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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

X-amining Phoenix: The Untold Story #1














April 1984

In a Nutshell
The original ending to "The Dark Phoenix Saga".

Writer/Co-Plotter: Chris Claremont
Artist/Co-Plotter: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
On the Blue Area of the moon, the X-Men engage the Shi'ar Imperial Guard in a duel for the fate of Jean Grey. The X-Men are quickly overwhelmed, leaving Cyclops and Jean to make a final stand against them, but they too are defeated. Aboard the Shi'ar ship, a gathering of the strongest telepaths from the Shi'ar Empire prepares to perform a psychic lobotomy in order to remove Jean's powers. Wolverine protests, but Cyclops reminds him that the X-Men gave their word to honor the results of the duel. As the telepaths do their work, Cyclops can feel Jean's power slip away through their psychic rapport, an experience he describes as watching someone die while dying yourself. When the psychic surgery is over, Jean is unconscious but alive and powerless, and the defeated and bitter X-Men leave the Shi'ar ship. Meanwhile, from his home on the moon, the Watcher comments on the nobility of the X-Men and the potential in humanity symbolized by Phoenix, and expresses his belief that the future of humanity will be filled with promise and fulfilled potential.


Firsts and Other Notables
This issue reprints X-Men #137, but with the original ending in which Jean Grey is lobotomized and loses her powers, instead of killing herself. It also contains a transcript of a round-table interview between Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Terry Austin, Jim Salicrup and Louise Jones and Jim Shooter discussing the circumstances which led to Jean's death and the process of redoing issue #137. 

This issue was published in 1984, roughly four years after the publication of issue #137 and two years before Jean's return. Though there are some comments in the interview (particularly from Byrne) that retroactively seem to be hinting at Jean's resurrection, it seems unlikely that any of those plans would have been in motion in 1984.

A Work in Progress
The main point of divergence occurs five pages from the end of the issue. Following Scott and Jean's desperate last stand against the Imperial Guard, the panel which, in issue #137, depicted Phoenix manifesting herself once more now simply shows the Shi'ar ship with the words, "it's over". It then cuts to a captured Jean being prepared for her psychic lobotomy.


In addition to the five completely different pages that close out the issue, revisions that Claremont made between this issue and #137 are sprinkled throughout the story, mostly during the "down time" sequence that precedes the big Imperial Guard/X-Me dust up. In general, these versions of the sequences focus less on how each character views Jean and her recent actions.

Most notably, in this version, Lilandra offers Beast and Angel an opportunity to leave the ship, as they are not current members of the X-Men. Beast tries to take her up on her offer, but Angel intervenes and tells her they are both staying. Later, Beast bemoans that Angel missed his cue, as Beast was planning on leaving the ship to rally the Avengers and other heroes, which is a nice little bit that helps further isolate the X-Men.


Angel has a different line of dialogue which suggest he misses being an X-Man, foreshadowing his upcoming return to the team. 


Later, before being visited by Jean in her old Marvel Girl outfit, Cyclops thinks back on Storm's question from X-Men Annual #3 (the same question he remembers at Jean's funeral in issue #138) and muses on his life at the orphanage growing up, and compares being there to being with the X-Men.


Lilandra says that the Shi'ar are unwilling to kill Jean outright, as they are uncertain what ramifications her death might have on the M'Kraan crystal.


As Wolverine argues against lobotomizing Jean, he refers to Cyclops as "Scott", which somehow makes the panel more affecting.


The conversation between the Watcher and the Recorder in this issue is less poignant, as it centers on a more general notion of the significance of humanity as depicted by the honor of the X-Men, rather than on how Jean's sacrifice was a showcase for the power and uniqueness of humanity.


This issue also contains a look at the original splash page to issue #138:


I Love the 80s
For another take on the ending of "The Dark Phoenix Saga", check out What If (vol. 1) #27 with my internet pal Siskoid, which asks the question: what if Phoenix had not died? 

Young Love
In contrast to what was published in #137, in this issue Wolverine decides he's not ready to die yet, because he has loose ends in his life, mainly Mariko, offering further proof that as far as Claremont was concerned, the Cyclops/Jean/Wolverine triangle had been put to rest, if it had indeed existed at all.


John Byrne on the original ending of "The Dark Phoenix Saga" 
"The original "ending" saw print in an UNTOLD STORY one shot Marvel put out about 15 years ago -- which seemed to confuse a whole rack of readers, since they would constantly reference the "untold" ending as a reason why certain things could or could not happen. I say "ending" because it was really the beginning. Our intent was to turn Phoenix into a full-fledged VILLAIN (which is why I scragged the asparagus people), and to this end 136 originally ended with her being psychically lobotomized by Lilandra's people. About a year later we'd planned to have Phoenix reassert herself, and start the whole thing going all over again. (Shooter knew this to be our plan, by the way, but when the story started to roll it somehow became important that Phoenix be punished for her deeds, unlike, say, every other Marvel villain.)

Byrne, John."What was the original ending for the Dark Phoenix Saga?" Byrne Robotics. 12/21/2011 http://www.byrnerobotics.com/FAQ/listing.asp?ID=2&T1=Questions+about+Comic+Book+Projects#119

Chris Claremont on the original post-"Dark Phoenix Saga" plans
"John wanted to have her essentially lobotomized, reduced to the level of a 12-year-old child, for whom the mere presence of Scott would cause psychic angst and grief, so we'd have your basic impossible love affair. I didn't go for that. I was willing to accept a few issues of her being, essentially, in shock. But what I wanted to do then was spend about the next eight issues or so having Jean come to terms with the fact that she can no longer move thing by thought, that she is locked inside of her head fro the first time in her adult life...at the same time she has the memory that she had godlike powers, and more importantly, what she did with them. And then what I wanted to do was build up to #150, where Magneto kidnaps her and offers her the Phoenix. He can restart it all, give it all back, in return for a little, you know, "Smash the little fuckers." So anyway, then we would have the X-Men battling Magneto, and in another room, Jean with the Phoenix there offering itself to her, facing the choice of a lifetime. Does she accept this power that she wants with every fibre of her being, knowing that if she takes it she will probably eventually lose control again, because she's not evolved enough, and go on a rampage and kill and maim and destroy? And she denies it. She says, "No! Get thee from me Phoenix!" And the idea is, it is better to be human than it is to be a wrathful goddess. And the she and Scott marry and they live happily ever after, and then in the 20th anniversary they have a baby."

