<i>By <a href=http://twitter.com/sizzlerkistler>Alan Kistler, Newsarama Contributor</a></i> <p>It began with Charles Francis Xavier, an American-born mutant a human being whose biology contains the mysterious X-gene or X-factor that gives superhuman powers and/or unusual physical traits, usually manifesting around puberty. Xavier's teenage years brought forth telepathic powers (along with the side effect of losing his hair by his 20s). He studied at Oxford, becoming an expert in genetics and mutation. After a brief stint in the military, he traveled the world and met other mutants who sought to use their powers for power (such as Amahl Farouk, the Shadow King) or to conquer the human race that hounded them (such as Magneto). <p>Believing young mutants needed a safe haven where they could be guided to want co-existence with ordinary humans and where they could learn to master their powers, Charles Xavier founded a school. With his powerful computer Cerebro, Xavier gathered students who would also learn to protect humanity from mutant terrorists that threatened it, becoming a strike force known as the X-Men. <p>Over the decades, the X-Men have gone through many changes. Their home has been destroyed and rebuilt. They've moved to different bases around the world. And their focus and leadership has altered more than once. Most recently, a schism has caused two camps of X-Men to emerge. <p>With the X-Men's latest task taking on Earth's Mightiest Heroes in the Marvel event series <i>Avengers vs. X-Men</i>, which gets started this week with issue #0 here's the basic history of the X-Men in 10 easy steps! <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>
Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters was founded in Westchester, NY, turning the Xavier family home into the X-Mansion. During these early days, Charles gets help from Fred Duncan of the FBI who acts as a liaison between the X-Men and the government. Xavier's first class of students included Cyclops, Beast, Iceman and Angel (later called Archangel). Jean Grey joins soon afterward, using the name Marvel Girl, just in time for the team's first official mission against Magneto. This team is also known as the strangest teens of all and the children of the atom. <p>The adventurer called Mimic joins only to later die (though years later it turned out he wasn't dead, oops). Cyclops' younger brother Havok and the green-haired Polaris are recruited while the Beast decides to leave, later joining the Avengers. Spider-Man is offered membership but says no since he isn't much for working on a team (oh, how times have changed). After the apparent death of Xavier, the X-Men mature from a group of students to confident young adult heroes. <p>During this era, Magneto creates an artificial "ultimate mutant" named Alpha who then betrays his creator and turns the terrorist into a baby (as often happens). Oh, and Xavier shows up alive and well eventually, revealing that he'd asked the former villain Changeling to masquerade as him while he was off helping some aliens. Mmmhmm.
While investigating the island of Krakoa, the X-Men team is taken prisoner, with only Cyclops escaping. Xavier soon recruits a new team, one composed of adults from around the world. Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Banshee and others work under Cyclops' leadership, rescuing the old group from Krakoa. Seeing that Xavier has new help and deciding they want to try leading their own lives, most of the old X-Men leave. <p>The "all-new, all-different" X-Men go through tragic and strange times. An early mission leads to a death on the team, Jean Grey becomes host to the cosmic Phoenix force, Cyclops finds out his dad is alive and living as a space pirate (dude, many of us have been there). At one point, the team is split into two groups for weeks, each believing that the other is dead. Some of the biggest events involve the X-Men meeting the alien Shi'ar Empire and learning about a possible future where mutant-hunting Sentinel robots rule the Earth. Meanwhile, baby Magneto is aged back into adulthood, but only as far as his physical prime, making him decades younger than he should be. Xavier also goes through a change when his mind is transferred into a clone body, allowing him to walk again. <p>This time is often considered the classic era of the X-Men, with storylines and concepts that would stay with the comic and influence writers for decades yet to come. This was also when the first X-Men spinoff was born, due to Xavier recruiting a new class of teenagers, simply dubbed <i>New Mutants</i>. And it was during this time that Magneto begins to wonder if he's gone too far, softening after repeated team-ups with the X-Men and after a brief romance with the human Lee Forrester (one of Cyclops' exes).
