Gruff old Wolverine may still feel like he has nothing to offer the X-Men, but after years of propping up their sales and giving power back to the insecure white male demographic it’s hard to see him as anything but a core member of the team. Although hated on his first appearance, he gradually started to appeal more to readers due to Chris Claremont’s careful writing of the character. Then the nineties happened and Wolverine became a mass-murderer with increasingly giant claws, running about, smoking cigars, and acting out the fantasies of middle America. Everyone wants to go kill their annoying boss and hang out with Japanese chicks, but only Wolverine has the guts to go ahead and actually do that. Of course, Wolverine’s boss happened to be an evil military scientist who experimented on mutants in a sinister facility for decades, but there’s still a comparison to be made there. Wolverine is now the most popular X-Men character by miles – with his own ‘franchise’ (made up of his two kids, Daken and Laura, both of whom hate him and express that by pretending to be him) and starring roles in most major X-Men books. Sure, Wolverine grew stale from overuse and it was rare that a writer would actually have a handle on the character, but recently he’s managed – like Batman – to be fixed up through a smart editorial team and a strong central writer. So thanks to Jason Aaron, Wolverine is heading back to his roots and rounding into a real character once more. He’s also in the Avengers, but that’s mostly for sales. Wolverine’s contributions to the X-Men are extensive, ranging from killing Jean Grey to gutting Rachel Summers. If you want the villain to die at the end of an X-Men story, then make sure Wolverine’s around. The only reason he isn’t in the top ten is because Marvel are about to release a comic-book series called ‘Wolverine & the X-Men’, which makes it sound like his team-mates are going to become his minions.
Forget Jean Grey. The biggest time bomb in the X-Men is Cyclops. For decades he has stood by and watched as his friends were killed and wounded, his people were attacked by the public, he was sent into camps, saw his kids abducted, and had wives die in his arms. As a formerly quite mild and bland character, who spent years tied to Jean Grey and rarely did anything interesting in his own right, this broke Scott Summer’s mind and sent him into a downward spiral into power. But in a twist on the usual way characters go mad with power, Cyclops restrained every bad feeling he had and bottled it up inside his mind. He quietly changed the X-Men from a schoolground to an army base and set up camp on an island. He sent out a kill-squad to get rid of his enemies before they could get to him. And he left his wife for a former villainess with a gift for withering disdain. One day we’re going to see Cyclops snap and brutally murder everyone he knows. One day that is going to happen. For the time being, though, he’s still essentially characterised as someone who holds back everything. He’s one of the few main X-Men to fail to keep his power under control, and it’s rare to see him ever seem truly passionate about something. After his family got thrown into space limbo/killed off, he’s essentially shut himself off from everything. But! It’s not all bad news for Cyclops. At least he still has his X-Men army, and a tame Magneto. Cyclops has slowly developed over the years from a dull character into an almost-complex character, and all the writers had to do is overwhelmingly focus on the character, across at least five different ongoing X-Men books simultaneously. If enough writers focus on a character exclusively for a set amount of time, then they can find something to do with him. Sure, it might still be pretty boring, but they’ll at least put him somewhere. He’s the leader of the X-Men, and important for that, but I’ll still never forgive him for the “Search for Cyclops” miniseries – which remains the worst story I’ve ever read.
If the gays formed a giant army and took over Manhattan, which, according to Sex & the City, has already happened, then people would be suspicious of their intents. If, however, one of them became a massive movie and music star and then outed themselves to the public, forcing the man on the street to re-evaluate the way he has previously considered homosexuality to be – well, that seems like a strategy. And that’s why Dazzler is more important to the X-Men than Wolverine or Cyclops. It’s art above war, inspiration above fear. Sure, Dazzler’s career tanked somewhere in the 1980s and hasn’t really recovered from it since (a bit like her popularity, which remains strong but underground) but the idea of a character who is a mutant but has a secondary definition in their life is still largely unheard of. Most of the original X-Men are notable for their mutant powers. Dazzler is notable for being notable in other ways. And sure, you may say that Dazzler is a bit of a joke character who hasn’t experienced a note of character development in twenty years. Which, yes, that’s an acceptable criticism of the character. But she has been vitally useful to the X-Men. Arguably the best character in Age of Apocalypse, she has also made fun appearances in big storylines like Inferno and obviously in her own ongoing series, which maintains a cult following filled with modern-day writers like Brian Michael Bendis, Jim McCann, and Kieron Gillen. Brought back to the X-Men after years wallowing in limbo and brought back to her Kylie-esque roots as a character, she’s thrilled her gay fanbase by having about two panels of dialogue in every other issue of Uncanny X-Men. And wearing an odd outfit. BUT THIS IS JUST ANOTHER STEP ON THE LONG INEVITABLE ROAD TO DAZZLER LEADING THE X-MEN
12: Martha Johansson
An immortal floating brain created by Grant Morrison, Martha Johansson’s body was removed from her by the evil John Sublime. Left as a drugged brain in a jar, she resisted her imprisonment and eventually managed to escape with the help of the X-Men – throwing Sublime to his death in the process. Martha then joined the X-Men as one of their students, but secretly she worked to keep the mutants safe from harm. She infiltrated Xorn’s ‘special class’ despite having no disabilities, and pushed Xorn/Magneto into a mental breakdown, which allowed the X-Men to defeat him. After being given a floating support to rest on by her boyfriend Quentin, she can now hover around wherever she wants, but more often than not she can be found at the side of Ernst. Ernst is the shrunken mind of Cassandra Nova, but only Martha seems aware of this. Yet again, you can see Martha playing the long-game to make sure that her friends stay safe. As her powers of mind manipulation increase in strength, Martha has already realised that Rogue is a threat to the X-Men and that the Phoenix Force isn’t to be trusted. If anyone tries to mess with the X-Men, you can be sure that Martha will be there. Being foxy.
Now, Banshee is vital to the X-Men cause. He may be dead, but that in no way detracts from his vital importance. He is the only member of the X-Men who could be thought of as an Alpha-Male, for one thing. You think the X-Men would Schism if Banshee was around? Think again. The only reason they’re infighting is because every single male X-Man is insecure in their own masculinity. Not so Banshee! He’s Irish and a recovering alcoholic (every Irish character is alcoholic to some extent) and he rides a horse and owns a castle. What’s he got to be worried about? Banshee was the first X-Man to try and take things into his own hands. While the rest of the team were flouncing around under Xavier’s orders, Banshee formed his own school, dated Emma Frost, and trained many notable students such as Monet and Jubilee, who have gone on to have their own successful careers with the X-Men. After that, he set up an X-Corps and tried to rehabilitate some of the X-Men’s main villains. Which… not as much a success, but at least he gave it a go! And then, recently, he was tragically killed off via jumbo jet collision. But he’ll be back soon! Most of Marvel’s writers love the character – Jeff Parker, David Gallaher and many others would leap at the chance to bring him back. So sooner or later, Banshee is going to come back, and we’re all going to be better off for it.