By the early-80s, Chris Claremont had established the Uncanny X-Men as far and away the #1 comic book on drug store spinner racks. But the tone of the comic had drifted away from being centered on Charles Xavier within a New York school, training a group of teenaged mutants in how to use their mutants powers.
Enter New Mutants.
The New Mutants were characters created by Chris Claremont and drawn by artist Bob McLeod. They first appeared in 1982’s Marvel Graphic Novel #4, then ultimately got their own title that ran from 1983 until 1991. Just like Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants had a team approach that featured a heavy does of interpersonal drama amidst the punching and zapping on bad guys.
Many of the main team members have gone on to become some of the most beloved Marvel characters:
- Cannonball was Sam Guthrie, a honest and earnest kid from Eastern Kentucky who served as the de facto “big brother” for the team, being that he was a couple years older than some of the youngest members. His power was that he could “blast” like a cannonball and when he did so, he was “nigh invulnerable.”
- Mirage was Dani Moonstar, a Cheyenne mutant who created illusions based upon the deepest desires or fears of others. She later became a Valkyrie.
- Magick was Illyana Rasputin, the little sister to the X-Man Colossus. Her mutant power was the creation of teleportation discs that used the demon realm of Limbo as a touch point. She would go on to become a sorceress, having her character arc consistency be driven by her connection to Limbo. More on Magick.
- Sunspot was Roberto da Costa, a Brazilian mutant who soaked up sunlight in order to gain superhuman strength. He also loved Magnum PI.
- Wolfsbane was Rahne Sinclair, a red-haired Scottish mutant who could transform into a wolf.
- Magma was Amara Aquilla, a mutant from a secret Roman society hidden deep in the Amazon. She could control control lava.
- Karma was Xi’an Coy Manh, a 19-year-old Vietnamese girl who served as the team’s original leader, although she spent more time off the team than on. Karma could mentally possess other people.
- Cypher was Doug Ramsey, who had a seemingly pedestrian mutant power in that he could learn any language, spoken or written, including alien or machine languages.
- Warlock was an alien shapeshifter of the techno-organic Technarchy race. Teamed up with Doug.
These primary 9 characters would form the nucleus of the team for the majority of the original run of the comic. Chris Claremont continued to write the comic alongside Uncanny X-Men, but when more X-Men spinoff titles started hitting the scene, he turned the book over to Louise Simonson, who did a wonderful job with it.
Some of the major themes and storylines were:
- Magneto took over as headmaster from Charles Xavier. Claremont’s vision for Magneto was that he’d be a reformed villain and putting him as the caretaker of young mutants was a part of that.
- The Hellfire Club is central. The New Mutants had frequent interactions with a secret society called the Hellfire Club and became frenemies with that school’s young mutants, the Hellions. Those issues had a school rivalry vibe, which was wonderful at the time.
- The title broke ground in art and storytelling. We’ve written about the Demon Bear Saga before, a brilliant arc. While it may be the best known, other story arcs were strong as well.
- The comic had a surprisingly dark tone for a book about teenaged mutants. It had typical teenage angst but also heavily featured demons, mysticism, and the death of a core character.
- It had wild locales. It was tied to the X-Men, so alternate futures were present. There was also an ancient Roman civilization hidden within the Amazon rainforest and a Dr. Moreau-type island. But the big one was Limbo, the demon realm that they traveled to frequently.
Later in the book’s run, Simonson had new teenaged superheroes join the team like Boom-Boom and Skids, but they never became as beloved as the OG New Mutants. The big shift was when Rob Liefeld took over penciling and co-plotting for the book at the end of 1989. Many pouches came to the book and the characters Deadpool, Cable, Domino, and Shatterstar had their first appearance. That gave it such a different vibe that the run ended at issue 100 and those new characters were spun out into their own book, X-Force.
There have also been a couple attempts to either reboot the book with new characters or to bring back the original members, albeit a little older. While run particular reboot written by Zeb Wells was solid, nearly everyone would agree that it was the mid-80s period when the book was pure magic.
But the New Mutants are suddenly relevant again! They have a movie coming to the big screens that is produced by Fox. Early reports suggest that the Demon Bear Saga will be the story the the film and most of the original core team members will be a part of the cast.