This article contains spoilers for Avengers vs. X-Men #11, released earlier this month.When Professor X was killed off in this month's Avengers vs. X-Men #11, it was big news. It was also the first time the character had been involved in big news in quite a while.
Originally introduced back in 1963's X-Men #1, Charles Xavier is the founder of the X-Men, and has been portrayed in virtually every adaptation of the Marvel series. Yet he hadn't played much of a role in the comics as of late — having even lost his trademark wheelchair and regained the ability to walk — and was mostly relegated to cameos, while both Cyclops and Wolverine have been at the head of their own at-odds X-Men squads on opposite coasts. Even the New York Daily News article that broke the news of the character's death called him "anachronistic."
Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso told Newsarama that the shift dates back at least to "Messiah Complex," a 2007 story from his time as X-Men group editor. The 13-chapter crossover was a precursor to the team's relocation to the island nation of Utopia, and the rise of Cyclops — Professor X's under-the-Phoenix-influence killer — as leader of the mutant race."Quite frankly, I think the story passed him by," Alonso said. "We as a group decided that the X-Men would go from the family model to the military model. Within an army, there can exist family, but it is first and foremost an army. It was necessary that the X-Men have a general, and [Cyclops] was the most qualified. In that light, Professor X and his more humanistic approach wasn't appropriate."
Not knowing quite what to do with Professor X isn't anything new, according to Avengers vs. X-Men editor and Marvel senior vice president of publishing Tom Brevoort. He points out that there have been multiple times in the character's past where he's been written out of the books, including time spent at the Shi'ar homeworld.
"He was really, and it's ironic to say this, the first major Marvel character to be killed and then resurrected," Brevoort said, referencing the 1968 story "The Death of Professor X," in X-Men #42. "He's the authority figure. He is 'the man.' The set-up of X-Men originally was, there are these young teenage kids who are learning to use their powers and grow into maturity, and at a certain point, that process requires them to step out from under the shadow of their father figure and stand on their own feet, and be their own guys."Brian Michael Bendis, who wrote Xavier's death scene and will deal with the fallout in the November-debuting All-New X-Men, said that during the development of Avengers vs. X-Men, it became apparent that there was much more story potential in a dead Xavier than a living one.
"Throughout the entirety that we were planning Avengers vs. X-Men, no one seemed that interested in Xavier except for me," Bendis said. "I was a little baffled by it, and I realized that the X-office had moved past Xavier in general. Not just the editors, the writers, everybody was not interested in Xavier. I was like, 'If you guys aren't going to do anything with Xavier, then Xavier has to die, because that's when it gets interesting.'"
Of Marvel's recent crop of writers, Mike Carey wrote Xavier most extensively, in the pages of X-Men Legacy, though he acknowledges that killing off the character opens creative doors."Professor X will always be a central character in the X-verse, and I think that goes equally whether he's alive or dead," Carey said. "As the guy who wrote the original mission statement, Professor X continues to be part of that key question of who the X-Men are and what they're for. If anything, having him die makes that question more urgent than ever."
Kieron Gillen, who wraps up his Uncanny X-Men run in October, is a recent X-Men writer who didn't use Xavier much, though he did bring him briefly into Generation Hope.
"I loved writing the Professor in Generation Hope," Gillen said. "Actually getting a chance to do a classic Magneto/Professor conversation on matters of ethics and politics was a joy. It's on my big list of things I'm pleased to have had a shot at in the X-books."
That said, Gillen is also on board with the decision to give Xavier an extended rest."He's such a powerful character, both in his actual power set and in terms of the ethical weight he carries, that even by his existence he warps the possibility of stories," Gillen said. "You can't have other characters taking the lead or wrestling with the problems when the ever-parental Xavier is on the stage. The last years of X-books have done that, but you still get the regular refrain of 'Why don't they go to Professor X to do XYZ?'" Still, those involved said it was not an easy decision to kill off Xavier — Brevoort called him a "bedrock Marvel character" — and that though he may be gone (for now, at least), he's certainly not forgotten. Upcoming Marvel NOW! launches like October Uncanny Avengers, the new X-Men Legacy starting in November and All-New X-Men each ate said to deal with the death in a big way.
"Xavier's death will be extremely important in the post-AvX world," Alonso said. "Who he is, what he represented and the fact that he's gone will have a ripple effect across the Marvel Universe."More from Newsarama:
- Fatal Events: 10 Comic Book Crossover Character Deaths
- Bendis, More Talk AvX's 'Death of Biblical Proportions'
- Exclusive: Brian Bendis on the Marvel NOW! ALL-NEW X-MEN