“Worst X-Men Villain, Ever.”

At a crucial point, many years ago, I had the opportunity to say, “No, you know what? People cannot dangle from my neck like jewelry, even if I really like them.” I did not recognize that opportunity as it drifted by, and now there’s no turning back.

There’s a lot they don’t warn you about on your way to becoming the Cool Uncle. At first glance, it seems like it would be all upside. And sure, there are a few hard-hearted puppykickers out there who just flat-out, literally-no-kidding hate children, but by and large I’d wager that just about everyone secretly wants to be the Cool Uncle or Aunt in some capacity. You want to be the one who the kids flock to whenever you arrive at the family party. When the rest of the adults are talking about boring politics at the dinner table, they know they’ll have you to talk video game cheat codes and summer movies with, and it feels sort of nice to be that guy. There’s a weird kind of cachet in being the fun grownup; for an evening at a time it allows you to believe, no matter how much evidence to the contrary is all around your office or garage, that you haven’t been crushed by responsibility and maturity just yet. Don’t listen to all those khakis in the closet. You’re still fun.

Nobody warns you that there are strings attached to being the Cool Uncle. Once the kids start flocking to you, they don’t stop. You’d better be as bored with the other adults at the party as they are, because you may never talk to the adults again. Frankly, the other adults are a little tired of the kids; they may very well see you playing with the kids and say, “Well, Mister Cool Uncle’s watching them; let’s not give another thought to him or them for the duration of the evening.” You just became Chairman Emeritus of the kids’ table, and there will forever be a place for you there now.

This weekend, a metric ton of my college friends came to town for a reunion/celebration. (My old roommate was ordained a Jesuit priest. You know the drill. We’ve all been there. And yes, as a matter of fact, our room was Party Central, Captain Sarcastic.) Get-togethers like these are a little more chaotic every time they happen, because more and more of us start to show up with these little clones of ourselves with slightly worse table manners. Among other things, this means I get to hang out with my friend Paul.

Paul is nine years old, and I’ve known his mom and dad since 1993 or so. I met Paul when he was three. I knocked on his door, and when his dad let him answer it I thought it would be funny to treat him like a grownup and shake his hand. Having never had any adult offer a hand to him before, Paul did what came naturally and climbed up my arm until he was sitting on my head. We had known each other for forty-five seconds. Ever since that day, I have been known as Jungle Jim in Paul’s house. He has been jumping on me and pummeling me within an inch of my life ever since. He does not realize that he has tripled in size since the day we met. He does not know he could play Cannonball in an X-Men movie now. He may very well be how I die. When we were eighteen, Paul’s mom and I used to date; I am saving this information for the day Paul has me in a particularly tenacious sleeper hold, when I plan to announce it to him to blow his mind out the back of his head long enough to buy myself some time. In the meantime, I am effectively Paul’s Cool Uncle.

In all the times that my friends and I have gotten together, it has never occurred to Paul for even a moment that I am not necessarily there to hang out with him. While I love him and do enjoy his company, I also confess that there are times when I don’t look forward to seeing my friends, because I know I will see them. I will see them from the other side of the yard, catching up on old times around the grill while the lightsaber duel I’m engaged in approaches its third consecutive hour.

“Jungle Jim! Sit over here!” Paul exclaimed the second I got to the barbecue Friday night. “Over here, Jung!”

The abbreviation “Jung” is hilarious no matter how many times he says it, so I headed over to pay my respects.

“What’s up, Puh?” (Whenever he abbreviates “Jungle,” I abbreviate “Paul.”)

“Sit here,” he said, pounding the chair next to him. “Sit by me.”

Ugh! I haven’t even said hello to everyone yet, I thought, and at this rate I never will. I am going to spend the whole evening

“Who do you think was the worst X-Men villain in the history of the world?” he said.

“Well, I mean, the Blob basically has the power of eating a big lunch, so– wait, what? How do you know about X-Men villains?”

“My friend at school has a book. You have got to give me more comics!!”

