Marvel Movie Mags: X-Men First Class and Thor Movie Special

It’s a known problem — what comics should a fan, attracted by a superhero movie, start with? There are two Marvel movie tie-in magazines out this summer that attempt to answer the question, so I took a look.

Both are priced at $9.99, which seems high to me — for impulse purchases, I expect entertainment magazines to be $5 or $6. The Thor Movie Special is 96 pages, while X-Men First Class Magazine is 104. They have very different presentations, since the XMFC contains glossy paper and cover, making it flexible and easy to flip through; Thor has much stiffer paper and cover, making it feel more substantial. The biggest difference is that XMFC was put out by Marvel, while Thor was released by Disney Publishing.

X-Men First Class

X-Men First Class magazine

The focus here is the comics, not the movie. Reprints are included of X-Men: First Class #1 and #5 (both by Jeff Parker, Roger Cruz, and Victor Olazaba) and X-Men #1 (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Paul Reinman). The #5 story was apparently selected just because it guest-stars Thor.

As you can see from that description, the magazine’s content is based around the original X-Men — Iceman, Marvel Girl, Cyclops, Angel, and Beast, led by a bald Professor X — not the movie cast. Magneto, the breakout character of the film, appears only in the oldest reprint, the first issue from 1963. (Suggestion for future comic publishing: a Magento, Nazi Hunter flashback series, since that was one of the best movie sequences.)

An interview with Jeff Parker talks about other issues from the series and the old, original X-Men comics being an influence. Another interview with Chris Yost plugs an unrelated X-Men Evolutionaries story; I found this piece confusing, without enough context for a new reader. It’s a lackluster attempt to drive readership to something current, but it doesn’t provide any reason for someone who isn’t already speaking the language and following the characters to pick it up.

The best text piece was a feature called “Children of the Atom: The X-Men and the Early 1960s” by V.R. Gallaher (aka Valerie D’Orazio). It actually tackles a subject directly related to the film — how the early X-Men comics dealt with issues significant to the era. It provides needed context to the new reader about the title’s history and aims.

After a lame attempt at humor (X-Men report cards), the issue concludes with character profiles for Banshee, Beast, Darwin (who isn’t black), Emma Frost, Havok, Magneto, Moira MacTaggert (who’s now dead, it seems), Mystique, Sebastian Shaw, and Professor Xavier. It’s a nice attempt to at least mention the movie characters, but the text is written for hard-core fans, referencing too many other stories and heroes that they have never heard of. I would have rather had fresh pieces that explicitly addressed the movie versions, but that probably would have cost too much.

Strangely, there are full-page ads for a bunch of Thor and Iron Man collections and a now-outdated Free Comic Book Day ad (this issue came out May 4), but no ads for X-Men comic books or collections.

Overall, I would say this is useless for the movie fan — there just isn’t enough connection between the content and what they’re looking for. Marvel focused too much on what they wanted to push, not enough on what the reader might want.

Thor Official Movie Special

Thor, on the other hand, focuses on the character as a multimedia phenomenon. It’s full of pictures, and it’s written for a younger audience of kids, with less text and more open design. The Who’s Who profiles are barely one paragraph instead of being pages of unknown cites and names. The Q&A section focuses on the actors and director, with simple questions that explain the plot of the movie.

Picture galleries show movie images and pinups as well as set and costume designs. A comic timeline lists key issues and dates in a fun-to-read format that discusses the history without being overwhelming. There are trivia quizzes and puzzle pages as well. It may be $10, but this is clearly a magazine designed for a kid to spend a lot of time with. It’s almost like a periodical version of a behind-the-scenes art book, although aimed younger.

The included comic was created for this publication. “Citadel of Spires” is by Fred van Lente, Ron Lim, Crimelab Studios, and Don Ho. I would have rather seen something from Thor: The Mighty Avenger, because of the increased role that series gave Jane, but that’s personal preference. This story instead has Loki and the Asgardians. “Citadel of Spires” will also appear as part of Cap and Thor! Avengers #1, available next month from Marvel.


5 Responses to “Marvel Movie Mags: X-Men First Class and Thor Movie Special”

  1. Hal Shipman Says:

    Actually, I think Darwin is black. Possibly Hispanic, though. There was a recent X-Factor where his father showed up, but I don’t remember if ended up even really being his dad. And the coloring in that book is so inconsistant (Monet was white for a few years) and muddy, it’s hard to tell.

    Regarding the movie – I hope they bring him back for the next. The actor was good, they need the diversity and his powers give him an out clause.

  2. Johanna Says:

    The image of Darwin in the magazine looked to me like he was either an alien or wearing a full-body costume. I agree with you about hoping he’s brought back — he was a good character, with an intriguing set of powers.

    Which reminds me, one thing I found weird about the movie was that Magneto’s team was mostly attack powers, while Xavier’s (with the exception of Havok) was about defensive or neutral abilities. Maybe that was a factor in how mutants felt about the two “sides”.

  3. Richard J. Marcej Says:

    I really enjoyed the film (especially when it centered on Charles and Erik) and about half way through the movie thought “you know, I’d like to read a book about these characters.”

    I quickly came to my senses and laughed to myself. There’s no way in hell that could pick up an X-men comic and know what was going on! I haven’t read an X-Men comic since the 1990’s, dropping it after enduring what a horrible mess the books, characters and stories had become.

    I shudder to think how hard it would be to slog my way through any book today. And I’m a person who’s been reading comics for nearly 40 years. I couldn’t imagine how a newbie could not be turned off by the convoluted books after seeing the film.

  4. Ralf Haring Says:

    I’d go for an Young Magneto, Nazi Hunter series. That was the best part of the movie.

  5. Grant Says:

    I always enjoy movie magazines. I still have some from the 70s and 80s.

    @Richard

    One thing that marvel is pretty good about is releasing lots of “one shots” with the movies release. So if you’re interested in the characters in the movies and want to read a comic without having to get entangled in 60 years of continuity, the “self contained” one shot is the way to go. There have been some really good Captain America one shots released in the last few months.

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