To this day, even when Disney-owned Marvel is doing their best to not promote the mighty mutants because Fox owns the film rights, I am sticking with my favorite comic franchise. And indeed it is a franchise. Just as exciting as the core X-Men series’ is the spinoffs that have happened over the decades. The concept of the X-Men and the mutants is so vast and diverse that one book cannot contain it. Some people are annoyed at how many X-books are always on the market. I say bring them on! The story possibilities are endless.
And now, Fox finally understands that the spinoffs are just as important as Xavier’s team of heroes. We just were given an excellent adult TV show on FX based on Xavier’s insanely powerful progeny, Legion, and this fall the Fox TV network is giving us The Gifted, a show that explores the fear and angst that young teenage mutants face when their powers manifest at puberty. In movie theaters we were just recently shown that movies like Logan and Deadpool can provide a gritty, R-rated narrative in the X-Men universe and make a ton of money. Now, a New Mutants movie is in the works that will introduce a new generation of mutant heroes to the masses.
The truth is, the X-Men aren’t at all dying out...they are still ushering in the future. That’s not even speaking of the comic book spinoffs that are coming out these days like Jean Grey, Iceman, Weapon X and the Generation X revival.
In that spirit, I’d like to fire up the “list machine” and talk about my favorite X-spinoff books over the years. It was not an easy task to rate them, so bear with me. And remember this is all a matter of opinion. I’m sure that Blink miniseries you loved so much was great, but I can’t make EVERYONE happy, so...deal.
Let’s not forget about the Ragin’ Cajun! Gambit lately has gotten the rough end of the stick. He hasn’t been prominently featured in the comics in quite some time (until his return to the team recently in X-Men Gold), and that is probably because a big solo movie was in the works starring Channing Tatum and now...that project is seemingly in the limboest of Hollywood limbos. It’s a shame, because I think Remy is one of the coolest X-Men ever.
He’s a bit of an anti-hero like Wolverine but he’s got his own ladies-man, rough around the edges, bad-boy deal going on too. The bayou river-rat accent, the trench coat, the cool power of blowing crap up....there’s not much wrong with Gambit. I’m still not sure if Channing Tatum would have got the job done in my eyes (was Taylor Kitsch all that bad? It was the movie he was in, not the actor, right?), but the movie still would have done well, I think. Or maybe it will happen, I don’t know, it took them a good decade to make the Deadpool movie happen.
Anyway, Gambit’s solo comics, even though notoriously short-lived, were always fun reads. I specifically remember the Fabian Nicieza/Steve Skroce (one of the coolest, most underrated comic artists ever) run to be very significant and fun. The issue where Remy team-ups with Blade was absolute magic.
There’s still a lot more to explore with Gambit, and he’s a character that will always be popular. Here’s hoping his comeback has good results.
I’m sorry for the placing, my British/European friends, but this comic just wasn’t as popular in these parts. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t awesome, though. I mean, any team that had Nightcrawler, Kitty and Colossus on it AND had Alan Davis doing pencils is awesome in my book.
With a mix of mutants and magically powered characters, Excalibur was Europe’s premiere superhero team that battled all kinds of threats, be it alien, mystical or interdimensional. Led by Psylocke’s brother, Brian Braddock/Captain Britain, this team gave comic fans overseas some heroes to be proud of. And the series lasted a good while compared to most X-titles too, with 4 volumes of comics being published off and on from 1997-2007.
Would anyone be against an Excalibur revival? I often wonder why it hasn’t happened yet. Although after the “brexit” situation, is Captain Britain even a European anymore?! That could be an issue.
8. Generation X
I originally wanted to put this title much higher on the list, and then I realized that maybe I was in the minority as a HUGE Generation X fan. When Chris Bachalo created this team of freshly mutated teen heroes (and Jubilee), I was a fresh-faced high schooler around the same age as the characters in the comic, so of course IT WAS MY JAM!
What I loved about this comic was that it was very similar to New Mutants, but the characters and their power sets were not as glamorous as a lot of the past students at Xavier’s school. They had Skin: a former gang member that had about 6 feet of extra skin on his body that he could manipulate, Chamber: who the whole bottom of his jaw was accidentally blown off because of his powers, Husk: a girl that could peel her skin off and transform the new layer into any substance, and characters like that. They were real outcasts and had powers that were kind of awkward and gross and when you are going through puberty you feel awkward and gross and the comic just...worked. And it was my first exposure to Bachalo’s strange, dark, weird art style and I was hooked on his stuff for life. His stuff was even crazier in the late 90’s so I’d check it out.
The comic also was the exact point where Emma Frost left the Hellfire Club and turned over a new leaf and came into Xavier’s fold, with the help of Banshee, her co-mentor of the team. Of course, recent events have completely changed Emma for the worst, but at least this series showed a new side of the character.
