Monday, April 12, 2021

Who's that Cable?

It's easy to sneer at now, after seeing all the terrible comics that came afterwards, and seeing how they collapsed into plot illegibility when Claremont left, but the changes to the X-Men comics in the very early nineties were outrageously exciting at the time. 

I was 15-years-old, which may explain things. It was right at the age when you're supposed to give up stupid things like comic books for girls and going to gigs and partying and all that. But yeah, girls were great and sneaking into gigs was intoxicating and getting wasted was great fun, but I could do those things and still read the X-Men, because things were heating up in those books, as Lee, Liefeld and Portacio let rip.

We weren't stupid, we knew the new artists had issues with some fairly basic things things like anatomy and storytelling, but the new generation of artists were splashing their enthusiasm right there on the page, and all that cross-hatching was ideal for young comic readers who hadn't had the chance to appreciate the finer levels of art.

And it wasn't just about the art, the stories also took off. After years of Claremont's tight control, there was a definite feeling that the writer was flailing about for a new direction, with no actual X-Men team for more than a year. When these artists started getting their hands stuck into the plots, they dumped in so many new characters and storylines and mysteries, eager to please a younger audience.

I ate that shit right up. While Lee had been dazzling for a while, it's much easier to forget how exciting the Liefeld comics were. So what if he couldn't draw feet? His sense of costume design was right on the point of the zeitgeist, and he was only too glad to offer up dozens of new characters, unafraid to lose the copyright to them to Marvel, because he was so sure he could come up with a dozen more.

The new kids also served up a load of great new mysteries - why did Stryfe and Cable both use the same 'stab his eyes' expletive, who was this Tolliver prick, and what the hell is an external anyway? The comics looked great and posed great new questions.

It didn't last long.

Cable's mystery evaporated in months. They kept Wolverine's history a secret for decades, but his background as the missing Summers baby seemed to come out ridiculously fast (although I only had it confirmed when I saw this fact written on a copy of X-Men #201 at David's Book Shop in central Christchurch, because there was no internet and the only comics journalism I had ever read was one issue of Comics Values Monthly from two years ago).

Just a couple of years after he had debuted in a blaze of big guns and bugger pouches, Cable's entire history was being told during Scott and Jean's honeymoon, and that was that. And yes, after the relaunch and the big creatives heading off to Image, and nobody cared anymore about all these concepts, while still mining them for dreary, never-ending stories for the next decade.

But there was a couple of years there when it was all taking off. So many years and so many bad comic books later, and they're still shiny as hell.

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