Well, howdy y'all, sugah pies! An' you, Bahlactus. Now set yo'self down in the rockin' chair on the porch an' Ah'll spin yo' a li'l yarn that's 'bout as thrillin' as the hound dawg who went down to the fishin' hole an'...
No. No dialect. Let's start again.
Long before Rogue of the X-Men was a bouncy, curvy, big-haired, magnolia-drawled superhero:
Even before she was Anna Paquin with a bad dye-job, a slightly-too-tight leather catsuit and a diminishing character arc:
Even way before the comic Rogue started taking Paquin's fashion advice:
But not before Rogue was growing up with her mute musical mama on a backwater New Zealand beach:
...she was an angular, nasty, wicked, evil, all-around bad girl who made her debut in Avengers Annual #10 by attacking and incapacitating Carol Danvers, once known as Ms. Marvel:
Panels from Avengers Annual #10 (1981), written by Chris Claremont, penciling and coloring by Michael Golden, inking by Armando Gil, lettering by Joe Rosen
So is it any wonder that when honey-drawled Miz Rogue comes a-knock-knock-knockin' on the front door of 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, New York, looking to join up with those misfit mutants of mirth, the X-Men, that she receives the cold shoulder?
Nobody wants her on the team. Not regal, strong-willed, bathrobed Storm:
Panels from Uncanny X-Men #171 (July 1983) written by Chris Claremont, breakdowns by Walt Simonson, finishing and inking by Bob Wiacek, coloring by Glynis Wein, lettering by Tom Orzechowski
Not blue, fuzzy future Catholic priest Nightcrawler:
Not even Mary Sue Kitty Pryde is keen on the idea:
So, then, how do you think X-Men hanger-on Carol Danvers is going to react to the news? (Here comes the Friday Night Fights part, folks!)
Yeah. Just about like that.
One punch!One punch! Oh wait, Rogue's comin' back around to get her licks in...
Whoa, that went about as well for the South as the Siege of Vicksburg. (Look it up, history fans!)
So, every time from that point onwards, whenever you read Rogue bein' all cute and coquettish and giving you that honeydripped accent of hers and lockin' lips with the detestable Gambit, just remember: the South's most famous heroine goes down like a pack of cards when she's hit by a former US Army Major intelligence agent turned Kree superheroine turned binary-star-powered adventurer. As do we all. As do we all.
Still, that's no reason not to like the little swamp rat. She takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin', y'all. As Phil Harris once sang: "That's what I like about the South."
Hey, I'm back! Let's get back into the swing of things with something simple but spectacular...or should I say uncanny?John Byrne's double-page X-Men spreads!:
Double-page spread from Uncanny X-Men #115 (November 1978), script by Chris Claremont, co-plotting and pencils by John Byrne, inks by Terry Austin, colors by Francoise Mouly, letters by Rick Parker
(Click on all images to Colossus-size)
You may make fun of John Byrne (I often do!), but you can't deny the man has a sense of spectacle: long before Byrne turned the FF topsy-turvy in the sideways Fantastic Four #251, and waaaay long before the X-Men themselves went widescreen with the "Marvelvision" sideways format of Uncanny X-Men Annual 2001heck, even long before Gambit sullied the name of the most uncanny team of them all, Byrne brought the periphery-fillin' Cineramascope-aspected thrill of fully double-page spreads to the X-Men.
Double-page spread from Uncanny X-Men #116 (December 1978), script by Chris Claremont, co-plotting and pencils by John Byrne, inks by Terry Austin, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Tom Orzechowski
Aided and abetted by Chris Claremont's stories, Byrne turned out panoramic vistas for our misfit mutants to maraud through in the late 1970s, as X-Men was capturing the the hearts and minds of comics fans and sales were climbing up the charts. It's hard to remember a day when there was only one X-Men title, but when you could rush down your your local 7-11 and pull this off the spinner rack, the wait between Xavier-xploits didn't seem that long:
Double-page spread from Uncanny X-Men #118 (February 1979), script by Chris Claremont, co-plotting and pencils by John Byrne, inks by Ricardo Villamonte, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Tom Orzechowski
To be fair, Byrne didn't pioneer double-page spreads, not even on the X-Men. Here's a very innovative spread from X-Men #61 by Neal Adams, an artist whom Byrne counts as one of his influences:
Double-page spread from Uncanny X-Men #61 (October 1969), script by Roy Thomas, pencils and colors by Neal Adams, inks by Tom Palmer, letters by Sam Rosen
The late 1970s globetrotting escapades of the X-Men were a perfect era to spotlight Byrne's double-page action-stuffed vistas, but the book shifted into truly top gear with the return of the X-Men to Salem Center, the rise of the Hellfire Club, and the genre-defining debut of Dazzler, Claremont's dense and expansive scripts left Byrne little space to "spread out" and insert a full two-page spread. It isn't until the double-sized X-Men #137 (by coincidence the first ish of X-Men I ever boughttalk about jumpin' in the deep end!) that there's space for a cinematic two-pager:
Double-page spread from Uncanny X-Men #137 (September 1980), script by Chris Claremont, co-plotting and pencils by John Byrne, inks by Terry Austin, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Tom Orzechowski
Byrne left the book after issue #143, but he still managed to sneak in one last double-wide spread in #139, an issue which had a little room to grow as it was mostly set-up for the next batch of adventures. Still, there's nothing throwaway about this lovely panel, one I consider the archetype of the pre-Shi'ar holographic Danger Room:
Double-page spread from Uncanny X-Men #139 (November 1980), script by Chris Claremont, co-plotting and pencils by John Byrne, inks by Terry Austin, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Tom Orzechowski
In the early eighties there were a handful of John Byrne art and interview books published which I eagerly snapped up. I don't have the books anymore so I can't quote verbatim, but I remember Byrne speaking in an interview about however impressive a two-page spread was, he was wary of overusing them because they advanced the storyline by precisely and only one panel. I can sorta see his point..but what a panel. If Claremont's plotting and writing on X-Men opened the way to longer and more involved storylines with more deeply-characterized heroes, then Byrne certainly brought the Marvel Eighties Age to a head and started the trend of visual spectacle and wonder, much in the way Kirby did with FF in the post-Galactus Trilogy issues. We can complain today about comics with immense splash pages or double-spreads and how decompressed storytelling leads to comic books that take five minutes to read, and if you're being testy you can partially lay that at the feet of Byrne's big double-page spreads. But to be fair, every panel mattered in these early X-Men, and Byrne's spreads were not simply to speed up the pace or to take up room, but instead provided us with a widescreen panoramic snapshot of the amazing, spectacular, and uncanny world these troubled four-color heroes occupy.