X-Men (1st series) #53

Issue Date: 
February 1969
Story Title: 
The Rage of Blastaar! (1st story)<br> Welcome to the Club, Beast! (2nd story)

1st story: Arnold Drake (writer), Barry Smith (penciler), Michael Dee (inker), Herb Cooper (letterer), Stan Lee (editor)

2nd story: Arnold Drake (writer), Werner Roth (penciler), John Tartaglione (inker), Jean “Simek” Izzo (letterer), Stan Lee editor)

Brief Description: 

1st story: When using one of Professor Xavier’s machines, the X-Men accidentally draw Blastaar to Earth from his prison in the Negative Zone. He proves to be a formidable foe, but they destroy him through a combination of Marvel Girl’s strategy, Iceman’s innate abilities and teamwork.

2nd story: Hank McCoy tries to stop El Conquistador from taking over the world. The X-Men arrive in time to help him topple the tyrant and free him from his servitude. After Professor X destroys El Conquistador, he wipes the minds of everyone who ever knew Hank and invites him to join the X-Men as the Beast.

Full Summary: 

1st story:

Blastaar, a gray-skinned, cosmic humanoid with an almost-simian mane framing his face, traverses the ether of the Negative Zone looking for contenders. Where is there one who could challenge his majesty? The legions of combatants are few, and their fortunes feeble. He, however, is Blastaar, king of a limitless domain and the self-proclaimed emperor of all existence! Beside his power, all else is as nothingness! Despite being a cosmic monarch, though, he has been felled by a foulest of fates. The cruel conspirators who fly the vapid flag of what they call decency and justice have condemned Blastaar to roam the endless realm of negative space! What does that make him, having been cast thus upon the deserted shores of the cosmos? Bereft of planets to plunder, stripped of solar systems to scourge and left without a single challenge to contest his might, Blastaar is chaff, dross and less than naught.

As he moves through the Negative Zone, Blastaar bemoans his craving for combat, which is met only by silence and solitude. The roar of the battle and din of routed enemies was meat and drink to him, but here in the void, he must feast on desolation and dark despair! Most miserably of all, before him hangs the green jewel of Earth, taunting him beckoning bauble beyond an infant’s reach! If Blastaar were to set one single cell of the anti-matter that comprises his body upon the planet Earth, he would be exploded through all eternity and space! Yet, on that jeering world live the very beings who thrust this shame upon him. Must he forever be the victim of those puny souls who fear his glorious power? Must he remain the prisoner of men too cowardly to rule others—and too mean of spirit to accept one born to rule?

Vowing that somewhere, somehow, the chains of reality that bind him shall be torn asunder, Blastaar once again takes flight. Some key yet unknown to him shall turn the lock and free his spirit—and his rage! When that moment arrives, Blastaar shall fling himself upon his tormenters and grind them and all they call their own into the driest dust. Vengeance—merciless and beyond any yet conceived—shall be his. Blastaar shall be avenged!

Meanwhile, on Earth, the X-Men experiment with a machine Professor X showed to Marvel Girl shortly before his death. Jean stands strapped to the machine while Cyclops and Beast oversee the experiment. This machine, she claims, is among the mightiest of the professor’s inventions! Beast agrees wholeheartedly; this particular machine, through mental commands alone, can transmute the user’s matter into radio energy. Once the X-Men learn how to use it, they will have to ability to radio one’s essence into the deepest reaches of space! Cyclops reminds them that any device with that much power must be approached with caution; if only there were some way to conduct a trial experiment without using a live human being as the subject. There is no way to do so, Marvel Girl reminds him; they all know that. After all, no lab animal has a brain developed enough to perform such a feat. In fact, only a mutant with expanded cerebral powers, such as Jean Grey, can even dare it. However, she assures Scott she will be super careful and asks him not to worry.

The X-Men activate the machine. “So—far—so—good!” Jean begins. “Mild—tingling—sensation! Internal—vi—vi—vibrations—beginning—to—b—b—build!” Cyclops, watching anxiously, reminds Jean not to take any chances. She should yell the moment she feels the slightest discomfort! Through her stunted speech, Jean asks Scott to worry; this isn’t Girl Martyr Month. “G—gradual building c—continues!” Jean adds. “Oooo! W-what was that? S—sudden burst of energy! It—it’s all right now. S—subsiding!” The sensation continues. “Unnhhh! Again! One flash after another! Stop it!”

