-= REC.ARTS.COMICS.MARVEL.XBOOKS =-
Frequently Asked Questions
Version 2003.02, last updated November 2003
Subject: Table of Contents
X-MEN COMIC BOOK QUESTIONS
* Why do so many people hate Scott Summers?
* How many Summerses are there, anyways?
- Simplified family tree
- The third Summers brother
- Timelost children
* What's the relationship between the Phoenix, Jean Grey,
Madelyne Pryor, and Rachel Summers?
- Is Maddie Pryor in Avengers Annual #10?
- Is Jean or Phoenix dead on the moon?
- When did Jean take the codename Phoenix? Is she Phoenix?
- Who's the Madelyne in X-Man?
- The problem with Excalibur #52
* What's the relationship between Cable, Stryfe, Ahab, and
- Cable and Stryfe
- Who's Ahab?
- Is Stryfe dead?
- What's the deal with Nate?
Subject: X-MEN COMIC BOOK QUESTIONS
Background information on the creators and the X-titles editorial
offices is based on over a decade's worth of articles, interviews, and
personal questions, and as such is not directly attributed here. Now
that some of Marvel's staff members are on Usenet, they are welcomed to
correct and amend any of the answers listed below.
--- Why do so many people hate Scott Summers?
There tend to be two major schools of thought on this. People hate Scott
Summers, aka Cyclops, because:
* Of what he did to Madelyne Pryor
* Readers find him dull and/or unimaginative
On the first count, harsh people with long memories are not going to
soften their opinion of a character's bad behavior. To them it is
simple: Scott left his wife and child to run off after his first love in
X-Factor #1. For the record, Madelyne did issue him an ultimatium and
they had been having marital problems. The best defense of Scott is that
Claremont had written him out and editorial staff of the time declared
Scott (and Jean) must come back. Madelyne was an inconvenience and hence
Inferno was born.
On the second count, many dislike Scott as a one-dimensional follower of
Xavier. Madelyne notwithstanding, they find his goody-two-shoes attitude
just plain irritating. Next to Wolverine, he's a nerd.
It's okay to like Scott, though. Usenet has lots of room for different
--- How many Summerses are there, anyways?
Eternity only knows. But being a FAQ, we'll try to provide a reasonably
accurate starting count.
IN THE BEGINNING, lo, back in (Uncanny) X-Men #1, Scott Summers was
presented to the world, ironically enough, as an orphan. His parents had
died in a plane crash, and he knew of no other family. Also in #1 he
meets Jean Grey. Simple enough so far.
Fast forward to X-Men #54. Scott and the rest of the X-Men attended Alex
Summers' graduation. Alex eventually becomes an auxiliary member (UXM
#65) and becomes romantically involved with Lorna Dane. So far, still
pretty straightforward. (Alex apparently died, but that's another story.)
Fast forward now to issue #104. While in space, the X-Men met the leader
of a pirate band named Corsair. Sometime later (#108) it turned out that
Corsair was none other than Christopher Summers, father of Scott and
Alex. Christopher and their mother Kate had been kidnapped by the Shi'ar
when flying home from Alaska. Kate had died at the hands of the Emperor
D'Ken (Lilandra's mad brother). Scott discovered he had grandparents in
In the meantime Jean Grey had gone through the whole Phoenix thing and
died. In Uncanny X-Men #168, Madelyne was introduced. Scott fell in love
with her almost immediately, and she was not unamenable to his attention.
Scott proposed in #174, and they were married in #175.
Scott and Madelyne disappeared for awhile, but baby Nathan Christopher
Charles Summers was born in #201.
To date, we have:
* grandparents Philip and Deborah Summers
* Christopher and Kate Summers (Kate deceased)
* Scott and Madelyne Summers
* Alex Summers
* Nathan Christopher Charles Summers
Now it starts to get complicated.
