My X-Men Origins Story

The 'X-Men' Animated Series Left A Huge Impact On My Life

Themes and characters I loved from X-Men the animated series.

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By now there's probably about a million stories out there about how Stan Lee's death affected people who grew up reading his comic books. I didn't know Stan Lee through his comics. I had no idea why this old, always seemingly horny, quip making, guy in glasses appeared in every movie from a comic book pumped out of Hollywood. However, without the source material of his X-Men comic books, I would never have been able to grow up on X-Men, the Animated Series. I want to pay homage to his passing by remembering the things I loved from the product of his origin stories, and what they showed me about the world.

See, I only know the X-Men through the cartoon show. The series ran from 1992 to 1997 on Fox Kids Network. From what I found out years after it was off the air, it stayed faithful to the comic books, so I feel like I have a pretty grounded following in the Mutant universe.

The theme song to the show was catchy and addictive for an intro with no lyrics. I remember seriously envying the powers of Professor X, Storm, Rogue, and Colossus. I found the storylines of the series as deep, involved, emotional, and dark as any from DC comics-based shows like Batman the Animated Series. The love stories of Jean Grey and Cyclops, Rogue and Gambit, and the love triangle of Wolverine, Jean, and Cyclops always kept my teenage heart fluttering.

The mutant and human villains the show introduced always kept me on the edge of my seat if the X-Men could continue to keep each other and the school safe. The numerous space expeditions the team went on brought more stories I was glued to, like The Phoenix Saga. Wolverine calling enemies ridiculous names making me laugh out loud. The constant wondering if Professor X and Magneto would finally put their deep friendship and respect for each other first instead of their missions. The video game based off the show kept me busy for hours on end in the game room at Thistledown Race Track.

I found the humans' reactions to the mutants sad, yet understandable. Even relatable — though back then I didn't know why.

My best friend and avid reader of the X-Men comic books confirmed and explained why we related to humans' reactions to mutants when we were growing up. The being hated and feared and discriminated against to the point of dealing with job security, health care, housing, social isolation, family rejection, romantic rejection, laws being passed against, and physical violence against mutants in the X-Men universe are things that are mirrored in every LGBTQIA+ individual.

I saw pieces of myself in each character I loved on that show.

I saw the naive and rebellious streaks of me in Jubilee. I saw the constantly unrequited love lorn side of me in Wolverine. I saw the torn and scared and self preservation sides of me in Jean Grey. I saw the headstrong and secret wish fulfullment of laser eyes side of me in Cyclops. I saw my race, the wish fullfillment to control the weather, and seeing the weather's affect on moods of myself in Storm. I saw the couple I couldn't stand to love because of their cuteness and their in sync with Rogue and Gambit. I saw my love of reading and intellectual pursuits in Beast. And I saw the willingness to help others though it puts one in danger as well of myself in Professor X.

Without Stan Lee creating the X-Men comic books, X-Men the Animated Series would not have been part of my life. I thank him for creating that. I thank him for staying with and supporting all the evolutions his characters made to the silver screen millions of times — even if he didn't want to — so those like me who only grew up knowing the show would know who he was. I thank him for sharing his creativity, sense of humor, and his knowledge with the world at large. I thank him for creating all the characters I love in the MCU.

May his legacy be everlasting. Rest In Peace, Stan Lee.

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Geek On Fleek

Embrace your inner geek
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Everybody has their geek. No matter what you are into in life, you have something that you geek out to. If you are a sports person, you geek out to your favorite team. You buy their merchandise, you know their statistics. If you are a big music fan, the same applies to you. You will go to your favorite band's concerts, listen to their music on repeat until you have every song memorized, and wait in the longest line for their autographs.

You don't have to be a science person or a comic book fan to be a geek, you just have to have an interest. Sorry if it offends you, but you should own your label.

