The X-Men #7, September 1964

Photo by Jonathan Cooper on Unsplash

“Seconds later, in answer to the time-honored carny battle cry, a group of husky roustabouts charge the mighty mutant!”

Central Conflict: The X-Men VS. The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants VS. The Blob

“It’s come at last! The moment we’ve been waiting for! We are looking at the uncanny X-Men, accompanied by Professor Xavier as they pose before an automatic camera on their graduation day!” And so issue 7 begins with caps and tassels, scrolled diplomas, and much handshaking and congratulating.

Now that he X-Men have graduated, what new rights and privileges are bestowed upon these strapping young mutants? They’re not just gonna keep fighting and going on the same monster-of-the-week style missions, right? Right?

Well, no, something will change. Xavier turns to his team and says that now that they have graduated, he must say farewell. Like Gandalf, Xavier has some “unfinished tasks” that require his attention elsewhere. So, off he goes without explanation, but not before selecting a “group leader” to act in his stead.

Xavier pulls aside the natural choice, Scott Summers AKA Cyclops, and walks him through the mansion to the secretive west wing. Xavier introduces Cyclops to a byzantine contraption called “Cerebro” (“from the Latin “cerebrum meaning “the brain”!) explaining that its sole purpose is to scan brainwaves and find mutants. This device is necessary to locate mutants while Xavier is away.

The action cuts away to the dark mirror version of the X-Men: Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Magneto, in full costume, walks a carnival seeking out a mutant we’ve seen before: the vividly named Blob. The next pages are a patent recycling of the courting/fighting of Namor we saw last issue.

Magneto’s efforts to recruit Blob could use a little finesse (“Blob! I desire to speak with you!”). It’s not the most elegant seduction. Blob rejects the offer to join the BOEM, which causes—what else?—some rough-housing. One of Magneto’s assaults on Blob results in an impact that “jars loose part of the mental block which Professor X had previously put over the Blob’s memory–!” Blob, remembering his misadventure with the X-Men four issues ago decides to join the Magneto and his Brotherhood.

On the other side of the comic book, the X-Men are at play among the strange and brave frontier of humanity. Hanging in a beatnik club, Beast and Ice Man take in some jazz and a simultaneous “Zen poetry” reading.

This is as goofy, joyful sequence and it’s sad that it comes to an end so soon when Cyclops summons the X-Men to another battle with Magneto (and, now, the Blob.) This battle carries on much the way other skirmishes in these books have so far. The X-Men take on a villain or group of villains whose machinations perfectly tee up opportunities to exercise their mutant powers.

But there is a clever ending: Magneto’s plot to take out the X-Men requires the sacrifice of his newest Evil Mutant, the Blob. The X-Men survive, as does the Blob (though he takes three missiles to the gut).

Magneto and his team fly off, foiled again. And the Blob’s arc ends on a decidedly sad note. “I’ve no hate left in me. I’m just weary! I’m going back–to the only place–to the carny! I’ve lived a sideshow freak–and that’s how I’ll die!”

The takeaway here is that life is rough for a mutant in 1964. Your choices are pretty limited: you can either get the crap kicked out of you by the X-Men and Magneto, or take your chances as a carny. It’s hard out there for a blob.

By Lane Talbot

My work has been listed as notable fiction in Best American Mystery Stories and published in Berkeley Fiction Review, ThugLit, Able Muse and elsewhere. I have an MFA from Southern Illinois University.

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