Was Cable or Stryfe the clone, and who had the cure for the Legacy Virus?
John Romita Jr. made a spectacular return as the artist of Uncanny X-Men starting with issue 300 in 1993. However, his return was fairly short-lived, ending with #311 in 1994. “After I got on the X-Men, then I got screwed off of it again by a guy named Kelly Corvese,” Romita Jr. revealed in Modern Masters vol. 18. “They asked me to do the Punisher/Batman crossover, so I asked for one month off of X-Men to do the Punisher/Batman. They gave it to me, and then they wouldn’t let me back on because (artist) Joe Madureira was discovered.”
“(Editor) Bob Harras was pleasant to me up front, and then didn’t like my work behind my back,” Romita Jr. explained. “He didn’t want to cause trouble at the company, so he let me work without telling me he wasn’t thrilled with my work, and I was kept off of a lot of books, and I was screwed out of doing the X-Men by (assistant editor) Kelly Corvese when Bob Harras should have done the right thing, and he didn’t.”
In 1993, the X-Men books were littered with new plot twists and a few of them were abandoned before reaching any resolution. In the Stryfe’s Strike File one-shot, a new character named Holocaust was introduced: “Hero? Villain? Anarchist? How does one classify a mutant who dares to frustrate the Upstarts at dawn, singlehandedly destroys a Sentinel-processing plant at noon, and attempts to slay the X-Men at dusk?” it was asked. “He does not speak, his thoughts are cloaked (…) and his mutant powers seem to adapt to any given situation.”
However, Holocaust never appeared in the X-Men books, but a different-looking, alternate universe version of him was introduced in the 1995 Age Of Apocalypse crossover. “We know Holocaust had a human form and something happened for him to need the crystal armor,” Uncanny X-Men writer Scott Lobdell told Hero Illustrated in 1995. “Theoretically he could be the janitor at the high school and you wouldn’t know it.”
Another character that never appeared was the new Hellfire Club leader Shinobi Shaw’s mother despite an introductory mention by writer Fabian Nicieza in X-Men vol.2 #22.
In Uncanny X-Men #299, writer Scott Lobdell introduced a telepathic mutant in the employ of anti-mutant legislator Senator Kelly, but readers never found out if that was a good or a bad thing. He appeared again in Uncanny X-Men #322 and 323 in 1995, thinking about dark days about to dawn, but besides a cameo appearance in X-Men vol.2 #51 in 1996 that was the last that was seen of him.
A cure for the Legacy Virus?
In X-Factor #68 from 1991, Scott Summers (Cyclops) had to send his son, Nathan, into the future to save the boy from a techno-organic virus infection. Then, in 1992/1993, the X-Men line of books featured a crossover entitled X-Cutioner’s Song, which featured the villain Stryfe. It was suggested that Stryfe was the adult Nathan come back from the future to torment his parents for deserting him and that Cable was a clone of Stryfe.
“When the Cable character was first created, it was decided that he was to be the clone of the child that got sent to the future; the son of Scott (Summers, Cyclops) and Madelyne Pryor,” Uncanny X-Men writer Scott Lobdell confirmed in Comics Creators On X-Men. “The actual son became Stryfe, who grew up to do horrible, horrible things, and his clone was Cable.”
“I remember calling (editor) Bob (Harras) up and saying, “If Scott sent this kid into the future and this kid becomes a raving mass murderer, that kind of suggests that Scott is partially responsible for turning his son into this horrific creature.” However, if Cable was the real son, the clone then becomes the flawed version that went off and did those horrible things.”
And so it was revealed in Cable #6-8 in 1993/1994 that it was Cable who was actually Nathan and that Stryfe was the clone of Nathan.
