Thursday, June 5, 2014

Who's the Worst...X-Man?

Karen: With so many of them out there now, this might not be such a difficult question, but I haven't been keeping up really with the X-Men since the Bronze Age. But picking the worst X-Man isn't that hard for me. Who else but Gambit?

Karen: Gambit epitomizes everything that went so terribly wrong with comics in the 90s. The character seemed to have been created by picking one item from column A, one from column B, one from column C, etc. I mean, just look at him. He wears a trenchcoat over his costume. Why? He carries a staff. Why? He has the mutant power to charge objects with explosive energy, yet chooses to use this to charge playing cards to throw at people. Yes, playing cards. Because playing cards are so such great weapons. And he’s a Cajun. So we can have writers use an accent. Oh geez.

Karen: I guess he’s an easy target. Now that there’s something like 240,000 X-Men, I’m sure there are others worthy of being worst. But he’s my number one. What about you?


Humanbelly said...

As I often do, Karen, I looked at the post title alone, and made my gut-reaction, no-cogitation choice first, and then scrolled down to see what we were talking about.

My word-association response was also Gambit, I'm here to say. We've a very similar X-Men X-perience, it seems. By the time "Dark Beast" rolled around, I'd lost track and given up on X-Books entirely. BISHOP may have been my second choice, but more through narrative murkiness than poor characterization.

But your description of Gambit is exactly on point. He was so obviously created and promoted as the "hot, new character"-- w/out there actually having been a visible character void that needed filling-- much like NOVA was about 15 or 20 years earlier. And look how well that panned out.


dbutler16 said...

To me, it has to be Cable. He epitomizes everything wrong with 90's Marvel as well as with the X-Men jumping the shark. He's the typical 90's Marvel character in that he's a gun toting (my gun is bigger than yours) bad attituded tough guy, armed to the hilt, and he also represent much of what I despise in what the X-Men became in that they started populating the mainstream X-Men group with characters from the Days of Future Past universe. Days of Future Past was a great little story, but I hated the fact that characters from an alternate (and, of course, dark) future became regular members of the X-Men. It's as if Claremont ran out of god ideas and started recycling old ones. Also, the X-Men started to become hopelessly convoluted, with all of this Summers family tree nonsense.

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen and HB, I'm sure you're right about Gambit: everything I've seen or heard of the character makes me think he's execrable. However, I've never actually read any stories featuring him, as he came in well after my time. Same goes with a bunch of others, like, as dbutler notes, Cable, Bishop (he's apparently from that dystopian future, too, isn't he?) or the morphed-into-a-stereotypical-Asian-martial-arts-hottie Psylocke.

Sticking to the ones I know, i.e., pre-1990s, I'd have to say Longshot. I never really understood why he even became an X-man (he wasn't really a mutant was he?), and his "power" was basically improbable good luck or something like that. Who cares? Basically he just seemed like an excuse to have one of the elves from Elfquest in a Marvel comic, but with a cool leather jumpsuit and even cooler mullet.
Some runners-up: Rogue - I liked her better as an adversary, plain and simple (same goes for White Queen, but that also happened after my time). And don't get me started on Dazzler...

Anonymous said...

First one that came to mind was Maggot. That was a character that could/should have been left on the cutting room floor. But then I started thinking Wildchild. We had Wolverine, and Sabretooth and Wolfsbane, why did we need Wildchild.

But to reach back into the Bronze Age, did Polaris ever have a point? I know she was the Mistress of Magnetism but as a character did she go anywhere? Other than Alex's lady love was she developed into anything other than the girl standing next to Jean in some panels?

The Prowler (got me a black magic woman got me so blind I can't see that she's a black magic woman she's tryin' to make a devil out of me).

Humanbelly said...

Wow, forgot about Cable-- despise that character. But it may come to hair-splitting, because. . . was he ever actually an "X-Man"? Part of the official team? He was always the late-New Mutants/X-Force guy, wasn't he? I think, though, that if we start pulling in every peripheral book in the X-Verse we could get lost in a mutant mob miasma (wow, I'm sounding like Stan. . . )-- especially for those of us that jumped into the escape pod relatively early.

Edo, I had exactly the same misgivings about Longshot. . . and heaven knows he was never explained clearly at the time (nor was Bishop, nor was Gambit-- again, I think this was all part of the "mysterious past" meme that became a given for all HOT!NEW! characters at that time). He was an alien of some sort. . . but I suppose he could have been a mutant alien as well? Sort of like techno-being Warlock in New Mutants? Realllllly sketchy, though, IMO.

I'm actually cool w/ Dazzler being an X-Man. . . just seems like she disappeared into the crowd after being a very unique & distinctive (albeit a little lame) character in her on right.

