To Me, My X-Men! Comics Alliance Presents The X-Men Fantasy Draft
Who are the greatest X-Men of all time? Over the coming weeks, as we anticipate the coming of Apocalypse, we're going to try to answer that question, pairing up your votes with the opinions of our own panel of highly opinionated X-Men fans.
But before we get to the votes, we wanted to introduce you to our five panelists with a game of Fantasy X-Men. Through a process of draft picking, and drawing from a roster of over 300 eligible characters, we asked each of our panelists to pick the best X-Men team they could put together --- but with the restriction that someone else might grab their favorite character first.
Our x-pert panelists are:
- The Classic Andrew Wheeler, the veteran of the group, who started out reading UK reprints and became a regular reader during the Mutant Massacre.
- The Uncanny Elle Collins, who jumped on board during the Australia years, and has always had an affinity for the weirder corners of the mutant universe.
- The First Class Aaron Reese, who has been a die-hard fan since the classic animated series and the Claremont/Lee 'Blue & Gold' era.
- The X-Treme Steve Morris, who started reading during the Joss Whedon run, and has a particular affection for the New X-Men: Academy years.
- And the All-New Katie Schenkel, our newest convert, because fandom should always welcome new readers! Katie started devouring X-Men comics in the last couple of years thanks to the X-Men movies.
The rules are simple; every X-Man can only be picked once, unless they have a parallel duplicate within the same continuity (a phrase not often heard outside of X-Men comics). Every fantasy team must have eight members, and must have at least one character from each of five essential categories; Leader, Psi, Muscle, Kid, and Villain. Anyone who has served in any X-Men or Xavier School team in the 616 universe, or who is primarily associated with an X-Men team or the school, is eligible.
Without further ado, by random order, the first pick goes to Katie...
Katie: My first pick is Rogue, and I'm specifically counting her as my Leader. Granted, she's not a naturally born leader like Storm or Cyclops, but that’s one of the things that's so great about her --- she's reinvented herself to be a hero and changed the path she was put on by her moms.
Steve: I’m going with an incredibly obvious first choice for my pick, but Kitty Pryde is the X-Men. She’s been there from the start of when they first really mattered, having survived the experience and come out the most driven, interesting, and enjoyable character the X-Men have ever had.
Aaron: Kitty Pryde is everything! She asserts a confidence rarely seen in young characters, and has been a delight to watch evolve.
Elle: My first pick was never one of my favorite villains, but ever since her face-turn, Emma Frost has evolved into one of my very favorite heroes. She’s not a nice person --- nice is so overrated anyway --- but she’s a good leader, a great teacher, a powerful psychic, and stylish as hell --- as long as she’s drawn by an artist who understands what style is.
Aaron: I’m a bit pressed that Emma was snatched up so fast, but I can’t say that I’m surprised!
Andrew: I had a feeling Kitty would go in the first round, and Emma wasn’t going to last long either. There’s one other character who hasn’t been claimed yet that I didn’t think I’d get a shot at, but Aaron’s up next and I’ll be shocked if this isn’t his choice.
Aaron: I think my choice is painstakingly obvious --- sorry, Andrew! Storm is the original X-diva, and her time with the X-Men has been nothing short of monumental. A mutant rags-to-riches story, Storm has served as a valiant leader, a Wakandan queen, a diligent fighter, and a powerhouse staple. All hail Queen Ororo!
Andrew: I knew it! Honestly, I thought Storm would be top of everyone’s list, but there was no way she’d get past you to me.
Elle: I definitely considered Storm for my first pick, and she absolutely would have been my second, but let's be real, she was never going to last to the second round.
Aaron: Trust me, I was definitely holding my breath during the first selections.
Andrew: It’s all been women so far, and that seems right and proper where the X-Men are concerned, but I’m going to break that pattern with my first pick: Nightcrawler. Kitty is the heart of the team, but Kurt is the soul. He brings dynamism, not just because of his powers, but because he can switch so easily from swashbuckling clown to romantic seeker. Plus, he's one of the X-Men's sexiest freaks, and the X-Men are all about sexy freaks.
Steve: Despite all the claims about Gambit, I’d argue any day that Kurt is the most beloved X-Hunk of all.
Katie: My next pick is a bit of a wild card, but Lila Cheney is one of those characters that is so cool and so fun, and I’ve thought more than once how it’s a real shame she doesn’t have her own miniseries or even ongoing series. I'm counting her as my Villain because, despite generally being friendly with the heroes, she did kidnap and nearly sold off the Earth. Hey, she gave it back!
Steve: Lila’s great! For the second-best musician in the Marvel Universe, anyway.
My second choice is the only decent choice for Leader: it’s Dani Moonstar. Leader of the New Mutants and first choice for future commander of mutantkind in general, she’s a powerful, fierce, wonderful character. Sure she’s depowered --- but can you think of a single character who has more resolve?
Elle: Oh, great choice, Steve. Dani was the only other leader I was interested in for my team, which means Emma Frost is now firmly stuck in that role. And that means I need another former villain. Mystique.
How interesting Mystique seems is very dependent on who’s writing her, but when she’s at her best she’s a favorite of mine. She’s not bound by society’s ideas about morality, or sexuality, or physicality. You can’t ask someone who can be anyone not to do whatever she wants. And it’s exactly that amorality that makes it fascinating whenever she’s on a hero team.
Steve: She’s the smartest of the X-Men’s villains, by far.
Aaron: My ex-villain is Archangel. His “monster of Frankenstein” transformation at the hands of Apocalypse is undoubtedly one of my faves. To see a metaphorical and literal descent into darkness from such a pure character can be jarring, in all the best ways. He’s manic, dark and violent, as seen in one of his best arcs, "The Dark Angel Saga."
Andrew: The Muscle for my group is my all-time favorite X-Man, Colossus. Maybe he wasn’t high on anyone else’s list, but I was starting to sweat. Petey Pureheart is the swellest strong guy around, and I love that he’s a tortured artist beneath that chrome exterior. I also love characters who wear their vulnerability on their sleeve. (And their invulnerability on their biceps.)
Steve: I’m a big brother myself, and I love a lot about Colossus, especially when he’s paired with his sister, Magik. His inability to understand her is so heartbreaking, but riveting.
Katie: For my Muscle I’m going with the only guy who can possibly dethrone Colossus for “swellest strong guy around” and that’s Sam Guthrie, AKA Cannonball. I’m in the middle of reading the original New Mutants run, and while all the characters introduced in the series are pretty great, Sam as the good-natured big brother of the team is a heartwarmer, for sure. And I’ve put him on a team with his rock star girlfriend Lila Cheney, and you know that would be a fun read.
Steve: My next pick is Dazzler. I’m so into Dazzler it hurts me sometimes. I love everything about her --- that writers basically throw everything at her and see how much sticks, that she keeps changing her style but always returns to her first look, that she’s a qualified lawyer on rollerskates! It’s strange that some people don’t view her as a serious character, because she’s got this real sense of grit and determination. Her solo series remains a camp classic, with some surprisingly effective melodrama. She also feels like one of the few ‘older’ X-Women to still have a sense of energy to her.
Elle: I can't hold off any longer on choosing my very favorite X-Man, Boom-Boom. And I’m picking specifically the pre-1990 Boom Boom of X-Factor and Fallen Angels, because that’s my favorite version of her, so she can be my team’s Kid. Which will make her a perfect foil for Emma Frost and Mystique.
Katie: I was totally waiting for you to nab Boom-Boom, since I know how much you love her.
Aaron: I'm going with the elder Jean Grey/Phoenix. I know for most, Jean’s convoluted storylines aren’t the best, but her and Storm are the primary reasons I began reading the X-Men. Chris Claremont shaped Jean to be a uniquely dynamic character, and The Phoenix Saga is one of the most important X-Men arcs of all time. Jean’s taught me that we all are capable of doing extraordinary things. She also works nicely with Storm. They’re the goddess dream band I’ve always wanted.
Katie: I absolutely agree; Jean gets a bad rap for a lot of reasons, most of which feel more like how some writers have used her than the actual merits of the character overall. But if you look at her determination and resilience, she's still one heck of an X-Man.
Andrew: Two of the three explosive '80s pop ladies have already been claimed, so I'm going to make it a third round sweep with Jubilee as my official Kid pick. She's one of the last great Claremont X-Men, and I like her style, her enthusiasm, and if I'm being totally honest, I like how she infuriates people. Jubilee is cool but rude, and she has nothing to apologize for.
Katie: I still need a Psi character, and for that, I’m going with Rachel Summers. When you look at the life she had in her original timeline and everything she’s gone through since, she’s one resilient woman-out-of-time. If only she didn’t inherit her father’s talent for self-loathing.
Steve: I’ve already picked the most important member of the New Mutants, so now it’s time to draft my favouite --- Karma. Xi’an Coy Manh has a particularly horrific childhood and origin story, one that would seemingly rip apart any character. Not Karma, though. She also came out as gay just over a decade or so ago, making her one of the only lesbian characters in the X-Men --- and certainly the only one who actually gets any.
Elle: I’m not surprised that the adult version of Jean Grey was chosen first, but the teenage Jean Grey/Marvel Girl is my favorite. A Jean who’s being trained by Emma Frost instead of Charles Xavier is a Jean who’s more ethical and less polite. But my favorite thing about her is her dedication to defying destiny. This is a Jean who will never be Phoenix if she has anything to say about it. Jean will fill the Psi role on my team.
Andrew: A clean sweep for all the Marvel Girls; Jean, Rachel, and Jean again!
Aaron: For my Psi character, I have to go with Psylocke! I love Psylocke’s introduction to the X-verse, coming in as a stylish debutante/model armed with her modest psychic “butterfly” attacks. Psylocke has always been one of the most creative psi characters in the X-roster, and her body swap, while confusing, resulted in a more agile combatant, placing her as top billing on some of the X-Men’s most integral teams. She’s a great compilation of psi-master and skilled warrior.
Andrew: I'm also picking my Psi this round; the character I always say is the real Marvel version of Superman, because she has an awesome power set, but she also has a very Marvel set of flaws and peculiarities; Monet Yvette Clarisse Maria Therese St Croix. Or M, for short. I adore M. She's incredibly strong, she's deliciously snotty, and she makes for a great double act with Jubilee. Before Kamala, I was beating the drum for this Muslim woman of color to get her own ongoing title.
Aaron: I’m flipping out, Andrew! I didn’t think anyone would go for M, yet! Aaaah! I love Monet St Croix. Deliciously snotty is on the nose, but my god is she a power house!
Steve: There is nothing M can’t do.
Katie: I took my time, but I can’t put it off any more. Pick #5 is Warlock, because he’s adorable and has a cool skillset and there are so many interesting ways artists can play around with his character design. If you’re looking for a kindhearted friend who will let you know when you need to believe in yourself and can also turn into a spaceship when needed, the X-Men’s favorite techno-organic alien is your guy!
Elle: Warlock has been one of my favorites since I was a kid, and I definitely considered him for my team. He’s so versatile, and makes a good foil for pretty much anyone.
Steve: The X-Men's school setting provides an ongoing way of exploring how intolerance affects shifting generations, and in my biased viewpoint my generation got all the best new mutants. Chief amongst them? Pixie. A chirpy Welsh lass, Pixie brushes off the hate with a smile and a laugh. Pixie is one of my favorite characters because she’s come up against some of the hardest times but still found a way to turn it into a way to flirt with hunks like Captain America and Gambit. She makes mutant hatred seem like the stupidest thing imaginable --- because how could anyone in their right mind hate her?!
Elle: Joanna Cargill, Frenzy, will be my team’s Muscle, and also the fourth former criminal of the five mutants I’ve picked so far. I guess I just like redemption stories, and Joanna’s is unique, being inspired by the very Marvel Universe experience of retaining memories from an alternate timeline in which she was a hero. Hero or not, she’s still a big, tough super-brawler, which is a role that’s still not played by women nearly as often as I’d like for it to be.
Aaron: If my choices have proven anything, it’s that I also love a powerhouse with a transformative backstory. Magik has a heartbreaking history --- she truly is a tragic character. Growing up in a hell dimension has hardened her, making her aloof and amoral. After her transformation, she’s no longer the baby sister Colossus remembers. She’s an immensely powerful sorceress, and no doubt one of the most powerful X-Women on this list. Illyana’s judgement may not always be the best, but under it all is a traumatized girl who survived a literal hell. And what’s not to admire about that?
Andrew: Splitting up the Rasputins like that is just mean, Aaron. Mean.
Steve: I’m amazed that it took so long to pick Magik! Then again, I imagine most readers are still tearing out their hair at the lack of Cyclops, Wolverine, Cable, etc. The real mystery here, though --- who’ll be first to claim Sammy Pare?
Andrew: Steve, you’re being ridiculous. Only one of us can claim Sammy Pare. But even I’m surprised that Jean has been picked twice and no-one wants Beast.
Steve: “No-one wants Beast” is literal Marvel canon at this point.
Katie: “No-One Wants Beast” will end up being the title of the next Marvel event, mark my words.
Elle: I actually love Beast — he's one of my favorite characters — but honestly I like him better on the Avengers or the Defenders than the X-Men. Hank lets himself have a lot more fun when he's away from home.