In issue #141-142 the X-Men found about about a possible future (Days of
Future Past) where the X-Men had been mostly killed and mutants were
hunted down and killed or enslaved. This future had sent back an
emissary, Kate Pryde, by the power of Rachel Summers. It was quickly
established that time had already diverged because in Kate Pryde's past,
Scott had married Jean and had a daughter Rachel. (Note that Nate wasn't
conceived yet, much less born, at the time of this storyline). Fair
enough, except that in #184 Rachel made her way back to this reality,
and eventually to the X-Men. Scott had been absent at the mansion when
Kate Pryde made her journey, and the X-Men agreed not to tell him until
Rachel was ready. Rachel was already completely shattered by the fact
that her mother was dead, and didn't know how to talk to Scott. (Both
Scott and Jean finally found out the truth in X-Factor Annual #5.)
Shortly before Inferno, Rachel returned in Excalibur: The Sword is Drawn
(aka Excalibur Special Edition #1). She popped in and out of Excalibur
until issue #75, when she was sent to the future. She was last seen in
The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, starting the Askani and finally
dying. Of course, time-travelers never truly die, so when she popped up
again in issues of Cable, nobody was truly that surprised.
In X-Factor #1, Scott (living in Alaska with Madelyne and Baby Nate)
received a call from New York. Jean Grey was in fact alive, and Warren
wanted to create a new mutant team. Scott left Alaska, Madelyne, and
Nathan Christopher behind. Madelyne was not happy, but shortly afterward
was kidnapped with her son by Sinister and the Marauders. Eventually,
she was rescued by the X-Men, but not before losing the baby to
Sinister's clutches. Fast forward to Inferno. Madelyne became the Goblyn
Queen and died, and Scott and Jean took custody of the child.
All was fine and dandy until Apocalypse got ahold of the child and the
baby got the Techo-Organic virus. Scott was forced to let the Askani
take Nathan into the future. Off in the future, Nathan was cloned
(Stryfe), trained as an Askani (Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix,
Askani'son), and eventually married to Jenskot (aka Aliya). His progeny
(or adoptive son; it's stated both ways) was Tyler, going by the name
Genesis (until he died in Wolverine #100). Cable came to the present in
New Mutants #87. During the X-cutioner's Song crossover, he was revealed
to be the child (more or less) of Scott and Jean, with much angst all
around. (At the time, Cable thought he was the clone.) One of the
advantages of coming from the future is that you can be older than your
Scott married Jean in X-Men (Vol. 2) #30. For the mother of multiple
kids, she's never had a baby in our time. She is not pregnant so far,
but dinos can't wait to see what happens when/if she is.
* grandparents Philip and Deborah Summers
* Christopher and Kate Summers (Kate deceased)
* Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, and Jean Grey-Summers, aka Phoenix
* Alex Summers, aka Havok
* Rachel Summers, aka Phoenix II
* Madeylne Pryor, aka the Goblyn Queen (deceased)
* Nathan Christopher Charles Summers, aka Cable, and Aliya,
aka Jenskot (deceased)
* Stryfe, a clone (deceased)
* Tyler Summers, aka Genesis (deceased)
Scott fought Mr. Sinister several times, as Sinister is for some reason
obsessed by Summers DNA. In X-Men #23, Sinister made a cryptic comment:
"...but I care enough to wish you and your brothers to be
protected from this illness."
"You said brothers--plural."
"I'm sorry, did I? I meant your brother, Alex."
Now, Scott has a complex family tree, with all the chronological
displacement and clones, but he had been sure he only had one sibling.
Shortly afterwards, Sinister (under the guise of Milbury), started
stalking a guy named Adam X, including pitting him against Shatterstar
in X-Force #29-30. In Captain Marvel #3, it was revealed that Adam X was
the scion of D'Ken and a human woman. Due to blantant hints in the X-Men
(see X-Men #39), it seemed pretty obvious the human woman was Kate
Summers. In semi-confirmation on racmx in 1998, Fabian Nicieza wrote:
ADAM X was INTENDED to be the illegitimate offspring of D'Ken and
Kate Summers. Taken from D'Ken and raised on a farming planet.
BUT--and it's a big but--since I never had the opportunity to tell
the entire story, what I intended is worth the screen it's printed
So far this has not had any effect on the rest of the Summers clan, if
they know about it at all.
