Interview with Brian Cronin on “100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know…” Part 2


Bam Smack Pow continues its conversation with Brian Cronin about his new book on the X-Men, along with his favorite “Comic Book Legends” experiences.

In part one of Bam Smack Pow’s two-part interview with author and columnist Brian Cronin, we discussed at length about his new upcoming book, 100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. Among the topics discussed included his favorite X-Men run, why Chris Claremon is X-Men’s most influential writer, and even some memorable episodes from X-Men: The Animated Series.

For this second-half, we discuss some of the more interesting stories from his Comic Book Resources columns, “Comic Book Legends” and “Comics Should Be Good.”  This the original origin of one of Marvel’s most prominent characters, where the idea for a certain costume came from, and the genesis behind “Comic Book Legends.” In addition, we also discuss more about the X-Men, including what he sees as the future of the franchise. As before, Cronin has approved the following the transcript of our phone conversation.

Bam Smack Pow: You have also written quite a few columns for Comic Book Resources over the years, such as “Comics Should Be Good” and “Comic Book Legends.” Is there a favorite “Legend” that you’ve done?

Brian Cronin: Well, my favorite, and most aggravating, legend involved an early origin for Wolverine. It goes that instead of being a human mutant, he was an actual mutated wolverine. That was something that Dave Cockrum came up with when Chris Claremont joined the book. The plan was to reveal that the High Evolutionary experimented on a wolverine and turned him into a human. Marvel nixed the idea.

The aggravating part for me is that Cockrum always used to talk about it as if it was something that he had planned with Len Wein, when it was actually something that he came up with after Wein had left the book. So when I wrote about the legend in my first book, I credited the idea to Cockrum and Wein, and literally the day that the book came out, Len Wein gave an interview, as a tie-in to then new release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, talking about how he had nothing to do with that origin for Wolverine.

What’s funny is that when Marvel then introduced Spider-Woman soon afterwards, and her original origin was, what else? She was a mutated spider turned into a woman by the High Evolutionary!

Credit: Marvel Comics

BSP: Going back to Grant Morrison. It’s my impression when it comes to New X-Men, there’s a love it or hate it mentally about it. Do you think because of this, some of the changes Morrison didn’t stick?

BC: Well, some of what Morrison did stayed. When it came to Emma Frost, it solidified her place among the X-Men. All the Phoenix stuff with Jean Grey was still there. Turning the X-Mansion into an actual school again came from that run. Fantomex is still very much a part of the comics. And in recent years, writers have rediscovered part of Morrison’s run. When it comes to appreciating comics, things tend to work in generational gaps, as new writers re-visit older stories and I think that New X-Men benefited from that in recent years.

When someone reads a lot of comic books, you can end becoming pretty jaded. Maybe that will happen to me someday, but it hasn’t happened yet. There’s always something good out there.

BSP: What about your opinion on “No More Mutants” (House of M)? Do you think the X-Men franchise still hasn’t fully recovered from that directive?

BC: Well, it definitely didn’t help. I mean, here you had the number of mutants reduced to 200? 198? Something like that? Not like before when there were millions of them. Then they’re all interned at the X-Mansion as wards of the government and watched over by Sentinels? That’s a scenario which doesn’t open itself to a lot of proactive stories.

Later writers did try and follow-up to make the best of it. Except over time, the X-Men just became more and more niche. Once they leave the X-Mansion, all the mutants then move to San Francisco. Then from San Francisco, they have their own island. Then Secret Wars gets rid of them and bring them back. There’s an even point where they’re in the process of moving them off Earth altogether. And they just became less and less relatable.

There’s been a course correction lately. Books like X-Men Gold are marketed with a bent towards referencing the classic stories. Of course, the book has its own twist, naturally.

BSP: Are there any other comics besides X-Men that you’ve become a fan of?

BC: Oh sure. When someone reads a lot of comic books, you can end becoming pretty jaded. Maybe that will happen to me someday, but it hasn’t happened yet. There’s always something good out there. In the case of Marvel, Chip Zdarsky’s work has been really good. So has Kelly Thompson’s. Saladin Ahmed Black Bolt has been excellent. I wasn’t, in any way, a huge fan of Black Bolt in the past. He was just sort of there with the Inhumans. But reading Black Bolt, that series has made me into a fan.

Ahmed’s also come out with another series at BOOM! Studios called Abbott. And the central character is an African American female investigative reporter dealing with the supernatural in 1970’s Detroit? That’s just an incredible hook. So there are plenty of good comics out there if you know where to look.