Andrew: If Magik is off the table, I have a kinder, gentler monster in mind for my team, and another serious powerhouse who doesn't get the respect she deserves. Meggan, the Romani elemental shapeshifter from the pages of Excalibur. Her profound connection to nature makes her formidable; her sweet and sensitive character makes her truly heroic. If anyone were picking X-Men on strength alone, Meggan would be on every incarnation of every team.
Katie: Since we’ve been talking about big names that haven’t been picked, I suppose it’s time to bring this hero into the fold. For my sixth pick and one of my wild cards, I choose Wolverine. X-23 Wolverine that is! See what I did there?
It was checking out All-New Wolverine that I got to see how wonderful a character Laura can be in the right hands. She’s certainly her own person, with her determination to not kill, and firm stance on the humanity of clones like her, but she still has aspects of her dad that make her a fine fit for the Wolverine role. Laura’s quips alone have me sold.
Elle: Aw man, I was just about to pick Laura Kinney on my next round. I already knew she was overdue for someone to pick, though. She’s the one true Wolverine, after all.
Steve: My Muscle character is Polaris. Don’t think Polaris counts as a muscle?! You’ve clearly never jilted her at the altar. I love Polaris, with her simultaneous coolest head and craziest freak-outs. Peter David has her as the smartest mind in the room, the most considered and sensible person around. Everybody else has her wigging out every second moment, flipping around and screaming about her parents.
Andrew: I think you and Katie both have loose interpretations of ‘muscle’ if we take it to mean super-strength, but if it means ‘can knock down a wall’, you’re both doing fine. Your stubborn contrarianism is noted, though!
Katie: Hey, Sam Guthrie can also lift very heavy boxes as well as knock down walls!
Steve: Whereas Polaris can lift very heavy fridges.
Elle: If I can’t have the Wolverine I want, I’ll need somebody with a feral side, and Rahne Sinclair/Wolfsbane has been one of my favorites since the '80s. And really, it’s the '80s version that I want: no kids, buzz cut, very conflicted about the possible evil-ness of her powers.
Steve: Will nobody pick Feral!?!
Katie: As a lapsed Catholic, I feel so hard for Rahne. My religious upbringing wasn’t emotionally abusive and toxic like hers, but I totally get the struggle between very conservative ideals and the secular world and learning what being a good person means to you when taking in more than one worldview.
Aaron: Alright, it seems Steve and I are on the same page, because my Muscle is none other than the Master of Magnetism, Magneto. I’m surprised he hasn’t been selected yet! When you think of quintessential X-Men arcs, foes, and the fight for mutant advocacy and acceptance, no one comes to mind more than Magneto. .
Magneto is a beautiful grey-area character. While he’s not without his faults, his conviction rivals that of Xavier. Also, he’s got a grandeur that’s worth swooning over more than Ryan Gosling shirtless.
Andrew: Clearly this is the heavy metal round, and Katie is right; it's very conspicuous that no-one has claimed Wolverine. Since I have Nightcrawler and Colossus, and I do need a third Musketeer for my team dynamic, I guess the obligation falls on me.
My sixth pick is Wolverine, aka Daken Akihiro. Because who doesn't love a sexy bisexual biracial psychopath with tattoos and a mohawk? Daken's my Villain pick, and he's almost irredeemable --- but having terrifying timebombs of carnage on the team is an old X-Men tradition. Plus, my team needs a canon queer member, and the X-Men doesn't have as many of those as it should. (I say 'canon queer' because obviously, in my version, Colossus is gay and everyone else is bisexual.)
Katie: When push comes to shove I will headcanon pretty much every character as bi, so I am totally in your corner, Andrew. Solidarity.
My next pick is a real wild card; Longshot, baby! It’s his optimism and desire to help others that defines him. And because his powers need to be used selflessly to be effective, he’s very handy to have, but very tricky to use strategically. I’ve been choosing my fantasy team line-up not just for their cool powers but for how I think they’d all play off each other, and ball of sunshine Longshot would absolutely hold his own around the big personalities on my team.
Steve: At this point we’re upsetting literally everybody, so it’s time to go all-in and pick Sage. One of the original seven X-Men --- yeah, come at me, purists --- Sage spent years as a double agent inside the Hellfire Club before coming out of almost literally nowhere to reveal herself on the side of Xavier all along. She’s the most amazing X-Men character of all, because she came along during Claremont’s weirdest years. Every issue she picks up a new power, or reveals a secret nobody knew, or engages in a war with an existing character for literally no reason.
Andrew: Sage is also the coolest X-Man to ever wear red spectacles.
