So Sayeth the Odinson: History of the X-Men: Part 1 of 6 – The Silver Age in 10 Images

Greetings from the Odinson,

In recent years, Marvel has started releasing these really beautiful graphic novel box sets.  The first was Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, then they followed that up with Civil War and the Avengers.  These gorgeous sets include a protective, ready-to-display on your shelf magnetically sealable cases adorned with gorgeous artwork.  They contain 9 to 13 hardcover graphic novels collecting important moments and runs from Marvel History, including many tales and behind-the-scenes features that have never been collected before. 

In March of 2020, Marvel added yet another astounding set to their growing roster – X-Men: Children of the Atom.  Looking at these sensational Hardcover collections made the Odinson remember 1) what a glorious history Marvel’s Merry Mutants have had, 2) what a glorious who’s who of legendary artists have worked on the series, and 3) how the X-Men have had some of the most eye-catching, and magnificent covers in Comics History.

And with that, the Odinson has decided to tell the history of the Children of the Atom using only covers. 

History of the X-Men: Part 1 of 6 – The Silver Age in 10 Images

Uncanny X-Men #1 (1963)Art by Jack Kirby and Sol Brodsky. 

The Dawn of the Marvel Age introduced the world to a new breed of heroes, relatable heroes who dealt with real life type problems, in and out of costume.  Gone were the cookie cutter, vanilla heroes of yesteryear.  Instead, fans could follow the adventures of Marvel’s First Family, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Man without Fear, the Master of the Mystic Arts, the Jade Giant, and the Friendly Neighborhood Web-Swinger.  Professor Xavier’s First Class were a team of teenage super heroes banded together to protect a world that fears and hates them just because they are different. 

The Dawn of the Marvel Age also ushered in the Dawn of the Mutant Age.     

Uncanny X-Men #4 (1964)Art by Jack Kirby.

But, who are Marvel’s Merry Mutants protecting the world from?  Why the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants of course.

Magneto the Master of Magnetism is an iconic Marvel villain that goes without introduction.  His infamous deeds and ability to toe the line between arch villain and tragic anti-hero are well documented throughout the annals of Marvel History.  The X-Men’s Rogues Gallery is every bit as dangerous and well known as any hero’s in fiction, and Magneto and his Brotherhood rank right at the top. 

Starting out with the vile Toad, sinister Mastermind, and the siblings Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, two mutants that would go on to make huge marks and play major roles in Marvel History, the Brotherhood would evolve over the years to include an even more diverse cast of complex foes that would include Mystique, Pyro, Blob, and more!

Uncanny X-Men #6 (1964)Art by Jack Kirby and Chic Stone.

In 1964, UXM #6 established Prince Namor as Marvel’s very first mutant (before timeline retcons) and firmly planted him right in the middle of the X-Men mythos.  This would have repercussions for years to come as Namor became more and more of a major player in mutant affairs as illustrated in the stories Utopia and AvX

The Savage Sub-Mariner is one of the most important super heroes in Comics History as, along with the original Human Torch, he was introduced way back in 1939 in the pages of Marvel Comics #1.  Thus, Namor’s heritage and mutant genes gives him ties to the worlds of Atlantis, the Invaders, Fantastic Four, Avengers, and the X-Men making him a corner stone of the Marvel Universe!  

Uncanny X-Men #16 (1966) Art by Jack Kirby and Chic Stone.

The byproduct of defending a world that fears and hates you is incurring the wrath of that hatred.  Nothing represents this ire more so than the Sentinels

The Sentinels are robotic weapons of mass destruction whose sole purpose is to hunt down, capture, and eradicate mutants.  These killer robots come in all shapes and sizes from the gigantic Mark III to the super deadly Nimrod to the hunter/killer Prime Units.  Depicted on the cover of UXM #16 is Master Mold, the sentient construct that mass produces these deadly machines at a frightening rate.

Uncanny X-Men #19 (1966)Art by Jack Kirby, Werner Roth and Dick Ayers.

Meet Mimic, the unofficial sixth member of the original X-Men.  Calvin Rankin was a special kind of mutant that could imitate and absorb other super humans’ powers.  Conceptually and visually he is actually pretty super cool.  Like Thunderbird, his time among Marvel’s mutants was all too short, but he made quite an impression.  Mimic represents those characters, like Chamber and Maggot, to name a couple, who throughout X-Men History for whatever reason or another just do not pop and have the qualities or staying power of an A-Lister.     