Influenced by his experiences alongside the X-Men, Magneto surrenders himself to go on trial for his crimes. But the trial is attacked and Xavier is seriously injured during the battle. Forced to leave Earth (only Shi'ar tech can heal him), Xavier puts Magneto in charge of the school, challenging him to make up for his past by taking up the cause of mutant/human co-existence. <p>Magneto takes the name Michael Xavier and becomes head teacher to the New Mutants. Cyclops leaves the team, unwilling to accept Magneto's presence and conceding that Storm is now X-Men leader, despite the fact that she recently lost her powers. After a couple of months, Cyclops reunites with the original X-Men to form a new team: X-Factor. <p>Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters face dark times. The villain Sinister and his Marauders engage in a "mutant massacre" (depicted in the story arc of the same name) causing much death despite the efforts of the X-Men. The New Mutants are murdered and then resurrected but retain the memories of their trauma. Magneto goes on trial again (having not completed the first one), but mentally controls the judges to clear him of all charges. He then begins allying himself with the villainous Hellfire Club. <p>Finally, Storm regains her powers just in time for the X-Men to face a demonic force known as The Adversary. Magneto doesn't aid them and the conflict only ends when the heroes sacrifice their lives to stop the demon. Meanwhile, the New Mutants are attacked by human racists, and team member Doug Ramsey is killed.
Moved by the heroes' sacrifice, the cosmic being Roma restores the X-Men to life. Deciding it's advantageous to let the world continue thinking that they're dead, the X-Men don't bother telling any friends or family that they're alive, not even their absent colleagues Magneto, Nightcrawler and Shadowcat, the two latter of whom go off to form the team Excalibur. The X-Men move to Australia and, thanks to a spell cast by Roma, they now cannot be detected or recorded by any kind of surveillance except for direct eyesight and human hearing. <p>The X-Men now operate more clandestinely for a while, though eventually X-Factor discovers that they are alive, during a battle that leaves the X-Mansion destroyed. Eventually, the X-Men forced to leave their base in Australia and escape through the Siege Perilous, a portal left by Roma in case of emergency. The Siege Perilous transports them to different places, leaving some amnesiac and physically altering others (Psylocke went from a British telepath in armor to being an Asian ninja telepath with not-really-clothing). Now split up, its some time before the X-Men becomes a team again at all (although Xavier's old friend Moira MacTaggert briefly leads her own X-Men team). <p>The New Mutants deal with Doug's death and Magneto's increasingly domineering attitude. After a few weeks and a cosmic battle that leaves their teammate Magik de-aged into a pre-teen child, the New Mutants return to discover the X-Mansion is wrecked and that Magneto had given up on Xavier's dream months ago and had been secretly planning to make the Hellfire Club, New Mutants and X-Men into an army for mutant domination. They leave him and soon start working with the mysterious soldier Cable. <p>The island nation of Genosha turns out to be a major threat to mutantkind. And Storm is de-aged into a child. Hey, kinda like what happened to Magik. And Magneto that one time.
After getting out of Genosha alive, Storm is an adult again and joined by enough old friends (and new buddy Gambit) that they form a new team of X-Men. Then they go off to space and get Xavier back just in time to fight the Shadow King, reuniting with several other old teammates and X-Factor. At the end of the adventure, they're victorious but Xavier's legs are rendered immobile once again. After the dust has settled, Xavier and the heroes rebuild the X-Mansion. The X-Factor members rejoin the X-Men, giving us enough mutants to make two strike teams: the X-Men gold team led by Storm and the X-Men blue team led by Cyclops. <p>Things got nutty during this era of the X-Men. The team learns about more possible futures and seems to regularly run across folks from parallel universes or alternate timelines. Cable's evil clone Stryfe releases a plague on mutants known as the Legacy Virus, killing many before Colossus sacrifices himself to bring about a cure. Xavier's dark side gave birth to the creature Onslaught, seemingly killing Earth's major superheroes (but they showed up alive later). The shape-shifting aliens known as Skrulls infiltrate the team (not very effectively). Cyclops, having acted pretty lame since rejoining the X-Men, temporarily merges with the evil Apocalypse and becomes bad-ass again, with a much darker attitude. Wolverine gets his metal back. <P>Magneto is seemingly killed, only to show up later and blow up the X-Mansion (again), then wind up catatonic until vanishing. He is seemingly de-aged and now reformed, but this turns out to be a clone and then the real Magneto, his mind healed, almost destroys the Earth before deciding instead to take over Genosha and turn it into a mutant nation. <p>The rebuilt X-Mansion is renamed the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, with former enemy Emma Frost turning her Massachusetts Academy into the new School for Gifted Youngsters, training the Generation X team. Eventually, that school shuts down and the government stops funding X-Factor.
