The X-Men took the slow road to comic book dominance. During the magical start of what became known as the Marvel Age of Comics, legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created “The Strangest Teens of All.” “X-Men” #1 (1963) in introduced five new heroes (Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel, Ice Man) who attended a school to learn how to use their fantastic powers from their teacher Professor X. Lee has said when he was looking for a reason for the heroes to have powers he said he went the easy route and said they were born with them.
Despite the excellent pedigree of the original creators, the X-Men never set the sales charts on fire. Despite some upticks in sales, most notably when Neal Adams became the series regular artist, the “X-Men” were effectively cancelled with “X-Men” #66 (March 1970). The Adams induced uptick in the later issues of the series allowed Marvel Comics to turn the book into a reprint series reprinting the early adventures for the team while they figured out what to do with the X-Men. This continued until “X-Men” #93 (April 1975).
Marvel was not done with the mutants. Instead they wanted to try to reinvigorate the X-Men with a more international feel. Writer Len Wein with artist Dave Cockrum took the challenge to introduce an All-New All-Different X-Men in the pages of “Giant Sized X-Men” #1 (1975). These X-Men came from all over the map: Banshee from Ireland, Sunfire from Japan, Storm from Kenya, Nightcrawler from Germany, Colossus from Russia, and Wolverine from Canada.
This new team took over the numbering from the previous series with “X-Men” #94 with Chris Claremont replacing Wein as writer with artist Cockrum. The series was not a hot seller just yet but it was building a following.
By “X-Men” #108 (December 1977), the series was deemed successful enough to become a monthly book instead of the six issues per year schedule it was previously on. Now artist John Byrne took over the series from Cockrum and he and Claremont became one of the most beloved creative teams in comic book history.
Now the series added the adjective “Uncanny” to its title and became a cult favorite. Sales were steadily climbing. Shocking stories such as the “Dark Phoenix Saga” and “Days of Future Past” captured the imaginations of the readers and word of mouth was spreading.
Creative differences split the team of Claremont and Byrne following “Uncanny X-Men” #143 (March 1981). Cockrum returned to the series as the buzz continued to build. When Cockrum passed the art baton to Paul Smith with “Uncanny X-Men” #165 (January 1983) the X-Men exploded to become the number one book in comics. The X-Men were everywhere and Marvel knew it. Spin-off titles emerged introducing more mutants and bringing back others who had left.
As Claremont neared the end of his 17 year stint as the writer of the Mutants Marvel created a second “X-Men” series. Claremont with superstar artist Jim Lee created an all-new “X-Men” #1 (October 1991) that sold more than nine million copies dominating the sales charts like no other book before.
Since the time of that pinnacle the X-Men have gone through many new creative directions, spinning off numerous comic titles. While they have ceded some of their sales dominance to the “Avengers” the “X-Men” line of comics are still Marvel’s go to books.
With a more than five decade old history there are quite a lot of comics to sift through. What are some of the stories that put the X-Men on top and kept them there? What are the ten best storylines as chosen by the Hollywood Comic Books Examiner? Click on the photos to find out.