I just finished reading the first issue of Ryhmä-X ever published in Finland – the 1/1984!
I must admit, it wasn’t exactly what I had expected. I had expected some kind of a “birth” story for X-Men, but the story began from the middle of an adventure. Then again, what was I really expecting? First clue: I knew they had published some X-Men stories already in the previous Marvel magazines in Finland. Doh!
The first issue of Ryhmä-X begins in Magneto‘s headquarters built under lava inside a volcano. After a short fight the place collapses, leaving Hank/Peto (Beast) and Jean/Feeniks (Phoenix) thinking the rest of the group has died under the lava. But of course they haven’t. They have ended up in the Savage Land (fin. Kadonnut kaupunki, literally “Lost City”), a tropical area in the middle of Antarctica surrounded by volcanoes.
There the others have a wonderful time dressing up in the native tribe’s very revealing clothing, sunbathing and fighting Sauron. You know, the usual stuff. Finally they challenge a local “sun god”, who has built a huge town there using slave labour. Somehow this settlement has messed up the local weather conditions, making it snow in the Savage Land. The story ends when the X-Men sail away from the Antarctica and end up in the middle of a storm.
Storytelling: back then everything was so simple
The story was originally published in 1978 (X-Men 113-116) and it shows.
When I think of Marvel comics I’m probably thinking of the stories published here in Finland in the 90s. By then the stories had developed into a huge and complicated soap opera, where even the writers sometimes had trouble remembering who had met whom, gotten intimate or fought with someone. The end result was that reader mail was sometimes filled with letters complaining how this and that character could not have reacted the way s/he did in the previous issue, because they had already met/kissed/fought a year ago in another magazine. The other drawback of these complex stories was that in the 90s, if you hadn’t read X-Men comics before, it was almost impossible to understand anything that was going on. There were so many references to small incidents in the past it was already hindering the sales of the magazine and the Finnish publisher started adding page long explanations of previous happenings to help new readers pick up the action.
Well, none of this was any problem when the first Ryhmä-X magazine was published in Finland. To understand what’s going on you don’t have to know anything, because it’s all in the story. I must compliment the early writers for their skill in implementing everything you need to know within the story without it seeming too transparent. Already in the first page you get the whole setting. Magneto is the bad guy, he infiltrated a heavily guarded place without any difficulties and he can control magnetics. All this told in three sentences! I wish I could do that! In the next page we find out that the X-Men are the good guys, they are used to dealing with super criminals like Magneto and they are missing. Once again explained in three sentences and told by a TV reporter. Later in the story we learn that Jean/Feeniks and Scott/Cyclops are going steady, but when they are separated and think the other is dead the reaction is surprising. Jean is devastated and in shock, but on the other side even his friends are wondering why Scott doesn’t seem to care the least bit that his wife (I don’t know if they’re married or not) has died. Instead we find out Wolverine carrying Jean’s picture and mourning after her.
The one thing that is very different is the way the story is told. In these days comics try to tell their stories solely with pictures and dialogue, but reading this story was like reading a short story with text boxes telling what’s happening and how people react to events – sometimes stating the obvious.
One more thing before I go. I believe this could be something unique to the Finnish magazines. Throughout the magazine there are these short excited exclamations of an outside commentator, which probably have been added by the Finnish translator on where there where references to previous X-Men stories not published in Finland. Well, maybe not all of them, but who cares. I found them hilarious! :’D