Wednesday, January 13, 2010

1986 – Phoenix reborn

Avengers #263, Fantastic Four #286, and X-Factor #1
Writers: John Byrne/Roger Stern/Bob Layton
Art: John Busemca/John Byrne/Jackson Guice/Bob Layton

Unfortunately in late 1985, Jim Shooter approved the Return of the Phoenix story line that reunited the original X-Men and resurrected Jean Grey. The blame for bringing back Jean Grey has passed between John Byrne, Chris Claremont, and Jim Shooter like a hot potato. In 1999, Kurt Busiek stepped forward and accepted the blame.

Claremont didn't like the idea at all and approached Shooter. However, according to Claremont, Shooter “felt the marketing arguments in favor of resurrecting Jean far outweighed what I felt was the critical damage being done to the canon”.

In an interview with Comic Book Resources’ Michael Thomas, Bob Layton had the following to say about Jean's return:

“I have to give the credit/blame to John Byrne. In the initial premise that Jackson Guice and I submitted, Jean Grey was not part of the group. Mike Carlin, editor at the time, pulled me aside one day and said "Hey, how would you like to have ALL of the original X-Men back?"

Apparently John Byrne had come up with a way to revive her and, of course, why would I refuse to use her?”

“When Jackson Guice and I were developing the series, Jean Grey was still stone-cold dead. Since we knew we would have to have the "babe factor" in any Marvel X-men series, we made the decision to draft Dazzler as Marvel Girl's replacement. As you can see in the version posted here (one of the seven covers that Jackson and I designed that were later rejected) we deliberately left the central female figure blank.

“As the story goes, Byrne brought her back in the pages of the Fantastic Four and that allowed me to relaunch the original X-men with all members intact. Needles to say, poor Dazzler was left out in the cold through all of this.”

The magic explanation was that Jean Grey had been put into suspended animation by the Phoenix entity just after X-Men #101 and was then impersonated by this entity who had copied her soul. It was this entity that destroyed herself in X-Men #137 and not Jean Grey.

Was bringing Jean Grey back a mistake? In my opinion, absolutely. There's no question that this was a bad idea, but financially Marvel couldn't pass up the opportunity to make wads of cash. They compromised one of Marvel's greatest story lines to make money. Angel, Iceman, and Beast have historically had problems outside the X-Men, with perhaps the only exception being Beast as an Avengers. But, they weren't able to do much on the Champions or Defenders as both series were canceled.

The biggest casualty in bringing back Jean Grey wasn't Jean, but rather Cyclops. Scott Summers was portrayed rather pathetically in that he abandoned his wife and child to go gallivanting around with an old flame, with whom he avoided mentioning that he was married.

While I have to admit it was fun to see the original X-Men together horsing around, Iceman and Beast hanging out together, and setting up that familiar love triangle between Angel and Cyclops. But, I wonder if they would have been better off setting up Angel with Jean and reuniting Cyclops with his wife?

With that said, the basic idea behind X-Factor was a clever one. Taking advantage of mutant hysteria to locate mutants under the guise of a mutant-hunting organization was a solid premise that was a new take on Professor X’s dream.

In Byrne’s first pass on Fantastic Four #286 (original pages seen in the Phoenix Rising Premiere HC), the Phoenix entity was seen as more of a malevolent being out to destroy everything. A last ditch effort by Jean somehow imprints her soul on the entity forever changing it. However, that approach didn’t sit well with Shooter and Claremont was asked to step in and do a re-write. The re-write changed the Phoenix force into more of a benevolent being who genuinely wanted to help Jean as she was about to sacrifice herself to save her teammates.

And speaking of Fantastic Four #286, it’s a wonderful issue highlighted by the reunion of John Byrne and Terry Austin. No one inks Byrne like Austin.


  1. i've heard some rumors (possibly by byrne himself) that the dialogue for that FF issue was re-written without his consent (he claims it was claremont) and some of it was redrawn (not sure by whom). and i agree with you, bringing her back was a big mistake.

  2. In the Phoenix Rising Premiere HC, the original art is there and it's Byrne who redrew those pages. It was done with his consent by Claremont.

  3. hmmmm, is he changing his story? i remember reading him somewhere saying that a lot was changed by claremont and guice behind his back, and something to this extent (though not as strongly) is said on his FAQ:

  4. You're right, my bad. Shooter wanted the changes, so Claremont scripted it and Guice redrew the panels. (This from the extra content in the Premiere HC.) Sorry for the confusion...

  5. I could be wrong, but I remember reading that The New Defenders was canceled because of the launch of X-Factor and not because of poor sales (although it was not a top seller at the time). What I do clearly remember is being a fourteen year old Defenders fan who was so mad that they canceled that title and brought Jean back. Regardless of whether or not the Defenders title was canceled to make room for another X-Title, as a teen I perceived it that way and was so ticked. However, I did eventually end up enjoying X-Factor quite a bit during Louise and Walter Simonson's run.

  6. It would have been interesting to see Jean join the other original X-Men in The New Defenders instead of having the Defenders cancelled.



Related Posts with Thumbnails