I may be crazy.
Let's talk about X, baby. (Sorry, I can't help myself. In addition to being slightly masochistic in my creative endeavors, I get a lot of satisfaction from groan-inducing dad puns.)
But before that, let's just talk about comics. These floppy books have been a part of my life since 1986. At my cousin Jeff's birthday, all the kids got a comic in their goodie bag. The older boys got G.I. Joe issues. Back then, G.I. Joe was IT. Christmas passed a month prior, and I stocked up with Barbecue, Dusty, Blow Torch, Quick Kick, and the greatest seafaring vessel of all-time, the COBRA Hydrofoil (with Lamprey). I so fervently watched the show (Favorite episode: The Viper. He comes to "vipe the vindows.") that I can break out the lyrics to "Cold Slither," unassisted, to this day. So, back to the birthday and my impending goodie bag. I couldn't wait to get my sack of candy and... Care Bears #5? Care Bears #5. CARE BEARS #5? That was my first comic book. Care Bears #5. It's the one where they sit on a cloud. (SPOILER: Every issue is the one where they sit on the cloud.)
Appreciating my abject disappointment, Mom began a long trend of supplying me with comic books, and rides to the places to get them, a mistake she would inevitably regret as I scoured every strip mall in northern New Jersey – of which there are many – looking for that elusive sign, COMICS AND COLLECTIBLES, and pleading to stopthecarstopthecar when I found one. Sometimes we would, and I became acquainted with Mr. Collector, Zapp!, Strictly Mint, Grafik XS, and Outer Limits, as well as the monthly Clifton Comic Con, which might still grace the halls of the old post office on Main Ave every second Sunday of the month.
Back then, I had no rhyme or reason to my collecting. Whatever looked cool, whether it was Captain Carrot in Wonderland, She-Hulk and Howard the Duck chillin' on a slab of bologna in space, or anything involving the Ninja Turtles. Eventually, I settled on Thor as my guy, and I'm patiently waiting for a big screen adaption of Blood and Thunder. At least give me an animated movie here. (Speaking of adapting childhood loves, hey! DC! Let me know when you're ready for a claymation Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew movie. If you wait for Marvel's Spider-Ham, you're always going to play catch-up.)
While I had a smattering of issues here and there, notably worn-out Marvel Milestones reprints of Uncanny X-Men #1 and Giant-Size X-Men #1, it wasn't until a copy of 1992's Uncanny #286, off a Newark airport spinner rack, that I had my first current issue of the X-Men's adventures. I had no idea who the hell anyone was, but that badass blue guy with the metal wings and a hot blue-haired queen-for-a-girlfriend was a cool villain. And the purple-haired warrior woman, Primate, was a great X-Man...
I had a lot to learn.
Thankfully, the marketing department had a plan! Concurrent Marvel Universe and X-Men-specific trading card series tutored me in History X. I loved the design of Captain Britain, which butterfly effected me to Excalibur as hologram cover gimmicks pulled me into the "Fatal Attractions" arc. Action figures and the FOX animated series only bolstered my love for mutants and misfits like Cable, Shatterstar, and Mr. Sinister. By the time Legion was rewriting history, I periodically gobbled up every single book marked with an X, and built an impressive library that included every single mini, maxi, limited and regular series from 1993-97, all while chipping away at the back catalog. (My most prized issue is Uncanny #141. "Days of Future Past" is an obvious tent pole, but I have always wondered about the backstory of Big Alex, the sewer Apache. I have ideas.)
My collection and the moments of my life when I first read or acquired them are intertwined like a caduceus where the snakes are making out and flying away to a pizzeria in Heaven, in which Heaven is the Meadowlands Arena on either of the nights the Devils win the Stanley Cup. Euphoria, man, and I revisited all those memories as I took on this self-inflicted, insane idea to recreate every hero, villain, friend, enemy, and arbitrary passerby that appeared in every issue of the original Uncanny X-Men, 2,535 in all.
I went back to the town pool snack bar with Robbie to place calls to the Toy Biz hotline to request Maverick and Omega Red figures be made. (They were, and I gleefully take the credit.) In re-reading my entire collection, I time-traveled to summers on the Wildwood boardwalk, both as a kid when I found out Who Stopped The Juggernaut (#322), and as an adult excited to see Warpath graduate from the mid-card to main event status (#475).
All those snippets of life that are engrained into my X-Men experience gained new layers of memory as I pored over the series in the last two years. What was once just a lazy summer day in 1996, marking out over an Apocalypse/Avengers/X-Men team-up in my bedroom, was now compounded with a chilly spring evening in 2016, creating avatars of Uncanny #335 at my dining room table, quietly tapping key commands so as not to wake my whatever-the-hearing-equivalent-of-eagle-eyed-is daughter.
I come away with some new questions about my favorite heroes – what is the deal with Magneto's Bermuda Triangle base? – and new appreciation for some stories – Joe Casey and Sean Phillips put together an underrated run, and The Brood Saga is the second-best X-Men story ever.
At times, the work was unbearable. I quit for two months at #190, with no desire to iconize the Avengers, X-Men and New Mutants as barbarians under Kulan Gath's terrible spell. As a result, I can't look at that tale as anything other than the worst X-Men story of all-time, next to the overrated "Kitty's Fairy Tale." (I don't like Kitty Pryde.)
In the end, my mind is sated that I completed such a ridiculous task, although my original plan to make this a poster is Kibosh City. It just got too big. I had hundreds of icons, and nowhere to put them. That said, big shout out and thanks to John Cardoso for programming this site to do what it does. He might even be working on it right now to make the user experience better. Any flaws here are mine, because I tinker with things and don't know what I'm doing. You'd think all those trips to and from the future I read about would have taught me something about fiddling with powers I don't understand.
My only other disappoint is that I never encountered Lifeguard or Random during this project. At least I got a full costume X-Treme, and the sweet red-and-blue Shatterstar. The previous two sentences are not a joke, and I will not apologize for them.