In Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, writer Scott Lobdell had Cyclops explain the meaning of Cable's name, telling him that it is because Cable serves as a "cable" between the past and the present. All things considered, it was a clever attempt to come up with an explanation for Cable's decidedly off-beat superhero name. However, the fact of the matter is that Lobdell only had to come up with a reason for the name because when Cable was introduced, so much of the character's back story was a mystery. As a result, the name likely did not have an original origin other than it sounded cool, which, to be fair, it does.
That same approach, though, is why there are so many mysteries about Cable's body, because things that might have been true at one point were not true later on and thus a writer had to come up with a new explanation and that led to weird facts being worked into Cable's history. The end result is one of the more complicated character histories in comic book history, but also a character with plenty of interesting facts about his mysterious body. Get ready, because the man otherwise known as Nathan has a body that is, in fact, a wonderland.
20 ORIGINALLY A CYBORG
The number one cause of confusion when it comes to Cable and his body is that clearly he was intended to be "just" a cyborg when he was introduced. When Rob Liefeld took over as the artist on New Mutants in the late 1980s, he came to the series bustling with new character ideas. It is remarkable to look at his early sketch pads that Marvel ran at the time to see all the cool characters that would end up quickly adapted into the series. The most famous character in those sketch pads was clearly the character who became Cable.
His creator noted that Cable was a mixture between John McClane from Die Hard and the Terminator.
Liefeld is quite open about his influences in creating Cable, and he noted at the time that the new hero was essentially a mixture between John McClane from the Die Hard movies and the Terminator from the Terminator movies. Thus, when he was introduced, Cable was meant to be a cyborg in the traditional sense. So when we see his cyborg parts early on, they are meant to simply be cybernetic parts like you would see in any futuristic story with a cyborg character. Cable, of course, would soon go way past that with his set up in the comics.
19 BORN TO A CLONE
When Chris Claremont was forced to kill off Jean Grey back when she became the Dark Phoenix, it derailed his original plan to have Cyclops and Jean Grey get married and move on from the X-Men to live happily ever after...or at least until they were next drawn into an X-Men storyline, that is. Claremont envisioned a future where he would have a large cast of characters that he could pick and choose from for future storylines. So Claremont came up with the idea of Cyclops meeting a young woman named Madelyne Pryor who looked just like Jean Grey and the two would get the "happy ending" that Claremont originally intended for Cyclops and Jean Grey.
However, then Jean Grey came back to life and Cyclops was pulled from his wife and his young son. That young son, of course, would turn out to become Cable in the future. The wife, though, needed to be written out of the series now that Jean Grey was back, so she was revealed to actually be a clone created by Mister Sinister so that he could get Scott Summers' DNA mixed with Jean Grey's DNA to give birth to a child that was destined for an important purpose.
18 MEANT TO DESTROY APOCALYPSE
The important purpose that Sinister intended for the child of Scott and Jean was to destroy Apocalypse. You see, while Mister Sinister was originally a whole other sort of character back when Chris Claremont was originally writing the villain, he was eventually revealed to have been a Victorian scientist named Nathaniel Essex whose wife discovered that he was running all sorts of dark experiments (she dubbed him "Sinister!" although it is strange that he then decided to add the "Mister" part to the name) and since his wife was out of the picture, Essex agreed to an offer from Apocalypse to be turned into an immortal being.
Sinister, though, resented Apocalypse the whole time for what he put him through, so he began to slowly plot against Apocalypse.
The way that he thought that he could take him down was to use his skills in genetics to create a being that could destroy Apocalypse. He came upon the fact that mixing the DNA of Scott Summers and Jean Grey could achieve that, so he did everything he could to achieve the feat, even when Jean Grey's death threw a temporary wrench into his plans, which he solved through the use of a Jean Grey clone.
17 BUBBLE BOY
The early years of X-Factor were not a great one for the reputation of Cyclops. He left his wife and infant son in Alaska to travel to New York when he learned that Jean Grey was not only alive again, but that she never technically died, as she had been replaced by the Phoenix Force years earlier. He quickly agreed to form a new superhero team with his former X-Men teammates, including Jean. When Scott eventually got back to Alaska to check in on his family, Madelyne had left with their son, Christopher. Madelyne then ended up with the X-Men, so baby Christopher was just sort of in the wind for a couple of years. We eventually learned that Mister Sinister had him and was experimenting on him.