BSM: Was there any point when writing your “Comic Book Legends” or “Comics Should Be Good” columns that you realized you hit a career high point?

BC: What I think is cool is when I go back reread an old article, and it’s always an interesting experience. That you think, “Oh right, I wrote that. Huh, this is pretty interesting.” There’s one early article that I remember that was about where the idea for Spider-Man’s black costume came from originally. A guy named Randy Schueller wrote to Marvel back when they still accepted open submission during the 1980’s. He suggested Spider-Man should have a black costume, and came up with his own version. Jim Shooter really liked the idea, and he bought it from Randy for over $200.

Years later, Randy read my article about this and he contacted me. He also sent me a copy of the original letter from Marvel, too. So as a follow-up to that “Legends” piece, he talked about his experience and had the image of the original letter. After that, his name appeared in his hometown newspaper crediting him as the guy who pitched the idea for Spider-Man’s black costume. That’s when it really hit me, “Wow! My stuff can really have an impact.”

BSM: Was there any “Comic Book Legend” that you thought was true that turned out not to be true?

BC: Well, before I went to CBR, “Comics Should Be Good” was just its own blog. I would have various columns there. In one of them, I wrote about a storyline that Walter Simonson did in his Fantastic Four run about Doctor Doom and which Doctor Doom appearances were really Doom-bots.

It started when Chris Claremont wrote a story where the villain, Arcade, struck a match on Doctor Doom’s armor to light his cigar. John Byrne looked at that and didn’t like that. He thought there was no way that Doom would ever allow something like that to happen. So, in a later issue of the Fantastic Four, he revealed that the Doctor Doom from that earlier story was really a Doom-bot.

Later Simonson also wrote a story in which revealed that it was very possible that a lot of Doom appearances since the early Lee/Kirby years were Doom-bots. And the rumor was that Simonson had a list of which Doctor Doom appearances that he felt were Doom-bots and which were the real Doctor Doom. And when I wrote that article and referenced Simonson having such a list, Simonson contacted me and told me it wasn’t true. He had heard about the “list” all the time, but it was not actually true. He joked that he should just write up a list and sell it on eBay as “the list.” Then I started thinking about how there were all these stories out there that fans spread around, whether they are true or not, and to me it seemed like I could do a regular column about that.

BSP: So that’s how “Comic Book Legends” got started?

BC: Yes. And here we are.

BSP: I know your book hasn’t come out yet (at the time of this interview), but have you had anyone else look at the review copy? And if so, what’s been the reaction?

BC: My father did some early copy editing for me. He’s the best copy editor that I know from his decades as a corporate and contracts attorney. So after I wrote 100 Things and received the copy of the book from the company for me to make corrections on, I asked him, “Do you want to copy edit it?” and he said, “Sure.” He did a really good job copy editing it. Just a very in-depth job….on the first 20 pages. He’s a great copy editor, but fast he is not. So I just finished the rest. In any event, he’s certainly not the target audience, so it was nice to hear him say that he found what he read to be very interesting.

BSP: So what do you hope the goal is for the book. What do hope readers get out of it?

BC: What I’d like is if X-Men fans find it cool, and learn something they hadn’t before. I also hope they come away with a different take or looking at something from a different angle at the X-Men. Like, say, Paul Smith’s run on Uncanny X-Men. It’s an amazing run, but did you know that it wasn’t until Smith’s stint on the book that Uncanny X-Men became Marvel’s best-selling title? It’s just little things like that that put the whole history of the X-Men into a different perspective, so I’d like it if that helps X-Men fans see the bigger picture of the X-Men’s history.

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BSP: Would you also say this book is for those who want to start reading X-Men but feel intimidated by the number of issues, and all the complex, extensive continuity?

BC: Yeah, that’s a smart way to look at. I think it will help newcomers comprehend all that X-Men history. It also serves as a nice primer, too.

BSP: One aspect of X-Men that seems more associated with it than any other superhero comic is time travel. Why do you think that is?

BC: Well, of course, it started with “Days of Future Past.” Over time, Claremont would revisit that story. Then other writers would revisit it a few more times. And then suddenly, the idea of time travel just became ingrained into X-Men. Rob Liefeld along with Louise Simonson coming up with Cable for New Mutants. Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio creating Bishop. And then there’s “Age of Apocalypse.” It just feels like the concept of time travel just belongs with them. And there’s just been a ton of those stories.

