Introducing – Some Big Ideas
When Comic Book Herald EIC (Ed note: and all around genius savant bachelor) Dave Buesing asked me to look into the non-comics sci-fi connections to Jonathan Hickman’s 2019 House of X and Powers of X, I found myself facing a much larger challenge. While the Hickman era of X-Men threads in not a few outside sf tropes and influences, the tapestry itself has already been perpetually in the loom for the past 60 years. And my restless penchant for connecting parts to wholes and present to past wondered: But what sf stories were Stan and Jack reading? Where did the first superman of American comics come from? How did the notion of the born mutant become shorthand in the pulps for the outsider genius or the beautiful freak whose very existence was countercultural?
Obviously, there are endless such questions we could formulate, especially when it comes to the early years of pulp adventure and popular sf*, of which virtually no one but a handful of scholars has ready knowledge. And anyway, what does this have to do with Hickman’s X-Men at this point? Well, if you know his work going back to the start of his comics career, you’re certainly familiar with the fact that he’s always been a nut for high-concept sf; indeed, many of his influences appear to call back quite clearly to Golden Age sf classics (the 1930s and ’40s) and sundry benchmarks in the genre—even if it’s not intentional or a direct citing of specific stories. To be clear, it’s not my intention here to ever presume that any author is plagiarizing. However, I do work off the assumption that even the most astonishing creators aren’t creating ex nihilo: Everything comes from somewhere, but ultimate origins are all but impossible to trace. We are inspired by what’s in our environment, education, and experience, and even the most radical auteurs are so limited. Simply put, what this series of articles will try to track to the best of my current ability is the evolution of those tropes central to the current X-Men narrative from its earliest discernible origins in the primal soup of pulp sf, with an undeniable dash of (warped) Nietzscheanism and necessary historical and cultural context. [Read more…] about Science Fiction & The X-Men, Part 1: The Golden Age Origins of Marvel’s Heroes & Mutants