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FISCHER: X finally giving it to us

By Travis Fischer,

The X-Men are back in the spotlight!

After a long decade of neglect, Marvel’s merry mutants are clawing their way back to the top of the super-hero food chain.

The history of the X-Men as a franchise is something of a rollercoaster.

FISCHER: X finally giving it to us
Travis Fischer

The original comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby was something of a bomb when it first ran in the 1960s. By 1970, the book was effectively canceled, running reprints of old stories until Len Wein and Chris Claremont re-invented the team in 1975.

From there though, the franchise took off in a big way. For more than 30 years the popularity of the X-Men eclipsed every other Marvel super-hero that didn’t cling to walls. Expanding well past the comic book medium, the franchise spawned three different Saturday morning cartoon series and dozens of video games. And, of course, 20th Century Fox’s X-Men movies laid the groundwork for superhero movies as we would come to know them.

And then they were gone. Or, as gone as they could be.

After years of being a regular presence on television, the last X-Men animated project ran in 2011. This was also the year of the last X-Men video game for consoles.

Outside of Fox-produced movies and the occasional TV show, you’d be hard-pressed to find X-Men-related products.

It’s not a coincidence that Marvel suddenly stopped licensing out the X-Men for adaptations just as the MCU was on the rise. With 20th Century Fox holding the movie and television rights to the X-Men, Marvel Entertainment made an intentional decision to prioritize characters they fully controlled over characters that they only partially controlled.

While Marvel never went so far as to cancel the X-Men books entirely, the company did everything it could to otherwise erase them from the view of the greater public.

This policy extended so far that I own a T-shirt featuring the cover of 1984’s Secret Wars that has been conspicuously altered to replace X-Men and Fantastic Four characters with characters featured in Marvel Studios projects.

It was almost entertaining to see exactly how petty Marvel could get when it came to pushing down what was, for decades, their most profitable property.

But that’s all in the past now. With Disney purchasing 20th Century Fox, the X-Men’s stint in licensing purgatory is over.

“X-Men ’97,” a continuation of the early ‘90s animated series, is introducing a new generation to the stories and characters that turned the franchise into the powerhouse it once was.

Meanwhile, as public interest in the MCU continues to wane, Marvel Studios hasn’t exactly been subtle about its intentions to re-ignite its popularity with an injection of mutants. A beloved musical riff here, a Patrick Stewart cameo there, and now the upcoming “Deadpool and Wolverine” seems like it will feature the multiverse jibberish that brings mutants into the MCU moving forward.

It’s exciting to see what happens now that Marvel has taken its thumb off the scale. With the self-imposed embargo lifted, the X-Men are primed to be introduced to a new generation.

Hope they survive the experience.

— Travis Fischer is a news writer for the Charles City Press and has been looking for an excuse to re-read some old comics.

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