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p109, 107

"'Dark Phoenix' was just supposed to be a middle chapter of a story. 'Phoenix' was the first part, 'Dark Phoenix' was the second part and it was all supposed to culminate in X-Men #150. Magneto would figure out what was going on, grab jean and offer the Phoenix power back. From the beginning, Dave and I always saw Jean as a victim, as did John when he came on the book. She was swept up by powers and forces beyond her control. What happened wasn't her fault because she was literally surfing a power tsunami that was beyond her control. A tragic thing had happened to her and she had no chance within the context of that story. When Magneto offered her the Phoenix power, she would assert her innate heroism and say, 'No, I will not do this. I am not ready to be a god.' She would turn her back on the one thing she wanted more than anything in the world and get on with her life. Mind you, at that point, she would be totally powerless. There would be no more Marvel Girl. The power would have been burned out of her. She couldn't be any sort of X-Man any more."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p67

Teebore's Take 
Though it wasn't well known at the time of issue #137's publication, it quickly became public knowledge that Claremont and Byrne had been forced by Jim Shooter to change the ending of "The Dark Phoenix Saga", and that what saw print wasn't the original ending to the issue. While I have no idea just how quickly that became known, by 1984 it was apparently well known enough (and X-Men enough of a bestseller) that Marvel saw a money-making opportunity in releasing the original, unedited version of the story, along with a roundtable discussion laying out the details of the revision process for those not in the know. The issue itself remains something of an interesting curiosity, showing not just the final five original pages of the issue but how Claremont went back and tweaked the script leading up to the rewritten ending to better account for the revisions.

Comparing the two endings, it is clear what this original version is lacking: tragedy. Though certainly colored by our knowledge of the alternative, the loss of Jean's power doesn't have the same resonance, for us or the characters, as the loss of her life (Wolverine gets a line about how taking away her powers is tantamount to crippling her, but the fact remains: at the end of the day, though depowered, Jean gets to go off into the sunset with the man she loves). More importantly, it robs the character of agency. The ending of issue #137 which saw print makes Jean active in her fate: she decides the threat of going mad with power isn't worth her life, she acts to put a stop to that threat. In the original version, she merely fights alongside the X-Men, is defeated, and then lies unconscious while things are done to her. The story in that version isn't about her, but rather reactions to her. While it is decidedly less tragic, it also does the character a great disservice, writing her out of the book as a passive character to whom things are done, instead of a character whose actions drive the plot. Though it is always difficult to compare what actually occurred with what might have been (especially given how significant "The Dark Phoenix Saga" is to the X-Men mythos), more than anything Phoenix: The Untold Story makes it clear that, though the ending it got wasn't the original intent of the creators, it was the ending the story needed, and the ending it deserved.

Next Issue: X-Men Annual #4
We put "The Dark Phoenix Saga" behind us as a special guest, around whom strange things tend to happen, leads us through "Nightcrawler's Inferno".

34 comments:

Dr. Bitz said...

This ending certainly lacks the dramatic impact the revised ending has. But I suppose you could argue that since it was meant as a second act we may have been sacrificing dramatic impact here for greater dramatic impact down the line? (But hearing what their plans were, it doesn't seem like it.)

I also feel like Scott should have been with Wolverine trying to stop the lobotomy, honor be damned. Wouldn't it have been better if Scott was forcibly restrained fighting to get free as the psychic surgery occured?

Also, I like the idea of Beast trying to escape in order to rally the troops, but I feel like that scene would have worked better with the revised ending. (As killing Jean is much more of a reason to get others involved than just depowering her.)

Also, it's tough for me to believe that Magneto having the ability to give Jean the "Phoenix force" back would not end up being ridiculous.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i kinda like this idea of Jean being forced to choose this horrible power later, but i would not really be down with her saying no and then living, more or less, happily ever after. Where's the conflict in that?

I definitely agree with you that the ending we got was the ending that was needed.

Also, i absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE that wolverine called Cyclops Scott. I can't think of a single other time he's done that. Of course, my memory may be (and probably is) fallible, but what a perfect little instance.

Teebore said...

@Dr. Bitz:I suppose you could argue that since it was meant as a second act we may have been sacrificing dramatic impact here for greater dramatic impact down the line? (But hearing what their plans were, it doesn't seem like it.)

Yeah, it's always tough to compare an actual story to one that exists only in the form of vague ideas espoused in interviews, but I feel like even if the full story had played out its string, it still wouldn't have been as dramatic as what we got.

Wouldn't it have been better if Scott was forcibly restrained fighting to get free as the psychic surgery occured?

That was an odd moment. I understand the desire to have some X-Man try to stop the Shi'ar and having someone else toss out honor in order to highlight how awesomely honorable the X-Men are, but I feel like Cyclops of all people shouldn't have been the person arguing it, especially since, back in issue #101, he had to be forcibly restrained while Jean piloted the shuttle through the solar flare.

it's tough for me to believe that Magneto having the ability to give Jean the "Phoenix force" back would not end up being ridiculous

He'd probably just use some variation of the device he used back in the day to create mutant slaves using the genetic material harvested from Angel's parents.

And that wasn't ridiculous at all.

@Sarah: but i would not really be down with her saying no and then living, more or less, happily ever after. Where's the conflict in that?

The idea, I think, is that her saying no and living happily ever after would mark the end of her role in the book, and thus the end of her story, so there wouldn't need to be the need for further conflict.

Something we'll get into as we get further along is the desire Claremont has to move his characters along, that is, to tell their story and then let them exit the stage in favor of other characters, effectively retiring them. It's a desire that often comes into conflict with the serial nature of superhero comics, especially ones that become as popular/best selling as X-Men becomes, so it never quite works out the way he'd like it to, but we'll definitely see that it's an idea he returns to again and again.

i absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE that wolverine called Cyclops Scott. I can't think of a single other time he's done that.