Elle: Roxy Washington, aka Bling, is a character with so much untapped potential. She’s the 616 version of Blue Ivy Carter, but she’s a gay teenage mutant. It frustrates me how all these great young mutants are created and then ignored once the creative team changes. Bling’s the one I’d most like to see rehabbed and spotlighted.
Andrew: I agree! Bling really stands out among her generation of mutants as one that deserves some attention. She feels very different from everyone that came before her.
Katie: Bling is definitely one of those characters I’ve heard about being great but then don’t see used, and that’s frustrating --- especially because, as you said, she’s a queer teen, and comic books need as many of those stories as we can get.
Aaron: My next choice is in the vein of Heathers and Mean Girls; The Stepford Cuckoos! A trio that’s damn near perfection --- thanks to being the clone offspring of Emma Frost --- the Cuckoos are the fiercest hive mind in existence. They’re glossy, they’re delightfully snippy, and they make for a substantial telepathic stand-in when the usual suspects are MIA. Thank you Grant Morrison, for creating the Plastics of the Xavier Institute.
Andrew: I already picked a Wolverine, so now I guess it's time to pick everyone's favourite Summers brother. By which I mean Alex Summers, aka Havok.
He's the ultimate little brother character, full of overlooked potential, stifled by the love and attention given to his over-praised older brother. I feel for Havok. There's something very raw and sympathetic about him. I heart his insecurities and his angst.
And now; the final picks to complete our fantasy X-Men teams! We've all completed our requirements, so it's all wildcard choices for this round. It could go anywhere. Even Sammy Pare! Even Cyclops! Even… Beast?
Steve: Whoa whoa whoa, let’s not get crazy here
Katie: I won’t lie, this last pick was the hardest one, not least because the rest of you picked so many good picks that were on my list, you jerks! But I still have one character in mind. I’m choosing to close out my team with Forge.
Forge’s powerset can be incorporated into storylines in many different ways --- the mix of sorcery and technology, how he balances the two sides of himself, can be absolutely fascinating. He’s also a Native American hero, and I would love to see Marvel put its best foot forward by writing a modern version of Forge that reflects the real experiences of Cheyenne people. It occurs to me that pairing him up with the techo-organic Warlock could be a fantastic opportunity for both power combos, and hilarious misadventures featuring two very different personalities, which I am all for.
Steve: So many good characters still left out! Ahhhhhhh! Okay, fine, I’m going to finish with one of the best-written and most brilliantly intriguing characters ever to see the interior page: Layla Miller. Or, as we definitely shouldn’t ever call her, ‘Butterfly’. Layla Miller is the creepiest hero, a young girl with a cryptic knowledge of the future. She does strange stuff, is legitimately kinda a murderer, and makes huge decisions on the blink of an eye. Her part in Messiah Complex, in particular was shocking and bravura storytelling.
Elle: My last pick is Shark-Girl! Iara Dos Santos is another young mutant who I don’t want to see forgotten as the X-titles march on. She’s a great visual, and brings that old-school “but what if I’m a monster?” drama to the team better than just about anybody else.
Aaron: My final pick is Shatterstar, aka my X-Force crush. Who is he? Where did he come from? Why do I gush whenever I see him on a page? A bio-engineered warrior created for the sole entertainment of the gladiator arena that finds love in fellow X-Force member, Rictor? What’s not love? Not to mention his “space-olympian guard” armor and ridiculously long ponytail! He’s definitely the true wild card for my team, but as an amazing strategist with a grit none of my other members possess, he’s a welcome addition.
Andrew: OK, I get the very last pick. I was strongly considering Shatterstar myself, but with him gone, I have to go with a character who I want to see properly established in the big leagues; Victor Borkowski.
Vic is my favorite of the post-2000s kids, in part because his planned 'tragic gay suicide tale' was ditched and he got the chance to grow. That actually feels pretty important. Sure, the story was abandoned in part because editorial lacked courage, but good things can grow in poop. Vic has emerged as a natural hero, and the fact that he's both a gay kid and one of the X-Men's visibly monstrous members --- like Roxy --- holds a special appeal for me. One proviso, though; the codename 'Anole' is bad and has got to go. Maybe he can copy Kid Gladiator and Kid Omega and become Kid Lizard?
Those are the teams, and now... we're going to let the readers vote on which team they like the most:
You can let us know your X-Men dream team in the comments (but you'll have a free pick from all of them). Then come back next week to help out our expert panel as we determine the 100 greatest X-Men of all time.