By Erin O'Donnell
Since their debut in 1963, Marvel’s “X-Men,” created by comic book legends Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, has won fans the world over with the 250+ unique characters littering the series and the intercut storylines tackling themes of oppression and the fight for basic human rights.
It’s surprising to note that “X-Men” was not always a popular household name and, after disappointing comic sales, Marvel canceled the series in 1969. This was perhaps for the best, as writer Chris Claremont revitalized the series in 1975. By introducing more complex characters, Rogue and Mystique to name just a few, and writing some of the most influential storylines in comic book history, “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and “Days of Future Past,” Claremont brought new life to the series.
Not afraid to tackle heavy themes, the X-Men comics center around the fight against oppression in a world that fears those born with superhuman abilities known as mutants. Lee’s and Kirby's original approach to the series was as an allegory to the rising Civil Rights movement of the ‘60s, with characters Professor X and Magneto representing Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X respectively in their fight against mutant oppression.
Since the 1990s, the X-Men have been one of the best selling comic books series, with the debut issue of artist Jim Lee’s 1991 run of the series,“X-Men #1,” remaining the best-selling comic book issue of all-time according to Guinness World Records. The 1992 debut of the beloved animated series, with an equally iconic theme song, only made their popularity grow stronger among a younger audience introduced to these characters for the first time.
The long-running series really proved to be a multimedia juggernaut to be reckoned with, with the debut of the first live-action X-Men movie in 2000, providing much of the groundwork for the modern superhero genre we know and love today. The film series and its multiple spin-offs, including the Deadpool series, continue to bring in millions to this day.
It’s safe to say that after nearly 60 years in pop culture, the X-Men are here to stay. And much like the staying power of this popular franchise, fans all over the world show their love and appreciation for this groundbreaking series by getting their favorite characters tattooed on their bodies. It might not be as impressive as the ability to grow adamantium claws out of your knuckles or shapeshifting, but these works of art are still pretty interesting nonetheless.