THE X-MEN #8 (1964): The new Iceman, the first Unus, and the beginning of mutant-racism

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One of the best parts about reading all of the issues of a particular comic, and one that has been around for half a century, is going back to the roots of the series.  Sure, earlier issues are a little clunky and often wordy (especially Stan Lee’s!), but you get to see new ideas forming in every issue.  Where today’s comics are driven largely by character and “big stories,” the original comics were about bringing new ideas to the table, every issue, and refining them over time.  In 1964, there had never been a Cyclops, or an Iceman, or a Marvel Girl.  It was all new.

In issue #8, Iceman begins to hone the look he would keep for decades after.  But even more importantly, we get the first “fear of mutants” idea…

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In the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, Lee and Steve Ditko were exploring the “everyman’s” fear of folks with superpowers, as J. Jonah Jameson would spend each issue railing about the thread of Spidey.  In this issue, he takes it one step further and we begin to see mutants as a placeholder for African Americans—and fear of mutants not as fear of people with power, but as fear of people who are simply different.

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At the start of this tale, Beast quits the X-Men and decides to become a pro wrestler, ‘cause he’s sick of how much the world hates mutants so he decides to go for his.  Strange how both Beast and Spider-Man thought wrestling was the best way to earn money when you have phenomenal athletic powers. 

Anyway, this leads to a meeting with Unus the Untouchable, a mutant with his own personal forcefield who also figured that wrestling was the fastest route to cash money.  Unus has been told he can join The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants if he beats an X-Man.  Weirdly, Immortus was told the same thing about joining the Masters of Evil in Avengers #10.

Anyway, Beast goes back to the X-Men and builds a device that makes Unus’ forcefield backfire, so the dude can’t even put food in his own mouth.

So let me get this straight: Beast can create a machine to amplify mutant powers, but he thinks he’ll be a millionaire if he just goes into wrestling?

Weird.

But it’s the kind of wacky, Silver Age weirdness I love! 

Creators: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

First appearance: Unus the Untouchable

Grade: B.  Unus is a d-list villain, but I love him.  Add to that Beast becoming a scientific genius and Iceman getting his new look, and you’ve got a pretty significant issue.

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