CHARACTER REHAB: Professor X is a Mess

SPOILER WARNING: The following column spoils essentially every X-Men-related storyline that popped into my head as I wrote it.

Last week, a stray thought struck me while I was taking a chance on the first volume of Uncanny X-Force’s “Dark Angel Saga.” In case you’re not familiar: in this story, our wisecracking band of heroic murderers has been thrust into the Age of Apocalypse, an alternate timeline in which the mutant villain Apocalypse was able to rise to power relatively unchecked and make the whole world look like an episode of Hoarders. In this alternate timeline, Wolverine and the Stabby Bunch meet up with the remnants of that world’s X-Men, who join forces and help the Stabbies in the name of forever protecting “Xavier’s Dream.”

“I’m sorry,” I thought when I read those words for the first time in ages. “Whose whatnow?”

Remember Charles Xavier? He was one of the main guys in the hit film X-Men: First Class last year. After I saw it, I did some internet research, and it turns out that Charles Xavier is actually based on a character that used to be in the X-Men comics as well.

Ponder this for a moment, won’t you?: for years, in either the eyes of the government or the eyes of the world at large, Charles Xavier has been the face of mutation. He is the most famous, outspoken public figure on the most controversial issue of the century. He is the preeminent civil rights leader for an entire new species of people. Any time a mutant does anything, he is the first person every cable news producer tries to book for that evening. He’s such a powerful character that half the X-Men writers could only tell stories by faking his death or whisking him into space for years at a time. When they were forming the Illuminati, he was chosen to represent the interests of his entire race without even running it by anyone else. He had an Infinity Gem under his pillow.

So… what’s he up to?


I think the last time I saw Charlie, he was visiting Logan’s new school and giving him a few attaboys but steering clear of talking about anything heavy, like politics or anything that was actually going on. This was after Logan and Cyclops had a gigantic falling out in which they appeared to be trying to kill one another, even if it meant ignoring the Sentinel that was coming to wipe out Xavier’s entire race. Charlie didn’t really feel the need to weigh in on that one.

Quick: what did Charles Xavier think about Schism? You know, the most important thing to happen to mutants in recent memory? When they asked him?

What’s that?… Nobody? Not even Olbermann?

Professor Xavier is a mess. He’s been a mess for years.

A few weeks back, I was bloviating about how someone needed to reestablish the Hulk Rules, because that character had so badly lost his way that I no longer knew who I was reading about anymore. (Jason Aaron seems to be doing something close enough, although it feels like more Bruce Banner fans should be having online strokes over what he’s been up to with that guy. Another subject for another time.) Since then, I’ve been thinking that there are actually quite a handful of misbegotten souls who could use Character Rehab, and Professor X is Exhibit A.

The more-or-less-accurate recent history, as researched via the top of my head:

  • The mansion’s Danger Room turns out to be sentient. The X-Men discover Xavier knew this and just sort of kept it locked up. Angry, Cyclops bans Xavier from his own house. The most powerful telepath on the planet responds by timidly going off to sleep at the Y.
  • The Scarlet Witch remakes the world into a paradise for mutants. Xavier is not in it. One day, after everything is restored, Xavier strolls back into his house like he’s been at Trader Joe’s. No one ever explains where he went, where he reappeared, or what he’s been doing with himself. Oh, by the way, there was another team of X-Men he never mentioned before. Cyclops’ brother he never knew was on it. Anyway, they’re all dead now. What’s the soup of the day in the cafeteria?
  • After M-Day, the home of the most famous mutant civil rights leader is turned into an internment camp by the U.S. government. As far as I know, he never so much as files a complaint at city hall.
  • Xavier learns from the Illuminati that the Skrulls are invading. He can’t tell Black Bolt is a Skrull. He leaves the meeting to promptly not tell any of the X-Men any of this is happening. The Skrulls surprise-attack the X-Men. Xavier doesn’t show up until all the aliens are gone.
  • Norman Osborn uses a fake Xavier to discredit the X-Men during Dark Reign. The media are never curious about this again. Xavier wants to clear his name, but his former student orders him to stay on the island and go to his room. The world’s most powerful telepath slams his door, cranks up his stereo, and cries into his pillow. This is never resolved.
  • Xavier spends the rest of the series puttering around Utopia in a cardigan and slippers like Abe Simpson, saying, “Tut tut, that’s not how I would have done it,” and hearing, “Shut up. No one asked you.” This seems to be fine with him; he doesn’t leave. Or maybe he does. Have you seen him?

At the very least, Charles Xavier is a terrible, terrible civil rights leader.

Everyone just decided to Mean Girl him, and he doesn’t even care. Has he become an alcoholic? If not, why not?

In the next arc of Uncanny, he shows up as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.

Is this character arc not insane? From a plausibility standpoint? Or am I making too much of something for a change?

