The X-Men. Superheroes with different powers derived from the mutant gene that separates them from the human race. X-Men is something any Marvel fan knows, their comic book history long and detailed. They are a symbol for every group of people hated and profiled which is what made them so popular because so many people could relate with them. Stan Lee wanted to create a new team of superheroes, but ones who were actually schooled in using their powers. Thus, Professor X and his school for Gifted Youngsters was born introducing Cyclops, Beast, Angel, Iceman, and Marvel Girl. And he took this story and fleshed it out, creating multiple villains and starting out the famous comic book. Unfortunately, this streak wouldn't last. Cause in this era of Marvel history, the X-Men were not as popular due to poor story work. Stan Lee kind of lost his way as he wrote the stories. I personally think he thought it should go one way but also wanted to address the mistreatment of mutants and got lost in between. Roy Thomas took over and didn't do any better, bringing only some admirable stories and many bland ones. Arnold Drake came on and managed to have one good story amidst a carnival of garbage (his writing really is just bad). Because of this, X-Men was actually Marvel's worst-selling title in the 1960s. Then, Roy Thomas had an idea and decided to come back. And famed artist Neal Adams (one of the best comic book artists back then) signed up for Marvel and went to X-Men since no one cared what he was doing on a failed title and he could just do what he wanted. And together, those two created an amazing run on X-Men that really invigorated the franchise. They worked so well together they later did the Kree-Skrull War for Avengers (see my best Avengers comics). Unfortunately, it wasn't enough as fans had already moved on from it so the title was soon cancelled. But, since Marvel never lets any franchise die, they brought the title back later on and Chris Claremont handled it and made it the great and powerful franchise. But that story is for the next list. Til then, here are some of the best X-Men tales of the 1960s:
10. X-Men Vol 1. 37-39: Factor Three
The finale to a planned story arc many issues in the making. With all the build-up to it, one would either expect for it to surpass expectations or never live up to it. This story kind of lands in the middle. It wraps up the story in a nice way and has some fun, thrilling moments but also doesn't really break any ground or up the suspense in any way. The trial of the X-Men by all the mutants they fought for betraying their kind was a good touch and a great start and the dividing battles between the X-Men and their foes across the globe added some suspense to it. But the final reveal didn't really land and was pretty cliché at this point. A fun story that does manage to wrap up this story arc in at least a satisfying way.
9. X-Men Vol 1. 32-33: Into the Crimson Cosmos
The Juggernaut. One of the X-Men's greatest enemies and one of the strongest characters in Marvel. He's appeared twice in the X-Men films but both protrayed him as a mutant. Fun fact: he's not. His super-strength and invincibility derive from the gem of Cyttorak, a supernatural entity. This is the story that explains that as the Juggernaut goes on a rampage and the X-Men must split up with some trying to stop him while the others journey into the Crimson Cosmos to find a way to stop the Juggernaut once and for all with a little help from Doctor Strange. This was a fun story that added some depth to the Juggernaut's powers and had great action, but was also just a redo of the previous Juggernaut battle (see below).
8. X-Men Vol 1. 49-52: The Devil Had a Daughter
The introduction to one of the more important X-Men characters: Lorna Dane AKA Polaris and the daughter of Magneto. Arnold Drake was a terrible writer on the X-Men title with bland stories and a writing style that is hard to follow, but here he manages to add one good thing. A mutant army is being assembled under Magneto and he wants his daughter to lead it, so the X-Men try and convince her to defy him. While it doesn't go as deep as it could, it still tells a good story of living up to one's parents.
7. X-Men Vol 1. 17-18: If Iceman Should Fail
One of the X-Men's deadliest battles with their archenemy Magneto as the villain takes over the mansion, incapacitates all the X-Men, and then sends them up in a metal sphere, floating towards the sky. The only one who can save them: their youngest member, Iceman. This was one of Stan Lee's last good stories on the title and he manages to fill it up with his usual suspense, action, and thrill. The writing might get stale here and there, but the page-turning atmosphere makes it worth it.
6. X-Men Vol 1. 62-63: Strangers in a Strange Land
The X-Men are lost in the Savage Land, a hidden world in Antarctica where time stood still filled with savage men, dinosaurs, and tropical wonders. It also holds mutants as someone is creating them, forming an army of them to take over. Teaming up with Lord of the Jungle, Ka-Zar, the X-Men confront this mysterious creator who actually isn't that mysterious, revealing himself with one truly iconic line that pretty much sums up his character. This story, while great, would not have made the list without Neal Adams's artwork who makes it so much more.
5. X-Men Vol 1. 60-61: Sauron
The X-Men come face-to-face with dangerous foe Sauron. No, not the Lord of the Rings villain. This guy is a dinosaur. Well, he was a man, but due to some dangerous experiments, he has the ability to drain the powers of a mutant and become a dinosaur. The logic is wonky but the story is sound because Sauron is not a true villain, but a man anxious to make something of himself in order to marry the girl he loves and got lost along the way. A sad tale that ends in tragedy which again is elevated with the help of Neal Adams.
4. X-Men Vol 1. 1: The X-Men
The introduction to Cyclops, Beast, Angel, Iceman, Marvel Girl, and Professor X as well as their enemy Magneto. The story that started it all, opening the floodgates for many more mutant stories to come. And it still manages to thrill and delight readers. This is a must-read for X-Men fans and Marvel fans in general.
3. X-Men Vol 1. 14-16: The Master Mold
The first appearance of the Sentinels, the massive robots made to hunt down mutants. Unfortunately, these ones have gone rogue, planning a world takeover under the direction of the ultimate Sentinel, the Master Mold. So now the X-Men must fight robots made to destroy them and save the creator of them before the world ends. A story that was a precursor to the hatred against mutants and set the tone for what was to come and yet still a great story on its own as the X-Men find themselves outmatched at almost every turn, but also has several poignant moments, especially in the finale as creator Bolivar Trask comes to realize the consequences of his actions.
2. X-Men Vol 1. 12-13: The Juggernaut
As mentioned previously, the Juggernaut is one of the strongest Marvel characters and one of the X-Men's greatest enemies. But, he is also the stepbrother to Professor X. In this story, the Juggernaut comes a-knocking and the Professor tells the X-Men of his childhood and his history with the villain. Then, the X-Men battle the foe and repeatedly find themselves tossed around like ragdolls, nothing compared to this foe's power. This is one hell of a pulse-pounding story and Stan Lee at his best with the reader on the edge of their seat waiting to see how it will end.
1. X-Men Vol 1. 57-59: The Sentinels Live
Roy Thomas and Neal Adams come together to create one of the best X-Men stories and best Marvel stories of this era ever made. Adams proves why he is one the best artists around with his work flying off the pages, grabbing the reader and hooking them in while Roy Thomas's writing is truly at its best here. The Sentinels are back and now they are actively hunting all mutants and so the X-Men are scattered, fleeing for their lives as both allies and enemies across the globe are caught and taken away. Once this story gets going, it doesn't stop, keeping the ante raised all the way from beginning to end. This is the X-Men story fans deserve and if the title had to be cancelled, at least they got one truly fantastic story before it went.
And that's the X-Men. Some good and great stories out of many bland and bad ones. The X-Men wasn't at its best in the 1960s but at least they managed to do better several years later. Next up: Captain Marvel, Conan the Barbarian, Black Widow, Doctor Doom, Ka-Zar, and more.