Here is one of the funniest images in all of comics. It’s the cover to Cable, vol. 2, issue 1, by artist Ariel Olivetti, and is, at the time of this writing, the image used on Cable’s Wikipedia page:
That’s Cable—the X-Men character that the Deadpool sequel just cast Josh Brolin as. He is, as you are supposed to surmise from his appearance, a badass. And he’s got a cute lil’ baby strapped to his chest. It’s like an X-Men version of Vin Diesel’s The Pacifier, a film that we have not forgotten we were promised a sequel for. Based on this, you’d probably assume that Cable is the perfect character for a Deadpool sequel. And you’d be right, because he is a Very Serious Man who is fond of Very Big Guns and Definitely Not Babies, while Deadpool needs a straight man to bounce off of and endlessly needle. Cable—with or without a baby to protect—fits that bill. However, he’s also a weird character to adapt into a movie—not just because Josh Brolin is double-dipping in Marvel, which has never happened in the Cinematic Universe era. It’s a bit weird for comic book reasons. +++inset-related
Deadpool 2 Needs Michael Shannon as Cable
It’s not that Cable and Deadpool aren’t a duo in Marvel Comics—they are. In fact, there have been multiple series starring the two of them, with the longest-running one being Cable & Deadpool, which ran for 50 issues from 2004 to 2008. That book was in step with the sort of goofy humor Deadpool has been known for—and at times, it got even weirder. (Like one time when Cable gets turned into an infant and Deadpool has to take care of him while he rapidly ages his way back to adulthood.)
Cable, however, is quite possibly the most complicated comic book character. And unless, upon seeing photos of this guy with the shiny eye and metal arm-and-pec, you decide you want to know everything about him, immediately ignore anyone who tries to explain him to you, because you do not want the headache.
Superhero comics are often beautiful shrines made of bullshit; the work of people whose job it is to fool you into thinking they have a grand plan, when in fact there often isn’t one. Cable is one of the most incredible case studies of this: He was introduced as a mystery man designed to lead a team of mutants in a manner diametrically opposed to Professor Xavier’s leadership of the X-Men. Cable and his team—which would soon be called X-Force—were supposed to be a militaristic alternative to the ideologically driven X-Men. So he shows up in New Mutants #87 with little explanation as to who he is or what he wants, and the idea is that we’ll find out all this over time. In 1990, people were totally okay with this, because Cable was co-created by artist Rob Liefeld, who was kind of like the Chainsmokers of comics back then: young and unrefined, with bad taste and infuriating success.
If I had to guess, I’d say the Cable we’ll see will closely line up with the guy Liefeld cooked up alongside writer Louise Simonson in that particular New Mutants comic, a mystery man with really big guns and no time for fools:
The Cable of 1990 is Liefeld’s pièce de résistance, the singular distillation of his impact on comics: big burly dudes with nonsensical shoulder pads, leg pouches, and tiny feet. Cable is superhero comics’ 1990s obsession with style over substance personified, tacky and grim and “extreme” just because. Just about everything interesting about Cable wouldn’t come until much later, after his backstory—which pivoted multiple times, with numerous red herrings unanswered every time editorial plans changed—became hopelessly complicated. Ultimately, the biography settled on is kind of hilarious: He’s the son of Cyclops and a woman named Madeline Pryor—herself a clone of Cyclop’s true love Jean Grey—sent far into the future for his protection, where he grew old in a post-apocalyptic warzone before getting a time-traveling ship that lets him go back in time to prevent the messed-up future his parents sent him off to live in.
Cable is superhero comics’ 1990s obsession with style over substance personified, tacky and grim and “extreme” just because.
Look man, if all you want to know is what Cable means for a Deadpool movie, then you don’t need any of this in your life. He’s kind of just a guy with really big guns, a time machine, and ambiguous psychic powers, you know? Just a fella there to turn the movie into a real buddy-cop flick.
If, however, you want a batshit post-apocalyptic saga that’s kind of like The Terminator but with superheroes, and also about the limits of violence as a solution and how much it can mess people up, then by all means, read the hell up on Cable. (Especially the more recent stuff, like Cable and X-Force by Dennis Hopeless and Gabriel Hernandez Walta.)
There is only one good reason a Deadpool sequel would take inspiration from all this backstory, and it would be to use Cable’s time-travel heavy premise to lampoon all of X-Men movie history. Which, come to think of it, would actually be kind of fun—Deadpool‘s strength isn’t really in its freedom to indulge in raunchy, violent comedy, but in its unique position to lambast the longest-running and most confusing superhero movie franchise in existence. If there is a joy to Deadpool, it comes from the catharsis of finally not taking everything so damn seriously.
No one is going to see a Deadpool movie looking for depth or nuance or any sort of heavy thematic weight—which is kind of a shame, because Cable’s recent comic book stories have been really compelling stuff. (And Deadpool himself has, at times, been depicted as a truly tragic figure.) But ultimately, the fact that Josh Brolin’s Cable is going to be in the service of said Deadpool movie is fine. Josh Brolin is a terrific actor and also very funny, and I would kill to see a movie where he has to fight a bunch of dudes with a baby strapped to his chest.