In the range of gossip and nerdy speculation, it had recently been said that Disney-owned Marvel Comics has been making less than excellent X-Men Comics on purpose, because Fox owned the movie rights. And why would you want to make comics and great storylines for your competitor to make massive amounts of movie money on the small pittance that you might win in the comic book market?
The reality of that is kind of silly if you look back on the really good recent runs of X-Men, one of which includes what many people thought of as the best writer at Marvel at the time, Brian Michael Bendis. There certainly were some not great X-Men stories during the recent past, but if it was indeed corporate warfare versus just a comics story that didn’t quite land, it was hidden pretty well.
Though to be fair, the cancellation of Fantastic Four outright, only to have the team return once Marvel / Disney had gotten the rights back, is somewhat compelling evidence for the other side.
But regardless of the recent past and the various theories regarding why, Marvel last week announced what many are seeing as a bold step into the future of the X-Men as they announced Johnathan Hickman taking over the entire X-Men line.
Johnathan Hickman’s Brand Is an Exciting Fit for the X-Men
Now, if you don’t know Johnathan Hickman, it could be seen as somewhat understandable. Whereas other writers have done lots of things, Hickman has tended to be the writer who locked into one thing and saw a big sprawling idea all the way through to completion.
His runs on books like Fantastic Four, The Avengers and Secret Warriors show a dogged determination by a creator to explore really large ideas to their fullness and completion. Hickman being chosen as the lead writer to decimate the Marvel multiverse and bring it all back into one in the Secret Wars series really should not have surprised anyone. And in a world where they want to reboot the universe in comics as much as possible, it says something that Hickman’s new universe is nearing 4 years old. I think DC has rebooted twice since then.
Hickman isn’t the guy you hire to give you a quirky one-shot about his favorite character. He is the guy you hire to tell momentous stories.
Three Reasons to be Psyched About Hickman on the X-Men
So to have Hickman associated with the X-Men comics and to have it be clear that he will be the guiding voice on all the Marvel mutant books is something that we should stand up and take notice of. But how much of it is Marvel publicity release and how much of it is something more?
First off, you have to be thankful that they are clearing the docket and focusing on two main Marvel mutant books: House of X and Powers of X. Not since the early to mid-1980s when there was just Uncanny X-Men and New Mutants has there been that kind of line-wide focus. And even then, aside for some stories like the Asgardian Annuals, there were just vague interconnected pieces. To have a pure focus, at least to get his run started is a great thing for Hickman.
Side note: Can you imagine the world of comics before crossovers? It feels like a dream I desperately want to hold on to but know I have lost long, long ago.
Second, this feels Claremontian. Listen, there has never been a better X-Men writer than Chris Claremont. Yes, there are other runs that are great comics and should be respected, like Grant Morrison’s run or Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run. But Claremont had a way to build out a massive world that always left you engaged and intrigued.
Don’t believe me? Go back and read some of that era of comics and list the dangling story hooks that were left out there! And a ton of them should still be remembered! If we can get a semi-return to that kind of epic storytelling over a few years (which is what Hickman hints at in the video), I will be one very happy X-Men fan.
Third, it is time for a next era of X-Men as well. Thematically, X-Men has always been about not fitting in or belonging and/or being rejected. As a teenager who didn’t fit in well with my peers, I loved the X-Men because they didn’t quite fit in either, yet had still found their way. In a grander scheme that I didn’t understand until later, X-Men has always been able to deal with real world issues.
The subtext of the books has changed over the years. Early on it connected with the civil rights movement in America. Later, it dealt with things like aparthied in South Africa. Currently, at times, the book has felt like an opportunity to explore LGBTQIA issues through the stories told. With that history and Hickman’s boldness, it may be an excellent time to see what and how the X-Men and their story speak to us now.
Maybe Marvel had been sitting back and waiting to get the movies rights back before rebirthing and relaunching the next great X-Men era. Jonathan Hickman certainly is a writer who thinks cosmically and in large scale that could be able to do it.
For the first time in a long time, there seems to be some real sense of enthusiasm and excitement about the books and I am looking forward to seeing what things Hickman does! Both House of X and Powers of X start their run in July of 2019.