Monday, February 19, 2018
Home  >  Features  >  THE MIGHTYVILLE CHATCAST starring Joe and Sam, Episode 2: X-Huming Futures Past


Joe and Sam are back for Episode 2! With the new X-Men film in theaters, the guys revisit the classic Days of Future Past comics.



Joe Kach and Sam Moyerman are back for the second episode of The MightyVille ChatCast! With X-Men: Days of Future Past in theaters now, the guys thought it would be time to revisit the movie's comic book namesake, in the form of the X-Men: Days of Future Past Tradepaperback from Marvel Comics. Wading through some charming attempts at plot over-convolution and epic, Claremontian dialogue at its best, Joe and Sam came out only slightly scarred and ready to share their observations. 


Joe Kach:  Shall we begin, Mr. Moyerman?

Sam Moyerman:  Let's.

Joe:  Alright! 

Prior to reading this trade paperback, what was your experience with the Chris Claremont-written Uncanny X-Men of that era?

Sam:  Claremont was still writing Uncanny X-Men when I started reading them in the early ‘90s.  This was during the "X-Men in Australia" days. So he was really the first comic writer I had ever read and I enjoyed it tremendously.

Joe:  Was that around the time Marc Silvestri was drawing the book?

Sam:  Yes, it was Silvestri, right before Jim Lee.  I actually moved more onto X-Factor at the time since I enjoyed those characters more.

Joe:  Yeah, classic X-Factor was awesome, with Walter Simonson, then later Whilce Portacio on art. I got in to X-Men right when the Chris Claremont/Jim Lee X-Men #1 debuted, well after Days of Future Past.

Sam:  Yeah, that was well before my time on the book, too.

Joe:  Thanks to those 20-packs of comics they used to sell at Costco, I was able to read some X-Books that led up to that new #1, but nothing that went back into the late '70s or early '80s

Sam:  I think everyone started with those old packs of comics. Funny thing about the Claremont/Lee books … I believe issue #3 of that series was billed as Claremont's final X-Men book. Of course, he came back and wrote for something like 10 more years on it.

Joe:  Yeah, but a lot of that newer stuff is best forgotten … X-Treme X-men, cough, cough … But I digress ... So, yeah, this was my first fore into the early '80s Uncanny X-Men, right when the title started to skyrocket in its popularity.

Sam:  That was a major comics boom at that point. The hard part was going back to catch up. Back then, because the tradepaperback department wasn't as big as it is now, it was impossible to go back and find a lot of these books that were back referenced without spending a ton on back issues.

Joe:  Totally. I remember scouring back issue bins at comic stores and local conventions. But a lot of X-Books from the early '80s were demanding a premium price back in the '90s. Man, back issue bins, you don't see much of those at stores these days...





What were your initial thoughts after you began reading X-Men: Days of Future Past?

Sam:  Well, it takes a bit to get back into the mode of reading those books.  The writing style was so different to today, with so much repeated exposition, book after book.  It's almost a different language.

I'll tell you this, the first issue in the DoFP trade was brutal to get through as it's Cyclops' recap of everything that ever happened to the X-Men. It took forever to get through it. But once I got readjusted to the language of early ‘80s books, it rekindled a lot of the feelings I had about the books when I first started reading.

Joe:  I was in the same X-Boat. I struggled with that recap issue. I am assuming it's the issue right after the "Death" of Dark Phoenix. But ... when I finished it, two things happened:  1) like you said, it got me back into that '80s reading mindset, and 2) it was nice to actually get that chunk of history in one go! Some stuff didn't make that much sense due to the condensed nature of the storytelling, but I felt like I had a pretty thorough overview of important past events in the Uncanny X-Men saga. And then, yeah, I began to find the storytelling charming in its antiquity.

Sam:  Yeah, there is something fun about reading about Wolverine's Adamantium skeleton every, single time he pops his claws.

Joe:  Ha, ha, ha! The Claremont tradition. I did find that frustrating-- the level of exposition was both frustrating and manic. Claremont had to explain everything you saw on panel, while also explaining what was happening off-panel using captions. It was almost like in certain parts, the artists didn't draw certain sequences, so they just had to be expounded upon in caption boxes in other scenes. Very odd, that wouldn't fly today.

Sam:  Well, there are two things about that:  1) This was an old Stan Lee mandate - every comic could be someone's first, so you have to explain things for them. And 2) Every comic was created the "Marvel Way" back then.  Writers didn't produce full scripts, just two pages of outlines, then scripting later. So part of it could have been them writing it to figure it out themselves!

