The X-men, which is decades long and multiple series of our beloved and not so beloved mutants presents a daunting Celtic Knot of continuity to the uninitiated. Have no fear, because hosts Jay and Miles have spent 300+ episodes holding the hands of new fans along with giving more depth and a place to geek out to long time fans. The podcast takes a (mostly) chronological journey from the start of teenage mutant X-men in the silver age through a twisting and winding path full of side trips and the occasional dead end until the mid 1990’s, which is where they are at now. There are also episodes from the before times of live convention panels, interviews with X-men writers and artists, and the occasional special including X-men RPG.
Jay had worked as a comics editor and writer, and brings a professional eye to the books they explain. He has made aspects of comics design like inking and lettering feel important. Miles is the ultimate fan boy, and its rare for him to find a comic he can’t say anything good about. Listening I have learned so much about all the people behind the scenes who work to bring comics to our shop. They do occasionally talk about real life events at Marvel that influenced comics production delays, people leaving suddenly, editorial mandates without trying to get into people’s heads, which I appreciate. Before listening, the only names I associated with the X-men comics were Chris Claremont and Stan Lee. (I read X-men in the 1990’s but didn’t really keep track of the names of the people who made the comics.) Through Jay and Miles I have learned of Louise Simonson (who is a sweetheart, she is interviewed on episode 200) Anne Nocenti, Fabian Nicieza and so many others. Its strange to realize how many women were involved in comics that simply aren’t household names in the same way Stan Lee or Jack Kirby are.
The two hosts have the ease with each other of two people who have known each other since childhood. (When the podcast started, Jay and Miles were married, but since then have had an amicable divorce and Jay moved across the country.) In some ways, they were ahead of the pandemic because they had started to record the podcast with hosts on opposite coasts. The occasional guest host will either be the host of another geek podcast, an expert who can shed light on a particular topic, or both.
I found this podcast through Mother Jones of all places. But Jay and Miles have built an inclusive and safe space for X-men fans of all types. As a cisgender female, I have found spaces in comics fandom it was clear I was not welcome. I can’t imagine the experience BIPOC, transgender, and queer must have. Especially with gamergate, having a safe space to explore fandom heals something within me.
This is one podcast I recommend listening from the beginning. The episodes build off each other with the material they cover but there are also plenty of inside jokes that get built up over time. Like Harvey and Janet (who they haven’t talked about in a while…) Shinobi Shaw’s lack of the talk, and Angel being a hawk.
Patreon supporters can get thanks on the air as either the angry Claremontian narrator or a sexy character. Episode 100 is an interview with Chris Claremont, if only he had read angry Claremontian narrator thanks.
The one great flaw is the episodes aren’t very well organized. The website includes a visual companion to each episode, and a search function. I wish they would put together playlists of particular series or characters. The search function on the website isn’t always the greatest.
Jay and Miles do have a Youtube channel of X-men reviews, but it hasn’t had anything new added for a few years. Personally, stay with the podcast because they go over complete story lines. I admit to only watching a few of their videos, but they were reviewing what came out that month so its not as easy to pick up years later.
All in all, Jay and Miles Xplain the X-men should be in every X-men fan’s playlist. Come for the explanation of how Cyclop’s powers work, stay for the feminist critiques of comics and hawk jokes.