Watchers on the Walls Annotations

X-Men Watchers on the WallsThe following annotations for X-Men: Watchers on the Walls are not exhaustive, because it would be impractical to track down the exact issue numbers of every past storyline or event referenced in the novel.  For the most part, I have not included explanations for the various references to the characters’ backstories; for that information, I recommend visiting the Character Spotlights page, featuring detailed biographies of most of the major characters, or looking up the characters on Wikipedia.

As usual, I recommend reading the book before reading the annotations, for they do contain extensive spoilers.


Chapter 1
p. 5-6: The Thing, of course, is Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four, whose hide was transformed into plates of orange rock.

Any resemblance between Charles Xavier’s speech patterns here and those of Patrick Stewart is entirely intentional.  For the most part, I imagined the X-Men’s voices based on those from the ’90s animated series (whose cast and crew names provide many of the character, species and place names in this book), but I made an exception for Xavier.  (Interestingly, in Diane Duane’s 1997 X-Men novel Empire’s End, Xavier also displayed a distinctly Patrick Stewart-like speech pattern, even though Stewart had not yet been cast as Xavier when that book was written.  I think most people who were fans of both Star Trek and X-Men had Stewart pegged as the ideal Xavier long before it actually happened.)

Chapter 2
p. 11: For more on the Lockheed Skunk Works, see here.  For more on the real Blackbird, see here.

For the convoluted backstory of Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force, see the entries for “Phoenix IV” (Jean herself) and “Pryor, Madelyne” on  (This one is confusing enough to require a specific notation.)

p. 17: “Give me your tired, your poor…“: Jean is, of course, quoting Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus,” inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty.

Chapter 3
p. 23: Mary Jane Watson is a Marvel-Universe supermodel and actress, the wife of Peter (Spider-Man) Parker.

p. 25: “Sometimes he’s even been on our side!”: Indeed, for a time, a temporarily reformed Magneto led the X-Men while Xavier was offworld.

p. 29: Adamantium is supposedly a carbon-steel variant containing the Marvel-Universe supermetal vibranium.

p. 32: Yes, Lockheed the dragon is named in honor of the aircraft company that made the Blackbird.  In a classic issue, Kitty Pryde told a fairy story recasting the X-Men as its characters, and the Blackbird became a large black dragon named Lockheed.  When, soon thereafter, Kitty acquired this real dragon, she gave him the same name.

p. 33: The Avengers members cited here are Captain America, the Vision, and Thor.  The Baxter Building is the home base of the Fantastic Four, led by supergenius Reed Richards.  (In retrospect, I realize that although the book contains several references to “the FF” and its individual members, the phrase “Fantastic Four” does not appear anywhere in the text.)

Chapter 4
p. 44: For more on the Imperial Guard, see here.

p. 48: Husk is Paige Guthrie, a young mutant who can shed her skin to reveal various transformations underneath (e.g. a metal skin, rubber skin, scales, etc., though in practice it often seems to be her whole body that is transformed).

p. 51: “And immediately there fell from his eyes…”: King James Bible, Acts 9:18.

Chapter 5
The chapter title is an homage to the X-tinction Agenda storyline from the comics.  That storyline has no connection to this one, but the title seemed appropriate.

p. 70: “We had always been migratory, but it was a very different thing to be rendered homeless”: Generally, migratory peoples move between seasonal locations that they return to periodically, as opposed to being entirely nomadic.

Chapter 6
p. 77: Given the implicit timeframe of the novel, Beast’s experiment in viral mutation presumably involves the Legacy Virus, which ravaged mutant populations for several years in the comics.  Beast had temporarily retired from the X-Men at this point to research the virus full-time, which is why it takes a while for him to join in the action of this novel (also because the battle in Chapter 4 was easier to write with one less combatant). His experiments would ultimately pay off in a cure, but not before a number of recurring characters died (not always permanently, this being comics, after all).

p. 78: “…he was hopeful it would stay that way”: Hank’s hopes would be dashed, because later on he would undergo a secondary mutation into a more massive, leonine form.  Being a cat-lover, I would’ve liked to write about that version of Beast, but it wouldn’t have fit the timeframe of the novel.

p. 80: Beast’s tale about the cataclysmic oxygenation of Earth’s atmosphere is a true story.  His statement that the same has occurred on other planets is conjecture, of course.

p. 81: “I heard the beat of centaur’s hoofs…”: Beast is quoting T. S. Eliot’s “Mr. Apollinax”.  The “wise and gentle Cheiron” reference is not from Eliot, but is a common description of the centaur who taught many Greek mythological heroes.

p. 85: “…she’d move someplace warm and never wear more than a bikini”: A foreshadowing of Rogue’s behavior when she did in fact lose her powers in the Xtreme X-Men comic, set sometime after the events of this novel.

p. 86: Yes, I know it’s actually Cliff’s Notes.  But most people say “Cliff Notes” anyway, and Rogue would probably be one of them.

p. 87: “…they’re desperate and impoverished, but so’s your average suicide bomber”: Since writing this, I’ve learned that it isn’t strictly true; a lot of suicide bombers come from middle-class backgrounds.  But Kitty’s statement does reflect a commonly held belief.

p. 88ff: Here’s where my homages to the ’90s animated X-Men series kick in.  Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi wrote its music.  George Buza played Beast (and was also the trucker who dropped off Rogue at the diner in the first X-Men movie).  Cal Dodd played Wolverine.  For other name-drops, see the full credits to the series.

Chapter 7
p. 98: “…that major hyperspace warp in our system”: The Marvel-Universe explanation for why Earth’s heroes get caught up in so many alien invasions and interstellar wars.

p. 100: “These images depict the eleven known Chlorite species of approximately humanoid configuration, which cannot be immediately detected by the emission of toxic respiratory gases.”  Disregard the comma after “configuration”; everything after “Chlorite species” is meant to be a single clause.  Poratine means that these eleven species are the only ones that both look humanoid and don’t give off toxic gases, as opposed to just one or the other.  There are other humanoid Chlorite species that do give off toxic gases, such as the Shuki from the interrogation scene.

p. 102: Ben Urich is a recurring character from Spider-Man and Daredevil comics.

p. 104: Meena’s alternate realities are mostly references to alternate comics timelines and adaptations of the X-Men.  Apocalypse took over in the Age of Apocalypse timeline.  The one where Logan is a foot taller is the universe of the feature films starring the 6’3″ Hugh Jackman.  The one where Cyclops recently died may in fact be the mainstream comics universe shortly after the “Twelve Saga,” putting this book in a slightly alternate timeline (as discussed on the intro page).  Bayside High School was the school attended by the characters in the X-Men: Evolution animated series.

p. 105: Papillon is the French word for butterfly.  “Ms. Moonstar” is Dani Moonstar, a former New Mutant (second-generation student of Xavier’s) who graduated to become a teacher at the Institute.

p. 114: Project Wideawake is a clandestine US government commission formed to deal with the mutant problem, and both Val Cooper and Henry Gyrich have been members.

Chapter 8
p. 127: The description of how Cyclops’s nervous system shunts away the recoil energy from his eyebeams is my own extrapolation.

Chapter 9
No notes.

Chapter 10
p. 166: Jack Williamson is a prolific and influential science-fiction author who coined many familiar terms such as “terraforming,” “genetic engineering” and “android.”  Val is thinking specifically of his “Humanoids” series of novels, in which humanoid robots with the “Prime Directive” (another Williamson coinage) of protecting humanity from harm end up taking it too far and coddling humanity to the point of complete dependence.

p. 182: In Jewish folklore, Rabbi Loew was the creator of the golem of Prague.

p. 184.  Dr. Doom, aka Victor von Doom, is the dictator of the Eastern European nation of Latveria and the principal adversary of the Fantastic Four.

Chapter 11
p. 187: Matt Murdock is a blind attorney who, unbeknownst to the students, is also the superhero Daredevil.

Chapter 12
This chapter was written on my laptop as I moved through the campus of the University of Cincinnati, so the descriptions of the location are very accurate (albeit with some editorializing).  Some of the locations can be seen by visiting this page of campus maps and tours.  The itinerary of the chase is: past McMicken Hall and University Pavilion (the glass building the Sentinel crashes into), around Tangeman University Center (the student union the Chlorite ducks into), through Steger Student Life Center (the arch), into Baldwin Hall and the adjoining Rhodes Hall (the particle lab), across Zimmer Plaza, down the steps, under the bridge between Rieveschl Hall and Langsam Library, left turn around Crosley Tower, then west toward the Aronoff Center.

p. 200: “Frank Gehryesque”: Gehry is a deconstructivist architect known for designs that eschew conventional straight lines and regular shapes.  Cyke’s characterization of this particular building (the Aronoff Center for Design and Art) as Gehryesque is somewhat inaccurate, since its design is based on straight lines and sharp angles rather than Gehry’s trademark curves.  The building was designed by architect Peter Eisenman.

p. 202: “We were almost finished”: So I thought when I wrote this, but I later discovered that at least one of three old dorm buildings on the northeast corner of campus was being demolished, and other changes have continued ever since.  “Under Construction” continues.

