Saturday, 4 August 2012

I feel the need, the need to freeze

The backup Origins of the X-Men feature continues again from X-Men #44, with a story about Iceman's origin, running through to #46.

It's 1963 (apparently, the sliding timeline had not yet been invented, although Bobby only just turned 18 last year, I dunno), and Bobby Drake is a fun-loving teenager in a small town in Nassau County, New York. He knows he has ice powers, and his parents do too. On a date with Judy Harmon, he feels forced to defend himself against a bully. With his ice powers. This proves a mistake, as rumour quickly spreads, and he is arrested.

Xavier finds out about this from reading the paper, and sends Scott there. Scott breaks Bobby out of jail, which just escalates matters, as the townspeople form a lynch mob and declare the sheriff, who is protesting there must be due process, to be a "mutant lover". Xavier saves the day with mindwipes all round, including of Bobby's parents (as was typical back in the single digits), and signs Bobby up as the second student at his school.

There is no subtlety here. The X-Men, which started as a fairly innocent piece of science fantasy, is now an analogy for the civil rights struggle - not something that can be read into it, but the clear authorial intent. Gary Friedrich may only have had a short run on the title, but his influence is profound.

Forty-two years later, this story gets retold by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Phil Noto as X-Men Origins: Iceman. It hews closely to the original. Plotwise it varies a little, as Xavier enters sooner, preventing the situation from escalating as badly as it otherwise had, but it presents those same events, down to an explanation for why they'd seen "West Side Story" that night. But it doesn't need to be changed to be a coming out narrative, as it already was one, back in 1968.

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