Just when things were mostly sorted out, Marvel sprang the Age of
Apocalypse on Summers devotees. As if the Marvel Universe didn't already
have enough chronologically displaced Summerses, there appeared Nate
Grey, who inconveniently didn't stay in AOA but crossed over. Nate was
the genetic progeny of Scott Summers and Jean Grey (a test-tube baby,
created by Sinister). Nate, called the X-Man, was essentially a younger
Cable without the T/O virus (and was much stronger as a consequence). For
more information on Nate and his death, see the Cable/Stryfe/Ahab/Nate
question below. (Alex apparently died, but that's another story.)
Rachel reappeared in the pages of Fantastic Four #414. Here, we learned
she had a child with Franklin Richards, named Hyperstorm. This had to be
in yet another alternative future, because Rachel wouldn't have had a
chance to give birth in her own.
One last time:
* grandparents Philip and Deborah Summers
* Christopher and Kate Summers (Kate deceased)
* Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, and Jean Grey-Summers, aka Phoenix
* Alex Summers, aka Havok (presumed deceased)
* Adam X, aka Xtreme
* Rachel Summers, aka Phoenix II, and Franklin Richards
* Hyperstorm, aka Jonathan Reed Richards
* Madeylne Pryor, aka the Goblyn Queen (deceased)
* Nathan Christopher Charles Summers, aka Cable, and Aliya, aka
* Nate Grey, aka X-Man, from an alternative timeline (deceased)
* Stryfe, a clone (deceased)
* Tyler Summers, aka Genesis (deceased)
The scary thing is this is the simplified version of the Summers family
tree. I've kept it mostly to blood relations, but by widening the field
just a little, it's astounding. "Six Degrees of Scott Summers" as
applied to the entire Marvel Universe is something of a party game on
racmx after the other discussions start to dwindle.
--- What's the relationship between the Phoenix, Jean Grey, Madelyne
Pryor, and Rachel Summers?
Okay, it's Ultimate Confusion time. Once upon a time, there was a X-Man
named Jean Grey. She served well and true with the first team (in the
1960s run of the book), and was around for the new team, in the mid-70s.
She was a telepath, a telekinetic, and the girlfriend of the team's
deputy leader, Scott Summers, also known as Cyclops.
Well, during the first year of their new series, Jean Grey, in a
selfless act of heroism (UXM #100), sacrificed herself, giving her life
so that the rest of the team could survive a rather brutal reentry from
orbit. Then, from the crash site, Jean seemed to burst forth from the
water in a new form, a form that called herself Phoenix. She said she
was still Jean Grey, but had tapped somehow into a universal power
source which called itself Phoenix--hence her new name.
Phoenix proved to be a bit out of the usual X-Men's power range. She not
only saved the entire universe in her first major adventure, but was
also capable of telekinetically rearranging reality around her to her
liking. Unfortunately, she was also capable of being emotionally preyed
upon by Mastermind and the Hellfire Club.
The windup of this whole affair was the Dark Phoenix Saga, one of the
few storylines from Marvel that actually earned the right to call itself
a saga, and widely held not only to be the best single storyline in all
of the X-titles, but also one of the best stories in all of comics. Torn
between her human and cosmic sides, Phoenix eventually chose to commit
suicide on the moon to save Scott Summers, her lover (UXM #137). In the
words of the Watcher, "Though Jean Grey could have lived to be a god, it
was important that she die...as a human."
The death of Phoenix was also unusual in that it apparently affected the
creative staff as much as the characters they were working on. Unlike a
lot of comic book deaths (and all the cliches that go along with that
term), Phoenix's was referred back to by the characters, and actually
had some long-term effect on the path of the comic book. So much so that
it was a shock in #168 when Madelyne Pryor was introduced, since she
looked exactly like Jean Grey. Even more suspicious, she was the only
survivor of a large plane crash which happened at the exact moment that
Jean Grey died on the moon. Hmm.
Now, there had been a prior (heh) appearance of a Madelyne Pryor in a
Marvel comic--Avengers Annual #10 (note: first appearance of Rogue),
also written by Chris Claremont, featured a little girl who said her
name was Maddie Pryor, who was once sick but is much better now. A lot
of energy was wasted trying to link the two Pryors together until
Claremont, who was notorious for being lazy with walk-on character
names, admitted that the Maddie in Avengers Annual #10 was named after a
favorite singer of his, Madeleine Prior, the lead singer for the folk-
rock group Steeleye Span, and that the two comic characters had nothing
in common besides their names. Likewise, David Goldfarb reminds us that
in the first Genosha storyline Madelyne is shown having a flashback in
virtual reality (UXM #238) which shows her as the little girl from
Avengers Annual #10, singing "Gone to America," which is one of Steeleye
Span's biggest hits. It's likely just Claremont having a bit of fun.
