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Topic: Too Many Mutants (and Others) (Topic Closed Topic Closed) Post ReplyPost New Topic
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John Byrne
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Grumpy Old Guy

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Posted: 06 September 2011 at 5:58am | IP Logged | 1  

This comment appeared in another thread:

" I once remember a another comic message board had a thread discussing the top 100 X-men, definately a list that should have been limited to 5. (surprised there had actually been enough that such a list could even be made)"

My response was that the proliferation of mutants in the Marvel Universe has really diminished the currency of that concept. Where mutants were once "rare", now they seem to be everywhere. In fact, the default setting for many years was to make any new character a mutant. Not only did this cash in on "mutant mania", it also made it a lot easier for lazy writers. No need to worry about coming up with interesting origins. "Mutant" takes care of it.

Beyond this, tho, is the underlying -- undermining -- reason there are so many super-powered characters in the Marvel and DC universes: readers who stick around too long.

It's not a new topic of discussion, hereabouts, to note that readers/fans stay with the hobby a lot longer than they used to. When comics as we know them were first invented, they were primarily for kids -- roughly between the ages of 8 and 14 -- and those who stuck around longer were considered the oddballs. Certainly they were not considered in any way the target audience.

A number of factors contributed to a shift in this paradigm, however. (Ironically, it became something of a vicious circle, in fact. Pandering to the needs of older readers made the comics more and more impenetrable to younger readers, so the older readers became the only ones we had, meaning even more pandering to their "needs".)

One of the immediate and obvious problems with a readership that sticks around for more than five or six years, of course, is that pretty soon they have "seen everything". In fact, the first warning sign that you have been reading comics too long is probably when Dr. NastyGuy unleashes his latest foul plan against Captain Fonebone, and your first response is "Oh, no! Not HIM again!!"

This is one of the driving forces behind the proliferation of super-powered characters, mutants and otherwise. Readers complaining that this is the 137 time thus-and-such a villain has appeared prompts a "creative team" to introduce a new villain -- very often with not a whole lot to offer that is actually "new". It's a standard blueprint for what has become all too common, and all too destructive, in modern superhero comics: the needs of the aging audience change, and so the characters and stories, rather than focusing on bringing in NEW readers, change to accommodate the older crowd.

Readers who have been around too long constantly demand more and more things that are "new" (at least to them), and if the writers, artists and editors try to deliver on this, they end up flooding their "universes" with uninspired "new" characters, stretching definitions of what makes a particular kind of character, and, basically, creating a situation in which "new" becomes, itself, old.

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Aaron Smith
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Posted: 06 September 2011 at 6:14am | IP Logged | 2  

100 X-Men! Good grief! Off the top of my head I can only think of 26 X-Men! I stopped reading X-MEN at some point in the early 90s, so that would mean that there have been 3 times as many X-men introduced since then than there were from 1963 until the 90s!

Professor Xavier, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel, Iceman, Mimic, Havok, Polaris, Thunderbird, Banshee, Sunfire, Wolverine, Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Rachel Summers, Psylocke, Dazzler, Longshot, Jubilee, Gambit, Forge, Cannonball. And that's it without resorting to any online references.

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Caleb M. Edmond
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Posted: 06 September 2011 at 6:36am | IP Logged | 3  

And the funny thing is... a few years ago (thanks to House of M), the number of mutants on earth was supposed to be dramatically deminished.... and there are still WAAAAAAYYYYYYY to many skulking around the M***** Universe.
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Greg Woronchak
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Posted: 06 September 2011 at 6:48am | IP Logged | 4  

they end up flooding their "universes" with uninspired "new" characters, stretching definitions of what makes a particular kind of character, and, basically, creating a situation in which "new" becomes, itself, old.

The problem is compounded by too many titles (and spin-offs) all requiring 'fresh' villains, supporting casts, etc.

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Brett Wilson
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Posted: 06 September 2011 at 7:13am | IP Logged | 5  

I agree, the sheer number of spin off books adds to the problem, we didn't really need Grant Morrison to give us "New X-Men" we already have X-Men and plenty of characters to use. Also the mutants have become increasingly lame as in no one can really figure out what their abilities are if any or they have some really lame power like the ability to spawn giant maggots. This started with Cable, who is a mutant who has the power to use a really large gun.
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Paulo Pereira
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Posted: 06 September 2011 at 7:39am | IP Logged | 6  

100 X-Men? I'm surprised there are that many mutants, prolific as they are.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 06 September 2011 at 7:45am | IP Logged | 7  

This started with Cable, who is a mutant who has the power to use a really large gun.

••

The insanity really started when the Powers that Were at Marvel figured out that Mutants were "hot", and so everybody suddenly had to be a mutant. Terry Austin grumbled at the time. He was writing CLOAK AND DAGGER, and was suddenly informed one day that they were mutants!

