Listen to the episode here.
I remember being so disappointed with how Lobdell portrayed Sam once he transistioned to the X-Men. I hadn’t read a lot of X-Force back then, and barely any New Mutants, having started comics in the early 90s, but even then I could tell it was like he was a completely different character. I recall the editors in the letter pages would justify it saying he was regressing because he was intimidated by being part of the the main team, but I didn’t buy it then and I buy it even less now. Cannonball literally grew up with the X-Men, and became a confident leader in his own right. And even if he was starstruck or intimidated or whatever, he was never was never quite so naive as Lobdell portrayed him. While there are a long list of things that Lobdell has done that are way worst, but I recall this was when some of the shine came off for me as at the time he was my favorite writer.
I think the problem is that once you put a character on a team, they have to be doing something as part of the ensemble. Cannonball having matured and become a confident, competent leader works fine in X-Force, but make him an X-Man, and that character isn’t adding anything to the mix.
There are other things that you could have done with Sam than reset him to “What if he’d become an X-Man in the late ‘80s?” But I think that, ultimately, the best thing would have been not to have had him become an X-Man. Sam simply hadn’t been given a story for which which that was the natural next step. He was the guy whom you would have expected to become an X-Man but ended up going off and doing his own thing instead. There’s something a little false about wrenching him back to a path that his story might have taken at one point, but didn’t. It’s resetting more than just his personality.
I feel again a nostalgic turn, a sense that this is trying to go back to the “real” (= Claremont, ‘80s) Cannonball. Not that I really object that much to resetting characters to classic versions. I could hardly read superhero comics if I did.
But this particular reset feels pointless, probably because most of the original New Mutants were designed for a coming-of-age narrative and are peculiarly ill-suited, as superhero characters go, for going back to their original selves. It’s noteworthy that this basically hasn’t stuck – Cannonball did not end up being added long-term to the list of people whom you expect to be in the X-Men.
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