Mutants typically do not gain their powers until puberty, but Cyclops' powers had kicked in when he was a young child and had to save his brother and himself when they were falling from a plane. Similarly, then, Christopher's powers kicked in when he was just a baby when he revealed the ability to create protective force fields around himself. Christopher is one of the youngest mutants to ever have his powers manifest.
16 INFECTED BY TECHNO-ORGANIC VIRUS AS A CHILD
Apocalypse, naturally, is not a good guy. He routinely comes up with plans that are meant to leave many people dead, all part of his twisted desire to see the "survival of the fittest," which is kind of annoying considering that, really, who is Apocalypse to keep preaching about the survival of the fittest when he always loses to X-Factor and the X-Men? Anyhow, like we said, he frequently comes up with terrible plans. Few of his plots, though, seem quite as needlessly cruel as the time that he infected Cyclops' infant son, Christopher, with a techno-organic virus just seemingly for kicks.
Apocalypse infected Cable, when he was an infant, with a techno-organic virus... seemingly just for kicks.
It would be one thing if he knew that this child was destined to become Cable, but there is no indication that he knew that at the time, so he was just being an oddly evil jerk by messing with a little kid. Luckily and sadly for Cyclops, he was able to save his son, but only by giving him to a time traveler who took Christopher to the future where the techno-organic virus could be treated. So Cyclops had a chance where he could save his son, but only by never seeing him again, or, at least, that was the trade-off that he believed that he was making at the time.
15 CLONED IN THE FUTURE
Once baby Christopher reached the future, we learned that his full name was Nathan Christopher Summers, which is important since Cable had always been called Nathan, so we needed to get that explained away, as Nathan is rarely going to be short for Christopher. The Clan Askani began to treat Nathan, but they were not sure if they would be able to cure him of the techno-organic virus in time, so they made a clone of the child, in case they needed to possibly transfer Nathan's consciousness to his clone's body.
As it turned out, they were able to slow down the spread of the virus and the baby was able to live close to a normal life, although with cybernetic replacements for a number of its limbs. They now, though, had an extra body lying around. The clone would later be kidnapped by Apocalypse, with the intent of the clone becoming Apocalypse's new host body. The clone escaped and eventually became the villain known as Stryfe. Stryfe resented his lot in life and blamed Nathan for it all, so he also began to travel in time to continue their fight from the future back to the present.
14 POWERS RESTRAINED BY THE VIRUS
One thing that the Clan Askani discovered is that baby Nathan's powers developing as early as they did was responsible for his life being saved from the techno-organic virus. You see, Nathan was a powerful telekinetic and he was able to use his telekinesis to keep the virus from spreading to the rest of his body. The problem with that, of course, is that it is a constant struggle. The virus doesn't just stop trying to spread. It's always there in the background, trying to take over more of Nathan's body, so his telekinesis had to be always holding it back.
Cable's telekinesis would be stronger if he was not constantly using it to keep the virus at bay.
Therefore, just like how Wolverine's healing powers are not as powerful as they would be if his healing power didn't have to constantly deal with the existence of an adamantium-coated skeleton routinely poisoning him, Cable's telekinesis would be stronger if he was not constantly using it to keep the virus at bay. He cannot risk letting his guard down to use too much of his telekinesis for big things. This is why, early on, no one even knew that Cable had powers at all, since he was too busy using them on the virus. So he used weapons and his fighting skills instead.
13 SUPERHUMAN STRENGTH
The effects of the techno-organic virus are fascinating, as it effectively transforms the affected parts of Cable's body into cybernetic parts. It is as if he just had actual cyborg implants in his body instead of it being a virus turning his actual arm into a cyborg arm. Whatever the origins of the cybernetic parts, they work just like a traditional cyborg in the sense that they give Cable superhuman strength. He was able to throw Luke Cage across a room. He has been able to bend steel bars with his bare hands. Once, he was even able to throw Deadpool clear through a second story building!
