I’ve been reading comics now for decades, and one of the trends I thought would last forever was the popularity of comics featuring mutants.

However, even I’m surprised at how quickly the mutants have faded away in the last couple of years. Here’s what I think happened!

WOLVERINE’S EVOLUTION

Marvel, mutants, Wolverine, Wolvie, Inhumans, House of Ideas, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Fantastic Four, Jack Kirby, Guardians of the Galaxy, Colossus, Kitty Pride, Storm, Cyclops, Magneto, Professor X, When Wolverine first joined the X-Men many years ago, he was actually a misfit. He was pretty short and known for not bathing or cleaning himself at all. I remember in particular Storm holding her nose and complaining when having to stand next to him. Also, Logan was a cigar smoker known for chomping on his “cheroots” by the hour.

As time passed, Wolvie “mutated” depending on where he was appearing. He got taller over the years, wore a darker costume, and took up healthier habits like quitting smoking and taking showers. He also moved more and more into a leadership role, which was shown in several animated shows.

I saw an anime series in which Wolverine appeared to be a teenager who wore very fashionable clothes and was as clean-cut as they get! I kept blinking at the screen – was that really Wolverine I was seeing? (Check out the illustration to the right.)

Now, he’s been replaced in the comics! There’s a woman wearing the Wolverine costume these days, and he’s likely dead (although death is NEVER permanent in the books).

OTHER MUTANT CHANGES

There have been a lot of changes in the mutant community over the last 10 years or so, such as Cyclops and Magneto allying with one another. Then the “original” five X-Men came into our current time, and yet reality didn’t explode when they met each other! (So much for that theory!)

The mutants were very prolific for a long, long time, and even the Hulk and Sub-Mariner were considered mutants! Then their numbers were drastically reduced. Scarlet Witch was tremendously powerful, then went away.

Colossus was dead, then he wasn’t. Kitty Pride was holding on to a space ship to keep it immaterial and couldn’t let go. Now, she’s in charge of one of the schools for mutants. I remember recently Iceman suddenly being declared gay after decades of that not even being hinted at. Psylocke went from a mentally powered hero to a ninja.

Professor X – Is he dead now? Or what? What month is it, anyway? Hey, even the X-movies started to lose favor!

See, mutants were something younger readers could identify with. They didn’t belong in society and were searching for their own places in the world. They looked at the rest of us and went, “I’m not like that!” Younger readers, who were going through similar feelings, “got” that perception. I’m not sure children through young adults have the same insights these days. Also, the mutants have been around a long, long time. Younger fans, like the rest of their age group,  look at something their predecessors were fans of and turn up their noses. They want something that’s uniquely theirs, after all!

MY TAKE ON WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON

Marvel, mutants, Wolverine, Wolvie, Inhumans, House of Ideas, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Fantastic Four, Jack Kirby, Guardians of the Galaxy, Colossus, Kitty Pride, Storm, Cyclops, Magneto, Professor X, It wasn’t the evil mutants who knocked the X-Men down. It was lack of interest!

Comics fans like significant things to happen in the books they buy. They don’t want everything to stay the same from month to month. That’s fine until it becomes difficult to track just who is doing what when.

Then, too, as I often like to point out, X-Men continuity is something that has taken constant attention from readers. At any time, an event that took place decades ago in the comics could be referred to in a current storyline.

As long as fans could keep up with the mutants, it was fine. But a few years back, I found myself talking with “former” X-fans. One told me, “Things don’t change for a reason. They just happen to keep me buying the book. I got tired of it finally.”

I knew there was trouble when the X-Men and the Avengers became intermingled. That would NEVER have happened in the past. Now, the Avengers are the big guns in Marvel, and the mutants are … well, just mutants. The number of X-titles has seriously decreased, and I now actually wonder if the mutants could disappear off the comics landscape altogether.

Remember when movie critics were certain there would be “superhero fatigue” in moviegoers? Well, it took quite a long time, but finally “mutant fatigue” hit comics readers!

INHUMANS ARE THE ‘NEW’ MUTANTS

All this has not escaped Marvel’s attention. They tried the usual cast changes and power removals that worked before, but none of that picked up sales as they had in decades past.

So, what’s Marvel doing instead? They’re revamping the Inhumans, who have been around since the early Jack Kirby days of the Fantastic Four, to the status mutants previously held. We see them in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  on ABC as well as getting their own movie. Their receiving a LOT of attention in the comics, too!

Can Marvel capture lightning in a bottle a second time? Or will fans realize these are the “new” mutants, similar on many levels to the X-heroes of the past?

I wish I knew the answer to that, but I honestly thought Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy would be their first movie flop! Shows what I know!

