Ex-X: The Noble Tradition of Rage-Quitting the X-Men
It’s hard to say goodbye. Unless you’re an X-Man, in which case it’s kind of a hobby. Over the years, the “quitting the X-Men” cover has become a recurring meme for the mutants, usually with the same formula; one character sadly traipsing off-stage on the right, and the team watching mournfully in the background on the left.
Inspired by the Tumblr blog Cyclops Was Right, (with an extra assist from Comic Vine), ComicsAlliance takes a closer look at the fine art of saying goodbye, bub. Who quit, why did they quit, why did they really quit, and how quickly did they come back with their tails between their legs? (Metaphorical tails. Nightcrawler never did one of these covers.)
Comic: X-Men #138, “Elegy”, by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, October 1980
Given Reason: Dead fiancee. This is the first issue after Jean Grey (or an amazing cosmic simulation) died on the moon, because she was just too much fierce redhead for a race of imperialist alien chicken-people to handle.
Real Reason: Cyclops was kind of a drag, a ’60s throwback on a team dominated by cool kids like Wolverine, Storm and Nightcrawler. Frankly, the X-Men were just too sexy now for ol’ Pencilbeam, a man so light on interior life that all his belongings fit into a tiny orange kit bag. It’s not like he’s wearing three sweaters and his big winter coat so he can minimize his hand luggage! (Cyke’s lack of complexity is why telepaths are attracted to him. They say they find him “restful”.)
Cyke went off to shack up with a sailor named Lee, which sounds interesting, but it turns out Lee was a chick.
Comeback: By amazing coincidence, Cyclops and Lee got washed up on Magneto’s island, and if you’re going to have run-ins with Magneto anyway, you might as well do it with the X-Men. Cyclops returned to the team in Uncanny X-Men #150, just twelve issues after he quit. And just in time for…
Quitter: Kitty Pryde
Comic: Uncanny X-Men #151, “The X-Men Minus One”, by Chris Claremont and Jim Sherman, November 1981
Given Reason: Kitty didn’t exactly quit; her parents withdrew her from the school, claiming that having their daughter almost killed by a terrifying mutant menace was not what they signed up for. So they transferred her to a school in Massachussetts run by one Emma Frost. Good job, parents.
Real Reason: Is she really leaving, or is she looking for an excuse to show off her spunky new summer dress? Let’s face it, she’s only crying because Colossus hasn’t offered to carry her heavy suitcase. (But look, Cyclops; a suitcase and a shoulder bag. Kitty actually showed up for her life.)
Comeback: Kitty was back at the school by issue #153. She marked her return by filling the mind of young Illyana Rasputin with nonsense, thus creating a future terrifying mutant menace. Good job, Kitty.
Comic: New Mutants #99, “The Beginning of the End, Part Two”, by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, March 1991
Given Reason: Sunspot left because he was called away on important family business by Gideon, a man with a waistcoat (and yet no shirt), a ponytail (and yet no hair), and a singular moniker (and yet no recording contract). And those are three marks of a man you can trust. That man is probably not a crazy villain who wants to subject you to wacky tests for the sake of a truly awful storyline about immortal mutants that perhaps hasn’t entirely been thought out yet.
Real Reason: Cable. That guy is a tool. All the charisma of a direct-to-video ’80s action movie, but with the quippy one-liners replaced with extra pockets. Sunspot clearly understood on some level that the awesome series he’d been part of for so long was about to get turned into douchapalooza, so he packed up his kit bag (still bigger than Cyclops’s, but apparently filled with helium) and quit. He may also have quit just for being forced to appear in a comic called “The Beginning of the End, Part Two.”
Comeback: Sunspot joined X-Force in issue #15, because it turns out Gideon was an even bigger tool than Cable. The experience wasn’t a total loss, because it later gave us Reignfire. Mm hmm.
Comic: Wolverine #65, “State of Grace”, by Larry Hama and Mark Texeira, January 1993
Given Reason: Wolverine felt sad because Silver Fox was dead, and he vaguely recalled that she was his… girlfriend, maybe? Sister? Nemesis? Definitely someone he knew, anyway. Or had heard about. Grade school teacher? Aunt? It’ll come to you, Wolverine, it’ll come to you.
Real Reason: Wait, hang on, hold up. You can’t quit your own book, Wolverine, you big doof. But maybe that’s why he’s just standing there without any luggage? And really, how can you leave when you never truly felt you belonged to anywhere at all? Wolverine, your artful slouching carries a lesson for us all.
Comeback: Shockingly, Wolverine also appeared in Wolverine #66.
Comic: Uncanny X-Men #318, “Moving Day”, by Joe Quesada and Joe Madureira, November 1994
Given Reason: Jubilee left behind the dangers of Charles Xavier’s school to attend classes at a school in Massachussetts run by one Emma Fros… hey now, wait a minute, didn’t we… Oh, no, it’s fine, Emma was a good guy at this point, and no-one would ever doubt her allegiance again, because boy would that ever get old in a hurry!
Real Reason: You’ll notice that none of the X-Men are actually there to see her off; those guys in the background are just a spectral memory from happier times. Charles Xavier is only there because he’s having his afternoon nap. The lesson here is that Jubilee was kind of annoying, and thus she had to go.
But she gets the last laugh, as her backpack is stuffed full of all the mansion’s toilet roll.
Comeback: It turns out Jubilee is really great at quitting the X-Men, as she’s never officially come back to the team. She ran with Generation X for a while, hung around at her old school, got crucified, lost her powers, became a vampire; typical summer break stuff. She’ll be back as a fully fledged X-Man in the new X-Men comic from Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel.
Comic: X-Force #44, “Already in Progress”, by Jeph Loeb and Adam Pollina, July 1995
Given Reason: Cannonball left X-Force when he got promoted to the actual X-Men, making him the only person to quit on to the team. He brought along a huge kit bag but forgot to pack his personality, so the version of Cannonball that joined the X-Men was an aw-shucks small town rube with none of his years of character development! Whoops!
Real Reason: His thong was chafing. This was the start of Adam Pollina’s long and awesome run on X-Force, in which everyone got at least ten times hotter. Except Cannonball, who hit a hotness ceiling, as shown by his embarassing thong.
Comeback: Cannonball hung around as the X-Men’s Gomer Pyle for three years, but the lure of the second string was irresistible. Adam Pollina ended his X-Force run at issue #81, making it safe for Cannonball to return in issue #83.
Quitter: Professor X
Comic: X-Men #57, “Man”, by Scott Lobdell and Andy Kubert, October 1996
Given Reason: The most unthinkable thing ever to happen to the X-Men on a pretty much routine basis; the loss of Professor X from the very team that carries his vainglorious initial!
This time around it was because of the loss of his powers, and because he had to answer for Onslaught’s crimes. These include the whole “Heroes Reborn” universe, so lock him up, I say, and throw away the key!
Real Reason: You see that guy crouching on the floor behind him? Yeah. This was the era when Wolverine was Scooby-Doo. You always know you’re going downhill when the guy in the wheelchair rushes away from you.
Comeback: Can Professor X ever actually leave the X-Men? He probably thinks that any group of people in his vicinity is the X-Men. And because he’s a telepath with dubious ethical standards, everyone around him probably thinks that too.
Quitters: Warpath, Sunspot, Siryn, Dani Moonstar and Meltdown
Comic: X-Force #70, “Transitions”, by John Francis Moore and Adam Pollina, October 1997
Given Reason: The kick-off for John Francis Moore’s road trip storyline; X-Force took their act on the road, because you’re not their real dad, Cable! Not until the next retcon takes effect, anyway! Oh, those loopy Askani girls!
Real Reason: Once again, it’s Sunspot walking out on Cable, and what does that tell you?
Maybe if you’d spent less time on paramilitary urban conflict and a little more time watering the garden of “us,” Cable, your man wouldn’t keep leaving you! Even when you were at home, were you ever really there, or were you just going through all your pockets and pouches looking for spare bullets? It’s not enough, Cable! Sunspot has needs! Sunspot deserves a little romance! Why can’t you be more like Shatterstar?
Comeback: X-Force never came back to Cable, so this issue marks the end of the team’s formal association with its founder. Except, like a faded rock star, Cable is now out on the road with a new gang that he pretends is the true continuation of his old gang, and the people who were actually in X-Force want nothing to do with him. Tragic.
Comic: X-Factor #28, “Aftermath”, by Peter David and Pablo Raimondi, April 2008
Reason Given: Wolfsbane left X-Factor to join X-Force, the team that Cannonball left to join the X-Men, which is the team that Jubilee left to join Generation X, so if you’ve ever wondered how the hierarchy works here, it doesn’t. Mutants are like country musicians; they just like walking out.
Real Reason: You’ll notice this is an unorthodox rear-view take on the formula. Wolfsbane clearly didn’t mean to leave at all, because look, she’s walking the wrong way. Hey, Wolfsbane! We’re over here! Yoo-hoo! Wolsfbane! WOLFSBANE!
Comeback: Wolfsbane returned to the team in issue #200, which sounds like a long leave of absence until you remember that Marvel doesn’t believe in the sanctity of math, and issue #200 is actually issue #51.
The quitting-the-team meme shows up in a few other places. It’s been referenced in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gen 13 and Noble Causes, among others. But it belongs to the X-Men. It’s even appeared on covers for future X-Men (GeNext #1) and alternative X-Men (Ultimate X-Men #80), plus an unused Greg Land cover for Uncanny X-Men #515.
So the message here is clear and undeniable. The X-Men are a bunch of quitters, and it’s all Cyclops’s fault. Also, mutants really love kit bags.