originally published March 2, 2012
I feel I need to preface today’s article with a disclaimer. I was never a big X-Men reader. I’ve seen a few of the movies, and I’ve read a handful of the comics, but I was always more of an Archie fan when I was a kid. The X-Men are concerned with saving the world, preserving mutant rights as an analogy to discrimination of all kinds… Archie mostly just wanted to get laid. And Jughead liked to eat. I could relate to these people. So I’m not going to try any fanboy fakery with this article; I’ll just report from my place of shameful non-geekery on this subject.
So there came a day in 2005 when the mighty minds at Marvel Comics sat down and looked at the breadth of what they had created, then decided, “Fuck it.”
Editor-in-chief Joe Quesada felt that things had gotten out of hand, that the X-Men comics and their various off-shoots contained too many mutants. Enter the Scarlet Witch, a character created back in 1964 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. She has one of the most bad-ass powers of any comic book character, the ability to alter reality.
The “House of M” storyline had Quicksilver convince the Scarlet Witch (his sister) that she should create a world where everyone has their desires fulfilled. Kind of a Matrix-y notion, in which no one really knows that they aren’t in the real world. A better comparison might be the idea of the Nexus from Star Trek: Generations, which serves as the impetus for Malcolm McDowell to force us to watch ten minutes of Captain Kirk on a horse and Captain Picard celebrating Christmas.
A few of the heroes clue in to what’s going on, including Wolverine, Hawkeye, possibly Klinger, Venus, Schneider, etc. They think Magneto is responsible, because it’s always just easiest to assume that Magneto is behind every asshole move in the mutant universe. Magneto isn’t thrilled about this being placed on his shoulders, so he kills Quicksilver (his son – this is all some heady family stuff).
The Scarlet Witch isn’t thrilled about this. She brings her brother back to life, denounces her father (which seems redundant, really), then casts some crazy-ass reality-twonk that strips the powers of 90% of the mutants.
So there you have it. “M-Day”, November 2. The day Marvel scrapped most of its work from the previous four decades in order to start with a (mostly) clean slate. This launched a new series of comics with a much smaller cast of characters to keep track of. The favorites were generally kept of course, and they now had this excellent plot point from which everything can spring. Fun.
One factor they could squeeze into the new world was an upswing in anti-mutant sentiment among the normal folk, or ‘muggles’ as they’re called (or not). If you’ve seen any X-Men movie, there is a running concern over the way the public perceives the mutants. I think, if our world was really to be populated with a bunch of people who have special powers, it would up the stakes of reality television to incredible heights. Why watch a bunch of semi-retarded slabs of tanned paste who live and exercise in New Jersey when you can watch a chick who turns into a lizard trying to split a dinner check with a guy who can make people’s teeth explode with his mind?
The reason for the upswing in anti-mutant sentiment was, of course, God. The religious folk could claim that M-Day was God’s judgment on the mutant population. Since this never led to a climactic battle between Wolverine and Super-Jesus, I don’t think they took this particular storyline to its most bodacious extent.
How many mutants were left standing? It depends on the source, probably because there are too many people writing these comics and not communicating with one another. Estimates vary between 198 and 1.5 million.
The issue a lot of fans had with M-Day was that there were inconsistencies in who kept their powers and who didn’t, or why some mutants lost their powers but not their physical mutations. Also, with fewer mutants, why was the cost of these comics not coming down? Fans will complain about anything.
Wizard Magazine tried to sum everything up with an extensive list of who lived, who died, who lost their powers, who didn’t, and so on.
Scanning through this list of mutants, I have to say I’m impressed with the depth of storytelling that went into each character’s demise and/or survival story. Here are a few that caught my eye:
Big Bertha. She’s a supermodel from Milwaukee who has the ability to become incredibly obese. Well, it says she can alter the size and mass of her body, but the picture they include just shows her becoming morbidly huge. I can’t imagine the type of situation in which this would be a benefit; maybe if for some reason the X-Men needed to legitimately commandeer one of those little trucks that hauls fat people through airport terminals, Big Bertha would be the one to call. Luckily, she retained her powers.
Squirrel Girl, which is great because her name kind of rhymes, has the powers of a squirrel. I guess that means she has sharp claws, can fit a lot of nuts in her mouth (whoa!), and routinely electrocutes herself by accident. She still has her powers.
Wild Child, who had super-human senses and a self-healing power (seems like of generic) was killed, probably by Iggy Pop.
Glob Herman, who should really have petitioned for a better name, is a skeleton and organs encased in a paraffin-type substance that he can flick off his body, probably usually to freak out small children. He retained his powers, which is great because you could see his poop.
The story of M-Day has led to more than six years of ever-expanding stories, based on the mutants who were left. This event is so cataclysmic that it will most likely figure into a movie, assuming they get back to making the ongoing stories of the X-Men, instead of just randomly rebooting the franchise, or focusing on endless prequels.
The sheer volume of characters and powers and conflicts and organizations makes this all seem like too much work for me to get into at this point. I need more simplicity in my life, less conflict. I just want to see Jughead eat a giant plate of burgers while escaping the hungry sex-raged hormones of Ethel. Life is so much easier in Riverdale.