Who Is Nathan Summers in ‘X-Men ’97,’ Really?

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Editor’s Note: The below contains spoilers for ‘X-Men’97’.


The Big Picture

  • X-Men ’97
    blends nostalgia with fresh plot twists, pleasing fans after 30 years.
  • Previous episodes hinted at adapting the Madelyne Pryor storyline, and the most recent episode of the show revealed that Nathan became Cable.
  • Cable’s introduction in
    X-Men ’97
    doesn’t negate the possibility of a future episode also featuring the Nate Grey aka X-Man.

X-Men ’97 is now streaming on Disney+ and the hotly anticipated continuation of X-Men: The Animated Series has certainly made an impression. In the five episodes released so far, the new series has delivered plenty of expertly handled callbacks that remind fans why X-Men: TAS remains so beloved more than 30 years after its premiere. But in addition to providing nostalgia, the new episodes also blaze their own trail, pushing the themes and characters of the series forward in interesting and unexpected new ways and showing that the creators aren’t afraid to make big changes and deliver ambitious plot twists.


Some of the biggest developments so far have been related to the Summers/Grey family, which is getting almost as complicated as it is in Marvel Comics. The X-Men’s central power couple, team leader Scott Summers/Cyclops (Ray Chase) and the powerful telepath Jean Grey (Jennifer Hale) welcomed their first child, young Nathan Summers, into the world in the second episode, but thanks to the complexities of comic book storytelling, it turns out he’s been a part of the story since the original series.


X-Men ’97

A band of mutants use their uncanny gifts to protect a world that hates and fears them; they’re challenged like never before, forced to face a dangerous and unexpected new future.

Release Date
March 20, 2024

Cast
Jennifer Hale , Cal Dodd , Chris Potter , Catherine Disher , Adrian Hough , Ray Chase , Lenore Zann

Seasons
2

Number of Episodes
10

Streaming Service(s)
Disney+


‘X-Men ’97’ Quickly Introduces Nathan Summers

X-Men ’97 begins roughly a year after The Animated Series’ finale, “Graduation Day.” In the finale, the X-Men’s founder and mentor, Professor Charles Xavier (Cedric Smith), died after being attacked by an anti-mutant bigot. In the first of the new episodes, Jean’s pregnancy is one of several big changes revealed to have occurred within the team in the time since. In the second episode, “Mutant Liberation Begins,” she goes into labor while most of the team is on a mission but, after some all-too-real trouble receiving treatment because of the doctor’s anti-mutant bigotry, Jean successfully gives birth to a healthy baby boy with support from Scott and their teammates Logan/Wolverine (Cal Dodd) and Rogue (Lenore Zann). They name their son “Nathan Charles Summers,” which suggested that the baby could grow up to be one of two major X-Men comics characters.


The Comics Background of Scott, Madelyne, Jean, and Nathan Is Complicated

Scott and Jean in a hospital bed with baby Nathan in X-Men '97
Image via Disney

The infant son of Scott, Nathan Christopher Charles Summers, was created by Chris Claremont and Rick Leonardi and first appeared in comics in The Uncanny X-Men #201 in 1986. Rather than Jean, who was presumed dead at the time, Nathan’s biological mother is Madelyne Pryor, a woman who bears a striking resemblance to Jean who Scott married after her death. Scott retires from the X-Men to live with Madelyne and Nathan, but when Jean is discovered to be alive, he abandons them and forms the new superhero team X-Factor alongside her and their other original X-Men teammates. Although this choice was arguably necessary to set up an assortment of well-regarded future stories from X-Factor and other comics, it remains divisive to this day and is considered a low point in the history of Scott’s character.


Madelyne and Nathan are subsequently attacked by the supervillain team, the Marauders, who abduct Nathan so their leader, Mister Sinister, can experiment on him. X-Factor eventually recovers the child and Scott and Jean begin to care for him together, while Madelyne, after recovering in a hospital, briefly works with the X-Men before becoming the supervillain known as the Goblin Queen. This leads up to the Inferno crossover event, in which it is revealed that she is a clone of Jean created by Sinister. While living with X-Factor, Nathan begins displaying telekinetic and telepathic powers similar to Jean’s. When the mutant villain Apocalypse infects him with a Techno-Organic virus that will eventually kill him, Scott sadly agrees to let a time traveler named Sister Askani take Nathan into the future to save his life. Scott assumed he would never see his son again, but time travel would eventually reunite them in several unusual ways.


The third episode of X-Men ’97 revealed that the “Jean” who gave birth to Nathan was, in fact, Madelyne, who had been created by Sinister as in the comics and used as a replacement for Jean without her knowledge. Disturbed by the revelation and upset by Scott and the rest of the team’s reactions, Madelyne transformed into the Goblin Queen and attacked the team, but the original Jean was able to convince her to relent and work with Scott to save Nathan after Sinister abducted him. However, Sinister had already begun experimenting on the child, infecting him with the T-O virus. Scott and Madelyne were forced to allow time-traveling X-Man Lucas Bishop (Isaac Robinson-Smith) to take Nathan into the future to find a cure. After this, Madelyne departs the X-Men while Scott remains, having a tense reunion with the original Jean.

