Puberty and Racism

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Last week, the guys discussed which member of the X-Men was the coolest, and this week continue the discussion for your reading enjoyment.


Chris: I love the X-Men. Well, that’s a hefty statement there. I love parts of the X-Men. I was introduced to the group and to comics in general really with the Phoenix and Dark Phoenix Sagas. Hot damn, if ever there was a place to hop in, it was there. I learned to love Nightcrawler. Mm, BAMF is indeed a good way to describe him, and as a religious person myself, I never found him overly crazy, so all was good. Colossus was another favorite because, ooh yeah, that’s a cool power. But still, nothing could come close to the raw addictiveness that was and still is Wolverine.

I have probably read more with Wolverine in it than actual plotlines concerning the X-Men proper simply because I found his dedicated stories more entertaining. A lot of commenters really disliked Logan, and I can’t begrudge you for that as he is written terribly in some places. But inversely, I’ve found that when he’s written with a careful touch, his stories are gripping, sickening, emotionally draining, but ultimately exhilarating, mostly because for a character with an indestructible skeleton and the ability to heal from essentially any injury, he’s given a lot of character flaws to balance him out.

You may find what I’m about to do a bit gauche, but Wolverine is essentially the Batman of the Marvel Universe insomuch as both get waaaaay more panel time than they deserve and both can either be written by strong writers – like Claremont in Uncanny X-Men – or they can be written by weak writers – like those ones I didn’t read because Wolverine is always awesome to me.

Oddly, both brooding heroes have had their “aging hero coming out of retirement books” with Batman having the quintessential (and aggravatingly boring) Dark Knight Returns, and Wolverine having Old Man Logan, a graphic novel I highly, highly recommend to any comic fan. Not only that, you can’t kill either, they both seem to have aliases that they only bring out when convenient, and both are perpetual loners, even if they begrudgingly team up with brighter, more goody-goody heroes from time to time.

Really, any character is as brilliant as the writing and only as interesting as the story allows, but even on a pure “how cool would these powers be” level, Wolverine wins my choice for favorite X-Man simply because I would love to be reasonably indestructible, have heightened senses, have retractable claws (I don’t care if they’re metal or not), and most importantly, have a good reason to be a hairy animal man. I currently only have one of those powers, but I’ll let you decide which one.

Again, it’s all in good fun and with a group as dynamic and enjoyable as the X-Men, with awesome characters of all genders and species, it’s a perfect example of no right answer, which hey, is the name of the segment we do! How ’bout that!

For the record, my top five X-Men are:


That is all. Fastball special, take me out!

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Kyle: Well, here we are. Let’s start with the accusations that Chris and I don’t know what the hell we are talking about in terms of X-Men.

We know enough. Could we teach an upper-level semester in Mutant History for a semester? Probably not. But we did make competent arguments and strong cases for both of our sides. I can’t exactly be bothered to know more about X-Men than I already do. I’ve got four years of average education, a wife’s likes and dislikes, and all the words to the theme to Ghostbusters. My head is full.

Anyway, the argument at hand is Gambit vs. Beast. I do need to point out something important that none of us will enjoy acknowledging. Gambit and Beast both have their similarities to Wolverine. So, is it better to be more like Logan, or is it worse? I suppose it would depend on your viewpoint.

Gambit is a radical personality just like Wolverine, and he is known to go off on his own and have some life-changing adventures. That makes for good stories, even if it’s a tad derivative.

Meanwhile, Beast is very similar in power and oddity as Wolverine. Stay with me here…Beast has super powered senses, reflexes, and strength. Wolverine does too. Beast has an animalistic appearance (first mildly ape-like, then later more feline), just like Wolverine. And to top it off, Hank even struggles with controlling his animal instinct. Wolverine also has been known to give in to the “beast” inside. This all may sound pretty circumstantial, but you must admit that the similarities here mean that any personal story for the character is easily adaptable for the other.

Moreover, if we talk about personal dilemmas for the characters then Gambit really has Beast beat for good drama. While Beast has struggled with being judged by his appearance (in keeping with the theme of X-Men of persecution), Gambit has had a crisis or seven in his personal relationship with Rogue, his friends’ lack of understanding and reluctance to trust him, and he himself has faltered and switched sides on many occasions.

There’s just more story there. Because Gambit is such a vagabond, he has a character arc to play out over years of comics/cartoons. Once Beast is cool with being big and blue, he’s pretty much done as a changing character because he’s already done finding his allegiance, his purpose, and his moral center. A character that well-grounded (surrounded by a bunch of others that are also well-grounded) I could probably do without if necessary.


Dan: I was an avid watcher of the 90s cartoon Uncanny X-Men, and always enjoyed the team in their various adventures. My one gripe would be that the episodes were often aired out of order, an infuriating act multiplied by the multi-episode plot lines that the show would work with. One week Professor X and Magneto are walking around some jungle, wait, how is Professor X walking? Next we see Morph betraying the crew and dying… you get the idea. Watching the series out of order is on my short list of torture I would perform if ever the government wanted me to extract secrets from our enemies. I can’t imagine the comics out of order would be any better of an experience.

First point went to Chris for a very strong argument regarding the transition that Beast has undergone over the years. It’s always a point of discussion whether it would be better to be a mutant that could pass for a human, a la Professor X, or a mutant that barely looks human, al a Nightcrawler. The two sides of that argument being that one side is true to themselves, but gets more hate from bigots, while the other side avoids conflict but perhaps is assimilating with the enemy. As a Jew, this argument hits close to home. With Beast, he is unique in that he has had both sides of the coin to deal with, and in that way personifies what it is to be a mutant more than anyone else.

Side note, this was a very low scoring episode, mostly because the boys got caught up explaining why the other’s argument is invalid. And while invalid arguments can be a funny internet meme, no points for your side can be gained by tearing apart the other.

Second point, after much rambling, went to Chris for the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde argument. Beast and our ol’ pal Wolverine both have a very animalistic demeanor, depending on who drew them. But while someone who hates mutants would look at Wolverine as the reason to fear them, Beast is nothing but pleasant to have discord with. At the end of the day, not judging a book by its cover is what the X-Men are all about.

Kyle wakes up and lays down some truth about Gambit, in the form of an argument about his anti-hero status. If Gambit can play dirty and win a fight against Wolverine, that puts him pretty high on the ladder of cool. Then you factor in that Gambit hasn’t been done to death … cough … Wolverine … cough … and you have a pretty good reason why my wife swoons over Gambit and not “Three-Claws”.

Ah, the romance between Gambit and Rogue. Now that’s a romance that even little boys can get into. The line “I can’t sleep with you because I might hurt you” can apply to Rogue and Gambit, or Sparkles the Vampire and Boring Girl from Twilight. Which one would you rather watch? That’s right, X-Men all the way. Does this romance make Gambit more relatable than Mr. “I’ve been married hundreds of times, but my enemies keep killing my family” Logan? Boring.

Then Wolverine said “Bub” and won us over. What can we say, he’s cool. That being said, my personal favorite X-Man would be Rogue. I mean, I wish there was a male version of her, but if you are going to have a power, having all the powers is pretty cool. I am sure Beast could whip up some inhibitor collar I could wear while I got my smooch on.

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Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.