There’s no shortage of confusing and complicated back stories in comics, as most popular characters have been around for decades. When you have multiple writers over the years taking on one character, or teams of characters, things are bound to get a little mixed up.
Now add a little time travel. Mix in some weird genetics, prophetic messiahs, mutant powers, big guns, lots of pouches, and a techno-organic arm. Suddenly we are talking about the militaristic mutant known as Cable, who has played an interesting part in the mythology of the X-Men over the years. With his upcoming appearance in Deadpool 2, it felt like the right time to take a look at the convoluted case of Cable. Yes, I do enjoy alliteration. While most of this comic information won’t be needed or necessary to enjoy Josh Brolin’s appearance as Cable in the film, it may help give you an idea of why the mutant from the future does what he does in the upcoming film.
So grab a snack and strap in. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
The Early Years
Nathan Christopher Charles Summers
Cable began life like so many of us. The son of Scott Summers (Cyclops, future leader of the mutant race), and Madelyne Pryor (a clone of Jean Grey, one of the most powerful X-Men). Pretty typical life story, really. I should explain a little bit further, for those who don’t geek out over these sort of things like I do. First of all, Scott Summers and Jean Grey were the original power couple, both first class students of the X-Men. When Jean was possessed by the Phoenix Force, her body was preserved in a cocoon at the bottom of a lake, while the Phoenix created a duplicate body of her. Eventually, this construct went mad with the power of the Dark Phoenix and wiped out a star, killing billions. This Phoenix/Jean body eventually regained control and sacrificed itself on the moon in penance for its crimes. Confused yet? It gets better!
Not much long after, Cyclops had finished the first stage of his still ongoing brooding when he encountered Madelyne Pryor, who was being used as a tool of the villain Mastermind. Scott fell in love with her and they married within a very quick span of time, and eventually, Madelyne was pregnant. Soon came the child, named Nathan Christopher Charles – after Scott’s father, the space pirate known as Corsair and Professor Xavier – Summers, followed by the return of the real Jean Grey. She returned to the original group of X-Men with Cyclops, who were now calling themselves X-Factor. Madelyne Pryor was left behind and was soon driven mad as she learned she was actually a clone of Jean, created by the eternal mutant geneticist Mr. Sinister. Everything, including the birth of Nathan, had been orchestrated by Sinister in an attempt to create a weapon powerful enough to defeat the eternally evil mutant known as Apocalypse. At this time, Apocalypse had just been awoken by a very powerful event that he felt in his rejuvenating slumber. That event was the birth of Nathan.
Sinister’s revelation to Madelyne helped spark the Inferno event, where she attempted to sacrifice not only her son but a number of other mutant babies to open a portal to Limbo (a hellish dimension in the Marvel Universe), before she was stopped by the combined teams of X-Factor and the X-Men. After Inferno, Nathan began to display some interesting mutant powers (a powerful telekinetic shield) but was soon attacked by Apocalypse, who had learned of Sinister’s plans to use the child to defeat Apocalypse. He exposed Nathan to the techno-organic virus, despite X-Factor’s intervention. The virus started transforming poor baby Nathan (mostly referred to as Christopher at the time) into a techno-organic being. X-Factor’s sentient base of operations (known as Ship) merged with Nathan’s growing organic parts in an effort to keep him alive but was unable to fight the growth of the T/O virus. A being known only as Sister Askani arrived from the future (sent by Cyclops’ future alternate reality daughter Rachel Summers… long story), giving Scott two options. Either he could watch his son die, or he could give him up to the Askani, where they would take him 2000 years into the future. She promised Scott that Nathan would live, but he would never again see his son. Cyclops agreed, and Sister Askani and Nathan seemingly disappeared into the future, never to be heard from again. At least, until they were heard from again.
Fast forward 2000 years in the future, where young Nathan is saved, and the majority of his life takes place. While a great deal of this time is unchronicled, there are some key moments from his life in the future that further shape the man we know as Cable.
