Holy ham and grits! That's Spider-Ham and Ducktor Doom running around Emma Frost's Massachusetts Academy for Gifted Youngsters and Leather Corsets! The cover stars of Peter Porker, The Spectacular Spider-Ham #1:
The High-Swinging Hog and the Canned Canard?!? What the Sam Scratch are they doing here?
Well, I guess we'll never know.
In the meantime...witness the marvel of the age...the Image Inducer!
Originally designed by Professor Xavier (who, as we all know, has a master's degree in holography) and built by Tony Stark in one of his few sober weekends of that period, the image inducer projects a three-dimensional holographic disguise around the bearer. It's sort of the walking and talking equivalent of a chameleon, or The Amazing Chan Clan's transforming van.
Professor X gave the image inducer to Nightcrawler, the superhero with the power of
Except that Kurt, as shown above in Uncanny X-Men #101, tended to use the image inducer more frequently to just have fun. And, of course, indulge in his obsession with 1930s movies.
A mutant swashbuckler at heart long before he turned into a depressed ex-Catholic priest and then a dead ex-man, Nightcrawler's favorite human disguise was Errol Flynn, star of the silver's screen's greatest adventure movies. And why not? After all, it was a great way for Herr Wagner to pick up chicks, as in this scene from Uncanny X-Men #98:
In fact, the image inducer was pretty much Nightcrawler's excuse to ogle girls freely. It's like staring at a pretty girl from behind sunglasses. Enough, at least, for Xavier to complain about Kurt's use of the I.I.:
It wasn't long before Kurt figured out that the image inducer could be used not only as a disguise in civilian society and a handy aid in girl-watching, but also as an essential fighting tool against super-villains. Here, in Uncanny X-Men #107, he befuddles the baddies by projecting the image of a giant monster from a Dr. Seuss book. Right about there if he could see how his creation was being used, I'm sure Tony Stark would be rubbing his eyes and dropping his half-empty bottle of rich Kentucky bourbon into the trash and swearing "Never again."
Here's Kurt in UXM #101 pulling the wool over the eyes of Juggernaut and "Black" "Tom" "Cassidy" by transforming himself into the image of a hopping, vaulting, taunting Professor Charles Xavier. It's as if Chuck had been bitten by that radioactive spider, isn't it?
The trouble, story-wise, with the image inducer is it becomes just too powerful and a superhuman power in and of itself. By the time Kurt's using it to disguise the entire team of X-Men (in a continuity implant page from Classic X-Men #9), its use has become a little ridiculous and a deus ex starkia that can be pretty much used to get out of any situation.
That's why one of my favorite Classic X-Men back-up stories (new shorts set in the period of the reprinted main story, also written by Chris Claremont) is from Classic X-Men #4. Yes, it's the one where Wolverine shames Kurt into dropping the use of the image inducer:
And so, we don't see Nightcrawler using the image inducer again. (Except for maybe that one hot date on Saturday.) That doesn't sit well with post-return-from-his-space-wedding-to-hippie-space-chick-Lilandra-Neramani Charles Xavier, as shown in this panel from Uncanny #130. But then again, as we should remember from this period, PROFESSOR XAVIER IS A JERK!
So, by the time of Jean Grey's first annual memorial funeral (UXM #138), rather than attending the service disguised as Errol Flynn, Kurt hangs out in a tree instead. Way to honor the dead and then reborn and then dying again, Kurt.
But wait! There's another blue and furry guy attending Jean's fifteenth-to-last-rites, and he has to rely on a rubber mask that was apparently added to the script so late that Tom Orzechowski didn't even to get letter its explanation...of course we mean the man and mutant of the year, Hank McCoy!
Hank adopts the Image Inducer; unlike Nightcrawler, he usually uses it to appear as his younger, pre-fuzzy self (here in Adjectiveless X-Men #4):
It's a useful way for the Beast to fit in among society, although judging from the romantic attraction women had to him in when he was in the Avengers...why? Still, even today (UXM #488), it's as essential to Henry McCoy as a cell phone, his iPod, and his slide rule:
Which is not to say that Hank doesn't have any fun with the image inducer, as in this sequence from Wolverine #163: Hank and Logan are on the run from the law and have to travel incognito. Which is a perfect excuse to play the part of a true fugitive:
Of course, Hank can't resist ribbing the man who will cut your heart out with his knuckles a little more:
Of course, Hank is a pal to all dumb animals, and he's absolutely willing to share the image inducer with his fellow blue heroes (Uncanny #297), in between head noogies:
It's funny how many blue X-Men there are. That includes not only the time Bobby turned down the hot water in Scott's shower, but also bio-re-engineered Angel, turned from the whitest white man alive to the only Blue Angel you don't get a crowd out to see perform aerobatic maneuvers. So it's lucky that here (X-Men #31) he can go out in public with an image inducer and keep his natural skin tone. Now, if only they could get one for Psylocke so she wouldn't look like she'd been dipped in molten metal by Auric Goldfinger:
Why, it's easier to make a list of which X-Man doesn't use an image inducer some time or another. Here's Wolverine, enjoying a little too much projecting the appearance of Sage (UXM #449). Well, Wolvie does have heightened perceptions...makes sense he'd enjoy being a girl.
Kitty Pryde: cheating at being a ninja. Not so much a ninja, more a big cheatypants. Cheater Kitty. Cheater. Cheaty-Kitty! (from Kitty Pryde: The Time She Cheated at Being a Ninja #5, aka Shadows & Flame):
The image inducer: for those times when it's absolutely positively too difficult to actually put on a ninja costume.
It's not just X-Men who use an image inducer either, no no no no. (No.) Here's itty-bitty Hank Pym, star of stage and microscope, using an image inducer to make Avengers butler Jarvis look like a Skrull. Why? For the kicks, man, for the kicks. (Mighty Avengers #25)
Which of course, brings us back, full circle-like, to Spider-Ham and Ducktor Doom, on the loose in the pages of Generation X #52:
Oh, yeah, that. How'd that happen?
Why, it was Artie and Leech all along, aided by an image inducer from that paragon of goodness and light, Emma Frost! (Please ignore her prostitute past.). Flash back earlier in the issue where Emma gave the two little mutants image inducers so they could leave the attic of the Massachusetts Academy and go out and about in society...why, that's the same thing that Professor X designed it for in the first place!
So, that's the history of the image inducer, copyright 1976 Stark International. Of course, that's well before we all had image inducers to make us look and appear different and more attractive to people outside our inner circle. Today, we just call that the internet.