Neither can I, offhand, which isn't to say it hasn't happened. At any rate, it's happened infrequently enough that it stuck out to me, too. It adds a lot to that one little panel.

That said, technically Wolverine still hasn't called him Scott in that instance, as technically, that instance never actually occurred for the X-Men. But now I'm just being geekily pedantic. :)

Matt said...

I had never read "The Untold Story" until I got the Marvel Masterworks volume containing the Dark Phoenix Saga a few years ago. I'm not even sure I knew this one-shot existed before then (though obviously I did know about the changed ending).

It's interesting to note that the original version used the "chapter" format that a lot of giant-sized Silver Age comics utilized. I'm glad they removed that from the revised version... I always thought it was silly for a single comic (even an extra long one) to be broken into smaller chapters.

I'm a little disappointed you didn't quote anything from the round table discussion. I wonder how hard it was to get Byrne and Claremont into a room together at that point. Their feud was in full effect by then, after all.

Also, during the discussion, Claremont again mentions going home to drink Jack Daniels and watch Flash Gordon, then says something like, "or was it to watch Flash Daniels?" I don't know why, but I find that line really funny.

"Lilandra offers Beast and Angel an opportunity to leave the ship"

I think I mentioned it in the review to issue #137, but I think this (and Beast's subsequent scene lamenting Angel's overenthusiasm) should have stayed for the revised version. There would've been an added layer of that "wishing it could've been different" feeling as you would wonder if things could've turned out better with the Avengers present.

"As Wolverine argues against lobotomizing Jean, he refers to Cyclops as "Scott", which somehow makes the panel more affecting."

I'm pretty sure it's because he'd never called him by his first name before, right? Even after he learned to respect Cyclops, he still only called him "Summers". Anyway, I love that touch. It's probably the main little thing that I wish had made it to the revised version somehow, though obviously there was no place for it. Now I'm curious when Wolverine first called Cyclops "Scott" in the real continuity... Whenever it was, I'm sure it wasn't as resonant as this occasion would've been.

"This issue also contains a look at the original splash page to issue #138

I had no idea this page was ever colored! In the Marvel Masterworks, it's reproduced in black and white from the original artwork.

Matt said...

Regarding Claremont's and Byrne's takes on the future, I said in one of the other reviews that I really regret not having seen the following year play out as they'd originally conceived. I do agree that what we got is probably stronger than what we would've seen, but there's still part of me that would've liked to see an X-Men/Magneto/Phoenix battle. All this would hinge on Byrne sticking around until #150, though.

Plus, a few years ago someone dug up Byrne's handwritten notes on some of the issues that would've followed. Although there's already a divergence (he had the Dark Phoenix Saga ending in issue #134), I wonder how much of this might have made it in anyway... the "Cyclops robot" doesn't sound too compelling, but I would've loved to see an X-Men vs. Ultron story!

And Byrne has described the Death of Mariko many times over the years -- it would've been the first on page meeting between Wolverine and Sabretooth (which was eventually put off until the Mutant Massacre, about 80 issues later!), and featured, as Byrne once described it, the most brutal fight the Comics Code would have allowed, ending with Wolverine killing Sabretooth.

Maybe it's not so much that I wish we could've had issue #150 as originally planned, but more that I just wish Byrne would've stuck around until issue #150 to get some of those other stories out there in one form or another!

Michael said...

Like Matt, I never knew "The Untold Story" was published until I purchased the Marvel Masterworks hardcover and, like Matt, this post is the first time I've seen the original 138 splash page in color. Wish they'd included that in the Masterwork instead of the black and white version... Gorgeous stuff.

As I've sort of chimed in over the past few issues of the Dark Phoenix X-aminations, I think that we gained much more than we lost with the published version of the Dark Phoenix saga. The story earns its legacy in the published final story. The hero descends into a villain and dies that way. It had never been done in comics before -- and hasn't really been done since. We've seen heroes descend into villainy, but they've always come back to reclaim their heroism somehow.

So, for that reason, I much prefer living in a world where Phoenix died.

The only things that I wish had been different about the Dark Phoenix story -- and, really, the only things that I wish had been different about all of Claremont and Byrne's run -- is that Phoenix had stayed dead (not a C/B story, but one that impacted their legacy) and Byrne had stuck it out through 150. The Death of Mariko by Claremont and Byrne is a story I desperately want to read.

That said -- Ugh, I forgot about the annual. Not one of my favorites. I love the X-Men in the "real world" stories, driven to protect those who hate and fear them. That's powerful stuff. I love X-Men in space stories, which many don't, but I think it's fun. X-Men in Limbo stories are just crap. (For some reason, though, I've always enjoyed New Mutants in Limbo. Maybe because I have a soft spot for Magik.) Next week's annual is particularly bad as we get the (SPOILER) big reveal of Amanda Sefton -- stewardess / sorceress, girlfriend / sister...

Can we just skip to 139? That two-part Wolverine / Nightcrawler team-up has always been one of my favorites. Claremont / Byrne is just so action-packed, so fast-paced, so iconic, with one hugely powerful story after another that I've always enjoyed 139 - 140 just for being a good ol' regular superhero story.

Sigh... I guess that I can wait two weeks for that...

Anne said...

i totes agree with Sarah (and others) that Wolverine calling Cyclops Scott is just really, really amazing. Sad that it didn't 'really' happen, but i'm glad i got to see it here (so thanks).
I've been in an Xmen mood recently due to your posts and the fact that we finally watched First Class (and we watched a few eps of the oddly comic/animation Astonishing Xmen on our netflix instant queue- the Joss Whedon series).
I would've liked to SEE the other ending with Mags and such, but not as canon- just as a glimpse into what might have been

Dr. Bitz said...

By the way, I should mention that once again Byrne manages to come off sounding like a douche.

"(Shooter knew this to be our plan, by the way, but when the story started to roll it somehow became important that Phoenix be punished for her deeds, unlike, say, every other Marvel villain.)"

He seems to have a "woe-is-me" attitude. Anyway, in Shooter's defense, I think it was less "Phoenix needs to punished" as it was that she couldn't hang around with the X-Men anymore since they should not be able to accept what she did. (Destroying an entire planet is quite the crime.)

