Fans lucky enough to attend Wizard World Nashville last weekend got some insight from Stan Lee himself into the history of one of Marvel’s greatest superhero teams, the ‘X-Men.’ Mr. Lee spoke on his motivations in designing the team of mutants, as well as discussing how they came to be named the ‘X-Men’ and the role his publisher had in the naming of the famous team.
In regards to the tone of the comic and what he was shooting for when he originally came up with the concept, Lee had the following to say:
“I wanted to show that people can be different and still be good and still be worthwhile. You don’t only have to go with people who are just like you, but other kinds of people can be just as good and we have to be more forgiving, not forgiving, we have to be more accepting of everybody regardless of skin color, religion, anything. We’re all just here on earth together and let’s do it nicely, whatever we’re doing and with the X-Men it was such fun giving each of them a superpower. I couldn’t think of any way to give them those powers so I took the cowardly way out. They were born that way! That worked for me.”
Next, Lee transitioned into the naming of the series, which apparently would have been very different had he had his own way. Luckily for us all, his publisher at Marvel at the time, Martin Goodman, had a very strong opinion on the matter, even if Stan still does not agree with it:
“Oh, I’ve got to tell you about my boss. My publisher said, when I brought him the idea, he said ‘yeah I like the idea but you can’t call them the X-Men’ and I said, ‘why not?’ He said…no, I’m sorry, hold it. I wanted originally to call them The Mutants and he said, ‘you can’t call them The Mutants’ and I said, ‘why not?’ He said, ‘our readers, they aren’t that smart.’ He had no respect for comic book readers. He said, ‘they won’t know what a mutant is.’ Well, I disagreed with him, but he was the boss so I had to think of another name. So, I went home and I thought and thought and I came up with the X-Men and I mentioned it to him the next day and he said, ‘that’s okay’ and as I walked out of his office I thought, that was very peculiar. If nobody would know what a mutant is how will anybody know what an X-Man is? But he had okayed the name and I used it.”
In his final thoughts on the matter Lee stated:
“I don’t think my publisher was very smart. I can say that now because I’m not working for him anymore.”
Of course, even if the reasoning was not very sound, you got to admit ‘The X-Men’ does make for a much better title than ‘The Mutants.’ Who knows if the franchise would still be as successful today if Stan Lee had been able to stick with the name he wanted, instead of having to go with the new idea he pitched to Mr. Goodman. What do you think? Does the quality of the franchise matter more than a catchy title? Or is the title what draws a reader to a comic in the first place? And back in the 1960’s, did people know enough to recognize what a mutant was, or do you agree with Goodman that they would have been clueless? Share your opinions in the comments below!