There’s a lot of different reactions to Cable out there. Within comics he’s sometimes an A-list character, outside of comics he’s… not. A lot of people just consider him a relic of the 90s, and a few people just regard him as that cheap guy from Marvel vs Capcom 2. But for good reasons he’s suddenly going through a renaissance of interest, and since I’ve considered him my favorite character for maybe more than half my life, I will now share with you the basics of Cable in a manner that I hope is more entertaining than just reading his Wikipedia article.
When I was a kid, growing up in an era when Venom and Spawn and Doomsday were all the hot properties, Cable was the dude in X-men books with a glowing eye and a huge rocket launcher, which I considered to make sense because rocket launchers are always useful when your breakfast workout involves fighting sentinels.
Over time I grew to appreciate him for having a masculine timber, a genuine seriousness in a decade when Television was mostly presenting me with stuff like “Goof Troop.” As I grew up, so did the depictions of the character. Eventually he was less about rocket launchers and more about fighting the bad guys while dealing with an inner struggle – against a sci-fi virus that handicapped his otherwise incredible power. Also it helped my local convenience store always had issues of his comic.
I always thought him being in a movie would be impossible since really, his past is too convoluted and he’s old. But in an era when kids know who Ronan the Accuser is, anything is possible.
When Mark Waid and Alex Ross teamed up to make Kingdom Come for DC Comics, it was a testament of the inspirational quality of yesterday over the violent and edgy nature of 90s heroes. The avatar of the new wave of terrible comics was Magog, who was basically Cable with horns. But even Alex Ross has remarked about how he doesn’t mind Magog. And if Alex Ross can appreciate Magog then you can appreciate the real thing.
Cable’s abbreviated biography:
Okay, so his life story is pretty complex and was told in completely un-chronological order. My understanding of it might have a few holes, but it starts when the ancient evil Apocalypse pisses off Victorian-era scientist Mr. Sinister, who begins a century long plan to breed a mutant powerful enough to fight Apocalyse. He concludes he needs to breed Jean Grey with Scott Summers and their mutant-super baby would be able to take out Apocalypse.
Mr. Sinister arranges for Scott to hook up with a clone of Jean Grey, and they have baby Cable, named Nathan, after Scott’s space pirate dad. (That Jean clone, Madelyne Pryor, tries to sacrifice baby Nathan to demons in the “Inferno” event but it doesn’t work out thankfully.) Baby Nathan ends up infected with a techno-organic space virus and to stop this virus from killing him he’s taken to the future where he’s trained fight it using his uncanny mutant abilities (telepathy and telekinesis). Cable’s powers would be off the charts if he wasn’t using them to fight off the virus, but on the upside, the virus gave his a metal arm, a robot eye, sometimes a metal leg.
Still with me? Apocalyse vs Mr. Sinister, born to his mom-clone, infected, taken to the far future which is ruled by Apocalypse and for some time Cable inherits the shield used by Captain America.
To prevent the terrible Apocolypse-tic future from happening, Cable comes back to the present (which is 1990, Janet Jackson tops music charts). He keeps his identity a secret for a while, recruits the B-List X-Men team (New Mutants) and turns them into X-Force. They fight against the mercenary Deadpool who falls to obscurity. By 2003, Grant Morrison introduces newer, cooler characters so nobody cares about Apocalypse. Cable… basically succeeds his mission… ?
Cable then spends a while wandering around trying to make the world a better place and fighting evil when he needs to. He enters his “Global Savior” phase, turns the global population pink for a day, starts a tropical island colony, gets the nickname “G.I. Jesus” and starts ambitious plans to save the world from itself. Deadpool is also there, they keep running into each other as if the narrative of their existence demanded it. When the DeciMation event caused mutants everywhere to lose their powers and mutants stopped being born, Cable was killed by Gambit (and Sunspot) as part of Mr. Sinister’s sinister plan.
But a baby was born who would fix all the mutant powers! And she was in the protection of Cable who faked his death so nobody would expect him to snag the toddler. To protect this baby he took it into the future, assuming that since Apocalyse was basically gone, the future would be safe. This proved to be an exceptionally bad idea and Bishop hunted Cable and the baby further and further into the future. After doing this for maybe 14ish years, Cable would leave Bishop on a dying world and bring the child, now his surrogate daughter Hope Summers – to a past where she is drawn in an outfit tighter than I’m comfortable seeing her in. Cable dies again but Hope Summer’s poorly defined mutant power fixes the DeciMation thing!
Cable eventually came back to life and returns to being a soldier fighting evil and struggling with a rebellious teenage daughter who was the salvation of mutant-kind. He also starts to die on a literally daily basis and has to reclone himself continually because it’s an easier way to save himself than more time travel.
