Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. While it's a matter of concern on each and every day, today is an especially important day to reflect and act on human and racial rights. Seriously, folks, this is still a major concern today. Don't just analyze the concept as it applies to mutants in the Marvel Universe...
...rather, consider, discuss, and act to work to end the ways intolerance and prejudice affects our little four-color hobby. Yes, we have come a long way in civil rights for many groups since Dr. King's work in the 1960s, and the works of those who followed him, but there's still a lot of prejudice, discrimination, and exclusion in today's society.
Or, as "The Man" so eloquently put it:
"Stan's Soapbox" from Marvel comics cover-dated December 1968
Give or take a few Civil Wars and Superhuman Registration Acts here and there, that spirit still resides in the contemporary Marvel Universe. Take, for example, Storm's speech in Black Panther Annual #1, which celebrates the work and the spirit of Dr. King and other workers for tolerance, equality, and love:
Page from Black Panther Annual #1 (April 2008), script by Reginald Hudlin; pencils by Larry Stroman and Ken Lashley; inks by Roland Paris, Carlos Cuevas, and Jonathan Sibal; colors by Matt Milla and Val Staples; letters by Cory Petit
That's a nice bit, isn't it? Mind you, never forget that there was an issue where Storm teamed up with Martin Luther King. No, it's not another photoshopped ish of Marvel Team-Up from my "If I Ran Comics" series (although!...hmmmm)...but rather...well, let me start off this way. Remember that Planet of the Gangster Aliens?
No, no, no, not that one, but rather this one:
Panels from Fantastic Four #91 (October 1969), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby,
inks by Joe Sinnott, letters by Sam Rosen
Yes, it's Kral, the Skrull world where they're all cos-playing as 1930s gangsters, with some sidetrips into Ancient Rome gladiator fights that pit the Thing against Torgo.
No, no, not that one, but a giant super-strong robot/cyborg type of guy who learns about humanity from Mister Ben Grimm just in time for Reed, Johnny and Crystal to arrive on the planet, dress like extras from Bugsy Malone and overthrow the Kral government to get themselves a piece of the action:
Panel from Fantastic Four #93 (December 1969), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Frank Giacoia, letters by Artie Simek
And 'round about now you're asking me What the Sam Scratch does this have to do with Dr. King, Bully? And that's a very good question. Y'see, eventually the Fantastic Four re-visits Kral, but it's the FF featuring Black Panther, Storm, The Thing and The Human Torch. (Poor Sue, she's always missing out on the Skrull Gangster Planet!) Except, just like Captain Kirk wondering what kind of civilization would spring up after the Enterprise left Sigma Iotia II, here we get to see the aftermath of the FF's previous visit. Yes, on Kral it's now roughly the 1960s and we have a Skrull who has taken on the identity and the ideals of...wait for it...
Panels here and below are from Black Panther (2005 series) #33 (February 2008), script by Reginald Hudlin, pencils and inks by Andrea Divito, colors by Val Staples, letters by Cory Petit
A group of Skrulls has begun a civilization-changing revolution against the regime of Skrull gangsters by becoming Dr. King and the only X-Man who was never on the team:
Of course the underground revolution wins and the FF escape for home, leaving plenty for room for an eventual sequel (c'mon, send the Runaways there!), but not before plenty of moral discussion and some good old fashioned arena-fighting action. It's a neat little parable, much in the vein of the better episodes of Star Trek, about how alien planets are sometimes not so different than our ownboth hate and intolerance, and peace and love, can come to blows throughout the galaxy.
Mind you, as much as Storm reveres Dr. King's views, a mutant superhero and African queen (no, not this one) has gotta fight for what a mutant superhero and African queen believes in:
Anyway, bigotry. Once again, Stan Lee puts it well:
"Stan's Soapbox," from Marvel comics cover-dated October 1978
If you didn't bother to read that, let me just repeat Stan the Man's pertinent point:
You wanna dislike someone? Be my guest. It's a free country. But do it because he or she has personally given you a reason to feel that way, not because of skin color, or religion, or foreign ancestry, or the shape of their toenails, of any other moronic, mixed-up, mindless motive! Because, if you justify your hatred by smearing everyone in any given group with the same brush, then you're a bigot, Charlie!
To sum up: As another great man once said: