“Back to Reality”
Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencils: Ken Lashley
Inks: Tom Wegrzyn
Colours: Joe Rosas
Letters: Richard Starkings
Editors: Suzanne Gaffney & Bob Harras
Original publication date: March 1995
Welcome back to reality—we ain’t spat in it or nothing. (Though we can’t promise the same of Pete Wisdom.) But we’re jumping right from one apocalypse into another, driving a bumpy jeep through Genoshan metaphors and marvelous mutant ones in general, talking appropriation and identification and all the bad and better stuff pop culture can do with comics scholar Dr. Neil Shyminsky! Plus—we look back at the mad, mad, mad, mad world of X-Men bulletin boards and go searching for the Sugar Man hive.
On X-Men as outsiders:
“The X-Men are an almost-unique example of a superhero term that isn’t fighting for the status quo.” -Neil
“For much of its history, the mutant metaphor has run the risk of ‘oppression tourism’ for people who don’t necessarily have real-world experience of oppression.” -Neil
On appropriation & identification:
“When I first got into X-Men comics, I had such a strong feeling that—if I looked like Nightcrawler, all the ways I felt different would make sense. I’ve spent a lot of time working through those feelings since then.” -Anna
“The mutant metaphor is inherently appropriative. It steals bits of oppression from multiple real-world things to create an omni-oppressed group… But the degree to which that’s problematic depends a lot on what you do with it personally.” -Mav
On otherness as a gift:
“What I do like about the mutant metaphor is that it imagines otherness as being something more. Special. Unique. That otherness can be a gift.” -Neil
On the malleability of metaphors:
“The malleability of the mutant metaphor embodies that cliché where its greatest power is also its greatest weakness.” -Neil
On problematic moments:
“There was a moment where I became actively hostile toward this comic, and it was when they decided to ‘both sides’ the Genosha conflict.” -Neil
Want more Neil Shyminsky?
Dr. Neil Shyminsky is an English professor at Cambrian College in Sudbury, Canada and has published almost exclusively on superheroes and comic books. Related to this, with Victoria Kannen, co-edited the academic anthology The Spaces and Places of Popular Culture in 2019. On the more fannish side of things, he created the X-Universe message board at comicboards.com back in 1997, which he moderated for exactly a decade. Which was the internet’s most popular X-Men forum for most of that time!
Plus! You can find his article from the International Journal of Comic Art, “Mutant Readers, Reading Mutants: Appropriation, Assimilation, and the X-Men,” online via academia.edu!