Monday, April 6, 2015

1982: New Mutants Year One: Yes! Charlie Will Have No New Mutants...

By Jef Willemsen (

It's the early 80s and Marvel's editor in chief Jim Shooter just had an idea: the X-Men were getting more and more popular, so why not capitalize on that success by adding another title? Lo and behold, the New Mutants were born, though the neophyte X-Men in training would not have the easiest of first years, as we'll cover in this retrospective.

First thing's first, the idea to have a second team of, preferably younger, mutants at Xavier's was hardly Jim Shooter's idea. John Byrne confirmed that he proposed the idea during his Uncanny X-Men run, even drawing up a few character sketches for possible members. Byrne figured that with most of the current X-Men already in their early twenties and quite skilled in the use of their powers, there was no real need for Xavier, let alone his school for gifted youngsters.

Ever a fan of going back to basics, Byrne reasoned that the book should be about teaching young mutants how to master their abilities and came up with the notion of adding a second team of "trainee" X-Men... new mutants, as it were. He even drew up some sketches of possible members, the first of which should be rather familiar.

The notes to Claremont at the bottom make for fascinating reading in retrospect... Even if you don't take into account ByrneNot to mention the fact that John apparently all but came up with Kitty Pryde. He coined her name (based on a girl he used to know) and two of the codenames she'd use before settling on "Shadowcat", he even pretty much defined her powerset. Byrne also spearheaded the "updated" original X-Men school uniform that the New Mutants would eventually wear. Perhaps the most interesting thing of all: judging from John Byrne's signature this sketch is from late 1978.

Another candidate for membership was Willie Evans Jr. a nine year old mutant who had just premiered in February 1979's Fantastic Four I#203 (in the late 70s issues were cover dated three months ahead, which still made it possible for the Byrne sketches to be from 78).

Rounding out the trio of possible new mutants was Caliban. Nope, not the chalk white, homo superior detecting Morlock that'd eventually pop up in Uncanny X-Men I#148, Byrne's take on him was quite different... Well, except for the whole "anything but human looking freak of nature who hides from everyone else" thing, of course.

But so much for the What If...version of the New Mutants. When the proposal hit the desk of Jim Shooter, the newly minted editor in chief shot it down, for exactly the same reason Byrne brought up in his Kitty Pryde sketch; he didn't want a "Legion of Substitute X-Men" hanging around. But, keep in mind that no one even brought up the idea of adding a second X-Men title.

That came in 1982, when Tom DeFalco and Jim Shooter were going over the increased sales figures of  the Spider-Man titles. As DeFalco told it in 2006's Comics Creators on X-Men, Shooter felt this warranted the launch of a third Spider-Man title, while Tom wondered why they didn't expand the X-Men franchise... After all, the mutants were Marvel's biggest seller at the time. Uncanny X-Men writer Chris Claremont and his editor Louise Jones (the future Mrs. Walt Simonson) were approached to create this new book, in cooperation with artist Bob McLeod. That collaboration resulted in Marvel Graphic Novel I#4

Which, incidentally, was not at all how Claremont and McLeod had intended to launch the series. The team's origin story that appeared in the graphic novel was originally supposed to be told in the double sized first issue... But, because Marvel's newly founded graphic novel line was suffering from creators who failed to meet their deadlines, forcing the New Mutants to make their debut in a graphic novel... Claremont admitted he didn't care for it and, had he known this, he would have changed the story to fit the medium... But in all fairness, there are worse ways to launch a series than in a prestige oneshot printed on luxurious, glossy paper. 

We'll cover the full story told in the graphic novel next time, first let's set the scene. What was the X-Universe like in 1982? For one thing, the X-Men were nowhere to be found... On Earth, at least. By September of that year, they were stuck in space on an extended "adventure" after being kidnapped by the Brood. We covered that particular storyline a while ago, Professor Xavier was left alone, with no clue about where his students might be. After a few weeks, he thought they were all dead and went into a deep funk. Instead of focussing on what he did best: training new mutants, he was so depressed he simply refused to take care of young mutants who happened to be living under his very roof...

Like, when he had lunch with Colossus' little sister Illyana who used to be about four years old until she fell into a transtemporal sinkhole and returned as a teen. Ya'd think that'd warrant some further investigation or at least a little curiosity, but as this scene from Uncanny X-Men I#164 shows: Nope, not so much...

"I ought to investigate... but I no longer care enough to make the attempt. Let Moira deal with her. All I want is to be left alone..." 

