The X-Men are huge business. The franchise has made over $2 billion dollars across six movies — and that's just what they've accomplished on the big screen.
X-Men: Days of Future Past, released Friday, is the seventh installment in the series, and brings together characters from all six previous films. That’s seven movies drawing from 50 years of comic book source material.
While many of us know the names of characters, their powers and their best action sequences, there is a whole world of X-Men knowledge that takes a little surface scratching to see. Here are 11 facts about the X-Men that will bring you a little deeper into the X-Men world.
X-Men creator Stan Lee was asked to change the title because it was believed nobody would know what the word mutant meant. That was in 1963, and even though Marvel had been using the word for about a decade, it wasn’t nearly as common as it is today. Instead of the Merry Mutants, the world was introduced to The X-Men.
Wolverine, the only character to appear in every single X-Men film, didn’t even exist until the 1970s. He first appeared in a Hulk comic from late 1974 and didn’t join the X-Men until 1975. He’s as popular in the comics as he is on screen. Four comics currently have Wolverine as their lead character, and he makes appearances in a number of team books, including several Avengers titles.
Since the first issue, the X-Men have had a number of different costume designs, but it all started with those blue and yellow costumes. If you're familiar with the cartoon from the nineties, you've seen them before. Even though there's a small reference to the costumes in the first X-Men movie, we don’t see them on the big screen screen until 11 years later in X-Men: First Class.
Iceman was there from the beginning, along with Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel and Beast. All of those characters have appeared in the movies, but only Jean Grey and Cyclops were shown as full members of the team in the first movie. An entirely different group of students was the titular first class from X-Men: First Class.
Along with introducing the younger students, First Class fills in the background of Professor Charles Xavier, the founder of X-Men. Even though the performances by British actors Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy, complete with English accents, have become iconic, Professor Xavier of the comics is actually American. He grew up in the house that would eventually become the location of the X-Men school, along with his step-brother, the Juggernaut.
Family is as central to the villains and anti-heroes as it is to heroes like Xavier. In the comics, Magneto is the father of three children: Lorna Dane (Polaris), Pietro Maximoff (Quicksilver) and Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch). If those last two names sound familiar, you've probably seen them in the news: the Maximoff twins are the exceptions to the "no X-Men in the Marvel studios movies" and will be appearing in next summer's Avengers: Age of Ultron. Quicksilver appears, played by Evan Peters, in Days of Future Past.
So what about the woman in the middle of Xavier and Magneto? In the comics, Mystique is actually much older than both, and was born in the late 19th century. She's also the mother of two mutants who may be familiar to movie audiences: Nightcrawler and Rogue. She was originally intended to be the father of Nightcrawler, with her long-term partner, Destiny. The two met in the early part of the 20th century, when Mystique was living as a man.
Mystique isn't the only one with a richer life in the pages of the comics. The original star of Days of Future Past is Kitty Pryde. Though in the movie Wolverine travels back to the past to change the future, in the comic book it’s Kitty Pryde who’s the hero of the story. Kitty is one of the central X-Men characters in modern comics, and is a computer genius with a pet dragon named Lockheed. She even once served as headmistress of Xavier’s School.
In addition to Kitty, Jean Grey, Storm and Emma Frost, played in First Class by January Jones, have all taken turns running the school. The women of X-Men have played important parts in all of the major storylines in the comics. In the summer of 2013, Marvel released the first all-female X-Men book.
X-Men comics have never shied away from tackling issues like sexism or racism. Right from the start, co-creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby used mutant-hatred as an allegory for racial tensions in the United States. In 2012, shortly after Proposition 8 passed in California, Marvel started a story about Proposition X, a piece of legislation put forth by Simon Trask – brother of the character played by Peter Dinklage in Days of Future Past – to regulate mutants’ marital and reproductive rights.
Singer and Ian McKellan each signed onto the movies because of the allegory of mutants to the modern struggles of LGBT people. In the second movie, they worked to make sure that Iceman’s "coming out" scene, where he tells his parents that he’s a mutant, would reflect what gay people might go through when coming out to their parents.
Correction: April 5, 2015
An earlier version of this article referred to Cain Marko, the Juggernaut, as a mutant. Juggernaut is a mutant in X-Men 3: The Last Stand, but in the comics and several cartoon adaptations, his origin story is not genetic.