As the new movie X-Men: Days of Future Past and its expanded cast of super-powered characters thunders through local cineplexes earning its way to summer blockbuster status, it behooves fans of the franchise to wonder if anybody is being left out.
Not that the producers of the various X-films have been lax in introducing as many new characters as they could without having scripts collapse under their own weight. Entries such as X-Men: Last Stand; First Class; and Days of Future Past have each featured a wide range of heroes and villains. Unfortunately, for all the delight fans have in spotting their obscure favorites, a few minutes of exposure is all they usually get. That’s because such characters as Prof. X, Magneto, Mystique, and especially Wolverine have been taking up most of the valuable screen time. For instance, as in the comics, Wolverine has so completely dominated the X-movie franchise that the X-movies have not been enough for him with two solo films having been released between main events. As a result, there has barely been enough oxygen left in the room to keep other characters on life support.
That, however, may change.
With the end of Days of Future Past, time has been reset with the events of the first three films in the X-franchise and with the newest being erased from reality, there is an opportunity for the studio to reboot the series. Of course, the dream reboot would be for a younger Prof. X to gather the comics’ original X-team; that’s a given. But what about the villains they’ll have to fight? A reboot could be an opportunity to introduce a whole line of new characters culled from 50 years of the comic’s history. Thus, purely as a public service, allow this writer to suggest the top 10 heroes and villains from the X-verse (in reverse order), as yet unseen on celluloid, who could really make things exciting for a rebooted franchise:
Admittedly Domino is one of the dumber characters invented in Marvel’s problematical 1990s period (she’s the product of a failed government experiment to breed mutants as weapons… a cliché even by the low standards of the decade). Rescued from the evil military planners by her birth mother, little Neena Thurman is then left on the steps of Sacred Heart Church. Naturally, she grows up to be a mercenary using her probability altering powers and martial arts skills to further her “career.” Somewhere along the line she becomes involved with Cable (keep reading!), who has begun his own group of ersatz X-Men called X-Force. Not the most original character in the world, Domino could be made interesting in a film if she were paired with Cable.
Forge (who apparently has no other name) is a mutant with the innate ability to immediately understand the workings of any mechanical or electronic device and to immediately provide countermeasures for them. Outside an off and on relationship with the X-Men, Forge has spent much of his time filling the void with the US military created when Tony Stark pulled out of the weapons-design business.
A mutant with the power of hypnotism (Mesmero=mesmerism=Mesmer=get it?) who developed an unhealthy fixation on Magneto as the most powerful of evil mutants, Mesmero attempted to earn brownie points with his master by drawing all those with latent mutant powers to himself and then to a secret, high tech city there to be handed over to Magneto as part of a nascent mutant army. The plan fell through after the X-Men defeated the scheme (including a robot duplicate of Magneto) and Mesmero disappeared. He reemerged a few years later as the owner of a carnival (!), managing to hypnotize the X-Men to either become exhibits in a sideshow or common circus hands.
Recruited by Magneto for his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Mastermind had the power to cast illusions so real that victims who knew better still found it impossible to convince themselves that they weren’t real. As a character, Mastermind was never developed much in the comics until writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne gave him the name Jason Wyngarde and signed him up to a later group of evil mutants called the Hellfire Club. In that capacity, Mastermind was tasked to seduce Marvel Girl (who at the time everyone believed had been transformed into the Phoenix but who was really in suspended animation at the bottom of Jamaica Bay) in order to win her from the X-Men. The plan fell through when Mastermind failed and had his mind blasted by an aroused Phoenix.
A green tressed mistress of magnetism somewhat lower on the power scale than Magneto, Polaris labored in the belief that she was the super-villain’s daughter until proven otherwise. You see, the unsuspecting Lorna Dane was one of many latent mutants drawn to Mesmero by use of a psyche-generator. From there she came under Mesmero’s hypnotic influence and came to believe that she was the offspring of Magneto. It wasn’t until the X-Men stepped in that she was convinced otherwise and eventually became a regular member of the team. Initially involved with the X-Men’s Iceman, Lorna soon transferred her affections to Alex Summers (aka Havoc), brother of teammate Cyclops and an uneasy triangle was formed.
Although Warlock’s status as a mutant is questionable (as an alien Technarch, he has the natural ability of his race to change his shape into anything he wants), that didn’t stop him from becoming a member of the New Mutants, an early offshoot comic in the X-Men franchise. Youthful by the measure of his race, Warlock joined other teenaged members of the New Mutants as a runaway from his own world where he refused to live a parasitic life off other creatures who would eventually die when their life energies were drained. In the comics, Warlock’s look was best handled by artist Bill Sienkiewicz whose abstract style, if translated to the big screen, would surely make the character one of the most visually dynamic X-Men.
As Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and gained the proportionate strength of a typical arachnid, so did Karl Lykos get scratched by mutant pteranodons (or were they pterodactyls?) while exploring on the fringes of a prehistoric Hidden Land. As time passed, Lykos realized that he’d become infected by the pteranodons which had left him with a condition wherein he could drain living creatures of their life energies that in turn invigorated him. Later, as a physician, he surreptitiously stole energy from his patients until one day, the X-Men brought one of their members to him for treatment. The energy of a mutant proving more potent than homo sapiens, it activated the pteranodon enzymes in Lykos’ blood and transformed him into Sauron, a human/pteranodon hybrid with super-hypnotic powers!
In the comics, Calvin Rankin had the distinction of being the first and only member of the X-Men who was not a mutant. The result of an experiment gone wrong, Cal ended up with the ability to copy the abilities of anyone he was near, including the mutant powers of the X-Men. Accidentally mimicking those of Iceman and the Beast, he discovers the X-Men’s secret identities and copies all of their powers at once. After a first encounter that ended when Prof. X erased Cal’s memory, the Mimic returned, was made a member of the team, and even replaced Cyclops as leader! But what made Cal an interesting character beyond his ability to copy the abilities of others, was his arrogance and instinctual resentment of authority making him anything but a team player, elements that would later propel Wolverine to super-stardom.
Okay, so Juggernaut did get a few minutes of face time in X-Men: Last Stand, but anyone familiar with the original comics character knows that he was short changed in that appearance. One of the most original and somewhat awesome super-villain concepts in all of comics history, Cain Marko was the step-brother of Prof. X who was a perfectly normal punk kid until he violated “the lost temple of Cyttorak” while deserting under fire in Korea. As a result, a curse is laid on him and he becomes a living Juggernaut with the power of reaching any objective he sets his mind to no matter what the obstacles may be. Thus if, say, he wants to kill his hated step-brother (which he first tries in X-Men #12), his power is such that he’ll go through mountains, walk across the bottoms of oceans, or wade through X-Men desperate to protect their mentor in a straight line until he achieves his goal! From that description, it’s easy to see how a pretty exciting, suspenseful movie can be made from such material!
With the powers of telekinesis and telepathy, Nathan Summers (aka Cable) is the son of Scott Summers (Cyclops) and a cloned version of Jean Grey (Marvel Girl) called Madelyne Pryor. But all that history can be easily jettisoned leaving him simply as Scott and the real Jean’s son as he will be in the future. In that time, the world has been ravaged by Apocalypse, a villain from the present whom Cable has traveled back in time to warn his parents to defeat. On the surface, Cable might seem to be just another musclebound clod armed with Big Guns, but the character also possesses a unique religious subtext in which he is worshiped by a cult who view him as the savior of the future. All of it together makes Cable an intriguing as well as an exciting personality, especially considering that a worship-oriented post-credit sequence in Days of Future Past suggests Apocalypse as the villain for the next movie.