The X-Men ruled the ’90s. Don’t let the current merch-free aisles of your local retail stores and the Inhumans-filled Marvel Universe trick you into forgetting that an entire generation of comic book fans and creators were introduced to the medium because of these mutants and their ’90s omnipresence. Full disclosure: I was one of those kids. A Saturday morning cartoon on Fox; an expansive line of action figures from Toy Biz; a dozen monthly comic book series; hundreds of trading cards; promotional tie-ins with everything from Pizza Hut to Chef Boyardee and pogs — don’t forget all the pogs — kept the X-Men popular even as the market crashed and Marvel declared bankruptcy.
The Decade of X really kicked off in 1991 with the relaunch of the franchise’s four core books under the “Mutant Genesis” banner. “Uncanny X-Men” and “X-Factor” received new lineups and creative teams while two new series — “X-Force” and “X-Men” — debuted and broke a ton of sales records. In the decade that followed, well over a hundred new heroes and villains were added to the already considerable X-Men universe. I’ve compiled a list of 148 characters created during my definitive decade and put in the man-hours needed to find out what happened to the characters I grew up with. A lot of them are dead and, as this first installment on the survivors of the ’90s reveals, a lot of them are surprisingly still alive.
To present this data in an orderly manner, I’ve broken the Sentinel-sized list of characters down into team affiliations. Let’s kick off this roll call with the headliners.
Gambit was the first new addition made to the team in the decade; Jubilee missed the decade by just a few months. He first appeared in “Uncanny X-Men” #266 — yes, he also appears in “Uncanny X-Men Annual” #14, which was published slightly earlier, but I will forever acknowledge #266 as his debut because of nostalgic trading card-related reasons. Gambit’s meteoric rise in popularity was no doubt due to his being included in the ’90s cartoon series, which debuted a brief two years after he joined the team officially. He’s held down three ongoing series since then (none lasting longer than 25 issues) and starred in the recently concluded “All-New X-Factor.”
Bishop first appeared right after the “Mutant Genesis” relaunch in 1991’s “Uncanny X-Men” #282. A little over a year later, the gun-toting mullet-having bandana-wearing time-traveler would slide into the lead role in the cartoon’s two-part “Days of Future Past” adaptation. He received his first limited series in 1994 and closed out the decade with a short-lived ongoing titled “Bishop: The Last X-Man.” The character has floundered a bit since his ’90s heyday. Chris Claremont drafted him into “X-Treme X-Men” and included him in his mid-’00s return to “Uncanny.” Bishop became a total red-eyed villain in Cable’s 2008 ongoing series, as his quest to murder a child for his version of the greater good overrode every aspect of his personality. After a few years away, Sam Humphries brought Bishop back in the second volume of “Uncanny X-Force” and made an attempt to rehabilitate him. Bishop hasn’t shown up since that series’ end in early 2014.
The other ’90s X-Men still alive today never reached the same level of prominence as Gambit and Bishop, and you might actually be surprised that some of them are still around. Marrow debuted as a child in 1994’s “Cable” #15 and reappeared a year later as a young adult in “X-Men Prime.” She formed the terrorist Gene Nation group, died once, got better, joined the X-Men, left the X-Men, fell in with Weapon X and currently stars in Si Spurrier’s “X-Force.” Joseph, a long-haired and youthful clone of Magneto, debuted in “Uncanny X-Men” #327 and seemingly died at the end of 1999’s “Magneto War.” Nope! Not the case! Skottie Young brought the character back in 2012’s “Magneto: Not A Hero” limited series and the character’s whereabouts are currently unknown. Cecilia Reyes wanted nothing to do with the X-Men when she joined them in 1997, but she’s managed to appear sporadically yet consistently with the team ever since. She recently appeared in the all-female “X-Men” series. Maggott is the X-Man you have most definitely made fun at some point. His tenure as an X-Man didn’t even last a year and he was killed off in “Weapon X” #5 in the early ’00s. He came back from the dead as part of Selene’s reanimated corpse army in “X-Men Legacy” #231, meaning that there’s an explanation available to any writer that wants to use him again. Seriously. Any writer. You can use Maggott. Anyone?
Debuting in “New Mutants” #87 in March 1990, Cable barely makes the ’90s cut-off. I’m glad he does, because there is no other character that embodies all aspects of the ’90s like Cable. He debuted as a time-traveling mercenary seemingly pulled out of a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, and then embraced his cyborg status the instant “Terminator 2” hit it big at the box office. Later in the decade, he got all “Matrix”-y and transformed into a messianic warrior. Cable’s still kicking today as the leader of Spurrier’s “X-Force,” and he’s rediscovered his hardcore cyborg roots just as ’90s nostalgia has gripped the industry.
Shatterstar has undergone a major transformation since his first appearance in “New Mutants” #99. Most notably, he cut his hair. The double-bladed swords followed the character into the new millennium, but that top ponytail thankfully did not. Shatterstar also came out as omnisexual a few years ago in Peter David’s “X-Factor,” which was a development that Jeph Loeb hinted at way back during his mid-’90s “X-Force” run. ‘Star made headlines when he reappeared in 2009 and locked lips with his boyfriend, Rictor, thus confirming what fans had speculated about for a decade. Shatterstar has been M.I.A. since “X-Factor’s” end in late 2013.