Maybe this comic WAS popular back then because it even spawned a TV movie on Fox in 1996 (the first live-action X-Men related project ever, to my knowledge) that was supposed to turn into a regular TV series, but it never happened. Because the movie was pretty lame (a white actress actually played Jubilee). You can watch the entire movie on Youtube. It will literally hurt your eyes and brain.
There’s a new Generation X series on the horizon starring some of my favorite young muties like Quentin Quire and Eye Boy. I hope it captures the same (or at least similar) magic that the original series did.
Cable’s many solo comic runs have had highs and lows. For me, the most memorable and heartwarming Cable comics was the second volume of his ongoing series, where he adopted and raised the young mutant messiah, Hope as they escaped into the timestream.
The obvious influence of the classic Manga Lone Wolf and Cub made this series by Duane Swierczynski and Ariel Olivietti a MUST READ. It also made longtime X-Man Bishop an unlikely but amazing villain. The dueling time-travelling savior rivalry between Cable and Bishop came to a head in great ways in this series. And the father-daughter dynamic between Cable and Hope was absolutely adorable. Treat yourself to that run if you haven’t already.
Cable has proven over the years that he is one of the great X-Men spinoff characters and can definitely hold his own in a solo comic. We were recently informed that Josh Brolin (who seems to love being in comic book adaptations) will be playing Cable in the Deadpool sequel. I think he’s a perfect choice and will bring justice to Nathan. If we’re lucky, we just may see him get his own movie series, too! Why not?
6. Alpha Flight
Am I biased? Yeah, I’m biased. I can’t help but be proud of my country’s very own super hero squad. Alpha Flight was Marvel’s premiere Canadian superhero team and the team Wolverine was a part of before joining up with the X-Men.
He wasn’t called Captain Canada (that name was sort of already taken), but Vindicator was basically our own Captain America. James Hudson was more like Iron Man than Cap, though, as he had a special suit that gave him powers. I would go to say Vindicator’s costume was always a bit underrated too...it had a cool, patriotic design! In fact, the whole team had really funky looks to them. This made them much more like Canada’s X-Men than our own Avengers. I mean, they even had their own “little person”, Puck! Nobody but X-Men mastermind, John Byrne would think of making a superhero dwarf. Or a giant, orange SASQUATCH, for that matter! They first appeared in the pages of X-Men, but it was clear the team was destined for their own spinoff, and it was not only popular in Canada, I’ve met more than a few American fans of Alpha Flight too! Byrne’s beautiful artwork, which was SO HOT at the time, didn’t hurt at all either.
We can be proud to say the first open LGBTQ Marvel superhero, Northstar, was one of the founding members of Alpha Flight too. Back in the 80’s they didn’t write him as gay (Marvel editors actually had a strict anti-gay character stance, if you can believe it), but Byrne has stated that he always meant him to be so. Hey, Canada is nothing if not progressive!
Now, Alpha Flight has taken a new role as Earth’s first line of defense against alien threats up in space with Captain Marvel leading them, but we should never forget their roots as one of the best (yeah, I said it) X-Men spinoffs in history.
And no, I’m not talking about the singing competition show. X-Factor was a pretty outstanding comic series for a very long time. The team originally was comprised of the original five X-Men, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman and Angel and later on Cyclops’ brother Havok led a government sanctioned team of the same name comprised of various characters from the X-mythos.
Even later (and my favorite iteration of the team), X-Factor became a private investigation team led by Jamie Madrox/The Multiple Man, primarily working in District X, or the “mutant ghetto” in New York. Yes, that comic was as cool as it sounds....at least for a little while.
The X-Factor Investigations era (written by comic legend, Peter David) was by far the highlight of the series’ history as it brought a good, street-level detective feel and had a great cast of characters including Strong Guy, Wolfsbane, M, a great new character called Layla Miller, Rictor and Shatterstar (the latter two finally being revealed as a couple during the series after YEARS of hints). It was a really fun run.
I do think X-Factor ran its course, but there are many Marvel mutants running around with no team to call home, so don’t be surprised if we see another iteration of the team pops up someday!
Way back in 1991, I was 10 years old. And when you are 10 years old, (apparently) things like weird basic anatomy, missing limbs and impossibly huge shoulder pads are kind of cool, so Rob Liefeld’s artwork was AWESOME! Yes, I admit it. He was young, he was in Levi’s jeans commercials and he was living the dream as a top comic book artist at Marvel Comics. And when he took over art duties on New Mutants and then it evolved into X-Force with him writing...it was a must-read title! The original team was Cable, Domino, Cannonball, Sunspot, Boom Boom, Warpath and then the additions of Feral and Shatterstar and it was definitely the next evolution of the New Mutants.
And we got a whole new set of villains too, but perhaps the strangest occurrence was the fact that this is the book where we were introduced to maybe one of the biggest comic book characters around at the moment, DEADPOOL. Back then I never would have expected this Deathstroke The Terminator knockoff to be anything popular whatsoever. Weird how things work out.
