The other day was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the now classic sci-fi show ‘The X-Files’. First broadcast on the Fox Network (or as we used to call it, the Simpsons’ Network) on September 10, 1993, The X-Files was a ground breaking television series and quickly gained a cult following.
Younger readers who have either never seen the show or only watched a few episodes in reruns or streamed on Hulu, may find the X-Files corny or goofball; with bad plots as well as very little in the way of genuine horror to render it impressive. However, when the show first aired in 1993 it was a game changer.
Taking several established genres (horror, sci-fi, police-detective procedural) and mixing them together to find a unique voice, there was no precedent for this on television at the time, but there was a template that followed this recipe, or so I would argue, in Bronze Age comics.
For those who have never seen the show, the X-Files was about two federal agents (Fox Mulder, played by David Duchovny and Dana Scully played by Gillian Anderson) who were relegated to a basement office to pursue so called ‘X-Files’, strange and unusual cases, for the F.B.I. Mulder, the senior agent, was drawn to the X-Files after his younger sister, Samantha, was abducted by aliens from their parent’s home in the early 1970s. Scully, by contrast, was a medical doctor with a background in physics who was reassigned to the X-Files to debunk Mulder’s work. As the show went on, Scully (the skeptic) realized that her partner (the believer)–although highly eccentric- was not insane. And the show quickly grew into stories with their very own expanding ‘myth-arc’ centered around government conspiracies to hide the reality of various alien invasions.
Like I said, this show was highly unusual TV viewing in the early 1990s, but it would have felt like old hat to readers of Bronze Age comics. Lovers of Bronze-Age horror and sci-fi, would especially have felt right at home in the X-Files world. I’m thinking more precisely of Bronze Age titles like Werewolf by Night, where you could find the X-Files formula of fusing action adventure to sci-fi mystery and monster-occult/‘freak of the week’ theme at work in the course of different issues/episodes. And the threat of the government monitoring people who are different was, once again, something the X-Men under Chris Claremont in the 1970’s and 80s treated in depth.
In fact, all of the above themes: alien abduction/invasion, UFO cults and monsters were regularly present in Bronze Age comics. It’s probably for that reason that the X-Files formula was itself quickly translated into a comic in 1995 and has never stopped ongoing production in comic book form. Currently X-Files comics are published by IDW, and, of course, the show with its aged-actors reunited was also revived last year for a short Season 11. There have already been two feature films, but whether the X-Files will return in some other form than in comic books remains to be seen. In the mean time the first X-Files comic incarnation is worth taking a look at.
Written by Stefan Petrucha with art by Miran Kim and Charles Adlard, Topps X-Files comic began with this issue and was subsequently published by Topps from 1995 to 1998 with all original issues released while the television series was still on the air. At its best the Topps comic actually managed to capture the spirit of the show quite faithfully. This comic has nonetheless suffered a weird fate. After 59 recorded sales on GoCollect.com in the last eleven years, and with 258 copies on the CGC census, values for the Topps series has fluctuated over the last few years. With its fanzine feel (and I personally loved the montage covers it sported), the quality of the content if not the actual physical production of the original comics was generally quite good. But currently only 8.0 CGC graded copies are trending positive returns (up + 130% after two signature series CGC sales in the last two years). The return of the show to television last year, with the original actors reunited, may have acted as a boost to sales. The X-Files #1 in 9.8 grade actually broke the $100.00 mark twice in early 2018 (a Feb 10, 2018 Ebay sale for $109.99 and again May 18 (104.49) and July 22 (109.99). Currently it’s down with a negative 5.5% return in 9.8 and hovering at around the $100.00 price range on sales of CGC’d copies in that grade.