thrift store finds: the uncanny x-men by tor books

(Thrift Store Finds is a mostly-weekly “column” of sorts where I discuss some of the cool books I’ve happened upon in my neighborhood’s St. Vincent DePaul store. Please don’t mistake me for an expert on any of the things I am writing about… I’m just a fan of a bargain.)

Today’s Thrift Store Find: The Uncanny X-Men, published in 1990 by TOR Books.

I’ve mentioned TOR Books here before. TOR was a publishing house primarily known for their science fiction and fantasy titles, but they occasionally dabbled in comic book paperback reprints, like The Superman Story, a book I looked at last year. I’ve also mentioned The X-Men here on TSF; I lucked into a nice collection of early issues of The Uncanny X-Men at the same thrift store where I picked up this paperback for fifty cents.

This paperback collects three issues of the Marvel Comics’ series: Uncanny X-Men #110, #123, and #124. These issues are drawn from early in writer Chris Claremont’s long run with the superhero team and feature a selection of characters that most casual readers would be familiar with. I’ve mentioned previously that I am not a tremendous fan of The X-Men, but I will say that the team as presented in this paperback is the one I most remember from when I was a kid; Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus headline with several other mutants taking on supporting roles.

The first selection, sub-titled The X-Sanction, was originally published in 1978 and features several tropes that would go on to be cornerstones of the X-Men franchise, chief among them being the annual X-Men baseball game.

For years, Claremont would use the “no powers” baseball game between his characters as a breather between his superhero/space operatic stories. As a teenager, I always liked it when comic creators would slow the action down a bit in superhero comics and offer some “slice of life” time for these larger-than-life characters. “Baseball issues” have become a shorthand for this kind of work in superhero comics and it all started here.

Of course, this isn’t Beverly Hills, 90210, so the story soon kicks over to an action sequence based around a concept which would prove popular over the many decades of X-Men stories to come. This involves The X-Men’s Danger Room, their ultra-computerized training course, trying to kill them. In this issue, the Danger Room is commandeered by a forgettable villain named Warhawk who, confusingly in this black and white trade, looks quite a bit like Colossus did in that first panel up there where he’s at bat during the baseball game. Warhawk has two giant lower-case t’s on his shirt, so you can tell them apart.

The trade credits Tony DeZuniga as the artist on this comic- I’m no historian, but I know Dave Cockrum was the main artist on Uncanny X-Men during this time period.

The next two issues included here, Uncanny X-Men #123 and #124, feature art from John Byrne. Byrne took over X-Men after Cockrum left and with his work on the book, became one of the biggest names in comics during the late 1970’s, early 1980’s. It’s easy to see why. Byrne brings a level of detail to his drawings that shines through even in these tiny panels. Look at this Wolverine sequence as an example:

The two issues feature a battle between the X-Men and the supervillain Arcade, a character Claremont and Byrne had created when they were working together on another comic title, Marvel Team-Up. Not coincidentally, these two issues also feature an appearance from Spider-Man. It’s a fun two-part story and, despite the Spider-Man appearance being a little distracting, a really good choice as a reprint.

As with previous comic book to comic paperback collections, The Uncanny X-Men has its’ fair share of awkward arrangement of panels. It’s very hard to get around this kind of thing when you’re moving a gigantic comic page to a small book designed to fit in someone’s back pocket. Here’s a particular egregious example, full of stretched-out panels and weird arrows advising the reader how to read the random assemblage:

…but, by and large, I have to say that this was one of the more readable comic paperbacks I’ve come across… especially the Arcade issues.

Besides its’ readability, Uncanny X-Men was a fairly good choice for a paperback collection due to availability and popularity. In 1990, the time when this collection was released, comic reprints were nowhere near as easy to find as they are today. Today, you can walk into your local Barnes & Noble and you’ll likely find a whole aisle dedicated to collections of comic book stories and reprints. In the 1990’s… besides some choice reprints, these stories were pretty hard to track down. When you wanted to read early X-Men comics, you would have to start going to comic book stores and flea markets and start digging around for those individual issues. If you were lucky enough to find a copy of UXM #110, you’d then have to pay whatever the market would bear to read it. The bottom has sort of fallen out of the comic book back issue market, but in 1990? It was a booming business, and X-Men comics were amongst the hardest to procure.

All in all, a tiny paperback reprint of three stories was likely a good bet. TOR did a better than average job with this one too.

One Response to “thrift store finds: the uncanny x-men by tor books”

  1. Jay Gajjar Says:

    love it! this really helped get me into comics – found this at my fifth grade book fair

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