This one’s all about the nostalgia.
It’s not the most striking image, but I think the reason this cover deserves to be among the entrants in CCC (my Choice Comic Covers!) is because I saw so little of it that it as a kid that it became somewhat a novelty. When I flipped through my comic collection, this classic cover would always remind me of the last time I pulled it out, read it and loved it. I was normally so engrossed with the interiors that I never thought much about the cover, till I’d be searching through my comics again weeks, months or years later and it’d call out to me. I picked it back up so many times during these shuffles through my childhood comics, giving it another go with each rediscovery, that I literally read the cover right off my copy of Uncanny #308.
What happened in this issue that was so riveting to a prepubescent Jim Gibbons? Was it chock-full of Sentinels and classic X-action? No. In #308, written by Scott Lobdell with art and cover by John Romita Jr, the X-Men are celebrating Thanksgiving. Scott and Jean (Cyclops and Marvel Girl/Jean Grey for you newblets out there) walked jacket-clad amongst the brown and orange autumn foliage as the rest of the team, decked out in garish ’90s work out clothes, played in a Turkey Bowl of all X-Men football. By issue’s end, numerous enjoyable antics had played out on the football pitch while Scott and Jean’s reminiscing led to a marriage proposal and the subsequent “Yes!”
There are two reasons I’ve pinpointed as the basis of my pure fascination with this issue.
First, I know he is usually among the list of most hated heroes due to his bossy and overbearing attitude, but I always loved The Adventures of Cyclops. As a child plagued by deadly allergies and asthma, the standard metaphor of escapism in comics seemed amplified in my case. I was a bubble boy, of sorts, so the idea that I need only wait a few more years to hit puberty and get my upgrade was always in the back of my mind. So, relating to a mutant hero was ideal. Additionally, Cyclops was a tall, glasses wearing hero and I was a tall, glasses wearing kid. And, apart from the visual similarity, he was a character that had a very strict sense of right and wrong. I wasn’t too much of a troublemaker at the time and his militaristic ideals of good and bad jived with me as a young reader.
That all said, I understood that Cyclops was not perfect and was kind of a detestable character at the time, but I can’t say I felt I was the opposite of detestable as a pre- and early teen—so, jiving again. What most readers get from Spider-Man, I got from Cyclops.
Spider-Man is a nerdy do-gooder who, in the end, gets the gorgeous girl in Mary Jane Watson because she sees he’s the good guy, not a nerd. It may not be realistic, but it provided young geeks a motivation and a light at the end of the tunnel, that one day their selfless actions would be rewarded by winning over a stunning babe.
Since I was a reader who related to Cyclops, I got a similar motivation out of his relationship with Jean. Cyclops seemed to be of the nerdy disposition that he didn’t really deserve Jean (and he kinda didn’t), but was still always doing the right thing in hopes she—and the team—would see that and judge him accordingly, proclaiming him a “good guy” or more. Jean miraculously looked past his faults and saw the great guy inside who was trying his damnedest—something every nerd and guy hopes for deep down. In the end, it was almost Cyclops’ strict adherence to rules and general squareness that helped him win over Jean—probably one of the subtle subconscious reasons I wasn’t much of a party animal in high school, that “bad” underage drinking could have potentially cost me my future sexy redhead!
It wasn’t the most healthy relationship, as is the case with most comic book romances, but it always struck me as comics’ greatest love affair and seeing an entire issue filled with their quiet moments was fascinating when compared to the bombastic X-moments of having the two fighting the Shi’ar, arm in arm, at the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga. So, again, the word novelty comes to mind.
The second fascination from this issue, and it’s similar, was getting to “hang out” with the X-Men during a holiday at the mansion. I can almost channel the nerd of my comics’ past and see me indulging in the pure friendship and fun of the X-Men playing football while rereading this ish during the hard and awkward teenage days of middle school. The X-Men are always off fighting living islands or waging endless battles against Magneto, so just getting to spend time on an average day in one of the Marvel Universe’s coolest residences—The Xavier Institute—was a massive pleasure. I mean, I could see Gambit flinging cards in his flowing trench coat in hundreds of comics, but how many times could I see him trying to tackle Beast in a cutoff hoodie?!
Yeah, it seems majority of my love for this issue is pure novelty. But heck, I figure jamming a big serious moment in a big serious love story and peppering plenty of fun novelty into 32 pages makes for some pretty good comfort comic as a teen. Plus, in a decade of X-Men overdosing in comics and TV, an issue with some novelty allowed for a more singular and memorable reading experience.
The cover itself isn’t really that special on its own, but it does signify a purely fun read in my sense memory and that’s worth a lot in this hobby of pulped paper and inks.