One of the most fascinating aspects of this change, though, is that the cybernetic parts even have an effect on his non-cybernetic parts. In other words, Cable's super strength does not just extend to his cyborg arm. All other parts of his body have also gained increased strength and increased durability. His "normal" skin can still withstand small caliber weapon fire, while the cybernetic parts of his body have even greater resistance to damage than that. He has gained the benefit of his whole body being turned into a robot without the downsides of that transformation.
12 CYBERNETIC EYE
Right from his very first appearance in New Mutants #87, the aspect about Cable's design that jumped out at you was that prominent cybernetic eye. It can scan up to two miles away, it can look at the pieces of a bomb and analyze the pieces to tell what the original bomb would have looked like. It can achieve all sorts of high level cognitive functions that it almost works like a secondary brain. This might be why Cable has often demonstrated a somewhat surprising high capacity intellect. His Clan Askani teaching certainly didn't hurt.
Of all of the advantages that his cybernetic physiology gives Cable, perhaps his greatest advantage comes from the things that his eye can do.
One of the fascinating aspects of the eye is that it can not only see in the infrared spectrum, but it clearly can see well beyond the infrared spectrum and into what you would call an almost supernatural range of vision. For instance, it can detect psionic signatures and there is a chance that it might actually also be able to detect astral plane signatures. It is possible for Cable to supplement his eye with implants that can give it extra functions, as well.
11 SUPERHUMAN REFLEXES
Another area where Cable's eye helps him is that it can see things at, essentially, super speed. In an early fight against the members of Freedom Force, Cable's eye was able to track Silver Sabre despite Sabre traveling at super speed. This ability to track things at high speeds translates to Cable having the ability to react quickly, since he knows when things are coming before they actually occur due to his vision.
Not only that, but the eye connects to Cable's nervous system in a fascinating way. You see, Cable's entire central nervous system has been enhanced by the techno-organic virus. It has been fortified so that his body can react to the speeds in which Cable's eyes can perceive them. For instance, if his eyes can see someone running at Cable at 300 miles per hour, the effect of the virus has made it so that Cable could block the 300 miles per hour attack and make one of his own. It would be at enhanced speed, but probably a bit short of what we typically think of when we say "moving at super speed." His reflexes and speed are probably more on par with someone like Spider-Man, for instance, than Quicksilver.
10 CAN ADAPT HIS OWN BODY
Probably the biggest change from the early stories to the ones later on is the treatment of Cable's cybernetic body parts. Early on, we would see Cable adding parts and removing parts of his cybernetic body and also using acetylene torches to fix damage to his cyborg body parts. This, of course, was the case back when he was written as if he were a traditional cyborg. Over the years, once we learned that those parts are due to the techno-organic virus, it changed the repair function of his arms dramatically, as well as the function of those parts.
It is like having complete and total control over the function of your body.
You see, now Cable can use his telekinesis to fix his own arm when need be and, perhaps most importantly, his telekinesis controls the way that the virus presents itself in his arm. For instance, if Cable were to wish to have his cybernetic arm take on different forms, he can achieve that change through the use of his telekinesis. It is like having complete and total control over the function of your body. If he wants to make his arm into, say, a lock, he can do so. This allows him to add new weapons to his body, as well.
9 DOESN'T NEED SLEEP
A side effect of the change to his central nervous system is that Cable's body no longer acts like a normal human one, in terms of rest, recuperation and energy replenishment. This does not mean that he doesn't eat or sleep, but it is true that his body no longer has the same need for those things as normal humans bodies do. Part of this was honed by Cable himself through his training over the years. He effectively trained himself so much that his body is at near-peak performance now that it was coupled with the increased abilities of the virus.
A notable example of just how changed his body is came about in the 50th issue of X-Force, where the younger members of the team were brainwashed by Sebastian Shaw into taking on Cable. Domino noted in the issue that Cable had not eaten or slept in days and yet he was still able to handle his former proteges very well, even though they were all typically more powerful than him. That being said, he did have to ultimately use telepathy to snap the other X-Force members out of their brainwashing. Still, it did not appear as though lack of sleep was the reason he couldn't knock the entire X-Force team out.