However, the observers cannot. The circuit overloads while something blocks the power line. They beg for Jean to hang on while they scramble for the main fuse, but the structure of the machine explodes outward, leaving Jean caught in the shrapnel. Rushing to her side, Cyclops asks Beast to forget about the machine and focus on getting Jean to the emergency room! Although Beast concurs, he calms Scott’s nerves when he assures him Jean is not in mortal danger.

When Cyclops reaches Jean’s side, he asks Beast to move over so he can take her in his arms. Why did Scott let her perform such a crazy stunt? As he holds Jean, he realizes Beast was right; it’s nothing but a case of mild shock, and one from which Jean is already awakening. Cut the machine, he tells Beast. He wants to get Jean to the emergency room immediately to run some tests. When Jean wakes, however, she immediately cries out in horror when she sees the machine is still operating! She fears what effect it may have without a human mind to operate it! Again, Cyclops commands Beast to cut the main power line. What is he waiting for? Beast, after assuring Cyclops he is not exaggerating, claims the fuse housing is currently hotter than the Seventh Circle of Dante’s Inferno! He explains the machine is acting like a sponge, soaking up every last drop of energy from their atomic generator. But where, he asks, is this energy going?

Meanwhile, in the outer reaches of the Negative Zone, a terrifying coincidence is underway—a juncture of two lines of existence that only some twisted, wrathful fate would have joined! As the tyrannical Blastaar finds himself overwhelmed with searing pain, he asks aloud what the source of this pain is—and why it’s pulling him toward Earth’s atmosphere, where he will surely be destroyed. However, as he enters the atmospheric periphery, Blastaar is shocked to learn that he has not yet died. Somehow, the anti-matter that comprises his body has not exploded! There can be but one answer: something has freed him. Once again he is able to stalk the world that doomed him and bring down total annihilation on his tormenters. “Blastaar lives again!” he shouts.

Back in the lab on Earth, Beast, having exhausted his options, decides to brave it and rip the machine’s power line apart with his bare hands. As he begins, however, he notices a figure writhing within the crackling energy pouring from the overloaded machine. Unless he’s flipped his cerebrum, he believes it’s taking an almost human shape! “You are not mistaken, my feeble friend!” the figure says to Beast. “What you see before you is the all-powerful, unequaled presence of the new master of Earth—Blastaar!”

Beast stands in opposition to the new arrival Blastaar. It is obvious to him—sickeningly so—that Blastaar has an all-powerful mouth! The rest of his boastful introductions, however, remain to be tested. Shall they commence the examination?

As Blastaar raises his hands to Beast, he deems him one who must learn through sorrowful experience. Even so, it must be this way, and Blastaar has no qualms about being the one to teach him. The lesson Beast is about to learn will hopefully serve as a warning to all people of Earth, Blastaar says. He will be neither defied nor denied! He urges Beast to learn well this teaching in the brief moments of existence that remain to him, for it is a lesson that can be taught only once! With that, Blastaar unleashes a powerful beam of energy at Beast, who attempts—unsuccessfully—to block the attack.

At that moment, a telepathic message flashes to another part of the building, where Iceman and Angel currently reside. They immediately respond to the telepathic summons for help by heading toward its source. Along the way, Iceman deduces it must have been Jean who reached out to them for help. “Being that she’s the only one of us with telepathic powers,” Angel says, “—I’d say you figured that out pretty good! I think you’re almost ready to handle long division, Iceman!” Iceman, on the other hand, thinks Angel is almost ready for a nose full of ice cubes. He vows to deliver on this once they deal with their current threat. For now, though, he suggests they go find what’s bothering Jean. She usually doesn’t scream over anything short of world disaster. Help is on the way!

In the lab, Blastaar approaches his remaining opponents, Cyclops and Marvel Girl. Blastaar does not know yet what fortunate circumstance freed him from the cosmic desolation to which he had been doomed; it must have been some fantastic concentration of energy. Jean, still in Cyclops’s arms, realizes with horror it was her who freed Blastaar! She shouldn’t have meddled with the professor’s machines, she says. Cyke tells her to skip the guilt for now; they’ll have plenty of time to sort the whole thing out after they get Jean to safety. He tells Marvel Girl to hang on while he blasts his way past this Blastaar character. However, judging by the way he handled Beast, Cyclops deduces his opponent is no cream-puff.

