Let me put it out there – first and foremost, I’m biased. Anyone who knows me, knows I am biased. Anyone whose listened to our podcast, knows I am biased. Unlike the majority of the comic book world, I am actually a very big fan of Adam-X; and let’s be clear, that is not sarcasm. I own a two page spread from the Captain Marvel comic where Adam-X appears (and got it autographed by Fabian).
Speaking of Fabian, he’s technically the reason all of this started, so many years ago. You see, way back in the day – on a warm, summer day in 1993, X-Men #23 came out. What could possibly be significant about X-Men #23 – it’s not a #1, or even a land mark 25th, 50th, or 75th issue! Well, in this issue, Cyclops runs into Mister Sinister in Alaska, and Sinister says:
“I care, Scott. Selfishly, I’ll grant you, for the fruitful pursuit of my own self-interests… But I care enough to wish you and your brothers to be protected from this illness.”
Scott catches the plural of brothers – and asks Sinister what he means by that, and he brushes it off as a mistake, and that he had only meant Scott’s brother, Alex Summers (Havok). Now, in 1993, Marvel was doing a thing where they were introducing new characters in the Annuals (in the event you’re interested, the list is provided at the very end of this article). Now, Fabian was also writing the X-Force books, including X-Force Annual #2, where Adam-X was introduced. Now, Fabian has gone on record as saying, his intended plan was to make Adam the “3rd Summers Brother”…
“The character [X-Treme] WAS created to be the 3rd brother, but once I left the x-books, the following writers/editors chose to ignore the sub-plot(which is their call to make). the good news is that no writer/editor contradicted the storyline plans I had, so maybe someday I could still pick it up.
While Fabian was indeed laying down the groundwork for this to come true (X-Force #29 and #30, Captain Marvel #2 and 3, and X-Men #39). Through those issues, we do get confirmation that Adam is not from Earth, and that he is the son of D’Ken and the rightful heir to the Shi’ar Throne; as well as Cyclop’s grandfather noting that Adam seems unusually familiar (and reminds him of his grandsons).
As fate would have it, Fabian left the book before he could tell the story. So, like many things in the X-Men books, it became a “dangler.” From there, wild speculations began, from it being Adam, or Gambit, among other things. The years rolled by, and very quickly, Adam faded into obscurity.
Fast forward to 13 years later, in 2006 – Ed Brubaker took it upon himself to – once and for all – resolve the whole “3rd Summers Brother” mystery in a way – that he, and Marvel, promised would shake the X-Men to their foundation.
So, how did they do that? Brubaker wrote a series called X-Men: Deadly Genesis, which retcons (retcon: revise [an aspect of a fictional work] retrospectively, typically by introducing a piece of new information that imposes a different interpretation on previously described events) the “Bible of the X-Men Books” – Giant Size X-Men #1 (which is the first appearance of: Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Thunderbird and is the second full appearance of Wolverine).
Let me take a step back. Let’s talk about how Vulcan even came to be. So back in Uncanny X-Men #156 (1982), Christopher Summers & Katherine Summers (Scott/Cyclops & Alex/Havok’s parents) while they were flying. They’re abducted by the alien race, the Shi’ar. Katherine is kept as a concubine, while Christopher is thrown into the slave mines. When Christopher tries to escape, D’Ken brings Katherine and guts her with a blade, killing her in front of Corsair (Christopher Summers).
However, X-Men: Deadly Genesis also retcons that, and explains that Katherine was pregnant at the time of the abduction, and the infant was cut out and thrown into an incubator and aged to adulthood, to be used as a slave. That adult turns out to be Gabriel Summers, who manages to break free of Erik the Red, a Shi’ar agent on Earth, and is found by Moira MacTaggert. Moira takes him to Charles Xavier, who makes him the leader of a branch of the X-Men, which composes of Gabriel (under the name of Vulcan), Petra, Sway and Darwin.
Originally, in Giant Size X-Men #1, the original X-Men are capturing by the living island of Krakoa; and that’s when Charles Xavier gets Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Thunderbird, Wolverine, Banshee, and Sunfire to assist Cyclops in returning to Krakoa and saving the original X-Men. X-Men: Deadly Genesis’ retcon makes it so – before Professor Xavier gets this new team, he actually sends Vulcan, Sway, Petra, and Darwin to save the original X-Men. All four apparently perish in the mission; so that’s where Professor Xavier decides to get the new team (Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, etc.)
