The age of the X-Men is over! All right, so it isn’t completely, and there could well be more adventures after next year’s X-Men: Apocalypse. But 20th Century Fox has decided to keep the mutants coming, hiring The Fault In Our Stars director Josh Boone to work on a film about the team known as The New Mutants. If you’re only familiar with those comic book heroes who have made it to the big screen, you might be wondering who these young chancers are and why you should care. Well, here’s an information update for your brain…
Where did the New Mutants come from?
Glad you asked. It’s a little complicated, but then you probably expected that given this is a Marvel Comics property. The sprawling history of that company means every successful character or team has, over time, seen different storylines, altered origins and the sort of continuity complexity that would make Dr. Brian Cox want to give up and figure out something simpler. Dark matter, say. Or the Southeastern Trains timetable and how it compares to reality. But the original characters were created by writer Chris Claremont and artist Bob McLeod for Marvel Graphic Novel 4 in 1982. With the Uncanny X-Men title proving one of the biggest successes for the company, then editor-in-chief Jim Shooter asked Claremont and writer/editor Louise Simonson to launch a spin-off. “Neither Chris or I really wanted to do it,” Simonson recalled to Wizard in 1993. “We wanted X-Men to be special and by itself, but Shooter told us that if we didn't come up with a new 'mutant' book, someone else would.” The result was a new group of teenaged mutants, recruited to Professor Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters, who experience similar growing pains to the older characters.
And who were the core characters?
The first team consisted of Karma, a 19-year-old Vietnamese girl with the power to telepathically possess other people’s bodies, who was the original leader; Cannonball, a guy from Kentucky who becomes close to invulnerable when speeding through the air; Mirage, who could create three-dimensional illusions; Sunspot, fuelled by, you guessed it, the power of the sun with super-strength abilities; and Wolfsbane, who was a female Scottish werewolf. The team experience the usual struggles with their powers and acceptance within society, alongside a lot of teenage angst. Oh, and Claremont and co. pushed things to be weirder even than the X-Men’s adventures, with more mysticism and strange adventures across demonic dimensions, alternate futures and lost civilizations. As it progressed, the series took on a darker tone, with the death of a couple of members and new recruits filling vacant slots. Some of the newer members included Cypher, a computer expert who could learn any language; Magma, part of a secret Roman society in the Amazon with the power to control lava; Magik, the sister of X-Men member Colossus, who can create teleportation discs to travel between limbo and any point on Earth; and Warlock, an alien techno-hybrid shape-shifter. The characters enjoyed a successful run in their own title between 1983 and 1991, until their initial series was cancelled and replaced with X-Force.
X-Force? Wait! I’ve heard of them! Weren’t they in development at Fox before now?
Indeed. Kick-Ass 2 writer/director Jeff Wadlow was hired in 2013 to work on an X-Force movie. The X-Force team were created by Rob Liefeld and debuted in New Mutants issue 100 in 1991 as a blend of some veteran members and new characters. They then spun-off (a spin-off of a spin-off! Oh, Marvel) in their own title led by the mutant known as Cable, who had been sent into the distant future as a young man and returned aiming to stop the dystopia he saw, and viewed the team more as a military force, leading them to take a more violent approach to their enemies. X-Force initially ran until 2002. Then it was reborn in 2008. And again. And again. And… Look, they like to keep the titles changing, refreshing the timelines, and changing their minds, okay? As for the movie... There has been nary a ping on the news radar since the original announcement.
So did the New Mutants return too?
They did! The second version debuted in 2003, featuring a blend of new New mutants and old favourites including Karma, Magma and Wolfsbane, set in the sprawling Xavier Institute. Some of the newer faces included Elixir, who can manipulate his or other people’s bodies to help or harm; Icarus, who has red wings and accelerated healing powers; Prodigy, who can gain all the knowledge and skills of people around him; and Wind Dancer, who can manipulate the… wind. Her dancing abilities remain untested. The second generation struggled more with their abilities than the original batch, but they still faced threats such as the Hellions (led by Emma Frost, seen in X-Men: First Class) and regular X-menace Stryker (you may recall him from movies such as X2, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Days Of Future Past where he's been played variously by Brian Cox, Danny Huston and Josh Helman).
And that was it for them, huh?
Nope. (Yoda voice) There is… another… Skywalk… Sorry, title. May 2009 saw the dawn of a third team, which features original members Cannonball, Karma, Magik and Magma, amongst others. This time there is a warning from the future about something they’ll have to tackle, which is an idea they're probably a little tired of. After a battle with big bad Legion, they’re assigned by Cyclops to tackle the X-Men’s unfinished business, which seems a bit unfair and makes you wonder why the original team of mutants could be so careless. Oh, and this era also sees them taking on an evil mutant rock band.
So what could work as a movie?
As with any X-Men film, there’s a good chance that those behind the camera will choose to cherry pick from the various runs and figure out their own continuity. After all, with years of history to mine, and only one movie so far, there’s a limit to what you can display on screen. The choice will most likely be a selection of the original team members at first, plus possibly cameos from established X-Men universe people. Fox will surely look to have someone such as James McAvoy's Professor Xavier (or even Patrick Stewart’s version, depending on when the film is set) kick things off. And given that Bryan Singer is introducing younger versions of Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey and Nightcrawler in X-Men: Apocalypse, there’s a chance we could see crossovers between the teams. If we had our way, we’d like to see the storyline where the Prof hands the reins of the school over to Magneto, if only to watch Michael Fassbender try to wrangle a bunch of powered-up teenagers. Potential nickname: Grumbledore. Oh, and since Deadpool appears towards the end of the original run, surely Ryan Reynolds might turn up?
So who is Josh Boone, then?
Boone cracked into directing movies with his first effort, 2012 romantic drama/comedy Stuck In Love. That got him the attention of 20th Century Fox who entrusted him with the job of adapting John Green’s beloved teen tome The Fault In Our Stars, which became a huge success. Since then, he’s been attached to more than one Stephen King adaptation, including Lisey’s Story and, most notably, The Stand, which he has said will stretch across four films. And his connection to genre films expanded when he agreed to direct The Vampire Chronicles, a new take on Anne Rice’s books. It doesn’t sound like his gig on The New Mutants will have much, if anything to do with the X-Force film, as he’s co-writing his own script with Jackass producer and potential Star Wars character name Knate Gwaltney. Boone has clearly got a handle on teenage characters, so expect the cast to be on the younger end of the spectrum.
When can we expect to see The New Mutants?
Have patience. Given Boone’s busy schedule and the fact that he’s only just started writing, we wouldn’t expect much of anything before 2017 at the earliest, and more likely after that. But with Fox’s growing ambitions for the Marvel properties it owns, the studio will be pushing to get as much out of this spin-off as it can, particularly since Bryan Singer’s time with the mutant universe is rumoured to be wrapping up with Apocalypse. If the first New Mutants outing is a success and Boone doesn’t decide to try something else after that, there’s a chance we could see a new keeper of the mutant flame, besides Simon Kinberg, of course, who will be producing this one and is involved with most of the various Marvel-based movies that Fox is looking to bring to the screen in the next few years.