In any case, Maddie's familiar looks and shared interests with Scott
(they were both pilots) led to them getting married in UXM #175, and
Scott leaving the X-Men to finally enjoy the peace and quiet of a
married life, notwithstanding the occasional jaunt into Asgard. Al
Patterson commends the FAQ for not even "getting into Madelyne's
transformation in X-Men/Alpha Flight, which demonstrated conclusively
the authors clearly never intended Maddy to be what she became." (The
firefountain did not affect mutants, but Maddy was transformed into
Anodyne, a healer. That should be impossible if she was, for example,
supposed to be a clone of Jean).
Around this time, however, Rachel Summers had successfully projected
herself back in time from the "Days of Future Past" future. The daughter
of Scott Summers and Jean Grey in that time line (Jean was still
Phoenix, but had had a lobotomy performed so that she couldn't access
her powers), Rachel was yet another in the endless line of mutants from
the future coming back in time to try and make things better for their
friends back up the time stream. Actually, she was one of the first--
back when she did it, she was just the second who had pulled it off, so
it hadn't become a cliche yet.
Rachel ended up being adopted by the X-Men, but terrified by all of the
differences she saw around her (Scott marrying Madelyne, for instance),
she didn't tell Scott of her partial relationship to him. The birth of
Nathan, son of Scott and Madelyne, also further distanced her; in her
timeline, she was Scott's eldest child.
This relatively nonconfusing state of affairs lasted for a while, until
X-Factor was given the go by the Marvel editors. The whole "hook" of
X-Factor was that the original X-Men would take secret identities and
save mutant lives while posing as mutant exterminators. Because all of
the original X-Men had to show up for the idea of the comic to work, the
New Defenders title was cancelled to free up Iceman, Angel, and the
Beast, while Scott Summers was shown to be a deserter to both his wife
and son by being called from New York by... Jean Grey.
Yes, to get X-Factor "right", they resurrected Jean Grey. In the pages
of Avengers #263 and Fantastic Four #286, Jean Grey was found stuck in
an energy cocoon by the Phoenix Force, and then freed by the genius of
Reed Richards. The retconned story was now that Jean wasn't possessed by
the Phoenix Force, as before, but merely Xeroxed by it, with her real
body being placed under the sea in the cocoon so it could regenerate
from the radiation damage. Meanwhile, it was the actual deity-like
figure of the Phoenix Force itself who merely pretended to be Jean Grey
during all the adventures it had with the X-Men, all the way up to, and
including, the Dark Phoenix Saga.
Now this last bit annoyed a lot of older X-fans, a population which some
jokers have commented that Marvel apparently doesn't remember exist. The
whole strength of the Dark Phoenix story was that it was Jean Grey, the
human, who was able to overcome Dark Phoenix, the cosmic force, even if
she had to die to do it. Despite the claims from Marvel that the Dark
Phoenix story still had all its emotional strength and punch because the
Phoenix duplicated the emotions and thoughts of Jean Grey and had even
convinced itself that it was Jean Grey, it just doesn't hold up under
even casual scrutiny. It's no longer a human choosing to die from love,
it's a cosmic force pretending it's human who decides to fool a human it
supposedly loves into thinking that it's committed suicide, when really
it hasn't. No longer a sacrifice, it makes it a cosmic shell game, with
Scott's and the readers' emotions as the victims.
Hence you will get the odd comment on racmx about how the "real" Jean
Grey died on the moon. Some simply refuse to accept the retcon.
Eventually, Madelyne Pryor was revealed to be a clone of Jean Grey,
created by X-villain Mr. Sinister, in yet another of his endless
attempts to try and get some genetic material out of Scott Summers (in
this case, apparently, a son). Seduced by the renegade demon S'ym,
Madelyne was transformed into the Goblyn Queen (UXM #234), which brought
about the crossover called Inferno. This transformation was revealed to
be possible from yet another retcon.
