HOW TO FIX THE X UNIVERSE
The Mutant subsection of the Marvel Universe is always under attack for one thing or another: Too many characters, too many books, confusing storylines, lack of storytelling, top artists wasting their talents for the paycheck, etc. etc. etc.
Yet it's still Marvel's best-selling set of books. Go figure.
But I think there's a way to fix this so that it sells plenty of issues and people aren't afraid to admit that they enjoy the X-Men characters.
Once again, I'm going against conventional wisdom here. Having so many mutants is not a problem. It's the biggest asset Marvel Comics has. They're problem lies in not diversifying enough and in trying to cram all those mutants in so few titles.
So am I advocating added even more titles to the X Universe?
Maybe I am. . . Let's think this out.
Each title in the X Universe should operate independently. You shouldn't need to read all the other titles to understand what's going on in your favorite. If someone wants to read just one X title, they should be able to.
Each title should have its own unique cast of characters. Maybe you have Professor Xavier in both X-MEN and UNCANNY X-MEN, but I don't want those two titles to be one large story, divided in half depending on who feels like writing which characters today.
Each title should have its own unique outlook.
Let's start at the end there. Here's a lineup of X books and how they should operate
X-FACTOR: Government-sponsored team of mutants. I don't care if they're rehabilitated bad guys or all good guys or all original X-Men. The story here should be about the struggle of a team of mutants working for a government that also seeks to suppress their populace with Congressional Acts and Sentinel violence. How far does each side trust the other?
X-MAN: I'd keep it the way it is now, more or less. Focus on the outsider nature. Here's a mutant who feels like less of a mutant in the shadows of all the "greats" operating as the X-Men. As such, he's a loner. He fights for himself. On his own. His confidence is not that great.
WOLVERINE: He's Logan. He's not a part of X-Men. As Kurt Busiek said in San Diego, it's wrong to team him and Cyclops up on the same team. One will always undercut the other. So Wolverine strikes off on his own. Gathers his own set of supporting characters, maybe even from within the X Universe. Heck, I'd like to see Jubilee in there more often. I'd picture this as Wolverine's road trip. Maybe he starts off looking for an old friend somewhere else and we follow his adventures along the way. Focus on his solitary nature and on his grey area of morality.
UNCANNY X-MEN: It's a distinct team of mutants from X-MEN, sharing in common only Professor Xavier's guiding hand. These are the front men, showing a united and brave face to the mutant community. They work against public menaces to show Homo Sapiens that Homo Superior are not their enemies, but rather their friends. They go and do the dirty work of fighting the latest idiot who is endangering human lilves. As such, they're more reactive, but very self-conscience of their image. They want to help bridge the gap between mutant and human. They are the self-appointed mutant police.
X-MEN: This team is a little dirtier. They're after the same goals, but they're a bit more pro-active. They also end up getting involved in the space-faring epics. They are more covert, working at disturbing the mutant underbelly before they rise to the surface. Maybe they try to disrupt the Hellfire Club before the Club plots its next move. The team is a little more vigilante, but still not the paramilitary organization that is --
X-FORCE: A group dissatisfied with Professor X. They strike out on their own to be a paramilitary force against various threats, both mutant-related and not. They take no prisoners and make no excuses. This puts them in opposition to Xavier's groups, and the two never speak. Xavier doesn't want to go to war against his own, so he ignores them. That's not so tough, given that X-Force is based on the West Coast and does things that don't always reach the newspapers.
GENERATION X: I'd keep it more or less as it is now. Mutants being trained at the youngest levels to fit in with humanity and to learn how to control their powers and act responsibly. They follow Xavier's dream, but under someone else's tutelage. (I think that's still Banshee, isn't it?)
But that's just the start of the titles you could feature. You could do a whole new STARJAMMERS title. There aren't enough good space operas out there. This is a perfect little group of characters to have one with. They do not operate anywhere near earth. They don't travel here in every other issue. There is no connection, besides back story, to the current X-Men. They're completely separate. People who just like science fiction can turn to this book for that kind of stuff.
While we're in the mood to give the fans what they want, let's have a new Longshot series! At the very least, let's have a 6-issue mini-series. In the world we have today which is increasingly media-driven, I think a look into Longshot's world of Mojo mayhem might be a great idea. Besides, there are those of us who miss the three-fingered lucky man and his girlfriend, Dazzler. Every time there's a chance of him returning, there's a buzz. Let's satisfy that. (Barring everything in this column coming true, let the Marvel Knights guys do that mini-series!)
There's one big keystone of this whole set-up, though. There's one last bit under which this system could operate that is the deal breaker. You have to let the writers and the artists have their freedom. Obviously, you can't eliminate the editor completely. You can't let the writers run completely rampant in the Marvel Universe, contradicting established continuity or interfering with each other's plans. However, if you're going to hire them to write the book, let them write the book! Do not dictate the storylines or silly changes to the stories.
Make sure each book stands on its own. The minute they become inseparable, the whole scheme falls apart. Uniqueness is key.
Inside of this whole structure, of course, you could still have assorted one shots and mini-series, but do not use one of the main books for the sole purpose of setting up such a special. Do not waste my time as an X-MEN reader to advertise your new mini-series. The specials should flow logically from the main titles, but without interrupting them.
I have to admit: I like a lot of X characters. I think they've been poorly treated at times and not worth reading, but they're characters I root for to be good. I want these books to work, because otherwise it's a waste.