Naturally, it's not like that these days. Villains do terrible things and then become good guys. (I think there's far too much forgiveness of villainy by super heroes....but that's me.) But Shooter is not in charge anymore either.

Teebore said...

@Matt: I had never read "The Untold Story" until I got the Marvel Masterworks volume containing the Dark Phoenix Saga a few years ago.

I'm not sure where I first heard about it, but I remember picking it up at a con years ago. Heck, I may have picked it up without really knowing what it was. I had no idea it had been reprinted in the Masterworks until recently.

I'm a little disappointed you didn't quote anything from the round table discussion. I wonder how hard it was to get Byrne and Claremont into a room together at that point. Their feud was in full effect by then, after all.

Honestly, the only reason I didn't quote anything was that nothing jumped out at me as being terribly relevant/interesting, or all that different from quotes I'd already posted from different sources.

Granted, I only read through the discussion once, but it certainly lacked the kind of fireworks I'd hoped to see from getting Claremont and Byrne in a room together (I wonder if they were in a room together, or if the whole thing was done on a conference call or something). Some of Byrne's comments about Jean's culpability were interesting in light of his role in bringing her back, but other than that, it seemed like pretty basic stuff we'd already covered.

Also, during the discussion, Claremont again mentions going home to drink Jack Daniels and watch Flash Gordon, then says something like, "or was it to watch Flash Daniels?"

Yeah, he says he walked in and said he was going home to drink Jack Daniels and watch Flash Gordon, and then Shooter says "or drink Flash Daniels and..." and Claremont replies, "It was an interesting evening...".

It was pretty funny...

There would've been an added layer of that "wishing it could've been different" feeling as you would wonder if things could've turned out better with the Avengers present.

Definitely. In general, while I prefer the revised ending, I like the original "calm before the storm" vignettes better (the original Cyclops one is a toss up, as the whole orphanage business seems kinda shoehorned in, given the situation).

Even after he learned to respect Cyclops, he still only called him "Summers". Anyway, I love that touch. It's probably the main little thing that I wish had made it to the revised version somehow, though obviously there was no place for it.

Ditto. I too have no idea when he first refers to Cyclops as Scott, but I'm definitely going to keep my out for it now (though it won't, as you say, carry the same resonance, whenever it is).

but more that I just wish Byrne would've stuck around until issue #150 to get some of those other stories out there in one form or another!

I definitely agree with that sentiment. I'm not a huge fan of Cockrum's second run (everything between Byrne's departure and Paul Smith), though Cockrum himself has little to do with it, which makes Byrne's departure even more bittersweet. And the X-Men vs. Ultron would have been a lot of fun.

Teebore said...

@Michael: The hero descends into a villain and dies that way. It had never been done in comics before -- and hasn't really been done since. We've seen heroes descend into villainy, but they've always come back to reclaim their heroism somehow.

That's a great point, and even with the retcon, it still kinda stands.

The Death of Mariko by Claremont and Byrne is a story I desperately want to read.

Me too.

X-Men in Limbo stories are just crap. (For some reason, though, I've always enjoyed New Mutants in Limbo. Maybe because I have a soft spot for Magik.)

Yeah, I'm not a huge fan of this annual either, and share your general disdain for "X-Men in Limbo" stories as well as the Magik loophole (though I'm not a huge fan of her limited series, probably because it's still very much an "X-Men in Limbo story"; I know we should cover it as part of this series, but I'm not looking forward to slogging through the whole thing again).

I've always enjoyed 139 - 140 just for being a good ol' regular superhero story.

Whereas I've never been quite as big a fan as that upcoming two parter. I'm curious to re-read it and see if I like it more now.

@Anne: we finally watched First Class (and we watched a few eps of the oddly comic/animation Astonishing Xmen on our netflix instant queue- the Joss Whedon series).

At the risk of hijacking the thread, what'd you think of First Class? Also, I had no idea those motion comics were on Netflix; I'll have to check them out. I've been curious...

I would've liked to SEE the other ending with Mags and such, but not as canon- just as a glimpse into what might have been

Ditto, though X-Men Forever was so blah that part of me would worry even if they found a way to make it happen...

@Dr. Bitz: Anyway, in Shooter's defense, I think it was less "Phoenix needs to punished" as it was that she couldn't hang around with the X-Men anymore since they should not be able to accept what she did. (Destroying an entire planet is quite the crime.)

Yeah, in this case, the difference between Phoenix and, say, Dr. Doom is that when Dr. Doom is done fighting the Fantastic Four, he doesn't get up and go to breakfast with them the next day.

If Claremont and Byrne were committed to making Phoenix an out-and-out villain, I don't think Shooter would have objected to her "getting away with it"; his objection was more based on the idea that she did something terribly wrong but then things went back to normal with too little cost for her.

Basically, she either needed to be recast as a villain, or punished.

Matt said...

Teebore -- "I'm not a huge fan of Cockrum's second run..."

I actually like it, but that's based more on nostalgia than anything else. The first two X-Men comics I ever saw were the Classic reprints of issues #147 and #150. But I'll elaborate more when you get to those issues.

Michael & Teebore -- "The Death of Mariko by Claremont and Byrne is a story I desperately want to read."

"Me too."

Me three! That's the main thing that makes me wish Byrne had stuck around till #150 in the "real" world (as opposed to the "What If" world where Phoenix didn't die and #150 went off as originally planned).

Teebore -- "the difference between Phoenix and, say, Dr. Doom is that when Dr. Doom is done fighting the Fantastic Four, he doesn't get up and go to breakfast with them the next day."

Which is exactly Shooter's argument these days -- he said basically the same thing in a blog post recently: he couldn't fathom Storm eating at the same table as, and remaining friends with, a mass murderer. Whether or not he articulated his concerns that way in 1979-80, I don't know. I get the impression that a lot of his orders back then were given and expected to be followed without any explanations behind them.

Lastly -- I thought I typed this into my original comment, but I guess I didn't... It's interesting to me that Terry Austin's inking style had changed so drastically by the time "The Untold Story" was published. It was only four years later, but the cover looks way different from any of his previous work with Byrne. And I know he's kept that style more or less ever since... I liked his older style better.

