This week it was announced that Fox is developing a live-action film version of The New Mutants as a spin-off of their X-Men franchise, with The Fault In Our Stars director Josh Boone coming on board as co-writer and director, and long time X-Men producers Simon Kinberg and Lauren Shuler Donner attached as well.
The original New Mutants title was a huge hit for Marvel back in the day, and was the first X-Men spin-off book, proving that angst-ridden mutants were a brand all their own. By the end of the eighties, they were joined by X-Factor, Excalibur and a solo Wolverine title. However, New Mutants was special because in many ways it captured what was so great about those original Stan Lee and Jack Kirby X-Men books. They were all about being a kid and coming into your own, with the extra hassle of having super powers on top of everything else.
As a longtime fan of the third class of students at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, here are five bits of advice that Boone and the producers of The New Mutants should definitely consider when bringing these kids to the big screen in all their well-deserved glory.
Keep the original team line-up and mission statement
There have been a couple teams to go under the name “The New Mutants” at Marvel — one as recently as a few years ago — but the team most fans associate with the name is the one that debuted back in 1982 and had a very successful run throughout the rest of the decade. That team consisted of Sam Guthrie (Cannonball), Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane), Roberto Dacosta (Sunspot), Xi’an Coy Mahn (Karma), and Danielle Moonstar (Mirage). Others would join these five over the next few years, like Colossus’ sister Magik, Magma, Warlock, and Cypher, the latter of which has the power to instantly read and decipher any language, a power as exciting to watch as paint dry. (Um, maybe Cypher sits this one out guys.)
While a lot of younger fans now probably think the New Mutants were just the junior varsity X-Men, their mission statement was originally quite different. Formed by Charles Xavier after one of the many, many times he believed his students, the X-Men, were killed, he started to rethink his idea of training young kids to be mutant soldiers. With that in mind, the New Mutants were formed to simply train students in the use of their powers, and NOT go into battle in order to fight mutant bad guys. Trouble always managed to find them anyway, but I believe this mission statement is a clear distinction between these students and the X-Men.
Use Emma Frost and the Hellions as villains
One of the key aspects of the original Chris Claremont/Louise Simonson run of The New Mutants was their rivalry with the Hellfire Club’s own school for mutants, known as the Massachusetts Academy. The students there were referred to as The Hellions and, as you can imagine coming from a school run by an institution called The Hellfire Club, they weren’t really all that nice. Taught to be more aggressive against humans and meaner in general by their Headmistress Emma Frost, the Hellions had a kind of “Slytherin vs. Gryffindor” style rivalry with the kids at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, which resulted in lots of cool stories.
Thanks to X-Men: First Class, we know that X-Men movie universe has a Hellfire Club. And although it’s leadership dies at the end of that particular movie, there’s no reason Emma Frost couldn’t have reformed it later. (And yes, I’m aware that Days of Future Past had Magneto name-check her as one of the dead mutants killed by Trask, but we never saw a body, and all you have to do is have her saunter in, say “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Diamonds are forever, boys”, and it’s the easiest retcon ever.) In the comics, Frost’s Hellions were all ultimately killed by Sentinels, forcing her to concede to that her more aggressive way of teaching was not as good as Xavier’s, which is when she joined the side of the good guys. All of this would be great stuff for future sequels, but the Hellions could be set up first in a New Mutants film.
When it comes to Warlock, do him right, or not at all
One of the most popular characters from the original run of The New Mutants was Warlock, who wasn’t even a mutant really; rather he was an alien being from a race called Technarchy, who are mechanical organisms that survive by infecting living creatures with a techno-organic virus, before draining the life energy of the infected organism. Warlock, unlike the rest of his people, possessed a certain amount of compassion for sentient beings, and as a result was dubbed a mutant, which is how he ended up as a student in Xavier’s School.
Warlock was a character that looked great when drawn by his co-creator, artist Bill Sienkiewicz, but mostly looked like a mess when any other artist attempted to draw him. He also talked in a somewhat silly way where he referred to himself always as “self” and all the team members as “self friends”, which was kind of annoying. He was the center of a lot of attempts at humor and, frankly, if done poorly onscreen, could come off as the second coming of Jar Jar Binks. Since aliens haven’t even been touched upon in the X-Men movie universe, it would be difficult to introduce him smoothly. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but where a live-action Warlock is concerned…just tread carefully.
Consider Magneto as the Headmaster of Xavier’s School
Approximately mid-way through Chris Claremont’s run on the title in the eighties, Charles Xavier was mortally wounded and had to leave Earth to heal. He chose his old friend and rival Magneto to take over as the headmaster of his school, causing all kinds of drama. The X-Men wouldn’t live in the same house as their former archenemy at first, and let’s just say it was a rough transition from mutant terrorist to the teacher of a bunch of teenagers.
Unfortunately, until X-Men: Apocalypse hits theaters next summer, we don’t really know what the final fate of Magneto will be. We don’t see Ian McKellen in the “everyone’s happy and alive” future version of Xavier’s School at the end of Days of Future Past, so does that mean he dies at some point in the past now? Or does he reform, as he often did in the comics? If Ian McKellen is still around and willing, it would be interesting to see him take over for Charles at some point. Just don’t let him wear anything like the costume he wore when he was the school’s headmaster. Some things are better left forgotten.
A New Mutants film could properly lead into X-Force
The mutant team X-Force, which introduced the world to now-beloved characters like Deadpool and Cable, actually started out as a New Mutants spin-off, or rather a New Mutants re-branding. Despite both their teachers, Xavier and Magneto, trying hard to make these particular students live ordinary lives, the world in which they live is a very dangerous place, and they ended up becoming exactly what Xavier never wanted — soldiers. It’s at this point, in issue #100 of The New Mutants, that the team becomes X-Force, under the guidance of the soldier from the future called Cable.
Despite X-Force being a huge commercial hit and making a big name out of artist Rob Liefeld, those early X-Force stories were actually kind of crappy, and don’t hold up well today. Still, the basic premise was sound and the idea of the children becoming exactly what their parents (in this instance, Xavier and Magneto) didn’t want is fodder for a great X-Force movie (which Fox is said to have in development). The foundation for that X-Force movie could be established in a New Mutants movie first, and probably should be. Just go easy on all those shoulder pads and pouches please.
What would you like to see from a New Mutants movie? Let us know in the comments below.