Don’t trust everything you read

Ryhmä-X 12/1985 Cover
Ryhmä-X 12/1985 Cover

Finally, the issue where Rogue makes her first appearence! I could hardly contain myself when I took out my Ryhmä-X 12/1985 in mint condition. This was the magazine I almost felt sorry I had to open because no-one had read the magazine before me.  The previous owner had always bought double copies of all the magazines and placed the other one in perfect condition into his collection. Well, dear readers, the magazine has now lost its virginity. I read it. Sorry! :D

Rogue

Many of my friends who read Marvel comics when they were younger love Rogue. They think she is the perfect female role model, someone to identify with. Rogue was one of the strongest characters in the X-Men and a great fighter. She also cought the best looking man in the group, the mysterious and bit naughty Gambit, and had a particularly problematic relationship with him. She also had her mutant powers, which made her suck out the life force from her victims including their possible mutant powers and their memories and inner feelings.

But the most dominant part was that she couldn’t have any physical contact with Gambit. I know, there must have been countless hours of young girls sighing when they compared their own life situations to Rogue’s. In my youth I had crushes on boys, but I was so shy I never approached them. Well, once I did and it was a total catastrophe. Ok, I didn’t send him into coma like Rogue did, but might have just as well. And I think pretty much all teenage girls had to go through the same problems. You want to, but you can’t and you wonder if you ever will. So in a way Rogue was in all of us. And yet, even though she was sometimes depressed about her inability to touch others, there was no denying she was a strong female. A complex female. Just like us.

Once again, I’m quite excited and a bit scared to see how she comes out now that I’m older.  But on the other hand I’ve been watching X-Men: The Animated Series cartoon from Marvel.com (I’ll write about it later once I’ve finished the show) and there Rogue is definitely just as cool and full of spunk as I remember her.

The Plot

Ryhmä-X 12/1985 Kitty's face
Kitty's face. I suppose it's part of some directions for drawing Kitty that she needs to have large eyes, but I doubt they meant this.

In the beginning we are shown Spider-Woman saving a woman from falling off a bridge. On closer look it’s revealed she’s Carol Susan Jane Danvers aka Ms. Marvel, a former member of the Avengers and it seems she didn’t jump off herself but was thrown off the bridge and her self-consciousness is missing. Spider-Woman alerts Professor Xavier to the case in hopes he’ll find out what’s happened to her. And he does: Rogue.

On next page Rogue beats Captain America and steals his powers with a kiss. In doing so she reminds herself to be careful because if she touches him too long absorbing his powers, the transformation will become permanent.

While this happens, Beast takes care to control Wanda’s eating habits and tells her to stay away from cakes or she’ll grow fat. He, of course, is sipping tea and has a slice of the same cake on his plate.  Nice job, Beast. You little swine…

Ryhmä-X 12/1985 No cake for women
Remember girls, if you want to keep on wearing those skintight costumes without causing severe eye trauma to bystanders remember to stay away from the cake alas you might gain a pound!
Ryhmä-X 12/1985 Bikini babes
Pretty (?) ladies wearing swimsuits. It's times like these you just stare at a panel and think you might have a good chance in drawing comics after all.

Next we are shown how Mystique takes down Iron Man, and she reveals she’s working with Rogue to bring down the Avengers. After Rogue’s attack on Thor goes wrong, she and Mystique go off to rescue the rest of the New Brotherhood of Evil Mutants captured in the last issue where they tried to murder senator Kelly, but are defeated by the Avengers. That’s all quite uninteresting, because the true drama lies with Carol Danvers.

The writers and the Avengers let her down

You see, Carol Danvers had left the Avengers after she was first kidnapped and then raped and then gave birth to an alien child, who after his birth fell in love with her and took her with him to his dimension or something. Wow, talk about bad taste in storywriting. In fact, I believe that story is infamous for obvious reasons amongst the whole comic reading world. And for being subjected to such a horrible fate, when Carol Denvers gets her consciousness back with help from Xavier, she calls the Avengers to come for a visit and lets them know her mind.

“I had become pregnant for unknown reason and gave birth to a child in few days… Naturally I was confused, frightened and in shock.

“I turned to you in search for help, but all I got were jokes. Jan thought it was wonderful news. Beast offered to be the child’s teddy bear.  You all just thought of the child. Nobody bothered to give me a moment in their mind.

“You took everything Marcus had told you to be truth. You suspected nothing. You even let me go with him and waved your goodbyes when you let me go with him.

“I have paid for your mistakes.

“My mistake was to trust in you.”

Ryhmä-X 12/1985 Ms Marvel and the Avengers
Ms. Marvel lets the Avengers hear their worth. Thanks for letting her down.

