Okay, this pivotal moment in my childhood was in 1977. For those geeks out there, you’ll remember this was the year Star Wars hit the screen–and all the titanic cultural baggage that followed. I was deep in comic books at the time, although I found it difficult to keep up with regular issues and I was easily distracted with cool covers and such.
But I do remember being hypnotized by X-Men very quickly. Maybe it was the bizarre character designs or the trippy stories, but I was hooked. Dave Cockrum had handled the art chores quite competently for several years and was no slouch. However, to this day I remember the instant I fell in love with the John Byrne/Terry Austin combination. It was their first issue: #108. The X-Men had been teleported to another galaxy where they were fighting to keep a nutbar emperor from destroying the universe.
Last issue the X-Men had fought the Emperor’s “Imperial Guard” who were a bunch of super-powered soldiers who outnumbered the X-Men by a large number. They’d held out for a while before numbers and power were overwhelming them. They were saved at the last minute by the Starjammers and pulled a win.
Background stuff: The Imperial Guard were actually a thinly-veiled ‘homage’ to DC’s “The Legion of Super-Heroes”. My assumption was that this was done either at the urging of Dave Cockrum (who drew The Legion for several years) or as a nod-and-a-wink to Cockrum before he quit X-Men.
I leave Legion geeks to figure out which one is which.
Anyway, they figure they’ve got the emperor where they want him until the big gem he’d been trying to use starts to cause reality to ‘blink’ across the entire universe. It’s about this time that a little, Muppet-lookin’ critter called “Jahf” jumps out of the gem and says how he’s the guardian of the gem and he’s going to kill them all. Jahf is one of Byrne’s quintessential creations and looks kind of cool even through he doesn’t look threatening.
So Wolverine isn’t too impressed by Jahf (probably because he’s the only villain they’ve run into who’s shorter than Logan,) and talks smack to him. What happens next is . . . well, take a look:
Wolverine can break orbit faster than Superman–provided one gives him a boost!
I remember the smug look, the rearing back of the fist and the big “POW!” that filled the whole panel. Not only was this a moment of sublime coolness (punched into orbit?!–AWESOME!) but it really featured Byrne’s narrative art skills. I have never forgotten this one page and it’s been (Dear God!) thirty-six years!