The Monthly Bugle

The X-Men: How Difference Can Be A Superpower

by Marc Griffin

How do you reconcile the idea that we, human beings, are naturally different? In our day and age of extreme opposition to being unlike each other, the future of human relations appears to be a bit bleak; with new issues arising seemingly every day, it has become increasingly difficult even to imagine a world where we do get along despite being different from one another. And it just didn’t magically become this way in 2021; no, I remember the first time I realized I was different as a youth; the comments about my skin color, my features, my dialect, my language—because these qualities about me were different than America’s majority, I was signaled out for them, punished for merely existing. And unfortunately, I’m not the only one. But in this specific kind of darkness, we can understand and, in some instances, appreciate these differences even more. 

As a young boy, I was what people call a “military brat,” and I moved around a lot; I never had time to make friends, and the other kids I was around were incredibly different from me—and wasted no time to remind me of this fact constantly. I became obsessed with the comic book medium after my introduction to Spider-Man and his amazing stories and lessons as it brought me social comfort. From there, I wanted more of this feeling, and I just had to see what else the comic book medium had to offer, what other lessons were lurking amongst the subtext of these spandex-clad characters. 

Enter the X-Men. Struggling with who I was concerning the rest of my peers, being signaled out for being different in an environment that I wasn’t made to feel welcome in, I stumbled upon this little book called the X-Men—my mind was blown. 

If you have never read an X-Men comic book, here’s the general premise: Professor X assembles a team of mutant-based heroes to teach them to use their powers at his school for gifted youngsters. While the original team lacked diversity, the second iteration of the team—the “Giant-sized” X-Men—was no stranger to setting forth the standard for representation in the X-Men mythos. With a new team consisting of heroes such as Storm, a Black woman, Sunfire, a Japanese man, and Thunderbird, a Native American man, the team boasted a new face with an emphasis placed on a diversity that celebrated the idea that being different is one of the strongest powers that society can tap into. 

Seeing and reading (and rereading some more) this old comic gave me one of my first accurate visualizations of celebrated differences. It used to achieve a common goal instead of being torn apart to fit into what the majority looks and sounds like. While the comic book did originally release in 1975, the message of the book, and the overall theme of X-Men in general, is an excellent meditation into understanding how differences can be used to bring us closer together as human beings or, at the very least bringing you closer to understanding yourself as a human being. 

Seeing Storm, Thunderbird, and Sunfire accepted into the ranks of the X-Men as a fellow-powered mutant was so empowering to me as a child and even as an adult. Observing the power in togetherness and accepting each other’s different backgrounds, points of origins, features, and native tongues, Giant-sized X-Men gave me not only a great story but an important message of validation of self; it’s okay to be who you are, positivity has no skin color, no particular citizenship, and it doesn’t have a specific native tongue. This particular book helped instill a certain acceptance of myself and all my differences, and, especially in 2021, I feel we collectively could use more of that.