The only salvation for Betsy Braddock is that, somewhere underneath that utterly stupid and insulting hot Asian ninja transformation, she still HAD to be the same proper Betsy we remembered from Captain Britain's early run. OMG-- why, WHY would one's physical RACE change under any transformative circumstance like that?? Abilities are NOT DNA!!!

I also have to say that Emma Frost as an X-Man is pretty high on my dislike list, also. It's sort of like trying to recreate the Enchantress as a sympathetic and redeemable character. Both have killed people in cold blood. Killed them. Not sure how you re-brand that individual as a positive force. Again, a truly unfortunate product of the 90's fixation on BadAss Anti-heroes w/ Bad Attitudes-- the reader is put in the position of identifying w/ them and either justifying or forgetting their reprehensible pasts. . . which I can't see as a good thing. I've always had very, very similar problems w/ Magneto and Doom, of course.

Ah-- back to work. Prepping for a meeting. . .


Murray said...

The creative decisions and stories in the time after Byrne-Austin had me move on and away from the X-Men. Those same creative decisions also failed to create any cool characters. (in the real meaning of "cool", as opposed to "analyze the market trends, focus-group, manufactured cool")

Really, I'm casting my mind back to the storyline where the X-Men went off and found the new Cerebro blips that became Kitty Pryde and Dazzler. They found Kitty first and...that was it. I can't think of any subsequent mutant character that I like, let alone the worst.

But, to play the game, I'll reach into the giant barrel of sludge and pick the Morlocks. Cerebro can detect the nascent flickers of mutanthood in Kitty, but can't detect a small army of mutants living under NYC?? A small army that somehow never interacted with the shenanigans that take place in the Superhero Capital of the Marvel Earth? And then (as I gather from my reading "Thor" at the time), apparently just for cheap shock effect, a storyline slaughters all these poor buggers. And, of course, one of the only survivors is a tough, leather-wearing badass. Just what we needed.

Murray said...

Sorry. I took the challenge to mean "mutants in the X-Men comic" rather than card-carrying X-Man. I might as well stay with "morlocks". As far as I can tell, the X-Men were/are as bad as the Avengers. Sleep overnight in the Westchester School and *bang*, you're an X-Man!

david_b said...

First off, as you all are painfully aware, not an X-Men fan, never really have been, won't ever be. Won't see the movies, like some Bronze/Silver covers, that's about it.

That being said, offering my perspective from an 'outsider-looking-in', I totally agree with the Cable/Gambit/Dazzler comments. I was really irritated that the entire MU went exhaustively mutant-driven during the '80s-90s, essentially hijaaked with mutants and Jim Lee-art from what I knew and loved about Marvel. 'Course I also add Shooter, Miller, and other editorial/artistic contributors for that as well. They just way got too trendy for my blood. It's nice when a certain book or artist excels, but severely detest when the influence is so overwhelming that each and every other book has to careen over to that influence as an attempt to boost sales.

That being said, again the minority here, but if I was to collect any X-Men, it would only be the Silver Age stuff, much like Cardy's Titans over at DC (besides loving the first 2yrs of Wolfman-Perez New Titans..).

dbutler16 said...

Humanbelly, I don't remember, as I've avoided comics with Cable like the plague for the past 20 years, but according to and Wikipedia, one of his group affiliations if the X-Men.

Like Murray, I don't really much care for any of the mutants created after Kitty Pryde (though if I think about it long enough I may be able to come up with one or two). I liked the Morlocks at first, but they started getting annoying real quick. They always say they don't want to have anything to do with surface people, then they go kidnapping surface people to come live with them about every 5 minutes. Also, like Murray says, how could Cerebro not detect them??

Anonymous said...

I can't relate to anyone who became an X-Man after about 1980 so I'll say ... the Angel. He has wings and can fly. Big deal.

And Murray...did you say "card-carrying" on purpose? That would be Karen's "favorite". ;-)

As someone from Louisiana, don't get me started on movies/comics etc. portrayal of Cajuns.


William said...

How about Archangel.

In the tried and true formula for "updating" a character, they took the Angel and made him kewl by torturing him, cutting off his natural wings, and replacing them with cybernetic wings that shoot razor sharp knives. "To the X-treme!!!"

So, here's a question -- If Angel (Archangel) now has mechanical wings instead of natural wings, doesn't that make him a cyborg instead of a mutant? I'd say it does. But regardless of that he's still been in the X-Men, X-Factor, X-Force, and x-cetera.

J.A. Morris said...

I was going to say Angel too.
Sure, every team needs a character who can fly, but I could never be bothered to care about Warren Worthington III. A boring,snotty rich kid? And the whole wings-hiding apparatus strained credulity, even for Silver & Bronze Age comic books.
Plus,he had one of the worst costumes of the Bronze Age:

Murray said...

