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Who are Cable’s Parents? When Did Cable First Appear? Cable’s Connection to Stryfe and X-Man Other Alternate Takes on Cable

Many members of the X-Men have somewhat confusing, convoluted origin stories. One example is Wolverine, whose true backstory wasn’t revealed in the comics for decades. Likewise, Cable‘s origins are just as cloudy, with his heritage showcasing a lack of planning when he was created. First appearing at the height of the franchise’s success, Cable also exemplified some of the biggest issues of the succeeding era.

Though Cable might seem like the quintessential 1990s character with bulging muscles, copious guns, and pouches, his origins involve two classic mutants. Sadly, due to the machinations of a most sinister villain, his life and childhood weren’t straightforward. The result was an associate of the X-Men whose origins are sometimes less than accessible.

Who are Cable’s Parents?


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The man who became Cable was born Nathan Christopher Charles Summers, and this name evokes his heritage on several levels. He is the son of Scott Summers (Cyclops, a founding member of the X-Men) and his wife, Madelyne Pryor. Scott met Madelyne while visiting family in Alaska, and the woman’s red hair made him think she was his old flame, Jean Grey. She had previously died in “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” leaving the X-Men – particularly Scott – heartbroken. Eventually, Scott came to love Madelyne herself, and the two were married before she announced her pregnancy. However, her connection to Jean turned out to be more than just an aesthetic.

The original “Inferno” storyline revealed that Madelyne was a clone of Jean Grey created by the villainous Mr. Sinister. He had seen the genetic potential of Scott and Jean’s bloodline and wished to create the ultimate mutant through their progeny to defeat his dark master, Apocalypse. The boy would face Apocalypse many times in his adult life, cruelly fulfilling this genetic prophecy. Once again, this also made his name make even more sense.

Though it was a pure coincidence, Nathan is a shortening of Nathaniel, the first name of Mr. Sinister (Nathaniel Essex). Christopher is the first name of Scott’s father (who became Corsair, a member of the Starjammers), while Charles is in reference to Scott’s teacher and the leader of the X-Men, Charles Xavier/Professor X. All these thematic sections of his name were certainly poetic. Still, things were far more confusing regarding how his character developed. In fact, the child that Scott and Madelyne had together wasn’t even planned to be the man called Cable.

When Did Cable First Appear?


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The newborn Nathan Summers first appeared in The Uncanny X-Men #201 by Chris Claremont and Rick Leonardi. However, his mother’s pregnancy was announced in X-Men/Alpha Flight #1, published a year beforehand. This child’s importance wasn’t initially planned beyond his being Cyclops’ son, with his new family being the reason Scott Summers left the X-Men and had Storm lead the team. Of course, this domestic bliss didn’t last, with Cyclops abandoning his family following the return of Jean Grey. This resulted in the creation of the team X-Factor, though Cyclops’ home life was forever changed.

The character showed up as Cable in The New Mutants #86 by Louise Simonson and Rob Liefeld, but there still weren’t any plans to connect him to Nathan Summers. Instead, Cable was envisioned as a “man of action” to differentiate him from Professor Xavier. Likewise, he was meant to be somewhat similar to the T-800 from the Terminator series, with his storyline involving time travel. Co-creator Rob Liefeld agreed with this concept but disagreed with the direction Marvel eventually took with Cable’s backstory.

It was later decided that Cable and Nathan Summers were the same person, something that Liefeld didn’t plan. This culminated in an X-Factor storyline where Apocalypse infected the infant Nathan with a techno-organic virus. With no way to save his son in the present, Cyclops sought the aid of Sister Askani, who was part of a group dedicated to fighting Apocalypse. Believing that there might be a cure in the future, Sister Askani took the baby on a one-way trip in the hopes of saving his life. This virus is why the adult Cable had a cyborg appearance, referencing the Terminator series.

Thankfully, Scott and the true Jean Grey were pulled into the future psychically to raise Nathan. They used the pseudonyms “Slym and Redd,” which were derived from nicknames that Wolverine gave them. They helped train Nathan to use his powers so he could keep the techno-organic virus at bay while they fought against Apocalypse. He also worked with a group known as the Askani in the future, whose religious beliefs anointed him as their chosen one, or Askani’Son.