Like any decent ’90s character, Domino is a bit complicated. The Domino that debuted in “New Mutants” #98 was actually a character called Copycat, and the real Dom didn’t appear until 1992’s “X-Force” #8 — in a flashback sequence. Still, both of them are currently alive and kicking. Domino has served on a few different X-Force teams in the past decade; she’s popped up in guest spots in “Punisher” and “X-Force” following the end of “Cable and X-Force” earlier this year. The shape-shifting Copycat became one of Deadpool’s supporting characters and ex-girlfriends, but she’s remained obscure while that leading man’s popularity has soared. She’s alive, but hasn’t been seen much since 2001.
Only one new-in-the-’90s member of X-Factor is alive today: Random. He’s another bandana-wearing biker dude with big guns, except his guns are actually his hands! Whatever intentions Peter David and Joe Quesada had for the character when he debuted in “X-Factor” #88 went out the window just as soon as they left the series. Random, as it turned out, was actually a teenager using his shape-changing powers to masquerade as a stereotypical tough guy. His true nature has yet to be fully explored, as his appearances have been few and far between; he joined the Acolytes in 2007 and later relocated to the X-Men’s island. He appeared as a member of Dragoness’ gang in “Generation Hope” #15.
The UK X-Men team had two additions that debuted in the ’90s: the Shi’ar warrior Cerise and the curmudgeonly secret agent Pete Wisdom. Cerise stayed with Excalibur for only a handful of years after her debut in 1992’s “Excalibur” #47 and hasn’t been seen since the “Annihilation: Ronan” limited series in 2006. Wisdom, on the other hand, became an unlikely leading man in two short-lived series: “Wisdom” and “Captain Britain and MI13.” He’s become the go-to snark master for English writers (specifically Paul Cornell and Si Spurrier) wishing to poke fun at superhero conventions. Wisdom has shown up in recent issues of “X-Force.”
Husk may have debuted as far back as 1984’s “ROM Annual” #3 or 1984’s “New Mutants” #42, but she did not receive a name or a featured role until 1994’s “X-Force” #32. Paige Guthrie may still be alive, but she hasn’t had consistent characterization since her days as the over-achiever of Gen X. She joined the X-Men in 2003 and engaged in a maybe inappropriate romance with the much older Angel. Her most recent appearances in “Wolverine and the X-Men” saw her struggle with mental instability and become a member of the evil Hellfire Academy while in a crazed state. She’s since appeared in a few recent issues of “Nightcrawler.”
Of all the characters created for the X-Men’s ’90s teen team, only M has remained a consistent player since her debut — not that creators didn’t try to ruin her. You can’t talk about Monet without talking about her sister, Penance. I’m going to try to sum this up quickly: the Monet that debuted in “Uncanny X-Men” #316 and joined Generation X was later revealed to be a gestalt form created by her two younger twin sisters. The real M was in fact trapped within a ruby red diamond hard Penance form; she first appeared in “Generation X” #1. The real M was freed — and has since gone on to regularly appear in Peter David’s noir “X-Factor” series and the current adjectiveless “X-Men” title — and the twins combined again to form Penance… for just a little while. They were later de-merged, leaving Penance a separate and sentient — and still confusingly mysterious — being. To make matters more confusing, Penance had to change her name to Hollow to avoid confusion with Speedball’s angst-ridden temporary name change following the events that kicked off “Civil War.” Hollow showed up in the 2007 “Loners” mini and made small cameos in “Avengers Academy” and hasn’t been seen since 2012.
Yep, there’s no way to sum all that up quickly.
With his face-furnace character design, Chamber seemed poised to be the team’s breakout character when he debuted in “Generation X” #1. He even became the first new kid to graduate to the X-Men in 2001’s “Uncanny X-Men” #395, but his tenure as an X-Man didn’t last long. He bounced around in the mid-’00s from “Weapon X” to “New Excalibur,” where he found out that he’s a direct descendent of Apocalypse. He lost his powers in the M-Day event and joined a version of the New Warriors, and later rejoined the X-Men. Recent events in both Mike Carey and Si Spurrier’s version of “X-Men Legacy” rebooted his powerset and look back to their original settings; the old familiar Chamber has since appeared in cameo roles in “Nightcrawler.”
The other two survivors, the matter-absorbing Mondo and the pink-haired reality-warper Gaia, haven’t been seen in around 15 years, yet they are both still alive as far as we know.
