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January 02, 2009

Comments

Zetaman

Actually, it was brought up in comics again. This particular scene was replayed before Jean Grey's eyes in the Astro plane. Onslaught dragged her there to reveal to her how creepy Profressor X really was. I forget what issue it was. It was before it was revealed that Onslaught was Professor X. But the revelation that the Prof was a creep made Ms. Grey-Summers skeptical that Chuck could help her and the Juggernaut when the Juggernaut was running scared from Onslaught.
I apologize, but my comic nerd powers doesn't extend to exact issue numbers.

Pat Curley

Reading those early issues it is far from clear that Professor Xavier is an old dude. In X-Men #1 Professor X reveals that his parents worked on the "first A-Bomb project", apparently as a way of explaining his personal mutation. But if his mutation arose as a result of that, he could only be 24 or so at max in 1963/64, since the Manhattan Project started in 1939. True, he is bald, but it's far from unheard of for men to be bald at that age, and of course smart men being bald was something of a comic cliche at the time.

Mark Engblom

But Pat...that still makes Jean Gray only a teenager! I suppose if she's 18 (still officially a teenager) it's legally not a problem for the Prof to have eyes for Jean...but ethically, it's still pretty icky.

Pat Curley

The age differential doesn't bother me (assuming she was 18); but the teacher/student relationship makes it improper. You could argue that gee, he's only thinking it and as long as he doesn't put thought into deed it's nobody's business but his own, but he does seem to be getting a little too friendly with his hands in that first panel.

suedenim

Wasn't Professor X also established pretty early (i.e., in the Lee/Kirby issues) as a WWII veteran himself?

Which, obviously, would be in contradiction to the aforementioned bit about his parents, unless perhaps the first A-Bomb project in the Marvel Universe took place in the 1920s or something....

Actually, now that I think of it, this wouldn't be contradictory unless the "Xavier's mutation was Manhattan Project-related" theory was explicit. Xavier's parents could've just been working on the A-Bomb at the same time their son was in military service.

Grumpy

suedenim... Chuck and his stepbrother encountered the Ruby of Cytorrak while in Korea.

Brian and Sharon Xavier may indeed have worked on the Manhattan Project, but they would have had experience with radioactive materials prior to 1939 (nuclear physics ain't an entry-level job). Their gametes may have been mutated at that time. Shades of the Curies, incidentally.

Pat Curley: "...it's far from unheard of for men to be bald at that age..."

How do we know he's bald? Are we sure he doesn't have the mutant ability to make his hair invisible? Then again, you would know, Curley.

Ian B

Well, times were different then. "Love" in the media was a chaste and idealistic thing, or at least far moreso than today, before we became endlessly enmeshed in abuse narratives. The idea of being "in love" was about honour and virtue, romance and holding hands, consummated with kissing. So you have to remember that in this context, the naughtiest thing our Professor would want to do with Jean is take her to the movies then have a romantic moonlit walk. People just didn't think the way we do, or make the same assumptions. It's an indication of how much society has changed, and how we immediately raise eyebrows and wallow in the negative.

Or to use a hypothetical example; in an early episode of Sesame Street, a little girl makes friends with a lonely old man, and she goes back to his house for tea (or something like that). In 1970-whatever, that was considered a positive image. It was recently released on DVD with a warning notice(!) and such a story would certainly never be done now. Why? Because our default position now is not that adult men might be friends and mentors who enjoy childrens' company, but that they are abusers and monsters waiting for a moment to pounce. Which is very sad.

We have become a cynical, suspicious, distrusting society. There's nothing abnormal about Prof. X fancying the attractive Jean Grey, though as he notes it's inappropriate to act upon it because of his position of trust. Women don't suddenly turn from an asexual lump of dough into a woman on their 18th, or 21st, or 16th, take your pick depending on the law in your area, birthday. The fact that we are shocked and dismayed by Stan and Jack writing a normal human emotion into their story says more about us than them.

Mark Engblom

You make some good points, Ian. We have indeed become an overly suspicious, cynical society...but even taking that era's different standards of attraction and courtship into consideration, I think it's a stretch to see Prof. X's longings as something normal and natural. It's one thing to admire a young woman's obvious beauty, but quite another to profess love for one he's known for only a matter of months (using some of the timeline clues in X-Men #1-3).

