Wednesday, May 04, 2005
X-MEN UNLIMITED #5 Marvel Comics, 1994
X-Men Unlimited is/was a quarterly X-Men title in the tradition of those old Giant-Size comics Marvel used to put out (insert Giant-Sized Man-Thing joke here). X-Men Unlimited was usually an anthology title that featured a different creative team each issue, and frankly, it usually sucked. It reminds me of the old annuals Marvel and DC used to put out with lame inventory stories that never really seemed to fit in with the regular comic book. When I was a kid, I felt that stories like those in the annuals or X-Men Unlimited were apocrypha – since they were outside of normal continuity, they didn’t really matter. And really, in the year 1994 the X-Men line of books were like a pack of bloated, greedy walruses that would miraculously reproduce if you fed them. Sort of like Gremlins. Yes, the X-Men books were like walrus-Gremlins. My point is, for the most part X-Men Unlimited was irrelevant and unnecessary.
Issue #5 was written by John Francis Moore, who also wrote the Star Spangled Banner, I think.* You know, I read it again, and I actually thought the story was okay. Sure, it was an overblown, florid superhero opera, but it’s supposed to be; it’s an X-Men comic. In a nutshell, the story involves Professor X, Forge, Storm, and Jubilee in space, getting all mixed up in an alien insurgency against Professor X’s girlfriend, the Shi’ar Empress Lilandra. Moore focuses on the star-crossed romance between Lilandra, a hot bird chick, and Professor X, who has really been pumping iron.
The art, supplied by Liam Sharpe** and a squad of inkers, doesn’t fit the story very well. Sharpe is known for his heavy metal art, featuring massively muscled, grotesquely vascular barbarians and equally muscular naked she-devils. He worked on stuff I liked like 2000 AD and Death’s Head for the Marvel UK line, and I think he’s fine provided that he’s working on the right project. This clearly isn’t the right project; not a single person in this book gets gutted by a broadsword.
Plus, the four different inkers on the book don’t help matters in terms of art consistency. Marvel must have been on a deadline and farmed out the inks – the inkers on this book range from good to really bad, distorting Sharpe’s pencils. On one page Professor X looks like he had encephalitis or something. It’s not attractive.
Here, Sharpe's tendency to draw everyone like Conan works against the story. I mean, look at the cover (above). Look at Forge, in the lower right hand corner. He’s fucking huge! His shoulder is bigger than his entire head. Barbarian Forge will crush you! Seriously, Forge, lay off the roids, man. It’s not worth it.
Aside from the roided-out X-Men in the book, the most noteworthy thing is how Marvel censored Liam Sharpe’s artwork – because it is TOO SEXY!!!
Seriously, they edited the shit out of this book. As I said, Sharpe is used to drawing naked barbarian people, and the original art that he turned in must have been TOO SEXY!!! Everybody in the book is half-naked, and it was all just too much for The House of Ideas, so they used the time-honored remedy for too much skin in a comic book: Color all the naked bodies! Check out the cover above – you know those Shi’ar women were originally supposed to be all half-naked and shit and they just erased their belly buttons and colored their torsos. Weak!
Check out the panel below. An editor at Marvel must have realized that Jubilee was like, 15, and that Sharpe’s outfits were TOO SEXY!!!. So they just kind of erased all the details on Jubilee’s exposed midriff and breastage and colored it blue! Problem solved. But take a look at the Kree alien girl next to Jubilee, who they established earlier is roughly Jubilee’s age. She’s not wearing a lot, but her rippling nubile body gets spared from the wrath of the editor because… I don’t know. She’s blue? She’s an alien?
Man, what do they feed those Kree? That little girl is ripped!
Let’s take a look at some more brutal and obvious editing. I’ve cut three separate images from X-Men Unlimited #5 into the picture below.
Image #1: Clearly Sharpe had intended for Lilandra to be buck naked, with just a diaphanous scarf covering her. But no! No, that is TOO SEXY!!! Now she’s wearing a black yoga leotard.
Image #2: Again, the Marvel editors save us from too much underage skin. Jubilee’s outfit is TOO SEXY!!! NO! TOO SEXY!!! Erase her belly button and color it purple – quick!
Image #3: Dear God, if they hadn’t colored Deathbird, we would have seen the flesh-colored underside of her pert breasts! TOO SEXY!!! No! NO!!!
A more enlightened mind might find X-Men Unlimited and interesting case study in sexual norms and how far a publisher is willing to push those norms, or not. But I am not enligthened. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this comic, it’s that underage blue alien bodybuilder chicks in Road Warrior bikinis are hot.
** I'm not clear if his name is spelled "Sharp" or "Sharpe."