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The New Mutants, explained

The first second generation of the X-Men

The cover of The New Mutants #21 (1984)
The New Mutants #21
Bill Sienkiewicz/Marvel Comics
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Have you watched the New Mutants trailer yet? Are you wondering exactly where the producers of the X-Men movie franchise think they’re going with this? Just who are the New Mutants, and what makes them so new?

Reader, read on.

What is The New Mutants?

The New Mutants is the next installment of 20 Century Fox’s X-Men franchise, and it’ll hit theaters on April 13, 2018. Its being billed as a tonal crossover between John Hughes and Steven King: Five teenagers with fantastic powers band together to escape a secret medical facility.

Who are the New Mutants?

The New Mutants are a group of superheroic, Marvel Comics teenagers, originating in The New Mutants, a 1982 comic series created by Chris Claremont and initially drawn by Bob McLeod. The artist perhaps best associated with giving the series a distinctive look, however, was Bill Sienkiewicz, whose relatively impressionistic linework and painted covers were unusual for superhero comics of the time.

The New Mutants was the first X-Men spinoff series ever, in a time when Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men was flying off shelves. Though the X-Men were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, they had never really been popular until Claremont restarted the series in 1970 with Giant-Size X-Men #1 (and a little help from the late Len Wein).

Professor X in The New Mutants #1, Marvel Comics (1982).
Professor X snaps at Roberto de Costa in The New Mutants #1.
Chris Claremont, Bob McLeod/Marvel Comics

Claremont’s reboot of the X-Men as an international team book, focusing on soap-opera drama and sci-fi adventure, introduced characters like Storm and Nightcrawler to readers and rescued Wolverine from the status of “Guy Who Fought the Hulk that One Time.” The X-Men were suddenly so popular that Marvel editorial insisted that he pen a spinoff series.

Since Claremont’s X-Men were largely adults, compared to Lee and Kirby’s superpowered teens, The New Mutants would be about a new class of kids growing up under the training of Professor X. And like Claremont’s X-Men, it would feature a broad cast of different nationalities and plenty of new female characters. And they wouldn’t be out doing superhero hijinks, at least not by design, although in practice they got into plenty of trouble — in alternate dimensions, the Amazon rainforest and against a rival mutant school run by Emma Frost.

Is The New Mutants a part of the X-Men Cinematic Universe?

Yes! But like Deadpool and Logan, it may not have direct ties to other films — like the upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix. It doesn’t sound like the kids are going to be hanging out in the Xavier School much.

Which New Mutants are in the movie?

The cast of The New Mutants cast is very similar to the core cast of the New Mutants in their early comics incarnation, consisting of Magik, Wolfsbane, Cannonball, Sunspot and Mirage.

Magik, played by Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), is Illyana Rasputin, sister of the X-Men’s Colossus. She has a suite of powers deriving from a combination of her mutation and a talent for sorcery. Her core mutant ability is that she can open portals to a dimension known as Limbo, and, from Limbo, open a portal to anywhere (or anywhen) in Earth’s dimension, making her a powerful teleporter. Her magical talents manifest most famously in her Soulsword, which disrupts magic instead of cutting physical objects.

Wolfsbane, or Rahne Sinclair, played by Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams, is a Scottish girl raised by religious fundamentalists to believe that her mutation — the ability to transform into a wolf form with enhanced senses and reflexes — reflects her inherent sinfulness.

Wolfsbane transforming in The New Mutants #19, Marvel Comics (1984).
Sienkiewicz’s rendition of Wolfsbane transforming, from The New Mutants #19.
Bill Sienkiewicz/Marvel Comics

Cannonball, a.k.a. Sam Guthrie, played by Charlie Heaton (Jonathan Byers on Stranger Things), is a nice boy from a big Kentucky family who can propel himself forward at high speeds. While doing so, he appears to be made of rocket exhaust (or a “blast”) from the waist down. While blasting, he is nigh invulnerable.

Sunspot, or Roberto de Costa, played by Henry Zaga (Teen Wolf), is a rich kid from Brazil who can absorb and channel solar power. When he uses his powers, he takes on a void-like appearance, his dark silhouette surrounded by, well, spots.

And finally, Mirage, known as Danielle Moonstar and played by Blu Hunt, is a Native American girl who has the ability to psionically project people’s fears or desires as realistic illusions.

Danielle Moonstar/Mirage, a mutant superhero, in The New Mutants #1, Marvel Comics (1982).
Mirage discovers the living quarters of the X-Men in The New Mutants #1.
Chris Claremont, Bob McLeod/Marvel Comics

Joining all these teenagers is Cecilia Reyes, an obscure mutant character — she’s a doctor who can create protective forcefields. She will be played Alice Braga (I Am Legend).

As far as we know, there will be no mutant characters from the other X-Men films appearing in The New Mutants, like Professor X or Wolverine.

Who is making The New Mutants?

The New Mutants is written by Josh Boone and Knate Lee, and Boone is also directing. The pair are childhood friends — and childhood fans of The New Mutants series. Boone is already familiar with teen-focused tales from directing The Fault in Our Stars and pitched an entire New Mutants-based trilogy of films to X-Men films producer Simon Kinberg.

“I was raised by very religious parents,” Boone told Entertainment Weekly in May. “They were Evangelical Southern Baptists and they believed in the rapture; they believed the devil was real; they believed in demons. Knate grew up in a similar environment and our entire lives we sort of hung on to each other as tight as we could. That’s how we got through the craziness we grew up in.”

The Demon Bear in The New Mutants #19, Marvel Comics (1984)
The Demon Bear
Bill Sienkiewicz/Marvel Comics

Between the two friends, he says, they fixated on two obsessions: Stephen King and Marvel Comics, and it seems like they’re incorporating the spirit of both into The New Mutants.

So, wait, was The New Mutants a horror comic?

Not really ... but it was often a lot more spooky and mystic than the political, soap-opera-y space adventures that the X-Men were having at the time.

Also, it looks a lot like The New Mutants movie will draw from “The Demon Bear Saga,” a story that ran in The New Mutants #18-20 in 1984. It’s considered to be one of the series’ most iconic storylines. In it, the New Mutants become locked in a physical and psychic battle with an evil force that takes the form of a huge animal: a Demon Bear that murdered Mirage’s family and seeks to kill her as well.

“The Demon Bear Saga” was Bill Sienkiewicz’s debut on The New Mutants, and his style steeps an already ghostly story in jagged, dark visuals. His Demon Bear is often depicted simply as fanged teeth, crazed eyes and two massive sets of claws, floating in darkness. The reader is left to imagine how truly huge it must be in the light.

There was no sign of a bear in last night’s trailer, sure, but there were plenty of weird visions and one notable ball of flame inside a washing machine. But to find out whether Boone and Lee can really pull off a superheroic horror story, we’ll have to wait until next April.

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