Blam said...


I couldn't dig this one out of the boxes to re-read. My back wouldn't let me, much as I wanted to, so I really appreciate the generous helping of art excerpts from the #137 that wasn't as well as the analysis.

Wolverine protests, but Cyclops reminds him that the X-Men gave their word to honor the results of the duel.

And what a struggle that must've been for him. "I'm a samurai. But I'm also a berserker. If I ain't got my honor, I ain't got nothin' -- but this is wrong. Jean destroyed a whole solar system, they say, but it wasn't her fault." [next panel] "RAAAAAAAHHHRRRR!!!"

I hadn't remembered that part about Beast wanting to get back to Earth to rally the Avengers and other superheroes. Cool bit!

Those panels with a bare-chested but still masked Wolverine are hilarious. Not only doesn't the guy exactly keep a secret identity, he's aboard an Imperial Shi'ar vessel in space anyhow. Don't you think Logan would just tear off the blasted mask?

Man, I haven't seen the Recorder (outside of my #137 re-read the other week) in forever. "Observation: I undergo frequent colonic irrigations due to my unusual speech pattern. Interrogative: Get it? Interrogative: Is this thing on?"

VW: ShiMart — Billy Tucci's online store.

Blam said...


That inked and colored splash page to the original #138 is done nicely, but the penciled version in one of the Companion books or wherever I saw it is even more elegiac.

I've qualified my recollection of The Art of John Byrne as the source of those penciled pages, since I took my copy off the shelf to look for said pages and they ain't in there. As a matter of fact, TAOJB is dated 1980 but apparently came out in 1979 and the interview therein has John speaking very much as if he's going to be on X-Men for years.

While I didn't let myself re-read the whole thing, my eyes came to rest on a question about whether Banshee would be getting his powers back. (Did you know that he lost them due to injuries suffered in X-Men #119?) There was a lot of my conversation with Byrne left out of Comicology Vol. II #2, by the way, because we covered more than just the [original] Phoenix saga and I broke it out into a separate Q&A feature that got dropped from the issue due to space. I asked about some of the things discussed in the TAOJB interview; Byrne just plum didn't know at that late date — and this was 10 years ago now — what he and/or he and Chris were going to do. Which doesn't mean he hasn't spoken about some of them at Byrne Robotics anyway, but one day when I get something to read or transfer the info from the Jaz disks I used with my last computer I'll be posting the interview online and putting it out in my planned book of old interviews. The bad news is that I haven't done so already and we're almost up to Byrne's first departure from X-Men here, but the good news is that this series of posts of yours is going to take forever and I also asked him about Hidden Years as well as some other, later aborted X-Men projects, so maybe I'll be able to pass along some more relevant info yet.

I must say that all you have to do is look at some of the uninked art in TAOJB to remember that Byrne was and presumably still is a quality penciler if/when he's not taking short-cuts or trying too hard for a minimalism that doesn't suit his work. While Austin complemented him perfectly, Byrne/Austin art being Byrne/Austin art isn't all that made it special.

Blam said...


it quickly became public knowledge that Claremont and Byrne had been forced by Jim Shooter to change the ending of "The Dark Phoenix Saga", and that what saw print wasn't the original ending to the issue. While I have no idea just how quickly that became known, by 1984 it was apparently well known enough

I don't recall knowing about it right away. I probably didn't hear of it until I got my hands on the X-Men Companion volumes or some other fan publications that had related interviews around that time. I know that I was aware of the reworking of #137 by the time I saw Phoenix: The Untold Story on the spinner rack at a bookstore near my grandparents' place on winter break in 1983-84, but I had no idea that the issue was coming out — I just stared at it like I was Indiana Jones and I had just stumbled on the Rosetta Stone in an Egyptian pawn shop.

The ending of issue #137 which saw print makes Jean active in her fate: she decides the threat of going mad with power isn't worth her life, she acts to put a stop to that threat. In the original version, she merely fights alongside the X-Men, is defeated, and then lies unconscious while things are done to her.

That in a nutshell is why I've always preferred the ending that we got to #137, as well as why the later revisions were disappointing — I won't say too much about them now for the benefit of Super Lad Kid and any lurkers reading who don't know the whole story. Of course the originally planned ending fascinated me from the moment I first heard about it and saw those scrapped penciled pages, because of the alternate story possibilities (on their own merits and also because they were alternate story possibilities; the road not taken is always intriguing); you need only look at the would-have-been splash page to #138 to see that it's as melancholically electric as the one that was printed. The original ending to #137 itself, though, is rather unsatisfying from a dramatic perspective, as everyone here seems to agree.

A purely pedantic piece of information, by the way: If you go by the straight indicia title the Phoenix: The Untold Story one-shot is officially just Phoenix #1.

VW: unfead — Hungry vampires.

Blam said...


Dr. Bitz: Wouldn't it have been better if Scott was forcibly restrained fighting to get free as the psychic surgery occurred?

Teebore: I understand the desire to have some X-Man try to stop the Shi'ar and having someone else toss out honor in order to highlight how awesomely honorable the X-Men are, but I feel like Cyclops of all people shouldn't have been the person arguing it

I'm with both of you on Scott's resignation coming off wrong — maybe he's the stiff teacher's-pet rules guy, but in this of all circumstances emotion would surely take over. The problem is that someone in the scene should be arguing that they gave their word, and I can see any or all of them (even if not especially Logan) doing just that if this weren't Jean; Professor X can't take the line because of his complicated relationship with Lilandra. At least we didn't get a scene of him reflecting on the love he once felt for Jean.

Teebore: The idea, I think, is that her saying no and living happily ever after would mark the end of her role in the book, and thus the end of her story, so there wouldn't need to be the need for further conflict.