I never read Onslaught, but if I recall correctly, this is a man who was once so central and powerful that he accidentally ripped Marvel in half.

It’s not too late for Professor X, not like Hank Pym. Wait. I probably shouldn’t bring that up again. If nothing else, you know as well as I do that the Schism isn’t built to last; maybe Charlie is the one who’ll bring everyone together again and have one more moment to shine. I hope so. That cardigan is not flattering.

Jim Mroczkowski could probably use a little character rehab himself.


  1. Yes to all this. If the character had died 5 years ago, would anybody notice?

  2. So let’s guess, the answer is they should kill him right? that is now this sites answer too all poorly written characters, right?

    • Reading all the way to the end is fun.

    • @malloc: And even IF killing Xavier was the answer ( offered in ONE article by ONE writer on this site), why the snotty comment? None of these guys write the X-Men or even work for Marvel. Any discussion of fictional characters on a site like this is just fodder for casual discussion.

      Even if iFanboy had a “Kill Poorly Written Characters” agenda, so what?

    • Instead of death, I envision a complicated series of stories where they show us that he’s actually been dead since the early years, with the resurrected Morph from X-Humed coming back in and taking his place, very poorly.

      Either that, or just have him doing a series of mind-wipes on everyone all the time so that all they really remember of him is this weird discombobulated history where he pops in and out and is wildly inconsistent in both character and ability. He’s the world’s most powerful telepath, right? So he could totally just be doing whatever the hell he wants and ‘tweaking’ everyone’s perception of where and when he shows up. I’d read that story.

    • @jimski: I think that you are asking a bit much. If the Pym thing has taught us anything, it is that reading and comprehension might be at an all time low.

    • i havent kept up with x-men since before the turn of the century with exception of schism. the claremont/byrne and claremont/lee days are still my favorite.
      however, i have hated cyclops my whole life. after seeing the panels above, i hate him more. i say we kill him. i want his fictional head on a pike.
      it seems to me, at the very least, that someone should have bitch slapped his punk ass for talking to xavier in such a manner.
      death to cyclops, death to cyclops. he is both a douch bag and poorly written. death to cyclops, death to cyclops.

    • I am not saying they should kill xavier. I was pointing out this was 2 articles in a row just pointing out how poorly a character was used, and in the last one (pym) the author said the answer was to kill pym, and this author referred to that article again, so I was just referring to that. I believe xavier should be used used more and given a better role.

  3. Didn’t he also get shot in the head AND healed somewhere in the middle of your timeline?

    Then there was the post-shot-in-the-head soul searching issues… and then… sent to his room on Utopia?

    • YES! THIS!

      The whole ‘shot in the head, was dead for a bit, but I’m cool now’ was the beginning of the end of Charley’s story for me. That was the first storyline where I thought it would have been better off if he went and visited Lilandra for a few decades.

  4. Awesome article. Wouldn’t it be fun if Xavier just started rabble-rousing again? Like, grassroots style, with speeches in the park and letters to the editor and stuff? I’d read that book.

    • I’d never thought of him as a Malcolm X for mutants before this article. If that angle had been played up from the beginning, I would have loved to read this guy over time. Leading peace protests and giving speeches to the downtrodden while mind-wiping students and learning to use a wheelchair all over again would have made some awesome stories.

    • Well, he’s always been the MLK to Magneto’s X, but with Mags in Scott’s inner circle, wouldn’t it be fun to see that role-reversal played out a little further? Suddenly Magneto is an X-Man and Xavier’s a radical activist!

  5. Didn’t he lose his powers on M Day? And then got them back I guess?

  6. Nice article, Jim!

    I agree that Xavier needs an overhaul, but I think given all the inconsistencies, the current writers have definitely made the smarter choice by keeping him off the table for now. The last thing I want is a story designed only to connect the continuity dots of the last 10+ years.

    Professor X was de-powered for a while after M-Day, right? Wasn’t that the initial incident that moved him to the backburner?

    • Sadly I don’t think that’s the initial incident. It seems like they’ve been trying to push him to the back burner immediately after the whole Onslaught mess was partially corrected.

    • Gotcha — I quit reading X-Men just before Onslaught and stayed away until the Morrison era.

      I need to re-read those Morrison issues, it felt like Charles was around for a while, then got busy with all that X-Corp stuff, right?

      Veering off topic: I wonder if the X-Corp concept prefigures Batman Inc a little bit? Morrison introduced both ideas to some fanfare, but both went largely unexplored.

  7. I have no idea how Xavier is walking again.

  8. Send him to D.C.! By doing so he can say whatever he wants, change his mind, and then say the complete opposite thing. He can also do essentially nothing and blame all the ‘red tape’. By doing this the X editors can justify his absence and say that he is working within the system to change it.

