Marvel’s X-Men mythos is replete with characters bizarre, fantastic, and frankly baffling. But growing up reading the scripture of Chris “Jesus Christ” Claremont, you just got used to really, really strange things happening to the mutants that you loved so much. And the modern-day is a great time to be a comic book nerd – Five X-Men movies between 2000 & 2011? A wet dream for the teenage comic book reader of the ‘80’s or ‘90s. But there are plenty of characters that will never see the fame of the having Halle Berry say the worst one-liners imaginable to them. They’re too obscure, too mired in outlandish continuity, or just so insane that psychotropic substances obviously played a large role in their creation. Here are the ten that Andy and Zac could agree on after many sad, pathetic hours spent debating Enterprise vs. Death Star.
Zac: Let’s get this out of the way first: Cable is not loved by everyone. There are plenty of reasons to dislike Cable, but let’s just take one: Incomprehensible backstory. Know that you’re being spared the details when I tell you his birth, which caused an ancient evil thing to awaken, was engineered by a villainous shape-shifting telepath and his mother was actually an evil clone of his mother, and his dad sent him to the future so a robot virus wouldn’t kill him, and then he came to the here and now and was an old grizzled mercenary with a bunch of friends and enemies in the present day and had a physically impossible number of guns strapped to his body, and brought an evil clone of himself who had plans to sacrifice his parents because he was upset that he was a clone. That gets you through the first major Cable story arc at least.
Cable was created by the widely hated Rob Liefeld and serves as the posterboy for the “hardened mercenary unit” comic of the early ‘90s, an era in which comic book sales peaked, and comic book quality was essentially in free-fall. It is noted here that because Liefeld was drawing him, Cable was often depicted in his early appearances with huge thighs and upper arms, and teeny-tiny feet. Because Liefeld has no grasp of human anatomy, if that hasn’t been made clear already. But beginning with his introduction in New Mutants #86, he founded X-Force and proceeded to yell and shoot his way through everything in his path until he, like, blew up the moon and got sucked through a time portal or something in the OH SO CLEVERLY NAMED X-Cutioner’s Song. Cable is akin to Southern California Punk in that if you have “taste”, you have no interest in him. Be that as it may, he’s always been a marketable property for Marvel, and a guilty pleasure for those of us who don’t care that Greg Graffin is closer to 50 than 40, because the new Bad Religion album is still totally sweet. Also Cable was from the future before being from the future was cool.
Andy: Cable is like The Punisher with an even stupider back-story and more ridiculous costume. His mutant power is guns. Cable sucks, but if the producers of the movies want to make assloads of money they’ll bring him in to the franchise because nerds like Zac and I will pay to see it, and the rest of you will be all “ooh look a mutant with guns like that Deadpool douche, but his eyes are all glowy and for the love of god he’s not played by Ryan Reynolds, which makes him far preferable.” This is the only entry on the list that I am at all hesitant about endorsing.
Andy: First and foremost, Spiral was a product of the Mojoverse, which was the greatest single subplot that Marvel Comics ever came up with. Check the entry on Mojo for more information. She was also a member of Freedom Force and was present when the X-Men died (the fabled “Fall of the Mutants”, which also included battling dinosaurs – bonus awesome!). As the “pro-priestess” of the BodyShop, she was responsible for creating tits-bitchin’ cyborg villains like Lady Deathstrike (ignore what the bullshit X-Men movies tell you) and the Reavers. And she fucking dual-wields swords with her six arms. Honestly, I don’t know why she isn’t the star of a whole series of movies on her own. She should be played by Megan Fox, because I am contractually obligated to bring Megan Fox up at least once a week.
Zac: Imagine that you’re reading your first x-men comic ever, and Spiral is the featured villain. It’s entirely possible that her bizarre six-armed appearance like some fake Hindu deity would irrevocably color your perception of the sort of evils the X-men faced. If we ignore the Samurai helmet and the Viking boots, her appearance can justifiably be called creepy, with the right artist attached, at least. Maybe it’s just the nostalgia, but Spiral is usually presented in a way that is less typically evil, and more… Oozing corruption and icky-ness. To say her appearance in the Shatterstar miniseries as an Apocalypse fill-in failed to do her justice is an understatement ; she belongs in the X-men equivalent of House of a Thousand Corpses. Who portrays her on-screen is less important than the audience being made genuinely unsettled by her presence. Used correctly in a story, she easily becomes the stuff of nightmares.
