the squintillion other secondary and tertiary League members? Not only are Superman’s powers generic, but they make several members of the team completely obsolete. But then, he’s the prototypical superhero. That doesn’t really happen with X-Men. Few characters are broken to the point where they’re nigh-unbeatable. Cyclops fires awesome beams of pure energy from his eyes, but is unable to control it without his visor. Gambit has the power to imbue anything he touches with explosive energy, most famously his playing cards. Storm can manipulate the fucking weather, bitch, but has claustrophobia. Rogue can actually STEAL other mutants’ powers, but even this potentially too-awesome power is tempered by the fact that she can’t even touch another human being without nearly killing him. Hell, Wolverine has an unbreakable adamantium skeleton, advanced regenerative capabilities and fucking CLAWS that can slice through anything, and he… uh… has a crappy personality?
Needless to say, even though powers like flying or super-strength could sometimes overlap, you’d be hard pressed to mistake one member for another, especially with their often tempestuous personalities. Cyclops is the goody-two-shoe leader with daddy and abandonment issues up to wazoo. Rogue is a fiery Southern belle who’s hotter than fuck and knows it. Beast is a placid intellectual often in conflict with his primitive, increasingly cat-like appearance. And then there’s Jubilee, who has to struggle every day with the fact that she’s uninteresting and useless.
The only reason I could think of Hollywood taking so long to pull the trigger on making an X-Men movie would be the prohibitive cost of actually filming all of these spectacular powers and a general lack of faith in superhero movies. Yeah, Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher and those last few Superman movies would do that anyone, I guess. But even after Tim Burton gothed up Batman for the big screen, X-Men lay fallow. WTF?! But finally (finally!), after Blade resurrected the Marvel brand at the multiplex, X-Men got their big screen debut!