As part of the year long celebration of Marvel Comics 80th Anniversary, Marvel Editor Ben Morse spoke to artist Phil Jimenez about what characters and creators impacted him most.
Why did the X-Men stand out from other comics for you?
I have told this anecdote many times, but it remains absolutely true. For many people—indeed, for most readers—the X-Men and their world represent a group of heroes defined by difference, and persecuted for it. Despite being hated for those differences, they still band together in order to protect the humanity that has seen them as second-class citizens or worse, and in many cases wants to see them exterminated altogether. For many, this is an obvious metaphor for the volatile politics of race or sexual identity. But what the X-Men represented to me was a way of living that was larger than the tiny life I had in suburban [California].
As a young, gay, latchkey kid, the X-Men represented to me the possibility of escape. They wore fabulous costumes, lived in a mansion in upstate New York, traveled to other dimensions and into outer space, were living in New York City at an incredible cultural moment, and embodied the spirit of fabulous. The X-Men were like incredible underground drag queens and kings, who wore thigh highs and space bikinis to fight crime. More than any other super team, the X-Men represented difference and diversity as desirable and even something to be celebrated. So for me, the X-Men represented possibility, and the possibility of family of choice, and of living a life bigger than one I could’ve ever dreamed. And they meant embracing difference and letting it be a strength, not a weakness. If being different and persecuted for it meant being like one of the X-Men, then count me in I’ve always said!
Who were the characters that most drew you to the X-Men?
The 1980s iteration of Storm will always be my favorite Marvel character. It might be a matter of timing, because I started reading the X-Men just as Storm was transitioning from Earth goddess to punk icon, but I can think of no other character that I was as emotionally invested in. When she lost her powers, I think I felt like I lost a bit of my soul. Her journey over those few years spoke to me more than almost [any other] Super Hero character—and no one mattered to me more than she did.
Who are the creators you most closely associate with the X-Men?
There is no one I am more closely associated with the X-Men, let alone pop culture, [than writer] Chris Claremont…Claremont’s focus, vision, scope of ideas, sexual sensitivity, mannered dialogue, and ability to adjust story and pace to the strengths of his artist is nearly unparalleled during this period of time, or perhaps any time that I can remember in comics. While some see his work as dated, I see its mannered approach and far reaching, hyper coordinated inner-series plotting as a vital, irreplaceable, and often under-considered cornerstone of the Marvel Universe we know today.