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X-MEN

Joining The Evolution
In 1963, as prejudice and fear gripped the U.S. at the height of the Civil Rights movement, Marvel Comics editor, head writer and art director Stan Lee created X-Men, a comic book centering around a team of mutant superheroes. The X-Men, like many of their Marvel predecessors, were an unusual heroic group — at times sarcastic, antisocial, and clearly flawed, yet sympathetic when battling the demons of their love lives, tackling the traumas of self-esteem, or taking on powerful villains in their universe of special powers.

Stan Lee's X-Men world imagined the existence of a superior species and the harsh political and social environment they encountered in a not-too-distant future world. X-MEN director Bryan Singer appreciated the comics' allegories about racism and bigotry and their underlying themes of tolerance, running throughout the dramas' non-stop action and adventure.

"The story of he X-Men is quite political," says Singer. "It's about differences and similarities. Because the comic was born from the tumult of the '60s, there are political and sociological issues and messages inherent in the X-Men lore.

"In fact," Singer continues, "the relationship between Xavier and his one-time friend and colleague, Magneto, exemplifies the ideological and philosophical differences of that era. They are essentially cut from the same cloth, and both see this mutated breed of humanity as a subject of persecution. However, Xavier lives to protect those who fear him while Magneto lives to destroy them. Each believes his side is right. Neither is willing to compromise.

"Ultimately, the film is about how difficult it is to find a level of tolerance that is mutually beneficial to all involved. That's a philosophical concept that mankind and mutantkind could fight about forever.

"It's also a kick-ass movie," he adds, grinning.

Six years ago, a staff member gave producer Lauren Shuler Donner some back issues and character profiles of X-Men. "I read first about Logan/Wolverine, who is a truly tragic hero," she remembers, "and I got caught up in his search for himself He was so psychologically complex.

"I then read about the other X-Men," Shuler Donner continues. 'X-Men struck me as different and more complicated than other comics. It is grounded in terms of character. It revolves around the themes of prejudice and repression. We are all mutants and misfits in one way or another."

Shuler Donner subsequently set up the project at Twentieth Century Fox, beginning a chain of events that, four years later, would lead finally to the start of production. In 1995, Bryan Singer and his creative partner, executive producer Tom DeSanto, had a meeting with Fox executives — on another project. DeSanto, a self-describedX-Men fanatic, suggested that Singer instead take the helm of X-MEN. "I explained," recalls DeSanto, "that while Bryan wasn't the most obvious choice to direct a comic book film adaptation, there were cinematic elements and important social themes in X-Men I knew he would find challenging and appealing.

"At its heart, X-Men is an allegory for prejudice," continues DeSanto. "It's Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and the next wave in human evolution: Xavier's dream of mutants and humans living together in peace versus Magneto's Darwinist view that mutants are superior and must survive by any means necessary."

As Singer considered the project, he and DeSanto began work on a new story that would capture the comics' characters and mythos. Singer, widely respected for "smaller" films like The Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil, and who was new to the X-Men universe, committed to the project after much research.

"I immersed myself in the history of the comic book series," says th

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