Up ahead, Blastaar tells Cyclops he makes the game much too simple. By attempting a direct attack, he reduces it to a mere contest of brute force—a contest Cyclops could never survive. Fortunately for Cyclops, Angel and Iceman arrive at this moment and complicate matters for Blastaar by attacking from a second, more aerial front. “Angel! You do have a knack for knick-of-time rescues!” Cyclops exclaims. Blastaar, however, remains unfazed. Although he admittedly stumbled upon a rare collection of humans, the threat they pose is of little concern to him. One blast of energy will surely bring down the human bird!

Although Blastaar’s attack surely would have slain Angel, he fails to hit his airborne target. After deftly evading the attack, Angel asks the lion-headed Blastaar if he has visited his optometrist lately. In response, Blastaar tells Angel he has a much simpler means of handling him. After all, he, too, can fly—and not with the archaic mutation that gives Angel his powers, either. No, Blastaar flies using his own natural ability to propel himself through space by emitting energy directly from his body! He suggests Angel watch as he transforms into a living rocket aimed at his vitals. Where Angel flies like a bird, Blastaar thunders through space like a guided missile. All the power of his rocket energy shall converge into a single blow, he says, directed at Angel. True to his threat, he intercepts Angel during an arc of his flight and decks him beneath the jaw. He follows up his initial attack with another punch that sends Warren barreling into the ceiling. There is no escape from Blastaar’s rage, or from his thunderous might! “Here, above this sleeping city, you will find your final resting place!” Blastaar says as he grabs hold of Angel’s limp body. “And let this serve as a notice to all who would resist Blastaar!”

Down below, Iceman and Cyclops watch in horror as Blastaar pummels their teammate. In another moment or two, Warren will surely be dead! Iceman asks how they can possibly get up to the roof in time to save him, though. Cyclops tells Iceman to let him worry about it. In the meantime, he wants Bobby to check on Hank, who took a beating just as bad as Angel’s. He’s battered, Iceman says, but adds that Hank’s wounds are nothing some aspirin and Band-Aids won’t cure; Hank’s been in worse shape from playing touch football. With that, Cyclops decides to pick up the dice and play them against Blastaar. He understands it will be a tricky gamble. Using his optic blasts to propel his own body, Cyclops fires at the ground and lifts himself into the air. It’s a delicate piece of kinetic controls, the slightest miscalculation of which could send Scott sky-high. The trip down would worry him most.

On the roof, Angel continues receiving the brunt of Blastaar’s beatings. He can’t hold out much longer, he worries. His opponent is no pushover; in fact, he’s doing all the pushing! A sound from below gives Angel a glimmer of hope. To his relief, a single bolt of optic energy lashes out at Blastaar the Anti-Matter Man and topples him to the ground.

Elsewhere, Marvel Girl tends to the injured Beast. She asks Iceman to give her a hand in reviving him; the sooner Beast comes around, the sooner they will have reinforcements to help defeat the invader. Iceman complies without a moment’s hesitation, as Beast is one heck of a reinforcement. He slips Beast a whiff of frozen oxygen, but not so much as to overwhelm and damage his lung tissue. The cure proves successful; Beast stirs to life almost right away. They could use his heavy-handed talents right about now, Iceman tells his barely conscious teammate. “Thanks for the compliment, frigid friend,” Beast says in response. “You always know—as the French say—the mot juste!” Wresting control of his senses, Beast recalls he was engaged in cacophonic combat with someone named Blastaar right before the roof collapsed on his head. Iceman observes that blow to Beast’s head didn’t damage his talent for using big words—although he kind of hoped it had. “Big words? I haven’t the slightest glimmer of comprehension as to the significance of that obtuse reference!”

After telling Beast to save it for now, Iceman takes off to challenge Blastaar. Jean hurries along with him; she has an idea for how they might banish Blastaar to the realm from whence he came. Don’t throw out any nonsense about how he wants her to stay safely out of the way, either, Jean says before Iceman can respond. “Grrr! Sometimes I think we made our biggest goof when we gave women the vote!” Iceman says. He asks Jean to elaborate on this big notion of hers.