I have to defend Angel. At the most analytical level, not the most useful ability, true. However, he gets a lot of bonus credit for embodying a deep core wish fulfilment for most humans. To spread wings and fly like an eagle. When Neal Adams drew those

And, the second core wish fulfilment: be stinking rich.

I always thought there had to be an unspoken super strength-super resilience to Angel. He survived way too many villain blows to be just a "guy with wings". For wings to work, they require pectoral muscles (at least). Since Warren doesn't have a 103" chest, I can only assume the aforementioned muscles like woven neo-kevlar were involved.

("card-carrying" comment at this time)

david_b said...

Despite the awful yellow/red outfits and variations from the Adams timeframe, I always had a softside for Angel (and Cyclops..). What's wrong with wings and flight...? Granted it's more on par power-wise with the Falcon than perhaps Cyclops or Marvel Girl, but it was more of a 'team-augmentation' quality than a stand-alone super hero-ability, if that makes sense.

Forgot to mention on my previous post, but typically with those '90s characters like Gambit, they were slightly-more of value to me as Famous Covers action figures for their body parts and clothes to customize/kitbash other figures with.

"I'm just sayin'.."

SteveDoesComics said...

I always liked Gambit. It was Jubilee I couldn't stand. She had the totally useless power of making blobs of light float around, and every single line she ever uttered seemed custom designed to annoy you.

dbutler16 said...

William's post about Angel, er, Archangel, made me chuckle. I just had to mention that.

Dr. Oyola said...

Ha, Edo! Rogue is probably in my top 3 X-Men!

I like Dazzler, too (but not as an X-Man so much).

ALso, I love Longshot and the Mojo-verse (like seriously SO MUCH - I found it to be very proleptic of our current reality TV era - just more twisted)

Gambit is the easiest choice. I have only every read one or two issues w/ him when a friend tried to get me back into the X-Men in the early/mid 90s after I had dropped out of comics. No surprise that after that it'd be another 6 years before I did get back into it!

But from the era that I was a regular reader? Cyclops.

Doug said...

My, my -- how some of us must never have enjoyed the displeasure of X-Factor (OK, so any X is an X-Man, right?) once Peter David became the book's writer, with horrific art by some cat named Larry Stroman. Larry the Cable Guy might have drawn better. Unlike comments above, I've long been an advocate of Havok and Polaris, who both anchored this team. I could even stand Madrox and Wolfsbane as charter members of the revamp, but the 5th member? Seriously??

Strong Guy.

Look it up.


William said...

Don't get me wrong, I like Angel just fine. It's Archangel I was talking about.

I'll have agree with SteveDoesComics that Jubilee is pretty bad. What an annoying character. Especially when they made her Wolverines's (uhg) kid sidekick.

Also, it's not like I hate little girls, but I was never a huge a fan of Kitty Pryde to be honest. It always felt like she was Chris Claremont's pet character or something, and thus he always made her too important to too many stories where she shouldn't have been. The moment she was introduced she played a key roll in The Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past, God Loves Man Kills, and she even got her own solo story where she fought and defeated a demon by herself. Enough was enough.

Anonymous said...

Gambit, Cable, Bishop, and Deadpool are among the X-men I don't consider "legit". They suck. Nuff said.


Anonymous said...

oh yeah, Guido, aka Strong Guy (nice job on the name Peter David)....he sucks too.

oh and while I'm at it, Peter David sucks too. IMHO, of course.


Anonymous said...

Okay, one more comment....

in defense of ANGEL...
as far as mutations go, I see Warren and Hank as more legitimate mutations (bird-man, beast-man). I mean it makes more sense than a guy who can shoot lasers from his eyes or a guy who can create ice and snow.

And the red/costume costume with the halo is just one of the best costumes ever, IMO.

signing off (for real)

Martinex1 said...

Great discussion and topic. This may be a little snarky but I have to say Wolverine(Post 1981). I loved Wolverine in the early days and up through about issue 145. In those days he was tough, fought against his instincts, was unmanageable - but he was vulnerable and had huge limitations to his powers. At some point post 1981 he absolutely ruined the X-Men for me. He suddenly embodied everything I find distasteful in post bronze age characters. He was brutal, unbeatable, violent, repetitive in mood and manner. For me he was the grandfather of Cable and Gambit as well as many others. His popularity in that form changed the X-Men from losers and outsiders to unbeatable warriors. I think that change ruined the X-Men and most modern comics, because the stories suddenly were about being cool (and unfortunately in many cases cool was the equivalent of killer)and not being a hero as I would define hero. As pointed out here many times - Wolverine today is not the same as in those Claremont /Byrne masterpieces. So for me Wolverine is the absolute worst.

