Batteries! Nowadays we use batteries in our remote controls and our electric toothbrushes and our Furbys. But there was a Golden Age of batteries, when those tiny tin-covered powerhouses led men of rugged handsomeness and grim determination into a wild landscape of adventure, danger, and giant killer bears? Can you take the heat, bub? Is there enough hair on your chest to demand the 1.5 volts you get in every D cell? Are you man enough to use Ray-O-Vac batteries, ya sissy?
from Detective Comics #156 (February 1950)
from The Adventures of Bob Hope #5 (October-November 1950)
from The Adventures of Bob Hope #3 (June-July 1950)
Jean Grey! You 'n' me know her as Marvel Girl, Phoenix, Dark Phoenix, Phoenix with Caramel, Mrs. Summers, and Ol' Deady. Yup! Jean's dead. (That's what I said.) As fanboys we must aver, we thoroughly examined her, and she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead. (We poked her with a stick to be sure.) But there's still some mysteries about The Divine Ms. G. F'rinstance: what year did she die?
from [Uncanny] X-Men #138 (October 1980), co-plot and script by Chris Claremont, co-plot and pencils by John Byrne, inks by Terry Austin, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Tom Orzechowski
Oh. Well, that settles that.
But, y'know, that actually asks more questions than it answers. Aside from a few exceptions (Jean and Adam WarRock Warlock aside)...
from Marvel Two-in-One #63 (May 1980), script by Mark Gruenwald, pencils by Jerry Bingham, inks by Gene Day, colors by Roger Slifer, letters by Joe Rosen
...it's seldom that comic books put a true date on a contemporary tombstone, to avoid locking that character's death into a specific time period. After all, with the Marvel timeline passing by at approximately .33 Franklin-Richard-birthdays for each decade in our world, you could argue that Jean Grey died before the FF stole a rocket ship. And that would be insane, man, insane! Why, there's an entire wing in Arkham Asylum devoted to those who have attempted to perceive Earth-616 time! That way lies madness!
It's much more likely that the dates of birth and death be visually obscured or faded, or hidden by some moss, or Howard the Duck is standing in front of it...they've used every trick in the book. Why, they even resorted to the visual jackanapes of placing Gwen Stacy right in front of her own gravestone to divert us from the realization that she is buried in the same cemetery as Conan the Barbarian!
from Amazing Spider-Man (October 1975), script by Gerry Conway, pencils by Ross Andru, inks by Mike Esposito, colors by Janice Cohen, letters by Annette Kawecki
So we now know that Jean Clytaemnestra Grey died in 1980, age 24. That was, of course, the American Jean Grey. The Brazilian Jean Grey was born and died five years later, and, according to the research I've done online about Brazilian Jean Grey, had some kind of special wax or something. Huh. I dunno what that is. Maybe that's why she was so good at skating.
from Superaventuras Marvel #34 (1985)
Next time Jean's tombstone appears, in Bizarre Adventures #27, it's a slightly different shape, but the years are still mostly visible, albeit re-chiseled to align on top of each other. Don't know why they bothered, but hey, gotta keep the intricate economy of the Annandale-on-Hudson Tombstone Carvers Guild running, I guess.
from Bizarre Adventures #27 (July 1981), script by Chris Claremont, pencils by John Buscema, inks by Klaus Janson, letters by Janice Chiang
Later, some leaves fall down to obscure the dates and keep Scott Summers from remembering that he's fifty-eight years old:
from X-Men/Alpha Flight v.2 #1 (May 1998), script by Ben Raab; script, pencils, and inks by John Cassaday; colors by Jason Wright; letters by Michael Heisler
And some flowers help him alleviate not only his guilt that he's marrying Jean's identical evil twin demonic murderous clone, but also to obscure the years and the fact that it's an entirely different gravestone. Somewhere, some of those witty Shakespearean gravekeepers are giggling uncontrollably at their wacky practical jokes.
from Uncanny X-Men #175 (November 1983), script by Chris Claremont, breakdowns by John Romita Jr., finishes by Bob Wiacek, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Tom Orzechowski
Yup: most visited gravesite at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson. They sell postcards of it at the campus bookstore! How popular is it? It's so popular that Jean Grey herself visits it. Hoo boy, that's pretty cool! It's like going to see Iron Man 2 and sitting behind Don Cheadle! Except Don Cheadle won't bring you flowers. (Also; he will not sing you love songs.)
from X-Factor Annual #5 (1990), script by Peter David, pencils by Dave Ross, inks by Geof Isherwood, colors by Nel Yomtov, letters by Joe Rosen
Then, Cyclops's first wife, Jean's identical evil twin demonic murderous clone, blows it up. Kablooey! She blowed it up real good! That's okayit now looks absolutely different and the dates have disappeared completely.
