Wednesday, April 7, 2010

1981 - Uncanny X-Men

Uncanny X-Men #145-164
After John Byrne’s departure, Brent Anderson (now famous for his work on Kurt Busiek’s Astro City) did the fill-in art in Uncanny X-Men #144 while Dave Cockrum prepared for his return to the title he co-created four years earlier. Unfortunately, Cockrum’s art was too stiff and dull in comparison to the Byrne and Austin’s art work.

The X-Men got involved in a personal battle between Arcade and Dr. Doom. Professor X actually called in the reserve X-Men like Ice Man, Banshee, Havok, and Polaris to help. The story line climaxed with a cheesy plot thread that played off the Dark Phoenix idea but was focus on Storm.

Cyclops was brought back from his leave and returned to the fold as the team ramped up for a major confrontation with Magneto. Uncanny X-Men #150 forever changed Magneto’s character. He threatened the world and willfully destroyed a Soviet sub. His actions gave a wake up call to the world reminding them of the threats all mutants posed. Under Claremont’s watch, Magneto become a multifaceted villain. Claremont rooted Magneto’s motivation into his childhood trauma watching his family die in Nazi death camps in Auschwitz. He refused to let such atrocities happened again and to his own kind. Now he had the power to prevent the whole scale slaughter, but may have gone to far to protect his own race.

A couple fill-in issues by the underrated Bob McLeod (who would go on to draw the New Mutants), which that featured the return of the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle and their reconstruction of the Sentinels, followed. After an overly cute fantasy/bedtime story created by Kitty featuring the X-Men, Claremont and Cockrum launched into their most ambitious story line, the Brood Saga.

The StarJammers came to Earth and the X-Men freed Lilandra from her deadly sister Deathbird and her allies the Brood. The story line was interrupted by a few issues which featured the return of Rogue, an attack on Storm by Dracula with beautiful art by Bill Sienkiewitz, and #160 which involved Belasco the Demon Lord of Limbo and Colossus’ little sister Illyana.

Issue #161 detailed Xavier’s first meeting with Magneto and helped fill in more of Magneto's character. The Brood story line resumed with issue #162 which was a rehash of the Alien movie plot. The X-Men were impregnated with the eggs of the Brood queen and would die metamorphosing into Brood creatures.

Dave Cockrum never finished the Brood saga as he ends his second run on the X-Men with issue #164.

His leaving the Uncanny X-Men, on both occasions, was voluntary. In an interview with Comic Book Artist (issue #6):

"I stayed through to #107. I couldn't stay with it because I was on staff by that time my job was to design covers and I just couldn't handle it anymore. I was tired and I gave it up. Later on, they asked me to do that Marvel Fanfare with the X-Men in the Savage Land and it was fun! I called up Chris and said, "This is really fun! If Byrne ever wants to leave the book, give me another chance at it." And Byrne left the book that following Monday. That was a weird juxtaposition! So I got the book back and I was enthusiastic again. It was fun for a long time.

The only reason I left the book the second time was because I had previously put in a proposal for The Futurians. It sat on Jim Shooter's desk for about a year, and he finally said, "Yeah, you can do this if you want." I was in some doubt whether I should quit the X-Men and do that but I really wanted to do it.

Chris and Louise Simonson, the editor, talked me into giving up the X-Men because they thought I was more enthused about The Futurians. That was probably the biggest mistake of my life! That was about the time they started paying the royalties and reprint money. It takes nine months after an issue goes on sale before you get a royalty check so I hadn't received one yet by the time I quit the X-Men. When the first one came it was $2000 right out of the air! I thought, "Geez!" And it got better, and from what I heard, people like Jim Lee were making $40,000 a month on royalties. (That's why they could afford to go off and start Image.) If I had known about that kind of money coming in even the $2000 a month you couldn't have pried me off that book with a crowbar. The Futurians was never that successful."


And on his opinion of John Byrne:

"Don't get me started on Byrne. My opinion of his art is colored by the fact that I think personally, he's an arrogant, first-class jerk.
His art on X-Men was interesting, and sometimes innovative, but it was also as simplistic as a Saturday morning cartoon--which may explain the wide appeal he has. Yes, X-Men sales took off when he took over the book. You may not have noticed, though, that sales continued to increase when I came back.
Was I envious of Byrne? Probably a little, because he's frequently touted as being more important to the book than I am. But if I hadn't created Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Phoenix, Mystique, Lilandra, Deathbird, the Shi'ar Imperial Guard and the Starjammers, there would have been an entirely different X-Men book, and possibly no X-Men publishing empire. Possibly even no X-Men book at all. And probably no X-Men movies.
And if, instead of leaving DC I'd stayed on the Legion of Superheroes, we might be watching Legion movies these days. D'OH!
--Dave Cockrum, 2003 (http://www.nightscrawlers.com/forum/viewthread.php?tid=2139)

5 comments:

  1. thanks for the cockrum interview quotes, interesting stuff. i had no idea royalties were ever that high!

    i used to be indifferent to cockrum's art, but over the years i've gained a great appreciation for it. while not as technically skilled as byrne's, his art has a really special charm to it. he has such a love for the characters and it really shows. also #153 (kitty's fairy tale) is my second only to #137 (of course) as my all-time favorite x-men issue. great memories of that stuff.

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  2. I have great memories of this run. I still liked his art during his first run better ( I think it just looked more raw and new and freaky) but I really enjoyed the stories in the second run as a kid, especially the Brood stuff.

    It's sad that he missed out on all that royalty money when he probably deserves more compensation than anyone besides Claremont. He really did build the foundation of the X-Empire that exists today.

    Thanks for the interesting write-up.

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  3. You're welcome. Thanks for the comments.

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  4. Yeah, thanks for posting the Cockrum interview. I too had no idea about the royalties these guys earned.

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  5. Oh, I think Cockrum's early work surpassed Byrne's. Nothing against John's work, but he was teamed with Terry Austin -- but Cockrum rarely has a regular inker. I think they finally settled on Bob Wiacek towards the end of his second run. But Cockrum's work did suffer in his second run. I believe he consciously made changes his to style in an attempt to add realism to the characters, but it backfired. Also, Cockrum was a slow artist -- and not suite for the monthly format. Still, as a character designer and cover artist -- he beat Bryne hands down.

    kcekada

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