I just finished watching a documentary on Amazon about Chris Claremont while sipping on a whiskey and water and reflecting back on how I got into punk rock. It all came down to a fateful day in December of 1987 when I happened upon an issue of the Uncanny X-Men. Issue 224 in particular. I was 12 years-old and that comic forever changed the trajectory of my life.
The cover featured a newer character named Longshot. He was head-to-toe in leather, had a cool 8-pointed star emblem on his jacket, 4 fingers on each hand and a blonde mullet. This fucker looked bad ass. I had never read a comic before this, but I was already an avid illustrator. I bet I read that issue over and over about 300 times in the next month. What I was exposed to was a superhero group that were absolutely not your typical super heroes. They looked rough. Beaten down by life. Their costumes weren’t bright and shiny. This was a group of misfits. They didn’t get praise and accolades for saving people. They saved people because it was the right thing to do. A few issues later, they would all sacrifice themselves to save humanity in an event called Fall of the Mutants.
At 12 years-old, this single comic lit the fire that would become my love of punk rock. Chris Claremont was the writer on that issue and Marc Silvestri was the artist. For my money, this was without a doubt one of the most dangerous teams in comics. At the time, my taste in music was complete shit. Pretty sure it was lots of Weird Al and Bon Jovi. I didn’t have an older brother to show me cool music. All I had was what I heard on the radio. A few years later, I would be turned on to Black Flag, Minor Threat, Nirvana, Sex Pistols, and all of the other standards.
I stuck with comic books until I was around 19 years-old. Then the price on comic books went up, and I became more focused on playing guitar and finding my own voice in punk rock. This was also around the time that Claremont stopped writing any X-Men titles. He had over 15 years on the title before Marvel became super corporate in the ‘90s and the motivation became more about making money than telling a great story with well-developed characters that a moody adolescent like myself could relate too. The comic scene shifted into a different level of hyper-masculinity that I couldn’t relate to. Huge muscles, lots of explosions, and tough-guy bullshit. The heart was gone. Claremont’s run on the X-Men helped develop my thoughts on feminism, racism, and classism. It made me look at the world around me and recognize that it was way bigger than my working-class brain could truly understand.
When I got into the X-Men, their leader was a black female with a mohawk and she didn’t have any powers. But she still led the team despite this. That alone spoke to me in epic ways. Colossus was a big Russian with metal skin and in any other book would be type-cast as a giant thug, but he absolutely wasn’t. He was the kindest of all of the X-Men. Longshot was a goofy, innocent kid who never really had a family until he found the X-Men. I related hard to that. I was in public school until 7th grade when I was transferred to the Christian school system. I was thrown into a world where money and hypocrisy ruled everything. I didn’t fit in at all. I look back at the kid I was then and I have no fukn idea how I made it out alive. I was teased relentlessly, bullied, shoved into lockers…I even got recruited on to the wrestling team. They got me by making me think I had potential to be something great, but I soon found out that I was just there for the team to use as a punching bag. Yeah, blah blah blah, poor me…
"I eventually found my punk rock family. My X-Men.
My group of misfits that didn’t fit in with conventional society."
Comics were my only escape, especially the X-Men. After discovering comics, I spent all of my free time trying to emulate the drawing styles of those artists: Silvestri, Jim Lee, Liefeld, McFarlane….all of them. I wanted desperately to become a comic book artist. But life had other plans for me. I went and knocked up my first girlfriend and did the family thing for a bunch of years. Eventually I would apply my drawing skills to my love of punk rock by illustrating flyers for various DIY gigs for friends’ bands all over the Midwest. I eventually found my punk rock family. My X-Men. My group of misfits that didn’t fit in with conventional society. I don’t know where I would be without punk rock, but I know it wouldn’t be as fun or fulfilling. At 45 years-old, I am still in this. I occasionally run into people from way back then and, when I tell them that I am still actively in touring bands, drawing flyers for bands, and booking shows, they look at me like I am crazy. I fukn love that look and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Never grow up. It’s a trap.