By Eric Drumm
Some remember the 90's as a dark age for comics.
Exploding and then declining sales, burgeoning and then tumbling publishers, and more clones than we care to remember—we're looking at you, Spidey—made it a tough time for fans. However, when it came to the X-Men, the decade of Reebok Pumps and neon produced some major characters that would shift the mutant agenda for years to come.
#90 cover by
During his run on ULTIMATE X-MEN, writer Robert Kirkman, who wears his love for the 90's proudly, gave birth to Ultimate versions of several of his personal favorites from that era. As Kirkman's swansong on the title with artist Salvador Larocca kicks off in ULTIMATE X-MEN #90, on sale January 30, he's got the X-kids doing a temporal tango with time travel troubles abounding.
As the final battle mounts between the X-Men, with wildcards Cable and Bishop apparently on their side, and the evil duo of Apocalypse and Mr. Sinister, we got Kirkman to take a breather and compare the mainstream versions of these 90's X-All Stars to his creations.
Would you send your baby away to an unknown future if it meant saving his life? That nightmare became a reality for Cyclops when his son, Nathan Christopher Summers, became infected with a techno-organic virus and his only hope for salvation lay in the world of tomorrow.
However, and adult Nathan would return to the world of the X-Men as the mysterious Cable, coming back to the present armed with telekinetic powers and a hard as nails attitude to stop the schemes of his nefarious clone, Stryfe.
Butting heads with the likes of Apocalypse and Mr. Sinister, Cable has seemed to die and then return while trying to change the world for the better. Most recently, he returned from another brush with death to steal the only mutant baby currently in existence in "Messiah CompleX," unfolding currently in the X-Men titles.
"Badass from the future, total mystery man. Glowing eye, metal arm...guns that look like iron girders. Great stuff."
Still a mysterious solider from the future, Ultimate Cable first appeared a more dastardly agenda—kill Charles Xavier. However, after seemingly succeeding in his mission, Cable returned to the future with a still quite alive Xavier, to whom he revealed his true intentions: building a stronger team of X-Men to face the evil headed its way.
However, this biggest difference when it comes to Ultimate Cable has to be his true identity, not as the son of Cyclops but as a future incarnation of the X-Man known as Wolverine!
"I wanted to keep the cool things, but at the same time make things a bit more streamlined. I thought, 'Well, he's gotta have the arm, the eye and the guns…but what could make him cooler? What weapon can top all that?' Wolverine's claws [was] the obvious answer and our sprawling time-travel epic came from that. Cable is Wolverine."
A supercop from an anti-mutant future, Bishop got thrown back into the past and joined up with the X-Men, legends in his time. Fighting for the side of good, his ability to absorb energy and fire it back has come in handy in many a mutant melee.
Bishop has been a reliable powerhouse and brash voice of grim reality on the battlefield. He's kinda like Cable, but with a jheri curl—or bald head nowadays.
"Time Traveling bad ass number [two]. For me, he and Cable kind of go hand in hand."
The older, cornrowed Ultimate version of Bishop comes off quite different from his mainstream counterpart. Appearing in our time searching for Cable, he ends up forming his own team of X-Men that includes stalwarts like Storm and Wolverine following the "death" of Charles Xavier.
Fighting alongside his team, including a teenage version of his apparent future wife Psylocke (ew), Bishop smoked both Fenris twins single handedly to stop a Sentinel attack. We recently learned that Bishop in fact has some sort of secret alliance with Cable, so his plans remain shady at best.
"Had to get rid of that mullet, man o' man was that craziness. Also, he had been introduced into the Ultimate Universe already, but I wanted him to be working with Cable, so I just had him be old. I think that changes his character in some very cool ways. Now he's even more of this sage-like leader. It really suits him. And y'know, if you want to kill the guy off, there's always his younger self in the present! Bonus!"
Few people have messed with the X-Men like Mr. Sinister. Responsible for mutant massacres and other acts of pure evil, the immortal geneticist will do whatever it takes to further his Darwinian goals of sadistic scientific exploration.
From meticulously manipulating the Summers family to masterminding the Marauders in "Messiah CompleX," Sinister has been the man behind the curtain in some of the biggest X-events in history.
"Totally cool guy, always liked him...but looking back at him, he's a goth princess, right? I mean...lipstick?
Ultimate Sinister pulls a 180 on his counterpart as a buff, tattooed serial killer serving his Lord Apocalypse, a godly figure only he sees in hallucination…or does he?
Sinister executed himself after failing to snuff out the X-Men, but looks like he will rise again alongside his master.
"Gotta throw a bone to big daddy Vaughan—that's [writer] Brian K.—since this guy was all his idea [and] the changes made to Mr. Sinister were all from his run. Just a few tweaks here and twist there from me...also, he's technically a zombie now. I'm definitely in a rut."
The name says it all.
Arguably the first mutant ever, the being once called En Sabah Nur has his origins in ancient Egypt, where he bonded with Celestial technology to become the unstoppable force known as Apocalypse.
Apocalypse's "survival of the fittest" philosophy has meant doom for humans and mutants alike, and his immortality keeps him coming back again and again. Perhaps the X-Men's ultimate foe and the evil Cable trained most of his life to defeat, Apocalypse may just be indestructible.
And if he doesn't kill you, he'll make you one of his Horsemen, a fate worse than death. Just ask Angel…and Gambit…and Wolverine…ah, you get the point.
"The ultimate baddie, he's been causing the X-Men trouble for years."
Technically, the Ultimate version of Apocalypse doesn't exist outside of the crazy ramblings of Sinister.
Before his death, Sinister said something about his master coming and being reborn. Could this be Apocalypse? All signs point to yes. Cable told Xavier that he will soon enough come face to face with something that he couldn't defeat in his own time—we smell Apocalypse.
"Definitely wanted to keep the grand scale of his usual conflicts with the X-Men and, dare I say, make it grander. We'll see all corners of the universe before Apocalypse is done. A few twists coming for the reader as we go along—don't want to give them up here."
Not many villains can stand up and say "I killed every single hero in the Marvel Universe," but Onslaught has that honor!
When Professor X shut down Magneto's mind in a fit of rage, a sliver of his psyche poisoned Xavier's mind, manifesting itself as the all powerful Onslaught. To take him down, the X-Men called in the cavalry—all
Everyone from the Avengers to the Fantastic Four to even Apocalypse took Onslaught on, and he made Swiss cheese out of every last one. In the end, the good guys managed to prevail, but only by—temporarily—sacrificing their own lives.
"Magneto and Xavier in a giant red can together. I joke, but this guy was a [serious] baddie, taking down all of the Marvel Universe, and he did look
"Well, this one will have to stay secret for now—so I'm going with the trusty 'Wait and see!'"
ULTIMATE X-MEN #90 ships January 30. Check out Robert Kirkman and Salvador Larroca teaming up on ULTIMATE X-MEN ANNUAL #1 courtesy of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.