Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

141 – Reason to Go to the Devil

Art by David Wynne. No print this week, but you can contact David to purchase the original!

In which we ring in the new year with Cable’s on-page debut; it’s really the ’90s now; we enter the third major era of New Mutants; what Liefeld lacks in craft he makes up for in energy; we pitch a new “What if–” line; Rusty and Skids are terrible superheroes; X-Factor has probably given up on a lot of things; we speculate at gratuitous length on the content of Cable’s pouches; you have reason to go to the devil; and Cable makes a lot more sense when you realize he’s of, by, and for teenagers.


  • How the Legacy Virus got loose
  • New Mutants #86-89
  • Cable’s on-page debut
  • Rob Liefeld
  • The third major era of New Mutants
  • A shift in the balance of power
  • A comics shop to probably avoid if you time-travel back to the mid 1990s
  • The stupid adventures of Rusty & Skids
  • Yet another Acts of Vengeance tie-in
  • Nitro
  • An accidental prison break
  • Cops, or maybe protestors
  • The Mutant Liberation Front
  • Feet
  • A goody two-shoes man-stealing redheaded werewolf
  • Wildside
  • Reaper
  • Strobe
  • Thumbelina
  • Tempo
  • Forearm
  • Zero
  • Stryfe
  • Stryfe’s armor
  • Spooning with Cable

NEXT EPISODE: X-Factor kicks it Silver Age.

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No prints this week. Contact David Wynne to purchase the original illustration!


  1. I’ll be honest, I still don’t get the appeal of Liefeld’s art. Yeah, it’s energetic, but it’s also terrible. Also, he was really bad for swiping. But man, the faces in Liefeld comics were so weird and gross and creepy.

    I always thank all the gods for Stilt-Man. By the way, as far as how the Rusty/Skids story relates to New Warriors, chronologically: New Warriors launched with a cover date of July 1990. But they debuted in Thor #412, cover-dated December 1989. So this story takes place after the first appearance of the New Warriors, but before their series launched.

    I like the Mutant Liberation Front. They were fun. And actually, can I just say how much I LOVE Thumbelina? I am so glad that Liefeld made her fat. There are just no fat characters in superhero comics, unless their weight is meant as a gag or an indication of moral faiure. But Thumbelina is just . . . fat. Her weight isn’t a big deal. And I genuinely appreciate that, and I wish she’d get brought back, because she’s cool.

    I always assumed Cable’s pouches would hold extra ammo and similar supplies.

  2. Damn you guys for making me think this out before sleeping tonight…

    How does a bastard, orphan, son of a clone
    And a Mutant, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the future by Providence impoverished,
    In squalor, grow up to be a messiah and a soldier?

    Part of thr 10, mutant founding fathers without a father
    Got a lot farther by working a lot harder
    By being a lot smarter By being a self-starter
    By fourteen, they placed him in charge of the AsKani clan

    And every day while slaves were being slaughtered and carted away
    Across the waves, he struggled and kept his guard up
    Inside, he was longing for something to be a part of
    The brother was ready to beg, steal, borrow, or barter

    Then Apocolipse came, and devastation reigned
    Our man saw his future drip, dripping down the drain
    Used his technorganic virus, connected it to his brain
    And the resulting telepathic anguish, a testament to his pain

    Well, the word got around, they said, this kid is insane, man
    Took up a collection just to send him to the far past
    Change the past, but don’t forget from whence you came
    And the world is gonna know your name
    What’s your name, man?

    Nathan of the AsKani Clan
    My name is Nathan of the AsKani Clan
    And there’s a million things I haven’t done
    But just you wait, just you wait

  3. And now the Wild Man of Borneo appears!

    I’m gonna rep for both Cable and Liefeld really re-energizing my love for NEW MUTANTS. The grinding misery and seemingly endless “Lost in Asgard” stuff had kind of drove me off the book (like Uncanny and X-Factor, it just seemed to be spinning its wheels) so the injection of a new element and the promise of some sort of direction (which would, as all directions eventually do, kinda bog down and get confusing on its own) was kinda awesome.

    Though now I wonder what might have been imagining Liefeld on ALPHA FLIGHT (which was digging itself out of an even deeper hole than the X-books were in–there are bad books, and there is AF from about 50-80, which are astoundingly terrible) Certainly he couldn’t have been any worse.

