23 – Meet the New Mutants

Art by David Wynne.

Art by David Wynne.

In which Rachel and Miles return triumphant, the X-Men get a second ongoing series, we hit peak Moira MacTaggert, R-A-H-N-E is definitely pronounced “rain,” Sam Guthrie is the nicest henchman, Claremont is hit-and-miss on cultural diversity, and Bobby da Costa is the teenageriest teenager of them all.

X-Plained:

  • Nova Roma
  • The New Mutants and The New Mutants
  • Marvel Graphic Novels
  • Greenberg the Vampire
  • call-backs
  • Karma
  • Wolfsbane
  • Sunspot
  • Cannonball
  • Mirage
  • Whitewashing in superhero comics
  • The mercurial Guthrie family
  • Xi’an the Obscure
  • The Dr. Claw Effect (and why Dr. Doom and Arcade are exceptions)
  • Donald Pierce
  • Eras of New Mutants
  • Lila Cheney
  • The Hellions

Next Week: The X-Men do Barbarella


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22 comments

  1. gary says:

    I remember getting into the New Mutants at the tail end of Inferno where X-Terminators teamed up with the New Mutants and eventually merged. At the time, I also got into what is considered the first X-Men fanfiction: Kid Dynamo, which had a Mary Sue-type character that was sort of a Kitty Pryde with mutant powers joining the New Mutants and doing all sorts of Mary Sue things (like hit on Magneto and help Dani Moonstar out of the closet). It was one of the first “fix-it” fanfitions I remember reading about comics…that sort of just retcons Rob Liefeld coming into the book. It helps define fan fiction for the comics-reading internet by being 2 parts Claremont and 1 part wish fulfillment. If you ever get the chance to find this, it is well-worth picking up (http://fanlore.org/wiki/Kid_Dynamo).

    As for the Liefeld Transition, I think the reason I liked it was that he was making them into the New Teen Titans. He sends the remaining New Mutants off except for Sam and Boom Boom. Then he brings in Feral (a Morlock), Shatterstar (a Mojoverse guy), and Warpath (a native american who had his family destroyed by mysterious government) into the fray. And he gives us MYSTERIOUS Domino who has “Plans” for X-Force. This is the template for the New Teen Titans (with Domino instead of Raven, Shatterstar instead of Starfire, Feral instead of Changeling, and Warpath instead of Cyborg). Liefeld always struck me as a New Teen Titans fan and you can see that in how he treats these characters (and how Nicenza basically turns Sam into Nightwing in his later run where he gives Xavier the “I’m going to be Nightwing” speech.

    It is no wonder that Nicenza starts writing the New Warriors because that’s a take-off of Marv Wolfman’s NTT done right. If they had done that with X-Force, I think it would’ve been liked better.

  2. Elle says:

    I think you’re right about Karma. Thanks for addressing the question.

    And yes, obviously you have to have me on when you talk about Boom Boom.

  3. David says:

    Thanks for clarifying on Rahne/rain. I don’t know where I got that it was pronounced “Ronnie.” Huh. Well, thanks anyway!

  4. jesy blue says:

    So as a child I could only buy one comic book a month, so I read Power Man & Iron Fist; when their book ended at 125 with the death of Iron Fist, preadolescence emotional me needed a new book to take away all my sadness, so I picked up New Mutants 45 because it had the Marvel 25th Anniversary portrait cover of a smiling Amara so I thought it would be happy.
    As you know, that particular issue was not happy…. but it taught me about dealing with death, and now I also went and collected all 100 issues, the graphic novel and all the annuals.

    Thank you for all you two do with this podcast; I’ve been looking forward to this episode for a while now!

    (and they’re too short; you should do 3 hour podcasts! I could hear you talk about comics all day.)

  5. As much as I love this podcast, things just got a bit real for me – I think the beginnings of New Mutants are around the point I started buying US comics properly, and really reading comics a bit more critically, so I’d always known about the X-Men from old British reprints, but the New Mutants were something that I felt were “mine”.