Part of the problem lay in the muddying of the waters in terms of just what constituted a mutant. Largely due to how the word was thrown around in the (relatively) few X-Books back then, fans started using the term to describe ANY super-powered human. I received fan mail to FANTASTIC FOUR that referred to THEM as "mutants"!

Particularly annoying when we remember that Roy Thomas, in X-MEN, had given us a pseudo-science term to describe those who were not born with their powers -- like Spider-Man, or the FF -- "non-mutant variant".

Mind you, I will confess that I feel something is very wrong if we are able to list 100 mutants ("favorites" or otherwise) AND there are countless OTHER characters running around with super-powers (or at least costumes) who are NOT mutants.

Perhaps it is because I came in on the "ground floor" with FF 5, but I prefer a much less CROWDED Marvel Universe. In fact, I'd prefer that the term "universe" not even be part of the equation. Stan and Jack made sure their characters were set firmly in OUR "universe" -- there was even a Marvel Comics that published their adventures!* -- but later, more fannish minds insisted on turning it all into a shadow of DC's multiverse, apart from the world we lived in.

––––

* In a surge of fanthink that I am surprised did not cause our universe to implode, Marvel eventually felt compelled to publish this book -- completely shredding the mythology, of course.

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Pierre Villeneuve
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Posted: 06 September 2011 at 8:12am | IP Logged | 8  

Didn't House of M take down the number of mutants down to 198 for the whole world??

So a top 100 would be more then half of every mutant in the MU. 

Or did they change that since then???

Or maybe I am misremembering this??

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Mike Benson
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Posted: 06 September 2011 at 8:26am | IP Logged | 9  

Always think it's strange when a random civilian seems shocked upon seeing a super powered being in the Marvel Universe.  With so many running around, it should really be no different than us seeing a deer cross the road.

"Oh look, there's one of those mutants."

"Don't hit it..."

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Jesus Garcia
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Posted: 06 September 2011 at 8:40am | IP Logged | 10  

My impression about this is that it's easier to claim that a character is a mutant than it is to come up with an original explanation to account for the character's abilities.

Bruce Banner was caught in a gama ray explosion, the FF were exposed to Cosmic rays, Spider-Man was bitten by a radioactive spider, Daredevil came into contact with unidentified radioactive waste. Captain America was retconned to having been infused with Vita-Rays to stabilize the super-soldier serum.

The Molecule Man, Dr. Octopus, and the Sandman also gained their abilities via radiation. Klaw is a little more original in this regard as he gained his abilities through immersing himself is some sort of pure sound.

I'm sure a thourough inspection would turn up quite a few characters that were mutated in this way without actually being born mutants.

Perhaps, to the minds of the post-Lee crowd at Marvel, the difference between a natural and an acquired mutation is inconsequential. Fans want to see Spider-Man Vs. Cyclops and don't care how they got their powers.

The lack of originality in this regard is what keeps drawing me to 1930's and 1940's comics: the deliciously weird origins for the character's powers.

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Brad Hague
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Posted: 06 September 2011 at 9:07am | IP Logged | 11  

Interesting thread topic.

I agree with the general premise that there are too many mutants.  I think Marvel attempted to rectify this with "House of M" where the Scarlet Witch depowered most of the mutants (which has not yet been retconned).

However, the underlying theme of "readers staying too long" is a whole different hot potato.  I sort of think of it as the "chicken and the egg" scenario.  Did new readers leave because the writing was too heady?  Or did the writing become pandered to long-term readers because that became the primary market?

I am going to opine that it was a combination of both.

The old target market of 8-14 year old (boys mostly) have moved on to videogames.  I cannot see how a comic book (an old fashioned relic to most boys) can compare to a Nintendo DS or a Wii.  No matter how well the stories could have been crafted to them, I think this market would have failed.  That age boy has only a limited amount of resources and they will be spent at the GameStop checking out new games as opposed to any book store checking out comic books.  It's just a reality.

At some point, the executives realized that the majority of the books were being bought by "investors" or "long-term readers" and it would be a matter of financial acumen to modify their company plans to pander to that market.  Hence the types of stories and art we see.

Mind you, I don't like either scenario and for that reason I rarely buy a new book (NEXT MEN being an exception to the rule).

So the "too many mutants" is a symptom of the problem, but I don't know that it is a problem that could have been avoided. 

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Stéphane Garrelie
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Posted: 06 September 2011 at 9:48am | IP Logged | 12  

On the reverse when i began to read comics, the Kingpin, then a Spider-Man foe, was supposed to be a mutant (sort of the same statute as Namor. Folks who happen to be mutant, but aren't X-Book characters.), At least that was the explanation given in the mail to the french edition about why he was able to be a match for Spider-Man. A mutant not aware to be a mutant.

But of course he became a Daredevil foe and that explanation didn't appear anymore. No need to be Super-humanly strong to fight DD.

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