Since their inception in 1963, the X-Men have been one of the most recognizable and influential superhero groups in popular culture. They’ve spawned a media empire comprised of films, TV shows and a seemingly endless string of merchandise. They’ve introduced comic book fans to some of the greatest heroes and villains of any medium, and with X-Men Apocalypse hitting theatre May 27th, it’s safe to say that they’re not going anywhere any time soon.
But when characters have been around for as long as the X-Men have, sometimes writers find it necessary to shake thing up a bit. Sometimes this works out for the best, or we’re reintroduced to characters we forgot about long ago. Yet other times we’re left scratching our heads and wondering why in the world they messed with our beloved characters. Join us as we take a look at some of the most perplexing X-Men character reinventions of all time.
Betsy Braddock debuted in 1976 as the twin sister of Captain Britain, a Captain America rip-off that we assume had bad teeth and a propensity for tea. Betsy tagged along on her brother’s adventures, helping him out with her psychic powers and eventually dying her blonde hair purple. She even took on the mantle of Captain Britain for a short time, until she was blinded in action.
Abducted and taken to the Mojoverse, she is brainwashed and fitted with bionic eyes, and is eventually rescued by the New Mutants. She later becomes a member of the X-Men, but after realizing that having yet another telepath on the team was kind of boring, the writers pulled out all of the stops on the way to crazy town. Rendered an amnesiac, she is taken by the mystical ninja group The Hand, who brainwash her and alter her physically to look Asian.
Then, a character named Kwannon. who looks like Braddock before she was Asian-ified, pops up out of nowhere and claims that the Asian Psylocke is an imposter. This was later revealed to be false, Kwannon was actually the imposter, and the reason Psylocke acted so weird was because of “mental splicing” between her and Kwannon. It’s probably better to pretend that Psylocke was Asian to begin with.
We can see why the writers over at Marvel wanted to breathe some new life into Warren Worthington III. Sure he was one of the original X-Men, but the dude has wings that allow him to fly. That’s it. Who cares? In the ’80s, it was decided that Angel’s playboy persona was to be replaced with a darker and broodier Angel because they had no idea what to do with a character whose power was useless compared to all of the other cooler mutants that had cropped up since his introduction.
To accomplish this, they mutilated Angel’s wings to the point where they had to be amputated. He is then spirited away by Apocalypse, who tells Angel that he can give him back his wings if he serves as one of Apocalypse’s Four Horseman, a proposition Angel agrees to.
So Angel is genetically altered by Apocalypse and fitted with razor sharp “techno organic” wings that could shoot poisonous “feathers.” Also, his skin turned blue. For some reason.
An extremely powerful mutant who can control the weather, Ororo Munroe was perceived as a living God in her native Africa. Upon immigrating to the United States, Ororo joins up with the X-Men and becomes Storm. Since her introduction in 1975, Storm has be portrayed as a calm, cool and collected leader of the mutant superhero group, proving herself to be an invaluable member of the X-Men.
When the ’80s rolled around, it was decided that Storm needed to ditch the disco jumpsuit and opt for an all leather get up. To top it all off, they gave her a new haircut, which presumably influenced Jared Leto’s mohawk of 2010.
Granted X-Men writer Chris Claremont said that this design was a joke gone too far, but what happened next is even more perplexing. To go along with her new punk look, Storm adopted the persona of a testy emo kid and took a liking to bare knuckle brawling. Thankfully, she reverted back to her old self, and Marvel hoped that we would all just forget about Storm’s bout with late onset teenage angst. We didn’t.
7. Professor X
In 1993, Professor X got really sick of Magneto’s militant stance on human/mutant relations and used to his powers to completely wipe his former friend’s mind, which left Magneto in a catatonic state. Aside from feeling guilty about taking such extreme action, this act had more severe ramifications.
Essentially, all of Magneto’s anger, grief, vengeance entered Professor X’s mind and started a party with all of Professor X’s suppressed negative feelings. This created a separate sentient psychic entity that called itself Onslaught, which laid dormant for some time. After a series of increasingly distressing occurrences, the Onslaught persona began to manifest itself.
Through a variety of shifty moves, Onslaught was able to physically separate itself from within Professor X’s mind. Now separate from Professor X’s benevolence, Onslaught was pure evil, and continued in its plan to bring about a war with the humans.
The resulting battle was responsible for a number of heroes’ “deaths,” in which they were transported to a “pocket universe” with no knowledge of their past lives. This was very divise for fans and critics alike, however the weirdest revelation of the Onslaught saga was the revelation that Professor X used to have a thing for Jean Grey when they were very age-inappropriate. Yikes.
Xorn was the unfortunate name of a really powerful Chinese mutant who had a star for a brain, which required him to wear a mask straight out of a horror film. The mask really should have raised some red flags, but the guy was so powerful he was able to restore Professor X’s ability to walk, so he joined the X-Men.
Xorn was kind of a prick, but tried really hard at making friends and even mentored some of the X-Mansion’s more annoying (read: weird and/or useless) X-Men in training. In a cruel twist, Xorn is revealed to be the supposedly deceased Magneto in disguise, the Xorn persona merely a ruse to infiltrate the X-Mansion. He then destroys most of New York and takes a page out of Hitler’s playbook by planning to execute humans in a giant crematorium.
