"It's not their pain you're afraid of. It's yours, Charles. And as frightening as it can be, that pain will make you stronger. If you allow yourself to feel it, embrace it. It will make you more powerful than you ever imagined." - Professor X, spoken to his younger self.
The X-Men have been one of the most dominant forces on the pop-culture scene for a while now. In the early days, X-Men comics pushed the medium into new areas, with characters and plotlines that broke a number of barriers. Today, of course, that legacy is continued by a cinema franchise that has dominated the box office, and (increasingly) won the admiration of critics. And, with multiple spin-offs in production, it’s clear that the X-Men aren’t going anywhere but up.
Here are 42 extraordinary facts about the X-Men universe.
X-Men were created by legendary comic book writer/artist team Stan Lee and Jack Kirby way back in 1963.
1963 also saw the debut of The Avengers, and The Amazing Spiderman. That's a lot of competition!
X-Men would go on to be one of the most iconic superhero teams of all time. To be fair, The Avengers are no slouches either.
X-Men have had many members throughout their history, but none quite as strange as the mutant Goldballs.
What was his mutant power? Well... he shot gold balls from his body.
Really hit the nail on the head with that name, X-Men writers. Don't want to confuse the readers, I guess.
When the first X-Men film was being made, right around the end of the 90s, the producers knew one thing: they needed a big name to play Wolverine. As one of the most beloved characters, it was important they get the casting right for the gruff Canadian mutant.
So who did they try to get? Russell Crowe, of course. Crowe was fresh off appearing in Gladiator, which (although it hadn't been released yet) was shaping up to be a classic. He was a genuine A-lister. Unfortunately, though, Crowe turned the role down for a spectacularly odd reason: in his own words, "he didn't want to be the wolf guy". Crowe figured that because his character, Maximus, in Gladiator has a wolf shield, audiences would start to associate him with the animal.
Which is... a weird way to think about. Sorry to break it you, Russell, but I just don't think people are reading that much into the symbolism of your movies.
Wolverine’s first appearance in the comics was actually in The Incredible Hulk Issue 180, all the way back in 1974. I wonder if audiences saw the 5-foot tall Canadian in yellow spandex and thought, "Wow, some day he's going to be played by one of the most handsome men on the planet".
Hey, all the greats have humble beginnings.
There have been multiple storylines for the X-Men, with some not going so well for the beloved band of mutants. One such storyline involves Jubilee getting crucified along with many other younger mutants from Charles Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters.
In 1998 there was a comic-book crossover between X-Men and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The resemblance between Captain Picard and Professor X is even mentioned in an offhand way: as two bald, morally-righteous leaders, the similarities are pretty obvious.
Surely no one expected what came next, though. Two years later, Patrick Stewart (who had played Picard for years) would go on to play Professor X in the first X-Men movie.
Now the resemblance is really uncanny. They could be twins.
When the first film was still in pre-production, many famous directors were considered to direct the big screen debut of the X-Men, including Robert Rodriguez and Tim Burton.
Tim Burton, seriously? Imagine an adaption of the X-Men where the mutants all wear black leather and—wait, that's exactly what we got, isn't it?
When X2, the second X-Men film was casting, Neil Patrick Harris auditioned for the role of Nightcrawler. He would eventually lose the role to Alan Cumming.
When the first X-Men film was still casting, both Michael Jackson and Shaquille O’Neal mad a serious push to get themselves roles in the film.
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In the Ultimate Marvel Universe, Colossus is gay.
That's not all he has going on, though, in terms of interesting backstory. The comics have also established that his family is related to Grigori Rasputin, and his brother was apparently a Russian cosmonaut who died in a tragic rocket accident.
Beast started out looking human in appearance but having super strength and speed, but began to look more feline in appearance over time. He eventually became the furry blue mutant we know and love today.
Channing Tatum auditioned for the role of Gambit for X-Men: The Last Stand, but the character was cut from the film. Fear not, there’s rumors of a Gambit spin-off film in the works starring, you guessed it, Channing Tatum.
Gambit was supposed to make an appearance in X-Men: Apocalypse as well, but history tends to repeat itself and the character was once again cut from the final draft of the film. Channing Tatum would have been the one to play the smooth-talking mutant. Don’t give up, Channing. You’ll be a mutant one day...
Storm was the first ever female black superhero. She’s married to another black superhero that you might have heard of: Black Panther.
She is also arguably the most famous female black superhero.
Beast has an alternate evil version of himself called Dark Beast. Once again, no beating around the bush with these mutant names.
Nightcrawler has one of the most fascinating and shadowy backstories of any X-Men character.
For one thing, it's unclear where he came from. Sometimes it's said he was born in a small Bavarian village. Sometimes it's claimed that he was found as a baby by a mysterious witch. These days, it's more commonly known that his mother was actually Mystique.
Meanwhile, Nightcrawler makes repeated references to his Catholic faith, and the time he apparently spent in the Munich circus.
Who knows what to believe?
Wolverine’s statistics have him listed as only 5’3” tall. Hugh Jackman, the actor who played Wolverine for the last 17 years is 6’1” tall. There’s even a Comic Con panel where Hugh mentions walking around dressed as Wolverine, and a fan called him out on his height.
Cyclops, a.k.a. Scott Summers may not be the most popular mutant in the X-Men family, but he is definitely popular with the ladies. Scott has been romantically linked to Jean Grey, Madelyne Pryor (a clone of Jean Grey), and Emma Frost. Not bad for a guy who has to wear sunglasses indoors.
Or... maybe that was the secret all along. Hold on, let me get my Oakleys.
Wolverine was almost called the badger, another animal in the wolverine family tree. Writers eventually settled on Wolverine because it is the largest of the badger family, and one of the fiercest animals on the planet. It's also, obviously, much cooler.
