This week, on the Major Spoilers Podcast, the crew takes a look at the X-Men arc, God Loves, Man Kills…

The story concerns a minister, the Reverend William Stryker, stirring up religious anti-mutant fervor and kidnapping Professor X in an attempt to eradicate all mutants. It is one of the most clear-cut examples of X-Men comics using mutant relations as a metaphor for real life race relations as well as being a general critic of prejudice and what was the growing political clout of televangelists.

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  1. manglesmcgee on

    I first X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills when I was 11 years old, private school 6th grader. It has a special significance to me because it was the first piece I had read, up to that point in my life, that shifted my whole worldview. Organized religion was integrated into every aspect of my life, and every adult in my life instructed me from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed my life was better because of it. There was not even the option of bringing up the question that religion could have a negative effect. This book presented an interesting story where religion inspired an extremist to invoke violence against those he believed deserved it because of a warped interpretation of Christian doctrine. From the point I finished this book and through this day, I look at anyone who uses dogmatic traditions as reasoning for anything, with scrutiny and a critical eye.

  2. I used to call “God Loves, Man Kills” the “Greatest X-Men Movie Never Made”. At least until X2 used it as a partial basis for the plot. Much as I loved X2, I really wish they’d done a more literal adaptation. Along with The Dark Phoenix Saga, this is still one of the X-Men’s finest stories. Easily 5 out of 5 slices (snikt) of meatloaf.

  3. My first exposure to this story was when I picked up the original “Marvel Graphic Novel #5” oversized book. In fact, that’s the very same one I re-read this afternoon when I knew you guys were going to talk about it.

    “God Loves, Man Kills” is my favorite “Mutants as a metaphor for social struggle” X-Men story. Re-reading and reviewing it at the same time that “One Million Moms” is making a big deal about gay characters in comics is wonderful timing.

    Chris Claremont hits all the notes in this story that he was building up to in the monthly comic up to this point. The art by Brent Eric Anderson and Steve Oliff is fantastic.

    It was nice to see this story in the Marvel Graphic Novel format because I think they were able to get away with a little more than they could have in the standard, monthly, comic-code-laden book of 1982. This was the beginning of some pretty heavy topics for Marvel in the 80s and I’m pretty sure we would not have seen Kitty Pryde slinging around the “N-Word” for 60 cents an issue.

    This is a fine story with one of the best teams of X-Men (in my personal opinion, it is “One Rogue” away from being the perfect X-Team). We get Nightcrawler in prime form, Storm at the pinnacle of her Wind-Goddess mode, Wolverine before he became the “put him in everything” character, and Cyclops portrayed as a strong, solid spokeman and leader without 30 years of melodrama and severe family dysfunction to taint the character.

    My only complaint character-wise with the core team of X-Men is Kitty Pryde. I don’t think Chris Claremont has quite found her voice yet (in the same way that he had trouble finding her a costume and a codename). She comes off a little angrier than I like my Kitty Prydes, and I’m glad that didn’t stick. There were also some hints to the coming relationship between her and Colossus, which is also something that I’m glad didn’t stick (ewww).

    Two things that I particularly loved seeing in this story:

    1) The first rumblings of the redemption of Magneto. Yes, he’s still a world-conquering wannabe, but Claremont has started to bring some humanity to the character and you can see the beginnings of the Magneto who would later join the X-Men and lead the New Mutants. I miss that Magneto. Occasionally, a writer tries to bring him back over to the X-Men (with mixed results) but eventually someone tries to make him into Dr. Doom again and I think that demeans his redemption.

    2) When asked how he knows so much about the X-Men, Stryker indicates that he has a member of his organization in the FBI who obtained Fred Duncan’s records from when he was the government liaison to the X-Men. This is a tiny thing, but there are so few references to the status of the X-Men prior to “Second Genesis” that it was nice to see this included.

    All-in-All, this is a fantastic story. when I read it for the first time as a teenager in the 80s, I would probably have said 5 slices of meatloaf if I was then rating on the meatloaf scale. As a 39 year old in the 21st century, I’m going to give it a solid 4.5 slices. The message is still topical and on-point, but (rather like “Days of Future’s Past) the story has been wrung out and redone in X-Comics so many times over the years that, if you didn’t read the original when it was original, it loses a little bit of it’s initial shine.

  4. I liked this quite a bit when it was new, though not well enough to keep it through economic hard times and several moves, so I haven’t read it for a long time. The story was superior to most comics of its day – this was still the days when comic book heroes spoke aloud what they were doing the panel such as “Hold fast, Kid Hero! As I extract my pink and lavender enamel encrusted titanium fiber Ultra-pogo stick from my MegaTrix Utility Orafice, with which we shall rebound from this seventy story fall without injury! Excelsior!”
    The art, however was nothing special, on a par with the main X books except that it was printed on glossy white paper with better coloring.
    The plot was ALMOST groundbreaking. It had the virtue of finally ending the nonsensical swing in the Mutant books where one issue they would be Wanted by the Government with half the FBI on their trail, and the next issue they would be strolling the streets in costume without any complications; and cast them firmly in the role of victims of society. Mutantism became comic short hand for whatever social ills the writers wanted to showcase after this book came out. It failed to realize its full potential because readers knew nothing permanent was going to change since the story couldn’t and didn’t effect the main continuity of the other X books – at least at first.
    That said, a great many of its themes were later absorbed into X-men cannon (in a similar way that certain ideas first put forth in Kingdom Come, The Dark Knight saga and The Killing Joke found their way into DC’s main continuity) in both the X-men comic books and movies (such as Magento and the X-men working together while Xavier was missing). In this way, the story did have a great impact on Marvel’s later comics, whether for good or ill I will leave it for you to judge.
    The book was controversial when it came out because it had no super-villain but portrayed certain government agencies and organized religion as the villains of the piece. In that regard, it was a bold move on Marvel’s part.
    Sadly, this was just about the last of the good X-books, in my opinion. It was just about the time that this book came out that the franchise was diluted into meaninglessness by being spread out into so many spin-off titles, cross-overs and epic events that I ended up dropping most of the X-titles.
    The Epic line of graphic novels also began to suffer. Since this book proved so popular, Marvel began to tone down the mature edginess of the Epic line until it became no more special than its mainstream stories only printed on prettier paper.
    This book might be considered a classic, given the serious themes that hadn’t often been addressed by comic books before, but I’m not sure that it would hold up for a modern audience, since most of its story ideas have since been repeated by other comics, books and movies to the point where the significance is lost. If you can find it, it’s certainly worth a read.

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