Mimic met his end (though that’s been retconned) due to radiation exposure after a confrontation with the Incredible Hulk.  An alternate version of him however went on to become a staple in the reality-hopping adventures of the Exiles.  Plus, there can be no doubt that he was the inspiration for Peter Petrelli, the main protagonist for the TV series Heroes.    

Uncanny X-Men #28 (1967)Art by Werner Roth and John Tartaglione.

The introduction of the screaming Banshee! 

This symbolizes so many great X-Men characters that started out as foes but eventually became staunch members of Xavier’s X-Men.  Characters like Sunfire, Rogue, Marrow, and Bishop all started out as adversaries but sooner or later came to see eye-to-eye with our mutant heroes.  Even perennial Big Bads like Magneto, Mystique, Emma Frost, and Juggernaut have dipped their toes (with varying degrees of success) in the waters of wearing a white hat from time to time, and this image illustrates the origins of that motif perfectly.

Uncanny X-Men #39 (1967)Art by George Tuska.

Up until this point, Xavier’s First Class had always worn uniform outfits, yellow and blue jump suits that signaled them as members of a group and also gave them a militaristic look.  However, this is the moment that each member of the cast got to choose personalized outfits that better reflected their individual personalities. 

Though the blue and yellow uniform look has returned from time to time (see the New Mutants and Uncanny X-Men #254 and 275 to show a few), one of the cooler aspects of the X-Men franchise are their super cool outfits with original designs that fit each character’s personality and the many different varieties of outfits as the years have gone by. 

This variety has given many an artist a chance to shine with some of the Odinson’s personal favorite character designs being original Havok, Art Adams’ Colossus and John Byrne’s Wolverine

Uncanny X-Men #42 (1968)Art by John Buscema.

This is a powerful image for sure, and, unfortunately, something that will haunt the X-Men all throughout their history.  From the turning point events of Uncanny X-Men #200 to the climax of AvX, losing their mentor and father figure has become a notorious motif in the annals of Marvel’s Merry Mutants.

For more on this topic, see The Odinson Explores the Many Deaths of Professor X.  

Uncanny X-Men #46 (1968)Art by Don Heck.

I chose this powerful image for many reasons.  At the center of all the mind-blowing escapades and adventures these mutant heroes embark on, at the end of the day, the X-Men are a family.  Familial relationships can sometimes be difficult and complicated.  Juggernaut is Charles Xavier’s Step-brother and one of the X-Men’s oldest and most tenacious adversaries.  The relationships among the heroes is often complex, especially when love is thrown into the mix.  Some of the most harrowing moments in this family’s history are centered on love triangles like Scott, Jean, and Logan; Eric, Anna Marie, and Remy; or Scott, Jean, and Emma

This image represents another motif that runs all throughout X-Men lore.  The bond (the X) between family members is strong, but as Juggernaut is proving here, that bond can be fractured.  Members of the family (the X-Men) can leave, as members of the X-Men often do, and come back, as members of the X-Men ultimately always do.  

Uncanny X-Men #66 (1970)Art by Marie Severin and Sam Grainger.

This is a benchmark in X-Men History as this powerful image of the X-Men fighting for their lives against the Incredible Hulk marks the end of an era.  Uncanny X-Men #67-93 contains all reprint material of earlier adventures.  UXM #66 is the last issue to feature original material until 1975’s Uncanny X-Men #94 launches a new era for the Children of the Atom. 

See what I mean about iconic images telling the story of some of the most beloved heroes by some of the most legendary artists in the history of the medium?  We are just getting started. 

Tune in next week for History of the X-Men: Part 2 of 6 – The Bronze Age in 10 Images

This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

NOTE: Be sure to check out my new book – Autumn Dawn: A Glen Haven Tale.  Available in Paperback and on Kindle.

About Odinson

I am a lifelong comics fan and pop culture enthusiast. Comic books, novels, games, television, movies, I love it all. From fantasy to science fiction, drama to comedy, as long as the writing and execution are interesting, I love it, and I want to talk about it.

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