Every other week, Jason Shayer will highlight an issue or a run of issues pulled from the horde of comic book long boxes that occupy more room in his house than his wife can tolerate. Each of these reviews will delve into what made that issue or run significant as well as discuss the creative personalities behind the work. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.
I fondly recall picking up a copy of the New Mutants #1 from a local convenience story waaaay back in 1983. Unlike reading the Uncanny X-Men, where I always felt like I was behind and that there was over a hundred issues to catch up on, New Mutants #1 was a great launch into the world of mutants. I had completely missed the New Mutants Graphic Novel, but the story from the point of view of the young mutants swept me up.
While the New Mutants had powers, they weren’t your traditional city-patrolling heroes. They were kids and they not only had to deal with controlling their powers, they had to deal with real teenage problems, like crushes, school, and insecurity. They were growing up like I was at the time and that created an immediate connection.
When the New X-Men were recruited, they were almost adults and had learned to use their powers on their own. However, the New Mutants are raw and talented kids who need to be trained to use their powers, and they still had to go to school! Claremont’s writing style was perfectly suited to play up these angles and really hook young readers.
From an interview with Comics Collector #2, Claremont explains: “And in a sense, I think that’s perhaps why we created The New Mutants – to do a book where those realities [death and violence] do no so much intrude. To do a book where kids – a younger audience – could read it enjoy it and be scared and excited without having the fundamental pay-off of somebody suffering such an essential trauma as death. It may be that X-Men has developed to a point where it is not a book that appeals to the youngest audiences.”
Bob McLeod was also the perfect artist to capture that young mutant team. His depiction of them was perfect with their teenage awkwardness and gait.
In an interview with the Comic Book Bin, Bob McLeod had more to say: “Chris [Claremont] already had the characters basically imagined when I came on board. Chris, Louise [Simonson] and I decided to make the thrust of the book all about the school, so the New Mutants wouldn’t just be another super-group like all the others. I pushed to have more females than males in the group, and helped to decide on what costumes they’d wear (we decided to go with a school uniform), and I created the physical look of the characters.”
Having been part of that target market in 1983, this title captured the imagination of that thirteen year old and had me hooked with this first issue and saw me collect the title until it ended with #100.
Jason Shayer has been trying his best not to grow up for that last 30 years and comics books are one of the best ways to keep him young at heart. He’s also known as the Marvel 1980s guy and has probably forgotten more than you’d ever want to know about that wonderfully creative era. Check out his blog at: marvel1980s.blogspot.com.