Even if 20th Century Fox's wildest technicolor dreams come true and X-Men: Days of Future Past racks up critical acclaim and a billion dollars in worldwide gross, it's doubtful that anyone will describe it as revolutionary. In 2014, there's nothing groundbreaking about an action story featuring time travel, dystopian futures, and nasty robots.
But in early 1981, the pop-culture landscape was different. Over the course of just two issues of Uncanny X-Men — only 44 pages total — the original "Days of Future Past" story line changed the game and told a tale like nothing fans had seen before. Indeed, it's probably one of the most influential comics stories ever told.
"It shook people up when they read it," said comics historian Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. "There was nothing to gird you, no compass to help you out."
Comics journalist Heidi MacDonald can still recall the day she picked the first issue up from a newsstand: "I was standing there with trembling hands, looking at the cover. And then you opened it up, and you were immersed."
MacDonald wasn't the only one who was stunned by the cover image on the first issue of the story, Uncanny X-Men No. 141. The illustration, done by series artist John Byrne, is one of the most famous — and imitated — comics covers ever published. Wolverine and a brunette woman stand in a pile of rubble, backs to a wall, staring toward the reader. They're trapped in some kind of searchlight. Wolverine is, for some reason, gray-haired and aged. Behind them is an enormous poster with the faces of various X-Men, obscured by red banners reading "SLAIN" or "APPREHENDED."...