from Uncanny X-Men #240 (January 1989), script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Marc Silvestri, inks by Dan Green, colors by Glynis Oliver, letters by Tom Orzechowski
But, that's okay, 'coz Jean ain't in her grave. (See also: Jean Grey visiting her own grave, above.) Now, here's the funny story (inhale), it wasn't really Jean who died but actually the Phoenix Force taking Jean's physical form and then burying Jean in suspended animation inside a capsule under the Hudson River thus invalidating all the emotion we invested in those early Cockrum and Byrne stories where we all thought Jean was pretty neat and the most interesting she'd been in the series since the time she was a swimsuit model after Professor X died and the X-Men broke up (whew!). See?
from Avengers #263 (January 1986), script by Roger Stern, breakdowns by John Buscema, finishes by Tom Palmer, colors by Christie Scheele, letters by
What's that, you ask? Well, it looks like Captain Marvel (the glowy one, not the "Shazam!" one) underwater stalking a fish with Kirby Krackle gas (serves him right for eating the Ultimate Nullifer!). Also, there is a mysterious pod.
Long-time Marvelites will note that pod looks uncannily like the ones Jack Kirby drew in the mid-60s Fantastic Fours, cocoons from which "Him" (later, Adam WarRock...shoot, did it again. Warlock) and "Her" (aka Kismet) and "It" (Tony Danza) were hatched. Spooky, cool, intriguing tie-in to an important part of Marvel history, you say? Sure. Until we find out that the mysterious crunchy coating that looked like the cocoon was just a rotted old mattress wrapped around a cylindrical capsule. Way to puncture your own sense of wonder and amazement, Marvel! Next thing you'll be telling us is that Rocket Raccoon is a rabid squirrel and Man-Thing is a pile of old leaf cuttings!
Hey, ya know what? Jean Grey's in there! How do I know? Because, just like her gravestone, the capsule changes shape when the story continues in that month's Fantastic Four. Looks like John Byrne missed the weekly meeting, huh?
from Fantastic Four #286 (January 1986), script by John Byrne and Chris Claremont, pencils by John Byrne and Jackson Guice, inks by Terry Austin and Jackson Guice, colors by Glynis Oliver, letters by John Workman
Well, there ya go: thanks to a conveniently psionic infodump, we find out that Jean Grey, lazy girl, has been snoozing away at the bottom of the Hudson while the events of Uncanny X-Men #101-200 have passed by up above herand she didn't even get to do her Little Mermaid longing song. Why, she hasn't even met Kitty Pryde yet!
Even still much later, Jean gets to visit the former site of her former gravestone destroyed by her identical evil twin demonic murderous clone, where she hangs out with Cable's spaceship in the form of a man. Hey, it's X-Men! You can sum this stuff up but you'll never believe that you're actually saying it! "Widget was the merging of a Sentinel and Kitty Pryde from Earth-811!" See what I mean?
from X-Men Forever V.1 #1 (January 2001), script by Fabian Nicieza, pencils by Kevin Maguire, inks by Andrew Pepoy, colors by Paul Mounts, letters by Richard Starkings and Saida Temofonte
Anyway, then Jean Grey was killed again by MagnetoXornXorn IIMagneto Grant Morrison, and she got a new tombstone. When I say "new," I mean "obviously Cyclops got a good deal on the pre-cracked marble at Marble World on Route 58 and Sunrise Highway." No dates on this one. Just a lotta leaves and some kids carelessly setting off fireworks around her tomb. Scary? Not as scary as the announcement that Chuck Austen is the scripter!
from New X-Men #156 (June 2004), script by Chuck Austen, pencils by Salvador Larroca, inks by Danny Miki, colors by Udon Studio, letters by Rus Wooton
You can tell the X-Men are becoming a real franchise now because they have their own graveyard. Behind Jean's, I'm guessing that's maybe Colossus's tombstone. We can't see it in this panel, but it does say "In Soviet Russia, worms play pinochle on your snout!"
