As a big fan of Brian Cronin‘s work over at Comic Book Resources, we’re happy to present this exclusive excerpt from his chapter on Cable (introduced to cinematic audiences shortly in Deadpool 2 portrayed by Josh Brolin) from his new book, 100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.
Many X-Men characters have complicated backgrounds within the comics and a number of X-Men characters have complicated backgrounds behind the scenes. However, no character can boast the levels of complication in both fields as Cable, the time-traveling mutant warrior with more parents (in the comics and outside the comics) than just about any character in history.
The behind-the-scenes origins for the character began when Rob Liefeld joined writer Louise Simonson as the creative team on New Mutants. The title had recently seen the group of young mutants break free from their ostensible mentor, Magneto, while also merging with another team of young mutants from the pages of X-Factor, the X-Terminators. So the cast of the group had grown, but without a leader or a real base of operations (the X-Mansion having been destroyed in one of its routine destructions), the team was in a state of disarray. So New Mutants editor Bob Harras decided that the team needed a new leader. He wanted the new leader to have more of a military attitude than their previous leaders, to give the book a new approach.
Before joining New Mutants, Rob Liefeld had designed a number of possible new characters for the series. One of the characters that he had designed was a cyborg character that Liefeld recalled was essentially a mix between Bruce Willis from Die Hard and Arnold Schwarzenegger from The Terminator. He had a number of possible names written down for the character. When he pulled the design out for New Mutants, he chose the name “Cable.”
However, since both Liefeld and Simonson were told of the new direction by Harras, then Simonson naturally was also developing a militaristic leader for the team. Therefore, there is some dispute between the two over who gets credit for creating Cable. Liefeld clearly designed the character on his own, but there is some debate over how much of a role Simonson had in the early personality of the character. She clearly wrote his first appearance in New Mutants #87, so either way; she officially gets credit as cocreating the character. Harras’ role, though, is reminiscent of the impactful role that Roy Thomas had in the creation of Wolverine, though both editors always seem to be left out of creator credits for their respective characters.
Simply put, the only thing that anyone knew about Cable when he showed up was that he was a time traveler, he was a cyborg of some sort, and he was a badass. Once he was introduced, Simonson and Liefeld kept him a mystery for a few issues (although they revealed that he had history with Wolverine, but then again, everyone seems to have history with Wolverine). Once Liefeld took over full control of the plotting of the series, he had a few different ideas for the character. One of them was that he would be a grown version of Cannonball, the leader of the New Mutants. Another one was set up by the ending of the final issue of New Mutants (by Liefeld and Nicieza). In that issue, the villainous Stryfe, who showed up with the Mutant Liberation Front at the same time that Cable debuted, took off his helmet and appeared to be…Cable! Liefeld’s idea was that Stryfe would be an older version of Cable who turned evil at some point in time. So Cable’s greatest foe would be himself.
However, Liefeld soon left Marvel to cofound Image Comics, and thus he was no longer in control of Cable’s background. Marvel decided to go in a different direction. Cyclops previously had sent his infant son, Christopher Nathan Summers, into the future to save his life after he had been infected with a technorganic virus by Apocalypse. During “X-Cutioner’s Song,” it was revealed that either Stryfe or Cable was the grown version of that infant and the other one was a clone. At first, it seemed like Cable was going to be the clone, but then it turned out that Cable was the original (he was a cyborg as a result of the techno-organic virus ravaging his body before being put under control) and Stryfe was a clone without the virus who was then captured by Apocalypse with the intent of Apocalypse using Stryfe as a host body.
So Cable was now older than his own father, Cyclops. The issue was even weirder when you consider that Cable’s birth mother was Madelyne Pryor, a clone herself of Jean Grey, who then died. When Cyclops married Jean Grey, Cable got to see who, in effect, should have been his parents. Cable has been a valuable member of the X-Universe ever since, leading many versions of X-Force and also being part of a number of X-Men teams.