World Stamps

Royal Mail celebrates 60 years of the X-Men with Feb. 16 issue

Feb 2, 2023, 10 AM
A Feb. 16 issue from Great Britain’s Royal Mail features the X-Men, mutant superheroes who debuted in comic books 60 years ago in 1963.

By David Hartwig

In a Feb. 16 issue of 17 stamps, Great Britain’s Royal Mail celebrates the X-Men, mutant superheroes who fight against enemies in comic books, movies, television shows and more.

The X-Men franchise marks its 60th anniversary in 2023; Marvel Comics published the first issue of the X-Men comic book in 1963.

Royal Mail’s X-Men issue includes 12 stamps in two horizontal se-tenant (side-by-side) strips of six, and a souvenir sheet of five stamps. The 12 stamps have traditional stamp gum, while the stamps in the souvenir sheet are self-adhesive, according to Royal Mail.

The stamps in one strip of six are valued at the second-class rate (currently 68p), and the stamps in the other are valued at the first-class rate (currently 95p).

For the set of 12 stamps, British comic book artist Mike McKone, whose work has appeared in the comic book series, provided Royal Mail with original illustrations exclusive to the postal agency. Each stamp portrays a different character from the popular comic book series.

In developing the superhero crew for the first issue of the X-Men in 1963, writer-editor Stan Lee moved away from heroes who acquired their powers and instead developed characters who were born as mutants.

These mutant children would then need schooling. Professor X, shown on one of the second-class stamps, took charge of this education with a private school to shelter and train mutants. Under his tutelage, these mutant children became the X-men.

In addition to Professor X (who can read and control minds), early issues of the comic featured Angel (who can fly), Cyclops (who emits beams of energy from his eyes), Jean Grey (who has telepathic and telekinetic powers), Iceman (who can freeze water vapor around him) and Beast (who possesses superhuman strength, agility and intelligence).

Angel and Cyclops are shown on second-class stamps in the set of 12. Jean Grey, Iceman and Beast can be found on first-class stamps in the set.

The comic did not initially find success, and Marvel Comics canceled the title in 1970. New characters rekindled readers’ interest when the title returned in 1975.

The 1975 relaunch saw the introduction of Colossus (who can take on a metallic form), Wolverine (who possesses animal senses and other physical capabilities) and Storm (who can control the weather).

Second-class stamps in the set of 12 depict Colossus, and Wolverine and Storm are shown on two first-class stamps.

In the 1980s, more characters were introduced, including Kitty Pryde (who can become intangible), Jubilee (who can generate pyrotechnic energy blasts from her hands) and Rogue (who can absorb energy from physical contact).

Kitty Pryde and Jubilee appear on two second-class stamps, and Rogue can be seen on a first-class stamp.

The X-Men superheroes find adversaries in the multiple villains present in their universe. A souvenir sheet with four first-class stamps and one £1.85 stamp features five of these villains.

Magneto, appearing in the £1.85 stamp of the souvenir sheet, made his debut in the first issue of the comic. Juggernaut, the stepbrother of Professor X, was introduced in 1965.

Mystique, Emma Frost and Sabretooth entered the X-Men universe in the 1980s.

Lee Garbett, a British comic book artist and costume designer for one of the X-Men movies, penciled the illustrations for the stamps on the souvenir sheet. Royal Mail credits Chris Soto as the colorist for both the set of 12 stamps and the souvenir sheet.

Each of the 17 stamps in the X-Men issue includes the superhero’s or villain’s name in the bottom left and the silhouette of Queen Elizabeth II in one of the upper corners.

The X-Men stamps and related products are available from Royal Mail.

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