Anonymous said...

For me it's Dazzler. Just never saw the point in the creation of this character. Apparently someone still had a disco fetish after all these years!

- Mike 'X-men was great - up to DOFP' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Humanbelly said...

Man, it IS hard to come up w/ a definitive worst, isn't it? That late 80's thru the 90's stretch is just littered beyond belief with bad trend-chasing, created-out-of-the-blue "hot" characters and/or established characters that went through inane gritty transformations and reimaginings.

Sooo many candidates. . . although it's still nice to see that most of those mentioned here still had folks willing to speak right up in their defense. I always like that. Strong Guy, for instance, wasn't nearly so bad from my view. I didn't care for his real name, as "Guido" carries a bit of ethnic-joke weight on its shoulders, and my lord, he was never drawn in a way that made any sense at all. But the character himself was a rather interesting oddball. . . someone that you'd enjoy hanging with on a lunch break.

Hey, going back to Angel's (original) mutant abilities-- I think the 2nd edition of the Marvel Handbook did give him some other enhancements related to his avian mutation (IIRC). Keen eyesight, maybe? And bones that were very light but exceptionally strong? Also, in some older issue of the X-men, he gets pretty badly injured, and Prof X declares that he'll be healed very quickly because of his enhanced Mutant Metabolism, or something---- so, like, a healing factor? (Which, uh, has nothing to do w/ wings or being a bird. . . )


Dr. Oyola said...

Say what you want about Dazzler, her powers are awesome!

dbutler16 said...

Speaking to Humanbelly's comments about some additional Angel powers, I seem to recall reading in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe that he was at the human limit of strength, and could lift 500 lbs, which puts him in the Captain America range. I don't recall that ever being featured in an actual comic, but hey, there it was in black & white.

Humanbelly said...

Oddly enough, I feel like we got to know Warren much better in his exploits outside of the X-Men. The first time I remember actually "liking" him as an individual is in Amazing Adventures. . . #15, was it?. . . where he and the newly-transformed Beast take on the Griffin, and the writing conveys a very realistic bond between the two old teammates. Likewise with the Champions and later in the New Defenders (New??), while Warren tends to play straight man to the more volatile (and goofy) Bobby Drake, he comes across as a much more real person-- the wildly rich guy who's not entirely comfortable w/ his level of wealth ("Warren, that's more money than GOD makes!")-- really, just an admirable, likable straight-arrow. In a way, he's almost more like a DC character, y'know? Which, I suppose, is why they felt the need to "grit" him up via the Four Horsemen arc, and turn him blue, etc, etc, to make him more. . . tragic, I guess.

The irony is that being blue and having weaponize wings didn't make a lick of difference, 'cause he eventually went back to appearing as his normal old self whenever he felt like it via one of Nightcrawler's image-inducers. Honestly, I think he's more interesting when he's not just another deadly mutant weapon to be used in a full frontal assault.


Anonymous said...

Longshot! Absolutely! A character whose mutant power is "being lucky"? And the smarmy way Claremont had that carry over into relationships with females was just silly. Remember the long line of women waiting to dance with Longshot while ignoring Wolverine, Havoc and COlossus?

PERSONAL THEORY: I think Chris Claremont used Longshot as his personal fantasy member of the X-Men, just like he did with the blonde character Horth or Hoth when he was writing John Carter of Mars comics for Marvel.

LOngshot's bandolier of metal razors also bore a resemblance to the bandolier of the original Blade the Vampire Slayer ( a character Claremont had written for in Vampire Tales - and later brought Blade's aquaintance Chief Inspector Dai Thomas into the X-Men books during the Proteus saga)

Again, it was just my impression back when Longshot was first introduced and the way Claremont stacked the deck in Longshot's favor in so many stories just struck me as WAY too much of a personal investment for a character that's being drawn to resemble you. Just like Horth or Hoth.

Anonymous said...

I knew I had outgrown the X-Men with Gambit's introduction! All the things Karen pointed out were spot on! Just gimmicks/flourishes for no fathomable reason.
But, then, I never bought the Marvel Universe's anti-mutant bias, either. I don't see how the average Marvel U resident can tell by watching two super-powered individuals throwing lightning bolts at each other that one is a mutant (and therefore hated and feared) and one not. I get the allegory they're going for, but it just doesn't work for me.
Have to defend Dazzler, though! Not necessarily as an X-Member, but as an interesting character with an interesting power. Since her light powers needed a sonic catalyst, she was as powerful as the story called for, and thus was extremely flexible in terms of the types of situations that she wound up in. Her reluctance to be anything but a 'singing sensation' was bound to have a certain shelf life, but it did distinguish her from the crowd.

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