Ouch! But really, they deserved it. She was raped, got an alien baby inside of her, and they all go giggly for the prospect of her having a baby. And when her child wants her as his lover, none of them think it’s, you know maybe just a weeney bit, sick!

The second story: Strom meets Black Panther for the first(?) time

There is still room in the magazine for another short story and this time it’s about Storm. She’s walking on a street when suddenly a sniper shoots her in the head. Yep, that’s right. The end.

WELL OF COURSE IT AIN’T! The bullet only scratches her and she learns from the assassin he was hired by Andreas De Ruyter aka “The Bull-Ruyter”. The man had tried to capture the Wakandan prince T’Challa in the past. When Ororo goes to visit him he is revealed to be Black Panther. They go after Ruyter and have to fight a robot. After defeating it they find Ruyter sitting dead in his chair. He had controlled the robot with a mental link and after Storm and Black Panther had defeated it, it had also killed him. The end.

Except not quite. Then something weird happens. Black Panther looks at Ororo and says: “It was nice to see you after such a long time. It makes me wonder…” Ororo continues: “…what might have been. Me, too.” The narrator: “They had a special moment in their lives… / …a moment, which once past can never return. They both know it. And maybe that’s what makes the separation so painful. / And yet, they leave. / But they will always be good friends, nothing more. Never.”

Ryhmä-X 12/1985 Storm and Black Panther
Storm and Black Panther have a tender moment though the Finnish reader is left puzzled because they apparently cut off a major part of the story in the Finnish publication.

Excuse me, did I miss something? It’s implied they had romantic feelings for each other, but now it’s over. Could someone, please, explain? When? Where? Or is it only because they are both dark skinned they are somehow expected to feel attraction to each other?

Well, now everyone who has read the story lately knows Storm and Black Panther are married, but I doubt they knew that would happen in the early 1980s when this story was written.

In fact, this story was probably cut down from a story spanning two issues and they cut off all the juicy parts. That would explain why the artist changes mid-story from John Byrne to Bob McLeod.

Rogue – nimi kauniille kuolemalle…

“Rogue – name for a beautiful death…” It says so in the cover and beside it walks Rogue looking as pretty as Byrne can draw her. At least I think it’s his cover, there is no signature visible. Well, inside the artist has changed into Michael Golden with Armando Gil in inks.

In Finland we have a law – at least today we have – which says you are not allowed to make a statement about a product in advertising that is not actually true. I think this magazine cover broke the law. Just look at this.

Ryhmä-X 12/1985 Beautiful Rogue
Rogue's first appearence inside the magazine. As you can see, she's a real beauty.

Here is another flaw the artist repeats. Below is the right side page from the magazine and my instinct is to read these panels starting from top left, then go one panel below and then to the top right panel. Wrong! There is a small arrow that tells the correct direction is to read first the top left panel and then the top right panel and then turn back to the panel below the first one. I think a skilled artist would have figured out some other solution for making the reading order more obvious to the reader than an undersized arrow which interrupts the natural flow. Besides, the page looks messy, there is no space and no eye catcher.

Ryhmä-X 12/1985 Example of bad comic art
Here is an example of another flaw the artist has: bad page design.

Yep. It’s moments like these which make us appreciate the good artists.  Byrne, please come back!

I did Google for more art by Michael Golden and he has made better looking art, so it could very well be this comic was drawn in a hurry, or the co-operation between Golden and Gil didn’t work or something. So don’t label him yet under “the bad artists”. We must wait for another specimen from him to be sure. Let’s give him another chance to prove himself.

In fact that dress WAS designed for Thor

Taivas Palaa Cover
X-Men special: Taivas Palaa: Cover

The first ever X-Men album was published in Finland in fall 1985.  The album is titled “Taivas palaa” (lit. Heaven On Fire) and it consists of just one story. With only 32 pages + covers the album could just as well have been a normal magazine, and based on the fact that the pages have huge margins the only difference to magazine size is that the comic is printed on larger pages, has thick covers and better paper than in the normal comic magazines. The album also costs twice as much as a normal Ryhmä-X magazine. So, one would think, to justify the extra cost this story must be so profound they had to give it special attention, right?

Wrong! aka The plot

Taivas Palaa Akon being nice
Here Akon asks Storm to help him - nicely.

It’s actually a sort of a miracle they were able to stretch the story as long as 32 pages. First some kind of a barbarian appears in New York and goes looking for Thor, who isn’t in the Avengers building. Since that was a dead end he goes to the X-Men Mansion, fights the X-Men, and kidnaps Storm. Then the X-Men follow Storm to the barbarians’ homeworld, and fight, fight, fight. Then Nightcrawler finds Storm, who has changed into “a more cozy” outfit. He alerts the rest of the X-Men. When all the X-Men are in one place the barbarians tell the barbarians’ homeworld is ruined unless Storm saves it, but the strain will kill her. She’s willing to die, but with the help of the rest of the X-Men they manage to save the world and keep Storm alive. The end.