Cable’s Connection to Stryfe and X-Man


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First Appearance



The New Mutants #86

Louise Simonson, Rob Liefeld, Bob Wiacek, Glynis Oliver and Joe Rosen

Nate Grey/X-Man

X-Man #1

Jeph Loeb, Steve Skroce, Mike Sellers, Cam Smith, Bud Larosa, Will Conrad, Mike Thomas and Comicraft

Cable’s backstory is confusing because he has so many alternate versions. One of these is Stryfe, a villainous mutant who debuted in the same issue as the adult Cable. Stryfe came into existence when Askani cloned the infant Nathan in the event that he died. She was successful in stopping the progression of the techno-organic virus from killing him, all while his clone rapidly aged to the same age. Afterward, her hideout was attacked by Apocalypse, who kidnapped the clone and raised him as his own.

Apocalypse aimed to use him as a replacement body, but the young clone’s nature made him unfit for such a task. This caused the young man (now known as Stryfe) to turn against his adoptive father and Cyclops and Jean Grey, whom he saw as his real parents. Intent on ruling his dark future, Stryfe carried on in Apocalypse’s name in the future. However, he eventually returned and formed the Mutant Liberation Front while developing an enmity with the true Cable.

Nathaniel “Nate” Grey is another alternate version of the hero, though he isn’t a villain like Stryfe. Instead, he hails from the alternate timeline of the “Age of Apocalypse” storyline, and his name again references Mr. Sinister. He’s the genetic son of Scott Summers and Jean Grey, with their genetic union coming about through tampering on the part of Sinister. Also known as X-Man, Nate Grey is younger and leaner than the mainstream version of Cable. Likewise, due to his never being infected with the techno-organic virus, he didn’t have to overtax his inherent psychic abilities to keep it at bay. Thus, he had free use of his telepathic and telekinetic abilities, making him one of the most powerful mutants of his time.

Other Alternate Takes on Cable


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A 2018 storyline titled “Extermination” saw the death of the mainstream Cable at the hands of a younger version of the character. This incarnation (referred to as Kid Cable or Young Cable) subsequently replaced him, and his leaner, younger appearance gave him a strong resemblance to X-Man/Nate Grey. Eventually, however, the classic version of Cable was brought back and even worked alongside his seeming killer. Together, they fought against Stryfe before Cable helped Kid Cable return to his own timeline.

In the original Ultimate Universe, Ultimate Cable was unrelated to Scott Summers or Jean Grey. Instead, he was an alternate version of Wolverine from a dark future. Much older and having lost his healing factor, he was forced to replace his now missing arm with a cybernetic replacement. He had a somewhat similar function, however, with Cable traveling to the past to prevent the rise of Apocalypse in the past. He disappeared once this mission was accomplished, ensuring his timeline never happened.

Cable appeared in the iconic X-Men: The Animated Series, where he had a very similar set-up as in the comics. However, his origins weren’t fleshed out, with a psychic scan by Jean Grey being the only hint at his true heritage. In the animated sequel, X-Men ’97, Scott has a child with Jean named Nathan. Unfortunately, Sinister infected the boy with the techno-organic virus, forcing Bishop to take him to the future to cure him. Likewise, it’s revealed that his mother is actually a clone of the real Jean Grey, who took the name Madelyne Pryor after she left the X-Men. This mostly matches the comics, albeit with a few changes to further simplify the character’s confused origins. Thus, the new series has been the only adaptation to truly dive into the convoluted origins of Cable.


Since their debut in 1963, Marvel’s X-Men have been more than just another superhero team. While the team really hit its stride as the All New, All Different X-Men in 1975, Marvel’s heroic mutants have always operated as super-outcasts, protecting a world that hates and fears them for their powers.

Key members of the X-Men include Professor X, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Wolverine, Iceman, Beast, Rogue, and Storm. Often framed as the world’s second strongest superheroes, after the Avengers, they are nonetheless one of Marvel’s most popular and important franchises.

“}]] Cable’s origin story is one of the most confusing in comic books, though the recent X-Men ’97 both adapted and simplified the mutant’s backstory.  Read More