With no idea what was in store, the blissfully unaware audience at the Comic-Con instead celebrated Elektra’s triumph in the latest, all-ninja-battle issue of Daredevil, obsessed over the marital strife of Yellowjacket and the Wasp in The Avengers, and pored over Magneto’s return in the new double-sized issue of The X-Men. The shocking revelation that the X-Men’s silver-haired archenemy had been a child prisoner at Auschwitz ramped up the title’s long-present themes of bigotry and persecution and pointed to the direction that The X-Men would take for the decades to come, in which discrimination toward mutant characters was put explicitly in the contexts of racism and homophobia. In the Marvel Universe, “Mutie” became a regularly uttered epithet, bigotry bloomed, and the X-Men became increasingly paranoid about their place in the world.
By and large, the X-Men stories in the year since the “Dark Phoenix Saga” had paled in comparison to what had come before. The old hands who weren’t writing The X-Men were all too happy to point out that its sales had surpassed its aesthetic achievement, and that it benefited from a lack of other exciting options. If The X-Men had been published in the mid–1970s, Steve Englehart insisted in interviews, it wouldn’t have been such a phenomenon. “In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,” sniffed Roy Thomas. It was a dedicated kingdom, though: according to Diana Schutz, a manager at Comics & Comix in Berkeley, California, “People were buying case lots of X-Men. Two, three hundred copies. Some people were buying two lots, for investment purposes.” Appearances by Man-Thing, Spider-Woman, Dazzler, and Doctor Doom reestablished the X-Men’s ties with the rest of the Marvel Universe, but there was also the nagging feeling that those crossovers were just meant to jump-start sales of less popular characters. Or maybe something was just being held back. Dave Cockrum created an amphibious heroine named Silkie, and then retracted the character when he couldn’t negotiate to retain partial ownership. He had a whole group of new heroes, he said—but they’d remain his now.