Who Is the Time-Travelling Cable in Marvel Comics?


Created by Louise Simonson and Rob Liefeld, the mutant soldier Cable first appeared in The New Mutants #87 in 1990. A time-traveling warrior from the future, Cable eventually succeeds Charles and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto as the mentor to the New Mutants, transforming the adolescent team into the more militant X-Force. After quickly becoming a fan-favorite character in the X-Men franchise, Cable eventually received his own solo comic series, which confirmed that he was an adult version of Nathan. Making the two characters the same was not originally planned when Cable was being developed and the character himself is not initially aware of his parentage.


His robotic arm is explained as the result of the T-O virus, which, although no longer a threat to his life, continues to affect him, notably by expending much of his telekinetic and telepathic powers, the levels of which would otherwise be extreme. Although their relationship is understandably unusual and is sometimes further strained by their differing tactics on how to protect mutantkind, Scott and Cable do come to care for each other deeply. The 1994 miniseries The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix filled in some of the gaps in Cable’s origin, revealing that, shortly after getting married, Scott and Jean were themselves taken to the future, where they lived and raised Nathan for 12 years while battling Apocalypse alongside a group of freedom fighters.

Cable was a supporting character in X-Men: TAS, voiced by Lawrence Bayne. He first appeared in the episode “Slave Island,” in which he fought against the government of the nation of Genosha, which was kidnapping mutants and using them for slave labor. Later episodes confirmed his time-travelling roots and hinted at his family history. When researching the X-Men before an encounter with the present-day team, Cable dismisses his computer’s results about Scott (Norm Spencer), saying “I know about him, and Jean Grey.” He was last seen returning to his own time after participating in a battle against Apocalypse (John Colicos, James Blendick, and Lorne Kennedy), hoping to see his own son again.


The latest episode of X-Men ’97, “Remember It,” confirms that Cable (now voiced by Chris Potter) is the adult Nathan. Before Genosha, which is now a mutant haven, is attacked by an army of Sentinels, Cable unsuccessfully attempts to evacuate the island. While doing so, he encounters Madelyne, who recognizes his eyes and realizes he is her son. Cable’s computer teleports him away before he can make much progress in his mission, and as it does so he says, “I’m so sorry, Mom,” before Madelyne is caught in the explosive attack.

X-Man Is an Alternate Universe Variant of Cable Named Nathaniel “Nate” Grey

X-Man, Nate Grey, is harnessing his powers, being surrounded by bands of psionic energy and emitting energy from his eye. 
Image via Marvel Comics


Due to the heavy use of time travel in his stories, and Marvel’s multiverse, there are many alternate versions of Cable and before “Remember It” it seemed possible that X-Men ’97‘s Nathan could grow up to be one of them instead. One of these duplicates has become particularly popular, making a name for himself separate from his doppelgänger. Created by Jeph Loeb and Steve Skroce, Nathaniel “Nate” Grey was introduced during the alternate reality Age of Apocalypse crossover, during which his series, X-Man, substituted for the ongoing Cable comic for four issues. The Age of Apocalypse version of Sinister created Nate using genetic material from his world’s Scott and Jean.

Sinister hoped Nate would become the ultimate mutant and allow him to overthrow Apocalypse and take over the world himself. But, after Nate is freed from Sinister’s control, he is subsequently taken in by a group of mutant outcasts led by Forge, with whom he fights against Apocalypse. As his abilities are not dampened by the T-O virus, Nate is one of the most powerful mutants in the world, capable of manipulating matter and energy in astonishing ways, and plays an integral role in the final battle against Apocalypse. However, his battle with the tyrant is interrupted by Holocaust, one of Apocalypse’s servants. During their ensuing fight, Nate stabs Holocaust with the alien M’Krann Crystal, causing them both to vanish shortly before the Age of Apocalypse was believed to be erased from existence when the X-Men successfully restored their normal timeline.


Although the Age of Apocalypse would itself reappear in later comics, Nate and Holocaust were two of its characters that were brought into Marvel’s main 616 universe in the intervening years. Nate himself starred in his own solo comic for a few years, taking on the somewhat confusing moniker “X-Man,” and has since continued to appear sporadically in other X-Men titles. His immense powers make him a crucial player in most stories he’s involved in, but despite this, he has never matched Cable’s overall significance to the franchise.

Related

‘X-Men ’97’ Isn’t Connected to the MCU After All

“We are our own thing.”

X-Men ’97’ Could Still Feature X-Man in the Future


As most fans expected once the original Jean made her shocking return in the second episode, X-Men ’97 delivered a relatively faithful adaptation of Cable’s origin, just without the controversial aspect of Scott abandoning his family. But that doesn’t mean anyone should discount the possibility of X-Man also making an appearance at some point in the series. Like the comics, X-Men: TAS frequently made use of time travel and alternate realities in its storytelling, with Cable himself often participating in the stories that did so, and ’97 seems to be following suit. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Cable and/or any of the team encountered a version of Nate one day.

X-Men ’97 is available to stream on Disney+ in the U.S., with new episodes releasing Wednesdays.

Watch on Disney+



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