The heroes and villains of X-Men: First Class

As X-Men: First Class arrives in UK cinemas, James provides a handy guide to the film’s roster of heroes and villains, and when they first appeared...

Picture the scene. You’ve got into the earliest possible screening of this summer’s latest Marvel movie blockbuster, X-Men: First Class. You’ve re-watched the entire trilogy to bring yourself up to date. Nothing can stop you from enjoying what is, by many accounts, the best X-Men film so far.

And yet, as the film unfolds, you begin to wonder what’s going on. These aren’t the X-Men of your youth, neither the 90s cartoon, nor the movies of the last decade. There’s no Cyclops, no Jean, no Rogue. No Wolverine! You’d even settle for a glimpse of Halle Berry or Vinnie Jones.

Your brow begins to sweat. “Who are these second-raters,” you cry out, disturbing those seated around you, “and what have they done with the real X-Men?”

You leap onto your seat, booing loudly. An usher moves to silence you, but extending imaginary Adamantium claws, you leap towards her, claiming to be the best you are at what you do.

Ad – content continues below

When you come to, you’re in a police cell, your life in tatters. And all because you failed to realise that the mutants of X-Men: First Class are, in many ways, as valid a crop as those chosen to star in the original trilogy.

Prevent your psychotic fate with this, Den Of Geek’s guide to the First Class X-Men. Oh, and beware of very minor character spoilers for X-Men: First Class.

HEROES

Banshee (Sean Cassidy) Abilities: Sonic Scream, Flight First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #28 (1967)

Although Banshee originally appeared as a villain battling the original X-Men, he was really an Interpol officer being controlled by the villainous organisation Factor Three.

Ad – content continues below

When Professor Xavier assembled a new team of X-Men to rescue the originals from Krakoa, the Living Island, Banshee was one of the new recruits, and remained with the team until Uncanny X-Men #129, electing to stay on Muir Island with Moira MacTaggart after losing his powers.

His powers later returned, and Banshee acted as a member of Excalibur and co-headmaster of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in Massachusetts (Generation X), until it was returned to Westchester. He later died after being hit by the X-Men’s Blackbird jet.

Trivia: This is Banshee’s second live-action appearance, having previously been played by Jeremy Ratchford in the painfully bad Generation X TV movie.

Darwin (Armando Muñoz)Abilities: Reactive EvolutionFirst Appearance: X-Men: Deadly Genesis #1 (2006)

Ad – content continues below

When the X-Men were captured by Krakoa, Professor Xavier recruited Darwin alongside the young mutants Kid Vulcan, Sway and Petra, to go and rescue them. The mission ended in disaster (the apparent death of all four mutants), such that Xavier struck all record of it from history and assembled a larger, more experienced team to perform the mission (as seen in Giant Size X-Men #1). When the events were uncovered by the X-Men following the re-awakening of Vulcan, Darwin was discovered to have used his powers to transform into pure energy to survive. With Rachel Summers’ help, Darwin regained his physical form and has since joined the mutant detective agency, X-Factor Investigations.

Trivia: Darwin’s powers are unpredictable. When fighting the Hulk, his body didn’t evolve super-strength to help him survive the fight. It developed teleportation powers and took him far away from it.

Beast (Henry “Hank” McCoy)Abilities: Genius-level intelligence, superhuman strength and agility, enlarged hands and feetFirst Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #1 (1963)

Ad – content continues below

One of the original five X-Men, Hank McCoy is one of the few mutants to have gained acceptance the world over, as both a scientist and member of the Avengers.

Originally looking like a normal man with large feet and hands, Hank mutated himself into his furry ape-like form on purpose, as a disguise, then was unable to reverse the changes. He later experienced a secondary mutation, which gave him a more feline appearance.

He currently serves with Steve Rogers as a member of the Secret Avengers after a major disagreement with Cyclops caused him to quit the X-Men.

Trivia: Beast was memorably portrayed by Kelsey Grammar in X-Men: The Last Stand and a furless Hank McCoy made a cameo in X2, played by Steve Bacic. (I’m sure he was just using an image inducer.)

Havok (Alex Summers) Abilities: Cosmic ray absorption, Energy blastsFirst Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #54 (1969)

Ad – content continues below

Alex Summers is the brother of Scott “Cyclops” Summers and Gabriel “Vulcan” Summers. Raised separately from Scott while Gabriel was trapped in interstellar space, Alex met the X-Men while he was in college. He and his love interest Polaris remained members of the X-Men until the team was kidnapped by Krakoa, and quit shortly after.

