X-FACTORMedium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1986
Creators: Bob Layton, Roger Stern, John Byrne (writers), Byrne, John Buscema and Jackson Guice (artists)
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By the 1980s, X-Men had gone from being one of Marvel Comics' second-string titles, which it was in the 1960s — able to sustain itself, in fact, only in reprint form during the early '70s — to the company's biggest franchise. So a few spin-offs were
deemed in order. The New Mutants (1982) was the first such spin-off. X-Factor, which began in 1986, was the second.
X-Factor's basic set-up was sort pf the opposite of New Mutants. The earlier group consisted of a bunch of all-new characters in the same situation as the original X-Men, students of Professor X, learning how to handle their mutant super-powers and get along in the world of normal humans. X-Factor was a reprise of the original — the charter members of X-Men, most of whom had been only sporadically part of the series for years, getting back together as fully trained adult superheroes devoted to continuing the work of Professor X, who was off in a distant galaxy, getting medical treatment. A large part of their motivation was his replacement by their old enemy, Magneto, as head of the school.
X-Factor was founded on a lie. Its publicly-stated purpose was to locate mutants and deal with their suppose "menace", i.e., to pander to public prejudice against them. In reality, its reason for finding them was to help them fit in with society while privately allowing their mutant abilities to find expression without alarming the masses. The fact that it was financed by The Angel (no stranger to using his wealth to fund superheroes — he'd backed The Champions) and employed The Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Phoenix was a deep, dark secret.
It's hard to say who created X-Factor, except that it was apparently done at the editorial level and didn't have much to do with individual writers and artists at all. They first appeared in The Avengers #263 (January, 1986), which was written by Roger Stern (Starman) and drawn by John Buscema (She-Hulk). The story was continued into Fantastic Four #286 (same month), which was both written and drawn by John Byrne (Alpha Flight). The following month, they appeared in the first issue of their own comic, which was written by Bob Layton (Living Assault Weapons, a DC group full of old Charlton characters) and drawn by Jackson Guice (The Flash). Later issues featured the usual comings and goings of creative teams.
Naturally, the team repeatedly found reasons for superhero action. Along the way, they accumulated a bunch of young mutants whom they rescued, using the phoney excuse of neutralizing them, from danger at the hands of the prejudiced public. These included Rusty Collins (a firebug along the lines of The Human Torch, and no relation), Boom Boom (who could create destructive bombs out of thin air), Rictor (who could generate earthquakes) and others who could only reinforce the public's view of mutants as destructive menaces. Eventually, the lies that supported their raison d'etre were exposed by a bunch of "former" super villains called Freedom Force, who had switched to doing their dirty work for the U.S. government, and that ended X-Factor's effectiveness in its chosen mission.
But the group was re-formed, adding several stray characters from the Greater X-Men Community, including Wolfsbane (formerly of The New Mutants), Havok (Cyclops's brother), Polaris (formerly of The X-Men), Quicksilver (who had started out as one of their villains) and several others. Its purpose at this point seems to have been generic superheroing. The series ended with its 149th issue (September, 1998).
They had a four-issue mini-series in 2001, but that didn't lead to a permanent re-organization of the team. In 2005, some of its former members got together to form X-Factor Investigations, a superheroized detective agency. That group is still running.