    It’s lovely hearing you guys talk about them.

    My heart kind of flip-flopped a bit between awe and dismay, hearing Rachel boost Greenberg The Vampire, and then Miles being so dismissive (and wrong!) about it. DeMatteis at Epic and on Greenberg is pretty much where I learned that comics could do something other than straight-up genre stories or spandex. You’ve made me want to reread it again for the first time in years!

  6. Nick says:

    The talk about Dani’s stereotypical talking to animal powers made me wonder: are there any Native American superheroes whose powers don’t fall into the usual traps of enhanced senses because they’re hunters, magic stuff because they speak to ancestral spirits, stuff with animals because, you know, animals? Are there any Native American heroes who just have eye lasers or something?

    The best one I can come up with is Apache Chief of the Superfriends, and that’s only if you make the hazy claim that maybe it wasn’t an actual magic phrase he said and more like Johnny Storm yelling “FLAME ON!” But then he loses all credit by calling himself Apache Chief.

    • Sam Williams says:

      What about Forge? He just builds cool stuff.

    • NewtypeS3 says:

      Well, there’s a handfull. I had to dig like mad to find good ones, though.

      The Morrison/Millar creation Aztek is the best, possibly, because he’s got a magical suit of ancient Aztec body armor that happens to give him high-tech powers. In short, he’s like a human form of The Vision from Marvel, but with powers derived from Magic. Kinda cool.
      And then he died.

      Ohiyesa “Pow Wow” Smith gets a pass as well, because he’s a Western DC character who’s a sheriff and “master detective.” No powers, just shoots people like a Wild West Batman. While he prefers his real name, he goes by “Pow Wow” because of the stupid White Man. And I approve of that.

      Thunderbird of the Exiles might have started out as a typical Thunderbird “clone,” but the fact that he became one of the horsemen of Apocalypse (before the book began) meant they could actually do more than just “Native American, grrr” for his character. I only remember a few times the book went heavily into the Native American aspect of his character, and that was when the team ran into a version of him who became Shaman of Alpha Flight.

      And then there’s Thomas “Pieface” Kalmaku, Hal Jordan’s unfortunate sidekick. His power is to “bring out the best in people” and fade into obscurity. The less said about him the better.

      I wanted to include Dawnstar from the Legion of Superheroes… but she’s a super tracker. With wings. So much for that.

      Honorable mention? Vadinho of Pumaman. He didn’t worship the spirits of other Native Americans. He worshiped spinning space globes and golden masks that controlled peoples’ minds. And fought Donald Pleasance.
      Not a comic hero, but too awesome not to mention.

      • Miles says:

        Pumaman! I can’t believe we haven’t referenced Pumaman in the show yet.

        Change of show concept: “Rachel and Miles Puma-Splain Pumaman”.

      • Nick says:

        Excellent list, that’s exactly what I was hoping to see. Thanks! I feel like I should have come up with Exiles Thunderbird, but “Pow Wow” Smith is my favorite pull. I’m only really familiar with the DC Western heroes from that one episode of JLU, but he was the best of the badasses there.

        A friend also told me about Nelvana of the Northern Lights, an Inuit Woman who can fly and turn invisible due to the Northern Lights, basically. She seems to sidestep the typical “she has the powers because NATURE” by being a nationalistic hero. She has powers BECAUSE CANADA.

        • NewtypeS3 says:

          “BECAUSE CANADA” is the best reason to have Superpowers. That should have been Alpha Flight’s primary power source, not Native Americans.

          Kinda like DC’s Uncle Sam, and how he’s powered by the patriotism of Americans or something.

          …wait. Maybe that’s the source of Wolverine’s powers. The more his fans/fanboys believe in him, the more powerful his healing ability becomes! That’s why he’s ramped up from being “a slow healer” to becoming “skeleton to flesh in seconds.”
          You know, until they took that away.