Cable is a big tough guy who cares, a soldier and a general and scholar. A versatile warrior who is always looking for the right battle to fight and is more comfortable when in a battlefield than he is holding a child – unless he were holding a child in the middle of a battlefield. A complicated man who still enjoys big guns and cold beer. He’s like Terminator (2) if Harrison Ford were playing the Terminator instead of Arnold. And he’s a B-lister so it’s possible for him to change over time and there’s a risk he might die, (even if his deaths never last).
He’s more sci-fi than Wolverine, and more compassionate than The Punisher. He appreciates a hearty breakfast, a good tactical layout, and he’s been intimate with Domino. And I always like when there’s comic characters who aren’t twenty-somethings like Spider-Man always is. He’s very much a lot like Batou from Ghost In The Shell.
His outfit changes very frequently.
When he isn’t leading a team of B-list mutants against guys who would destroy Earth, he also does a bit of human-mutant activism since that’s what X-Men do. And during the comic book version of Marvel’s Civil War, he supported Captain America’s side. But his alignment wasn’t really “I oppose registration.” it was closer to “I’m here to stop you guys from getting killed.” Although I think his actions in the core Civil War book didn’t exactly line up with the power set he had in his own ongoing at the time, but I can forgive Mark Millar for not being able to keep track. Oh well!
Stryfe (sic) is a clone. “Another Clone?” I’m sorry it was the 90s, cloning was a big thing back then, “Dolly” the cloned sheep was considered a scientific breakthrough and I guess being the son of a clone gives Cable an inclination to being cloned. Anyway, Stryfe was an evil clone of Cable made by Apocalyse for whatever evil reasons. He really would be a bigger threat if he wasn’t a tired concept in a very bad design. He looks like Galactus made love to The Destroyer armor.
Rachel Summers is another future child of Jean and Scott, but her conception was in a different now-defunct future than Cable. She was a big character in the original “Days of Future Past” storyline and now she exists on the X-Men books like a younger Jean Grey with way cooler outfits.
Nathan Grey, Awkwardly named “X-Man”. A big appeal of Cable is his unlocked potential power inhibited by the virus, so to see that potential in action there’s his counterpart from an alternate timeline (the Age Of Apocalypse) who never was infected with the techno-organic virus. He was shuffled into storytelling limbo for a good while since he was kind of overpowered, now he doesn’t show up very often, and is usually bare-chested.
Bishop is another dude from yet anther future, also he’s black and has a hot sister. When Cable was spending time doing his quasi-religious leader bit, Bishop was being an inner city police officer. Then the DeciMation event pointed to a baby being a crucial figure in determining the fate of earth. Cable wanted to protect it and Bishop did not. So Bishop got a matching robot arm, but it turns out during his lifetime chasing Cable across a decaying future, he was just being possessed by a demon bear. Comics can be crappy sometimes.
Cable also hangs out with Irene Merryweather; his Chronicler, Blaquesmith; his Mas Kanata-looking tech support, and he has a son who became this evil dude Genesis who is less likely to show up again than Styfe so let’s not worry about him.
This is the last bit:
Putting it this way: Magneto is the big monday to friday theat to the X-Men. If the X-Men were Ryu, Magneto would be the Akuma. But the hero’s rival isn’t always the brand’s big bad guy, that’s M Bison. Or Apocalypse. So to continue the analogy, that makes Cable the Guile of the X-Men world. Wolverine/Ryu just wants to learn how to be a better fighter and maybe avenge his master, it’s Guile who needs to reach the final boss and save the world. This metaphor is pretty bad.
Cable is the star of every story-line that’s already too complicated to be directly adapted for television, born from the crossovers that make the Marvel universe changing and exciting, made to appeal to people who follow comics and don’t have any difficulty accepting that Resurrection happens pretty often.
If a new readers wants to get into comics, I say “Stay away from Cable, go read Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men.” – but me?, I know the difference between Uncanny, Astonishing, and Amazing X-Men, X-Force, and X-Factor. And when I read a book about Cable, odds are it’s being written by an author who appreciates and relies on my interest in the greater lore of the X-Men.
A mutant from the future who wants to make the world a better place, hangs out with the X-Men, now he’s an Avenger. Deadpool spent a decade trying to better himself into being Avengers material, Cable just had more important work to accomplish. Maybe he’ll end up dying off a few more times before he’s done his current Earth’s Mightiest Gig, killed by Netflix, but even with the number of mutants appearing in Marvel comics reduced, Cable has earned his permanent position on the same shelf as Captain America and Thor.
Maybe when he’s brought into the movies he’ll be played by the dude from Avatar, I would be alright with that. Or maybe he’ll be played by a professional Wrestler, I would be fine with that. Or perhaps he’ll be somebody we’ve never heard of but hopefully is over 40. Either way, it’ll be an appearance that ten years ago I would have considered impossible so I’ll appreciate what I have instead of nitpicking the director’s choice to leave out some of the dumber complexities of Cable’s history.
Michael Ryan, 2016-03-11
“Hey what about Ultimate Cable?” nobody cares.