“Yeah!” I replied. “I certainly have enough of them. I’ll have to dig up something your speed before I see you guys next.”

“Something with Wolverine!” he said.

I was lying to Paul, lying in that sadly effortless way that makes my wife want to hire a private investigator every time she sees me do it. It’s very unlikely he’ll get any more comics from me. I’ve given Paul comics a number of times in the past, and about 60% of them get handed back to me by his mom in a way that tacitly says, “Please stop supplying my son with pornography.” I try with all my might to give him age-appropriate stuff, but my approximation of that is just to give him what I was reading at his age, and I forget that my parents were negligent circus folk. One thing I do know is that I’m not giving him my collection of books about a hero whose super power is stabby murder hands. I want to get invited over again one day. The proliferation of L’il Wolverine merchandise never fails to make me rub my temples.

“Who else?” he asked. “Who else are bad villains?”

“Man. I wish you were more interested in Spider-Man. I could do wonders with a list of bad Spider-Man villains. I’d tell you about the Hypno-Hustler, but that would turn into a whole other conversation. What have your teachers told you about the 1970s?”

“Oh yeah!” said Paul. “I need to give you back your Spider-Girl digest… but first I need to get some tape.”

“Ha! Well put. Has there been some tearing?”

“The front cover is off of it, and also the back cover is off of it, and also the middle part. The outside is off of it.”

“Don’t worry about it. I sort of factor in that possibility when I’m deciding what to give you.”

Sudden course correction! “Magneto is the baddest evil-bad bad guy. And Mystique. Toad is so lame! What does he even do?”

“Not a whole lot,” I said. “Honestly, when I think of bad X-Men villains I think of these guys Mojo and Xorn, but after all these years I’m not even sure I could explain who they are.”

Paul got a sly look about him. “Do you know who broke Professor X’s legs?”

“Um, God!, it’s it’s it’s… Oh! Shadow King.”

“No!” he shouted triumphantly. “Lucifer!”

“Lucifer? What are you, fifty years old? That was in, like, #11. What have you been reading?”

At that point, Paul’s little brother simply could bear not to participate for another moment. “Do you know how Superman got his power?” he blurted.

“No, how?”

“There, there was a full moon, and he lifted a tractor! He was a baby!!”

“I can honestly say that is my favorite version of that story I’ve ever heard.”

“And a cow!” he shouted.

Paul rolled his eyes in embarrassment. Ugh, he seemed to say, how did I get stuck with this little kid all night? I haven’t even said hello to everyone yet.

I should cut Paul more slack.

Jim Mroczkowski went on to talk to as many as ten grown people over the course of the weekend, often for minutes at a time. You could be one such person via Twitter or e-mail.


  1. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I think the main point we should take away from this article is that Jim will only read comics if they are salacious and perverse. 


  2. well done, seriously this is my favorite thing you’ve ever written, these are my family gatherings

  3. I’m the Cool Uncle to my nephew. He’s completely into Spider-Man and even sold some of his old toys (old – he’s all of 4!) to buy on of those 24" Batmans that came out last summer – and I had absolutely nothing to do with it! His exposure to the Spider-Man movies in the last year is what did it. I’m just the uncle who can name all the heroes on his Marvel poster – you know the one, with all the marketing images from Marvel on that horizontal poster with a big white-on-red Marvel under it. A lot of characters, and we spent an entire afternoon naming them. Fun, but really, the looks from my in-laws afterward? Well, I guess it’s worth it – I love the kid.

  4. @Dan: I know exactly what you mean,"the looks from my in-laws afterward? Well, I guess it’s worth it – I love the kid." My sister in-law gives me shit all the time for being into comics. She hates it when her 2 girls come over and are amazed at all the posters and toys I have on my bookshelf that are comic related. Could someone explain to me why its generally accepted in our society to not read comics if and when you are out of high school/college ???? 

  5. Great article!  I once had the illusion that I could be the Cool Aunt but now that I’m actually an aunt it appears that is only going to happen if I develop an intense interest in Disney princesses. 