I, for one, am a geek in every sense of the word. I love music and comic books and superheroes and will wait in the longest of lines, behind sobbing fans, just to shake the hand of Samwise Gamgee. This weekend I had the opportunity to do just that. This weekend, I experienced my first Comic-Con. I walked in and felt more comfortable than I ever have in my entire life. People dressed as their favorite characters for cos-play contests flooded the convention center, ready and willing to take pictures with strangers. Celebrities sat in their own booths, ready to meet their eager fans and geek out with them. I had a conversation with Phil Lamarr about "Hamilton" a musical completely unrelated to any of his own work, and he was so interested. He talked with my husband and I as if we were old friends and did not once rush the conversation to an end.

This particular Comic-Con was called Nickel City Con, and it was the starting year for the hopefully annual Buffalo Comic-Con. The convention center was packed, full of new and veteran Comic-Con goers, hoping that this event would live up to their expectations and become and new tradition for them. This event was definitely what I had hoped it would be. My husband and I got there right at the start time and stayed the entire day. We left a half-hour before it was over and were never bored for the entire duration of the day.

The only thing I am trying to tell you is to embrace your geek. Go to Comic-Con, a music festival, sports games or halls of fame. Buy season tickets or VIP passes, have fun. You only get one life, and even though it is the longest thing you will experience, it's too short to be embarrassed about something you love.

Love yourself. Love your geek.

Cover Image Credit: Rhiannon Sherlock

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For Anyone Who Wants To Get Into Comics, Here's The Ultimate Women's Month Comic Pull-List

Let's be honest. Not many girls are going to opt for old hardbacks with pictures of roided-up white men.

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With the cultural juggernaut that is superhero movies releasing its third titular female film (yay, "Captain Marvel!") this month, a bunch of my friends have been asking me for Carol Danvers' backstory. However, there are only so many times I can explain what the Kree and Skrulls are before I want to bang my own skull against a wall. Repeatedly.

Don't get me wrong, I love talking about comics and comic book movies, comic books controversies, and why Monstress deserves all the awards. But having to repeat the spiel again and again gets boring.

I noticed that when I mention the comics, most of my girlfriends look intrigued and/or sheepish and admit that they have never read a comic in their life. Usually it's because they feel overwhelmed and slightly intimidated by the sheer volume of reboots, retcons and multiverses. Or because the ones available in the library are decade-old "Spider-Man" and "Batman" volumes.

Let's be honest. Not many girls are going to opt for old hardbacks with pictures of roided-up white men punching people while staring broodily into the distance when there is an entire world of glorious female-centric YA science fiction out there. So I have taken it upon myself to produce this female-centric list of some of the best comics to come out in the last decade. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it does have some of my favorites. No gratuitous chain-mail bikini shots or unnecessary boob windows in these pages! But just to be on the safe side, I'm going to include ratings.

The best part? These have all finished some runs and are (mostly) available in their glorious entirety. No waiting for weeks on end for the conclusion this time!

Each volume is a stand-alone storyline, so you don't have to read all of them to get the story. Happy reading!

​1. "Ms. Marvel" (YA)​

Okay, I love all of these too much to pick favorites, so don't take the order too seriously. That said, "Ms. Marvel" is my number one because you have NO IDEA how long I wanted this. It was the first comic book I bought for myself and I when I initially learned about it, I screamed so loud the neighbors called my mom thinking that we were being burgled or something. True story.

Very strong personal feelings aside, this comic tells the story of a geeky Pakistani-American teenage girl in Jersey City named Kamala Khan who, surprise surprise, gets polymorphic superpowers (think somewhere between "Mystique" and "Mr. Fantastic"). Being the Avengers stan that she is, Kamala jumps at the chance to become a people's hero. Of course, being a headstrong and slightly awkward teenager with traditional parents, this is easier said than done. Besides the typical battling evil bird-men and giant clones, the story is also a beautiful exploration of immigrant identity and what it means to be a hero. It's also really bittersweet at times and hits you in the feels.

The whole first run is found in "Volume 1: No Normal" to "Volume 4: Last Days." The current run starts at "Volume 5: Super Famous." Volume 10 is coming out this summer!

2. "Squirrel Girl" (all ages)

Okay, I am a bit of a Marvel obsessive. But I promise we'll see some other heroes, too! But until then...

