For Your Consideration: Marvel’s X-Men Classic Omnibus

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

From the dawn of the Marvel Age of Comics, the company was very canny about offering up reprints of their earlier stories to keep new readers in the loop. After all, the idea of comic shops and back issue bins was more than a decade away. But, in 1986, the company offered up something bold and different, creating a reprint series with so much essential new material that readers had to buy it.

For 44 issues, Classic X-Men represented the New X-Men stories, starting with 1975’s Giant-Size X-Men #1 and included new interstitial material to expand on elements or seed threads. More than that, under the wonderful Art Adams (and later, Steve Lightle) covers there were also new stories from Chris Claremont and John Bolton, emphasizing, foreshadowing, or deepening what was happening in the main story.

Classic X-Men #7

Classic X-Men #7


By 1986, when this series launched, Claremont had developed the mythos is such a complex way that he could enrich the first few years with all this added material. It was audacious on the surface, but the ad-less, $1.25 comic was unmatched for a reprint and proved incredibly popular with fans.

One such example was Wendy Browne, who wrote at Women Write About Comics, “I learned so much from those stories—specifically, the back-up stories that delved into who these incredible characters are. Starting me off this way firmly established me as a Make Mine Marvel kind of girl.”

X-Men Classic Omnibus

X-Men Classic Omnibus


Marvel is now collecting all this new material in an 1,040 page X-Men Classic Omnibus that will come complete with comparisons and text articles explaining what was changed, what was added and why. They’re billing this as a great companion volume to their other X-Men titles and frankly, it is most certainly that.

While Claremont handled all the interstitial writing, spanning the first 27 issues, the art was handled by a wide variety of talents, some blending better with the original Dave Cockrum or John Byrne pages than others. These stalwarts include Chuck Patton and Kieron Dwyer.

Classic X-Men #16

Classic X-Men #16


These were interesting and welcome, but it really was the short stories that made the reprint title worth having. Claremont and Bolton proved an adept pairing and I adored their work on Marada She-Wolf and Black Dragon. Here, they present quieter, more introspective and character driven tales.

When these were first collected in X-Men Vignettes, Claremont wrote, “These were short stories, almost vignettes, focusing on a single character. As such, they quickly became surprisingly and intensely personal ones for me as a writer. I was getting into the characters’ heads and souls with a focus that often wasn’t available in the regular book, and doing so with a perspective of better than a decade’s worth of work on the title. With John [Bolton] I had an artist who could handle pretty much anything the story demanded in terms of setting, in terms of characterization, in terms of visual panache. […] With him I could tell stories that simply wouldn’t fit in the fast-paced, widescreen, mega-action adventure ensemble of the main series itself. I could take a slower pace. I could focus. I could stretch some boundaries (even if they were only internal) and maybe break some rules.”

Classic X-Men #34

Classic X-Men #34


While Claremont and Bolton formed the bulk of these stories, there were others who got a shot as deadlines forced Claremont to miss some issues. Jo Duffy was first up in #20 with a Storm story and with #25, Ann Nocenti effectively took over as the lead writer. She was an editor turned writer better known for her work on Daredevil but here shows some nice character spotlights. Letterer Tom Orzechowski makes two rare writing appearances in issues #25 and #40.

Bolton misses his first story when Claremont was back in #29 with art from June Brigman and Roy Richardson. It’s a nice focus on Colossus as he returns home for a visit in Russia. Assistant Editor Daryl Edelman takes a turn in #35 with a fun Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde tale and future X-writer Fabian Nicieza wrote a nice Banshee spotlight with art from Mark Bright and Joe Rubinstein.

Interestingly, issues #37 and 38 are devoted to focusing on new member Dazzler, the first from Nicieza and Rick Leonardi and the second from Nocenti and the marvelous Kyle Baker. There’s also an interesting two-parter in #41-42 from Claremont and Mike Collins that inserts Mr. Sinister into Scott Summers’ time at an orphanage.

Classic X-Men #43

Classic X-Men #43


One of the most poignant stories is also from Claremont and Collins; in the aftermath of Jean Grey’s death, has a conversation with a construction worker who was the personification of Death.

The final short story as a Rogue tale from Nocenti and Kieron Dwyer, and then the series dropped the new material entirely and went strictly reprint, changing the title to X-Men Classic. A final story, also by Nocenti, with art by Dave Ross and Joe Rubinstein was finally published in the last issue of Marvel Fanfare and is, thankfully, included here.

Purchase

X-Men Classic Omnibus

Classic covers from the Grand Comics Database.

USER COMMENTS

We'd love to hear from you, feel free to add to the discussion!