Mutant (Marvel Comics)

Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance X-Men #1 (September 1963)
Created by Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Place of origin Earth
Notable members X-Men
Dark X-Men
New Mutants
Brotherhood of Mutants

In American comic books published by Marvel Comics, a mutant is a being (usually otherwise human) who possesses a genetic trait called an X-gene that allows the mutant to naturally develop superhuman powers and abilities. Human mutants are considered to be of the subspecies Homo sapiens superior or simply Homo superior, an evolutionary progeny of Homo sapiens, and are considered the next stage in human evolution, though whether this is true or not is a subject of much debate in-universe.

Unlike Marvel's mutates, which are characters who develop their powers only after exposure to outside stimuli or energies (such as the Hulk, Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, and Absorbing Man), mutants are those whose mutations are pre-natal, and whose powers typically manifest at puberty.


A March 1952 story in Amazing Detective Cases #11 called "The Weird Woman" tells of a woman describing herself as a mutant who seeks a similarly superhuman mate.[1]

Roger Carstairs, a mutant who can create illusions, is shown in Man Comics #28, dated September 1953.[2]

A character with superhuman powers, born from a radiation-exposed parent, was seen in "The Man with the Atomic Brain!"[3] in Journey into Mystery #52 in May 1959; although not specifically called a "mutant", his origin is consistent with one.

A little-known story in Tales of Suspense #6 (November 1959) titled "The Mutants and Me!"[4] was one of the first Marvel (then known as Atlas) stories to feature a named "mutant".

Tad Carter, a mutant with telekinetic powers, is shown in Amazing Adult Fantasy #14, dated July 1962.[5]

The modern concept of mutants as an independent subspecies was created and utilized by Marvel editor/writer Stan Lee in the early 1960s, as a means to create a large number of superheroes and supervillains without having to think of a separate origin for each one. As part of the concept, Lee decided that these mutant teenagers should, like ordinary ones, attend school in order to better cope with the world, in this case Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. These mutants first appeared in the superhero series X-Men, which debuted in 1963. Marvel later introduced several additional mutant superhero teams, including The New Mutants, X-Factor, Excalibur, X-Force, and Generation X.

Officially, Namor the Sub-Mariner is considered the first mutant superhero whom Marvel Comics ever published,[6] debuting in 1939. However, Namor was not actually described as a mutant until decades after his first appearance. The same is true of Toro, partner of the android Human Torch introduced in 1940.

Secondary mutations

Some mutants have shown the ability to develop a secondary mutation.

Omega-level mutants

An Omega-level mutant is one with the most powerful genetic potential of their mutant abilities. The term was first seen in the 1986 issue Uncanny X-Men #208, but was completely unexplained beyond the obvious implication of it referring to an exceptional level of power. The term was not seen again until the 2001 limited series X-Men Forever. Some abilities depicted by mutants described as Omega-level include immortality, extreme manipulation of matter and energy, high psionic ability, strong telekinesis, and the potential to exist beyond the boundaries of the known physical universe. No firm definition has been offered in comics. Examples of mutants that have been confirmed as Omega-level include Phoenix,[7] Quentin Quire,[8] Vulcan,[9] Rachel Summers,[10] Iceman,[11] Legion,[12] Elixir,[13] Franklin Richards,[14] and Psylocke.[15]

"Homo superior superior"

Introduced in Chris Claremont's X-Treme X-Men, a character known as Vargas claims to be humanity's natural response to mutants. Vargas was born at the epitome of peak physical skill, having superhuman levels of strength, speed, reflexes, agility, stamina, and durability. Vargas also seems to be immune to various mutant abilities (such as Rogue's absorption and Psylocke's telekinetic blast).[16]


Created by Rob Liefeld, Externals are immortal mutants whose powers have allowed them to exist for centuries. Eventually, most of the Externals are killed by Selene. Gideon, Selene, and Apocalypse are examples of Externals.

Cheyarafim and Neyaphem

Cheyarafim and Neyaphem first appear in Uncanny X-Men #429. According to the character Azazel, the Cheyarafim are a group of angel-like mutants who were the traditional enemies of the Neyaphem, a demonic-looking group of mutants who lived in Biblical times. The Cheyarafim were fanatics who had a strict, absolutist view of morality which led them into conflict with the Neyaphem. This escalated into a holy war, causing the Neyaphem to be exiled into an alternate dimension. What happened to the Cheyarafim after this has not been revealed.

The X-Man Angel is said to be descended from Cheyarafim, while Nightcrawler is supposedly the son of a Neyaphem, Azazel. It is unknown if Joshua Guthrie, known as Icarus, is a descendant of the Cheyarafim.

Dominant Species/lupine

Maximus Lobo claims to be a part of a mutant sub-species of feral, wolf-like mutants, whom he calls the Dominant Species. He later tries to recruit Wolf Cub into his ranks, to no avail. A few years later, another mutant, Romulus, claims that some human mutants evolved from canines instead of primates. Mutants who are a part of this group include Romulus, Wolverine, Daken, Sabretooth, Wolfsbane, Wild Child, Thornn, Feral, and Wolf Cub, with X-23 and the Native as other likely candidates. These groups appear to be one and the same.[17]


Introduced in the second series of X-Factor, a changeling is a mutant whose powers manifest at birth. Jamie Madrox (Multiple Man) and Damian Tryp are examples of this sub-class.