After the discovery of prophetic journals written by the psychic Destiny, and following an attempt by Magneto to wage war against mankind, the X-Men reorganize again. Rogue and Storm leave with a splinter team (X-Treme X-Men) to find Destiny's other journals. <p>The X-Men who remain with Xavier ditch the costumes and take on black leather outfits, displaying themselves as a volunteer rescue and counter-terrorism force rather than attempting to seem like superheroes akin to the Avengers. Soon afterward, Genosha is reduced to rubble, leaving millions of mutants dead and shocking the world. The X-Men then go public with their identities and turn the mansion into a fully functioning school and safe haven, welcoming hundreds. The X-Corporation sets up embassies around the world to further the team's influence and many human teens and radicals now embrace the X-Men as heroes and counter-culture symbols. <p>The X-Men now divide their time between being heroes and being teachers, Xavier regains the ability to walk, Wolverine discovers the full nature of the Weapon X program that laced his skeleton with metal, and a new recruit turns out to be Magneto in disguise (although we were later told it wasn't Magneto, just a guy who wanted to be him and apparently sought to confuse readers). This villain winds up destroying much of New York, killing many as he attempts to destroy mankind, unknowingly aided and influenced by a sentient bacterial life form that wishes mutants to be wiped out by a fearful human race. <p>When the dust settled, the villain is dead (as is Jean Grey), Xavier (a paraplegic again) leaves the X-Mansion, and fear of mutants is at an all-time high. Though he considers leaving, Cyclops is influenced by Jean's spirit to take over the school instead, with new love Emma Frost at his side.
Following the attack on New York and seeing the new wave of mistrust that has risen, Cyclops has the X-Men once again displaying themselves as superheroes, hoping he can show that they are heroes meant to inspire hope rather than yet something else to fear and hate. He changes the focus of their missions to general threats to humanity rather than prioritizing on fighting mutant terrorists. He also opens up dialogues and relations with various governments and legal agencies. <p>Eventually, the X-Treme X-Men return to the fold, now becoming a legally recognized mutant police force known as the X-Treme Sanctions Executive or XSE (yes, they actually spelled it X-Treme and took it seriously). Although much of humanity has regained fear of mutants thanks to attacks on New York made by the not-Magneto villain, the X-Men are gaining much more political influence and authority. They also gain new allies when they aid S.W.O.R.D. (Sentient World Observation and Response Department) in taking down several threats. Wolverine starts dividing his time between working with the X-Men and being a member of the newly formed Avengers team, gaining more positive attention for mutants and the X-Men. And in the midst of it all, Colossus is resurrected. <p>Meanwhile, several former members of the now defunct X-Factor government team wind up regrouping as X-Factor Investigations, tracking down conspiracies and helping mutants who aren't helped by the police or the X-Men. And Lucas Bishop leaves the X-Mansion to operate as a cop in New York City, policing the area now known as "Mutant Town," due to its large X-gene population.