  6. Also, I discovered at a recent family gathering that my 14 year old cousins have hipper music collections than I do (I mean indie rock that adults I know like, not Hannah Montana), and also that knowing a story about something embarrassing their favorite YA author said on the Internet does NOT count as cool.

  7. I am living this.  I had a 9 year old neice sit on my lap and then ask me "What exactly is sex?" 

    I helped raise this little girl for the first 5 years of her life because her dad was an absolute lowlife and her mom had massive self esteem issues.  Every time I see her she gets very, very excited and jumps on me.  She is a very cool, very smart little girl.  I love her to death and am very proud of her.  However, when she asked me to explain sex to her, I would have paid a million dollars to be in another room.  I assume at that age that she is familiar with the term sex, but not the details and was just waiting for cool Uncle Chris to fill them in.

    @ohcaroline –  Yes, the fact that I know the names of all the princesses (because I have two daughters) makes me much more popular with the neices at the family get together.  The fact that I will play video games with the nephews helps, too.

  8. @stuclach  I’m holding out for the day when one of the kids cares about Iron Man or Bruce Springsteen because THEN I’m set.

  9. @ohcaroline – Damn straight.  I tried to show my girls the Iron Man movie and they fell asleep (literally).  I skipped to the tank fight and they were into it, but as soon as that was over they went back to sleep.  I’m trying to hook them.

  10. "Should I have gotten bacon on this?"

    I think that’s a question all of us ask everyday. Great article Jim, except for one thing:

    Hypno Hustler a bad villain? So wrong 🙂

  11. I would’ve said Cyclops is the worst X-Men Villain. He’s been around since day 1 and has the power to suck all the fun out of a room, thus making life unbearable for other X-Men. Oh and he does an eye thing.

  12. This was wonderful!

  13. Nice article Jimski.  Does this mean you’re for or against the development of interactive video barbecues?

  14. Stabby murder hands. HA!

  15. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    I enjoy the DC "Super Friends" toys and books that are making a bit of a comeback these days.  I find the Batman one particularly odd.  "Hey kids, my parents were killed by a random thug and now I’m stuck in a tortured, endless fight against crime and insane psychopaths.  But I’m still smiling!"  You’re right that the Marvel Super Hero Squad version of Wolverine is even creepier.

    Lookit me!  I just discovered the link ability of the forums and just overused them!  Whee!

  16. There are way worse X-Men villains than any of the ones mentioned in this article (how about that guy "Hazard"?), but if the point of the article was to write about family then you succeeded handily.

  17. It’s like Blockbuster Video, back when that was a place I used to go. I’d have fifty movies I wanted to rent, but the minute I set foot in that place I couldn’t think of a single one. Same thing with the x-villains. Basically, asking me for examples of a thing is a good way to make my mind go blank on that thing.

  18. I guess I’m the only fan of Hypno-Hustler on here. *sighs*

    *grooves his way out*

  19. Another week, another great Jimski article. I’m the Cool Uncle in my family, too, so i can relate. But on a side note, Mojo is freaking awesome.

  20. When my nephew gleefully took receipt of my back issues of ‘Adventures in the DC Universe’ last year, I also got "the look" from my sister-in-law!

  21. fantastic!

  22. Great piece. And worst X-villain? So many – I hate the ones with just names, like Fabian Cortez . . . I can never recall what they can do. Mr Sinister, stupid name, face of Colossus. Arcade – boring games . . .

  23. captamerica101 (@Autobot_Hunter) says:

    the morlocks always annoyed me. " oh no I have to live in the sewers even though I look better than most of the x-men" I mean, who looks more human, callisto, nightcrawler, angel, or beak?

  24. Hypno-Hustler died in World War Hulk, you know. Seriously.

    And the worst X-Men villain? Why, Grant Morrison, of course. Followed by Jim "Degenerate Gambler" Lee for getting Claremont kicked off the book. 🙂