Swiftly, Marvel Girl outlines her plan. As per her orders, Iceman constructs the first of four ice mannequins. With Marvel Girl’s telekinesis to propel them, they will make quite the dandy little army!

Cyclops, meanwhile, struggles in his fight with Blastaar. Wherever Blastaar derived his powers from, Cyke presumes it’s someplace beyond earthly knowledge. Thankfully, Marvel Girl arrives before Cyclops finds himself overwhelmed and instructs him to get out of the way. She and Beast have brought a few guests to the party, she says. Precisely, Beast adds! Before he introduces their new guests to Blastaar, however, he expresses interest in returning to Blastaar the favor he offered him a few moments earlier. Blastaar asks Beast if he has not had enough punishment. Regardless of his answer, he hopes to put an end to Beast’s annoying person. Surprisingly, Beast takes the advantage and slugs Blastaar across the face, sending him flailing to the ground. This time he’s the doer, and Blastaar, the victim. He thought that might make for an entertaining change.

With Blastaar down, Beast steps aside and invites Company F—the “F” standing for Frigidaire—to finish off their enemy. Blastaar looks up to find several looming, ice-sculpted figures towering over him. They collapse onto the ruler of the Negative Zone and deal him a barrage of fists. Blastaar tries to fight them off, but cannot, the whole time wondering what animates these creatures made only of frozen liquid!

Slowly, fingers of subzero matter close around Blastaar’s throat. He retreats in pain to avoid them until both creatures hurtle through the hole that was blasted in the ceiling. Blastaar takes advantage of this momentary confusion and fires an energy ray at one of the creatures, knocking it out of the fight. To his glee, he must now face only one of the ice creatures. Fortune is with him once more; no single being can withstand the awesome might of Blastaar! He delivers the finishing blow to the last ice golem, shattering it to pieces. The figures melt and pool beneath his feet. Just as he swiftly defeated these frigid enemies, Blastaar declares he will bring the same fate to anyone else who opposes him as he embarks on his quest to take over the Earth. All of Earth shall tremble, and all the inhabited planets of every solar system will soon feel his might before kneeling before his mastery!

Then, in one blinding second, fortune reverses on Blastaar. He winces and cries out as incredible pain overtakes his body. He collapses to his knees while the X-Men watch. Look at old lion-head taking his last bow, Iceman says. Cyclops comments on the irony; the very thing that set Blastaar free is now destroying him! After all, it was the wild energy of Professor Xavier’s machine that freed him, yet the water from the melted ice mannequins has formed a circuit between Blastaar and all the ambient electricity. Blastaar continues to struggle as the surge of energy consumes him.

Marvel Girl is less gleeful about the cruel fate of Blastaar than her teammates. She cannot bring herself to watch as he dies; she knows he is evil, but he still a living being! Iceman asks her to look at it in another way. It is one life weighed against not just the lives of the X-Men, whom Blastaar would have killed without hesitation, but against the lives and the future of their whole world. It isn’t exactly perfect, but it’s all they have. Jean buries her face in her hands. She started this whole thing, she says, continuing to blame herself. It was her zealousness that brought Blastaar to Earth, and now, he’s dead!

“Not exactly, honey! Blastaar’s basic energy was—evil! Pure, unadulterated hate! And wherever men live with hate in their hearts,” Cyclops says, “—Blastaar lives there too!”

With their foe defeated, Angel carries Beast down onto the scene of Blastaar’s ultimate defeat. Paraphrasing Mark Twain, Beast assures his teammates the rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated. Angel declares him to be in A-1 shape; in fact, old super-mouth sounds better than ever!

2nd story:

The young Hank McCoy did his job perfectly, El Conquistador says. With his extraordinary powers, he stole an experimental solar generator right from under the noses of a dozen armed guards! Now, El Conquistador has in his possession the greatest producer of energy in the solar system: the sun itself! His assistant, Chico, praises his grand vision. When the sun rises in a few short minutes, incalculable amounts of energy will pour through his great kinetic transmitters—and the whole world will bow to the might and mastery of El Conquistador!

