Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday Night Murals: Now you're falling when you should've scaled back

Tonight: not merely a mural that's a triptych, but three mural triptychs! (A ninetych?) And it all starts with this OH NOES EVERYBODYS DEAD teaser image from late-1987's Marvel comics:

The Fall of the Mutants

Which only goes to prove: even in death, nobody likes being near Rahne Sinclair.

Whatever it looks like, this isn't the 1986 Mutant Massacre. Nor is it that popular miniseries Punisher/X-Men: Guess Who Gets Shot. No, this is "The Fall of the Mutants", and man, I'd say they've done more than just fall down there. Have a nice trip, Wolverine? See you next fall, Warlock? Falling down on the job, Cyclops? Hey Marvel Girl, did, I'm not gonna do the whole group of 'em. And I'm not going to sum up the story (but here's Uncanny X-Net's well-done summary of the whole mutant-maimin' mayhem). All you have to know is this: triptych murals off the starboard bough, cap'n!:

The Fall of the Mutants
Page from Marvel Age #59 (February 1988)

Now that Kyle Baker's such a huge star, isn't it fun to see where he got his sta...hey, wait a minute! For once that joke actually works! Anyway, here's at least one sign that Marvel knew its fans were interested in unusual and quirky cover design: a news story in Marvel Age specifically devoted to the fact that each of the three X-series would feature a mural of three covers during the Fall of the Mutants event. (And despite what it says right there, I'm pretty sure these were never released as posters.)

The stories didn't cross over, but simply followed a simultaneous path of events through hardship, downfall and resurrection (in some books more literally than others), themes which also parallel the three covers of each series. For X-ample, here's the flagship of the mutant line (Remember when there were only three mutant series? Hah! Me neither!)—Uncanny X-Men!

The Fall of the Mutants

Covers of Uncanny X-Men #225-227 (January-March 1988), art by Marc Silvestri and Dan Green
(Click picture to Fred Dukes-size)

The X-Men mural is probably my least favorite of the three: except for a few stray lightning bolts, there really isn't any connectivity to the thing. Far be it for this little stuffed bull to call Marc Silvestri a big cheatypants, but

Oh, what the heck. CHEATYPANTS!!!

But, you gotta love 80s Dazzler's oh-so-casual pose on the cover of #225. "Yeah, my teammates are fighting for their lives, but how do I look? Cool?" She wears her sunglasses at night, I bet. Also, the middle cover proves that Colossus has bones in his organic metal form. And also that Storm has the femurs of Kate Moss.

Let's mosey over on to the kids' table and check out how the Li'l Rascals New Mutants are handling all this mutant-falling:

The Fall of the Mutants

Covers of New Mutants #59-61 (January-March 1988), art by Bret Blevins and Terry Austin
(Click picture to New Mutants Special Edition Karma-size)

Hey looks, kids, early appearance of Bird Boy. Now that he's so popular, isn't it fun to see where he got his start? (See, that's how you do that joke.) As far as I can tell, this is all the New Mutants' wacky adventures on the Island of Dr. Moreau, starting with them fighting a Basil Wolverton EC creature to the day at the beach where Dani Moonstar buried her friends in the sand and then got sand in her eye, and then, they all got new costumes and flew off while a giant squid waved at them—I dunno, your guess is as good as mine. Oh! And Doug Ramsey dies. Maybe I oughta read these issues someday.

But my favorite of the three triptychs is this one from X-Factor:

The Fall of the Mutants

Covers of X-Factor #24-26 (January-March 1988), art by Walt Simsonson
(Click picture to Apocla-size)

Hoo boy, now that's one of my favorite murals of all time from one of the X-books! It didn't hurt that this was the middle of an amazingly strong run on X-Factor with art by Walt Simsonson and scripts by Louise Simonson (possibly related? Must investigate further). I love this run a lot—if you did, too, check out Weezie's current-day X-Factor Forever, which continues the unfinished plots she had for the team. Sadly it's without Walt's artwork, but maybe he can be coaxed into an annual or two.

That Simonson artwork is great, and my image-linking is a crooked, so let's see it again in this black-and-white version printed in Modern Masters: Walter Simonson. As usual, make with the clickety-click to biggedy-big:

The Fall of the Mutants

Anyway, at the end of this Fallin' Mutants event-o-rama, the X-Men were presumed dead, invisible to electronic devices (which made it really hard to get into supermarkets), and living in Australia, where they had their secret headquarters in the larger-on-the-inside pouch of some magic kangaroo or something. The New Mutants, seeimgly ecstaic that they're rid of Doug "Of course I can speak Bocce!" Ramsey, took their first step into the larger world of being taken over by Rob Liefeld and kicking off the 1990s with really big guns and a lot of little pouches, and X-Factor became so popular that they got a Manhattan parade which was attended by the New Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom. They also got nifty new costumes—and now here I'm not being mocking: I think these new uniforms featured in all their colorful glory on X-Factor #26 were the best these characters had had before or until Grant Morrison raided their closets and threw out all the spandex.

So there you go: "Fall of the Mutants," the X-Men event so momentous it not only requires three murals to cover it, but also its own trading card:

Fall of the Mutants


Rol said...

Love the Monday Night Murals... but need a bigger monitor!

Brian Smith said...

Wow -- I got those "X-Factor" issues during the stretch of my life when I was only allowed three comics a month through mail subscriptions, and I still never realized that Ship was a unifying element. Thanks for the visual aids!

And seconded on the costumes: The white looks great on Cyclops and makes the yellow visor really stand out, and for some reason I always loved how the stripe on Beast's mask was broken to make a little arrow.

Unknown said...

Man, I loved this period of the X-books - great art, decent writing. (and then the 90s started. Uh-oh!).

I think I have all nine of those issues and never realised they were three-issue murals (triptychs?!?).

As to those X-Factor costumes, weren't they just the same as the old ones only with a different colour scheme?

Adam Barnett said...

I look forward to the murals, but those were awful. No wonder I dumped the X-books by the late 80's....

Stergios Botzakis said...

I love me some Bret Blevins comics...
Thanks for reminding me!

Brian Smith said...

Nimbus: Yeah, the color changes are the main thing, but check out the cuffs on the boots and the gloves! The subtle repeated angles of the costume above the boots! The striping on the legs and arms! The stripe that extends from the "X" on the back to the forehead!

To my mind, the changes make them look less like a ragtag bunch of outlaws (half of the original M.O.) and more like a disciplined fighting unit. And if the buccaneer boots and gloves evoke images of Captain America, and by their absence further demonstrate how unique Beast is...well, that's just gravy.

Erich said...

Every story can be improved by adding the caption "Wolverine is about to get kicked in the groin."