A different angle shows us not only a handful of additional gravestones (Thunderbird! Cypher! Psylocke! Revanche! Joseph! Maggott! And Jerry Mathers as the X-Beaver!), but also that Scott Summers is visiting his late wife's grave with a midget in a polar bear costume.
from New X-Men #154 (May 2004), script by
Grant Morrison, pencils by Marc Silvestri, inks by Joe Weems, colors by Steve Firchow, Beth Sotelo, John Starr, and Brian Buccellato, letters by Rus Wooton
Later on, while also simultaneously being 150 years ago, we see...(counting on my hooves) approximately 101 Ex-X-Men are buried behind the School for Gifted Youngsters (really, you gotta wonder why the parents keep paying the dang tuition). But hey, they also have a weeping angel back there. Do not take your eyes off it! DO NOT STOP LOOKING AT IT!
from New X-Men #151 (March 2004), script by
Grant Morrison, pencils by Marc Silvestri, inks by Batt, Joe Weems, Billy Tan, and Eric Basaloua, colors by Steve Firchow, letters by Rus Wooton (Click picture to Fred Dukes-size)
Like her previous tombstone, Jean's Tombstone II: the Tombstonining seems to possess the powers to transform its appearancehere it gains some filigree on the sides and the typography is re-arranged on different levels. Also, Domino is violating it. That wacky Domino! She cracks me up!
from Uncanny X-Men #511 (August 2009), script by Matt Fraction, tracings from Victoria's Secret catalogue pencils by Greg Land, inks by Jay Leisten, colors by Justin Ponsor, letters by Joe Caramagna
And it's different again in the future when Zombie Jean Grey visits, coming in from the downstairs entrance. Hmmm, that gravestone must have an image inducer. Or...wait a minute...it's a Skrull! Jean Grey's tombstone is a stinking dirty Skrull!!!
from X-Men: Phoenix: Endsong #1 (March 2005), script by Greg Pak, pencils by Greg Land, inks by Matt Ryan, colors by Justin Ponsor, letters by Clem Robins
And it's completely different again in...oh wait, no, actually I can make a good argument for this one (lower left-hand corner in the below sequence) being a completely different tombstone. It's got to be the Grey family plot in Annandale. Why does Jean have two different gravestones? I'd imagine her parents got sick and tired of having to wait behind bawling Wolverine every time they wanted to visit her grave. Well, she's in good company: this cemetery is chock full of the Grey family, dozens of them, every single member of the family, in fact, murdered en masse by the Shi'ar Death Commandos. All because several years ago Jean threw out her applications to Yale and Harvard and went instead to Xavier's. Way to go, Jean.
from Uncanny X-Men #468 (March 2006), script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Chris Bachalo, inks by Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, Norm Rapmund, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, and Sean Parsons, colors by Studio F, letters by Joe Caramagna
Jean, lucky corpse that she is, also has a monument to her closer to the house on the X-Mansion lawns. Pretty impressive, huh? There's also a wing of the mansion named after her, and on Thursday nights Storm serves up the always-popular "Jean Grey Melt," a delicious hot sandwich of prosciutto and three kinds of cheese. When Thunderbird's parents visit, they get to go see the John Proudstar Memorial Black-and-White Television in Wolverine's room, which is constantly playing F Troop. Mr. and Mrs. Proudstar really hate the X-Men.
from Uncanny X-Men #460 (August 2005), script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Tom Raney, inks by Scott Hanna, colors by Gina Going, letters by Gina Going
Movie Jean Grey has a grave, too! It's just like the comic book ones, but it's hotter because Famke Janssen is in it. Famke Janssen! Famke Janssen! I don't have a joke here; I just like saying Famke Janssen!
from X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), directed by Brett Ratner
So, that's pretty much the whole story of Jean Grey's tombstones. And, as we saw when we started out, it solved the mystery posed by X-Men #138: what year did Jean Grey die? Still, one baffling mystery still remains from UXM #138...
What the heck does Kitty's Bedazzler'd t-shirt say???
So, now that you've seen The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves The Many Graves of Jean Grey, what do you think would be appropriate to chisel upon it? Well, if I were writing the X-Men, I think it would go...something like this...
I'm back! (And thanks for your patience while I caught up with posting.) And, so is Batman! As the movie titles say, he not only begins, he also returns!
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1-6 (Early July-December 2010), art by Andy Kubert and Brad Anderson
(Click picture to Die Fledermaus-size)
Hoo doggy! I think one of the most fun series of the year is also gonna wind up claiming the title of best interlocking covers of the year, or, as I like to call it, The Mondo Mural Award. Andy Kubert has not taken the easy way out; he's not connected every little particle of art (partarticle?) with each other, but instead opted for a grander, more subtle treatment: the extended symbol of the Bat stretching across the covers, across the centuries. I'm in awe, Mister K. It's beautiful and not obvious at all...a nice visual fit for the intricate and nuanced writing of Grant Morrison.
Let's all take another awe-filled gander at it unadorned: without the typography, huh?
Welcome back, Batman. But hey, dude: send some dang postcards next time, huh?