1/3/08

X15: The X-Kids

X15 is a series of blog posts celebrating the 15 years of x-fandom I have experienced. From the 15th anniversary of first seeing the X-Men in Fox's animated series (late October 1992) to the 15th anniversary of my first comic book purchase (January 1993), I will explore every facet of Professor Charles Xavier's gifted youngsters.

Almost from the moment I first started watching the X-Men cartoon 15 years ago, I've been chronicling the adventures of the X-Kids. Truth be told, I ended up tying the 'me' character (Blation) into the adventures I used to have with my stuffed animals before falling asleep every night when I was a very little kid (and these adventures were way G-rated, get your mind out of the gutter!). So in a way, the X-Kids have been with me for as long as I can remember and, since I still map out their complicated history, intense present, and unpredictable future every night while trying to fall asleep, they'll probably be with me for the foreseeable future. Um, I'm now realizing that it's probably not healthy to slip into a fantasy world where you're a superhero on a daily basis.

...

Anyway, this is the first time most all of these images have been made public and these stories been told to anyone other than my cousins, who themselves played a rather large part in the team's early days. This is the story of the X-Kids.

You can click on the pictures to get a closer look at them, but some of them may take a while to open.

Cover for a never produced issue of The Awesome X-Kids, 1993
The X-Kids started out as a series of one-page stories I would write (cover on the front, story on the back of a loose piece of notebook paper) and read to fellow X-Men fans in third grade. They were of course interested because they were in the stories. The original X-Kids, then called the X-Boys, included Gambrett, Heast, Dabretooth, Professor D, Wolverian and Jeffclops. Yep, every name was a portmanteau of my friend's name and an X-Man. These stories were as ridiculous as you would expect and were, rather recently, deleted from X-Kids continuity. Seriously, I erase things from X-Kids faster than Joe Quesada (joke for the comic fans....all negative two of you)! Blation is no longer a cast member of Friends, his half-brother is not Luke Skywalker, and he never dated Jubilee.

My mom and I in Washington D.C., September 1993
It wasn't until the fall of 1993 that the X-Kids as they exist today were created. On a trip to Washington D.C. for a cousin's wedding, my cousin Tyler and I spent our time in the van drawing characters. I had, by that point, morphed Gambrett into Blation. Blation was created to be Jubilee's brother, so his name is similar to Jubilee's real name, Jubilation. That whole aspect was dropped and Blation was later made Jubilee's boyfriend...so that's downright creepy in retrospect. Tyler created Clayface, a shape-shifter made out of a clay like substance. Just like the Batman villain. At A McDonald's somewhere en route, my other cousin Matthew pointed out something called a copyright and we changed the name to Camileo (which sounds about as plausible as Blation). I don't know why Matthew was complaining, though, because he created Spider-Boy. By the time 4th grade was over, the X-Kids had grown to include my other cousins and many new friends I had made in school.

The Awesome X-Kids team picture (front), 1994
The Awesome X-Kids team picture (back), 1994
The X-Kids were hanging out with the X-Men, fighting super villains, and popping up in X-Men crossovers. And none of this was written down. It wasn't until the entire Marvel Universe was obliterated in 1995 for the Age of Apocalypse that I was inspired enough to actually produce a comic book.

Cover for The Awesome X-Kids #50, 1994
The Awesome X-Kids #50 (and no, I never made #1-49) depicts the end of the world as shown in X-Men #41. I also used X-Men #41's kissing scenes to copy for the three kissing scenes I drew in this comic. Needless to say, this was hidden from my parents who would have surely found it odd that their son was drawing a comic full of 12-14 year olds making out on doomsday. Following #50 was X-Kids Alpha, where the team visits the Age of Apocalypse before Blation's super-duper telepathy (Blation was also a Jedi, did I mention that?) transported them back to the Earth they had just seen destroyed...but without the X-Men or any of the Marvel Universe's heroes.

Cover for X-Men #1, 1995
The X-Kids became the X-Men and would do so for all the comics I could speedily crank out in the four months it took for the Age of Apocalypse storyline to be told. I was definitely a 90s comic fan, as the image above depicts a special cover (done in glittery crayon) and a cheap shock tactic concerning a mystery idenity (sic). I did 7 four page issues of X-Men and 3 of Uncanny X-Men before scrapping both and doing a reboot.

