Phoenix Rising, 1 of 6
(Click on the images if you wish to view them individually.)
For adolescents growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, the Uncanny X-Men were our Classic Star Trek crew. They were a racially diverse group that chose to work together as a family. Watching them struggle with power, romance, love triangles, and trying to solve problems through non-lethal violence – captivated some of our worlds before personal computers existed and when there were only 5 or so channels on most TVs.
The Uncanny X-men series’ run from issues #94 through #150 was excellent. Creators Thomas, Claremont, Wein, Cockrum, Byrne, Austin, Rubinstein and others created a fantastic world of the imagination.
The group of superheroes were an odd bunch:
1. A man whose power was screaming – Banshee.
2. A ‘scissorhands’ Canadian who rarely could control his violence and temper – Wolverine.
3. A paralyzed genius with great intellect – Prof. X.
4. A ‘colored’ circus freak whose primary ability was being exceptional at running away and avoiding conflict. – Nightcrawler.
5. An African woman whose skill was trying to control nature’s fury – Storm.
6. A young Russian with great strength and undeveloped social skills – Colossus.
7. A young teen girl who at times had trouble even keeping her body’s molecules from flying apart – Kitty Pryde.
And then there was the lead romantic couple:
A brilliant, empathic woman whose powers of the mind would eventually grow so strong that she could save or destroy the universe depending on if she could learn to control her powers – Jean Grey (aka Marvel Girl, Phoenix, and Dark Phoenix)
A young, cocky white guy whose power was that if he opened his eyes too wide, he destroyed everything in front of him. His name, “Cyclops,” was sometimes appropriate for his tunnel vision. His real name was Scott Summers. Jean taught Scott how to read her mind. She taught him how to see the world. Her powers became so great that when he was near her, that was the only time he could walk around without his rose colored glasses. But when his visions were beyond his control and had the potential to destroy, she used her cognitive powers to prevent him from hurting others.
It was a great romance. And apparently, under Jim Shooter’s urgings, it became a tragic romance – a modern day Romeo & Juliet. Except that in this version, there was only one suicide and Scott was faced with living with Jean’s absence for the rest of his life.
This will be my longest post ‘series’ so far. Looking back on my youth, at the time I didn’t understand all the reasons why this story effected me so powerfully. But now in retrospect “suddenly I see why the hell it means so much to me.” (see KT Tunstall’s song for reference).
I’ll start this ‘Phoenix Rising’ series by paying tribute to Dave Cockrum, who died in November of last year after suffering long term complications from diabetes. He brought the modern era X-Men to life. He helped make their struggles concrete, relevant and telling.
The first illustration at the top of this post and the following illustration were done to raise money for his medical expenses in 2004 and thereafter. The first above is by John Romita, Sr. of Spiderman and Daredevil. The one below is by Dave Gibbons of Watchmen.
This is a cover I love by Dave Cockrum:
Mr. Cockrum, I miss you. I will always remember the positive effects you had on my psyche.