Joe:  Good point.




When did you realize that you had been reading for days and still hadn't gotten to the actual Days of Future Past story?

Sam:  Every time I hit the end of a chapter and the next wasn't DoFP.  LOL. I actually finished most of it in one sitting, but didn't realize how long it was taking me. I looked up at the clock as I was starting the main story and realized I'd been reading for over an hour. With modern comics, you can be through a full trade in that time.

Joe:  Wow! It took me almost two weeks! It's an interesting point:  While frustrating to read, you certainly got more bang for your buck in those days. I mean, the amount of story they crammed into the two-part DoFP story would fill about eight issues today

Sam:  At least eight issues.  And at least four other tie-in books.

Joe:  And a Special Edition of the first issue to make up for the delayed issues #7 and #8…

Sam:  Exactly.  Say what you want about John Byrne, but he could tell a concise story.  He didn't need to pull out massively large panels to show off. And he was on time. Think about it: there might have been one splash page in the beginning of each issue, although it wasn't a true splash, but otherwise he was packing each page. How many large panels would today's creators use?  (Not that I'm saying either method is better, I certainly like when artists show off their skills.)

Joe:  Yeah, and a lot of long-term fans would agree with you. I prefer modern storytelling to be sure, but the rising costs and lower page counts are starting to get annoying, so reading something like this was a breath of (old) fresh air. So, before we hop into the actual DoFP story...

There were three other tales in this book: the trip to Dante’s Hell with Dr. Strange, the two-part Alpha Flight crossover, and the Kitty Pryde (AKA Sprite) vs a monster at Christmas story. How did you feel about those stories?





Sam:  Well, I have a real love for Dante's Inferno, so that one was pretty cool for me to read.  I thought, of all of them, this one was one that went on a little long, though.  Probably because it was an annual with the extra page count.  Strange was a nice guest star for it.  

Joe:  I did enjoy that one, especially the classic John Romita, Jr. artwork. I gotta say, back to your Byrne point, his art really holds up well. He and George Perez, it's almost timeless. 

Sam: The Chanukkah issue (don't ever forget Kitty was Jewish!!!) and the Alpha Flight ones were nice too because there was a lot of action to keep the pace going. The Kitty issue especially was well paced with action.

Joe: I wasn't a huge fan of the Alpha Flight story, though … I thought it wasn't very well paced, random things happened relatively quickly (like the team being disbanded out of the blue by the Canadian government) and just felt like more of a filler. 

Sam: I can see that.  But there was no Wolvie solo book back then to put that story into.  So it was a way to tie up some loose ends. I see what you are saying about the end of it though.

Joe:  True. And of course I could never forget that Kitty is Jewish! Claremont brought it up about every three issues...  She also wore the Star of David during Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run. It’s interesting you refer to it as a Chanukkah story…

Sam:  Well, being Jewish myself, it's always a point of pride to see popular characters who have that in common with me.

Joe:  I figured. That's why Simon Baz is my favorite Green Lantern right now. ;) Kitty does bring up her religion in the issue, but on the cover it says "Merry Christmas X-Men".

Sam:  Right, you wonder if anyone else besides Claremont knew Kitty didn't celebrate Christmas.  There are no Chanukkah decorations around and the only references to it are in the dialogue.

Joe:  Exactly, when her parents show up at the end and the once more in reference earlier. But good For Claremont!

Sam:  For sure!

Joe:  I'm a sucker for Holiday Tales, too…

Let's finish off with the main DoFP story, which was only two issues … that alone surprised me, considering how revered it is. I went into it thinking it was at least a four-parter.



Art from UNCANNY X-MEN #141


Sam:  Well, again, we're talking about more condensed storytelling. This was also the days before "events", so to Claremont he was probably just creating a two-part story. Today this would have been another Age of Apocalypse.

Joe:  Bingo. That is a very good example.

Sam:  I wonder how the reaction was to it at the time?  Was this a story that was loved right off the bat or was it something that only became great in hindsight? Today it's a landmark.  When it came out, it might have just been two issues.

Joe:  I wonder how many hated it, like they would today. "Wolverine can't die like that!" 





Sam:  I'm sure people went nuts.  There were only six X-Men alive at the beginning of the book.  Beloved characters are only referenced by their headstone.

Joe: Speaking of Wolverine, this book contained the first appearance of his brown and tan costume.