  9. Charles Xavier’s dream of mutants and regular people living together equally was one of comics’ highpoints, a sci-fi commentary on civil rights. Weak editorial oversight allowed writers to take the low road revealing one-right-after-another hidden secrets that’ve ruined the character. It’s like the people who keep printing dirt about JFK or MLK decades after their deaths. This is why I stopped reading X-Men.

  10. There was a whole series at some point in there called Excalibur where Xavier was on, I think, Genosha, and Magneto was there, too. Ultimately all of these comments read the same way to me: “I have no idea what the heck they’ve done with Xavier other than make one of the most power psychics on the planet ignorable.”

  11. Looks like they did pretty everything and its opposite short of growing him hair.

  12. Prof. X probably is doing some covert stuff no one knows ala Uncanny X-Force or Secret Avengers… hmmm… “Secret Professor”. You’re welcome Marvel.

  13. Where the hell is he currently? It seems they conveniently left him out of Schism.

  14. What Marvel was probably trying to do was that Xavier isn’t really needed anymore. When X-Men first started the team was mostly kids or young teenagers. So they didn’t have the guidance yet to go out on their own. Now with everyone clearly being adults the idea of a guy trying to control a group of people doesn’t work. So if that was Marvel’s idea then it makes sense….but the execution (or should I say X-ecution?) was terrible.

    I really think this is the best example to show that Marvel has no idea what to do with the X-Men in general. They’re out of ideas and it really showed with Wanda wiping out most of the species. They probably thought that the idea of extinction (or should I say X-tinction?…Okay I’ll stop) would lead to something….but it lead to confusion and downright terrible stories. It also shows with Hope because god forbid they could think of something to do with her until now. She’s been around for five years and they are JUST NOW doing a major event around her.

    What they should do is just do a complete reboot of the characters. Or at least go the Daredevil route by somewhat acknowledging the past but just go in a completely different direction. They are clearly stuck and I just know that this ‘AVX’ event is going to lead to SOMETHING to get the characters back on track. It would just be better if we just wipe the slate clean and move on…..But we can’t have that because there are way too many fans who can’t handle the idea of changing the entire history of the team around. I wasn’t a fan of the Spider-Man reboot because it wasn’t needed (in my mind but that’s a completely different topic) If Marvel wants to make Xavier and the X-Men relevant again then they need to do something drastic. A reboot is the only thing I can think of.

    • Nearly every major X-Men event sans Schism revolved around Hope! Messiah Complex, Messiah War and Second Coming were all about her. I think the issue with Hope isn’t that no one knows what to do with her, but that everyone has been sparse with the explanation as to WHY she’s the One.

    • The X-men books now are better then they’ve been in years. You’d be hard-pressed to find many better on-goings then Uncanny X-Force(Otherworld art notwithstanding) and Wolverine and the X-men. The main problem was they had a lot of shitty decompressed stories by Fraction and Land, lacking any of the great characterization, fun action, or social relevance the series got popular with in the ’80s.

      As Jason Aaron, Rick Remender, and Kieron Gillen keep proving every month(when the art isn’t terribly Greg Land), the answer is not smashing the reset button in a desperate plea for relevance, but taking the cards you’re dealt with and telling good stories.

      As for Xavier, he’s a character that has slowly eroded in relevance for years now. The team outgrew his noble-if-naive philosophy and no longer needed him to take care of them. He is a man with a purpose that no one believes in anymore but Charles himself, and is kept around for nostalgia sake. He honestly should have went out back in Messiah Complex, instead of hanging around and getting shit on for years.

    • @comicbookchris: But all of those stories have the same main plot! It’s ‘save Hope or mutant kind is doomed’. You’re right that they never explained WHY she was important and that goes along with they had no idea what to do with her. Ed Brubaker and Mike Carey clearly had something in mind with her but both were quickly put away for other writers who didn’t have the foggiest on how to make her relevant so she’s been in limbo for five years.

      @Jeremy: We all have different opinions but if we’re talking about THE flagship book for X-Men, which is Uncanny, then it’s been a mess of a book for years. While people have loved X-Force, Wolverine & The X-Men, and other spinoffs that’s what they are, spinoffs. Even if there are X-Men in those titles I don’t consider them the main team. Of course now with the split I don’t know who I could consider as THE X-Men anymore. (I personally can’t get into X-Force because it goes too far into the history of the team and characters I could care less about. While Aaron’s book is fun in its own way, it feels more like it should be apart of its own universe considering it has no ties to the rest of the Marvel U at the moment)

      Put it this was, out of the eight 616 X-Men books that are out only 2 of them I would say people have consistently said it has been great to read. If Marvel wants to have that many books and only a 1/4th are considered good or even hits then that’s a pretty poor showing.