What do you think? Is there some way Marvel can revive mutants to their past glory? Will Inhumans be to the House of Ideas what mutants were before? Share your thoughts below!

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About Author

Wayne Hall creates the Wayne's Comics Podcast. He’s interviewed Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, Phil Hester, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, David Petersen, Christos Gage, Mike Grell, and Matt Kindt. On this site each week, he writes his "Comics Portal" column (general comics comments and previews) and reviews comics.

2 Comments

  1. The Inhumans thing in the MCU is because they had to make do. They couldn’t use mutants, so they had to the next best thing. Even they could use mutants, they probably could not use well-known characters like Wolverine, Cyclops, and Storm.

    A lot of X-Fans like the conspiracy theory that Marvel is trying to get rid of the mutants so they can replace them with the Inhumans. I think it’s ridiculous. Marvel still does get money from the X-Films, and the X-Men are still popular characters, so I don’t think Marvel will completely wipe them out. I also think that many X-Fans are just butthurt that the Avengers are the hot team in Marvel now, after the X-Men’s thirty-year grip as Marvel’s top team.

    Maybe people are just tired of the X-Men. Think about it. Back in the 90s and 2000s, mutants were EVERYWHERE because Marvel made a lot of money off them. But, if you start seeing them everywhere, you may eventually grow sick of them, and I think that’s the main issue. It’s ‘mutant fatigue’. People are tired of them.

    Another problem the X-Men have had is that…in the comic, we never see any real progress in the human/mutant peace front. The X-Men claim to fight for human/mutant integration, but they rarely have non-mutant members. I can only think of about five (Longshot, Mimic, Moira, and Tom and Sharon Corsi). For all they supposedly do, we never see any real progress on the human/mutant peace front. We don’t often see the X-Men working with “regular” people or having “regular human” friends these days, so we get the impression that they just say in the Institute all the time. The X-Men are inherently flawed as a concept.

    The Inhumans should be seen as a second chance to look at the flaws of the X-Men and actually correct those flaws.

  2. X-Men is a great concept but problem for them is American comics industry and its formulaic, inflexible business model. Any franchise will eventually reach the point when storylines and continuity gets so convoluted that they need to “reboot”. Its also the point where they force changes and alienate some of their readers in hopes of getting new ones. Its an inherent flaw that eventually gets almost all superheroes, perhaps not including very few icons.

    Mutants, hated by general public is an universal concept that can appeal anyone who’s ever known or witnessed some sort of discrimination. I don’t buy for a second that couldn’t be a long lasting, successful franchise just as much now as it was then. I was really, really excited when I saw Cyclops evolving from “by the book” guy to mutant revolutionary. Given the character and long history of his team it could have been one of the best comic stories ever told if it would have been handled patiently and in mature, no nonsense manner. Make it strongly political, mutant Che Guevara story and you got a masterpiece in your hands. It would also probably have to be handled by non, U.S. writer, because it would have to be boldly socialist, not exactly easy and/or popular thing to do in america. (Someone akin to Alan Moore could handle it.) Alas, it was not to be, time travel, nonsensical character changes, plots and convoluted continuity stepped in once again.

    Its not the characters, its editorial, marketing, money and writing that’s holding back each and every one of the struggling franchises. Give any character as much push (movies, toys, advertisement) as Batman and it will do well. Monthly, books, forced to continuity and formula need to go too if they want lasting characters and franchises. Make half of the books limited series, or even better, make them direct to trades. In those, don’t give a crap about continuity, killing characters, or anything else than telling the best story you can. Let characters evolve, advance the plot. It doesn’t matter in what situation you leave them, it doesn’t matter in the next story anyway, which is probably from different creators and about different things. People will buy in droves. Only very small portion of so called hardcore audience cares about continuity anyway and they would still have some books, easier to keep in focus because less in number. They would also get over the whole “weekly, in continuity” thing, if not, good riddance.

    One could argue about retailers being in trouble without weekly, regular line up from every publisher. Would they really? Somehow Europe has had comic stores at least as long as U.S. and they are still there. In some of the oldest and most famous comic stores in France, Belgium and Netherlands you don’t have a single super hero comic book in sight. How is it possible? They sell trades and albums. And don’t most of the sales of super hero properties come from action figures, movies and such items already?

    Look at European comics, they are evergreen. Asterix and Tex Willer, for example are ancient, not changed at all during all this time and latest comics about them sell at least, if not even more copies than decades before. People discover 20-30 year old mangas all the time, no one cares when it was first published, they never stopped making new prints of them. People don’t need forced change and ridiculous, constant shock value, as much as current superhero book editors seem to believe so. They need good books.

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