Mutants have been part of Marvel Comics for almost as long as there’s been Marvel Comics.
Just two years after the brand was established and ‘Marvel’s First Family’ the Fantastic Four appeared to change the world, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced the X-Men: a group of crime-fighting teenagers whose super abilities came not from a weird science accident or experiment-gone-wrong, but via congenital genetic mutation.
They were, in every sense, a new breed of hero, empowered freaks whose ostentatious otherness made them as likely to be vilified by regular folk, as celebrated by them.
And breed they did, with more and more mutants appearing over the years, becoming the Marvel Universe’s most common kind of hero (or villain), with X-Men and its numerous spin offs becoming the publisher’s most popular and successful strand.
Yet we’ve never seen them in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
While Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America assembled on our big screens and became part of the Disney mega-machine, rights ownership issues kept the likes of Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops and Magneto entrenched in their own, utterly distinct franchise at 20th Century Fox.
They appeared in movies that ranged from the awesome (X2, Logan) to the atrocious (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: Apocalypse), with the long-delayed New Mutants standing as the final entry in that scrappy, 20-year canon.
Any chance of a crossover was always the stuff of fanboy-and-girl dreams, even after an encouraging Sony-Marvel deal brought Spider-Man back into the fold in 2017.
But now, of course, the Mouse has swallowed the Fox. As of 20th March last year, the X-Men are owned by the Marvel Studios-owning Disney.
However, it still remains unclear exactly how these super-freaks will be integrated into the MCU. Rights issues were only ever part of the problem; there is the lore to consider, too.
Slotting Spider-Man into Tony Stark’s world was no biggie: kid got bit by a strange spider, and voila! We have a recently empowered fresh face in the mix. Bringing over the cosmic-ray-bombarded Fantastic Four (another ex-Fox property) should be similarly straightforward.
But the X-Men? If their abilities arise from genetic mutation, how could nobody have been aware of that rather huge historical development during the past 12-odd years?
Studio boss Kevin Feige has thus far been super-vague about it all. When he announced the big titles for Phase 4 of the MCU at Comic-Con last year, he merely added at the very end of a rushed post-script, “and there’s no time left to talk about mutants.”
Since then, he’s done little to elaborate, although he did make one thing clear when speaking to IGN a little later: “Whatever we do will be quite different than what’s been done before.”
The most obvious way things differ will be in the casting. The only X-character who’s been confirmed as returning in their current actor incarnation is Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool, with Disney boss Alan Horn tweeting in April 2019, “You’ll be seeing more of Deadpool in the years to come.”
But everyone else, it seems, will be cast anew – yes, including Wolverine, under whom Hugh Jackman rather definitively drew a line with the character’s (spoiler alert) death at the end of Logan. This opens the gates for some fun speculation and fan-casting. Who’ll be the new Cyclops? (Alden Ehrenreich!) The new Mystique? (Maya Hawke!) The new Wolverine? (Tom Hardy!).
Of course, given the comics’ mutant roster is far larger than the number of characters who’ve already appeared in Fox’s 13 films, it’s conceivable we won’t see any of them, with all-new mutants making their appearance instead.
Armor, for example, who creates a suit of protective energy around herself; or Forge, with his super-gadget-making abilities. That would also help with the potential problem that audiences might feel overly familiar with the X-movie characters, and worn out by their increasingly repetitive antics.
Although, honestly, would anyone complain at the chance to see some revamped Wolvie berserker action?
What’s more likely is Feige’s team will be looking hard at the comic books and identifying the most fruitful unadapted X-Men stories to
With the X-universe itself doing the Dark Phoenix plot twice, we’re sure that’ll be the last thing we’ll see in the MCU, while Magneto is as unlikely to appear as the villain, as Green Goblin was in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
More likely is the tapping of other storylines which, for example, teamed up Kenyan-American weather-controlling mutant Storm with Black Panther (suggesting a great supporting character for the upcoming Black Panther 2 – enter Janelle Monae), or go right back to the proper origin of the team, with the first-ever line-up of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel and Iceman, all still inexperienced teenagers — similar to the MCU’s Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
There still remains the un-ignorable problem of precisely how mutants will arrive in the MCU.
It could well be that they started appearing during the five-year ‘blip’, perhaps as a result of Thanos’ universally cataclysmic snap (something hinted at in Spider-Man: Far From Home, although that turned out to be part of — another spoiler alert — Mysterio’s big con.)
Or maybe the upcoming Eternals will present the answer, revealing that the godlike Celestials secretly programmed humanity with a mutant-power sleeper gene, which that film’s events will trigger.
Fan theorisation has also convincingly posited that Scarlet Witch (actually Magneto’s daughter in the comics) holds the key, and the announcement of her inclusion in Doctor Strange And The Multiverse Of Madness is the big clue.
Partly because of that loaded word ‘Multiverse’, suggesting mutants could arrive from an alternative earth, and partly due to Scarlet Witch’s pivotal role in the comics’ House Of M storyline, in which she drastically warped the fabric of reality to bring back her dead children.
The theory being, she’ll use her weirdy-reality-bendy powers to reconfigure the MCU to such a degree, mutants will enter it in such a way that its inhabitants always thought they were there.
That will probably be a bit too cosmic-crazy for most cinemagoers to swallow. But, however it all shakes out, there does remain one huge comic-book crossover event which sounds too good, and too much of a no-brainer, for Marvel Studios to overlook.
Namely, AvX, or Avengers Vs. X-Men. Forget Civil War. Forget Infinity War. Whichever way the X-Men invade the MCU, that will be the future superhero movie event to look forward to, bar none.
New Mutants is coming soon.