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Deadpool 2 is introducing Josh Brolin’s Cable to the big screen. He’s grumpy, has a metal arm and is set to give Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) a run for his money. But there’s so much more to know before heading to theaters next week.
To try and understand just how complicated the backstory of Deadpool 2‘s time-traveling mutant Cable actually is, here’s pretty much all you need to know: He first appeared in the comics 1990’s The New Mutants No. 87. But he also first appeared four years earlier in 1986’s Uncanny X-Men No. 201. Time travel is confusing, but it gets so much worse when Cable is involved.
The discrepancy is easily explained, more or less; as creator Rob Liefeld first envisioned him, Cable was an adult cyborg created with the intent of giving the New Mutants — essentially the junior X-Men, as originally imagined — a more aggressive, less paternal leader. (He was, for a brief instant, almost called “Commander X,” to underscore the contrasts with Charles Xavier’s codename, Professor X.) That he was also a time traveler with a purposefully murky past left his origins a mystery until, in 1994 (four years after his debut), it was revealed that he was actually an adult version of the son of X-Men leader Cyclops, who had been shown as a baby back in 1986.
Except that even that wasn’t straightforward. Originally, in 1993’s X-Force No. 18, Cable was revealed to be the clone of a villain called Stryfe, who was the real son of Cyclops. It would take another six months for the “truth” to come out, that Stryfe was actually the clone and Cable was actually the original. And 25 years later, it’s still not entirely clear why the plot unfolded in that way in the first place. The relationship between Stryfe and Cable would continue to be complicated and often nonsensical for years; the highlight almost certainly being when Stryfe would, after his apparent death, possess Cable with the only visible sign of the possession being that Cable grew a goatee. (This is genuinely not a joke.)
The story of how Cyclops’ son became a time-traveling cyborg took, perhaps fittingly, many years to be told. Indeed, Cyclops’ infant baby actually stuck around for a year after Cable first appeared before being sent to the distant future in 1991’s X-Factor No. 68 after being infected with a virus that would, ultimately, transform him into the cyborg fans knew Cable to be already. Once in the far future, he would be raised by time-traveling versions of his father, the woman his mother was cloned from, and his sister-from-another-dimension, all of whom would be disguised in one form or another for complicated reasons that essentially boil down to “We’d never mentioned this before, and prequels are tricky like this.”
To complicate matters even more, Cable — or Nathan Christopher Charles Summers, as he was called as a child; he was also called Nathan Dayspring and Askani’son, for reasons soon to be revealed — was raised as a prophesied figure, proclaimed to be destined to end the reign of fan-favorite X-Men villain Apocalypse. It was in pursuit of this aim that led to Cable starting his time-traveling — first to ancient Egypt, in a failed attempt to prevent Apocalypse from becoming Apocalypse in the first place, and then to the 20th century on a number of different missions that included, in comic book lore, taking over leadership of the New Mutants and then creating X-Force.
All of this only gets the character as far as his “first” appearance in Marvel’s comic book lore — he’d go on to attempt to create a utopia on Earth, travel through time repeatedly to try and keep the mutant messiah alive from another time-traveler out to kill her, and join both the X-Men and the Avengers at different points in his career — but it all serves as an illustration of just how convoluted a character Cable can be, if you try to factor in the details of his comic book origins. If Deadpool 2 is smart, it’ll reduce him down to the same basic idea Liefeld had when creating him in the first place: He’s a time traveling cyborg, he’s effortlessly bad-ass, and it’s probably not a good idea to piss him off.
We’ll find out in when Deadpool 2 opens May 18.
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