Zac: As long as we’re talking about the Mojoverse, Longshot is next. Longshot is amazing because he REEKS OF THE EIGHTIES SO HARD. So hard that is awesome I mean. Longshot has magic luck powers and three fingers or something, but more importantly he flips around like a ninja, throws CLEAVERS at people, and his eye lights up. His eye lit up before having an eye that lights up was cool. Looking at you here, Cable. He also dressed in all black leather (or if you prefer, “in the fashion of a male prostitute”) long before that was superhero chic. It’s kind of all the rage these days. It’s also worth mentioning that he hung out (had a kid with, whatever) with Dazzler, and if you don’t know about Dazzler, think what might happen if Disco has a baby with Roller Derby and then the X-Men adopt that baby. It bears repeating that the greatest thing about Longshot is just how hard he rocks the eighties. I was going to mention his legendary mullet, but Andy will school you on that.
Andy: Longshot is my favorite X-Man ever, except perhaps for Kitty Pryde, and I mostly liked her more because I wanted to have sex with her. Longshot’s two mutations are the reason he will never be featured in a movie, because they are about the least cinematic mutations in history. They are also the reason why I love him so much. I’m a sucker for stupid powers. Longshot has hollow bones so he’s super-gymnastic, and he has incredible luck. I remember one particular instance where he got knocked off of a roof by some villain and managed to hit every awning on the way down, then land in, like, a truck hauling mattresses or something. Because he’s super lucky, you see. And he threw knives that always hit their target, because he was super lucky. Seriously, he was just so awesome because he was so completely lame. And he was so painfully 80s that the only person who could properly play him in the movies would be “Some Guys Have All The Luck”-era Rod Stewart.
Andy: Mojo is the best villain ever. He is, of course, the ruler of the Mojo World, a planet where the ruling class literally have no spines and everyone is addicted to television. This is the single greatest alternate universe that Marvel comics has ever come up with for several reasons. First, it gave birth to superlative characters like Longshot, Spiral, Rachel Summers and the X-Babies (who were, if you don’t know, baby versions of the X-Men, in much the same way that the Muppet Babies were baby versions of the Muppets, which is demonstrably the greatest idea in human history). Also, it predicted the disturbing prevalence of reality television by like fifteen years. Mojo himself is a psychopathic totalitarian dictator/television producer whose sole method of locomotion alternates between mechanical spider legs and a hovering salad bowl. He wants to enslave the universe, but only to make them TV stars. His whole plotline is so batshit crazy that even David Cronenberg couldn’t make a viable film out of it. Clearly, he should be the villain of the next X-Men movie.
Zac: Mojo is a big fat blob. A big fat yellow blob. He kind of reminds me of one of these, and about a million bonus points to you if you bother identifying the origins of that image. He’s on a robo-spider platform. He may not have been the first antagonist with TV ratings as his goal, but he did it best, and has been the quintessential “evil multi-dimensional media mogul” ever since. That is, if there could be said to be an avatar of such an oblique concept, rest assured, he is it. There have a number of similar villains to come along, with even Marvel spawning a “Mojo II” (he’s different because he has a spine, see!), but you can’t out-Mojo the original. So he’s evil and sacrifices countless lives in the name of entertainment, yes – but as mentioned, he’s a big fat yellow blob. And it is that disgustingness that makes him memorable. Since no one could duplicate Mojo’s repulsive physique, he’ll have to be portrayed through puppetry and CG. This means that someone is going to be paid to re-create Mojo in a 3D modeling program, including, presumably, his nipples. Aaaaand I just threw up a little bit I my mouth.
Zac: I know what you’re saying, this guy is the Flash. Except blue. I mean, there are clearly a number of things that set him apart from Flash. He’s less red than Flash for one thing, and you’ll note that he is significantly more blue than the flash might be. To his credit, Quicksilver’s personality is nothing like that of the good-natured Flash; Quicksilver is impossibly arrogant, sometimes even a total jerk, which makes him a little more more interesting. Not originally a nice guy, he started out as part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, which might be the least ambiguous name for any organization, ever. I think at one point, use of Quicksilver’s power was slowly killing him, but maybe I’m just confusing him with Spawn or something. He briefly had crazy powers to travel through time, but later on that turned out to be an alternate reality or something. Yeah. He’s better than you because he’s faster and smarter (his brain is super fast too!), and is a dick about it.
Andy: Quicksilver is the son of Magneto. His mother fled his father while pregnant and gave birth to him and his twin sister Wanda with the help of a midwife was also a cow. I’m dead fucking serious about this.