  4. I swear I listened to the cold open and heard you discussing “The Legacy of Iris” and being completely baffled as to what that could be.

    (And if you think the Legacy Virus confusing now, have you factored in the events of the New Mutants/X-Force: Truth or Death mini-series? The one where we find out that Illyana (circa New Mutants #25) or so was the patient zero of the Legacy Virus thanks to time travel and her brother Mikhail!)

  5. The conversation about Acts of Vengeance reminded me that it’s the reason I had a hard time taking the original Old Man Logan arc as seriously as it intended me to. Amidst all the grimness and horror of Old Man Logan’s world, I would always think “But didn’t anyone involved with this read Acts of Vengeance?” Anyway, that’s my immaterial observation about the crossover.

    The episodes are getting back into an era of books that I was actively buying month to month again, I have a feeling upcoming episodes are going to be fun as hell for a long, long time.

  6. Also, it’s really interesting hearing Jay and Miles try and put into words just how much Liefeld captured the zeitgeist of the moment when he came on the scene. Jim Lee’s enduring popularity makes a mot more sense to me, as he seems like a much more capable and rounded artist, even though his style burst on the scene at roughly the same time. But looking back at Liefeld, especially his early work, it’s just really hard to see now what it was about his work that blew up SO BIG when he debuted.

    1. Nearly 30 years later, I’m _still_ baffled, to be honest. Yes, there’s energy there, but it’s the energy of an out-of-control wildfire that’s consuming everything to feed itself.

  7. The thing to remember about Rob Liefeld’s early fame is even at the beginning of the 90s, comics were a disposable medium. You were meant to read it fast and hard, then throw it away. Liefeld’s art was made to be glanced over as the frantic action pushes you forward faster and faster, then you drop the comic and don’t look at it again, satisfied that you got your $1.00 worth.

    Today’s comic is meant to be savoured, studied and evaluated. Comics like that existed in 1990, but they were the exception not the rule. Through the modern lens, Liefeld doesn’t make sense. But in context, his (many) failings are a lot less important than the frantic energy and cool factor that his art brings.

    He’s Red Bull. You don’t serve Red Bull at a wine tasting.

  8. I think it’s things like who Cable did and didn’t recognise, who he did and didn’t have a history with that put me off the character almost form the outset (Aside from the art, and the fact that “guys with REALLY BIG GUNS” have never really appealed to me as characters.)

    Every time there was a moment like a reveal that “I came back in time for you Sam” being shoehorned in after not even recognising Sam the first time they met (and it’s not like guys from Kentucky who have blasts fields are thick on the ground), it was just… irritating. It wasn’t like Claremont’s long game where throwaway ideas from three years back could be referenced and expanded on, it was just outright contradiction, and did just suggest, repeatedly, that no one had a clue what the hell was going on. I think my logic was if the writers don’t care enough to keep it straight, then why should I even care?

    Liefeld being a young and inexperienced artist (and he was about 22/23 when his New Mutants run started) only gives him so much leeway I think. As a customer, I would have been paying more for his comics than I had for those with art by Bob McLeod, Bill Sienkiewicz or even Bret Blevins (which was already close to my breaking point).

  9. I always wonder how much of the changes under Liefeld were down to him and how much was Bob Harras trying to wrest control from Simonson and Claremont. No matter how much the 90s are seen as being artist-led for Marvel and DC it’s really about Editors becoming more powerful than the writers and mandating the storylines.

  10. Darn it, I’m doing my scrappy “commenting as I remember things” bit again…

    I did always used to wonder what characters with pouches kept in them, going as far back as Tarantula in the All-Star Squadron,


    Who had pouches on his boots (which we found out his housekeeper (who knew his ID) had stocked with things like spare cash, in case he needed to get a taxi.

    Longshot, I just assumed, more blades and whetstones for sharpening said blades.. also emergency hair gel.

    Nightwing switched from a utility belt to pouches in his ganutlets and boots, but we knew the sort of thing he stored there; batarangs, smoke bombs and emergency rations (aka snacks, I suspect)

    Cypher’s graduation costume set the trend for X-pouches


    and I usually assumed he kept assorted bits of tech support stuff in there (though in the mid 80’s things like memory sticks and a spare optical mouse weren’t even things yet), as well as a pencil, a pad (rolled up sheets of paper), and spare change for the phone, and again, snacks.