Man, if you look at what was going on with Cable, it gets really complicated. After New Mutants was relaunched as X-Force, Cable eventually got his own series written by Fabian Nicieza. Around issues #6 through #9, he tried to come up with an official origin for the character and having to fit together all of the various pieces of his time travel backstory up until that point was so insanely complex.

By the way, do you why he was named Cable?

BSP: No why?

BC: Because according to Scott Lobdell in “The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix,” he was the cable that unites the past and the present.

BSP: Ah, I always wondered why he was called that. Are there any other X-Men characters you feel are under-appreciated or underrated?

BC: Banshee. Which I get a lot a grief for because no one really cares about him. But when you look at Banshee, he’s the only one who’s depicted having a life outside of the X-Men. Wolverine had something of a life outside of the X-Men, too, but remember when Xavier recruited him, Banshee had an actual job. He was an Interpol agent. He was a cop; he had a kid. He never lived that insulated life like the others, whose lives never seemed to extend past the X-Mansion. Compared to the other X-Men, he’s not old enough to be their dad, but he’s too old to be their peer.

Before All-New, All-Different, he showed up in the X-Men and then dropped from the book. Then he gets circled back in with All-New, All-Different, then goes away again until sometime after Uncanny X-Men #191, but always stayed in the background. However, in the early 1990’s, he started becoming more active again.

But as a Banshee fan, part of me didn’t want him being used so much. Because the thing is, when there’s a less prominent or obscure X-Men character who starts appearing a lot, there’s a good chance they’re going to be killed off. And sure enough, Marvel killed him off a while back. I’m sure Husk fans feel the same, too.

BSP: I guess then Maggot fans should count their blessings.

BC: Maybe so.

That there are so many things about the X-Men that they can learn about from reading the book. And hopefully reading about them will create or sparks an interest in the X-Men like I have.

BSP: Where do see the X-Men going from here? And do you think they could become prominent again?

BC: Yes. I don’t know what that would look like, though. Maybe it will take somebody like Jonathan Hickman taking over and doing for X-Men what he did with Fantastic Four. I could see that happening. However, I think Marvel could try to go back to something that feels familiar to people. Like what happened with X-Men: The Animated Series.

Books like X-Men Gold and X-Men Blue evoke this, though. And I would imagine that Marvel would try to re-visit the 1990s era more.  Like with the Rogue and Gambit miniseries by Kelly Thompson, which is really good. People reading that just love the animated series feel it gives off.

BSP: There’s an argument that the X-Men, because they seem apart from the rest of the Marvel Universe, should have their own separate universe.

BC: Are you talking about the movies?

BSP: I mean the comics.

BC: Well, it’s weird because, whenever Marvel used to do a crossover, the X-Men were a big deal to get to appear in those crossovers. When Marvel was coming up with The Infinity Gauntlet, and were choosing who to guest star in the event, they were told that, for the X-Men, they could only pick two. Wolverine was one, of course, and the other was Cyclops. Then they did a two-page spread of everyone who disappeared when Thanos wiped out half the universe. A large chunk of them were X-Men characters.

They also didn’t have their comic crossover into events like Infinity War. When it came to big crossovers, the X-Men did their own thing.

Back in the mid-1980’s, though, when you had Chris Claremont working with Louise Simonson, who was working with Walter Simonson and they were all friends with Roger Stern, who was really good friends with John Byrne. It was as if they were sharing and weaving this tapestry together. For instance, when Louise Simonson was writing Power Pack, even though it was a minor niche comic, they still made multiple appearances in the other major books of the era like Fantastic Four and X-Men. In Uncanny X-Men #205, where you have Lady Deathstrike hunting down Wolverine, Kate Power takes an active role in the story. Back then, it just seemed more like a shared tapestry, I think.

BSP: Is there anything else worthwhile you can think of that you want readers to know about your book?

BC: That there are so many things about the X-Men that they can learn about from reading the book. And hopefully reading about them will create or sparks an interest in the X-Men like I have. It’s a lot of interesting comic book history. And most of all, it’s a fun read!

Credit: Brian Cronin

"Brian Cronin writes about comic books every day at Comic Book Resources, where last year alone his articles received more than 71 million hits. He also writes about urban legends from the worlds of sports and entertainment at his website, Legends Revealed. His work has appeared in the LA Times and on He has written two books, Was Superman a Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed and Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia. He lives with his wife in Astoria, NY."

SourceTriumph Books

Next: Interview with Brian Cronin on “100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know…” Part 1

100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die is available in bookstores and from Amazon April 15, 2018, and from Barnes & Noble and shops April 18, 2018. It’s also available direct from