Are The X-Men Marvel or DC? X-Men inspirations and legacy For decades, the offices of DC Comics and Marvel Comics were within a few blocks of each other in Midtown Manhattan. One of pop culture’s great rivalries grew from those points on a street grid as they launched some of fiction’s best-known icons into comics and beyond. They became the Big Two publishers of American comic books, and their four-color stories became multimedia juggernauts. As the companies grew beyond New York, their rivalry didn’t stop – it reached a new level.
DC and Marvel are now part of larger rival empires. Warner Bros. Entertainment snapped up DC in 1969, and Marvel joined the Disney empire in 2009. The rivalry that was well-known in comic book stores was always likely to spread to movie theaters and home media.
DC’s attempts to establish a shared DC Extended Universe (DCEU) on the big screen have fallen short of Marvel’s incredible run. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is the most successful film franchise in movie history and has taken in over $25 billion during its first 14 years.
DC has had some tent-pole successes but is yet to transfer its more consistent results from the small screen. On the other side, even Marvel’s record-breaking run had some hitches bringing big hitters to the screen. What’s most surprising is that for all the billions made by the DCEU and MCU, one of the most successful and influential comic superteams of all time hasn’t been part of them.
Where are the mutants when you need them?
Are The X-Men Marvel or DC?
Well, it’s not entirely true that the X-Men haven’t appeared in Marvel movies or the studio’s spectacular shared universe. An essential X-Man appeared in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, although he was more a lonely cameo and fan-pleasing nod than an ambassador. Charles Xavier’s emergence as head of the Illuminati looked to reference the 1990’s well-regarded X-Men: The Animated Series from his distinctive yellow wheelchair. But the casting of Sir Patrick Stewart was an unmissabe nod to X-Men’s 20-year run on the big screen – the best Marvel run outside the MCU.
Yes, the X-Men are exclusively owned by Marvel Comics, despite their distinct movie career.
Legendary comic creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the super-team for Marvel Comics in 1963. Issue one introduced Xavier’s school for the gifted, and institute-educated bright and powerful mutants with inherent and extraordinary abilities. It also trained them to work together and use their powers to fight evil mutants threatening the world. In the first issue, we met Xavier, his legendary friend and foe Magneto, and five X-Men: Cyclops, Marvel Girl (more commonly known as Jean Grey), Angel, Beast, and Iceman.
Since then, Xavier’s school has grown, and thousands of mutants have entered the arena, for good and bad, each boasting incredible and imaginative powers. The title and its spin-offs have become one of Marvel’s top sellers and industry chart toppers.
Chronologically, the X-Men appeared on newsstands between Doctor Strange and Daredevil, in the same month Avengers #1 drew together Lee and Kirby’s recent hits. But Marvel’s mutants weren’t just part of this astonishingly prolific, industry-changing run — they were inspired by it.
After creating several icons gifted with extraordinary abilities, whether the Fantastic Four’s cosmic rays or Iron Man’s suit, Lee wanted the freedom to write characters without having to explain how they got their powers. As the idea for an off-shoot of humanity naturally gifted with astonishing and diverse abilities took hold, the concept of a school and ever-growing classes fell into place.
As for the name, The Mutants was rejected by the publisher early on. The ‘X’ seems to have developed from Xavier in both comics continuity and behind-the-scenes.
X-Men on the big screen
The X-Men have retained their distinctive place in Marvel Comics and separate from the MCU, although that is set to change.
Twentieth Century Fox bought the movie rights to the premier mutant superteam in the early 2000s on the back of their huge comic book sales – 1991’s X-Men Vol. 2, #1 remains the best-selling comic book of all time. The $2.6 million price tag was an absolute steal and led to nearly two decades of mutant movies and spin-offs. Fox’s X-Men series involved Marvel Studios as a production partner, but the studio’s creative involvement was limited.
After the MCU arrived in 2008, there was little chance the mutants could cross the divide. No ground-breaking deal like the one between Sony and Marvel that brought Spider-Man to the MCU materialized. But that changed when Disney bought Fox, and the exclusive rights to the X-Men returned to Marvel in 2019. Despite significant highs, the mutants limped away from Fox’s care with 2020’s much-delayed New Mutants.
