Thanks largely in part to the popular cartoon series, Marvel’s mutants enjoyed a surge of popularity in the 1990s. However, few of them perfectly nailed the ‘90s look like quite like Cable. A creation of Rob Liefeld and Louise Simonson (with his civilian identity having been the creation of Chris Claremont), Cable has become far more than just a relic of his time. 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 usually 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, since 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 reorganizing them into the X-Force. New Mutants ended with #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 ran 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 cop style 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, notably in the “Messiah War” storyline, and alongside a few different reformed X-Force teams. He also rejoined forces with Deadpool in Cable & Deadpool: Split Second, which saw Cable travel through time with the red-clad mercenary to help fix a number of mistakes caused by Deadpool.
Most recently, a time-displaced, much younger Cable began starring in his own series once again, with the first issue debuting on March 11, 2020.
Though not a typical go-to for X-Men representation in other media, Cable has enjoyed his fair share of time on television, in films and in video games. He made a handful of appearances in X-Men: The Animated Series, though this iteration of the character featured his trademark metal arm as a purposeful bionic construct, rather than as an effect of the techno-organic virus; the cartoon also explained that he time-traveled back from the year 3999, where he is responsible for leading forces against the villainous Apocalypse. He was voiced by Lawrence Bayne in the series.
In 2018’s Deadpool 2, Cable made his live-action film debut, portrayed by Josh Brolin. In the film, he comes back in time to try and kill the young mutant Russell Collins, who in Cable’s timeline becomes a ruthless criminal, eventually murdering Cable’s entire family. Deadpool forms X-Force to try and stop Cable, though the two end up teaming up to prevent Russell from experiencing the events that would spur him down the path to villainy.
In non-comics media, Cable has been most often seen in video games. In Marvel vs. Capcom 2, he appears as a playable character, once again voiced by Lawrence Bayne. He’s been a hidden, secret or unlockable character in some other X-Men titles, such as in X-Men: Gamesmaster’s Legacy and X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse.
In the Deadpool video game, Cable played a significant supporting role to the title character, helping out in fighting enemies on occasion. He appeared as a major non-playable character in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, and became playable via downloadable content; in Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, he originally wasn’t in the game at all before being added with an expansion.
Though three decades have passed already, given the increased attention the character has received as of late due to appearing in popular other media, Cable seems as relevant as he’s ever been. Though given his propensity for time-travel, this mutant may forever be timeless.