We admit to feeling a little nostalgic about the end of Fox’s X-Men universe of films (Fox’s Fantastic Four adaptations not so much). Sure, there were a lot of problems with the way Fox chose to portray the characters, attire them and screw with their continuity, but they were pretty much all we had in the way of super-team action in the pre-Marvel Studioes era and we learned to love them.
Being comic book fans in addition to being movie fans, we are very excited to see The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Deadpool and their related heroes and villains return to Marvel Studios once Disney completes its acquisition of Fox’s film rights to the characters. But, things were actually starting to look up at Fox in terms of quality and diversity, with Logan basically an R-rated Western, Deadpool a hyper-violent cartoon comedy and with the upcoming The New Mutants bringing horror to the superhero genre, a move echoed by DC/Warner Bros. in a recent announcement. The teen horror movie featuring mutants might be the last gasp of the X-Universe as we have come to know it, so that alone makes it must-see viewing.
But who are these “New Mutants” anyway? Just another young version of The X-Men, like the ones we have seen in several movies and who will currently be appearing in X-Men: Dark Phoenix? The answer is yes and no, both in the movie and in the comic books that inspired the movie.
After The Uncanny X-Men was successfully rejuvenated with the addition of new characters Wolverine, Colossus, Storm, Thunderbird and Nightcrawler in the special edition Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May 1975), the series went on to become one of the most popular in Marvel’s stable of titles by the mid-1980s, easily outselling The Avengers and even Spider-Man. Marvel editors realized they had to tap into the success of The X-Men and mutants and introduced a whole new batch of mutant students at Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. The new team was created by writer Chris Claremont and artist Bob McLeod and first appeared in The New Mutants (Sept. 1982) graphic novel before being featured in their own title in 1983.
Later additions to the team include Amara Juliana Olivians Aquilla, aka Magma, who could control lava; Douglas Ramsey, aka Cypher, who could learn any language — human, alien, robot — quickly, Illyana Rasputin, aka Magik, sister of Colossus and mystic as well as mutant, with the power to open portals to Limbo, allowing her to teleport anywhere; and Warlock, a techno-organic alien with a special connection to Cypher.
Waning sales allowed Marvel to take bigger risks with the title, opening the door for future-Image Comics superstar Rob Liefeld. The book took a new direction and Liefeld’s wild art style and the new characters he created with writers Louise Simonson and Fabian Nicieza made the title a hit. Cable arrived from the future and became a mentor to the team, turning it into a harder-edged fighting force and new characters adding all-new dynamics to the team.
Introduced in the final issues of volume one of the series were Gaveedra Seven, aka Shatterstar, a cavalier extra-dimensional warrior, James Proudstar, aka Warpath, younger brother of fallen X-Man Thunderbird, who possessed super strength; Maria Callasantos, aka Feral, with cat-like abilities; and Vanessa Geraldine Carlysle, aka Domino, a luck-powered hero who was initially only someone impersonating the real Domino. Deadpool also made his first appearance during Liefeld’s run, popping up in The New Mutants #98. The militant new team of New Mutants assumed the new title X-Force in The New Mutants #100, the final issue of the initial run of the book. The title would be revived numerous times over the years, with various rosters of characters and driving motivations, but they have always remained, at their core, a team of young mutants inspired by the ideas and ideals of Professor Charles Xavier.
Several of the New Mutants have appeared in the standard X-Men universe of movies, including Blink (Fan Bingbing), Sunspot (Adan Canto) and Warpath (Booboo Stewart) in small roles in X-Men: Days of Future Past. While supposedly occurring in the same universe as the X-Men movies, The New Mutants will likely be a version of that universe, similar to the way X-Men characters (Colossus, Juggernaut) are handled in the Deadpool movies.
The New Mutants movie, directed by Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars), from a script he co-wrote with Knate Lee, features four of the original five New Mutants from the comic books — Mirage (Blu Hunt), Cannonball (Charlie Heaton), Sunspot (Henry Zaga) and Wolfsbane (Maisie Williams) — plus Magik (Anya Taylor-Joy), in a horror-tinged thriller that takes place in a secret facility where the young mutants are being held against their will. Banding together, the youth struggle to control their new mutant abilities as they fight for their freedom against those who would control them and an evil entity called Demon Bear that gains power from fear.
The movie is intended to be the first in a trilogy of New Mutants movies, each introducing new characters and featuring standalone plots, but it seems likely that Marvel Studios will cancel those plans now that it has taken ownership of the characters back from Fox. Of course, if the movie is successful, it’s possible that it could become part of Disney’s new R-rated stable of Marvel movies.
The New Mutants is slated to open in theaters on August 2nd.