Spider-Man and the X-Men: Not so left-field as you’d think…

With Wolverine soon to go to that great Weapon X chamber in the sky, Marvel have announced his replacement – and, seemingly from the left-field, it’s none other than Spider-Man!  But is this as left-field as it seems at first glance?

Spider-Man’s history with the X-Men

Let’s first acknowledge that few super-heroes have teamed up with the X-Men more than Spider-Man.  Now, in part that’s due to the fact Spider-Man has had various ‘Team-Up’ magazines designed to give him one-off adventures alongside other Marvel characters; but that’s not all of it by any means.

Marvel Team-Up
There have been a LOT of these!

In fact, Spider-Man first encountered the X-Men in the 1960s, when he crossed paths with the team and was turned away as a member – based on his not being a mutant.  Over the years since, he’s had X-Men appear in his own titles many, many times; celebrating the X-Men’s 25th anniversary, he even had a two-part team-up with the original X-Men against Professor Power.  Spider-Man has routinely clashed with Sentinels, and had entire arcs in the 1990s dedicated to mutants and the Friends of Humanity!  And even backup cast in the Spider-Man world have proved important to the X-Men.  The best example is J. Jonah Jameson, who played a cool role in ‘Operation: Zero Tolerance’.

Spider-Man has been particularly close to Wolverine, and in ‘New Avengers’ Brian Bendis quickly hit upon the fun of teaming those two up.  As a result, there was even a mini-series ‘Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine’ (and that’s not even mentioning the ‘Spider-Man and the X-Men’ mini-series that pitted the allies against Sinister and Kraven).

Fist Bump
Spider-Man and Logan just seem to ‘click’.

Cast your eyes to other media, and the connections are just as strong.  Iceman was one of the key characters in ‘Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends’, and the mutant Firestar debuted in that series; she’s now an X-Man, and in an amusing nod a recent issue of ‘Wolverine and the X-Men’ (re)united these Amazing Friends.  There was also a two-part X-Men arc in the 1990s’ ‘Spider-Man’ animated series, featuring the X-Men of the classic ‘90s ‘X-Men’ series.  And they even had a team-up in a game…

X-Men Spidey Game
I admit, I never played it…

Based on history alone, no other Marvel super-hero has this amount of mutant (and X-Man) experience.

Should a non-mutant be teaching mutants?

The central issue seems to be that Spider-Man isn’t a mutant, and fans feel he shouldn’t be teaching at the Jean Grey School as a result.  The moment you word it like that, though, you see the problem: the X-Men are supposed to stand for inclusion, not for segregation.  Why wouldn’t they allow (or even encourage) a non-mutant to teach?

Actually, Spider-Man solves a bit of a problem the X-Men have been attempting to sweep under the carpet since the Morrison era, when the School went public.  The problem is this: they have no qualified teachers.  The current teachers of the Jean Grey School have only two qualifications: they’re mutants, and they’ve been around a while.  So what makes them good teachers?  At least Spider-Man is a qualified teacher!

Spider-Man Unmasked
A memorable issue: my teacher is Spider-Man!

Cast your eye to ‘Wolverine and the X-Men #19’.  Here, we see Kitty Pryde interview applicants for the role of teacher at the School.  These are the people who got through the application process, who evidently met the School’s requirements, and (with the exception of Deadpool, who just turned up anyway) merited an interview.

Job Applications
Yeah, it was funny, and the Firestar nod was amusing, but… What?!?  Ironically, Jennifer Sloan makes a serious point!

It gets worse. There are only a handful of X-Men who’ve expressly had central character arcs about their being teachers.  Wolverine – soon to die.  Kitty Pryde – now at Cyclops’ Xavier School.  Emma Frost – now at Cyclops’ Xavier School.  Banshee – I believe he’s dead again.  Rogue – not in a good place right now, and seems to have bowed out of the Jean Grey School.  Yes, the Jean Grey School has lost all its’ most capable and experienced teachers.  It’s about time they recruited another one.

Oh, and let me mix things up further: who mentored Hope?  Who taught Cannonball how to turn while blasting?  Who crossed paths with the New Mutants early in their X-Force stint, and had several encounters with Generation X?  You got it in one: Spider-Man.  He even has a history of mentoring X-Men and working alongside the younger mutants.

Power and Responsibility
Let’s face it, this is one guy who knows why he’s a hero. Rather than just teach mutants, he can teach HEROES.

At least this time the School gets a teacher, whether Spider-Man is a mutant or not!

It makes Business Sense

I think part of the problem is that this is being seen as the successor to ‘Wolverine and the X-Men’.  I think it’s only partly a successor to this series; it’s also partly a continuation of the strategy Marvel began in ‘Uncanny Avengers’.  Think about it: this isn’t one brand, it’s two.  Wolverine, as a brand, is strongly linked to the X-Men; Spider-Man, as a brand, currently stands apart.  By bringing the two together, Marvel attempts to appeal to fans of both brands.  Clever business strategy.

What’s more, according to solicits this series actually seems like an attempt to respond to a major criticism of the current X-Men comics.  Spider-Man’s class consists of the following mutants: No-Girl, Rockslide, Glob Herman, Ernst, Hellion, Shark Girl, and Eye Boy.  These are younger mutants who have been critically under-exposed, in some cases for nearly a decade, and Marvel are to be commended for giving these characters a chance.  The reality is, ‘young X-Men’ comics just don’t seem to sell well, so it makes perfect sense for Marvel to mix things up a bit.

Spider-Man and X-Men
School is in session!

Thematically, as well, Spider-Man has been switched up a lot by Dan Slott.  Under Slott’s lead, Spider-Man has become sci-fi to an extent we’ve never seen before; after all, the next major Spider-event, ‘Spider-Verse‘, is a reality-hopping epic!  The X-Men, of course, are traditionally science-fiction – genetic mutation, alien races, etc – and that means the books are more aligned than they ever have been before.

Spider-verse Land 1
In my view, Spider-Verse sounds to be one of the most enjoyable Spider-stories to date, and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s also traditionally more X-Men-style than Spider-Man-style…

At first, my reaction was like everybody else’s; eye-rolling, ironic comments, amused disbelief.  But you know what?  It actually makes sense.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Psychodad says:

    no. it doesn’t. it’s a marketing move and doesn’t really flow well. The X-Men all have open identities. Spider-Man and Peter Parker are essentially separate entities. Spider-Man has rarely been a team player (he didn’t really fit in with New Avengers either). True, he’s at times acted as a mentor to various young mutants, but it always came across as almost condescending. Also, the X-Men have always been a family. This is like the friend of the family coming in and trying to take the place of one of the family uncles. it just doesn’t fit.

    Like

    1. Good point with the identity thing, except… some members of the X-Men have tended to keep their identities secret from the others. I mean, how long was it before the X-Men knew Rogue’s real name?

      I think the key thing is, this is Cyclops teaching at the School. I’m yet to see any indication he’s a member of the team. 🙂

      Like

      1. Psychodad says:

        true, Rogue kept her name a secret for many years. but she didn’t wear a mask. 🙂

        Like

      2. Ironically, Wolverine – the guy with no family to lose lol – has usually worn a mask :p

        Like

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