    • Uncanny, Wolverine &, X Factor, X Force and New Mutants are all pretty ace right now and I regularly read praise for all of them…

    • Eh…I’m glad that Brubaker left X-Men. He didn’t really do the series any favors. As for Carey, I still maintain that his adjectiveless X-Men series was one of the best in recent memory.

  15. Schism is the only X-Men book I’ve read in years and I sort of just assumed Xavier was as dead as Jean was during it.

  16. Yeah honestly I thought he was dead. When I saw him at the beginning of WatXM I went to wikipedia to see what he’s been doing. Not even wikiphiles seemed to give a shit.

    He better do something for AvX.

  17. You have to remember that when the AoA was first conceived, the X-men series was still in that “lets keep things as close to the Claremont days as possible!”, so Charles Xavier was still the figurehead of the show, everybody all chillin at Xavier’s Mansion and Xavier was in his suped-up Jim Lee floating wheelchair and shit. The X-men were still fighting for that dream back then.

    Now, its not “The dream is dead, Charles”, it’s “The dream is forgotten”. Nobody follows it anymore, and honestly, I think the book is better for it. Grant Morrison pretty much put it to rest in New X-men #150, where Xavier talks down Magneto/Xorneto/whoever the fuck, saying that their black-and-white philosophies of the world had gotten old and we needed to move past all that 1980s Claremont stuff, and the series ended with Cyclops accepting his new role as leader of the X-men with Emma Frost. People say a lot of Morrison’s run has been forgotten or retcon, but that idea, that development of the series away from Xavier’s school of thought into something more nuanced and grounded in the reality of the world, has been one of the best aspects of the book’s continuity.

    • That wheelchair was sweet. I want one.

    • 1) Important note for myself;I really, really need to get my hands on New X-Men. I so wish I had the cash to purchase the monster sized trade collection coming out.

      2) It really does come down to a changed world. What difference is there between Scott Summers, now essentially the head of a nation (albeit it a fairly small one), sending X-Force to kill threats to said nation and its people; and Barack Obama ordering Seal Team 6 to execute Osama Bin Laden?

  18. Seems like the real schism should have been between Charles & Scott…

    I too have wondered why Chuck is just some old dude wandering the halls of utopia. He’s supposedly the most powerful telepath in the marvel universe, you’d think they’d figure out how to rehabilitate him and give him something to do. That being said, as a long time X-men fan, I don’t think his character has EVER been handled well. Maybe they should follow the last movie’s lead and make him more of a cheeky womanizer…

  19. Xavier been broken since Brubaker character assassinated him in Deadly Genesis

  20. “forgive xavier for what mr. double negative?”
    said mr. double untundra, LOL
    seriously. thats very funny.
    i’m here all week, folks.

  21. Xavier is a great character and a very interesting dude. Even as a supporting role they only go to once in a while, he’s got plenty of potential still.

  22. Ditto. No idea.

  23. Maybe Ron can make this the new Havok and Polaris question for X-Men editors at conventions??

  24. Charles is my dad.

  25. For a few years Marvel’s go to storyline for an X-Men event was to reveal something horrible that Professor X secretly did and hid from everyone. It’s probably best that they keep him out of the spotlight so he can have his triumphant return, but it does make for an interesting comparison to what Scott is doing in Utopia (Keeping X-Force a secret, turning away from the peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants, etc).

    I can only assume that the Professor will come back full time in a new title at some point and predict that he will be teaching in a Jean Grey School-based, “teen mutants” title. If anyone can forgive someone’s past transgressions it’s Wolverine.

    • Yeah, I have a lot of hope that some writer will take it upon himself to have Xavier swoop in save the day is some awesome way in the near future. Wolverine would be a likely conduit to get Chuck back in the school and maybe turn it over to him when the Wolverine & the X-Men concept peters out (which is hopefully a long, long time away).

      Has anyone pin-pointed when all the characters started hating him and kicked him out of his own club? Someone above mentioned Brubaker’s tenure and that seems pretty accurate. It seems Brubaker, and later Fraction, decided the only interesting Cyclops is an angry Cyclops. Of course, Cyclops has to always be angry at his fathers, Cosair or Xavier.

    • I don’t know if I would consider the discovery that Danger was a sentient being and he kept her trapped, in Whedon’s Astonishing, or the discovery that there was another “All New All Different” team with Vulcan, in Brubaker’s Deadly Genesis mini, to be the tipping point, but I think it’s one of those two.

      Cyclops does seem to have some daddy issues, doesn’t he?

  26. brilliant bog Jim. i have been wondering this myself for a few years now

  27. i believe the term is double non-tundra.

  28. A year later and I’d still say the character hasn’t been addressed, everything through AvX and the Cyclops-Pheonix fiasco has further muddied the water in my eyes….. I’d just like the old infallible Xavier back please…..