Or – “The Finest X-Man Of Them All… Because *I* Said So!”

Four years ago this week (or thereabouts) I got a phone call from a guy I went to college with, inviting me to be a contributing editor in an awesome website project idea he had.  Since I own more comics than would ever be necessary, and talk about them a lot of the time anyway, I figured it might be fun, even if it were only to last a couple of weeks.  That first review (more on that later) took forever and never made me happy, but I like to think I’ve gotten better at this.  In honor of four years of  ‘Major Spoilers Presents The Matthew Show,’ it’s time to look at some important historical high points of my life in comics.  First up, the origin of what might be my favorite hero of all time!

X-Men #19
Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Werner Roth (as Jay Gavin)
Inks: Dick Ayers
Letters: Artie Simek
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Previously, on X-Men:  Professor Charles Xavier was born different, with the ability to read minds. He eventually became one of the foremost experts on the mutant phenomenon and gathered a group of young mutants together to teach them to use their powers expertly, which according to the plan was somehow going to make the baseline humans feel less intimidated.  (Because that which you fear is always less terrifying once it’s been trained and whipped into a top-notch paramilitary strike force…)  Cyclops, The Angel, The Beast, Iceman and Marvel Girl became his first class of X-Men, regardless of what Bryan Singer, Matthew Vaughn and Marvel editorial would have you believe, and the irony of their never-ending battle was that most of their foes were also themselves mutants.  Not so, their first recruit, a brash young man with a flair for red and orange and an ever-so-slight attitude problem.  This is HIS story…

We start our festivities in the Danger Room (not yet a psychedelic alien light show full of holograms, this one is pretty much flame-throwers and bags of sand flyin’ at your had) as the fabulous quintet known as the X-Men hone their abilities against the nastiest barrels and gizmos that the 1960’s had to offer.  Angel and Iceman goof around a bit, The Beast intentionally handicaps himself to try and make the obstacle course challenging, while Marvel Girl reads a book and Cyclops is humorless.  Suddenly, their training is interrupted by the arrival of their shiny-pated headmaster, who has a surprise for the mutant teens…

Actually, Charles, to date all of your announcements HAD pretty much been heralds of impending doom.  Left to their own devices, Iceman and the Beast head to the local coffee shop for a double-date with Bobby’s gal Zelda and her friend Vera.  Vera and Hank meet-cute, then start to get along, just in time for another would-be suitor to arrive…

Calvin goes to town, using the Beast’s agility and Iceman’s temperature and moisture control abilities to show up the X-Men in front of the girl that should be his.  Stupid Beast, anyway, trying to make time with the hero’s girl!  Realizing whom he must be fighting, Calvin sees a chance to achieve his destiny, to bring in the rogues known as the X-Men once and for all, but his duplicating powers only work while the subject is within a short distance of him.  Lost in thought, he bumps into a strange red-haired girl before discovering that he’s once again come into contact with an X-Man!

That, by the way, is proof positive that The Mimic is NOT a mutant, and any attempts to whitewash him as being one are silly.  He and Longshot are the only team-members NOT to have been mutants and both have had ill-advised attempts to retcon them as being mutants for some reason.  If the X-Men are really about inclusion and rights for everyone, why would one or two non-human members even be a problem?  It’s a mystery that only Agent Mulder and Mycroft Holmes could unravel.  And speaking of combinations of things being even better, Calvin follows Jean Grey back to her school and confronts the X-Men with the truth of their identities, all the while absorbing their own mutant abilities for his own…

With superior speed and agility, flight, telekinesis, ice-powers, eyebeams and telepathy (remember, Professor X is a mutant who can be mimicked as well) Cal proves more than a match for the mighty mutants, using their own abilities and defenses against them.  Since Robin, The Boy Hostage, is in that OTHER comic book universe, The Mimic grabs Marvel Girl and uses her as a human shield to make a break for it.  But why would he retreat when he was winning?

And moreover, can you think of another villain whose escape craft is an Olds Toronado?  That, Faithful Spoilerites, is CLASS.  Retreating to his secret cave headquarters, he tells Jean the story of his origin (exposed to a mysterious gas in his father’s lab, Calvin found himself able to duplicate the knowledge of his professors, the abilities of the star athletes, and basically being pretty sort of marvelous.  Of course, the kids around him were all just jealous of his superior abilities, much like Veruca Salt knew to be true about her affluence, and Cal and his father retreated to the cave where dear old dad began working on a way to make Cal’s powers permanent once duplicated.  The locals tracked them down, though and attacked, causing a cave-in that hid the machine as well as killing Papa Rankin.  As the X-Men approach, Cal regains their powers and uses them to dig his way through to his father’s power-device…

The full force of X-Men attacks him in his moment of triumph, but our hero perseveres, rebuffing their attacks again and grabbing Professor Xavier as a hostage.  (Hey, it worked once, why not go back to the well?)  It’s also nice to see that thoughtful Papa Rankin monogrammed the device to match Calvin’s uniform chest symbol.  There’s nothing to stop him from his ultimate goal as The Time Lord Mimic stands triumphant…

…for about thirty seconds.  Xavier uses his telepathic powers to create a short-circuit in the machinery (???) and orders his X-Men to evacuate the cave, post-haste.  Dragging their teacher and a comatose Mimic with them, the nefarious X-Men escape almost certain doom with seconds to spare.  And as for poor Calvin Rankin?