8 HAS A WEAPON KEYED INTO HIS BODY
When you normally think of Cable and weapons, we imagine that your mind goes to the guns that he typically uses. There is a classic issue of X-Force which showed Cable getting ready for a battle and he is practically overloaded with guns hanging from all parts of his body. He similarly used a lot of big guns in his early days in the New Mutants, as well.
It is made out of a special mystery metal that allows it to interact with the mind of its user directly.
However, perhaps his most powerful weapon is one that is keyed into his own specific body. The psimitar is an ancient Askani weapon, which means that it probably has only now been discovered, since the Askani live in the far off future. It is made out of a special mystery metal that allows it to interact with the mind of its user directly. It can take Cable's psionic energies and funnel them into the staff, at which point Cable could use it to fire psi-blasts. At the same time, it is also a deadly bladed weapon. The fact that it is tied to his body makes it so that others who tried to use the psimitar find that the device only works for Cable. It has broken a couple of times over the years, but Cable has always been able to replace it.
7 NATE GREY IS WHAT CABLE COULD'VE BEEN
The "Age of Apocalypse" crossover event was built around the idea that Legion went back in time to kill Magneto so that his father, Charles Xavier, would not have to face his nemesis along his path to peace. However, Xavier ended up sacrificing his own life to save Magneto's, as they were friends at the time. The giant mutant battle years before the X-Men were destined to be formed ended up waking Apocalypse up a decade before he was planning on leaving hibernation. With no superheroes on Earth yet, Apocalypse was able to take over the world.
Each of the X-Men titles were replaced by a comic showing what the characters were up to in this alternate reality. Wolverine's comic, for instance, was re-named Weapon X. The problem with Cable was, since there was no way for Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor to meet in this reality, there was no Cable. Instead, Mister Sinister made a clone out of DNA from Scott Summers and Jean Grey and he used it to create Nate Grey. Nate Grey was basically what Cable would have been had it not been for the techno-organic virus and, unsurprisingly, he was soon one of the most powerful mutants in the world. He was one of a handful of characters who manage to transport from the Age of Apocalypse back to the normal reality before it was destroyed.
6 TECHNO-ORGANIC VIRUS TAKEN OVER AT TIMES
The problem with constantly having to concentrate on holding back the techno-organic virus is that when Cable's body was distracted or weakened, then it just increased the hold of the virus and he would have to fight harder to fight it back, which would then make it easier for it to spread. It was a whole Catch-22 situation. During the crossover against the villain Onslaught, Nate Grey was captured with the intent of Onslaught using him for his host body, as Onslaught was a being made up of pure psionic energy.
He could not keep his arm looking like an arm, as the virus spread uncontrollably.
Cable was attacked by the Hulk under the mind control of Onslaught and the Hulk did a number on Cable. His abilities managed to allow him to survive the assault, but the result was that he was losing control of the virus. He could not keep his arm looking like an arm, as the virus spread uncontrollably. After Onslaught was defeated, Cable's virus took control of him entirely. Luckily, while most of the non-mutant heroes were seemingly killed in the final battle with Onslaught, Franklin Richards, the mutant son of Mister Fantastic and Invisible Woman, was able to help save Cable and bring the virus back under Cable's control again.
5 MERGED BODIES WITH DEADPOOL
In the opening story arc of the Cable and Deadpool ongoing team-up series, Cable was once again in trouble with his techno-organic virus when some villains managed to shut down his powers through a new illness known as the Facade Virus, which eliminated powers in the hope of making everyone basically the same being. The virus made it so that his techno-organic one was now spreading to the point where it was going to kill him. While slowly dying, he had to fight against Deadpool, who had been duped into buying into the cause of the group who invented the Facade Virus.
However, during the battle, Deadpool's healing factor also began to break down due to the virus. Deadpool slowly started to sort of melt, while Cable was consumed by the techno-organic virus. Luckily, as Cable was consumed, he also consumed the melted Deadpool. The two men merged with each other, making them both immune to the Facade virus. The connection to Deadpool's healing powers allowed Cable to control the techno-organic virus for the first time in his life and his power levels began to rise to Nate Grey levels. The downside for both men is that they were now completely linked, including when Deadpool uses his teleporter, it automatically teleports Cable, as well.