    Cable I just gave up on, other than to presume they were ALL for guns…. smaller guns… or bits of other guns… for his guns in case he ran out of guns.

    1. Or pouches… his pouches are lined with smaller pouches, which are lined with still smaller pouches, which are lined with yet smaller pouches, so it’s an recursive sequence that just never ends…

    2. “Longshot, I just assumed, more blades and whetstones for sharpening said blades.. also emergency hair gel.”

      Longshot’s pouches and bag have got a simple reason: Diogenes syndrome. Just read his former mini 😉

  11. Miles-
    I have a similar past with the bundles of comics near the checkouts. My copy of New Mutants #98 came from one of those. Its by far the most valuable comic I own. It isn’t very good. At all. And I probably paid less than 50 cents for it. There was also a run of Excalibur in there starting around issue 40. So much funnier than early Deadpool.

    I started reading comics around 92 or 93, and Liefeld’s art always just made me feel uncomfortable. All the guys look veiny and bubble muscly and…yeah, I still have some squick going. It was a relief 15 years later to find out that others didn’t care for his art style, though usually for reasons that I couldn’t make myself look at the page long enough to notice.

  12. This was a fun episode, but it left me craving for closure. One would think there will be some kind of a transition between Simonson, or the classic era of New mutants (and maybe the X-Men too?) to the new era of the 90’s. Maybe even an entire episode summarizing the end of the era and delivering some sort of a prologue to the new era. This seems to me much more essential then just the previous episode, talking about Cable. To me, this episode felt almost like a direct continuation to the New Mutants run. Or any other X-Men goofy story. Not so on reading the comics. There it felt like a complete abrupt change. It changed the entire identity of the X-Men franchise for better or worse. It’s a crucial moment in X-Men history. I know you touched these points but for some reason it didn’t really connect with me as some kind of a big deal.
    I usually speak against the hulting of the regular flow of plotline between episodes, but if ever I think there was needed to be a break between episodes, this is where I would put it.

    I hope I don’t come up as a condesendant A hole. I surely don’t try to dictate to you how to do your own thing, and I really love the podcast as it is. But I trust you’ll appreciate the feedback. 🙂

    1. The 90s didn’t really happen all at once though. They already covered the X-Men being split up and reconfigured and Cable’s first appearance right here of course, but they haven’t gotten to X-Men #1 and X-Force number one yet.

  13. Relistening to the podcast;

    Now I want to hear the songs that the Tom Lehrer of Earth 616 wrote about mutant rights in the 1960’s. “Evil Brotherhood Week” springs to mind immediately.

    Aside from the frankly awesome idea of Cable being able to metabolise plot coherence, could Cable regrowing his hand be down to him allowing the TO virus to make him a new one? Or is his arm actually cybernetic rather than technorganic? (I gave up craing long before this was established, but now my plot-hole sense is bugging me.

    Oh, and one of the reasons I found it hard to take Cable seriously was that he was presented as this skilled, experienced soldier, a veteran of countless battles, who promptly gets taken down by an MLF team that included Forearm and Wildside… that really doesn’t make him seem like that much of a threat.

    We never see anyone actually being harmed by Stryfe’s spykes.. I mean “spikes” do we? If not, my theory is that all the spikes and blades are actually just spray painted rubber. He’s cosplaying as the sort of baddie who would wear something like that, but he wants to be able to do things like sit down, shrug, use a knife and fork and then go to the potty without turning himself into the world’s most 1990-iest shish-kebab.

    1. If I understand Cable’s arm correctly, it’s a bionic arm with TO Virus skin over it. We see in his introduction arc here, the metallic covering is off and he’s tinkering with the robotic “skeleton” in Freedom Force’s holding cell. He must have pulled back the TO skin with his powers to fix the hand & pull out the poisoned needle and hollow tube.

      When Xtinction Agenda comes up, you’ll see the Genoshians have removed his bionic arm, making you wonder why the TO virus isn’t taking over his body if his powers were the only thing keeping it in check… unless Wipeout’s powers affected the growth of the virus too somehow?