Chapter 13
p. 208: “Sperrmull” is German for bulk garbage or junk such as old appliances and furniture.

p. 209: Why didn’t Kurt teleport just a few meters straight upward to the surface instead of hundreds of meters down the track? Mainly because it didn’t occur to me.  But I suppose he didn’t know exactly how far up the ground was, and if he teleported too high, the fall could be dangerous.

p. 210ff: The portions of the Down Street Station visited herein can be seen at

p. 213: Spiny Norman is a giant cartoon hedgehog immortalized in a Monty Python sketch, the bete noire of gangster Dinsdale Piranha.

Chapter 14
For more on Mutant Force, see here.  I was hoping to arrange a cameo by some less lame supervillains, but there are few inhuman-looking mutants among the major supervillain teams still alive at this point, and the ones that do look inhuman are too major for a small cameo.

Chapter 15
p. 225: Bollywood is the nickname for the Indian film industry based in Mumbai (Bombay).

Chapter 16
p. 235: Any resemblance between the protest leader and X-Men co-creator Stan Lee is purely intentional.  I was told to approach this novel like a movie, and Stan the Man has had cameos in most of the recent Marvel movies, so naturally….

p. 236: The sign legends in the second paragraph should be “Don’t Let Alcala Happen Again!” and “Do You Know What Your Neighbors Are?”  The capitalization of the “And” is a typo; it’s not all one sign.

p. 242: “Gal Fawkes”: A pun on Jean’s (implicit) code name Phoenix, Fawkes the phoenix from Harry Potter, and Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up Parliament in 1605.  This, like many of Rogue’s lines and actions in this part of the scene, was originally written for Spider-Man, but the decision was made to focus the scene more tightly on Jean vs. Rogue.  A pun this multilayered is more up Spidey’s alley than Rogue’s, but I couldn’t bear to part with it.

Chapter 17
p. 253: Madripoor is a fictional Southeast Asian nation from the X-Men comics.  “Madriporean” as the possessive form is my own extrapolation.

p. 254ff: Quicksilver is Pietro Maximoff, the son of Magneto, who shares much of his father’s outrage at the abuse of mutants by normal humans, though generally pursues less extreme tactics.  He is a sometime member of the Avengers.

Chapter 18
No notes.

Chapter 19
p. 271: “With apologies to Donne”: Beast is paraphrasing John Donne’s poem “No Man is an Island.”  See also p. 303.

p. 273: Sue Richards is the Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four.  Aside from her invisibility, she also can project forcefields, which presumably would be valuable in detaining a Chlorite.

p. 275: “Creed” is Graydon Creed, a mutant-hating politician who founded the anti-mutant terrorist group the Friends of Humanity.

Chapter 20
p. 292: Yes, I know it’s called a Ouija board, but once again I’m using vernacular while writing in Rogue’s voice.

Chapter 21
p. 311:  The song “I Surrender, Dear” is often associated with Ray Charles, though it was written by Harry Barris and Gordon Clifford and originally recorded by Bing Crosby.  The line “…to surrender to the call of his elementary instincts” is a paraphrase of Albert Einstein.

p. 316: The second sentence in the third paragraph should read “I really didn’t need to see my own skeleton today, she reflected, before her capacity to reflect in anything became nil.”  I.e. before she became invisible and would no longer be reflected in a mirror.

Chapter 22
p. 332: “Given worlds enough and time”: A common misquote of the first line of Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress”: “Had we but world enough, and time.”

p. 334, bottom paragraph: In the course of two sentences, Beast manages to reference both Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady and Thurston Howell III from Gilligan’s Island.

Chapter 23
p. 344: Harry’s quip in the first paragraph is a reference to the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, a married couple formerly belonging to the Avengers.

p. 350: “Frost’s poem” is, of course, “Mending Wall,” which was also excerpted as an epigraph for the novel.


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