Roy Thomas was struggling to find a good ending to his tale. Thomas was a “schlock jock” for Marvel, as comic book writers were dubbed in 1969. He was writing an issue of the X-Men featuring giant robots called Sentinels. These mechanical monsters steal the show in the latest blockbuster, X-Men: Days of Future Past. The Sentinels are programmed to eliminate all mutants, a mandate they carry out with ruthless efficiency.
A young office boy offered a suggestion. Why not have the Sentinels try to destroy the sun? After all, solar radiation is the major cause of mutations. Not only did Thomas promptly incorporate the idea, he even gave a “plot assist credit” to this precocious gofer.
That credit would mark the beginning of a glittering career for 19-year-old Chris Claremont. An immigrant from London who had had a difficult childhood settling in New York, he was the perfect choice to write about mutants — the ultimate outsiders. Claremont would go on to become the definitive writer for the X-series, including the “Days of Future Past” story arc, which forms the basis of the film. This idea of destroying the sun is typical of Claremont’s big-screen inventiveness.
The film, directed by Bryan Singer, is great fun, heralding a return to old-school comic book style filmmaking, in marked contrast to the doomy gloom of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. At its heart is a preposterous plot involving time-trips (not physically, which would be too normal, but by transferring consciousness back through time). To add to the meta-fun, it also retcons the franchise’s previous entry, X-Men: The Last Stand, which killed off all the main characters. Retcon, or retroactive continuity, is one superpower all fans possess. A mutation that enables them to suspend belief, as it were.
Singer translates the inventiveness of the plot with great visual pizazz, reaching a glorious culmination in the Pentagon kitchen, of all places. The highlight is a delirious sequence involving the mutant Quicksilver. Not since The Matrix has bullet-time been so much fun. This bravura piece shows what comics can do.
Above all, DoFP, as it has been invariably christened, is a treat for fans — a film for and by them. There is a special thrill if you are au courant with the twists and turns of the X-franchise. DoFP plays fast and loose with continuity — a given because of the time-travel and the associated, parallel realities that spawn as each change occurs in the time stream. There are different versions of us, echoing across the stacked realities.
The man behind this was Michael Moorcock, who coined the term “multiverse”. Moorcock’s greatest creation was Elric, a sword-slinging anti-hero who rampaged in various avatars across the dimensions.
Comics immediately embraced this exuberant style of storytelling. This sprawling fictional continued…