On the X-Men

Lee, Kirby and Ovid's X-Metamorphoses

By Adam Roberts

Here, Adam Roberts takes center stage to argue that we’ve all been reading the X-Men incorrectly for the past four and a third decades and that, rather then reading the books with an emphasis on the WHAMs, BAMs and POWs, we should instead be reading the book in … Latin?

SEE IF YOU CAN IDENTIFY the odd one out in this list:

‐ Stan “the Man” Lee (born 1922) ‐ Jack “the King” Kirby (born 1917) ‐ Publius Ovidius “the Nose” Naso (born 43 B.C.)

You got it? It’s pretty obvious, I know.

The odd one out, of course, is Kirby, because he is a visual artist.1 Ovid and Lee are both writers, and writers, moreover, who conceived and executed a massive continuous work about the adventures of a large and diverse group of mutants across a world-spanning land- scape of good and evil, gods and mortals. Lee’s epic has gone under various names: Uncanny X-Men, X-Men, Giant-Size X-Men, Astonishing X-Men and even, for a while, New Mutants. Ovid’s has just one name, Metamorphoses, a word we might as well translate as “mutations.” These two works are actually the same.

Before you go “Huh?” and turn the page, give me a moment to explain why it makes sense to bracket together a 12,000-line poem in Latin hexameters written in ancient Rome between 2 B.C. and 8 A.D. with a mutant-superhero franchise that began in the 1960s as a comic and has now itself mutated into graphic novels, spin-off fiction, animated tales, motion pictures, action  …

More from Adam Roberts

Stay Updated

on our daily essay, giveaways, and other special deals

Our Books

Subscribe via RSS