Zac: I just think that- I mean, what you need to take into account is the era of comics in which-
…No, I got nothing. There is nothing to have. A cow.
#5: Mister Sinister
Andy: Here is the first paragraph from Mr. Sinister’s entry in the Marvel Universe Wiki: “During the 19th Century, Nathaniel Essex encountered Apocalypse, who used his technology to transform Essex into ‘Sinister’, the last word his dying wife ever spoke to him.” His fucking code-name is the last insult his wife flung at him before she died. That is how badass Sinister is. He is a medical genius, having figured out the human genome in the early twentieth century, and his cloning experiments gave rise to Madelyne Pryor (a clone of Jean Gray), which led to the birth of Nathan Summers AKA Cable. Sinister was also the catalyst of most of the best late 80s Marvel crossover plots, including the attempted assassination of Professor Xavier by his son from another timeline (which ultimately resulted in the Legacy Virus), the slaughter of the Morlocks (also known as the Mutant Massacre) and the most ridiculous comic plot in history, Inferno, where Madelyne Pryor was possessed by a demon and literally turned Manhattan into hell, the greatest thing that ever happened in a comic book, period.
Zac: Sinister is a great villain, despite being plagued with a sub-par name. He’s got a little bit of the “instant superpower syndrome” wherein he has displayed pretty much any mainstream superpower you can imagine at various points, but it kind of works for his shtick. I think he telekinetically used his cape to strangle a guy once, which instantly gets him into the badass club. He’s a behind-the-scenes manipulator type like Apocalypse, except that whereas Apocalypse steers the future of humanity to his own purposes, Mr. Sinister is up in people’s personal lives, controlling them for years at a time without their knowledge. Often for completely mysterious reasons that the reader never discovers until long after the fact. Why? Deep unresolved psychological issues, we must assume. The important things to remember for an actor playing Sinister are they must project malice that can be felt for miles around, and they have to look good wearing way too much foundation and a bindi.
Zac: Cannonball is like… see, imagine if one day, a superhero who flies is like “You know, I think I’m just going to fly *through* people from now on”. That’s kind of what he does, he’s a little like the Human Torch, but more EXTREME, because he doesn’t shoot fireballs or set things on fire. He just flies around and then essentially spears people like a super powered version of former pro wrestler Adam “Edge” Copeland. His one defining personality trait is that he’s a Stubborn Kentucky Redneck, so his dialogue never used “I’m” or “you”, instead the reader, without fail sees what is obviously the Kentucky vernacular of “Ah’m” and “y’all”. Excellent characterization, if only completely one-dimensional. Christian Kane and the aforementioned Adam Copeland are both just slightly too old to play Cannonball, but otherwise either would be perfect for the role.
Andy: I like Cannonball because he’s basically been on all the teams. He started as an agent of the Hellfire Club, then joined the New Mutants, then X-Force, then the X-Men, then the short-lived and ridiculously stupid X-Corporation, then the Mutant Liberation Front, then back to the X-Men. If it had an X in the title, Cannonball was pretty much there. And I appreciate a guy who’s willing to jump around like that. It shows that he’s flexible or something. Can you imagine what his resume looks like?
Andy: Arcade was a spoiled millionaire’s son who murdered his father for cutting off his allowance, then used the inherited money to become an assassin and build an amusement park-like complex called Murderworld, where he occasionally locks up the X-Men and others to watch them die. I…I really don’t see that there’s any more that needs to be said on the matter. Clearly he should be played by Rupert Grint (of Ron Weasley fame), because he has red hair and is an endlessly irritating little twat.
Zac: Arcade is a great choice because how else is Seth Green ever going to be in an X-movie? Sadly at age 37 in 2011, Seth may be a little old for the role, even with his babyface, so Harry Potter’s BFF it is. In all seriousness, the late 70’s and all of the 80′s are the golden era of the X-men, but that’s never to say that there weren’t plenty of very questionable decisions made in editorial. To be fair, Arcade is far from the most contrived X-villain. And if it it seems like Arcade is more in the vein of a silver-age Batman bad guy, you’re actually not too far off. The similarities to The Riddler and The Terrible Toyman are more than skin deep. But seeing ultra-gruff Hugh Jackman trying to make facing off against life-size pac-man ghosts seem awesome would be worth the price of matinée, at least. And how could we possibly suggest Arcade without mentioning that he wears platform shoes? Unless Marvel publishes the much-requested Wolverine Vs. Filmore Slim crossover, then Arcade is the closest the X-men will ever come to fighting a genuine pimp. Is Arcade’s pimp hand strong? We must assume the answer is “Yes”.