Although he briefly returned to the team, Havok would later go on to join X-Factor (at the time when it was a government-sponsored mutant strike team) and later the Starjammers, a group of interstellar pirates,which he lead in his dead father’s stead.

Trivia: Havok once spent several years in an alternate reality, thought dead by his friends. The name, if not the content of his series was used for the Marvel Studios TV series, Mutant X, which ran for three seasons starting in 2001.

Angel (Angel Salvadore) Abilities: Insectoid physiology, Flight, Acid vomitFirst Appearance: New X-Men #118 (2001)

Ad – content continues below

Introduced in Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run, Angel Salvadore was rescued from her abusive parents by Wolverine and joined Xorn’s “Special Class”, where she was indoctrinated against the X-Men and helped Magneto attack New York. She eventually turned on Magneto and lived at Xavier’s until she lost her powers following M-Day.

Angel subsequently became a member of the New Warriors, using technology-derived powers under the codename “Tempest”, until the team disbanded.

Trivia: Angel has six children, only one of whom, Tito, retained his mutant powers after M-Day. Tito’s son (and Angel’s grandson), Tito Jr., was an X-Man in the future world of Here Comes Tomorrow.

VILLAINS

Ad – content continues below

Azazel Abilities: Teleportation, Dark magicFirst Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #428 (2003)

In 2003, Chuck Austen revised Nightcrawler’s origin to reveal that he was the son of Mystique and the demonic mutant, Azazel.

It’s unclear whether Azazel is actually a demon, or merely the inspiration for such stories, but after being trapped in a hellish dimension for thousands of years, he used his teleportation powers to visit Earth and impregnate human women, hoping they would bear mutant offspring that he could use to teleport himself back permanently.

Nightcrawler was one of these children. When the X-Men foiled his plan, he disappeared and hasn’t been seen since.

Ad – content continues below

Trivia: The Draco, the storyline which introduced Azazel, ranks as one of the most universally loathed and poorly-reviewed X-Men stories of all time. Under no circumstances should you read it.

The White Queen (Emma Frost) Abilities: TelepathyFirst Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #129 (1980)

When her mutant powers developed, Emma Frost used her telepathy to rise through the ranks of the Hellfire Club from her initial position as a stripper to the “White Queen” of the Inner Circle, a powerful cadre of mutants.

Although she often fought against the X-Men, Emma’s desire to help young mutants led her to reform and aid them, and she eventually became co-headmistress of Xavier’s school in Massachusetts (with Banshee).

When the academy relocated to Westchester, she joined the X-Men and started a psychic affair with Cyclops, which became a proper romance following the death of Jean Grey.

Ad – content continues below

Trivia: Emma Frost also featured in the Generation X TV movie, played by Finola Hughes, and in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, played by Tahyna Tozzi.

Riptide (Janos Quested) Abilities: Vortex manipulation, excretes a calcifying substance which he uses to create bladesFirst Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #211 (1986)

Inducted into the Marauders by Gambit at the request of Sinster, Riptide was killed by an enraged Colossus, who was attempting to stop him slaughtering any more of the Morlocks.

Since Sinister cloned the Marauders, Riptide is still around and occasionally turns up alongside the other Marauders, and typically has about as many lines as he did in the film, which is to say almost none.

Ad – content continues below

Trivia: Riptide is so dull, even I didn’t recognise him when he showed up in the movie. They left out that ‘excretes a calcifying substance’ power, too, presumably deciding that a man in a dinner suit riding a whirlwind was crazy enough.

Black King (Sebastian Shaw)Abilities: Kinetic absorption and redirectionFirst Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #129 (1979)

The head of the Hellfire Club, Shaw has participated in numerous schemes against the X-Men, (although, unlike the movie, he has no specific connection with Magneto’s past).

Recently ousted from the Hellfire Club, Shaw was captured by Emma Frost as part of a pact with Namor, the Sub-Mariner. She later erased his mind and dumped him in the most landlocked area of the USA, so that he would be safe from Namor’s wrath. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Ad – content continues below

Trivia: Although he shares his name with actor, Sebastian Shaw, best known for being the unmasked Darth Vader, artist John Byrne reportedly based his appearance on the actor Robert Shaw, who played Quint in Jaws.