Forty-odd years ago, Neal Adams was having the time of his life illustrating Roy Thomas' scripts for The Uncanny X-Men, only to see the comic almost immediately canceled.
Several decades later, the X-Men have rebounded out of obscurity, and Adams is back working on the early days of Marvel's strangest superheroes.
What's the project? The First X-Men, a five-issue canonical prequel miniseries drawn and plotted by Adams and scripted by Christos Gage (Avengers Academy).
This series stars Wolverine (known then only by his moniker "Logan") as he assembles a team of mutants to avenge wrongs back when Charles Xavier was a snotty college kid.
In a conference call with the creative team, Adams told io9 about his pitch for this "X-Men before the X-Men" comic, for which he cites "Jack Kirby to be the Bible." As Adams explained of the plot:
Of all the mutants on Earth, Professor X could easily pass as a human. Why would he want to get involved in this? [...] Maybe mutant kids were getting abused by the military, by the government.
Somebody would have been looking out for them, but maybe that person came to Charles Xavier, realizing he couldn't protect these kids.
After university student Charles Xavier ignores the clawed mutant's call to action — "Get out of my house! You look like a werewolf!" was Adams' imitation of Xavier's reaction — Logan cobbles together his own team.
Among those involved in this Magnificent Seven-style operation are a paycheck-collecting Sabretooth, a Nazi-hunting Magneto (who the creators happily plucked from X-Men: First Class), and a Wolverine-worshiping teenager named "Bombastic Aghast." Other characters showing up will be an amnesiac hobo Namor and prototype Sentinels.
Another twist teased was the decision to give the entire populace of the Marvel Universe a "Day One" to hate mutants. As Marvel editor Nick Lowe explained:
In those early X-Men stories, everybody hates and fears them, but we never really know why [...] Here we found out why mutants are so hated and feared in a way that is different from any other superheroes.
And here I always assumed that anti-mutant bias was the fault of the dancefloor diva X-Woman Dazzler, who had the misfortune of being invented during the declining days of disco. The First X-Men hits comic shops in August.