Zac: OK, straight to the point: Space Pirate. Corsair isn’t just a pirate, he plunders and loots in space. Leading the Starjammers, a freak show team of intergalactic superheroes, he rocks a ‘stache that is notable to say the least. In fact, that’s kind of his thing, since he doesn’t fly, or have claws, or anything else like that, but just look at that expertly-groomed facial hair. So Corsair doesn’t necessarily have a lot going for him outside of being Johnny Depp + Pirate Ship + team of aliens, but really, that’s plenty. I mean, look at that big green Hulk-looking thing that is presumably a member of the Starjammers. Just look at him. Do you know what they named that character? THEY NAMED HIM CHODE. Technically his name is Ch’od, but I mean… Seriously? Most superhero teams are full of crazy-looking stereotypes (the strong guy, the fast guy, the angry guy, the smart guy) , but Chris Claremont wanted to make sure you *never* forgot that the Starjammers were ridiculous aliens. Any number of actors could play Corsair, but clearly only Natalie Portman has the diversity in front of the camera to pull off Chode. Err, Ch’od. Whatever.
Andy: I feel that there’s relatively little that needs to be said about Corsair and the Starjammers beyond motherfucking space pirates. He’s also Cyclops and Havoc’s dad, if you care about that sort of thing, but mostly he’s a motherfucking space pirate. Nobody but nobody other than Chris Claremont could have made this shit work, and work it sorta did.
Andy: Apocalypse is the baddest motherfucker. He was born in ancient Egypt, stole some dead pharaoh’s technology to effectively become immortal, then spent the rest of time fucking shit up. He created Mr. Sinister, Archangel and Cable. He founded the Four Horsemen, and periodically kidnaps and brainwashes a hero, making them fill the role of either Death, War, Famine or Pestilence (such notable X-Men as Wolverine and Angel were used at various points). His aliases include “The Forever One” and “Son of the Morning Fire”. Son of the Morning Fire, for fuck’s sake! He was also the reason for one of the most popular X-Men side stories, The Age of Apocalypse, which depicted an alternate timeline where Apocalypse rules America and sets about killing every non-mutant on the planet, which ultimately leads to Canada nuking the US. No, I’m serious! Apocalypse is so fucking hardass that he can even make Canada badass! In the movie, he should obviously be played by Idris Elba. Obviously.
Zac: Ah, the big blue gorilla. Apocalypse is like the X-men version of Batman’s Rā’s al Ghūl – except appropriately more ridiculous in scope. ‘Poc is notable for being the scourge of the X-men in the majority of the pasts and futures explored by the comics, not to mention countless alternate timelines. In one manner of thinking, Apocalypse is the ultimate threat to humanity. Another perspective might be “Oh look, it’s Apocalypse. Again. Dude, we killed you twice this decade already, and yeah, you can’t be killed and may be indirectly responsible for everything that has ever happened to anyone in any X-comic, and that’s fine. But we all know how this ends – just like the last 15 times you woke from your eternal slumber, so I’ma finish this taco before we rumble. Cool? ” As stated, he also gene-gineered Angel into the oddly-colored-though-more-interesting Archangel, who would inevitably betray his “creator” and return to being a hero, though now with lots of angst! And yeah, Stringer Bell is totally who you want playing Apocalypse. Never you mind what you may have seen in the Thor movie.
Like any fanboys worthy of the name, we wanted to discuss like thirty other characters, but it’s called a (totalitarian) top ten list. So in order to sate our unhealthy obsessions, look for some more comic book nerdery some time in the future. Specifically worthy of mention are Andy & Zac’s respective obsessions with Excalibur & X-Force, and all the classic X-men storylines that were way more interesting than The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which explains Zac’s English class grades in sophomore year of high school.** But we get all emotional just thinking about X-tinction Agenda, Days of Future Past and Fall of the Mutants. If that doesn’t excite you, then you must’ve spent your formative years playing sports or hanging out with the popular kids. Screw you, we’re taking our X-Men annuals and our obsessively-bagged-and-boarded comic book collection***, and we’re going home.
*We’re not counting the fake-ass Quicksilver cameo in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. If you want to count it, make your own list.
** Ms. Shank, please accept my apology and understand that I was paying attention at least 25% of the time I was in class. -Zac
***Zac got rid of all his comics except for one short box. Really.