Spoiler Alert

The first two episodes of X-Men ’97 introduce a bespectacled woman with government ties, presented as an old friend of Charles Xavier’s. She’s Valerie Cooper, and while you may think Marvel created her for the animated series, she actually has a long history in the X-Men comics, going back over 40 years. Here’s the Marvel Comics history of Dr. Valerie Cooper, the mutant community’s enemy-turned (sometimes) friend.

Valerie Cooper’s Introduction in Uncanny X-Men #176

Marvel Comics

During Chris Claremont’s run on the X-Men titles in the ‘80s, he introduced us to a character who would play a relatively small but pivotal role in the Marvel universe for several years. Dr. Valerie “Val” Cooper was a National Security Advisor, specializing in superhuman affairs, particularly those of the mutant variety. She actually has a PhD in the study of mutant behavioral patterns. Co-created by artist John Romita Jr., she first appeared in 1983’s Uncanny X-Men #176, shown in a government meeting with Henry Peter Gyrich. Cooper believes mutants are a clear and present danger that the United States government must deal with. At first, she doesn’t appear to be very sympathetic to the mutant cause, but her stance evolves over time.

Freedom Force Becomes Val Cooper’s Government-Sponsored Mutant Team

Marvel Comics

Eventually, the government put Valerie Cooper in charge of creating a government-sponsored mutant team. She recruited Mystique and other former members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants like Pyro and Avalanche to form the Freedom Force, in exchange for pardons for their crimes. (This predates DC Comics’ similar concept for the Suicide Squad). She even drafted Jessica Carpenter, the second Spider-Woman, into joining this new team, despite not being a mutant herself. During this time, she oversaw the recruitment of John Walker as the new Captain America, before he became US Agent. The two would eventually become romantically involved.

Marvel Comics

Val Cooper Takes Command of X-Factor

Marvel Comics

Eventually, most of the members of Freedom Force die on a mission in the Middle East, ending the experiment. After a brief possession by the malevolent Shadow King, during which Mystique impersonated her, Valerie Cooper decided to give the notion of a government-sponsored mutant team another try. For a time, the original five X-Men went under the name X-Factor. When the group returned to the X-Men proper, Cooper formed a new government-sponsored team with that name. Among the recruits were Cyclops’ brother Havok, Polaris, Wolfsbane, Strong Guy, and Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man.

Marvel Comics

Valerie Cooper formed a positive working relationship with X-Factor at first. She even became friends with the members. Yet the partnership strained when they discovered an awful truth she had kept from them. The United States government was working on something called Project: Wideawake, which would reintroduce the mutant-hunting Sentinel robots again. X-Factor was appalled their supervisor and friend would betray them like that. A shamed Val Cooper gave control of the team over to the mutant inventor Forge as a result. Cooper returned to her role in the Commission on Superhuman Activities, often helping the X-Men against her own orders. This was after coming to know them and sympathizing with their plight over her years working with them. However, at times, she had to perform unpleasant duties, like taking Professor X into government custody after the Onslaught incident.

Val Cooper becomes head of the Office of National Emergency, or O.N.E.

Marvel Comics

Around the time of M-Day, the catastrophic event when most mutants lost their powers thanks to the Scarlet Witch, Valerie Cooper helped start the Office of National Emergency, or O.N.E. This new department was meant to prepare against superhuman and mutant threats of any kind. Eventually, she climbed up to the role of O.N.E. director. In the aftermath of M-Day, Cooper’s Sentinel Squad O.N.E., which had human pilots, established a refugee camp for mutants. Interestingly, it was located on the grounds of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

Although ostensibly created for mutant protection, many of these now non-powered mutants felt forced into these refugee camps. Most felt like prisoners there. This caused even further strain between Cooper and the mutant community. X-Factor eventually reformed as a private investigation office specializing in mutant crimes. During this time, Cooper helped out her old employees when she could.

Valerie Cooper in X-Men ’97

Marvel Comics/Marvel Animation

X-Men ’97 introduces Valerie Cooper as a United Nations operative. She’s described as an old friend of Charles Xavier’s who is the X-Men’s contact within the government. The United Nations tasks her with apprehending a seemingly reformed Magneto, asking him to stand trial at the UN for his crimes as a mutant terrorist. When the hate group The Friends of Humanity attacks the UN building, hoping to not just kill Magneto but also those holding his trail, Magneto ultimately saves the lives of the entire commission. Seeing his desire to change for real, Valerie Cooper grants Magneto a pardon, allowing him to serve with the X-Men and lead them. We’ll see if Dr. Cooper continues on past these episodes in X-Men ’97. We already know X-Factor exists in this universe. Could Val be working with them? We’re crossing our fingers that X-Men ’97 explores her character further.