Now, when the Phoenix Force pretended to commit suicide on the moon (UXM
#137), it sent a portion of itself back to the still-comatose Jean Grey
beneath the waters of Jamaica Bay, in order to give her the memories the
Phoenix had gained in her place. Jean rejected these memories, however,
and instead the portion of the Phoenix imparted them to the then-dormant
Madelyne Pryor, Jean Grey's clone by perennial villain Mr. Sinister.
This was such a traumatic procedure that Sinister was resorted to giving
her false memories of being the only survivor of a plane crash to ease
her troubled mind. It was that portion of the Phoenix Force that allowed
Madelyne to wield the powers that she did as the Goblyn Queen. All this
was revealed by Mr. Sinister in UXM #243. Inferno ended when Madelyne
killed herself in X-Factor #38 (who then fled as a psychic presence into
Jean's mind, only to be expelled forever in X-Factor #50, but that's a
minor subplot). The real Madelyne is dead.
Meanwhile Rachel had ended up over in Excalibur, after becoming the new
Phoenix in UXM #199. She remained so until the Adventures of Cyclops
and Phoenix limited series, when the Phoenix left Rachel for an unnamed
better host. This is a few centuries into the future, however. This
mini, by the way, is when Jean took on the name Phoenix at Rachel's
request. Hard as it is to believe, it's the first time Jean Grey ever
used the name. Rachel showed up in a few issues of Cable, where Nathan
rescued her. In the grand tradition of X-women who survive horrible
events, she decided not to rejoin one of the teams, but instead to go
to college. Of course, one can't be called Phoenix without the Phoenix
force taking notice of it, and in UXM #128, Professor Xavier speaks to
the Phoenix Force as it possesses Jean Grey. Currently, it looks like
the Phoenix is an entity which possesses Jean and ramps up her powers,
which is somewhat consistent with the spirit of previous stories.
Xavier's description of the Phoenix as part of Shi'ar mythology works
well enough--that's basically how the Phoenix Force was presented back
in the Dark Phoenix Saga twenty years ago.
This still leaves us to deal with the Madelyne who appeared in X-Man.
At first, readers thought the Madelyne running around in X-Man was a
construct; Nate Grey apparently created her in X-Man #5 out of her
memories floating around in the ether (X-Man #25). At that time, Nate
tried to un-create her and found he couldn't do it. In the Counter-X
issues of X-Man, Nate eventually found out that the "construct" theory
was a ruse. Evil Queen Madelyne was actually an alternate reality
version of Phoenix (Jean Grey). Writer Steven Grant said that Queen
Madelyne wanted to fool Nate, so in order to make the ruse work she
hypnotized herself into being Madelyne Pryor. Of course, this
information still can't explain the ghostly Madelyne that appeared in
Cable #76. Some readers figure that Queen Madelyne herself tapped into
Madelyne's memories floating around in the ether, which might explain
the psionic connection in the issue of Cable. While it's first said by
Queen Madelyne that she *replaced* Madelyne Pryor "several months ago"
(which some readers though may have occurred during the six month gap),
a later issue suggests that the Madelyne Pryor appearing in X-Man had
been Queen Madelyne all along.
So, as it currently stands, barring any future retcons, the relationship
is as follows:
* Phoenix: A really bored cosmic force who currently lends its powers
to an unknown individual.
* Jean Grey: A telepathic and telekinetic young woman who never had
the Phoenix Force, but now calls herself Phoenix.
* Madelyne Pryor: A clone of Jean Grey who had a portion of the
Phoenix force, became the Goblyn Queen, and was killed by Jean.
* Rachel Summers: An alternate-reality daughter of Phoenix, who has
gone into plot limbo.
* Queen Madelyne: An evil, alternate-reality Jean Grey who tranced
herself (and Nate Grey) into thinking she was Madelyne.