For a while, sure, and perhaps even as long as Claremont was on the book, but this is serialized superhero soap opera... Given that Jean and the Phoenix Force have both come back, the latter apparently more tied to Jean than to Rachel at that (clearly I've not read the stories), it's a sure bet that the same would've happened had Jean/Phoenix never died in #137 anyway, regardless of the state she was left in and whatever happened in #150. In fact had Claremont really kept Scott and Jean out of the limelight, it's entirely likely that X-Factor would've happened in this alternate-#137 world we're speaking of, given that it did happen in world where Jean had to be brought back to do so — which you'd think is the bigger hurdle than simply reinstating her original telekinetic abilities; I can think of ways to renege on the whole thing, like Jean slowly and mysteriously dying without access to her mutant powers or the Shi'ar discovering that the M'kraan Crystal was becoming unstable without a tune-up from the Phoenix power.

VW: suclacer — A seductive female demon with a sneaker fetish.

Blam said...


Matt: Now I'm curious when Wolverine first called Cyclops "Scott" in the real continuity... Whenever it was, I'm sure it wasn't as resonant as this occasion would've been.

I don't know when it was, either, but unless it was a very tender or personal moment like this he probably called him "Scotty".

Matt: a few years ago someone dug up Byrne's handwritten notes on some of the issues that would've followed

That's a fascinating little document. Of course it was drawn up in early 1979 at least, so it's no wonder that even issues that Byrne did end up drawing don't sync up exactly between this page and the reality, but what's really surprising to me is no "Days of Future Past". It's not a story that was likely to have been cobbled together by Claremont & Byrne after #137 was revised, although clearly it would've had different ramifications in a continuity where Jean survived, so I wonder when the germs of it began to percolate. [Blam's Percolated Germs uses only the finest microorganisms in its patented filtration process for a smooth, bold flavor. Remember: It's not quality percolated germs unless it's Blam's Percolated Germs!]

Wolverine and Sabretooth didn't meet until Mutant Massacre? I'd stopped reading by then, but I was well aware while I was still reading that Chris Claremont intended for Sabretooth to be at Wolverine's father. Also, I remember them meeting in a Classic X-Men backup that had to be in the first couple of years of that title (yep; Wikipedia says #10).

Also fascinating is "New team: Angel, Iceman, Ariel" — which doesn't quite jibe with the whole new-students subplot/spinoff that circulated as the reason for Kitty's introduction.

Michael: The hero descends into a villain and dies that way.

Only by dint of her heroic moral compass rising to the surface one last time...

Teebore said...

@Matt: Whether or not he articulated his concerns that way in 1979-80, I don't know. I get the impression that a lot of his orders back then were given and expected to be followed without any explanations behind them.

That's always been my impression too, which is, of course, terribly frustrating. People are much more likely to do what you ask of them, even if they don't like, if they at least understand why you want them to do it.

I liked his older style better.

Ditto.

@Blam: I really appreciate the generous helping of art excerpts from the #137 that wasn't

No problemo. I had to really fight the urge to just post every panel that was even slightly different. But I figured that might get a little too unwieldy.

Don't you think Logan would just tear off the blasted mask?

Ha! I hadn't thought of that, but I'm ashamed I didn't. You're right though: who exactly is he hiding from?

Interrogative: Get it? Interrogative: Is this thing on?"

Ha!

Did you know that he lost them due to injuries suffered in X-Men #119?

Okay, you're on fire tonight! You're killing me here! :)

Teebore said...

The bad news is that I haven't done so already and we're almost up to Byrne's first departure from X-Men here, but the good news is that this series of posts of yours is going to take forever and I also asked him about Hidden Years as well as some other, later aborted X-Men projects, so maybe I'll be able to pass along some more relevant info yet.

Hey, any behind-the-scenes info you may be privy to is always welcome, whether it lines up with where these posts are at or not.

While Austin complemented him perfectly, Byrne/Austin art being Byrne/Austin art isn't all that made it special.

Good point. I've made clear my appreciation for Austin's inks (heh), but the fact that he's applying them to Byrne's pencils is what makes it all so great.

. I probably didn't hear of it until I got my hands on the X-Men Companion volumes or some other fan publications

That would make sense. Not surprisingly, both Companion volumes talk about "Dark Phoenix" a lot, and they're both relatively contemporaneous to the story.

I just stared at it like I was Indiana Jones and I had just stumbled on the Rosetta Stone in an Egyptian pawn shop.

Man, I remember that feeling. And I miss that feeling, though in this case its absence as more to do with being an adult with greater knowledge/resources than the usual "comics these days" wistfulness, but I remember walking into a comic shop or magazine store or some shoved-in-a-hotel-conference-room "convention" and stumbling across an issue in a way that felt like I'd found the Holy Grail. It was a great feeling.

If you go by the straight indicia title the Phoenix: The Untold Story one-shot is officially just Phoenix #1.

Huh. I had no idea. I wonder if later Phoenix #1s (I'm pretty sure Rachel got a limited series or oneshot at some point...) are titled in the indicia as "volume 2"? I'll have to keep an eye out for that.

At least we didn't get a scene of him reflecting on the love he once felt for Jean.

I have no idea what you're talking about. La la la la la. :)

It's not a story that was likely to have been cobbled together by Claremont & Byrne after #137 was revised, although clearly it would've had different ramifications in a continuity where Jean survived, so I wonder when the germs of it began to percolate.

Especially given that I've read always read the Senator Kelly/Shaw discussion about Sentinels in issue #135 to be a setup for "Days of Future Past", so they must have had some inkling by then.

Also interesting in that Byrne has always said "DoFP" was almost entirely his idea, in terms of plot, so whenever those notes were written, he must not have come up with it/run it by Claremont/had it approved yet.

Wolverine and Sabretooth didn't meet until Mutant Massacre?

Yeah, that was their first meeting, which is why those issues were so bloody expensive when I was a kid...

It is odd that it took long, especially since it seems like Claremont had settled on the "Sabretooth is Wolverine's father" idea as far back as Sabretooth's first appearance in Iron Fist #14.

Matt said...

I flipped through this issue last night and noticed that on the page right before the X-Men and Imperial Guard beam down to the moon, there's a panel of Cyclops speaking with a very crudely drawn Gladiator. It really doesn't look like the work of Byrne or Austin. Anyone know what the deal is with that? In the originally published version of that same panel, Cyclops is speaking with Angel, thanking him (and Beast) for sticking with the X-Men.