Extraterrestrial mutants

Humans are not the only species to have mutant subspecies. Ariel, Longshot, Cerise, Ultra Girl, and Warlock are examples of mutant aliens.

Mutants as metaphor

As a fictional oppressed minority, mutants are often used as extended metaphors for real-world people and situations. In 1982, X-Men writer Chris Claremont said, "[mutants] are hated, feared and despised collectively by humanity for no other reason than that they are mutants. So what we have here, intended or not, is a book that is about racism, bigotry and prejudice."

Danny Fingeroth writes extensively in his book Superman on the Couch about the appeal of mutants and their meaning to society:

The most popular pop culture franchises are those that make the viewer/reader feel special and unique, while simultaneously making him or her feel he or she is part of a mass of people experiencing and enjoying the same phenomenon. The plight of the mutants is universally compelling. Many people feel a need for a surrogate family, one composed of those the world has abused and persecuted in the same way they have been their whole life. This is especially true in adolescents, which may in part explain some of the draw of mutants.[18]

An obvious parallel between homosexuality and mutation is drawn in the feature film X2, where Iceman's mother asks, "Have you tried not being a mutant?" This question (or various forms thereof) is common among parents who find out their children are gay.[19][20] In the 2011 film X-Men: First Class, Hank McCoy (later known as Beast), upon being outed to a colleague as a mutant, responds, "You didn't ask, so I didn't tell."

In his article Super Heroes, a Modern Mythology, Richard Reynolds writes:

Much of the appeal and draw of the mutants that comprise the X-Men has to do with feeling like an outcast while simultaneously feeling like part of a family. Mutants are ostracized because they are different but they bound together because of their differences. The may be forced together to a certain extent like 'real' families but they are also a team. They differ from other teams such as the Justice League, which is like a meritocracy; only the best of the best join that team. In contrast, the X-Men is composed of outcasts. They train and nurture one another and are united by common goals and beliefs. ...the whole theme of the X-Men — the isolation of mutants and their alienation from 'normal' society — be read as a parable of the alienation of any minority... of a minority grouping determined to force its own place within society.

Other versions

Earth X

Within the Earth X universe, the powers of the vast majority of Marvel's human superheroes were revealed to have been the result of genetic manipulation by the Celestials millions of years in the past.

Ultimate Marvel

In the Ultimate Marvel universe within the pages of the Ultimate Origins #1, it is revealed that super-powered "mutants" were artificially created via genetic modification by the Weapon X program in a laboratory in Alberta, Canada in October 1943. The project was an attempt to produce a supersoldier, inspired by the existence of Captain America. James Howlett was the first individual to be so modified. At some later point, possibly during a confrontation between Magneto and his parents, the mutant trigger was released into the environment worldwide, leading to the appearance of mutants in the general population. Following the events of the Ultimatum storyline, information concerning the origins of mutancy was made public and steps were taken in the US to make being a mutant illegal. While the move apparently has majority support among the non-mutant population, a vocal minority has voiced concern that it will lead to witch-hunts and genocide.[21]

See also


  1. ""Weird Woman" (1950s, Amazing Detective Case)". Retrieved 2010-10-17.
  2. "Roger Carstairs (Bob Brant & the Trouble-Shooters foe)". Retrieved 2010-10-17.
  3. "Ted Lestron (pre-FF mutant)". Retrieved 2010-10-17.
  4. "Vincent Farnsworth (Pre-FF mutant, Tales of Suspense)". Retrieved 2010-10-17.
  5. "Tad Carter (Promise member)".
  6. "Namor". 1922-02-22. Retrieved 2010-10-17.
  7. X-Men: Forever by Professor X
  8. New X-Men #137 (April 2003)
  9. X-Men: Deadly Genesis by Emma Frost, Uncanny X-Men #477
  10. Uncanny X-Men #207 by Nimrod
  11. "Carey on "Manifest Destiny" and "X-Men Origins: Beast"". Comic Book Resources. 2008-08-28. Retrieved 2010-10-17.
  12. New Mutants vol. 3 #4
  13. New Mutants v2. by Christina Weir
  14. X-Men: The 198 #1
  15. "COMMENTARY TRACK: "Uncanny X-Force" #18 with Rick Remender". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2013-08-04.
  16. X-Treme X-Men #2
  17. "Uncanny X-Men Vol. 2: Dominant Species". Marvel Comics Catalog. 21 May 2003. Retrieved 2010-10-17.
  18. Fingeroth, Danny. Superman On The Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Society, Continuum, 2004. ISBN 0-8264-1540-7
  19. "M/C Journal: Have You Tried Not Being a Mutant?".
  20. "The X-Men "Come out:" Being a "Mutant" in films can be seen as a metaphor for homosexuality".
  21. Ultimate Origins #1
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