It’s explained in X-Men: Genesis that Professor Xavier feels so guilty about the death of Vulcan, Sway, Petra, and Darwin – that he finds and erases any memory of those who had contact with the four. (This is because, it’s the only way to even hope to explain why no one had heard of these mutants before; making the retcon larger and larger). Not only that, it puts Charles Xavier in a bad light, that he’s so willing to alter people’s memories because of his own, selfish shame.
Now, let’s think about this. In the X-Men’s next mission (with Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Banshee, and Cyclops), Thunderbird perishes in Uncanny X-Men #95 (1975) when he tries to stop Count Nefaria from escaping and the plane crashes into a mountainside, exploding (killing Thunderbird, though Count Nefaria appears later to be alive). But, what’s odd is – if X-Men: Deadly Genesis is to be believed; why wouldn’t Professor Xavier have also wiped the minds of those who knew John Proudstar, the later Thunderbird? Because, as luck would have it, James Proudstar (John’s younger brother) would not only take up the Thunderbird mantle, join the Hellions; he would also eventually go after, and try to initially kill Professor Xavier (blaming him for his brother’s death); he eventually backs down. So, there’s more inconsistency, if you try to accept X-Men: Deadly Genesis as cannon.
There’s just too many reasons for me to dislike Vulcan; the fact that they retconned Giant Size X-Men #1 (this is my biggest beef), the fact that to make his origin even remotely believable, it makes a few characters appear out of character, and is also inconsistent with what we have already seen.
Adam was intended to be the son of D’Ken and Katherine Summers. While I’ve talked to Fabian about it, he’s never fully confirmed his intended plan to me other than “It would have shaken up the space aspect of the X-Men universe.” I suspect, especially after Captain Marvel #3 where we learn he is the son of D’Ken (and with the long blond hair; a trait not found in Shi’ar, but clearly meant to be inherited from Katherine Summers), that Adam would have taken the seat at the throne. To believe Adam’s origin is much, much easier than the train wreck that Vulcan required.
Most comic book people don’t even really know Adam-X, other than “he’s so X-TREME” and “optimizes the 90s.” The later, I can see; he is pretty over the top with the blades. I would have cut down on the blades on the shoulder and the side of the legs. But most people probably have not read a single appearance to know anything more about him, then to use him as a joke. (Yes, believe it or not, Adam-X still comes up). He did appear not too long ago in Uncanny X-Men #513 and Dark Avengers #7, but he was written so poorly, that the writers were intentionally using him to parody himself (his dialogue is way, way, way over the top and written like a “typical surfer” – which, of course, is supposed to be a reference to the 90s). On the flip side, I will give it to Yost, who took over the X-Men books after Brubaker left and wrote Emperor Vulcan, Kingbreaker and War of Kings, all of which featured Vulcan, and was, at least an interesting story (though the death of Corsair was completely uncalled for).
I will probably never change anyone’s mind about Adam, or even Vulcan; but every once in awhile, I am inspired to ramble about it.
The 1993 Annual characters and where they appeared:
Annex – Amazing Spider-Man Annual #27
Bantam – Captain America Annual #12
Darkling – New Warriors Annual #3
Bloodwraith – Avengers Annual #22
Cadre – Web of Spider-Man Annual #9
Charon – X-Factor Annual #8
X-Cutioner – Uncanny X-Men Annual #17
Wildstreak – Fantastic Four Annual #26
Kyllian – Dr. Strange Annual #3
Dreamkiller – Darkhawk Annual #2
Hit Maker – Wonder Man Annual #2
The Assassin – Namor Annual #3
Lazarus – The Incredible Hulk Annual #19
Devourer – Daredevil Annual #9
The Flame – The Mighty Thor Annual #18
Face Thief – Iron Man Annual #14
Phalanx – Punisher War Zone Annual #1
Irish Wolfhound – Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #3
Khaos – Excalibur Annual #1
Nocturne – Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #13
Raptor – Avengers West Coast Annual #8
Night Terror – Ghost Rider Annual #1
Legacy – Silver Surfer Annual #6
Empyrean – X-Men Annual #2
Eradikator – Punisher Annual #6
Tracer – Deathlok Annual #2
X-Treme – X-Force Annual #2