Because no one knows of El Conquistador’s plan for world domination, no one can stop it—but what of the boy lying unconscious on the chamber floor, whom the Conquistador forced to do his bidding? Is it too late for him to halt the horror he helped create?

As the dawn deadline ticks closer, giant power transmitters silently await the moment when they will threaten every world capital with destruction. Fortunately, Hank regains consciousness in time to overhear El Conquistador discussing these plans. They’re so busy gloating over their impending victory that Hank may just be able to sneak up behind them and tear the transmitters apart with his bare hands.

Chico spots Hank as he gathers himself and darts across the chamber floor. The boy will ruin everything, Chico shouts! Hank charges at El Conquistador, but the villain blocks the attack with his electronically boosted shield, which he claims can repel the force of a ten-ton truck! Additionally, El Conquistador’s mastery of electronics has afforded him a three-pronged sword that sends over 5,000 volts of pure electricity at its targets.

Hank has felt the sting of this weapon before—and almost does once again. However, he springs out of the way in time. El Conquistador praises his evasion, but asks the boy how long he thinks he can outrun pure electricity. Hank tries his best. Bouncing around the room, he heads for an exit and bounds into the hallway, the electricity hot on his heels. Out of the corner of his eye, he spies Chico escaping through a sliding door. If Hank can make it to the door in time, he thinks he can escape alongside El Conquistador’s fleeing toady. However, he is a moment too late; the door slams shut in his face.

Rejoicing, El Conquistador raises his kinetic trident and levels it at Hank—for the final time. Before he can deliver the coup de grace, however, a blast on par with a localized atomic bomb rips the three-inch-thick steel door of the chamber asunder. El Conquistador can only look in shock and guess as to what object could wield such force. To his surprise, the culprit is a young, teenage boy bearing a red visor across his eyes.

“Looks like I overestimated the amount of optic energy I’d need to blow that door off its hinges!” the X-Man Cyclops says as he enters. His winged teammate Angel advises him to conserve the power of his optic blasts; they’re going to need it when they take on their electric-wielding madman of a foe. Boy, does he mean it, Iceman adds as he gets a look at the elaborate interior of the chamber. Iceman, the youngest of the three X-Men, is about to question the sanity of any man who would inhabit such a fortress when something in the room grabs his attention: the injured body of a young boy about their age lying on the floor. Assuming he’s the kid they’re after, Iceman speeds across the room to help him.

At the other end of the room, Chico opens a hidden door and brings in a batch of armed reinforcements. He orders them to shoot down the invaders threatening their master, El Conquistador. They open fire, but Iceman manages to construct a think wall in time to halt the progress of the bullets. He fears it may not hold for long. Angel suggests they not look a gift horse in the mouth; the wall is at least keeping them alive.

Elsewhere in the room, Hank springs into action, knocking out the first wave of armed guards in a flurry of fists and feet. Although he knows nothing about the three mysterious teenagers who just arrived, it is patently clear they have come to effectuate his release! What else could he do but join them in the frenzied fray?

“You never use a small word when a big one will do, eh, kid?” Angel asks as he dive-bombs a soldier. “That’s okay—your fists are even bigger than your mouth!” Hank claims he hasn’t seen anything until he’s seen his pedal extremities at work; one might say they’re the kicker!

For the grand finale, Iceman encloses the rest of the guards in a curtain of ice. As he looks at the block of immobilized misfits, he wonders aloud the current going price of fresh, frozen finks. Cyclops, meanwhile, commends his teammate’s efficient wrap-up. This may be the fastest they’ve ever completed an assignment, he adds. Angel agrees, hoping they set a new record in the professor’s notebook. Hank, however, advises they not count their roasted pheasants before they’re under glass; don’t they hear that whirring screech? It spells trouble!

Hank McCoy has never been more right in his young years—for the sun is rising, and bringing incredible energy with it! In the citadel’s control room, El Conquistador rejoices as he monitors the surplus of incoming energy. He now has more power than any man has ever held at his fingertips, he gloats! The invading fools are too late to save the world from its first-warning cataclysm!

The X-Men watch in horror. He’s about to press the doomsday button, Angel shouts! They’re about to attack when a voice in their head commands them to flee the premises at once.