But the editors at Marvel decided that they really liked the lovable misfit known as Xorn, and that it probably wasn’t the best idea to turn Magneto into a genocidal maniac. So Xorn is revealed to actually be a Chinese mutant who merely thought he was Magneto. When Wolverine cut his head off, his twin brother showed up and became Xorn 2: the Sequel, except this guy had a black hole for a brain instead of a star, because that makes so much more sense.
Frederick Dukes was just your average morbidly obese man working as a circus sideshow freak when Professor X came knocking back in 1964. After a tour of Professor X’s School for Gifted Youngsters and crushing on a young redhead, Dukes decided to say goodbye to the X-Men and say hello to the more lucrative opportunities available with Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants.
Dukes became known as The Blob, a mutant villain with the power of being so fat, he was immovable. As silly as a super villain with a glandular problem is, The Blob has been a mainstay in the Marvel Universe, although his latest story arc took a turn into seriously dark territory.
When Scarlet Witch decided to warp reality and depower 90% of the Earth’s mutants, Blob lost his substantial size, however his skin did not shrink to compensate for the loss of fat. This resulted in huge folds of skin hanging from his bones. His appearance is so nightmarish that Blob becomes depressed and tries to kill himself. Unfortunately, his excess skin is so thick that he is unable to reach any major veins with a knife. Talk about a downer.
In the late ’90s, the ranks of the X-Men were rife with characters that were either blatant rip-offs of more established characters or bizarre mutants that were straight out of a David Cronenberg body horror flick.
Unfortunately Magneto, the X-Men’s greatest foe/ally when the story necessitated it, fell victim to the trend of augmenting old characters into vague facsimiles of themselves. The Master of Magnetism crops up after a brief disappearance, although he is considerably younger than he was when he went off the grid, and is now sporting a luscious mane of hair inspired by Bret Michaels of Poison fame.
The X-Men recognize that the appearance of a younger version of Magneto is weird, but as they’ve seen much weirder, they decide to let him join the X-Men. He fights alongside the X-Men for a while and even puts the moves on Rogue. But Joseph ended up being just a neutered version of Magneto, so writers scrambled to bring back the old Mags.
So Joseph was retconned into merely being a clone of Magneto, who sort of redeems himself when he dies putting a stop to the real Magneto’s diabolical plans, but ends up being a jerk anyway when he is brought back to life and does a bunch of awful things in an attempt to frame the real Magneto.
The X-Men’s resident genius scientist and fan of erudite discussions has suffered from a series of unfortunate rehashes of his physical appearance over the years. Originally a burly man with hobbit sized feet, Dr. Henry McCoy attempts to “cure” himself of his mutation, which backfires horribly. In the words of Tobias Funke, Hank McCoy literally blue himself.
Now covered in blue fur (because no other color exists in the Marvel universe) and sporting a hairstyle so influential, even Wolverine would copy it, Hank McCoy becomes an ambassador for furries everywhere.
Even though this is arguably the most recognizable version of Beast, in 2001 Grant Morrison decided to shake things up a bit by having Hank undergo a “second mutation” that saw Beast take on a more cat-like appearance. This second mutation also augmented his abilities, making them less ape-like and more feline, effectively making Beast a ThunderCats reject.
The most popular and iconic X-Man of all time, Wolverine’s brooding nature and willingness to use lethal force practically defined the anti-hero, which is now typical of many superheroes. His murky past makes Wolverine a mysterious and tragic figure. His strict moral code coupled with his sheer badassery make him instantly likeable and one of the best comic book characters to emerge in the last 40 years. He smokes cigars and says awesome stuff like “I’m the best there is at what I do, but what I do best isn’t very nice”. How do you mess that up? By turning him into a rabid dog.
Back in the ’90s, Wolverine had the adamantium stripped from his skeleton (which was pretty awesome, as it revealed his “bone claws”) and subsequent attempts to rebond his skeleton with the indestructible metal resulted in triggering further mutations in Wolverine, turning him into a semi-sentient primitive beast thing that sprouts tufts of hair on his forearms, sports a shrunken nose and augments his classic costume in an effort to make readers think that bandanas are cool. Which they are so obviously not.
This is a bit of a cheat, since Deadpool isn’t technically a part of the X-Men (although he was for a brief period or two), he’s shared more in common with Professor X’s do-gooders than virtually any other character in the Marvel universe. In the comic books, Deadpool morphed from a generic Deathstroke rip-off to one of the most unique characters in recent memory. This natural progression of a character is welcomed and celebrated by readers. But the injustice Wade Wilson was subjected to in X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a travesty.
We’ve already gone into great detail discussing all of the ways the filmmakers behind X-Men Origins: Wolverine totally bungled their depiction of Deadpool. From turning him into a low rent Baraka from Mortal Kombat, to sewing the mouth shut of quite possibly the chattiest character in the entire Marvel Universe, the Deadpool of that movie was an abomination.
Seriously, they sewed the mouth shut to a character who is known throughout the Marvel Universe as the Merc with the Mouth. Like Deadpool in Origins, we’re at a loss for words.
What are some of the most cringe-worthy character reinventions you’ve seen the X-Men endure? Let us know in the comments!