When Marvel teased their new X-Men series, people were in a tizzy deciphering the image. A segment of DNA, with XX embedded in the strand. When it was confirmed as an all-female team, everyone had an opinion, including writer Brian Wood.

X-Men 1 Cover

Cover and Art by Olivier Coipel

Wood’s approach to the book is a breath of fresh air. In a universe where X-Women exists, it is nice to know that there are male writers who don’t view their work as a T&A show. He views the women in the franchise as indispensible assets to every team and claims they truly run the show. It is hard to argue with him; Kitty was Headmistress of Jean Grey School, and Storm has stepped up to take her place. Rogue has shown leadership through the X-Men: Legacy series before Marvel NOW!, and Psylocke held a position of respect on Remender’s Uncanny X-Force.

Many people were excited about the new series. Frankly, it’s about time we had a book that featured some of Marvel’s strongest female characters. The X-Men universe has traditionally featured a wide variety of fan-favorite female characters, like Dazzler, Emma Frost, and Scarlet Witch. The women of X-Men have played significant roles in major storylines, Dark Phoenix and House of M coming to mind. It makes perfect sense to tell a story about their escapades on a regular basis.

X-Men 1 Fanart

Fanart by Kristafer Anka

Wood has made it clear that X-Men is not a book that features sleepovers and talking about boys. It is a “straight forward action-adventure, epic fight scene, big villain, bombastic X-Men book”. The only difference between any traditional team book and Wood’s X-Men is the gender make-up.

The backlash, however, is enough to bring any X-Men fan down. Comments implied that Wood should add some men to the team to make it “better”, and others outright chastised him for this reverse sexism.  Wood stood his ground, citing over and over that the core of the team is the initial six women. Other characters (including men) will come in and out, but the focus will be on female members of the X-Men universe.

So, why is this so offensive? Why are there comic book fans who are disappointed with the release of one all-female book?

Some readers are still of the opinion that women do not belong in comic books. This is reflected in sales figures, panel time, and media promotion. This perspective is difficult to tease out. It could be a result of stigma many comic book readers endured over the years, eventually creating a boys’ club mentality. It could be the history of comic books themselves, taking into account that most of the people who founded the comic book industry as we know it were men. It could be the portrayal of women in comics over the years. Whatever the cause, the controversy over a book like X-Men is unsettling.

X-Men 1 Cover C

Cover Art by Terry Dodson

X-Men is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to women’s roles in comic books. From the announcement of this title, we’ve seen sexism that is unacceptable in any other setting. Through this column, we’ll explore how gender issues are handled in comic books. We’ll look at the characters, the creators, and the readers. My wish for you as a consumer is to think critically about what you are reading and the broader impact of the material.

Let us know in the comments what you think about Wood’s upcoming series X-Men (coming to your comic book shop May 29th) and why it matters to you. Be sure to check back here on Talking Comics the second and fourth Friday of every month for Gender Issues.

 

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9 Responses

  1. Christian

    I am very interested in this title. Though reverse sexism is something that bugs me, I don’t think that is the case here. Of course, I will reserve my judgement until I have read a couple of numbers. I do like what Wood did in Ultimate Comics X-Men, so I am expecting something good here.

    I am interested in this column as well, I will be coming back!

  2. Bob Reyer

    Mara,

    What can I say about this great new column but “Amen!”, with maybe a bit of “Right on, Sister!” thrown in! (I am a child of the Sixties, after all!)

    I find it fascinating that this title has generated so much vitriol, when you so rightly point the major roles the women of the X-Men have played in universe-spanning events, as well as the in the deeper, more grounded stories that made the title the landmark it was during its Claremont/Byrne hey-day!

    Great work, Mara!
    Bob
    ps) I’m thrilled that in all the preview images we’re seeing so far, the distaff X-Men are clothed in respectable outfits, in direct contrast to Uncanny X-Men where Magik is togged out as a “streetwalker with a sword”. I can hardly wait for the 29th! rrr

  3. Julio

    I am ashamed to admit that I never really sought out female based comics. It’s not that i am some super masculine type…it just wasn’t something I specifically went looking for. My daughter, whom is 10 months old now…has completely changed that. I purposely look for strong female characters in comics so I came read to her. This new series has me beyond ecstatic…that’s right, I said ecstatic…ha!

    Seriously, I hope this is a strong running and something I can collect for my daughter.

    On a side note…I can’t wait for the hawkeye annual that will be based around Kate.

    That is all for now. I hope this new column can bring us some good ol’fashion thinking and, respectable, debate.

  4. thisjohnd

    I want to start by saying this is a great article and can’t wait to read more of what you have to say. I’ve recently added this to my pull list in hopes that it’ll stay enough out of the current X-Men/Avengers halabaloo for me to enjoy it without feeling like I need to read a dozen other books. That being said, my only gripe with this book is the same one I’ve had since day one: the title.

    Maybe it’s just my own ignorance in only keeping up with bits and pieces of the current X-world but I feel like if someone walked into a comic shop looking for the current X-Men, the first place they should go is “Uncanny X-Men” or “All New X-Men”, not “X-Men.” To me that’s not right. I think titling this book “X-Men” is going to lead to some confusion is all.

  5. Julio

    While I agree that the title can be misleading I think it was a good move on Marvels part to leave it at Xmen. It’s a statement that no matter the gender…Xmen are and will always be Xmen. My 2 cents.

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