Comics

This Was Then: Jim Lee and Chris Claremont's X-Men

It is impossible to deny the impact that Jim Lee and Chris Claremont had on the X-Men universe. What they accomplished gave the X-Men more attention than ever before in pop culture.

It is impossible to deny the impact that Jim Lee and Chris Claremont had on the X-Men universe. The first story arc of this new series redefined the X-Men, as seen by the public eye. The characters designed by Lee and brought to life by Claremont’s writing were shoved to the forefront of pop culture. All of the X-Men cartoons, action figures, and video games of the time were based on these specific characters. The first action figure I ever got as a child was Cyclops (Toy Biz 1991). However, when the X-Men animated series came out, I was disappointed that my Cyclops figure did not match the one on T.V. I quickly got over it, but never quite loved my Cyclops figure as much as I did before the cartoon came out. Luckily, years later I was able to get the newer Cyclops, (Toy Biz 1993) that looked like the one from the cartoon. And all was right with the world.

All of this to say, Lee and Claremont’s run on X-Men deeply affected my view of the X-Men. What they accomplished gave the X-Men more attention than ever before in pop culture, so I took it upon myself to take a closer look at this 3-issue story arc that started a snowball, which propelled the X-Men into the spotlight.

In all honesty, the characterization of the X-Men themselves is terribly lackluster. There are eleven X-Men floating around, so each of them only gets one line of dialogue per issue, if they are lucky. The real star of this story is Magneto. His vision for the future and fuel for his anger are depicted very well. The artwork is top notch for 1991, primarily the covers. X-Men #1 is arguably the greatest comic book cover of all time. It is no wonder why this run on the series created a craze that spilled over into other forms of media.

My only complaint on Lee and Claremont’s run is that there are too many X-Men all fighting for center stage. Cyclops, Rogue, and Wolverine stand out, but the rest of the team is all but ignored, aside from an occasional line of dialogue. All things considered, I give X-Men #1-3 a pat on the back. Not only does the story and artwork stand up 19 years after its original release, but also it helped catch the attention of millions of people, making them take notice of the X-Men.

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

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From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

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Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

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Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

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