    2. I blame Jay for this, wholly and incontrovertibly.

      With grovelling apologies to the mighty Tom Lehrer, whose piano keys I am not worthy to polish.

      – – – – – – – –

      Oh, the flatscans hate the muties,
      And the muties hate the flatscans.
      Apocalypse hates the Askani,
      It’s an old established rule.

      But during Evil Brotherhood Week, Evil Brotherhood Week,
      Rev Stryker and the Blob are dancing cheek to cheek.
      It’s fun to eulogize
      The people you despise,
      As long as you don’t let ’em in your school.

      Oh, Charles Xavier hates Magneto,
      And Magneto hates Charles Xavier.
      It’s sure not pleasant behaviour
      But it’s as Marvel as apple pie.

      But during Evil Brotherhood Week, Evil Brotherhood Week,
      Graydon Creed’s pals with Ororo ’cause it’s very chic.
      Step up and interface
      With the Sentinel on your case.
      You can tolerate him if you try.

      Oh, the Brotherhood hate the X-Men,
      And the X-Men hate the Brotherhood,
      Mister Sinister hates all the Morlocks,
      And everybody hates the Brood.

      But during Evil Brotherhood Week, Evil Brotherhood Week,
      It’s Evil Everyone-smile-at-one-another-hood Week.
      Be nice to people whose,
      DNA differs from yours.
      It’s only for a week, so have no fear.
      Be grateful that it doesn’t last all year!

      – – – – – – – –
      I’m sorry… I am so, so sorry…

  14. Before you continue being dour about 2016, I would like to remind you that you got to interview Chris Claremont in that year.

  15. Am I the only one who was really weirded out about Cable’s insistence that his army should include children because it’s their future being fought for, and the one who objected to child soldiers is the one being painted as evil (what with her currently being evil and all)?

    Seriously, Cable! Using child soldiers is a war crime!

    It would not have taken much to avoid the mention, and just say that the New Mutants and X-Force will be a fightier version of the same type of superhero team that the X-Men have always been (and included teens since the beginning), but referring to children in an army as explicitly as that weirded me out a bit.

    1. Yeah, that creeped me out too while reading the comics. Like, the kids where all over this idea (naturally) and there wasn’t and kind of responsible adult to counter it. So naturally the job of criticizing Cable was laid on the reader, which is never a good idea in literature unless you actually want the reader to root against the heroes, like in satirical prose.

  16. The beginning of Liefeld and his art style on both “New Mutants” and “X-Force” bother me a bit and the catalyst for me is Boom Boom and her new dress. From here on out Liefeld begins drawing and eventually writing the younger X-Force kids — Tabitha, Sunspot and Rictor — older and older, treating them as if they are in their mid-to-late twenties, not their mid-teens. And of course since Tabitha is a blonde girl she becomes overly sexualized.

    Comic characters don’t age as fast as real life because time as a necessity has to move slower –3 months of issues might take place over a long weekend. With Marvel, it’s worked out to about 4 published years:one story year (this has been acknowledged by Marvel editors in the past). It’s why the 1995 Spider-Clone saga takes place only 5 years after the 1975 Spider-Clone saga, and it’s why Franklin Richards, born in 1968 publications, is only about 12 now (and 6 during Onslaught and 4 during Power Pack).

    So two (publishing) years from now you are going to have issues of Excalibur and X-Factor that acknowledge several times that Kitty and Rahne are about 16 … while Rictor, Sunspot and Boom Boom are going to be drawn and treated as adults over 20. And that strikes me as ..troublesome. Especially because I’m pretty sure Boom Boom is supposed to be YOUNGER than Kitty but she’s constantly drawn like a pin-up. And that can be traced back to Liefeld here.

    One of the reasons I don’t like this pod of issues. Also he can’t draw feet 🙂

  17. ‘Metabolizing logical causality’ would be a good ability for a Doctor Who monster. In fact, it already was, in that one episode that the last living dodo wrote for my birthday.

  18. Does Stilt-Man appear in Acts of Vengeance? Yes. He is part of the hordes of lame supervillains sent to pester the FF at the congressional hearings they testify at.

  19. Stiltman fought the FF during Acts of Vengeance, along with several metric tons of other minor villains.

    It … didn’t work.

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