4 ACTUALLY GAVE APOCALYPSE HIS POWERS
You might wonder why, exactly, a guy like Cable who could travel in time would go back in time to a point where Apocalypse was strong enough so that Cable would have a hard time defeating him. As it turns out, Cable thought of that same issue himself and he actually initially went back in time to a point where Apocalypse was still relatively young and he challenged him to battle. In the fight, Cable simply shot him in the head and seemingly killed him. However, in that same battle, Cable was injured enough that Apocalypse's aide, Ozymandias, collected Cable's blood and used the techno-organic virus in it to resuscitate Apocalypse.
So yes, the very man that Cable was bred to destroy ended up gaining his technologically advanced powers from the use of Cable's very own blood!
That blood gave him the ability to unlock the technology of the Celestials that made Apocalypse even more powerful than he had ever been in his life and sent him down his road of master villainy. Thus, instead of killing him, Cable's blood made Apocalypse more powerful than ever. That is definitely the sort of thing that should have been covered in Alanis Morrisette's famous song, "Ironic."
3 TECHNO-ORGANIC VIRUS MAKES HIM UNSTOPPABLE
When the mutant population was decimated following House of M, things began to look up a bit when the first new mutant birth was detected. Many different factions fought for control of the little girl, but one of the surprising people after her was the X-Man known as Bishop, who believed that the little girl was his equivalent of the Anti-Christ, as he grew up learning about how a little girl named Hope ruined his world. So he tried to kill her. Cable took it upon himself to protect her and took her into the future as Bishop chased after them with a time machine of his own. Cable raised Hope over the years they spent in the time stream, and when they returned to the present, the techno-organic virus had begun to eat away at Cable.
Thus, at a dramatic moment, he sacrificed himself to save others by giving into the virus. He showed up soon after and was almost completely consumed by the vius. He took on the Avengers and was able to take them all out with his new fully techno-organic body. He turned his body into spikes to defeat the Red Hulk. It was a gruesome return.
2 PURGED OF TECHNO-ORGANIC VIRUS
Cable's father, Cyclops, and his adopted daughter, Hope Summers, both tried valiantly to save Cable once the techno-organic virus had consumed him entirely. He was intent on taking down the Avengers before he died because he foresaw the then-upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men conflict and he wanted to protect Hope before he died. He had captured most of them but found himself having more trouble finishing off Spider-Man and Wolverine.
Hope couldn't let him just kill the Avengers, so she freed the others and managed to capture her father.
She then was shown by Cable's friend, Blacquesmith, to use the Phoenix Force to purge the techno-organic virus from Cable's body, bringing him back to human form for the first time since he was an infant. Cable was grateful, but he also had to let Cyclops know that this was proof that Hope was going to be the Phoenix. That ended up being the central conflict of the very battle that he had come to the past to avoid, which was the X-Men wanting to wait for the Phoenix Force to merge with Hope to see if it was a good thing while the Avengers didn't want the Phoenix Force on Earth at all.
1 CYBERNETIC BODY PARTS RETURN
Oddly enough, for a guy who was now fully human for the first time in many years, Cable quickly went back to using cybernetic parts when he formed a new version of X-Force following Avengers vs. X-Men. While Hope was curing him of the techno-organic virus, she also accidentally transferred her precognitive abilities to him, so he formed a new X-Force designed to stop these threats before they happened. While he had been turned human, it turned out that his body parts were in terrible shape due to all the bad things that had happened to them over the years (like he had his cybernetic arm torn off multiple times).
So he had to wear a cybernetic brace for his weak arm and his eye stopped working, so he had to use an eyepatch. Eventually, his original status quo returned in a Deadpool miniseries, Split Second. Soon after, Cable appeared from the future and joined the Uncanny Avengers, going back to his original setup of mostly using weapons and his cybernetic parts. He know has an artificial intelligence built into his robotic arm. It is a bit vague as to how much his powers remain like the previous set-ups.