Cover for X-Men Unlimited #1, 1995
"Unlimited" was an adjective being tossed around a lot in the mid-90s. Really it makes about as much sense as calling the book X-Men Ongoing since if a series isn't limited, it's ongoing. Whatever. X-Men Unlimited (later renamed X-Kids Unlimited) would be my outlet for all the X-Kids' adventures for the next three years and 29 issues. The average length of an issue was 10 pages long, sometimes including pin-ups of characters and letters from me, the superstar creator.

I have to note that at the time I was actually keeping the identities of me and my cousins' characters secret. I would never write Camileo's real name as Tyler or Blation's real name as Brett, opting instead to leave a blank space. I, for some reason, thought this information was too valuable to fall into my parents' hands.

Cover for X-Men Unlimited #2, 1995

Cover for X-Men Unlimited #3, 1995

Interior page from X-Men Unlimited #3, 1995
Up to this point, I hadn't written anything special, mostly plotless fights mixed with romance stories from a fifth grader who learned everything about drama from ER. Then I finished #3. It's a total rip-off of Uncanny X-Men #137, except this time it's the X-Kids fighting the Imperial Guard to save the X-Men from the alternate reality they are stuck in. It was longer than my normal issues and had some actual emotion in it (Blation dumps Jubilee). The X-Kids lose in the end, thereby banishing the X-Men from Earth. Marvel didn't listen to this and brought the X-Men back a couple issues later.

Cover for X-Men Unlimited #4, 1995
Yes, I even ripped off Spider-Man's Clone Saga. I didn't even read the Spider-Man comics, but my cousin Matthew did and I'm pretty sure he clued me in.

Cover for X-Men Unlimited #5, 1995
This was a redo, if I recall correctly. I originally started a 16 part crossover with #5 that would run through this book and a couple others that I was going to start doing and promptly decided against that when it took me forever to make the second part of the crossover. Also, #5 originally had Blation in his Jedi gear and using a Power Rangers morpher to turn into his Ranger, whose animal was a raccoon. Glad I trashed that.

Cover for X-Men Unlimited #6, 1995
Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #7, 1995
The X-Men come back, the X-Kids move to two cabins on the Westchester property, and the title is renamed.

Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #8
Starting with #8, the comic would stay in the 9 X 12 sketch pads they would be drawn in. Issues #1-7 were ripped out and stapled, which I realized made them harder to keep up with and more likely to be messed up. Also with #8, I started paying more attention to the interior art.

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #8, 1995

Cover for X-Kids Unlimited#9, 1995
X-Kids trading cards #1-9, 1996
I collected trading cards as well as comics, so it was only natural that the X-Kids got their own set. The first set, done the year before and currently M.I.A., was never completely finished since most of the backs were neglected and only a handful were colored. These are 18 cards from the second set I did, all of which are completely finished a colored with complete information on the backs. The set contains 100 cards. Click on the images for a closer look so you can figure out who all these characters are.

X-Kids trading cards #10-18, 1996

Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #10, 1996
Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #11, 1996

Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #12, 1996


Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #13, 1996


After having the team fight Gene Nation, a bunch of bounty hunters from Star Wars, and a team led by Juggernaut, I did a multi-part story that didn't suck. It was called "Electrical Storm" and lasted for four issues. It wasn't that great, but it had a villain that I created who ACTUALLY HAD A PLAN and a helpless new mutant caught in the crossfire. Most notable about these issues is the interesting way I started laying out and framing pages.

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #13, 1996

Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #14, 1996

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #14, 1996
A peculiar thing started happening as I drew these issues. I had begun taking my sketch pads to school to work on the issues during my downtime (I would purposely read ahead in our novels so I could spend reading time drawing or reading comics). Other kids, somewhat popular kids, the kids that would never talk to me, started to take notice and would watch me draw. I was by no means an outgoing student; I had moved the previous year and was nowhere near adjusted. The attention I got for drawing my own comics was interesting and, in a way, fulfilling. Their interest didn't last long, but while they were watching me feverishly churn out page after page, they were enthralled by the mythology I was committing to paper for my eyes only. Then they would ask me to draw them. I would always say no.

Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #15, 1996

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited#15, 1996

Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #17, 1996
Yep.

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #17, 1996
I participated in the massive Onslaught crossover that the X-Men books were doing in late 1996. And not only that, I participated in the lead-up hype to Onslaught since the actual crossover is months away.

Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #18, 1996
This was the first issue of the series to feature no action and straightforward character development. It also had "story elves" on every page, holding up page number signs and commenting on the panels. This was pretty much a rip-off of something I had seen Chris Bachalo do in an issue of Generation X, I think.


Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #18, 1996

Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #19, 1996

Cover for X-Kids Unlimited#20, 1996
This issue fits neatly between the scenes of Onslaught: X-Men and various other "Phase 1" issues of the crossover. And the art is the best I'd done up to this point. Note how I've started to use a ruler to draw panels.

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #20, 1996

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #20, 1996
Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #21, 1996
I got to draw Spider-Man! Sure, Ben Reilly Clone Spider-man, but still, Spider-Man! Also, the image of the X-Kids squaring off against at least a dozen Sentinels down at the bottom of the second image below is one that has stuck with me since I drew it. I might even say that these two panels mark the start of the best stretch this book had in 29 issues. The art is something that I'm still proud of today and the stories are getting better.

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #21,1996

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #21,1996

And then it happened.

Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #22, 1997
At this point, there were 14 regular cast members in this book. By the end of this issue, only those depicted on this cover were left. Also, I drew backgrounds modeled after my home. I remember doing this issue on New Year's Eve, between 1996 and 1997.

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #22, 1997

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #22, 1997

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #22, 1997
This change would be the most dramatic one I ever made in the history of the X-Kids. For the first time ever, not only would Blation not be a member of the team, neither would any of the characters I originally created for the X-Boys five years prior. The idea of an 8 person roster for the team sticks around to this day.

Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #23, 1997

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #23, 1997

Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #24, 1997

In the comic book world in the 90s, reaching the 25th issue was something to be celebrated (as was the 50th, 75th, 100th, the year anniversary, the five year anniversary, the tenth anniversary of some important whatever) and X-Kids Unlimited was no different. No cover was ever produced for it since I never got around to doing the multi-layered, foil covered, laminated and full-color masterpiece it was going to be. I did produce an issue that was 16 pages long and full of a battle between the combined might of Redfire, Colonel, Nightmare, and a whole mess of Cyber Droids. A big fight, yes, but I included some humorous cutaways to Sonic and Wolf fighting boredom in a hotel room that foreshadow the indulgent and irreverent humor that was about to take hold of this book.

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #25, 1997

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #25, 1997

Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #26, 1997

Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #27, 1997
I've written this issue three times. Since it features the team relocating to Tennessee and their first encounter with two new villains (Abhor and Shadowmaster), I always felt it made a good starting point for some of my more serious attempts at refashioning the X-Kids to be a real Marvel comic. The other two versions of this issue exist in script form, one written in 1998 and the other in 2005. This version is one of my favorite issues and continues the steadily improving trend of the series.

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #27, 1997


Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #28, 1997
It took 27 issues but I think I finally nailed it with this one. The cover is one of the best of the series and even features a joke with Dust commenting on how the guest stars have taken over the issue. Then there's the inside...

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #28, 1997

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #28, 1997

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #28, 1997

A bargain bin of X-Men toys behind Forecast kicking Shadowmaster in the head, Tracer descending from the ceiling dramatically on a webline with a wrapped-up Abhor, and the dramatic reveal of Tracer as another Shadow Spider clone complete with a totally meta Brady Bunch reference. Just picking these three pages was hard because every one of them has weird details on them that make the whole issue special. I particularly enjoy Shadowmaster's pathetic departure.

Cover for X-Kids Unlimited #29, 1997
And this is it. The last issue. I didn't know it when I was drawing it in 8th grade. I was having a great time creating and I didn't expect it to stop, especially with a last page depicting the team on their way to the hospital to greet Shadow Spider and Zap's newborn baby. There's only a slight sense of finality to the issue. It's a quiet one that follows Dust throughout the team's newly acquired abandoned-mall-headquarters as he visits with every team member individually. The last page features all of the team gathered in a room eating pizza, playing video games, listening to CDs and gossiping. In a way...it's kinda touching that they ended/survived the series as friends and kids still capable of relaxing.

Interior page from X-Kids Unlimited #29, 1997
I wrote the next 16 issues (just titled X-Kids) on my computer during 8th and 9th grade. The quality of my dialogue actually worsened when separated from drawings. Compact, my first African American character, replaced Deadeye.

