We know the X-Men through their iterations on the comic page, television screen, and more often of late, the silver screen. They’ve come and gone in eras, along with variations of their allegiances and costumes. Who can forget Storm’s fantastic punk style and mohawk in the 80’s, or Jubilee’s 90’s inspired, mall-accessorized outfit? Even Beast has seen his visage go from blue brute to something a plastic surgeon might perform on a wealthy, has-been starlet: the cat face.
They’ve fallen in love and split up again, had kids who time-travelled back to help them in the present, and have been persecuted by the world for their genetic differences. They’ve even been killed off and, more often than not, brought back to life through cosmic loopholes. That fact alone should be the ultimate lesson for anyone going toe-to-toe with the X-Men: good luck keeping them dead.
The one constant with Xavier’s crew has been, for the most part, their powers. Sure, Jean Grey absorbed the Phoenix and turned into a new character—and so did Cyclops more recently. In other storylines they’ve lost their powers altogether. But we as an audience have a general rule of thumb for what each mutant can do. Their diverse abilities create a playbook many-times imitated by other character groups—which is also what makes them a tad boring. We know what to expect when the X-Men get in a tussle, and who fits in where.
Which is why I’m swooping in for a rescue. At various times in both our major comic book universes (Marvel & DC) we’ve seen their caretakers push reboots. Most recently we had 2011’s The New 52, which reset the age and storylines on all of DC’s characters. In the year 2000 Marvel did an alternate reality version of their household with Ultimate Marvel, introducing Miles Morales as Spider-Man and tweaking many other beloved characters.
My fresh take on the X-Men isn’t ultimate, though. Let’s instead brand it as something fun like: The Rather Abnormal X-Men.
Progenitor of the X-men, Charles has gone from a respected father figure to an annoying stepdad that won’t go away. He’s worked with and betrayed his own team, been inhabited by other, more powerful mutants, and on more than one occasion he’s even been assassinated.
In The Rather Abnormal X-Men, he needs a course correction in order to return to his wholesome image. For that reason, our Charles Xavier will have a thick, shaggy beard and long locks—kind of a Dude from The Big Lebowski type figure. And his powers of telepathy will be limited to only a two foot radius, which means he’d have to come in for a hug in order to read your mind. Also, instead of that fancy, motor-driven wheelchair he gets to zip around in lately, let’s put him in a squeaky old wheelchair that always needs pushing. Now picture our new Xavier: napping beneath a colourful Afghan blanket in the corner of a meeting room, luring people in close with Werther’s Originals so that he can read their minds, and constantly apologizing for the burden he imposes on his young recruits. He’d be a positively delightful addition to the mansion.
Scott Summers has always had the stick of leadership shoved a little too far up his ass. Partially this is because he was the original field commander of the X-Men, charging into battle first. Also we can blame Xavier for instilling in Scott a permanent college quarterback mentality.
In The Rather Abnormal X-Men, he won’t have to worry about all that confidence, because we’re taking some of his powers away. Instead of a great beam of ruby energy bursting from his visor, his eye-beams will only have enough strength to cause troublesome sunburns. Counteracting Cyclops would require wearing at least FPS 30 sunblock to the battlefield, but who prepares like that? Most of us forget the stuff when we head out to the beach on vacation.
She made being a ginger acceptable, which is a special ability unto itself. Although deemed one of the most powerful mutants to wield telepathy and telekinesis, Jean Grey was horribly robbed of a cool name (admittedly, she was initially called Marvel Girl, but that moniker was dropped not long after). Everyone else on the team got to keep their invented labels, but Jean had to go so far as becoming possessed and turning evil in order to be called The Phoenix.
In our universe, we’re going to acknowledge her abilities but also invert them. Instead of reading minds, Jean can only determine what someone’s not thinking about. The end effect remains the same, but requires a complicated process of elimination. She can also still lift things with her mind, but only objects she’s not intending to lift. By attempting to pick up a cup of coffee, she might instead lift the entire house around it.
Everyone’s favourite raging berserker slashed his way into our collective hearts because he’s one of the only X-Men members willing to truly get dirty. In a world where the internet froths vitriol if the movie version of a hero kills someone—even inadvertently—Wolverine’s been lopping off limbs and heads for decades. Known mostly for his unbreakable claws, and partially for his healing ability, he’s mighty tough to kill.
