Marvel’s time-traveling, cybernetically enhanced mutant Cable is about to kick Deadpool’s ass six ways from Sunday in Deadpool 2. But who is he? Where does he come from? Why should you care? Here’s everything you need to know about Cable on today’s episode of The Dan Cave.
[brightcove video_id=”5785286375001″ brightcove_account_id=”3653334524001″ brightcove_player_id=“rJs2ZD8x”]As is the case with most Marvel characters, Cable’s backstory has shifted and changed a bit over the years, so here is an overview on how he came to be the surly, cyborg-y X-Man we know and love. In classic X-Men fashion, Cable’s origin story is more confusing than trying to use Wingdings to decode the Zodiac Killer’s letters. The character of Cable as we know him today first appeared in 1990’s The New Mutants #87. Created by Rob Liefeld and Louise Simonson, Cable was created after editor Bob Harras instructed his team they needed to shake things up and create a new team leader who was drastically different than Professor X. After kicking around names like Commander X, Cyber, and Quinn, they settled on Cable, a time traveler from the future with a metal arm, a glowing cybernetic eye, and a perpetual frown that not even Photoshop could turn upside-down. The result was like what would happen if deviantART’s Sonic the Hedgehog fandom were asked to make an original character inspired by Terminator.
In his debut, Cable helped the New Mutants battle against the sinister terrorist organization, the Mutant Liberation Front, who were led by a mysterious armored man named Stryfe, a character whose backstory would intertwine with Cable’s in a truly preposterous way…but we’ll get there in a moment.
While New Mutants #87 was the first time we met Cable, the character actually made an appearance in 1986’s Uncanny X-Men #201 as a baby named Nathan Christopher Charles Summers. He was the son of Cyclops himself, Scott Summers, and Madelyne Pryor, who was later revealed to be a clone of Jean Grey created by one of the X-Men’s villains Mr. Sinister, who hoped to use their powerful mutant baby to defeat Apocalypse. You know, because comics.
Scott and Madelyne’s happy marriage would come to a brutal end. Madelyne was driven mad by Cyclops abandoning her and their son when Jean Grey came back from the dead, as well as learning the truth of her creation. Madelyne snapped, and tried to sacrifice young Nathan and several other babies to demonic entities from the realm of Limbo. Fortunately, Cyclops, Jean Grey, X-Factor, and members of the X-Men stepped in to save the day. Scott and the newly resurrected Jean Grey received custody of the child, but things went from bad to worse when Apocalypse kidnapped the wee baby Nathan and infected the child with the Techno-Organic Virus. It was a deadly virus that slowly turns its host’s genetic material into machinery, and served as Apocalypse’s insurance policy against Mr. Sinister. In a deeply strange plot twist, we would later learn that this virus was first given to Apocalypse by an older Cable, who traveled back in time under the moniker of the Traveler, and Apocalypse then gave it to a young Cable many years later, thus creating the a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.
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To protect Nathan, Cyclops gave his son to a woman from Clan Askani, a sisterhood dedicated to defeating Apocalypse, who claimed the boy would become a savior in her time period (read: 2000 years in the future) and that she could cure him of his disease. Unfortunately, this was a one-way trip for Nathan, and Cyclops bid his baby adieu, believing it would be the last time they crossed paths. In the 39th century, on an Earth ruled by Apocalypse, Nathan was raised by Mother Askani, who was secretly his half-sister Rachel Summers, who was displaced from her own time period—the Days of Future Past timeline, to be specific. While trying to cure his techno-organic virus, Rachel cloned Nate just in case things went south…which they inevitably did when Apocalypse’s cronies kidnapped the clone-baby, giving it to Apocalypse, who raised the child as his son, a man who would grow up to become Stryfe.
Gasp you should! That’s right, that mysterious armored terrorist who Cable went toe-to-toe with was his brother from another test tube. Cable has had to face off with his clone on more than one occasion, but that’s hardly the weirdest part of Cable’s existence. As he grew up, Cable was raised by psychic projections of Scott Summers and Jean Grey, inhabiting cloned bodies, and living as Redd and Slym Dayspring. They never told Nathan they were his real parents and did their best to train their son to fulfill his destiny as the one who would eventually overthrow Apocalypse. While the techno-organic virus had spread across the left side of Nathan’s body, Redd taught Nathan how to use his telekinetic abilities to prevent the virus from spreading to the rest of his meaty bits.
Much like in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Cable is incredibly overpowered. As the son of Scott Summers and Madelyne Pryor, Cable was born with powerful mutant abilities. In particular, Cable is an immensely gifted psionic, with the powers of telepathy and telekinesis. He possesses superhuman endurance and mental endurance, which sound like they come in handy in the nightmarish future he calls home. He has a degree of superhuman strength too, thanks to his telekinetic training which he used to reinforce his body on a cellular level. His cybernetic eye lets him see light on spectrums not visible to the human eye. A gifted warrior trained in advanced weaponry and hand-to-hand combat, Cable is a natural-born leader and has a knack for battle strategy. According to Marvel’s website, which also says he can use telekinetic barriers to protect himself from a ground zero detonation of a one-kiloton nuclear warhead. He also apparently has a law degree from Harvard. In other words, he is incredibly powerful. Definite Chosen One material. Case in point: during his teenage years, he managed to defeat Apocalypse once and for all by preventing the mutant from transferring his essence into a new body.
So how did Cable wind up back in the 20th century with everyone’s favorite X-Men? Well, that’s thanks in no small part to Stryfe, his evil clone. Despite living in a futuristic nightmare, Cable found love in a hopeless place, marrying an Askani sister named Aliya and having a son named Tyler. Or at least a presumed son. He miiiight be Stryfe’s kid, which would make Cable his uncle, I guess? I don’t know. Unfortunately, Aliya was murdered by Stryfe and Tyler was kidnapped and brainwashed by his dad’s evil clone. If that weren’t bad enough, Cable was forced to shoot his son to save his friend Dawnsilk’s life. Naturally, after all of this, when Stryfe traveled through time back to the 20th century, Cable followed suit, arriving in Scotland where he encountered everyone’s favorite geneticist Moira MacTaggert, who took him under her wing. Adopting the name Cable—meant to symbolize his link between the present and the future—he traveled to America where he helped Professor X implement highly advanced security measures in the X-Mansion in exchange for lessons on how to live in the 20th century (a scene I very much hope to see in Deadpool 2).
Cable went on to reshape the New Mutants into X-Force, a more militant and dangerous version of the X-Men who we will see in Deadpool 2, and together they sought to stop Stryfe’s sinister plans and prevent Apocalypse from becoming too powerful. Using a powerful ship known as the Graymalkin, named for the street where the X-Mansion is located, Cable traversed the timestream between the 1990s and the future, aided by his trusty A.I. named the Professor.
But how exactly is Cable connected to Marvel’s Merc with a Mouth? Cable and Deadpool first crossed paths in New Mutants #98 when a man named Tolliver hired the motor-mouthed assassin to kill Cable. Unbeknownst to Cable, Tolliver was secretly his son Tyler Dayspring, who had also traveled back in time from the 39th century. The unlikely allies Cable and Deadpool starred in a 50-issue series in the mid-2000s, which proved to be a hit thanks to Cable’s gruff, take-no-prisoners attitude and Deadpool’s fourth wall-breaking, quippy antics. It’s a little unclear if Cable and Deadpool will see eye-to-eye in this film, but at least we’ll always have Wade demonstrating his sweet katana skills. Spoiler alert: Cable’s bullets are really fast.
Images: Marvel Comics
Sources: Marvel; Wikia; Comic Vine
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Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about Star Wars and the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter (@DanCasey).