Slym & Redd
When Nathan arrived in the future with Sister Askani, the rest of the Clan Askani attempted to cure Nathan of the T/O virus. Fearing their inability to do so, they cloned a new body free of the T/O virus, just in case. Succeeding in holding the T/O virus at bay, young Nathan’s life was spared. He eventually fell under the guidance of a couple known as Slym & Redd Dayspring. The couple trained Nathan Dayspring in the use of his powers, as well as instilled in him the beliefs and morals of a past generation. Unknown to Nathan, Slym & Redd were actually possessed by Scott Summers and Jean Grey, Nathan’s ‘biological’ parents brought across time by Mother Askani (Rachel) to help teach and raise the boy. However, this still left the question of what happened to the cloned baby Nathan.
While the real Nathan was cared for by Slym & Redd, the clone did not have the same loving upbringing. He was kidnapped shortly after his creation by Apocalypse, who believed him to be the real Nathan who had survived the T/O virus by himself. He raised him under his wing, named him Stryfe, and prepared him as the heir of Apocalypse. What Stryfe didn’t know was Apocalypse was preparing him as a vessel that Apocalypse would one day inhabit as his eternal body wore out. Stryfe was raised hard, and tested constantly, developing a sadistic personality and a hate for Apocalypse. Eventually, Nathan, Slym, and Redd crossed paths with Stryfe, and later Apocalypse, revealing the truth and changing the direction of Stryfe’s rage.
Apocalypse realized too late that Stryfe was the imperfect clone, and died due to the intervention of Nathan, Slym, and Redd. A minion of Apocalypse named Ch’Vayre took Stryfe with him, raising him further to be the new ruling force in the future. He fought many battles against Nathan over the years, eventually going back in time as well to be an ongoing villain of Cable and the X-Men over the years. He has a very heavy power set, as he doesn’t have the T/O virus constantly trying to take over his body like Nathan.
Slym, Redd, and Nathan stayed together for a total of twelve years before Mother Askani died and Scott and Jean’s time-spanning psyches traveled back to the time and place they had left, shortly after leaving for their honeymoon in the present. While almost no time had passed in the real world, Scott and Jean felt blessed to be able to spend the formative years of Nathan’s life with him; they not only prepared him for his future but also defeated the tyrant Apocalypse.
As Nathan matured, he fell in with the Askani Sisterhood (the same group responsible for bringing him into the future) and studied the teachings of the Askani under his mentor, Blaquesmith. He would become known as the Askani’Son and was considered by the Sisterhood as the Chosen One. He continued his fight against the followers of Apocalypse, as well as his clone, Stryfe. He would continue to learn how to better control his powers of telepathy and telekinesis while forging himself into a warrior of great renown.
Eventually, he became disillusioned with the path of the current Askani, led by Sanctity since the death of Mother Askani. He broke off from the main group alongside Aliya Jenskot, a woman he would come to consider the love of his life, and a number of the Askani’s followers. Calling themselves the Clan Chosen, Nathan led the group in the never-ending war against Stryfe and his followers, called the New Canaanites. Adopting the name Cable, Nathan spent years as the leader of the Clan Chosen, even fathering a child with Aliya, who they named Tyler. As the war continued, Cable and the Clan Chosen suffered many losses. When Aliya was killed by a bomb and Tyler was kidnapped (later to be brainwashed into the villain known as Genesis), Cable realized to win the war against Stryfe and Apocalypse, he would need to use a new weapon that will be forever tied to the character of Cable.
That’s where we end our look at the early life of the X-Man known as Cable. And we haven’t even made it to his first appearance in the mainstream Marvel timeline yet! Already he is playing an important role in the history (and future) of the X-Men, and the Marvel Universe. The son of a hero and a clone feared since birth and raised in the future to fight against his own clone and his eternal enemy. Despite all this he lived a long and eventful life, finding love and even experiencing fatherhood.
Yet his story has barely begun, and we’ll continue to dive into more of the convoluted case of Cable as we lead up to his first live-action appearance in Deadpool 2!
Images: Marvel Comics, 20th Century Fox