Writer: Chris Claremont
Pencils: Arthur Adams
Inks: Terry Austin & Bob Wiacek
Colours: Glynis Oliver
Letters: Tom Orzechowski and Jade Moede
Editor: Terry Kavanagh
Original publication date: December 1989
In this episode, we laugh, we cry, we over-intellectualize the self-reflexivity of itty-bitty X-Men on the run from the spineless dictator of a reality TV-based hellscape. Which can only mean one thing: we’re talking about “Mojo Mayhem,” the second Excalibur special and the first to co-star Sugah, Wolvie, Lil Dazzler, Lil Havok, Shower, Lil Longshot, Colossusus, and Psychilde—otherwise known as the X-Babies! Children’s comics expert Dr. Gwen Tarbox joins Anna, Mav, and Andrew to talk rhetorical functions of children in comics, the revolutionary power of granting children agency, and why “Mojo Mayhem” is actually a story about loss, grief, depression… and healing. But will the pod ever heal from Andrew and Mav’s incredulous reaction to Anna’s X-Babies indifference…?
This episode has an enhanced video version! Watch here:
On the difference between children in comics and comics for children:
“The intended audience for this comic isn’t necessarily children. That means we’re dealing with looking at children as portrayed by adults, written by adults… as a result, the children themselves come off differently. They’re much more like miniature adults. And they’re clearly being used for a larger narrative purpose. There’s not a lot of morality surrounding these kids–which is actually a breath of fresh air.” -Gwen
On why "Mojo Mayhem" is really a story about grief:
“On its surface Mojo Mayhem is a silly romp with the obnoxiously cute X-Babies. But that belies a melancholy core to the story, which explores concepts of depression, survivor’s guilt, and a deeply affecting elaborate fantasy of coming to terms with the ones we’ve lost.” -Andrew
On Ricochet Rita:
“Ricochet Rita is a self-insert of Ann Nocenti’s, that reflects on her role as a long-suffering editor. But despite being a Mary Sue, she maintains a complex agency. She follows the X-Babies because she cares about them–and in a selfish quest for glory.” -Anna
On cultural context:
“This was the height of child actors, so these kids negotiating for the terms of their service was totally self-reflexive, and totally amazing.” -Gwen
On Kitty getting semi-naked (again):
“Art Adams is clearly capable of sexualizing a teenage girl (see every time he’s drawn Illyana). Kitty doesn’t come across that way here. He’s treating her differently. It’s not cheesecake.” -Mav
More thoughts on Kitty’s vulnerability:
“In talking about Kitty’s half-nakedness, and Wolvie’s comment, we’re getting at a really important point, which is that it’s really hard to read comics as a woman. You’re filtering through decades of representations to decide how you feel.” -Gwen
On Kitty Pryde as identification character:
“This comic has a really interesting dual address. Anyone reading this comic, of any gender, is getting an important dose of taking young women seriously. That would have been almost revolutionary at this time.” -Gwen
“I think this is a self-aware critique from Claremont, of him being aware that he’s working in a medium that is perceived as juvenile. There’s commentary on the X-Men characters and the mechanics of being a Marvel writer in the 80s.” -Andrew
“There’s a trauma associated with being the work-for-hire creator. These characters became Claremont’s, became his babies, yet he’s never going to be fully in control of them. I think the inherent chaos of the X-Babies is in conversation with that.” -Anna
Want more Gwen Tarbox?
You can find Gwen on Twitter (@GATarbox), and you can find her book Children’s and Young Adult Comics here or wherever fine books are sold. She’s also the co-editor, with Dr. Michelle Ann Abate, of Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults: A Collection of Critical Essays.
And! Anna did a Claremont Run thread on the “naughty child” archetype” to tie-in with this episode, which you can find here.
And as usual:
You can find Anna on Twitter (@peppard_anna) and on her podcast with Andrew and Michael Hancock, Three Panel Contrast (@3PanelContrast).
You can find Andrew on Twitter (@ClaremontRun).
You can find Mav on Twitter (@chrismaverick) and on his podcast, VoxPopcast (@VoxPopcast).