If you’re an X-Fan of the ’90s, then last week’s “X-Men ’92” #5 jolted you like a can of Surge. That series has mastered the art of ’90s nostalgia, but that issue’s last page reveal took the retro mutant book to a gnarly new level. The final page of the issue included the return of a team that hasn’t been seen in almost twenty years: the X-Men of 2099.
Yes, somehow the mutants of the ’90s series “X-Men 2099” have stayed off the radar since 1998 — aside from a brief, almost entirely unrecognizable cameo appearance in 2014’s “Uncanny X-Men Annual” #1. But the team, as illustrated by Cory Hamscher, on the last page of Chad Bowers and Chris Sims’ “X-Men ’92” #5 was unmistakably the X-Men of 2099 — leather jackets, head socks and all!
But who were the X-Men of 2099? Considering that they haven’t headlined a series since the end of their ongoing in 1996, it’s entirely likely that there are plenty of full-grown comic readers out there that missed out completely on Skullfire, Bloodhawk, Meanstreak, Metalhead and all the other compound code-named heroes. If the last page of “X-Men ’92” #5 left you scratching your head, here’s a refresher on the X-Men of the future from the ’90s.
What Is 2099?
First thing’s first: the number 2099 refers to the year. “X-Men 2099” was part of a line of comics published by Marvel set in the future year. While the line formally launched in late 1992, its origins actually stretch back 1990 and involve two major Marvel players: Stan Lee and John Byrne. As Zedric Dimalanta broke down in a detailed 2099 retrospective, what became the 2099 line started out as a graphic novel called “The Marvel World of Tomorrow” to be co-written by the two with art by Byrne. Byrne eventually left the project and took all of his contributions with him, leaving Marvel with enough bits and pieces to mold into what would become the 2099 line.
“Spider-Man 2099” from Peter David and Rick Leonardi kicked things off in November 1992, and another new 2099 title launched each following month. “Ravage 2099” came a month later, featuring the hero Stan Lee created for his partnership with Byrne, this time drawn by Paul Ryan. Then John Francis Moore and Pat Broderick launched “Doom 2099,” and “Punisher 2099” from Pat Mills, Tony Skinner and Tom Morgan rounded out the initial 2099 wave. All four books were set in the same cyberpunk-fueled dystopia, packed with early ’90s political commentary on the relationship between America and corporations. And despite being set 100 years in the future, nearly every character wore the spikes, chains and shoulder pads so common in the comics of 1992.
Considering how enormously popular the X-Men were in 1992 (“X-Men” #1 had sold 8.1 million copies a year before and an animated series was set to debut in October on Fox), it may be surprising to learn that they were not part of the initial wave of 2099 titles. Aside from Stan Lee’s creation Ravage, the other three 2099 books all starred heroes picking up the torch from a known Marvel character (or, in the case of Doom, actually was the Victor Von Doom fans knew). Things would be different for the X-Men.
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