Logic, where did it disappear?

I can understand the X-Men stories are filled with fight scenes because people want to see them use their special mutant powers and there is no better way to do that than to show them in battle. If they didn’t fight, they could be just anybody, right? But still, I’d hope there was at least some believable excuse for them to engage in battle.

In fact, in the very beginning of the story the X-Men are in the Danger room practicing and using their powers. Jolly good. No complaints about that. But after the battle, Storm, who panicked mid-practice and is now upset about her losing control, goes to her upstairs garden. There Arkon the Magnificent (fin. “Arkon Suurenmoinen”) – what a silly name – attacks Storm, which leads to him battling everyone in the team. In the end he shoots an arrow at Storm, which transfers her to Arkon’s homeworld. Arkon, acting like a barbarian, though according to Wikipedia is the ruler of his people,  uses his barbarian brain and ensues in battle instead of just shooting the arrow at Storm right in the beginning. Geez!

Taivas Palaa Akon trying peaceful negotiations
In this caption you see Arkon trying the peaceful solution, ie. threatening to kill the X-Men if they interfere with him kidnapping Storm.
Taivas Palaa The Vizier
Here we see a vizier pondering why their peaceful negations always fail. Hint: don't send Arkon to negotiate.

Then later when the X-Men have found their way to Arkon’s homeworld, a local vizier riding to a castle where Storm is held, thinks: “I had hoped we didn’t have to do this. That we could have received help without battle. / But we didn’t succeed in peace.” Wait, when did they try a peaceful solution? Or was that the part when Arkon went knocking on the Avengers’ door? Quite lame attempt because the next time we saw him trying to “ask” for help he was holding Storm by the throat and telling the other X-Men to stay out of his way or he’d kill them. Nice job. Later on page 26 Arkon explains his actions. He said he couldn’t take the risk the X-Men would refuse him. Well, if he was going to fight them anyway then why not ask and if refused then fight them. It seems Arkon needs to learn some diplomacy. What an idiot.

The legacy of the album

The most saddening part of this was that this story got its own album. I would have rather seen some really good story receive its own publication. Now it seems they just came up with an idea to put up an album and just chose any story. And I’m quite sure this is one of those stories which would have never been published otherwise but had originally been dropped out because it’s not as high standard as the rest of the stories published in Ryhmä-X magazine.

The story was written by Chris Claremont and it’s always sad to see a very good writer put out something like this. Then again, no matter how good you are you have to fail sometimes. It’s only human.

Taivas Palaa Storm's new clothes
These were originally designed for Thor.

Then again, I have a hard time forgiving the fact that in this album Wolverine, who usually speaks like all the other members of the team, is suddenly given a goofy tone. And with that I refer to Goofy (fin. “Hessu Hopo”), who is the only Disney character in Finland who doesn’t speak literary language but spoken language. The spoken language makes him sound bit more silly than the rest of the crew. And you can bet when Wolverine starts to speak like Goofy amongst literary language speakers he sounds like a hillybilly. Not my Wolverine! Well, that’s probably not thanks to mr. Claremont, but thanks to Mail-Man, who does the translations also for the magazines.

BUT then there is one occasion where Wolverine starts to show off his bad side once again. On page25 he tells  Ororo, who has asked the X-Men to leave: “Not without you, babe.” Babe? Are you sure about that, Wolverine? Well, it must be that hot outfit the barbarians had made for Ororo that got his head spinning.

Why do they always make new outfits for the women? Couldn’t she save the world in her normal wear? Or maybe that outfit was designed for Thor as he was supposed to come to their aid in the first place. I doubt he would have been as willing to change into that.

Memorable it was

I must admit I had to read the album twice to be able to write this post. That’s how memorable the story was to me. I read the story about a week ago and when I picked it up to write this story I realised I had no recollection of its plot and had to read it again. I hope you see the tragic in this. I will never be able to regain those 20 minutes I spent on reading this again. Note that I also fell asleep in the middle of the story and therefore lost also one hour sleeping. I’m not impressed.

Taivas Palaa Xavier
At the end of the album there was also this datasheet of Charles Xavier. Most of it tells his story, but in the end they list his special mutant powers. In between listing his psychic powers it also says: "Xavierilla on myös erittäin korkea moraali." (eng. "Xavier also has very high morals.") Well, quite a power it is.