Speaking of Moira MacTaggert, she was dividing her attention between her Muir Island research facility and Xavier's in those days. Moira tried her best to get her old lover out of his rut, but by that point Charles had turned into a human sinkhole of misery... on wheels! Still, she gave it the ol' college try in Uncanny X-Men I#165 when she presented him with a letter she'd received from Reed Richards. The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man had recently (well, twas back in 1980) fought a young Vietnamese boat refugee known as Xi'an Coy Manh who could control minds. Hey, it was a story written by Chris Claremont, what else'd ya expect?

Reed Richards reached out to Xavier to request Charles's assistance in getting Xi'an, or Karma as she prefered to be called, some proper training. But he still wasn't feeling up to it.


As anyone who's ever gone through a break up can attest: the dynamic between ex-lovers can be tricky. More often than not, you don't leave well enough alone and try to persuade the other through whatever means possible. In this case, Moira went the passive agressive route and openly agreed with Charles' decision. Hey, if he didn't want to take care of Xi'an, maybe Magneto or Emma Frost would. This still didn't give the paralyzed professor the kick in his complacency that he needed.

To add insult to injury, Charles lamented that Moira had no idea what it was like to care for young mutants like they were her children, only to lose them in the end. A crass statement, to be sure... After all, Moira had only recently lost her own son Kevin, the reality warping mutant called Proteus. And to make things even worse, in 2006's X-Men: Deadly Genesis mini it was retroactively established that Moira was training a handful of mutant teens like Petra, Sway and Kid Vulcan that Xavier pressed into service after the original X-Men went missing on Krakoa. When those barely trained teenagers died trying to fulfill their mission, Charles quietly mindwiped Moira to make her forget all about them.


Still, perhaps in part, some of that lingering guilt moved him to reconsider...

"A decision is made... A Rubicon is crossed..." 

... Rubi-con? Surely, you don't mean?

No, no... Great Ceasar's ghost, no... An entirely different Rubicon.

Xavier made arrangements to meet Karma, inviting her to his school for further testing. But, that's something we wouldn't see until the opening pages of Marvel Graphic Novel I#4. While out in the highlands, MacTaggert was surprised by the sudden appearance of what initially looked like a wolf.

"Good lord, I know her, too! I delivered her years ago.
It's Rahne Sinclair!"

So, apparently being a world renowned geneticist also makes you a capable midwife? God bless Marvel's take on scientists. In the same vein of entymologist Hank Pym creating the cybernetic intelligence that would become Ultron... Apparently Moira's also perfectly capable of delivering babies just because she studied how DNA works.

Momentarily leaving science for superstition... Moira was caring for the barey 14 year old redhead when they found themselves hounded by an angry mob, led by the reverend Craig. He happened to be Rahne's foster parent and guess what.... he didn't care too much for were-children and other demons.

"There's one place I can take her...
One person who can truly help her...
Charles Xavier." 

Well, Moira... If you say so. I guess you built that whole mutant research facility on Muir Island for nothing then. But then again, Xavier did make you forget about how you succesfully helped young teens cope with their mutant powers. No wonder MacTaggert insisted an insecure, deeply religious young Scottish girl was dragged away from all she knew to go and stay with a bald American creepy guy in a wheelchair.

A bald American creepy guy in a wheelchair ready to conduct even creepier experiments...

"Don't be nervous, Shan... the examination is nearly over." 

It's not explained just what the emerald energy shooting scanner does, but do note that only Moira wears safety goggles while being the only one not looking directly at the energy barrage. It almost makes you think Dr. MacTaggert knew something...

Still, even after examining Xi'an, Charles wasn't too eager to take up the responsibilities of training her or Rahne...

"I am tired Moira... There's too much blood on my hands already.
I want no more."

Ah, same old, same old Charlie... Nothing one of Moira MacTaggert's psychic talking to's couldn't resolve...

"All right, young ladies. I'll do what I can.
And let's all pray we've made the right decision."

Talk about a vote of confidence. "Alrite, let's give it a go... Try not to die, okay?". And that's even before any of them knew Charles was carrying a Brood queen embryo inside his belly that may or may not have been manipulating him to gather a new group of mutants together so he could infect them as soon as she hatched.

More on the the new team's origin next time in part two of New Mutants Year One: I Came In Like A Cannonball!


  1. Looking forward to these, Jef. Of the 80s teams, I was hoping the next one you'd tackle would be New Mutants. I remember the idea of the X-Men having a spin-off book being amazingly exciting. Such an innocent time...
    david p.

  2. God, I miss the eighties Marvel. ..pretty much unreadable nowadays.

  3. Couldn't agree more with you spider-kev. Tried to read Convergence from DC and had no clue as to what was going on...

  4. And don't even get me started on most of the so-called "artists".....back in the Shooter era half of them wouldn't have even made it in the door. ...Ramos comes to mind....can't stand his work. He's like the Frank Robbins of today.



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