In this day and age it may seem hard to believe that Marvel Comics’ X-Men was at one time a middle-tier seller.
The X-Men had never been one of Marvel’s top selling titles during the Silver Age even after Roy Thomas and powerhouse penciler Neal Adams took over the title.
Circulation numbers were still low and the title (while not canceled) began publishing reprints starting in the low 60s issues though the early 90s issues.
When Giant Size X-Men #1 was introduced with the new X-Men team the title slowly began to pick up readers and eventually began publishing bi-monthly.
The title’s young writer (Chris Claremont) and penciler Dave Cockrum infused the X-Men titles with plenty of pathos, angst and a soap opera setting along with plenty of action to pique readers’ interest.
Some little known interesting facts behind the title may surprise some readers.
Chris Claremont’s favorite characters were Colossus and Nightcrawler. He considered Wolverine a second-string character with very little potential-nothing more than a thug. In fact, at one time it was bantered about that Wolverine would be a teenager and that his claws were actually in his gloves. There was even talk that he was a mutated Wolverine!
Penciller Dave Cockrum had left DC Comics where he penciled The Legion Of Superheroes. Many of the character designs he created for the X-Men were originally intended for use in the LSH: Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler for example.
As the X-men slowly garnered more readers Cockrum had a difficult time completing each issue’s pencils-he was a slow and meticulous penciler best known for his costume, character and setting designs. Cockrum penciled the X-Men through issue #107, which introduced the Starjammers and the Shi-ar Imperial Guard (Marvel’s version of LSH), pitting them against the X-Men.
Take note that in issues # 107 and 108 many of the events that would later go on to define the X-Men were first introduced such as Phoenix’s power and Wolverine’s ferocity.
Unable to keep a consistent penciling schedule Cockrum reluctantly quit the X-Men and a new artist, fresh off Marvel’s Spider-Man Team-up, Ironfist and other fill-in issues took center stage.
John Byrne began his impressive penciling run with issue #108 and the X-Men changed forever.
Unlike Claremont Byrne loved his fellow Canadian Wolverine and in years to come would successfully define the berserker X-Man.
His boundless imagination gave new life to the X-Men with his vast alien landscapes, innovative character desigsn and his unfailing eye for page composition and story pacing.
He, and Claremont, would go on to co-plot the X-Men through its most impressive run until the mid-140 issues when Claremont’s and Byrne’s creative visions clashed, resulting in Byrne leaving he X-Men.
Ironically Dave Cockrum would begin a second run on the title, which eventually fell to the penciling talents of John Romita Jr., Paul Smith, Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee.
X-Men #108 is not the easiest issue to find and is considered by many collectors as the spark that ignited John Byrne’s career. He, along with inker Terry Austin, brought a new realism to comic books with their collaborative attention to detail. Their team-up would forever change the face of comic books and would go on to influence a whole new generation of comic book artists.