I'm guessing that maybe the panel originally featured Gladiator, but when the eleventh hour changes were made to the issue, he was changed on the art board itself to Angel -- then when "The Untold Story" was published, they realized they had pasted over the original art or just didn't have it anymore or something, and so had to get someone around the office to re-draw Gladiator in order to restore the unpublished issue as originally conceived.

That's just speculation, of course, but it's the most likely possibility I can come up with...

Michael said...

@Teebore I definitely agree with that sentiment. I'm not a huge fan of Cockrum's second run (everything between Byrne's departure and Paul Smith), though Cockrum himself has little to do with it, which makes Byrne's departure even more bittersweet. And the X-Men vs. Ultron would have been a lot of fun.

Whoa there. I'll admit, I enjoy Byrne's work much more than Cockrum's -- and I wish he'd stuck around through 150 because he and Claremont clearly had some great stories in the hopper -- but Claremont and Cockrum turned out some great stuff after 150. No one does the Brood better...

Teebore said...

@Matt: That's just speculation, of course, but it's the most likely possibility I can come up with...

Works for me. I noticed that panel as well, but never got around to mentioning it. Once again adding to my desire to just post every altered panel...

@Michael: but Claremont and Cockrum turned out some great stuff after 150. No one does the Brood better...

I definitely like the second half of their run better than the first (particularly the Xavier/Magneto backstory, and the second half of the Brood story). I just really don't like the Doom/Arcade story, and the Magneto story in #150 never quite feels as epic as Claremont, to his credit, tries to sell it, especially in light of knowing that, had things turned out differently, #150 would have been the climax of the Phoenix saga.

Blam said...


Me: Don't you think Logan would just tear off the blasted mask?

Teebore: Ha! I hadn't thought of that, but I'm ashamed I didn't.

I admit that I could almost rationalize it as being like a totem or something for Logan — his costume could sort-let him mentally or emotionally compartmentalize his berserker rage, so that while wearing it he felt free to use his fighting abilities without losing control — but we see him in action in "civvies" far too often (as well as, of course, losing control whle in costume). And no writer to my knowledge has ever introduced such a conceit. His usual everyday clothes are almost like ritualistic garb themselves, though — the fringed coat with lined collar, gloves, and cowboy hat.

Man, I'm looking forward to the brown-and-orange costume coming in. I know that Wolverine has long since gone back to variations on this blue-and-yellow one, but I've always preferred that first "new" one (not counting the adjustments made to his mask between his Hulk debut and Giant-Size X-Men #1).

Teebore: Okay, you're on fire tonight!

You're are literally too kind.

Teebore: I've made clear my appreciation for Austin's inks (heh), but the fact that he's applying them to Byrne's pencils is what makes it all so great.

Byrne had some quirks that bothered me even back in the day and have lessened my enjoyment of his work over time — the way he rendered most women's lips, his awkward flat-hand thing — but he really could draw. Like I said, I think that he got too minimalist for his own good for a while, especially when inking his own work, but Austin was not the last inker to suit him; Al Gordon and especially Jerry Ordway complemented him very differently than Austin but very well on Fantastic Four towards the end of his run. I realized by the time Next Men came around that he quite possibly was either burned out (yeah, yeah, no pun intended) or just too comfortable with the usual superhero stuff, because his non-idealized supporting characters and stuff like set decoration that many comic-book artists can't be bothered with were actually more detailed, more engaging than the generic main cast.

VW: porati — Low-income but well-educated book lovers.

Blam said...


Me: I just stared at it like I was Indiana Jones and I had just stumbled on the Rosetta Stone in an Egyptian pawn shop.

Teebore: Man, I remember that feeling. And I miss that feeling, ... I remember walking into a comic shop or magazine store or some shoved-in-a-hotel-conference-room "convention" and stumbling across an issue in a way that felt like I'd found the Holy Grail. It was a great feeling.

I'm glad that you do remember that feeling. Not being a kid today (at heart, yeah, but that's very different than the experience of actually growing up in today's culture), I can't know for sure, but I suspect that some of it does have to do with the way technology has changed access to information, and the way the comic-book industry has changed, as opposed to just being older and having resources that come with age irrespective of the times we live in as adults. I'd love in many ways to have had the breadth and depth of knowledge available today at my fingertips as a kid, but there's a lot to said for that old-school sense of discovery on spinner racks, in musty back-issue bins in hole-in-the-wall shops, and at conventions.

Michael: Claremont and Cockrum turned out some great stuff after 150. No one does the Brood better...

I like most of Cockrum's second run better than his first. The freshness of the early "New" X-Men stories isn't there, of course, but his art as inked (sometimes finished from breakdowns) by Josef Rubinstein and then Bob Wiacek is generally more appealing; it's also neat to see him and Claremont back together now that they and we all have a greater sense of familiarity with the characters. And I'm an unabashed fan of "Kitty's Fairy Tale" — which I know our host is not.

We'll have to agree to disagree on the Brood, though, because to me Paul Smith does the Brood best.

Blam said...


Teebore: Also interesting in that Byrne has always said "DoFP" was almost entirely his idea, in terms of plot, so whenever those notes were written, he must not have come up with it/run it by Claremont/had it approved yet.

The one and only (I think) issue where Byrne is given sole plot credit is coming up next week — although Claremont is still listed as "writer". I'm not sure there's a story behind that, and if there is I don't remember it, but it's curious that Byrne's last issues were that, an Alpha Flight two-parter, and then two issues that as you say above he takes substantial credit for. Did Claremont push back against the significant input that Byrne was making, or did Byrne get frustrated with not simply being able to flat-out write the stories, or both, or neither...?

I love that Marv Wolfman and George PĂ©rez have remained such good friends since their symbiotic collaboration on New Teen Titans and Crisis.

Matt said...

Blam -- "...his awkward flat-hand thing..."

Funny, I'm pretty sure I know exactly what you're describing here, and even though I agree that it's awkward, I really like it for some reason. In fact, years ago when I fancied myself an amateur artist, I used to try to duplicate it in my own drawings!

Chris K said...

Matt,

"...there's a panel of Cyclops speaking with a very crudely drawn Gladiator..."

Yeah, that Gladiator figure DEFINITELY shows the hand of Vinnie Colletta, which means it had to have been done by Marvel's art department. Your speculation is identical to the one I always had.