And then Ken Arromdee chirps up, saying "You need to mention Excalibur
#52 here." Paul O'Brien is of substantial help at this juncture. You
see, Excalibur #52 does not help matters. While it was supposed to clear
up Rachel's relationship to the Phoenix, in many ways it complicated it
further. This issue consists of the Phoenix telling its story to Xavier,
Jean Grey and Excalibur as Rachel was lying in a coma. Unfortunately,
the story the Phoenix told did not jibe with what had come before. In
Rachel's timeline, the X-Men never met Phoenix. Jean Grey was killed in
a nuclear explosion in Pittsburgh. Any differing stories would be
"memory implants". That was according to writer Alan Davis. Sadly, that
contradicts all of Claremont's stories that clearly had Phoenix as
Rachel's mother. Phoenix: The Untold Story was published to set up
Rachel's past. In fact, that was the whole point of Rachel's part in UXM
#199: claiming the legacy of her mother. Phoenix:TUS, by the way, is UXM
#137 with the original ending.
Rachel's memories were not messed up until Excalibur; she didn't have
that problem during her stint with the X-Men. Mojo was more likely a
cause, as Longshot went through similar difficulties. Another sticky
point was the nuclear bomb. Odds are good Kate Pryde would have
But why would a celestial avatar lie?
Apparently it did, as Phoenix admitted to manipulating Rachel in later
issues. But why? This issue only gets messier. At this point, since we
now have all of the possible reference contradicting themselves, this
neutral researcher says "to hell with it" and closes the subject.
--- What's the relationship between Cable, Stryfe, Ahab, and Nate
It's important to remember two basic things about Cable: he was created
much later than his vastly rewritten history would make him seem, and
the person who created him (Rob Liefeld) didn't set out to make him
anything in particular other than a cyborg with a big gun (history has
shown how such a character is appealing to Liefeld).
When Liefeld landed the job as new penciller for the New Mutants, he
immediately sat down and started sketching out new characters. He sent
them off to his editor, Bob Harras. Easily visible among the detritus
are most of the Mutant Liberation Front, and the two characters who
would become Cable and Stryfe. (Marvel Age #81 and #82 show some of
these early sketches.)
Walter Simonson, husband of then-NM-writer Louise Simonson, recalled the
design process in a message on racmx:
The design for Cable [was] originally one of several designs Rob
did for a villain (designs done for Stryfe IIRC). Bob Harras liked
the design as did Weezie and asked if they couldn't make a good guy
out of him. Weezie was already working on creating a new leader for
the New Mutants (something Bob was also interested in) and the
military background/attitude was always intended to be a part of
the character. Weezie was tired of the Prof. X attitude of whiny
leadership that was always agonizing over sending the New Mutants
into harm's way and thought that an interesting story direction
would be to create a leader who knew the score, understood the
dangers, and would in fact view the NMutants essentially as
soldiers, being sent into battle.
Interestingly enough, in an interview in Wizard #10, Liefeld states that
he gives co-creation status of Cable to Bob Harras:
I've told Bob Harras that if anyone should share creator credit on
Cable with me, it's him. Bob told Louise, "I want this character in
there." I can understand that she didn't want the character, but
the book was dying. [Snip to further down the paragraph.] I realize
the writer wasn't pleased with what happened, but there was a
reason for all of it; it wasn't just, "Let's make life hell for the
I wish I had this on the record: Bob said to me, "I want to bring
in a new central figure; make him a new teacher for the Mutants.
Give him, maybe, a bionic eye." I took that and sent him four
sketches--incorporating a bionic arm, the eye, everything. Bob
said, "Let's call him Quentin." I said, "Yucch!" I had already put
Cable down as his name on the sketches. Then in Louise's plot,
after being told his name was Cable, he was called Commander X
throughout. I said, "If this guy is called Commander X, I want
nothing to do with it." That seemed ridiculous to me.
In any case, the beginning designs weren't of Cable's background and
previous life; they were kewl designs based around a bionic eye.
According to Liefeld, the original sketch of Cable did include some
characterization, attached on a character profile:
The profile clearly identified him as a traveler from thousands of
years in the future who journeyed back in time to combat specific
menaces in the past that threatened the future of the Marvel
Universe. The menaces he had targeted were intended to expand the
title outside the mutant spectrum, and Dr. Doom and Kang the
Conqueror were chief among the threats I had suggested. I felt it
was necessary for Cable to face non-mutant nemeses in order to
increase his importance in the grand scheme of things. I was
determined to create a character with as much mystique and interest
as Wolverine and was deliberately mapping out a lineage that would
capture the attention of readers everywhere. He was a man of
mystery, a man with a mission that would slowly reveal itself over
the course of several years.