  7. pawpaw5771 says:

    I learned something about Sunspot in this episode. I guess I had stopped reading the books before he developed his powers to the point of flying and energy blasts. I was confused as hell when I watched the Days of Future Past movie, wondering why he seemed more like The Human Torch. **The more you know**

    Thanks as always for another tremendous episode!

  8. Michael Lee says:

    Thank you! This has been my favorite episode thus far. I started reading comics with X-Factor #1, and through the X-men association quickly added New Mutants to my reading list. I quickly acquired all the back issues of New Mutants.

    Throughout my years of collecting, New Mutants has always been my favorite and has had a special place in my heart. There were no characters I loved more the Doug and Warlock and the Claremont/Sienkiewicz duo was a special kind of magic that has not been matched since. True art at every level.

    Thank you Miles and Rachel for this wonderful rush of nostalgia.

  9. NewtypeS3 says:

    Another fantastic episode, guys. I think this might be the first time I’ve been familiar with the resource material with a recent read-through before you guys covered it. Fantastic job, and I now want to see Sam Guthrie hench for the Monarch alongside 21 and 24.

    I’ll be honest, I was too damn young to read through the X-Men in the 80s. My first experience comes from a cheap black/white dimestore book that republishes the first outing against Arcade and the Warhawk story where they had to fight the Danger Room. After that, it was the 90s cartoon…
    …but now I’m wishing I’d been old enough to read these books. I really missed out on some groundbreaking stuff.

    Although I also missed out on the rise of Liefeld. So I’m thinking I might have gotten the better part of the bargain in retrospect.

  10. Sarah says:

    My gateway drug into superhero comics! Asterix and TinTin set me up, then New Mutants! 4 questions, that lead onto each other

    1. Do you know why Siekiewitz was given the gig? It was such a change in style, and so different to the previous artists – seems really daring for the time (also, why didn’t they move him onto something like X-Men when it was working?)

    2. For me, how much I liked Warlock really depended on the artist who was drawing him – I always wonder how much Siekiewitz’ art influenced the character. I liked Art Adams drew him, and Alan Davies in Annual 2, and Art Adams and Bret Blevins, for different reasons, but couldn’t like him in other incarnations. Is this just me, or do other people feel the same.

    3. Speaking of Blevins, I was reading his run as a teenager, and there were these scenes where the girls are in their underwear, gratuitously getting changed (in Limbo?) that felt really wrong at the time – and the pointy breasts he drew, that made me uncomfortable. I’d read it as a book for teens as I was one, but who was it marketed to? Did the editorial team just not care they were sexualising teen girls (is that a dumb question)

    4. And… the Sam-Lila relationships, I love-hated, he was a bit older, I liked him being completely aghast he could be attractive, but also, *really*? And then the Psylocke-Doug thing in Annual 2 – that seemed a strange thing at the time, but super-creepy now… am I over-reacting?

  11. Sarah says:

    Aaargh, 1 more. Did Karma’s siblings ever get found? I loved their powers when they were aged by Mojo in Annual 2 – and when Emplate turned up in Generation X, I was thinking that was them, because of same and similar name…. but what I really wanted to ask is how Claremont got away with taking Darla-Jubilee and just slapping a different background onto her?

    Thanks so much for giving me the chance to geek-out on these – it’s great to revisit these year, esp books I didn’t read critically at the time, but just consumed (didn’t always love them, but didn’t question stuff). I think Claremont spoiled me for superheroes, as it was (for me) a given that teams were diverse (albeit awful stereotypes) and women could lead (1 reason the last X film, while I enjoyed it, infuriated me that it was basically a bro-movie…)

  12. Amara says:

    Rahne is my baby, but my name is actually Amara irl so I’m attached to Magma for that reason. But my favorite Muties are Rahne, Dani and Illyana.

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