The two biggest bads of the ’90s, Onslaught and the Phalanx, have come back in a big way in recent years. The former is currently paired up with the Red Skull and caused trouble in the recently concluded “AXIS” event and the latter threatened the entire galaxy in 2007’s “Annihilation: Conquest.” Future foe and spear-enthusiast Ahab is also playing a part in “AXIS.” Attempted big deal baddie Gamesmaster fizzled out in 1996 and didn’t resurface until 2010’s “X-23” series. The robots Albert and Elsie Dee haven’t appeared since 1998. Feral’s equally feline sister Thornn — of the Morlocks and Toad’s Brotherhood — has somehow survived whereas her much more prominent sibling has not. The purple-cloaked Phantazia made a big splash as the only new member of Toad’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in “X-Force” #6, but she disappeared after appearing in a few Hardee’s tie-in comics in 1995. Still, she is alive, just like Khaos and Harness — two villains that only ever appeared in often overlooked X-Family annuals. Mikhail Rasputin, who played a big part in a lot of ’90s Morlock stories, was last seen stepping into another dimension in 2005’s “X-Men: Colossus – Bloodline” mini. X-Cutioner enjoyed a nice stint as Gambit’s archenemy after his debut in 1993’s “X-Men Annual” #17, but he was last seen alive at the end the late ’90s “Gambit” series.
Also Mojo II is a character that really existed and should not be forgotten even though he only appeared in three “X-Men” issues in 1992.
Villains rarely flew solo in the ’90s. The preponderance of bad guy groups led to the creation of a lot of new characters, most of which have become canon fodder since their creation. Still, a surprising number of these jerks are alive and kicking today.
Of the first batch of Mutant Liberation Front members introduced in 1990’s “New Mutants” #86-93, Forearm, Reaper, Strobe, Thumbelina, Dragoness, Stryfe and Wildside are still alive. Strobe hasn’t been seen since the “X-Cutioner’s Song” crossover, Wildside last showed up in 2003 in “Weapon X” and Forearm and Thumbelina appeared in Rob Liefeld’s 2004 “X-Force” mini. Reaper, who lost his powers along with Wildside on M-Day, appeared this year in “All-New X-Factor” #2. Dragoness ended up on Utopia and formed a gang of disenfranchised mutants at the end of “Generation Hope’s” run. She’s since moved to Madripoor, as shown in a one-panel appearance in 2014’s “Uncanny X-Men” #23. Stryfe, who has spent most of the new millennium presumed dead, reappeared earlier this year in the “Uncanny X-Force”/”Cable and X-Force” “Vendetta” crossover.
A bunch of rarely seen and little-used mid-’90s Acolytes are still around, mainly due to disinterest from other writers. Kamal, Orator, Projector, Rakkus and Vindaloo did not prove memorable enough for writers to bring back to kill. All of the original Acolytes are dead, and of the second generation — introduced between “Uncanny X-Men” #298 and #300 — only Amelia Voght, the Kleinstocks (Sven and Harlan), Unuscione, Scanner and Neophyte are still alive. Scanner and the Kleinstocks haven’t been seen since the “Magneto: Dark Seduction” mini back in 2000, Neophyte was alive and well during the “Messiah CompleX” story in 2008 and Voght and Unuscione last appeared in this reality when the Acolytes disbanded in 2009’s “X-Men Legacy” #225.
The years have not been kind to the Inhuman mercenaries known as the Dark Riders; only Gauntlet, Tusk and Dirtnap remain and none of them have shown up in fifteen years. You might remember Tusk as the big brown action figure that held another, tinier action figure in his back. That’s about as memorable as these guys get. The Nasty Boys — Gorgeous George, Hairbag, Ramrod, Ruckus and Slab — might have the most disproportionate exposure to canon ratio of any character on this list; they gained wide recognition as Mr. Sinister’s henchmen in the ’90s cartoon but only ever appeared in seven canonical comics. They’re technically still alive only because they appear to have been forgotten. The only members of Marrow’s team Gene Nation to survive are the ones that appeared in at most two comics in the mid-’90s: Boost, Charm, Ever, Integer, Iron Maiden, Loss, Membrain and Opsidian.
There are two notable versions of Blink and both of them are still alive. The most prominent one was the “Age of Apocalypse” alternate Blink that survived the destruction of her home reality and starred in various “Exiles” titles from 2001 to 2009. The main Marvel Universe Blink seemingly died after her first appearance in 1994’s “Uncanny X-Men” #317. She was resurrected fifteen years after her death as part of the “Necrosha” storyline and then spent most of 2012 hanging out with the New Mutants in their series. Nate Grey — or X-Man — also found a home in the recent “New Mutants” ongoing. He most recently showed up in a supporting role in “Fearless Defenders” #9. Hammer and Threnody both spent the ’90s as supporting characters for Cable and Nate Grey, respectively. They’re both still alive, but Hammer hasn’t been seen since “Cable & Deadpool” #34 in 2007 and Threnody has only appeared in the decade that created her. Archer and Fixx, two temporally displaced X.U.E. officers who were tangentially associated with X-Factor in the late ’90s, are presumably still alive. Maverick may have been suicidal when he last showed up in 2012’s “Wolverine” #304, but he escaped that issue with his life. Adam-X the X-Treme is still alive and as awesome as ever; he was shown as having relocated to San Francisco with the X-Men in 2011’s “Uncanny X-Men” #542.
You all know what Deadpool has been up to.
In the next installment, I take a look at the equally extensive list of ’90s X-Characters that are no longer with us.
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