Sam: I liked how they made note of the costume change.  Wonder if it was done for aesthetics or because the coloring was cheaper?

Joe:  I believe this also featured the first appearance of Rachel Gray and the adult Franklin Richards?

Sam:  I was wondering about that.  I couldn't tell if this was her first appearance or not.  I tended to think “yes” because they just mention her as Rachel. If she had been introduced before, you have to think they would already know her last name.

Joe:  True. I know they come back later in another storyline with art by Art Adams. So, yeah, that was a nice surprise for me.  

Give me your three sentence review of the DoFP two-parter, Sam.

Sam:  Well, it was two great creators at the top of their game, taking chances with characters and storylines. Very well done, with good pacing.  You have to be ready for the language of ‘80s comics, but if you are, you will enjoy this story.

Joe:  I was a little torn. On the one hand, for its time, it was highly imaginative and spotlighted a very well-thought out story, something that, back then, had not really been seen before.  But I was expecting more. This story carries so much weight in the X-Men lore, I felt like it was something that would have more meat. So, while I was a little letdown, I still enjoyed it. I always get a special buzz reading late Silver Age comics.

Sam:  I agree with you there and can see your complaints.  Those could be a product of heightened expectations, too.  But you are right, we never see what happens back in the future and how this all affects it.  We just assume it went back to normal. I think that the epilogue that the X-Men Animated Series added to their version of the story was a great addition. [Editor's Note: Watch it here (part 1) and here (part 2).]




Joe:  Right! I forgot about those episodes. (I prefer that take on the story to the comic, to be honest.) I am sure leaving the readers hanging was intentional. While it left me wanting, in some ways I liked that. The issues had some classic moments: X-Men vs the New Brotherhood of Evil Mutants; seeing Storm, Wolverine, and Colossus in the future; the introduction of recurring annoyance Henry Gyrich ... and, I am fairly certain this is our first reference to Mystique being Nightcrawler's mother that wasn't confirmed till over a decade later. Though, it's almost like Mystique is everyone’s mother these days.

Sam:  That was another thing about comics in those days.  They threw so much out there with all that dialogue. If there was a line like that in comics today from a female villain to a new hero, it would be mentioned and brought back time and time again.  To Claremont, this might have just been a throwaway line.

Joe:  Exactly, one of countless others to come; some went places, some certainly did not.

Would you recommend this book to other comic book fans who are not familiar with that era of the X-Men?

Sam:  Not without a warning that the language of the books is so different.

Joe:  Would you recommend this book to people that aren't comic book fans, but saw and enjoyed the DoFP movie?

Sam:  Oh yeah, but that's just a nice gateway to get them into the comics.  I would probably tell them to skip the first issue of the trade though.

Joe:  Dude, it's like we share a brain. Ditto to both comments.

What was your favorite moment from the DoFP story?

Sam:  Probably them walking past the graveyard.  Once you see all those names on the headstones, you know this is a story that means something.




Joe:  That graveyard scene was chilling. Makes me wonder what that would have looked like if that story was redone today.

Sam: One note about giving this to someone new is that, because of the writing style, there is clearly enough in every issue to explain everything to a new reader, but (like with the Mystique/Nightcrawler line) there's enough in there to make them curious and want to read more.

Joe: Yeah, I bet that's part of what made the Uncanny title so popular in the '80s to begin with. My favorite bit was the X-Men taking on the Brotherhood in the courtroom in the present: A classic, timeless X-Men battle and so Claremont in its ways … something you hate to love and love to hate at the same time. (That sequence is also touched on briefly in the new film, albeit not in a courtroom.) But, my favorite part of DoFP? The cover to issue #142! "This issue: EVERYBODY DIES" with Old Man Logan getting zapped by a Sentinel as Storm watches on helplessly.



Uncanny X-Men #142


Sam:  I loved the tag line on that cover.

Joe:  Well, Sam, it's been a pleasure as always!

Sam:  Absolutely.

Joe:  And we encourage our readers who have a hankering for something classic to check out this book … or even non-X-Men fans looking for something historic.

Sam:  Exactly, there's a reason these books were popular and beloved, this storyline is a major reason why.

Joe:  That's a wrap!


Who's seen the new Days of Future Past movie and read the original comics? Sound off below!


More ChatCasts on MightyVille:

THE MIGHTYVILLE CHATCAST starring Joe and Sam, Episode 1: Supermovie Round-Up


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