Obviously, an older man having a relationship with a much younger woman still happens today (see "Hollywood celebrities"), but there's something about that vulnerable student-teacher connection that remains completely off limits, especially when it involves a teenaged student. Since I wasn't around at the time of publication, I have no way of knowing if the readership was put off by the Prof's thought balloon confession, but...again...I get the feeling that it wasn't as "normal" as you claim it was.

Pat Curley

I doubt the readers were turned off by it at all. In fact, if you want to look at it hard, consider Reed Richards and Sue Storm. How old is Sue? I'm guessing she's an adult but she's unlikely to be much more than 5 years older than her brother, who's clearly played as a high schooler--say 17--in the early adventures. But we know that Reed was involved in WWII, so that means he's pushing 40 pretty hard in 1961. Say he's 38 and she's 26, which is definitely giving the benefit of the doubt on both ends. That's a much bigger differential. And how old is Dr Strange versus Clea?

And the power in most of the Marvel relationships of the 1960s was with the man. Karen Page worked for Matt and Foggy. Jane Foster got her paychecks signed by Don Blake, as did Pepper from Tony.

It makes for another interesting contrast with DC, where the love interests were always independent women, and in at least one case (Carol Ferris) where the female was actually the boss of the male.

As for the "It's too sudden," there's the old saw about "Whoever loved that loved not at first sight?" Marvel characters were very much prone to the loving from afar routine (much like the teenaged boys their comics were aimed at).

It stands out mainly as a plot thread that never ended up being developed. I don't see it as creepy for its time, but it would be frowned on today.

greyman24

Oh, I absolutely agree as to the overall creepiness, there. My wife got me the collected comics on DVD from 1962-2005 for Christmas, and that panel made my jaw drop.

It's creepy not just now, but I think it would've been creepy then as well. Prof X is supposed to be a father figure--not a romantic one. However, it's easy to see how this guy may have made the mistake.

Honestly, though, I didn't give it much of a backward glance because it wasn't brought up again (until recently, as cited above). Course, in some of those early issues, Bobby Drake became Bobby Blake, and Angel was called "Scotty"...so who knows what was going on?

In the end, I chalked it up to overworked writers and letterers.

suedenim

Obviously the fact that they *did* drop this notion immediately suggests it was creepy at the time, something Stan quickly realized was a mistake.

John Nowak

You know, I'm genuinely torn on this. Yes, the teacher / student nature of the relationship makes this creepy, especially if she's in her teens and he's middle aged.

On the other hand, he knows that ("Not while I am the leader of the X-Men"), and he doesn't make a move toward her.

Is he a bad person because he's tempted? I'd think the fact he resists a bad impulse makes him a good person.

Dan

It was noted somewhere in those early issues that Prof X was in his 20's. It wasn't unheard of back in those days. Elvis met his wife Priscilla when she was 14 and he was 10 years older. He supposedly dated her chaperoned by her father. He did wait for her to turn 22 before marrying her although they were living together well before that.

Then there was the truly disgusting case of Jerry Lee Lewis marrying his 13 year old cousin...Grosss!

Dan

It was noted somewhere in those early issues that Prof X was in his 20's. It wasn't unheard of back in those days. Elvis met his wife Priscilla when she was 14 and he was 10 years older. He supposedly dated her chaperoned by her father. He did wait for her to turn 22 before marrying her although they were living together well before that.

Then there was the truly disgusting case of Jerry Lee Lewis marrying his 13 year old cousin...Grosss!

Robert Carnegie

Does it help that Xavier is keeping it to himself? Some, I think. Although as a mental adept I'd expect him to control his own mind as well.

Professor X's evil side, his id I suppose, has come out before Onslaught. An early Uncanny X-Men issue flashed back to the team being attacked by psychic images of the original team generated by him, and he also became an evil Entity in the X-Men/Micronauts crossover, wearing the psychic armour that he originally fought the Shadow King in. His evil self drooled over the New Mutant girls, and was shown enslaving Danielle Moonstar by inducing pure psychic pleasure which is instantly addictive.

Another story to examine is the first time Jean Grey died... ah, but there Scott Summers is narrator, recapping the whole history of the X-Men. Professor X's feelings are mainly left out. That's X-Men 138: she didn't stay dead long enough to count when she reappeared as Phoenix.

Ultimate X-Men's Professor X also told Cyclops that he was (is?) in love with Jean Grey, presumably unrequited. In a twist, Jean's currently alive there and both the others are dead.

Robert Carnegie

Oh, hey. X the Letch appears on another list of "Huh?" stories.
http://www.captaincomics.us/forums/index.php?action=printpage;topic=61.0

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