Magneto's daughter the Scarlet Witch had always been able to influence reality in small ways, causing hexes to cause misfortune for her enemies. But recently, a break from reality had caused her to tap into this power like never before, causing the Avengers to disband and several of its members to be killed (though they're all better now). The X-Men later met with the newly-reformed Avengers to discuss what to do about the lady when she went nuts again and reformed the Earth to her whim, putting mutants in charge. When the heroes remember how the world is supposed to be and fight against her, she set things right but also eliminates the X-gene from millions of mutants around the world. On M-Day, the Scarlet Witch's power brings the active mutant population to just under 200. <p>The XSE and X-Corporation are defunct and the X-Men now have a whole new ballgame. Their race is facing extinction and new strategies are called for. At the same time, Xavier (who could now walk again thanks to a side-effect of M-Day) is no longer trusted, as several deceptions by him are discovered. M-Day also restores all of Wolverine's memories, causing him to be slightly more violent and harsher, much as he'd been when he first joined the team. <p>For many months, no new mutant X-genes are activated. Then a baby is born, one who is a mutant. The X-Men and others race against each other to get to the child, believing she is either the key to hope or the damnation of the mutant race. The girl Hope is finally sent to Cable, who protects her and raises her in the future. Following this, Cyclops moves the X-Men to San Francisco, where mutants are generally accepted. He also sanctions the creation of a new X-Force team, a black ops unit that will quietly kill enemies that can't be handled any other way.
After several conflicts with the government, Cyclops decides screw it and moves the X-Men to an island base off the coast of California. Now they are a small nation of mutants, Utopia. Anyone is welcome, including old enemies and allies who wish sanctuary and to start anew. Rather than be thankful that the mutant warriors and their students are now isolated, the governments of the world grow more fearful that the remaining world's mutants are now organized under one leader. Their fear increases when Magneto and Namor the Sub-Mariner, King of Atlantis, joins the X-Men on Utopia. <p>Cyclops grows colder and more pragmatic, causing old friends and allies to no longer trust him. The revelation of X-Force's existence is disturbing to many, as are his command decisions when he tries to protect Hope from assassination. At last, new mutants begin to appear, but there are still so few that Cyclops considers the race to be on the edge of extinction. In the past, they followed a dream of co-existence but now the name of the game is survival at any cost. <p>When a group of X-Men is defeated by the new incarnation of the Hellfire Club's inner circle, a group of ingenious and sociopathic adolescents, Cyclops authorizes one of his teenage students to use lethal force to protect hundreds of innocent hostages. Disgusted by this, Wolverine decides to leave, taking with him those who believe that the teen students should be protected from active combat for as long as possible and that Cyclops' methods are too militaristic.
Wolverine, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Beast and others rebuild and re-open the X-Mansion as a school. Renaming it the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, the school is now run by Kitty and Wolverine, who are adjusting to their new positions of not merely leading people into combat but organizing classes, dealing with politics, and doing their best to guide the entire student body. Their adventures are featured in <b>Wolverine and the X-Men</b>. <p>Cyclops continues to operate on Utopia, leading those who remained. His street level team is led by Dazzler, while he commands a primary team of heavy hitters (including Magneto, Storm, Namor and others) that is dubbed the extinction team, acting to stop worldwide threats, not just evil mutants. Their adventures are depicted in the pages of the new series <b>Uncanny X-Men</b>. <p>Cyclops has put together a few other team as well. The science team, led by World War II adventurer Dr. Nemesis, is featured in <b>X-Club.</b> The security recon force, led by Psylocke, is featured in the adjectiveless title <b>X-Men</b>. Dani Moonstar leads her clean-up team in <b>New Mutants</b>. <p>Meanwhile, Rogue and more of the pro-Wolverine camp are adjusting to life at the Jean Grey School, which is covered in <b>X-Men: Legacy</b>. X-Force, currently consisting of members from both sides, continues operating in the series <b>Uncanny X-Force</b>. And the crew of X-Factor Investigations has recently reunited with Havok and Polaris, who've been sent by Wolverine. You can read about that in <b>X-Factor.</b> <p>The entire post-<i>Schism</i> dynamic is being called into question by the 12-part, biweekly event series <i>Avengers vs. X-Men</i>, which is just now getting off the ground. Based on early promotional material related to the event, it looks like at least the X-Men might find themselves united once again, to some degree though exactly who ends up where remains to be seen as the story unfolds. <p>And that brings you up to speed! Now go out and enjoy the Post-Schism X-Men era (for as long at it lasts)!