Where to even start? These comics are about a chipper Canadian comp-sci major with a squirrel tail and other sciuridine (sciuridean?) powers. Doreen Green is also the most OP character in the entire Marvel Universe, so that's girl power for you! Seriously, though. She's beaten up the entire Marvel Universe, X-Men included, and all her stats are off the charts.

She's also tons of fun. Her latest run by Ryan North and Erica Henderson is all the best kinds of outlandish and zany, featuring a talking brain who is learning moral philosophy and Loki with a cat head, among other things. The comics are also a great starting point because they don't adhere too religiously to the greater comic book universe and usually feature introductions to other heroes and villains interwoven into the story. Doreen literally has a deck of collectible cards that list all the other character's stats and powers.

Volumes one to four are currently available, so get cracking! (That was a nut pun, by the way. Because squirrels.)

3. "Faith" (teen)

Is this one of the most heartfelt and body-positive superhero comics out there? Yes. Does it feature somewhat disturbing images of human prisoners being mind-controlled in the service of creepy humanoid aliens? Also yes.

Faith Herbert is a geeky, mild-mannered journalist by day and super strong, super fast flying superhero Zephyr by night (and sometimes day). This comic is a rarity, in that it deals with life after the heyday. Once a member of the famous Renegades, Faith is now working in internet journalism and trying to find her place in the world. The comic has some funny call-outs to current media culture and the superhero movie industry. At its heart, though, it is about the power of stories to inspire us and pull us through dark times.

It also deals with the trappings of celebrity and Hollywood culture. If the alien cult isn't a Scientology metaphor, I don't know what is.

Volumes one to four are currently available, and this comic is ongoing!

4. "Monstress" (adult)

Listen, Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda are freaking geniuses and I will hype this comic to my dying day. It has literally everything. Epic world-building, breathtakingly intricate artwork, vivid colors, terrifying eldritch monstrosities, complex female characters with multilayered motivations and an ambitious narrative focused on racism, trauma, and the casualties of war in an epically rendered fantasy universe... the list goes on. It might be a bit dark and gory for some readers, but it is SO GOOD.

The story follows Maika, one of the few free members of a persecuted race of magical human-animal beings called Arcanics. She is on the run from the Cumaea while trying to piece together the history of her people and the events behind her mother's death.

Who are the Cumaea? They are just an order of sorcerers who kill Arcanics and use the remains to maintain their powers. They are also the reason this comic is rated adult. Well, them and the eldritch multi-eyed monstrosity that lives in Maika's mutilated arm.

Have I mentioned it won five Eisners and three Hugos?

Volumes one, two, and three are currently available.

5. "Saga" (adult)

If you have not heard of this comic, at least in passing, then you have been living under a rock. Hailed as one of the greatest works ever produced by the American comic industry, this is space opera taken to the next level. It's like if "Firefly," "Star Wars," and "Star Trek" hit maximum feminism and cultural awareness. It is about family, growing up, the effects of war, love, ethnic violence, and the human condition. As told to you by Hazel, a Landfall-Wreath hybrid with wings and horns.

This series is a rarity, in that the narrator is a female character retelling the story of her conception, birth, and life in a galaxy devastated and defined by a senseless ongoing war. Its status as space fiction allows the creative team to use different planets and societies to craft allegories for different aspects of the human experience. Despite the heavy themes, it is also very playful and tongue-in-cheek, with a fascinating cast of characters. It is beautiful.

Well, mostly beautiful. There is a lot of graphic sexual content in it, too. This is definitely the most adult work on this listicle, alongside "Monstress."

Also, it's won, like, 12 Eisner awards.

Also, it is currently on hiatus (insert sobbing emoji), but there are eight volumes to keep you occupied until it resumes.

6. "Lumberjanes" (all ages)

This is like "Gravity Falls," if "Gravity Falls" was about a bunch of kick-ass girls at summer camp. It has all the arcane oddities and creepy-cute floating kitten gods you could want. Mermaids, were-bears, and gorgons, oh my! And In between the monster-hunting and badge-earning is a surprisingly profound narrative about growing up, identity, and friendship. Also, it is chock-full of laughs. Even my jaded college soul can't help but crack a smile at their antics. It is such a sweet pick-me-up. The girls also have wildly different personalities and interests, but that's what makes them such an excellent team. After all, there's no one way to be a woman. A good portion of the cast is also some kind of LGBTQIA+, which is always a plus.

