8:27am PT by Graeme McMillan
Mutants in Space: Where Fox's 'X-Men' Franchise Could Go Next for Inspiration
Where next, after the end of the world? According to Bryan Singer, the answer appears to be "up," with the X-Men: Apocalypse director suggesting in a recent interview that the future of the franchise may lie in outer space.
Talking to Fandango, Singer offhandedly mentioned that, "another thing that’s been introduced in the comics is a big alien, interstellar tenant within the X-Men universe that hasn’t been explored. And to me, that might be kind of fun because I’m a huge Star Wars and Star Trek fan, and exploring the X-Men universe and being able to utilize that would be exciting, visually."
This might come as a surprise to audiences only familiar with the X-Men movies, but there has been a strong sci-fi element to the comic book adventures of the mutant superheroes for decades; the first "death" of Professor Xavier in the original 1960s comic book run was explained away after the fact as his faking his death in order to prepare against an alien invasion, after all.
For those wondering what space opera elements might show up in the next X-Men movie, here are five of the most important intergalactic pieces of the comic book mythology.
The Shi'ar Empire
An alien race introduced in 1976's Uncanny X-Men No. 97, the Shi'ar combine human and bird characteristics — they have feathers instead of hair and give birth via eggs, for example — and sit at the center of an interspecies collective that keeps order in the galaxy with the assistance of the Imperial Guard, a collection of superheroes from different planets. Traditionally, the Shi'ar are ruled over by the Empress Lilandra Neramani, who just so happens to be the lover of Charles Xavier, with the telepathic patriarch occasionally abandoning Earth to spend time in space for vacation and/or healing from near-death experiences.
Closely related to the Shi'ar — they debuted in the first Shi'ar storyline, in 1977's Uncanny X-Men No. 104 — are the Starjammers, a group of intergalactic pirates who initially formed to protest and fight back against the tyranny of a previous regime of Shi'ar leadership, and ended up fighting the most recent one. Cementing the X-Men connection is the fact that the leader of the Starjammers is none other than the father of Cyclops, who was kidnapped into space along with Cyclops' mom when the optic-beam-firing mutant was just a kid. Needless to say, going from "my dad died in a freak accident" to "my dad is still alive and also a space pirate" was probably a pretty good day for Cyclops.
A later addition to the X-mythology was Vulcan who, upon his introduction in X-Men: Deadly Genesis No. 1 in 2006, was revealed to be a previously unknown brother to Cyclops and Havok who had been artificially aged by the Shi'ar Empire after the kidnapping of his parents, before being sent back to Earth where an attempt to be a superhero ended with his becoming a particularly evil supervillain. How evil, you ask…? Well, evil enough that he returned to space, overthrew the ruling class of the Shi'ar, set himself up as an intergalactic despot and set out to conquer new worlds and new civilizations.
Proof that writer Chris Claremont had seen Alien at an impressionable age, the Brood is a matriarchal race of aliens that doesn't just impregnate hosts with eggs — once these hatch, the host "becomes" Brood themselves. Following their first appearance in Uncanny X-Men No. 155 (1982), the Brood has gone on to plague the X-Men on numerous occasions, including at one point possessing Charles Xavier without anyone noticing for a number of months.
Inarguably the most space-centric element of X-Men mythology, the Phoenix Force is an alien entity — described as a "child of the universe," it's technically a quasi-sentient manifestation of the collective mental powers of every living thing; don't ask — that has interacted with the X-Men on three distinct occasions, each time empowering/possessing a host body or bodies. The most famous is its initial time with the X-Men (Starting with its first appearance in 1976's Uncanny X-Men No. 101), when it took the form of Jean Grey, although that was later revealed to be a simulacrum of the real thing. Since then, it returned for Grey's daughter from an alternate timeline and, most recently, to possess five different members of the X-Men in the 2012 series Avengers vs. X-Men. Spoilers: When the Phoenix shows up, something will almost certainly go wrong eventually.