In The Rather Abnormal X-Men, we’re going to even that playing field. There’s no point in eliminating Wolverine’s healing factor, but we will add a caveat: Wolverine can still heal, but he has to sing the Meow Mix song for it to work. If he stops singing, he stops healing. And let’s make those claws what they should be. Animals in nature often have claws no longer than can properly retract. I know there’s an explanation for his setup, but I’ve always found it a smidgen ridiculous that they could somehow slide deep into his forearms. His new adamantium claws will be no more than two inches long, making his kills the result of a thousand scratches rather than a single, gory vivisection.
On the cover of the very first X-Men issue he looks more like a snowman than an ice man, but we’ll forgive Jack Kirby for a lifelong lack of artistic skills (kidding). Though he’s always been a brash teenager, Bobby Drake’s one of the oldies—a card-carrying original member of the X-Men. Everything about Marvel’s Iceman oozes winter fun: throwing glacial chunks, sliding along zigzagging ribbons of ice, and even freezing his entire body into a solid piece of blue-tinged crystal.
Our Iceman will follow more reasonable rules. It’s fair to have a character manipulate and form ice, but let them also feel the effects of the cold. Using your powers would then be a balancing act between wanting to fight with ice, and not wanting to freeze to death. In other words, our Iceman would be able to blast cold weather from his hands, but risk frostbite and black fingers in the process. Let him turn entirely to ice, but the body can only take those temperatures for a few moments before experiencing hypothermia—or losing a nose. And instead of a skin-tight spandex suit, he’d need to be bundled up in the heaviest winter gear.
He’s the Russian man of steel: peaceful, honest, and hesitant to harm others. He’s also one of the most physically imposing X-Men. When in metal form, Colossus utilizes superhuman strength, stamina, and durability—becoming almost invulnerable. This transformation can be performed at will, and aside from if he’s knocked unconscious, will remain in effect until he turns it off.
We won’t strip our Colossus of his hallmark ability, but we will add a precondition. The only time most of us need a heavy weight is when we’re trying to hold something down. Look around your desk at home or work and you’ll find similar objects: paperweights. Thus, Colossus can still transform into a mass of metal, but he has to be standing on top of papers in order to achieve the state. If he steps off a pile of paper, he turns back into regular man. Calling him “The Human Paperweight” is a little too acute, so we’ll let Colossus stand.
No one pulls off pink better than our favourite Cajun. Gambit’s an old fashioned lady’s man, bursting with southern charm. While his unrelenting pursuit of female attention is famous, his results are often less so (look no further than an on/off love interest with Rogue that redefines the term friend-zone). His mutant abilities are perhaps the most unusual of the group, allowing Gambit to charge inanimate objects with bio-kinetic energy. Often this charge is given to playing cards that are then spun towards foes before exploding.
Old Gambit is one of my personal favourites, but he needs some new rules in order to mesh with his comrades. In The Rather Abnormal X-Men he’ll retain his ability to transfer bio-kinetic energy, except now he’ll only be able to send the energy through gaseous expulsions: farts. Our Gambit will be forced to wear a bandolier of small mason jars which he can remove and fart into, storing the bio-kinetic energy in the jar itself. Thrown, the jar would then act as a hand grenade. Now, farting through pants is no easy task, so he’ll also have to wear full-body pajamas with the footies and, most importantly, a butt-flap. Such an access hatch would prove instrumental in getting farts into jars expediently.
I could go on, of course, but I believe that this team of six, plus their fearless leader, is enough of a start. We’ve done away with the old, predictable X-Men; we’ve cast away powers that enemies and villains will expect each time, and introduced an element of unstable fun to one of the comic book world’s favourite groups. Your welcome, Marvel, and let me know if you need an address for the royalty checks.
Image credits in order of appearance: Comingsoon.net (Header) Screen Rant (Charles Xavier), Screen Rant (Cyclops), Red Monki (Jean Grey), Heroes Assemble (Wolverine), Marvel (Iceman), Geekandsundry (Colossus), Collider (Gambit)