When Professor Charles Xavier first established a team of ragtag mutants, there were only five of them to worry about: Cyclops, Jean Grey/Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast and Iceman. In the beginning, it was easy to keep up with them, but that was in 1963 and, over the decades, times have changed.
As more and more characters have been introduced, the game of ‘who’s who?’ has become increasingly difficult. There are literally hundreds of heroes (and villains) who feature regularly, as well as a plethora of secondary characters, who only appear now and then. And that’s before you even consider those characters we’ve only come to know through alternate realities and multiple timelines.
And even if you only know the X-Men because of Fox’s foray into X-movies, you’ve already been introduced to a fairly large representation of the main players in Xavier’s dream. And this year there’s more to come.
The release of X-Men: First Class in June will introduce moviegoers to a number of new characters, as well younger versions of some of those you’ll have seen before. In short, it will offer us a whole new line-up of X-Men to get excited about.
There’s a problem, though. By taking the story back its roots, some fanboys and girls are disappointed that the original 1963 line-up isn’t represented in the film. There’s no Jean Grey, for instance, no Cyclops, no Iceman. And Xavier, possibly one of fiction’s most famous baldies, has a suspicious full head of hair.
But for all its chronological anomalies, the first pictures from the set look sharp, sexy and exciting, which, for this writer, at least, is enough for me to forgive the weird ‘how the hell are you there?’ issue.
What’s more, putting aside all of those nasty timelines, alternate realities and, well, mutant deaths from over the years, First Class has got me thinking about who’d make my dream X-line-up. So, here goes:
Okay, so I admit she’s something of a controversial choice for leader of a dream team, but bear with me.
When we first met Emma Frost in 1980 she was part of the mysterious and deadly Hellfire Club, but in recent years The White Queen has redeemed herself so much that she is now co-head of The Xavier Institute. The fact is, ‘leader of the X-Men’ is the one gig that Frost really, really wants. But she’ll never get it while her love, Cyclops, is around.
Taking him out the equation, in my eyes, makes her the perfect candidate. Not only is she a powerful psychic with formidable telepathic powers, she can also transform her body into indestructible organic diamond, making her an asset both in psi- and physical battles. Brains and brawn? Surely, a given attribute for any X-leader.
How do I know her? Comic readers will have been familiar with Frost since the 80s, but she also featured in both the 1992 cartoon series and the 2008 series Wolverine And The X-Men.
Actress Tahyna Tozzi made a brief appearance as Frost at the end of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but Mad Men star, January Jones ,will be the first to breathe any real life into Frost when she appears in the role in First Class later this year.
Nightcrawler (real name Kurt Wagner) has always been a favourite of mine. For one thing, he’s blue and looks like a demon (it’s his dad’s fault). And another, he’s a teleporter. This is very cool.
Every X-team needs a teleporter in their midst, just so they can hotfoot it out of somewhere sharpish if things get a little tough. Furthermore, Nightcrawler’s religion and faith have led him to make some strong friendships with many of his previous teammates. And every X-team needs a heart.
How do I know him? Kurt Wagner first appeared in comics in 1985, but it wasn’t until 2000’s X-Men: Evolution series that he was seen regularly on-screen.
Nightcrawler also appeared in the 2008 series Wolverine And The X-Men, but by then Alan Cumming had brought Wagner to life in X2.
Poor Darwin. He’s had a tough life. He was part of the first team sent to rescue the original X-Men from Krakoa, a living island, but most of his teammates died and Darwin was swallowed in the earth by a combination of their dying powers. Crikey!
It’s okay, though, because Darwin’s mutation gives him reactive evolution, which basically means his body can adapt to any situation he is placed in.
Over the years Darwin has grown gills after being submerged in water, made his skin fireproof when exposed to flame, no longer required oxygen when he was lost in space, and gained perfect night vision as if he’d just eaten an entire farm full of carrots. Let’s face facts: Darwin simply rules.
How do I know him? Comic book fans only met Darwin in 2006 during the Deadly Genesis mini-series that revealed the shocking truth of the X-Men’s history. As such, when Twilight star, Edi Gathegi, portrays the role in First Class later this year, it’ll be the first time Darwin has graced our screens.
Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) deserves a place on the dream team for so many reasons. For one thing, her ability to ‘phase’, which essentially renders her almost completely intangible to physical touch and allows her to pass through solid objects, is beyond cool. On top of that, she has a pet dragon and has been involved in one of the most glorious X-romances ever.
This romance came to a teary end at the conclusion of Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run, when Kitty uses her powers to phase a giant bullet through the centre of the Earth, saving both her lover and her planet. However, Kitty remains fused to the bullet and disappears into the depths of space, seemingly lost forever.
In coping, her lover, the Russian X-Man, Colossus, gets the name “Katya” tattooed on his chest and spends the next hundred-or-so issues wallowing in a deep depression. It’s like every break-up I’ve ever had.
How do I know her? Kitty Pryde appeared (sort of) in both of the first two X-movies, but it wasn’t until The Last Stand, when Inception star, Ellen Page, took over the role, that she really made her mark.
In terms of comics, Kitty has been around since 1980, also appearing in both the X-Men: Evolution and Wolverine And The X-Men cartoon series.
This one is simple. Every X-team needs a Wolverine. By this, I don’t necessarily mean that Wolverine himself is a must, but there needs to be one team member who is there to, well, kick ass. You need some muscle.
Other options might include Colossus, Rogue, Bishop, Thunderbird, X-23 or Armor. But Wolverine remains the obvious choice.
I’ve selected him for several reasons. He’d make an excellent deputy leader to Frost, he has a rather special friendship with both Nightcrawler (whom he affectionately calls “Elf”) and Shadowcat, to whom he became something of a mentor when she first joined the team, and he is, by far, the most famous member of the X-Men in modern pop culture. Not to mention, of course, he’s the best there is at what he does. How do I know him? Wolverine actually first appeared in The Incredible Hulk in 1974, but it was his arrival at Xavier’s Westchester mansion in 1975 that really counts.
A key character in the 1992 animated series, Wolverine also featured in X-Men: Evolution and got his own titular animated show with 2008’s Wolverine And The X-Men.
Meanwhile, the mighty Hugh Jackman has portrayed him in four X-films already, most notably in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. No sign of him in First Class yet, though, which begs the question: when will Wolverine be back? Because surely, Bub, it’s just a matter of time.
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