Side note: All the "expletives" in the book are also the names of accomplished female scientists, writers, politicians, etc., making this the perfect comic for Women's History month.

Volumes one to 12 are currently available.

If you want more of Noelle Stevenson's awesomeness, the series is still ongoing. You should also check out her graphic novel Nimona.

7. "Scarlet Witch" (adult)

So, Wanda Maximoff has a long and sordid history in Marvel Comics. But if someone asked me who she was, really, I would immediately point them to the 2016 series by James Robinson. It does a wonderful job taking all those disparate threads and unifying them into what is essentially Scarlet Witch as Carmen San Diego, but with a lot more baggage and magical powers. In the series, Wanda goes on a globe-trotting journey of self-discovery, trying to heal the world's magic and also examine her own inner demons. It is a poignant and profound take on a character we rarely see the human side of. In most of her appearances, she is a reality bending lamp of a plot device. In Robinson's arc, she is so much more.

It also features appearances from various mythical entities, so that's cool.

This series is completed, and volumes one to three are currently available.

8. "Wynnona Earp: Legends" (adult)

I make no secret about being a fan of the SYFY Channel's adaptation. In my opinion, this is one of the rare cases when the live-action version is so much better than the source material. So, so much better. It has a greatly diverse, majority female main cast and doesn't shy away from topics like pregnancy and generational angst. Also, gun fights with ghoulish undead demons and giant living dolls are always a perk.

Both the TV series and comics follow the adventures of one Wynnona Earp, monster-hunter and secret agent of the US Marshals Black Badge Division. While the earlier comics are full of gratuitously exaggerated female bodies and semi-nudity, the 2016 Limited Series and 2017 tie-in series "Wynnona Earp: Legends" are rollicking good reads. They are also completed. But you should probably watch the show for a bit of added context.

9. "A-Force" (YA)

Literally all the Marvel ladies on an island together, beating baddies and being bosses. Enough said.

There are currently two arcs spread across three volumes and it is completed, so no horrible cliffhangers!

It is collected in "Volume 0: Warzones!", "Volume 1: Hypertime," and "Volume 2: Civil War II."

10. "Anya's Ghost" (YA)

This is more of a graphic novel than a comic, per say, but it is still one of the most heartfelt narratives on this list. It follows second-generation immigrant Anya as she struggles with first crushes, the desire to be popular, and the ghost that she met in a well. Yes, you read that right. There is a well-ghost. It turns out pretty much as well as you would expect.

This is nowhere near as elaborate or fanciful as most of the other offerings I have described. The illustrations are in a simple dark-purple color, lavender, and white. But that doesn't take away from the impact in the least. It is one of those aching stories, the ones that make you feel something bittersweet that you can't quite place your finger on. It is soft, sincere, and quietly emotional. Sometimes, that is exactly what you need.

11. "Coraline" (YA)

This is the graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman's bestselling book, and it is every bit as creepily satisfying as the original novel and Laika Studios film adaptation. It chronicles the story of Coraline, a teenager who feels abandoned by her parents after moving to a new home. She sets about exploring the strange environment and comes across a portal into an alternate reality where things seem sinisterly perfect.

I like this story, because it shows that you don't always have to have powers to be a hero.

Even though I rated this YA, be forewarned. It is intense. Especially once the Other Mother shows up. Eek.

12. "Captain Marvel" (YA)

The movie that inspired this article was itself inspired by a comic. And that comic is the amazing "Captain Marvel."

I'm just going to leave you with the advice to read "Volume 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More" by Kelly Sue Deconnick and illustrated by David Lopez. I've explained her backstory one too many times to do it again here.

Summary? Intergalactic ex-soldier punching hijinks with some attempts at alien diplomacy. Think Star-Lord and Captain America combined into a cat lady who can shoot energy blasts. Yes, it is that epic.

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