Cable was introduced in Liefeld's first issue of the New Mutants (#87),
as the not-yet-then tired idea of a mysterious mutant mastermind who has
been behind the scenes for years, but who we, the readers, have somehow
just never managed to see yet. He took over the leadership of the New
Mutants straight off, and we learned that he had an archenemy, called
Stryfe, whose face was always concealed by a pointy helmet. When the
word came down that New Mutants was going to be turned into X-Force,
with Rob Liefeld as its plotter/penciller, it was decided that a neat
way to end the New Mutants would be to unmask Stryfe for that dramatic
final panel. The only trouble was, nobody knew who he was really
supposed to be, so they didn't know what his shocking secret identity
Liefeld provides some additional insight into the process:
I also created an adversary for Cable named Stryfe who would test
him to the absolute limits of his abilities and help define him and
his struggles by being a formidable foe, the likes of which the New
Mutants had never really seen. I offered several considerations for
Stryfe's origin, one of them being that underneath all that armor
was a woman. Ultimately, the idea that Stryfe was actually Cable
seemed to offer more in the way of interesting story opportunities,
and Bob encouraged me to follow that path. It was the right move
and it helped catapult Cable's popularity to new heights.
So, there they were. Stryfe and Cable were now twins.
Around about this time Claremont was briefly writing X-Factor (#65-68)
(although under Whilce Portacio's plots). The son of Cyclops and
Madelyne Pryor, Nathan Summers, had by this time become a small plot
embarrassment (after all, it was tough to have Cyclops mooning over Jean
Grey again when he had a baby boy by his previous marriage to worry
about). Chris Claremont had never really liked the tot, and apparently
most of the readers shared his sentiments, so in a plot involving
Apocalypse and the Moon, Nathan came down with a techno-organic virus,
and was only barely saved when a visitor from the future, Askani, zapped
him up the timestream to save him with her futuristic medicine (X-Factor
#68). The reason? Nathan would become important to saving a bunch of
mutants in the future, so she couldn't let him die in the present.
Ken Arromdee reminded us to include here the folk legend of the Marvel
edict against having main characters of their superhero titles with
young children. Supposedly because their target audience will not
identify with such people, creators are strongly discouraged from having
any major characters with young children. A quick rundown of the major
births in Marvel, with perhaps the sole exception of Crystal and
Pietro's Luna, shows how strong this apparent edict is. It's highly
possible that the Nathan/Askani storyline came about from this pressure
Around about here Cable was revealed to be from the future. Since Nathan
was now in the future, it wasn't too far to suggest that Cable was
really Nathan. Of course, since Stryfe was obviously connected to Cable
somehow, now the question became "Which of the two was really Nathan?"
According to Liefeld, he'd been thinking that Stryfe was baby Nathan:
So imagine my surprise when I received a call from Bob Harras,
informing me that he, Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio had crafted a
story that would reveal that Cable was the son of Scott Summers and
Madelyne Pryor. I politely protested and asked Bob repeatedly to
reconsider what I felt was a decision that would be damaging to the
character in the long run. It became very clear that my protests
would go unheeded and I reminded myself that Cable was not my
character; he belonged to Marvel and I needed to accept that and
make the best of a frustrating situation. I chose to never address
the issue in the titles I was invested in and continued to work
hard to create an element of intrigue around Cable, even though it
seemed futile after the mystery surrounding Cable's true identity
had evaporated without my consultation.
Now a neutral observer would probably point out at this time that this
whole mess could have been avoided if these lads had been created with
the usual backgrounds most writers give their characters: you know, like
who they are. But that wasn't the hand that the X-writers had dealt
themselves, and X-readers had no end of fun watching a bunch of
plotlines swirl and weave about whether Cable was Stryfe's clone, or
vice versa, or how maybe they were both clones, or maybe they had
nothing to do with Nathan at all.
Fabian Nicieza provides another insight into the process:
To this day, I don't know how that all came about. I don't know if
it was a Jim/Whilce idea that they ran by Bob and he okayed and
cajoled Rob into agreeing to, etc. Or what. I just know by the time
I got involved in it, we all had pretty much accepted that would be
the working plan.