This decision was made years before the honey badger video went viral... but even at the time, the name The Badger must have seemed ridiculous. Come on. No one is going to be intimated by that.
Early on in the comics, Professor X was revealed to be in love with a then-teenage Jean Grey. The storyline wasn’t received well and Marvel decided to discontinue it, and with good reason.
Archrivals Magneto and Professor X were originally supposed to be brothers. For whatever reason, the two weren’t written as brothers. Instead, they just had a relationship akin to brothers, including the rivalry.
The original name for the iconic superhero team was slated to be the Merry Mutants, but the Marvel editors weren’t keen on it.
Stan Lee himself then suggested the Mutants— which also didn’t fly.
So how did they settle on the final name? Professor X says in the first issue that the team of mutants possesses powers that normal humans did not, henceforth they were called “X-Men, for Ex-tra power!”
Both Scott Summers and James Howlett a.k.a. Wolverine are both in love with Jean Grey, and have been very competitive when vying for Jean’s love. As a result, the two hate each other with a passion.
Jim Lee’s X-Men #1 is the best-selling comic of all time, with over 7 million copies sold. It's even officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records (so you know it's legit) for most issues of a comic sold.
Luckily for collectors, that many copies sold means getting your hands on one won’t cost an arm and a leg.
Ethan Van Sciver hid the word sex on every page of The New X-Men #118.
This was done as a commentary on society’s obsession with sex, and the subliminal use of sex to sell products.
If the X-Men were real, they could have just used Xavier's powers to mind control everyone into buying comics instead...
In 2012, The Astonishing X-Men made history when they featured the first-ever gay Marriage in comic book history. The lucky couple was Canadian superhero Northstar and his husband Kyle Jinadu. A decade earlier, Northstar had also made headlines as the first ever openly gay superhero.
The marriage coincided with the Supreme Court voting to legalize gay marriage in America.
The Avengers and X-Men have battled on multiple occasions. Though Marvel was positioning The Avengers to win, fans wanted X-Men to come out victorious. In the end, Marvel caved to the fans: the X-Men came out on top.
Now, the only battling the two teams do is at the box office.
DC and Marvel had a crossover called Amalgam, which mashed up several of their superheroes together including Dark Claw (Batman/Wolverine), and Amazon (Storm/Wonder Woman). Of course, the two most popular heroes, Batman and Wolverine get paired up together.
Bryan Singer, the director of X2, didn’t allow any of his cast to read X-Men comics to make sure they only played their characters according to the script. The cast eventually got around this by trading comics in secret under their trailer doors.
Hugh Jackman revealed in an interview that the X-Men producers were pushing for Wolverine to have a cameo in Sam Raimi’s Spiderman in a non-speaking role. The cameo was scrapped because Wolverine’s suit couldn’t be found in time.
DC’s Teen Titans once destroyed the famous X-Men mansion. When fired Uncanny X-Men writer Scott Lobdell was hired on to write for Teen Titans, he had Kid Flash inadvertently blow up a burning building that he was rescuing people from. The building was described as a mansion in Westchester County, the same location of Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.
Professor X nearly always has the moral high ground. I mean, there's a reason he's considered a leader. But the man is not infallible.
In The New X-Men, one of Xavier's darker personal decisions came to light afer it was revealed he was forced to kill his unborn sister while she was still in the womb, after his telekinesis revealed she had a violent and brutal mind that was destined to cause massive devastation.
Things didn't work out well for Xavier, though. Because of her psychic powers, she survived as cellular matter, and eventually returned, stealing her brother’s body and killing millions of mutants.
The psychic Emma Frost used her powers to revert Wolverine’s mind back to his child self. James Howlett lived a privileged life before his mutation’s appearance, so Wolverine’s child-self hilariously spoke with a posh accent, and screamed at the sight of his own claws.
Joss Whedon, the director of The Avengers, once had a stint as a writer for The X-Men.
Whedon was brought in by Bryan Singer to help rewrite the script for the first X-Men movie. By all accounts the work Whedon did was good, but apparently it wasn't good enough: in the end, but the only things from Whedon’s script that made the final cut of the film were a line from Storm directed at Toad, and Wolverine calling Cyclops a jerk. Truly breathtaking stuff.
Though he doesn’t appear in the big screen adaptations, Beast is also a full-fledged member of The Avengers.
I guess Marvel just figured he wasn't important enough to make the cut for the movies. Ouch.
Zeitgeist, an X-Force* member, has the superpower of corrosive acid vomit that he can expel on command. We don’t think a barf bag would help. *X-Force is a spin-off of X-Men that takes a more militant and violent approach to their enemies.
The most famous member of the X-Men, Wolverine, didn’t join the team until ten years after the team first appeared. We’re all very glad that X-Men have a good recruitment policy.
The leather outfits that show up in the movies are pretty stylish... but the X-Men weren't always so fashion-forward.
For years, the team wore almost exclusively yellow and blue spandex. Years later, X-Men: First Class reintroduced the bold color scheme, but left out the spandex.
Turns out even super heroes think wearing full-body spandex is a little out there.
Despite being introduced later on in the films, Iceman was always a member of the X-Men. Talk about being left out in the cold.
Professor X grew up in the house that would eventually become Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters with a stepbrother. That stepbrother would eventually go on to become The Juggernaut.
Though she played only a a small part in X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Kitty Pryde is one of the leading heroes in the modern X-Men comics. She was even the headmistress of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters at one point, and has a pet dragon named Lockheed. Mother of Dragons, anyone?
Most comic book fans know that Mystique is bisexual, and many people don't realize she's actually transgendered as well. She’s spent much of her life as a man. She’s also the mother of two famous mutants, Rogue and Nightcrawler.
My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.
Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.
Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.
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