Roster of X-Kids with Compact (flying), 1997

Forecast, the first girl to ever join the team, was killed early on in X-Kids and replaced by Blitz, pictured below with Magik and Dust. The X-Kids were finally ethnically diverse!

X-Kids "Got Milk" ad, 1997

When I saw Meredith Brooks performing on RuPaul's VH1 talk show (has a sentence ever been more 1998 than that one?), I decided that a hard rocking chick would be a nice addition to the team. I created Darclight, an intense and sexual 18 year-old former super-villain who murders her evil boss to join the team.

Darclight sketch, 1999

When Angel debuted on the WB in October of 1999, I decided to start focusing my creative efforts on Blation's own self-titled television series. While watching Angel's five year run, I would also plot out five seasons of Blation's television series. The series co-starred former mercenary ally of the X-Kids Gene Doggitt, recent superhero school graduate Poweress, and son-of-Nightmare Dare.

Cast of Blation, season 1. Left to right: Gene Doggitt, Dare, Blation, Poweress, 2000
By season four of the series, the cast had grown to include Tentacle (a former classmate of Poweress), Pulsar (who can be seen at the bottom of the cover for X-Kids Unlimited #14), and Jennifer Kale (a supporting character from Marvel's Ghost Rider series).

Cast of Blation, season 4. Left to right: Tentacle, Pulsar, Poweress, Blation, Dare, Jennifer Kale, 2003

Season 4 Blation cast in the special sitcom episode, 2003

In 2001 I stumbled across the picture from the top of this page and drew an homage to it, with the current look of every character.

The Awesome X-Kids team picture, 1994
Homage to "Awesome X-Kids team picture", 2001

In 2005, I sent the team to London in a move that drove a wedge through the team. Only half of them were left to fight in jolly old England.

X-Kids London team picture. Left to right: Wolf, Compact, Magik, Dust, Holo, 2005

Later that year, I started crafting a story about a battle so epic that it called together all the surviving members of the team. I drew a picture to depict this, but didn't finish Deadeye, Dust or Tracker. Still, I finished a lot of them.

X-Kids team picture, 2005

There wasn't much of a team left after the battle...

X-Kids team picture. Left to right: Magik, Dust, Blitz, Wolf, Redfire, 2005

...but Blitz's sister Lashon, Magik's English boyfriend Martin, and obscure Marvel hero Gravity soon filled out the ranks.


X-Kids team picture. Left to right: Lashon, Blitz, Martin Canterbury, Magik, Dust, Wolf, Gravity, 2005

X-Kids team picture. Left to right: Wolf, Martin Canterbury, Blitz, Lashon, Redfire, Dust, Magik, 2006

And just after they all got together, the Marvel Civil War happened.

X-Kids Civil War picture, 2006

Starting in the top left and going clockwise: Poweress infiltrated Iron Man's team, Sonic was dragged back into action against his will, a mentally unstable Camileo was wanted by both sides, Magik's teleportation power was taken away by Iron Man, Darclight and Deadeye became S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Redfire defected to Iron Man's team, Dust and Wolf hooked up, and Blation rejoined the X-Kids to properly extract his wife from enemy territory.

And that brings us to the present.

X-Kids team picture. Left to right: Dust, Wolf, Magik, Blitz, Compact, 2007
Unregistered with the government and on the run from another team of X-Kids, things aren't looking so good for the team. But at least they look good, am I right?



So there you have it. That's just a tiny portion of all the X-Kids material I have created in the past 15 years, but I'm so glad I have it. I never kept a journal as a kid but, in some ways, these drawings are the next best thing. I love that I can see just how much I've grown as an artist. The clothes that the kids wear definitely shows what kind of person I was at the time. Circa X-Kids Unlimited #25, the kids were wearing Tommy X-Figer clothes and watching Seinfeld. Now Dust is wearing Strokes t-shirts and the kids are wearing Urban Outfitters clothes. I'm so proud of the amount of detail I've put into this story and I'm pretty excited to have finally made it semi-public. This is the end of this blog, but nowhere near the end of the X-Kids.

2 comments:

Jeffrey Marx said...

This is awesome and I am not even into comics that much! I love it.

Also, aren't scanners fun?

Yamin said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Lucy

http://toddlergirls.net