Generation X was one of the most successful new comics of 1994. It introduced a new team of teenaged mutants. It reintroduced the concept of young X-Men as students, though with the twist of having them attend the former Massachusetts Academy now controlled and rechristened by Charles Xavier. The new characters fit in nicely as the next generation, especially as the last set of students- the New Mutants- was growing up and no longer going to school. Generation X filled a niche as the young, hip X-Men comic. The title lasted a respectable 75 issues, not including annuals, one-shots and extra curricular crossovers.
So what happened? For one thing, later creative teams weren’t able to capture the same energy or interest as the series creators. The humorous Scott Lobdell stories and the beautiful Chris Bachalo art helped make Generation X a success. Some of those later creators had impressive credentials or would go on to make their name in other ways- Larry Hama, Terry Dodson, Jay Faerber and Brian Wood all had tenures on the title- but none of them could make a strong enough impression on Generation X.
More than that, the industry suffered serious setbacks. Marvel declared bankruptcy (though that was due to ill-advised acquisitions rather than any failings of the comic book division), the speculator bubble burst and comics went into a sales trough in the late ‘90s that many observers thought the industry would never recover from. Unfairly or otherwise, a lot of the successful comics of the ‘90s bore the brunt of the blame. When the industry began its recovery in the early part of this decade, some of the successful comics of the ‘90s weren’t able to come along for the ride. Generation X was one of those. Marvel had tried to invigorate flagging interest with its Counter X brand but that didn’t work and Generation X was cut loose when Grant Morrison successfully rebuilt the X-Men brand in 2001.
So why now? Well, Marvel has discovered that many of their ‘90s comics are primed for a comeback. X-Force is selling more than 50,000 issues a month. Deadpool and Cable have been re-established as top 40 books. Even an ‘80s X title, the New Mutants, has launched to decent numbers. Admittedly, Generation X isn’t a part of the Rob Liefeld corner of the mutant world- which is the case for the more successful relaunches X-Force, Cable and Deadpool. It probably wouldn’t work as a violent black ops book or a depressing dystopian future. Even so, there are encouraging signs to think that Generation X could be positioned for a comeback.
After all, the title isn’t as unpopular as is sometimes suggested by those who want to rewrite history. The original Lobdell/Bachalo run fared well in Comics Should Be Good’s poll of the best 100 runs in comic book history (finishing in the top 125). Many of the Generation X characters moved on to other books- both Chamber and Husk were made members of the X-Men by Joe Casey and Chuck Austen- while others still hold prominent places in the X-universe- Emma Frost is now one of the central figures, M is a regular cast member of X-Factor. Plus, Marvel has been trying to reintroduce some of these characters in the former mutants in disguise title, New Warriors.
So what would I do with it? I wouldn’t put the characters back in school. That ship has sailed. And Marvel already has a newer generation of young mutants, who were introduced in various incarnations of New X-Men, New Mutants and Young X-Men. So that niche doesn’t need filling. Meanwhile, the class ahead of them is engaged in a love affair with nostalgia. The New Mutants have reunited their classic line-up and are facing their classic villains like Legion. So I wouldn’t go the straight nostalgia route with Generation X either. The title isn’t likely to strike lightning twice in the same way.
Instead, I would draw inspiration from the generation after which the title draws its name. Generation X (roughly those born between 1965 and 1980) is known for accumulating experiences rather than committing to one specific career. They’re known as being more flexible in terms of moral outlook as well as racial and ethnic integration. There’s the hook: a team of former heroes and former villains; a team of mutants, former mutants and humans; a team of mixed heritages. I would build the team around a core of Chamber, Husk, Jubilee and Penance (I’d leave M with X-Factor because I respect Peter David too much to steal a character from one of his titles- though, of course, I would borrow her from time to time). I’d then add in former foes and adversaries Cordelia Frost, Mondo (he joined the team briefly but he spent more time as Cordelia’s cat-spaw), Vincente and Murmur (the last two were members of Emplate’s Hellions).
I’d concentrate more on accumulating experiences- such as traveling to exotic locations on this world and others- than on fighting villains- though they’d do their share of that, too. I’d have them meet up with other characters their own age- such as the young Inhumans like Tonaja. I would re-establish Penance’s original identity as an emotionally wounded survivor of a civil war- though I’d probably do so through a mystery story line. I would bring in other foes and allies like Marrow and X-Man as guest-stars (I’d even like to have them on the team, but ten members seems like too many). It might even be fun to cast them as uneasy mentors in a story with the Runaways. I would want to explore what the world looks like to people just started to live on their own. And I would probably set the team back in New York, giving them some distance from all of the other students- former and otherwise- in San Francisco.
At least, that’s my idea.