| Phoenix Rising!
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3 issue crossover between Uncanny X-Men, Avengers and Fantastic Four spotlighting the return of Jean Grey after her death at the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga.
INTRODUCTION BY KURT BUSIEK: If you haven't read these stories yet, you might want to skip this introduction until you have -I'm going to talk about how the story came to be, and a such, I may end up spoiling surprises for new readers. That said, onward...
To call these stories controversial, when they first came out, would be an understatement. It had been five years since the X-Man known as Phoenix -Jean Grey, or so we thought- had sacrificed herself to save the universe from the inevitable threat of Dark Phoenix. And here was Marvel, telling readers that no, that wasn't quite Jean, and she'd really been alive all this time?
Some readers were pleased, of course, and glad to see Jean back, Others were horrified, feeling that to tamper with the story in which Phoenix died was to rob it of its power, and turn it into a travesty. "Who came up, with this rotten idea?" they wanted to know.
Well, uh, me (Kurt Busiek)
And here's how it came to be... Back in 1980, while I was in college, some friends and I heard trough the gravepine that Jean's death had been decreed, and would hit in X-Men #137. We didn't have the Internet back then, but news traveled fast -and we heard not only that Jim Shooter, editor-in-chief of Marvel back then, had demanded that Jean die for her acts as Dark Phoenix (specifically, killing the entire planet of D'Bari), but that he wouldn't allow any creators to resurrect her, unless some way could be found that left her not guilty of Dark Phoenix's crimes.
We were aghast -we were all fans of the original X-Men, and hated the idea of any of the original team being killed off. But in addition, we were intrigued by the caveat- that she couldn't come back unless she was innocent. We spent a fine evening talking comics, and working out possible scenarios for Jean's return -a return from death we hadn't yet seen. My idea was that Phoenix hadn't really been Jean- but an incarnation of the Phoenix-force (something Chris Claremont had seemed to at least hint at when he made references to Phoenix being a separate entity from Jean) that had used Jean as a template to give itself form. Dark Phoenix, to my mind, was the inevitable corruption of the resulting entity as it grew further and further apart from its source. And that would mean Jean was still alive, cocooned at the bottom of Jamaica Bay.
Now mind you, this wasn't anything I intended to pitch to Marvel. It was just a creative exercise, a way for a few friends to have some fun, and vent our annoyance at a story we didn't like the sound of. I filed the story away in my mind, and what was that... or so I thought.
Three years later, I'd broken into business -I was writing Power Man and Iron Fist, my first regular assignment, at the time- and was attending one of my first comics conventions as a pro. It was in Ithaca, New York, which meant I got to hang out with Roger Stern, a superb craftsman and all-around affable guy. Our chat turned to the X-Men, and at one point, Roger commented that he'd like to see Jean Grey return, but there was no way to do it without getting around Shooter's ruling on the matter.
"Sue there is" I said, snotnosed young whippersnapper that I was.
I outlined the idea I'd come up with, and Roger liked it. Again, there was no thought of actually using it -it was just more comics conversation, and it ended there. Or so, once again, I thought.
It was two years later, or so, that I was working as the assistant editor on Marvel Age, when Bob Layton breezed up to me in Marvel's bullpen and said, "Hey, I hear you're the guy I have to thank for having Jean back!"
"Huh?" I responded brightly, having no idea what he was talking about.
It seems that in the intervening time, Roger had mentioned the idea to his pal John Byrne, and John had liked it, too. And when word got out that Bob would be doing a new series called X-Factor, reuniting the four surviving original X-Men, John called Bob and said, "I know a way you could have Jean in the team, too..."
So Bob ran the idea past Jim Shooter, and Jim okayed it. And Roger got to show Jean being found in Avengers, John got to revive in Fantastic Four, and Bob got to reunite the original X-Men in X-Factor #1. Me, I got paid for the idea, I got a credit line in Fantastic Four (even if my name was misspelled, rowr), and I got to edit the issue of Marvel Age that promoted the whole thing.
Now, you'll notice that I've cleverly taken all the credit for Jean's return (my idea! my idea!) and ducked all the blame (it wasn't me who decided to do it! I didn't even know it was happening!). But all I contributed, in the final analysis, was the idea -the explanation of how Jean could still be alive- and that wasn't a story. It was up to Roger (with John Buscema), John (with some uncredited revisions by Chris Claremont and Jackson Guice, the result of creative differences with the editor-in-chief that would soon see John departing Fantastic Four) and Bob Layton (with Guice again) to take that explanation and build an actual story around it. Which they did -and that's what you'll see in the pages that follow. A solid, dramatic, involving story one that played a significant part in the ongoing history of the Marvel Universe -and which can now serve as a companion volume to The Dark Phoenix Saga, filling the latecomers who know, thanks to that volume, how Jean "died", but have never been sure just how she came back.
And that's it -the story of how an idea started out as idle conversation among a group of comics fans, and wound up becoming a reality. To all of you out there who think this story "ruined" X-Men #137, my apologies. For my part, I think Phoenix's sacrifice holds up pretty well as a powerful and affecting story, however much it annoyed me at the time of publication- and I'll admit, I do like the Marvel Universe a little better, knowing that Jean's still walking around in it.
But do me a favor, would you? If you ever come up with a great idea for how Uncle Ben or Bucky could be still be alive... keep it to yourself, okay? -- Kurt Busiek, Feb 1999
The Avengers (1963) #263
Fantastic Four (1961) #286
X-Factor (1986) #1
Characters appearing in this story arc ():
Adam Warlock (Marvel)(01 - Earth-616)
Angel (Marvel)(03 - Warren Worthington III)
Banshee (Marvel)(01 - Sean Cassidy)
Beast (Marvel)(Henry McCoy)
Black Knight (Marvel)(02 - Nathan Garrett)
Black Knight (Marvel)(03 - Dane Whitman)
Captain America (Marvel)(01 - Steve Rogers)
Captain Marvel (Marvel)(02 - Monica Rambeau)
Colossus (Marvel)(03 - Piotr Rasputin)
Dr. Peter Corbeau (Marvel)
Cyclops (Marvel)(03 - Scott Summers)
Dark Phoenix (Marvel)
Firefist (Marvel)(02 - Rusty Collins)
Cameron Hodge (Marvel)
Human Torch (Marvel)(02 - Johnny Storm)
Invisible Woman (Marvel)
Edwin Jarvis (Marvel)
Marvel Girl (Marvel)(01 - Jean Grey)
Melter (Marvel)(01 - Bruno Horgan)
Maris Morlak (Marvel)
Mr. Fantastic (Marvel)(01 - Reed Richards)
Namor the Sub-Mariner (Marvel)
Phoenix (Marvel)(02 - Phoenix Force)
Madelyne 'Maddie' Pryor (01 - Jean Grey clone)
Scourge of the Underworld (01 - Unknown)
She-Hulk (Marvel)(01 - Jennifer Walters)
Wladyslav Shinski (Marvel)
Storm (Marvel)(01 - Ororo Munroe)
Nathan Christopher Charles Summers
Wasp (Marvel)(01 - Janet Van Dyne)
Wolverine (Marvel)(01 - James 'Logan' Howlett)
Carlo Zota (Marvel)
View the contribution history for this story arc