Monday, September 27, 2010

1983 - New Mutants

I fondly recall picking up a copy of the New Mutants #1 from a local convenience story in 1983. Unlike reading the X-Men, where I had felt I was always behind, since I was reading starting with issue #168, and that there was a lot to catch up on, this issue was a great launch into the world of mutants.

While the New Mutants had powers, they weren’t your traditional city-patrolling heroes. They were kids and they not only had to deal with controlling their powers, they had to deal with real teenage problems, like crushes, school, and insecurity. Claremont’s writing style was perfectly suited to play up these angles and really hook young readers. And they were a family.

Having been part of that target market in 1983, I can say that this title captured the imagination of that thirteen year old and had me hooked with the first issue and would see me collect the title until it ended at #100.

The New Mutants quickly rose above its label as an X-Men spin-off. The first three issues introduce the new team of mutants through Danielle Moonstar's point of view. She also has the biggest chip on her shoulder. Her constant conflict with Professor X is well used to allow us to learn a bit more about each character.

The biggest difference between the New Mutants and the X-Men is that the New Mutants were still just kids. When the New X-Men were recruited, they were almost adults and had learned to use their powers on their own. However, the New Mutants are raw and talented kids who need to be trained to properly use their powers.

As far as I'm concerned, Bob McLeod has always been an underrated artist who never really had that chance (beyond the New Mutants of course) to distinguish himself as a premiere artist. While Claremont’s style and dialog always worked for me, it was the crisp art of Bob McLeod that drew me into this series. Artist Bob McLeod dropped in to provide some fill-in art for Uncanny X-Men #151 and 152 and was actually offered the position of full-time artist on the title.

From an interview with Adelaide Comics and books (http://www.adelaidecomicsandbooks.com/mcleod.html), McLeod expanded:

“Then they liked that job, so they offered me the book; but they said, “You can either do the X-Men or we’ve got a new series we’re starting up called the New Mutants.  It’s up to you, but this is going to be a new series and should be big, so it might be something you’d want to get into instead of the X-Men”, and even though the X-Men was kind of the hot book at the time, New Mutants was something that I could co-create and get in on the ground floor, so to speak, so I chose to do that.”

In an interview with the Comic Book Bin, McLeod had more to say:
“I probably could have had a lot more input, because Chris was very open to suggestions, but at the time, I just wasn't that interested in creating characters. I just wanted to draw. Chris already had the characters basically imagined when I came on board. Chris, Louise and I decided to make the thrust of the book all about the school, so the New Mutants wouldn't just be another super-group like all the others. I pushed to have more females than males in the group, and helped to decide on what costumes they'd wear (we decided to go with a school uniform), and I created the physical look of the characters. In other words, I think Rahne was basically just described by Chris as a redhead. I decided to make her short and full-figured, with bristly wolf-hair, and I came up with her transitional half-wolf look. I made Dani tall and slender and flat chested (at the time, probably the only female in comics with less than a c-cup!). It was my idea to give Sam big ears, etc. We originally envisioned Sunspot as growing huge like the Hulk when he powered up.”

From an interview with Claremont in Comics Collector #2:
“And in a sense, I think that’s perhaps why we created The New Mutants – to do a book where those realities [death and violence] do no so much intrude. To do a book where kids – a younger audience – could read it enjoy it and be scared and excited without having the fundamental pay-off of somebody suffering such an essential trauma as death. It may be that X-Men has developed to a point where it is not a book that appeals to the youngest audiences.”

I was always curious as to why McLeod had left as I had always liked his art. He explains his rationale as follows (taken from http://www.adelaidecomicsandbooks.com/mcleod.html):

 “The reason I left New Mutants was because it was so far behind schedule.  We got started off on the wrong foot.  It was supposed to be a regular series and then as I was starting to draw the first issue the editor decided to make it a graphic novel.  That was at the same time I was getting married and going on a honeymoon, and so I got behind and just never could catch up after that.  After the first three issues of pencilling I just wasn’t happy with the drawing I was doing because it was so rushed.  I then decided to quit drawing it and start inking it instead, but then that just wasn’t satisfying because I was inking the same penciller every month and Sal Buscema is a very good penciller for what he does, but at that time especially he was just doing a real standard pencilling job, nothing exciting.  So I just wasn’t into it.  Just after a few issues of inking I just decided to try to find something else to do that was a bit more fun and I never kept up with it after that.”

3 comments:

  1. Great pictures. I wish I could collect those kinds. From the Xmen Central

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  2. Despite being an X-Men fan i never got into the New Mutants. to me they never had very compelling personalities and as a team they always seemed to be getting there asses kicked. i think even Power Pack could have taken them down with out too much trouble.

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  3. I was also an X-men fan who was psyched to get into New Mutants, but found it didn't quite live up to its potential. And that potential looked huge in its second issue, when they trashed a bunch of Sentinels (depicted in that great picture up above). That was a great action issue, but unfortunately it went downhill from there (as did, apparently, Sunspot's strength and endurance, which never seemed quite the same).

    After that issue they were fighting crank phone callers and, for me, the final straw was issue 7 where they fought a guy named Axe who was basically Mr. T with, you guessed it, an axe. I jumped ship with that one.

    I never left completely, though, and still would pick up an issue if it looked interesting. I was drawn into the "evil Karma" story years later and eventually filled out the back issues. As of just a couple of months ago I now have the first 50. Not the greatest comic of the 80's, but still a nice little nostalgia trip to a simpler time before X-books took over the market.

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