El Conquistador, meanwhile, finds himself overwhelmed with incoming energy. Instead of traveling into his transmitters, he’s horrified to discover it flowing directly into his body! He lets out an anguished cry as the entire building erupts in a fireball of pent-up energy.

Outside the castle, the X-Men rendezvous with Professor X, who arrives on the scene in his car. He explains to them that the explosion was his doing; he used his telekinetic powers to alter the circuits of El Conquistador’s machinery. Realizing the new mutant is not with them, Professor X asks what happened to the boy. Iceman, pointing up the hill, directs their attention to three figures fleeing the explosion. He must have stayed behind to find and free his folks, Iceman presumes. What spunk!

Later, at the McCoy home, the X-Men stand alongside their new teammate, Hank McCoy. All of them now wear the blue and black disguises denoting Professor Xavier’s X-Men. Cyclops explains to Hank that the professor dropped an amazing radio blanket over Hank’s hometown that erased anyone’s memory of his amazing powers! “So none are cognizant of the fact that there was once a boy called Beast!” Hank says. “Too bad—I was becoming fond of that name!”

Worry not, Professor X tells him; he can retain it as a member of the X-Men! “Welcome to the club, Beast!”

Characters Involved: 

1st story:

Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Marvel Girl (X-Men)

Blastaar (Exile of the Negative Zone)

2nd story:

Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Professor X (X-Men)

El Conquistador


Various soldiers

Edna and Norton McCoy (Beast’s parents)

Story Notes: 

1st story:

The Barry Smith credited for the pencil work in this issue is indeed the same Barry Windsor-Smith. This is his first published comic book work. Windsor-Smith would later go on to pencil and write, among other things, Wolverine’s “Weapon X” story in MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS (1st series) #72-84.

Blastaar, a native to the planet Baluur in the Negative Zone, first appeared in FANTASTIC FOUR (1st series) #62. Exiled by his fellow Baluurians after they overthrew his tyrannical rule, Blastaar drifted aimlessly until piggybacking to Earth with Mister Fantastic, where he wreaked havoc. In FANTASTIC FOUR (1st series) #63, Mister Fantastic and the Fantastic Four caught and restrained him, at which point they banished him to the Negative Zone.

Blastaar does not truly die at the end of this issue. He next appears in FANTASTIC FOUR: WORLD’S GREATEST COMIC MAGAZINE #9.

The X-Men believe Professor X to be dead because of his apparent demise in X-MEN (1st series) #42.

Unlike some of the other Circles of Hell depicted in Dante’s Inferno, the Seventh Circle, which is reserved for violent offenders, is indeed in both its Inner and Outer Rings.

Much to Iceman’s apparent chagrin, the United States “gave women the vote” when it ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920, which prohibited the government from denying any citizen the right to vote on account of sex.

The Mark Twain quote to which Beast refers is commonly repeated as “the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” According to Ralph Keyes, author of The Quote Verifier, this quip originated from a note Twain sent to a news reporter in 1897 after Twain’s cousin fell ill while visiting London. Confusing Twain with his cousin Jim, The New York Journal and sent a reporter to cover the story, but Twain sent him back with a note that read as follows: “James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness; the report of my death was an exaggeration.” Over the years, Twain himself revised the note and made it into the oft-quoted witticism used today.

2nd story:

Professor Xavier’s purported use of telekinesis at the finale of this story is surely a mistake, as this is not an ability he has ever possessed in his powerset.

Although Beast appears to be fine with Professor X mind-wiping everyone in his hometown, including his parents, the “Just Friends” story from MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS (1st series) #85-92 reveals him to feel vehemently otherwise.

Beast’s mother Edna McCoy next appears in X-MEN: THE HIDDEN YEARS #10 with her memory of her son intact. Norton McCoy, his memory of Beast also intact, does not appear again until MARVEL TEAM-UP #124.

El Conquistador doesn’t appear after this issue until MARVEL ZOMBIES 3 #1, in which he is a member of the Florida’s State Initiative team, The Command. Incidentally, MARVEL ZOMBIES 3 #1 will also likely be El Conquistador’s final appearance.

An abridged version of this story is reprinted in AMAZING ADVENTURES (2nd series) #17. This story is also revisited and retold in X-MEN ORIGINS: BEAST #1.

Issue Information: 
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