A glowing eye, a few scars, a metal arm, and plenty of pockets; thanks to a popular cartoon series, mutants enjoyed incredible popularity in the 1990s, but few of them perfectly nailed the ‘90s look like Cable. Though his alter-ego Nathan Summers had been introduced a few years prior in the January 1986 issue of Uncanny X-Men, it wasn’t until March 1990 that the fully-powered Cable emerged on the scene in New Mutants #87.
As the son of Scott Summers/Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor (a clone of Jean Grey), Cable is imbued with powerful telekinetic and telepathic abilities; however, somewhat tragically, he is unable to fully use these abilities in combat due to the fact that they must be constantly used to protect his life and his body from the “techno-organic” virus that constantly ravages it. In fact, the reason that he appears to be so much older than he should for the time period in which he appears in is because his parents sent him to the future in an attempt to cure the virus. Despite this, he’s still an absolute force to be reckoned with due to the fact that he’s a master marksman and has expert fighting skills.
Cable was first seen in conflict with the Mutant Liberation Front, the U.S. government and the Freedom Force – the New Mutants assisted him in his war against Stryfe, and he ended up becoming their de facto leader and reorganized them into the X-Force. New Mutants ended with issue #100, with Cable, plus Domino and other members of the New Mutants team appearing in the following month’s X-Force #1.
After that, Cable would star in his own series, which began in 1993 and would run for 107 issues until September 2002. Following the end of his solo run, he was paired with Deadpool in 2004’s Cable & Deadpool; both Cable and Deadpool were creations of Rob Liefeld in the early 1990s. This “buddy” team balanced the humor seen in Deadpool’s character with the stark seriousness of Cable’s personality and ran for four years, until 2008. The series ended with #50 and both Cable and Deadpool returned to solo series. Cable has since been seen acting alone, most notably in the “Messiah War” storyline, and alongside a reformed X-Force team. He'll once again get a solo series in 2017 as part of Marvel's big X-Men relaunch that has also included X-Men Gold and X-Men Blue.
Though the 1990s saw a boom in the mutant population in Marvel’s comics, it’s been pretty apparent since then that he’s enjoyed significantly more popularity than some of the other characters created around that time. He’s appeared in a number of video games, including as a playable fighter in Marvel vs Capcom 2 and as a supporting figure in the 2013 Deadpool game. While he has yet to make an appearance in the X-Men film franchise, he's set to appear in Deadpool 2, though no one has yet been cast in the role.
For many, it seems as though the 1990s were just yesterday, but Cable’s evolution over the years has helped mark the time. He’s gone from a typical cryptic antihero to a fan-favorite gun-toting mutant over the last 25 years and in that time has proven that he’s got the same staying power as the Magnetos, Nightcrawlers, and Jean Greys. Many products of the ‘90s have faded – boy bands, frosted tips, and grunge are all out of vogue – but Cable? He’s not going anywhere. Thankfully for him, the “big guns and lots of pockets” look still works.