Looks like his pops stabbed him in the back, yo?  The effect of the machinery was never to make Cal’s powers permanent, but instead to wipe out his abilities completely.  Thanks a lot, Daddy-O.  The outlaw mutant leader uses his terrible powers to wipe away part of Calvin’s mind (which makes him, per the 2004 case “Meltzer Vs. Z. Zatara”, the ultimate evil in the universe) and send him on his way.  It’s kind of a sad ending for our hero, but at least he’s got his shiny Toronado to keep him company.  Cal does return later, and even becomes leader of the X-Men in latter days, and a version of him ends up as the heart of the Exiles team years later.  The art on this issue is really striking, created by Werner Roth (who was at the time doing romance comics for DC, and used an alias to get around the thorny issue of moonlighting for the competition) and some entertaining, if glib, writing by Smilin’ Stan Lee himself.  This is the kind of story that made upstart Marvel’s reputation in the swingin’ 60’s, even if this wasn’t one of the highest profile Marvel books.  The real fun here is in the implications of it all, the proto-universe building that would eventually coalesce into today’s “Gotta Read ‘Em All, Or Ain’t None Of ‘Em Makes Sense” shared Marvel U.  All in all, this is one of my favorite stories (though I may be a tad biased by my favorite character being the guest-star) and earns a well-deserved 5 out of 5 stars overall.  For all their superior tools, I find it kind of disheartening how seldom the creators of today’s comics manage to create tales with this much raw energy and enthusiasm.

Rating: ★★★★★

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Four years ago, I was essentially unemployed and kicking around looking for something fun to do when Der Schleicher made his now-legendary visit to Gatekeeper Hobbies.  Where were you in October of ’06?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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13 Comments

  1. arcee
    October 9, 2010 at 9:50 pm — Reply

    What’s with the panel where Cal takes of his shirt and the yellow binder is underneath? It looks redrawn and recolored somehow.

    • arcee
      October 9, 2010 at 9:50 pm — Reply

      That’s ‘off’ his shirt not ‘of’.

      • seneca
        October 9, 2010 at 10:26 pm — Reply

        The funny thing is that he’s standing there in his underwear and the next panel he’s in costume, so at one point he had to decide to take them off and put them on over his pants. :) “This is gonna look so cool!”

        • arcee
          October 10, 2010 at 6:17 am — Reply

          LOL! Good catch!

  2. xrayguy
    October 9, 2010 at 9:53 pm — Reply

    AHHHHHH! I read this one! In the origonal! THIS is still my favorite super power to ask for when my friends play that “Which super power do you want” game. Great comic, except for Mimics goggles being so wierd lookin’. Thanks for the flashback.

    • October 10, 2010 at 5:42 pm — Reply

      The weird goggles are half the selling point. It’s like how Kevin Nash always wears those fringed pants to hide his chicken legs, it gives him a unique look…

      • Navarre
        October 11, 2010 at 7:34 am — Reply

        Soooo…Kevin Nash is The Mimic? Yes, it all makes sense now! It explains why he kept a job all those years.

        As for the Spoilerite Question, in Oct 06 I was unhappily married and happily raising my twin children. My children and I were anticipating the release of the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance game.

    • Damascus
      November 4, 2010 at 4:30 am — Reply

      Mimicry is a fine power if a) it sticks around after you leave the person’s vicinity and more importantly 2) there are other powered people around to mimic. Yeah, it’d be cool I suppose to be able to mimic some great singer’s voice or Michael Jordan’s basketball prowess, or Jackie Chan’s grasp of the English language, but without other super powered people it wouldn’t be that great.

      Granted I can almost never play that game and pick just one power, too often people perceive a power as one thing when what they’re thinking of are two separate things. Like Super Strength shouldn’t predispose Invulnerability, heh, just ask Sunspot, or wait did he get cracked on the head by a piece of wood again? Or Invulnerability without Strength, ala Boulder previously of the Initiative. Speed without Speed Force equals ripped pants among other things. You’ve been to the dentist, you get the drill.

      I’m a fan of characters like the Mimic and 3-D Man and other C and D listers, I always love when they get some really good play in whatever book they’re in.

  3. Armaan
    October 9, 2010 at 10:19 pm — Reply

    I love how much you love these older comics. You shine with it.
    Man. I forgot how funny they could be… and how anguishedly annoying Scott’s ‘hidden’ love for Jean was.

  4. seneca
    October 9, 2010 at 10:23 pm — Reply

    Its too bad that in the current stories he’s treated like a light wieght d-lister. I liked the attention he got in Exiles.

  5. Damascus
    November 4, 2010 at 4:20 am — Reply

    The sad thing was that all it would have taken was one sad sack human with a club or gun to take Mimic down as long as he wasn’t near any mutants with helpful powers. Another thing that I don’t get is that they always make a point to talk about how the X-men have spent all this time working out and getting into peak physical form and simply because he has their powers, he’s instantly able to take them all down. I get that he can shoot eye beams, but how does he automatically know how to control them, that and they give the X-men here (and in other situations) no credit for their actually proven fighting ability. All it takes are the powers, nothing doing for the actual knowledge of how to use them most effectively. That’s not only a specific indictment of this story, it’s a story element that I see too often and it drives me crazy.

  6. Roger
    April 3, 2012 at 6:29 am — Reply

    “He and Longshot are the only team-members NOT to have been mutants and both have had ill-advised attempts to retcon them as being mutants for some reason.”

    That ain’t true. Juggernaut ain’t a mutant and outside of the movies, stayed that way and has been on a main and secondary x-men team for a while. There’s also Madelyne Pryor, though she too got turned into a mutant, among other things.

    • April 3, 2012 at 7:31 am — Reply

      That ain’t true. Juggernaut ain’t a mutant and outside of the movies, stayed that way and has been on a main and secondary x-men team for a while. There’s also Madelyne Pryor, though she too got turned into a mutant, among other things.

      Hmmm… Maddy I’d argue, since at one point they had indicated that Mastermind chose her because she was/could be a mutant. I had forgotten about Juggernaut’s stay, as most of the times I interacted with him as an X-Man was during Chuck Austen’s bizarre and nonsensical run on the book…

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