My LCS in St. Louis in the late 1980s actually had this original page for sale for a while. I remember that the Angel figure was a patch pasted on the artboard (...or was it an original Byrne Gladiator with a big old rubber cement smear on it?? Aggh... going senile... can't remember stuff... At any rate, I remember having the conversation with the store owner about the evident art change.)

Teebore said...

@Blam: I realized by the time Next Men came around that he quite possibly was either burned out (yeah, yeah, no pun intended) or just too comfortable with the usual superhero stuff...

That's the point I tend to see as the dividing line too. Everything before that, including FF and his Superman stuff, I still really like. Post Next Men it became, as you said, a lot more minimalist.

I'd love in many ways to have had the breadth and depth of knowledge available today at my fingertips as a kid, but there's a lot to said for that old-school sense of discovery on spinner racks, in musty back-issue bins in hole-in-the-wall shops, and at conventions.

Definitely. I adore the old Marvel Handbooks to this day, and much of that is nostalgia for when I first discovered them in a friends basement, and I was blown away by having a friggin' encyclopedia of this stuff (or at least a few issues' worth) at my fingertips.

Did Claremont push back against the significant input that Byrne was making, or did Byrne get frustrated with not simply being able to flat-out write the stories, or both, or neither...?

I have some quotes I'll run with issue #143 that delve into that a little bit. What it sounds to me is that it came down to a difference of opinion regarding "credit". Claremont, it seems, was more willing to go with a general "you're the artist, I'm the writer, we're both the plotters", regardless of the level of contribution of either to the plot, whereas Byrne was more concerned with applying specific credit where it was due; if he felt he was responsible for the majority of the plot, than he didn't want to share that credit.

Claremont's argument seems to be in comics, especially Marvel-style comics, it's difficult to impossible to determine who is responsible for what, and going with the more general credits covers all the bases. Whereas Byrne viewed it more qualitatively: if a majority of the issue was *my* idea, then I'm the plotter. If it's 50/50, we share credit etc. But of course, then you get into arguments over whose ideas were whose, etc.

@Chris K.:My LCS in St. Louis in the late 1980s actually had this original page for sale for a while. I remember that the Angel figure was a patch pasted on the artboard (...or was it an original Byrne Gladiator with a big old rubber cement smear on it?? Aggh... going senile... can't remember stuff... At any rate, I remember having the conversation with the store owner about the evident art change.)


Very cool!

Blam said...


Teebore: Everything before [Next Men], including FF and his Superman stuff, I still really like.

I think that Byrne went pretty minimalist in FF during the time that he was inking his own rough layouts, as well as during Alpha Flight — the latter much more disappointing than the former. Maybe I've mentioned this before, but AF #17 reprints good chunks of X-Men #109 and does Byrne's art no favor in the direct comparison. But as I said earlier Byrne's FF collaborations with Al Gordon and Jerry Ordway towards the end of his run are favorites; I was also, no pun intended, enamored of Byrne's pencils on Namor, inked by Bob Wiacek, in terms of not just the rendering but the different approach to page layouts. I'd noticed in Superman and Action Comics that Byrne's writer brain wasn't communicating so well with his artist brain sometimes, as we got scrunched close-up panels of talking heads with lots of dialogue a little too often, but as you say the art was still generally appealing — certainly much more so than any of his revisitations of the title character since then. What struck me during Next Men, just to repeat myself again, is that the equivalent of "character actors" and literally the furniture itself were getting more care than the idealized superhero leads.

All of this is a generalization, of course, and based on memories of how I felt reading stuff that in many cases I've not reread in quite some time, although as you know I'll be rectifying that fact in grand fashion when all the proper ducks are in a row.

Teebore said...

@Blam: ...based on memories of how I felt reading stuff that in many cases I've not reread in quite some time, although as you know I'll be rectifying that fact in grand fashion when all the proper ducks are in a row.


And I continue to look forward to that. :)

Blam said...


Teebore: And I continue to look forward to that. :)

I'm entirely sure that the emoticon was a friendly smile and not a knowing smirk, but, y'know, don't hold your breath. Given that there's still a lot of physical work to be done — never mind all the reading 'n' writing — and that it's going so slowly that shorter-term priorities keep getting in the way, it's gonna be a while. I do appreciate the sentiment, though; believe you me, there are days when I can't wait to get that ball formally rolling and I hate that it's not happening faster.

Blam said...


Since we're not letting this comments page rest, by the way: I meant to add that in addition to the revitalized layouts on Namor the use of Duoshade board was a really neat change of pace for Byrne. That's a latter-day (from my perspective, although it's "only" half my life ago) series that I particularly look forward to re-reading — in... oh, let's say 2047. 8^)

Teebore said...

@Blam: I'm entirely sure that the emoticon was a friendly smile and not a knowing smirk, but, y'know, don't hold your breath.

Most definitely a friendly smile.

That's a latter-day (from my perspective, although it's "only" half my life ago) series that I particularly look forward to re-reading — in... oh, let's say 2047. 8^)

I've only read it in bits and pieces, but it's something I want to revisit, and read in its entirety, at some point as well.

NietzscheIsDead said...

Ok, so I know I'm way late on this response, but I actually know why it took so long for Wolverine and Sabretooth to meet on-panel. The reason is precisely because Claremont introduced Sabretooth in Iron Fist #14. When he left the title, Claremont intended to take Sabretooth with him and have him appear in X-Men, obviously as early as #150; however, the new writer on Iron Fist (I'm blanking on exactly who it was at the moment) wanted to keep Sabretooth for that title, and won the debate. So Claremont couldn't bring Sabretooth over to X-Men until the Iron Fist comic was cancelled, freeing the character back up.

Teebore said...

@NietzscheIsDead

...the new writer on Iron Fist (I'm blanking on exactly who it was at the moment) wanted to keep Sabretooth for that title, and won the debate. So Claremont couldn't bring Sabretooth over to X-Men until the Iron Fist comic was cancelled, freeing the character back up.

Ah, that does make sense, and the timing fits as well (Sabretooth not appearing in X-Men until after Power Man and Iron Fist was cancelled).