The X-Cutioner’s Song crossover ended with Stryfe unleashing the deadly Legacy Virus on mutantkind. Then, in Excalibur #80, plotted by Scott Lobdell in 1994, Stryfe granted his rebellious servant droid, Zero, full awareness, including full access to data that might lead to a cure for the virus. However, Zero was destroyed, but not before downloading the data into the technorganic being, Douglock. But Douglock never realized that Zero had given him the means to find a cure for the dreaded virus. In Excalibur #98, written by Warren Ellis in 1996, Douglock was captured by the secret government organization Black Air, and their technicians extracted the information from him, but never did anything with it.
In 1995, the X-Men books featured the Age Of Apocalypse crossover set in an alternate reality. When things returned to the normal Marvel Universe, plans were afoot for a few changes in the books’ character line-ups.
“We’ve dissolved the concept of Blue team and Gold team,” Scott Lobdell told Hero Illustrated. “Uncanny X-Men and X-Men will both be working with the whole cast. While the stories will still be grounded within the individual books, the subplots will be weaving much, much tighter between the two.”
“Northstar may end up joining the X-Men,” Scott Lobdell told Wizard #41. “He’s one of the new candidates.” Asked if he would pick up the issue of Northstar being gay, Lobdell answered: “If he appears in the book, yes. I don’t think it would be fair to introduce him into the book and not explore every facet of the character.”
But Northstar did not join the X-Men at this point and the changes planned for X-Factor didn’t happen either. In The Age Of Apocalypse Universe, the series introduced a pair of twin mutants, Jesse and Terry Bedlam, called The Bedlam Brothers. Editor Kelly Corvese announced in Wizard #41 that the regular Marvel Universe version of one of the twin characters from The Age Of Apocalypse was coming on board. It would be X-Factor’s first non-Caucasian character. The Age Of Apocalypse version of the new character had a twin brother in his universe, but the version in the regular universe would not have a brother.
During The Age Of Apocalypse, one of the twin brothers was supposed to die and then the other twin would come to the regular Marvel Universe, meaning that two of the same character – the Age Of Apocalypse version, who just lost his twin brother, and the version in the Marvel Universe – would be existing at the same time in the same universe. However, none of the Bedlam Brothers died or made it to the regular universe, but the character idea was in used in 1998 in X-Force #82, where the Marvel Universe version of Jesse Aaronson (Bedlam) joined the team.
Thoughts on X-Men popularity
“It’s interesting to note that (The X-Men) weren’t popular at all during the ‘60s,” comic book writer Mark Millar speculated in Comics Creators On X-Men in 2006. “However, Len Wein and Dave Cockrum’s revamp just seemed to capture the zeitgeist and Chris (Claremont) and John (Byrne) took the whole thing to a new level when they did a few years on the book.”
“Creatively, the book was close to perfect and even when it wasn’t, in the ‘90s, the momentum from the ‘80s was so strong that it took five years before people realized they weren’t enjoying it after Claremont left. (…) I don’t know if it’s possible to recapture the excitement of the Claremont era – it might just be unique to Chris.”
“It’s been four years and the book has evolved in a vastly different direction,” Claremont noted in Wizard #51. “Characters have evolved in different directions; they build their own audiences. If I came back, I would either have to tap into storylines, characters and approaches that I am not comfortable with or I would have to set in motion a storyline to take the book to what I was comfortable with, which would mean invalidating huge chunks of continuity.”
“You have a lot of fans out there who enjoy the book as it is now. I would feel wrong coming in and just saying to them, “Well, screw you. This is my stuff. I am imposing my interpretation back on the X-Men. I am going back to the way I thought it was cool.””
“You don’t do something for 18 years of your life, you don’t stay associated with a company for your entire working life, without missing it one way or another,” Claremont admitted in Comics Focus #1. “Of course I miss it.”
Comics Focus #1, June 1996
Tom DeFalco: Comics Creators On X-Men, April 2006
Chris Golden: X-Men – A Post-Apocalyptic Future, Hero Illustrated 1995
George Khoury & Eric Nolen-Weathington: John Romita Jr., Modern Masters Vol. 18, July 2008
Clifford Lawrence: After Xavier…, Wizard #41, January 1995
Jim Lee: Dynamic Duo, Wizard #51, November 1995