Marvel Studios now has full film rights to the X-Men and other Fox comic properties like the Fantastic Four. The surprise cameo of Patrick Stewart’s Professor X in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the first sign that the X-Men’s arrival in the MCU is imminent, although we’re yet to see the form they will take.
X-Men inspirations and legacy
There’s a school of thought that the X-Men were a natural continuation of the concept of the Fantastic Four, a team supposedly inspired by DC’s Justice League. Another theory suggests that Lee and Kirby found inspiration in a DC team, Doom Patrol. That was another group of misfits and outsiders which debuted a few months before X-Men in summer 1963. Doom Patrol never reached the popularity of X-Men, although they’ve enjoyed a recent resurgence thanks to a TV adaptation and high-profile comic penned by Gerard Way.
In return, DC has mined similar themes to Marvel’s X-Men over the past six decades, although not with such a dedicated, socially- and politically-charged superteam. More noticeable are the homages and parodies that have sprung up from the rivalry over the years. One of their more enjoyable riffs on the X-Men is a team with an uncanny ability to put their fingers right on the button.
The G-(Geno)Men of Earth 8 entered the DC Multiverse in The Multiversity #1, drawn by Ivan Reis and written by Grant Morrison, a mastermind behind the controversial New X-Men run in 2001. Later, writer Scott Lobdell and artist Brett Booth brought this broad analog for the X-Men back in Flash Forward #2, renaming them brilliantly as the Zen-Men. Naturally, Lobdell was also a veteran of X-Men stories over at Marvel.
The Zen-Men’s distinctive green costumes were a riff on the X-Men’s original vivid uniforms. However, some observers thought they were an improvement as they reflected and enhanced each wearer’s abilities rather than reducing their distinctiveness. The Zen-Men are a great sign of the fun that continues to run through comics, if not every big screen adaptation, and the talented creatives who have worked between the Big Two.
That said, there’s little chance the Zen-Men will be challenging Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men anytime soon, especially in movie theaters.
DC’s Version of The X-Men Might Actually Have Better Costumes
The DC Universe’s version of the X-Men might actually have better costumes than the mutant team. The Zen-Men are an analogue of Marvel’s X-Men, but have arguably improved on their designs.
Through the years, DC Comics has paid tribute to the Marvel Universe several times, sometimes with more obvious nods than others. Although writers and artists have frequently worked for both publishers and have expressed their appreciation for both universes, there is a particular advantage when inventing analogue characters.
As the X-Men are referenced in the DC Universe, the new team of heroes is practically a second draft version of Professor X’s mutant students. The Zen-Men appear with a revitalized look in Flash Forward #2, written by Scott Lobdell with art by Brett Booth.
When the Retaliators come on the scene, they team up with the Zen-Men who are wearing costumes that homage the X-Men’s uniforms. However, they are arguable stronger designs than the mutants. Formally known as the G-Men, the group also known as the Zen-Men include Night Troller, Windrider, and analogues to Cyclops, Jean Grey, Colossus, Beast, Wolverine, Gambit, Rogue, and Warpath. Writers have not hidden the fact that they are direct references to the Marvel mutants, making such a comparison seem both inevitable and welcomed.
Although their matching lime green costumes could use a recolor, their overall uniforms take a note from the classic X-Men costumes, and make them look more refined. With the inspiration of the original team, DC has a slight advantage on Marvel as they draw from an already beloved roster of heroes.
Analogue characters can feel hollow and cheap, but the Zen-Men outshine their mutant counterparts with costumes that walk a line between fantastical and grounded. While each suit signals their team effort, they are also distinct, embodying the personality of a member. Often, the X-Men have been designed with uniforms that restrict their unique characteristics.
Typically, artists have tried to balance the mutants’ suits with their powers, personalities, and the team they share a part in. Often, there can be some unequal representation among these qualities, but DC managed to find middle ground with the Zen-Men. Granted their personalities remain a mystery to readers, it’s safe to say they strongly resemble their Marvel counterparts. Maintaining a sense of mystery and incorporating color into their designs, the analogue to the X-Men rivals the original team.
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