X-Men spinoff ‘The New Mutants’ has a surprisingly long and interesting history in comics.
If you are even remotely versed in superheroes, you’ve probably heard of the X-Men, the superhero team of mutants — most notably, Wolverine. From the vast collection of X-Men comics to the nine feature films revolving around Wolverine and the group since 2000, this superhero property has become quite the pop culture staple.
Even with the cultural relevance of X-Men, its spinoffs haven’t typically been well-known except by comic book enthusiasts until they hit the silver screen (2016’s Deadpool, for example). So even the most dedicated of X-Men moviegoers could be forgiven for not being well-versed in The New Mutants, the latest X-Men spinoff that will hit theaters February 22, 2019.
The New Mutants will focus on five teenage mutants who’ve just discovered their powers: Magik, Wolfsbane (played by Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams), Cannonball (played by Stranger Things actor Charlie Heaton), Sunspot and Mirage. But besides each team member’s unique mutant powers, the film won’t be recognizable to longtime X-Men movie fans in terms of tone. As shown in the official trailer, The New Mutants hinges on horror, a rarity in the superhero genre.
Confused and possibly overwhelmed by this new wrinkle in the X-Men film universe? Let’s take a look at the comic book origins of The New Mutants ahead of the film’s release.
The New Mutants are born
At the height of X-Men’s success in the comic book industry, Marvel’s editor in chief wanted to capitalize on the mutant superhero squad. He enlisted the writer of Uncanny X-Men and artist Bob McLeod to create the very first X-Men spinoff. They came up with the New Mutants, a play on the name “X-Men” that Stan Lee had created nearly 20 years before.
The original X-Men were now full-grown adults in the comics, but the New Mutants looked to roll the mutant squad back into adolescence. They, too, would be guided by Professor Xavier at the School for Gifted Youngsters.
The initial five-member squad featured four of the five heroes that will be featured in the adaptation: Samuel Guthrie (Cannonball), a 16-year-old from Kentucky with near invulnerability; Danielle Moonstar (Mirage, then called Psyche), a Native American who can conjure lifelike illusions; Roberto da Costa (Sunspot), a 14-year-old Brazilian who can wield superhuman strength at sunset; Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane) a 13-year-old from Scotland who can transfigure into a wolf. The fifth member of the original squad, Xi’an Coy Manh (Karma), a 19-year-old from Vietnam, can possess other bodies with her mind.
The New Mutants debuted in Marvel Graphic Novel #4 in December 1982. The story, titled “Renewal,” depicted each mutant’s discovery of their powers and their pursuit for answers from Dr. Xavier. They learn that Donald Pierce, a member of the notorious Hellfire Club, has captured Xavier and recruited Cannonball for villainy. Upon saving Xavier and converting Cannonball to the good side, they acquire matching uniforms, much like the X-Men, and Xavier dubs them the New Mutants.
A few months later in March 1983, the New Mutants kicked off their own series. As a series revolving around teenagers, The New Mutants grappled with regular teenage problems such as understanding the world around him and discovering who they were, but the writing team didn’t want to retread all the themes that had cropped up in the earlier days of X-Men. Thus, The New Mutants took on a more fantastical approach, delivering story arcs that were less grounded than the gritty realism featured in its elder counterpart.
The New Mutants battled villains in other sadistic dimensions, visited alternate timelines, both in the future and in the past, and made a slew of enemies along the way, including the Hellions, an opposing group of young villains trained by the Hellfire Club.
Perhaps the most intriguing foe the New Mutants faced early on, however, was the Demon Bear, an entity that haunted the dreams of Mirage, manipulating her into thinking it killed her parents. While the Demon Bear didn’t get very much play in the comics, it appears to be the main antagonist in the adaptation.
A few years into its run, in a shocking move, Dr. Xavier exited the series. Perhaps even more shocking: the former X-Men nemesis Magneto was appointed the school’s new headmaster.
Crossovers, new additions, series end
As in most Marvel comic book series, the New Mutants crossed paths with superheroes from other series both within its own issues and in dedicated crossovers, including appearances from Deadpool, Spider-Man, Thor, Daredevil, members of X-Men, and even Marvel’s other superhero squads, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers.
Marvel superhero squads change over time, and it was no different with the New Mutants. At one point, Karma was thought to be dead after a mysterious entity sent the group spiraling into the ocean. Following Karma’s exit from the group, four new recruits, including one who will star in the film, Magik, joined the squad. Magik is the sister of Colossus, a member of the X-Men. She could travel both to Limbo and anyplace on Earth with her teleportation powers.
Eight more young mutants were cycled into the series throughout its first run, but interest in the series waned in the late ’80s. Following issue #100 in 1991, The New Mutants was cancelled.
A brief comeback
Although The New Mutants was technically out of print, many of the heroes featured in the series, including Cannonball and Sunspot, made extended appearances in a spinoff titled X-Force in the years following.
In 2003 the New Mutants officially returned with seven brand-new teenage mutants. Marvel chose to treat the series as a sequel, putting Mirage at the helm of Dr. Xavier’s school, while both Karma and Wolfsbane served as instructors.
The series focused less on clashes with villains and more on the teens navigating the world with their bizarre powers.
Marvel made the decision after only 13 issues to disband the squad and rebrand them into a new series titled New X-Men in 2004.
A true comeback
Once again, though, the New Mutants returned in 2009, this time in a series that reunited the original cast of heroes. With the characters much older, the series now resembled X-Men. After all, the New Mutants were intended to be the heirs apparent to the famous squad in the first place. The series ran for 50 issues before it was cancelled in 2012.
What to expect from the movie
The New Mutants adaptation will tell a different sort of origin story. Our five young heroes have just discovered their powers, but they’re being held against their will in a mysterious facility that is fashioned like a hospital but seems far more like a prison. A group of researchers watch them on camera feeds. The five young mutants will be forced to face their darkest fears and grapple with who they really are.
Consider the movie the team’s first mission before they officially become the New Mutants, let alone realize they’re the heirs to the X-Men.
The film, like the first run of the comics, will differentiate itself from X-Men with elements of science fiction and fantasy. But its gravitation toward horror will be the most interesting aspect for longtime comic book fans. Look for plenty of jump scares and more info on one of the more frightening and enigmatic Marvel villains, the Demon Bear.
Given Dr. Xavier’s absence in the trailer, it would appear that the film will take place after the events of Logan, with Cecilia Reyes, a lesser-known X-Men mutant, serving as the team’s mentor.