My original thinking was that Cable would be the clone and Stryfe
the real one, leading to more pathos for Cable and more tragedy for
Cyclops, but Bob and Scott both felt making them THINK that was the
case and then switching it around later would work better and I
quickly came to agree they were right.
So, finally, in issues of Cable written by Nicieza, most of the answers
were provided. As revealed by Sinister, Cable was indeed Nathan
Christopher Charles Summers (Cable #6), and the cyborg parts were
actually those parts of his body infected by the technovirus, which he
held in check with his telekinetic powers. Stryfe was his clone.
We'll side-track for a moment to mention Ahab. Ahab was the Master of
the Hounds from the "Days of Future Past" future--the one that Rachel
Summers was from. Hounds are mutants with powers useful for tracking
other mutants, who are controlled substances in that timeline. Back
when Cable still didn't have a past, Ahab was introduced in the Days
of Future Present crossover (Fantastic Four Annual #23, X-Factor Annual
#5, New Mutants Annual #6, X-Men Annual #14). During one fight scene
Cable and Ahab got close to one another, and Cable was shocked to see
some similarity to himself in Ahab. This was compounded by having Ahab
say: "What's the matter? See someone you know?" (X-Men Annual #14).
Since Cable was later revealed to be Nathan instead of Ahab, a new past
for Ahab was needed. A new character introduced in Excalibur #72, Rory
Campbell, was obviously intended to end up becoming Ahab, thus freeing
Cable from that unneeded bit of history. To that end, Rory lost his leg
(Excalibur #90) and became Mutant Liason for the British authorities
Back to Stryfe. By himself, Stryfe presented quite a few problems,
because he Just Wouldn't Stay Dead. Stryfe was first killed at the end
of X-Cutioner's Song. He then reappeared as a consciousness in Cable's
mind during the Sons and Fathers crossover between X-Men and Cable
right after the X-Cutioner's Song (circa Cable #6-8). Where he died
again, sort of. Stryfe then was seen in Hell years later in X-Force
#74, and his later appearances, alongside dead Dark Riders, were
assumed to have been a past version of Stryfe. Until, you know, he
popped up more regularly. Again. Like in the Blood Brothers crossover
between Cable and X-Man. Anyway, Stryfe is now apparently truly dead,
since he was killed in Gambit and Bishop: Sons of the Atom #6 by Dark
Beast, having his entire body crumble into bones and ash. Again.
Back to the last part of the question: Nate. Go grab some refreshment
or something now, you've been sitting long enough reading this answer.
In the 1995 Age of Apocalypse crossover, for reasons too bizarre to get
into now, Cable ceased to exist. In the AOA timeline, his counterpart
was Nate Grey, called the "X-Man". Nate, who shares a name that fans of
the X-titles should recognize as being a warning bell, was a genetic
construct of the Mr. Sinister of that timeline. Once again, for various
reasons that you had to be there to deal with, Nate was one of the few
survivors of the Age of Apocalypse that made it into the normal
timeline. On top of this, Cable reappeared with the resurgence of the
original timeline, so for a while we had, in one way or an other, two
(and a half, counting the psyche of Stryfe) versions of Scott and
Madelyne's son roaming around the Marvel Universe, none of which was
actually native to that universe. I don't think Hallmark prints enough
cards for there to be enough for Scott Summers to send one to each of
his relatives on Christmas.
Nate Grey, at least, was easily distinguishable by his name, and the
fact that he was at least 20 years younger than the others. He was also,
just to be nitpicky, the son of Scott and Jean (albeit by test tube),
Nate eventually came to realize the "Madelyne Pryor" whom he had known
since coming to this dimension was actually planning to use him as a
weapon. During the time he tried to free himself, he met another
dimension's Nate Grey, who helped to free his mind. Nate became a mutant
shaman, and spent his time traveling all over the world helping mutants
in need. X-Man came to an end with issue 75, in which Nate sacrificed
himself to save the world. Basically, he dissipated himself and another
being into every cell of every being on Earth, in order to stop alien
seeders from controlling it.
*** Continued in Part 5 ***
Compilation Copyright 2000-2003 by Katharine E. Hahn
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