They were not teenagers anymore, they were young adults and Cable was turning them into soldiers to prepare for the dangerous future he knows is on the horizon. It was a deviation from Xavier’s dream but at the same time it was a nice change from the straightforward superhero goodie two-shoes stuff. And that was only the beginning for the group.
In 2008 we got a whole new version of X-Force as a black ops team lead by Wolverine willing to do the gritty stuff that the X-Men couldn’t. Decked out in black & grey and ready to kick butt, the Rick Remender run was absolutely phenomenal and some of the coolest X-related comics in a long time. We got a small resurgence with Cable back in charge recently, but it wasn’t nearly as popular and was short lived.
I wouldn’t object to a new version of X-Force down the road with a new generation of young, adult mutants and an edgier tone!
From the book where Deadpool originated to the Merc With A Mouth’s very own solo series! Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza created Wade Wilson but it was Joe Kelly and Ed McGuiness that revolutionized the character as the 4th wall breaking, foul-mouthed, Ryan Reynolds look-alike we know today! It took two decades but Deadpool is now one of the most popular Marvel characters of all time! And basically it was because at the time nobody was paying much attention to Deadpool’s solo book at Marvel and Kelly could do whatever he wanted with it. So he made it a cult phenomenon, no big deal!
Last year’s awesome movie helped a great deal, but what has made Deadpool so damn popular is that he’s an unconventional character that doesn’t take himself seriously and his hilarious ability to poke fun at the whole superhero dynamic while being in the midst of it. It’s definitely a great concept and after a long time being comics’ biggest cult secret, now the masses have finally caught on. And I give Ryan Reynolds and the first film’s director, Tim Miller all the credit in the world for sticking to their guns and making an adaptation that was true to the nature of the comics. They surely could have made a generic superhero flop and I’m sure Fox wanted that very dearly. That’s why it took so long for the movie to get made. Remember what they did to Deadpool in X-Men Origins?! You can bet they wanted more of that.
Deadpool solo comics (and even the ones where he’s on a team like Mercs For Money and Uncanny Avengers) are big sellers on the comic shelf and there’s no sign of that changing anytime soon! Whether you’re a diehard DP fan or an occasional one (like myself), there’s no denying that this is one of the greatest X-spinoffs ever.
2. New Mutants
People are gonna argue with me, but The New Mutants was one of the best X-Men spinoffs ever. Not just because it was the FIRST spinoff, because it was, but because it took one of the most important aspects of being a mutant, that the powers manifest at puberty...and then expanded upon that.
Much like the original team of X-Men, the comic was about teenagers dealing with their powers with one important exception...they weren’t X-Men. They were the X-Men’s students and they are thrust into becoming superheroes in the shadow of the big-shot superhero team.
I feel like I grew up with Cannonball, Sunspot, Mirage, Wolfsbane, Magik and Warlock...so much so that I probably refer to them as Sam, Bobby, Dani, Rahne, Illyana and...Warlock more than I do their superhero codenames. The X-Men were awesome, but the New Mutants always had this charm that worked on a whole different level. As a kid you know you never could dream to be an X-Man, but being a New Mutant somehow felt attainable.
We are soon getting a New Mutants movie starring Anya Taylor-Joy as Magik and Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams as Wolfsbane. I really hope the film captures the comics’ feel. But if it doesn’t, next season’s The Gifted TV series looks like it could easily pick up the slack where the movie doesn’t. I’ve always felt the X-Men mythos was tailor-fit for television, and now we finally get to test that theory.
If you know me, you probably knew this was coming. From the time Chris Claremont and Frank Miller put together the very first Wolverine solo miniseries in 1982 where he travelled to Japan to face The Hand ninjas, this character has had so many solo comics and miniseries’, it’s hard to tell whether Wolverine comics are an X-Men spinoff, or X-Men has become a Wolverine spinoff!
From battling the Silver Samurai and Viper in Japan to when he went undercover as Patch in Madripoor, to his annual brawls against Sabretooth on his birthday to finding out about his mysterious past in the Weapon X project to becoming an Enemy of the State to X-23 to Daken to his inevitable “death” and then Old Man Logan.....Wolverine’s saga is like no other in comics history. Who would have thought that a silly, Hulk enemy with pigstickers coming out of his hands and a weird mask with whiskers would come this far?
I know, his popularity waned over the years after Marvel went on a tear promoting the character and using him persistently as a guest-star to boost sales on almost every comic imaginable in the 1990’s, but I grew up loving Logan and I always will. He’s the epitome of cool and the ultimate anti-hero, in my opinion. The X-Men are amazing on their own and I love the group without him, but even I have to admit he’s the reason the comic has been so popular over the years. There’s not much more you need to say than that.
Well, there you have it. That’s what I think, but as always feel free to share your own opinion in the comments section! That’s all for now, true believers! Bleed out!